For a long time now BioLogos has ignored its initial mission of trying to convert evangelical Christians to evolution. It didn’t work—as I predicted—because those Christians know that if you buy Darwinian evolution, then you have to see much of the Bible as either fictional or at best metaphorical. And if you do that, then where does the metaphor stop? Was Jesus a metaphor for how we humans can save ourselves?
Evangelicals won’t buy that, nor do they like what they see as the other philosophical accoutrements of evolution: our status as mere evolved beasts like gibbons, the lack of a human soul, the absence of an external purpose or meaning to our lives, or of a God-imposed morality, and so on.
And so BioLogos, in desperation, now spends nearly all its time not touting evolution, but sucking up to evangelical Christians, or giving them ludicrous ways to comport their faith with scientific truth—ways that are themselves unscientific (e.g., the historicity of Adam and Eve).
In an essay from last February just reposted, “Jesus the artist,” Pete Enns (a biblical scholar who recently left the organization) tries a Hail Mary. After describing the parables of Jesus, he sneakily segues from the parables to the notion that much of the Bible could also be a story.
Nobody, after all, can take issue with stuff like this:
Parables are radical pieces of communication meant to disorient the hearers and then reorient them to an entirely new way of thinking. The reason Jesus does so much story telling is because stories—not debate or other “proofs”—are best suited for such a whole scale reorientation. Jesus’ preaching, after all, was about the kingdom of heaven (or of God).
But in the next sentence Enns sneaks in some further metaphor:
This kingdom was not about where one goes after death, but a here-and-now transformation of how people thought about God and their relationship to him.
Nice ploy, Dr. Enns, but how do you know that? Many Christians do indeed think they’re going to heaven after they die. What makes you think you know better?
Enns goes on to dissect some parables, and says some things that most will consider unexceptionable:
It is sometimes thought that Jesus told stories because he wanted to persuade the masses, the common people who are not used to debating fine points of theology like the scribes and priests. This is partially true, but it is also true that the radical message of the kingdom of heaven required a means of communication that was best suited for it. Like any work of art, stories “create” new ways of seeing the world—and it is, after all, a new world that Jesus means to create.
But then, after a long discussion of the function of Jesus’s parables as stories, Enns slips this in as his final paragraph (my emphasis):
If this is how God chooses to communicate at the incarnation—the very climax and epicenter of his story—we should not be surprised to see God painting vivid portraits elsewhere in Scripture. This is especially true of Genesis and creation. Something so fundamental to God’s story may need to be told in a way that transcends the limitations of purely intellectual engagement. Genesis may be written more to show us—by grabbing us with its images than laying out a timeline of cause and effect events—that God is the central figure on the biblical drama.
Nice try, Dr. Enns! Pity that it won’t convince anyone. Or, if you want to, please give us the reasons why you—and not the evangelicals—seem to know exactly what God intended to do when he wrote (or inspired) the Bible. It’s not because you have a pipeline to God, is it? It’s because you interpret the Bible as metaphor and want others to feel likewise. But if you’re going to do that, you need to tell us exactly which parts of the Bible are to be read as metaphor and which as literal truth. Presumably you, Dr. Enns, don’t feel that the stories of the Virgin Birth, the crucifixion, and the Resurrection are metaphors. Or if you do, please let us know in another essay (now that would be something to read) which tools you use to parse metaphor from reality.
Enns is a biblical scholar with impressive degrees (including a Ph.D. from Harvard), so he presumably relies on evidence for his conclusions. I’d love to know the evidence he uses to conclude that Genesis was metaphorical but the Resurrection was real.
Most of us see the Bible as a total fiction. The great tragedy of Enns, and of accommodationists like him, is that he can’t buy that whole hog: because of childhood indoctrination or a desire to believe what is comforting, a Biblical scholar convinces himself that part of a fictional book really is fiction, though it teaches timeless truths, while other parts or non-negotiable fact. And he has no way, despite his Ph.D. in Biblical scholarship, to do that. Tell us, Dr. Enns: if Genesis was just a useful myth rather than truth, how do you know that Jesus was the Son of God and came back from the dead?
This tactic won’t work with evangelicals, and never has, and I suspect that that’s why Enns isn’t with BioLogos any longer. But Templeton keeps giving the organization tons of money—all wasted.