In July, President Barack Obama announced his intention to appoint Dr. Francis Collins to lead the prestigious National Institutes of Health (NIH),1 which funds over $30 billion in scientific research aimed at preventing disease and improving health. A respected physician, researcher, and administrator, Dr. Collins previously led the vital work of the Human Genome Project.
He is also very open about his Christian faith, which makes him a man of great influence among other Christians who are eager to see more Christian leaders in Washington. But just what kind of influence will Dr. Collins have for the Kingdom? And how does he integrate his Christian beliefs with science?
The "Doctrines" of BioLogos
Dr. Collins recently began addressing the faith-science relationship through a new foundation, BioLogos, that "aims to be a bridge in the debate over science and religion and provide some answers to life's most difficult questions."2 Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-Chief of World magazine, comments about the confusion arising from Collins' ideas about Christianity and Darwinism:
Collins recently set up the BioLogos Foundation: Its website defines BioLogos as "the belief that Darwinism is a correct science." This is confusing: Darwinism means unguided evolution, right? Does Collins mean by "theistic evolution" the concept that God is guiding the evolutionary process? If so, isn't that a version of ID? On the other hand, if Collins believes that God passively watches evolution unfold, isn’t that deistic evolution?3
Below are some of Dr. Collins' public statements on his faith and his science beliefs.
About Theism and Evolution
BioLogos is most similar to Theistic Evolution. Theism is the belief in a God who cares for and interacts with creation. Theism is different than deism, which is the belief in a distant, uninvolved creator who is often little more than the sum total of the laws of physics. Theistic Evolution, therefore, is the belief that evolution is how God created life. Because the term evolution is sometimes associated with atheism, a better term for the belief in a God who chose to create the world by way of evolution is BioLogos.4
About Adam, Eve, and the Fall
The familiar story of Adam and Eve is a staple of both Sunday school lessons and the stained glass motifs of Christianity's great cathedrals. But can this account fit into BioLogos? How does the Fall fit into an evolutionary history, where the Earth is billions of years old, and humans originated hundreds of thousands of years ago most likely in Africa?...
In this light, the Fall was not a historical event but an illustration of the common human condition that virtually everyone agrees is deeply flawed and sinful. In this view, it does not matter if Adam and Eve were historical figures. Their deeds simply represent the actions of all humans and remind us of this troubling part of our natures.5
About God and Miracles
BioLogos does not in any way remove the logical possibility of miracles. However, for the universe to behave in an apparently ordered fashion, such events must be rare. BioLogos is thus compatible with many faiths that have miraculous events at the center of their doctrine.6
Evolution is now profoundly well-documented from multiple different perspectives, all of which give you a consistent view with enormous explanatory power that makes it the central core of biology. Trying to do biology without evolution would be like trying to do physics without mathematics….
Nearly all scientists agree upon descent from a common ancestor, gradual change over a long period of time, and natural selection operating to produce the diversity of living species. There is no question that those are correct. Evolution is not a theory that is going to be discarded next week or next year or a hundred thousand years from now. It is true.7
If you ask about data-driven questions, about what is true and what is the evidence to support it--you would want to go to the people who are the professionals who spend their lives trying to answer those questions and ask, "Is there a consensus view?" So you ask, "What is the age of the Earth?" Well, who does that work? It is the geologist and the cosmologists and the people who do radiocarbon dating. It is the fossil record people and so on. So you ask, "Is this an unanswered question?" And the answer you would get is that the issue is settled. The age of the earth is 4.55 billion years.8
About the Church
Many of them, raised in conservative Christian homes and taught that evolution is wrong, send emails to me every week. They are in crisis, trying to figure out whether the church that seems to be lying to them about origins is lying to them about everything else. The God of all truth cannot be served by such noble lies, and yet the church has been caught up in that, despite its best intentions….
