Affirming the Doctrine of Creation
in an age of science
Trinity CommunicationsJune 21, 2017
More than 50 scientists, biblical scholars, and theologians convened on the campus of Trinity International University June 14–17 for the Dabar
Conference, with a focus on affirming the doctrine of creation in an
age of science.
This was the second such conference for the Carl F. H. Henry Center’s three-year initiative, the Creation Project, it was designed to orient evangelical scholars working in the theological disciplines to recent work in the natural sciences, and to encourage dialogue and engagement over questions being raised by scientific developments for the doctrine of creation.
Classical Christian creeds begin with a confession about the doctrine of creation, declaring that God is “Creator of heaven and earth.” Yet, within many evangelical and Protestant contexts, the doctrine has received scant theological and pastoral attention, having been subsumed under the more important (and supposedly separable) matters of redemption and sanctification. Evangelical theological reflection on the doctrine of creation has often so narrowly focused on questions of cosmological and biological origins that key elements of the doctrine have remained underdeveloped. Accordingly, year two of the Creation Project aimed to recover a comprehensive doctrine of creation that attends to biblical and theological topics like creation ex nihilo, the primordial goodness of the created order, and nuanced accounts of divine action (among others) as essential areas of theological inquiry.
The Dabar Conference, named after the Hebrew term for word, brought together scholars from over 20 universities, researchers and fellows from organizations such as BioLogos, Reasons to Believe, and the Templeton Religion Trust, and several pastors in full-time vocational ministry. The bulk of the conference consisted in formal interdisciplinary responses to eight essays circulated and read in advance, followed by an extended period of question and answers from the conference participants.
The Henry Center has always been a ministry focused on addressing the pressing needs of the church through collaborative, ecclesial partnerships. The Dabar Conference is one of six programs within the initiative, intended to bring the many disciplines, denominations, and institutional locations of the church leaders together to begin articulating an evangelical direction to the doctrine of creation.
Thursday and Friday of the conference featured paper presentations and responses—both formal and from the audience. Topics ranged from the relationship of the Trinity to creation and creation ex nihilo to the relationship between the problem of evil and the theory of evolution. Trinity faculty and alumni represented about one third of the respondents, with the remaining papers and responses being delivered by university professors from various institutions as well as representatives from the organizations mentioned above. Dean Graham Cole and Professor Tom McCall served as moderators during the formal responses. Deborah Haarsma, president of BioLogos, gave the plenary address “Christ and the Cosmos” on Wednesday evening.
Each day wrapped up with round table discussions between the participants designed to address the progress of the conference, as well as to identify areas in need of further work.