NASHVILLE -- Public discussion of evolution often turns into a nasty debate between young-earth creationists on one side and atheists who believe science disproves the existence of God on the other. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Witness the gracious dialogue taking place between Southern Baptist seminary professors and evangelical scientists on the BioLogos Web site.
In a series of essays titled "Southern Baptist Voices," the two groups consider questions such as whether the existence of a historical Adam and Eve created in the image of God is compatible with the gradual development of humans through evolution.
While there is disagreement, the authors are quick to emphasize places where they do agree, such as the reality of the miracles described in the Bible, including the bodily resurrection of Jesus. And there is room for give and take.
The series came about after Kenneth Keathley, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary academic dean, and BioLogos President Darrel Falk met at a Christian scholars conference last year. Mr. Keathley agreed to invite seminary professors to contribute essays describing their disagreements with BioLogos, a nonprofit foundation "committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith," according to its Web site.
Mr. Keathley notes in the first essay that the Southern Baptist statement of faith is silent on how God created the universe. But he goes on to say that Southern Baptists' literal interpretation of Scripture leads many in the denomination to hold the view that God created the world in six, 24-hour days less than 10,000 years ago.
Many Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant Christians today see parts of the Bible such as the creation as metaphorical, but for many evangelical Christians such a belief is untenable.
Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler, a young-earth creationist, has called the effort to reconcile evangelicals to evolution a "direct attack upon biblical authority."
Mr. Keathley, meanwhile, says he's an old-earth creationist who accepts that the universe is billions of years old, but he also believes that God directly intervened at certain points in natural history.
In an introductory essay to the series, he lays out several points where he believes Southern Baptists are at odds with the BioLogos model. Among them is whether Adam and Eve were real people who experienced a real fall from grace with God that brought sin into the world. The concept is also central to the idea that Jesus saved the world from sin through his death on the cross.
Mr. Falk and two other writers respond that science tells us "there was never a time when the human population from which all modern humans descended was as small as two individuals." Instead, they suggest the possibility that "God began a covenantal relationship with a real, historical first couple who brought about spiritual death as a result of their disobedience."
Another essayist, Bill Dembski, a research fellow at the Discovery Institute and a leader of the Intelligent Design movement, says, "In terms of strict logic, nothing takes you from natural selection to atheism, but, as a practical matter, many people find that Darwin makes atheism seem plausible."
So far, BioLogos has published four essays and responses with three more planned. Mr. Falk, who teaches at Biology at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, said the dialogue has given BioLogos members a chance to clarify some positions. "I don't think our differences are anywhere near as great as people might have thought," he said.