Right now, many churches are telling their young people, "You have to adhere to this absolutely literal description of what we say Genesis means," and they put a lot of energy into conveying that in Sunday school and in home schooling curricula. It's not as if the church has not already invested in providing a perspective on this issue--but unfortunately they've invested in a view that's counter to God's book of nature. This is both unnecessary and tragic.9
Should we conclude that Dr. Francis Collins is not a "born again" Christian as described in the Bible? He appears to be genuine and sincere in his belief that Jesus Christ is his personal Savior. But quite troubling is Collins' public and proud disbelief in the historicity of the Bible, the existence of Adam and Eve, the event of the Fall, and many more fundamental doctrines of God's Word--leading one to conclude that even if he is a Christian, his self-selective beliefs are terribly resistant to God's truth, revealing his dangerously poor view of the power of God. Like the Sadducees, Collins errs by "not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29).
The executive vice-president of BioLogos, Dr. Karl Giberson of Eastern Nazarene College, seems less concerned about the ordinary Christian seeking answers. His website includes a summary of an upcoming book project with Harvard University Press titled The Anointed: America's Evangelical Experts. It's actually a mocking title and his snobbery is clear:
Our key question is: Why do individuals such as Ken Ham, Tim LaHaye, David Barton, and James Dobson have such extraordinary influence when they are not leaders in their fields? (This tendency is particularly acute in the area of science, where vast portions of contemporary science are rejected in favor of an alternative creation, or intelligent design "science.")…
In our book…we juxtapose the above leaders with their more legitimate evangelical counterparts--genuine authorities who largely conform to the standards of the academy and are recognized as leading scholars in their respective fields.10
Is Dr. Giberson ignorant of the scientific contributions of scientists such as Dr. Henry Morris, Dr. Duane Gish, Dr. Ken Cumming, Dr. Steve Austin, Dr. Andrew Snelling, Dr. Jason Lisle, Dr. Russ Humphreys, Dr. John Baumgardner, Dr. Larry Vardiman, Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith, and many other credentialed and evangelical members of academia who are "leading scholars in their respective fields"?
Perhaps Dr. Giberson is unaware that "Bible believing" Christians in America prefer teachers who actually believe in the authority and authenticity of the Word of God, who will instruct them in truth without constantly instilling doubt about the foundational book of Christianity, the inspired and inerrant Bible.
Interpreting the Cult of Celebrity
The Bereans were praised for their study, "in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). Notice what they examined: the Scriptures. That's our real anchor. Not "born again" Francis Collins or the pontifications of BioLogos. It all goes back to the divinely inspired and inerrant Book of God.
Is Dr. Collins skilled to lead the programs of the NIH? Absolutely. Is he qualified to teach the Bible? Not a chance. There are "more legitimate evangelical" Bible teachers who are "genuine authorities" in the Bible.
- President Obama Announces Intent to Nominate Francis Collins as NIH Director. White House press release, July 8, 2009.
- Burke, D. Q & A: Francis Collins. Christianity Today. Posted on christianitytoday.com April 30, 2009.
- Olasky, M. An hour, sir, please? Francis Collins could help the church by clarifying his views. World. 24 (15): 76. See also Johnson, J. J. S. Shades of the Enlightenment! Presented to the Evangelical Theological Society Southwest Regional Meeting, Fort Worth, Texas, March 24, 2007, available on icr.org.
- Question 1: How is BioLogos different from Theistic Evolution, Intelligent Design and Creationism? The BioLogos Foundation website, accessed August 6, 2009.
- Question 15: How does the Fall fit into evolutionary history? Were Adam and Eve historical figures? The BioLogos Foundation website, accessed August 6, 2009.
- Question 11: Is there room in BioLogos to believe in miracles? The BioLogos Foundation website, accessed August 6, 2009.
- Giberson, K. W. Evolution, the Bible, and the Book of Nature: A conversation with Francis Collins. Christianity Today. Posted on christianitytoday.com July 10, 2009.
- The Anointed: America's Evangelical Experts. Posted on karlgiberson.com, accessed August 6, 2009.
* Mr. Ford is Executive Editor at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Ford, L. 2009. Christianity on the Public Stage. Acts & Facts. 38 (9): 4-5.