According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

Guest Post: The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

by Rachel Held Evans
September 17, 2011

62 Comments

masonToday’s guest post comes to us from one of my favorite bloggers. Mason Slater is an MA student at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, a freelance writer, and a publishing consultant. I had the pleasure of meeting Mason and his lovely wife Melinda when I was in Grand Rapids for the Festival of Faith and Writing. I love how this guy thinks! He’s smart, thoughtful, humble, and wise.

Mason blogs at MasonSlater.com, where he writes about the latest news in theology, Christian living, and publishing. I’ve been following for several years now, and am always interested in the conversation there. Mason recently moved his blog, so be sure to re-subscribe!

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The Bible and Books About Dinosaurs

by Mason Slater

After years of research, and quite a bit of agonizing, I’m finally able to offer this small pronouncement.

I no longer believe that there is any inherent conflict between the Scriptures and the scientific account of human origins, by which of course I mean evolution.

Admittedly, that someone you’ve probably never met is able to affirm a scientific theory which most of the Western world takes for granted may not seem like that big of a deal.

But it is for me, and I imagine my story is not all that unlike many of yours.

I grew up in a conservative evangelical home. As best I can remember my parents never made a point to bring up Creationism or Evolution, but they didn’t have to – the subculture did it for them.

Over time a young boy who loved dinosaurs and fossils began to sense those things were dirty, that the books he was reading were looked on with suspicion. At first I wasn’t sure why, but soon I learned that these books taught things about the world that disagreed with the Bible.

Because I loved the Bible more than my books about dinosaurs, it wasn’t long before those books found themselves gathering dust on my bookshelf.

That evolutionary science and Christian faith were incompatible seemed as apparent as that every autumn would lead to another cold Michigan winter. With that assumption firmly implanted, my young self was one day faced with a crisis. While talking with my mom she made some passing mention that my father believed in evolution.

I was shocked, terrified even.

Terrified because I thought this meant dad might not be saved. So, after arriving home from a long day at work, my father was confronted by his twelve-year-old son who proceeded to try and convince him how important it was that he believed what the Bible said about God making the world.

I’m sure I was not a terribly convincing young theologian at that point, but I’m also sure dad could see what it meant to me, so he agreed with me and the issue was never raised again.

Though it wasn’t long before I made my peace with Evolution not being an issue of salvation, these crisis moments ensured that I would wrestle for many years with the ways my faith seemed to clash with science.

By the time I graduated from high school I had read many Creationist books and had the debates time after time, and was no doubt obnoxiously sure of myself.

Then college hit, and the more widely I read the less sure I became of my easy answers.

A Biblical Studies major as an undergrad, I expected to find theologians offering a thorough repudiation of godless Darwinism, what I found was quite the opposite. There were of course theologians who were outspoken Creationists, but plenty of theologians who I had come to deeply respect saw absolutely no contradiction between biblical faithfulness and the science of evolution.

This was exciting, freeing even, but also deeply frustrating.

See, I still cared more for the Bible than my books about dinosaurs. And, try as I might, I just couldn’t see how to make the two compatible without doing violence to the Scriptures I valued so highly.

lost-worldAs I continued to research I could see more and more massive holes in the Young Earth Creationism I had grown up on, but with no better option I became essentially agnostic. I knew I was no long a traditional Creationist, but I couldn’t really bring myself to throw in with any other position either.

Enter John Walton.

Last winter I read Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One and it changed everything. Or, rather, I knew that it could. I also knew I wanted to believe what he was saying, so I was a bit suspicious of my motives for embracing his argument. It made perfect sense, but did I just think that because of all sorts of subconscious motivations?

So I took some time to ponder it, and this summer I re-read The Lost World of Genesis One and had the chance to hear Walton speak about his argument in the book. This led to this post, and a follow up.

Walton’s suggestion? In the ancient world the idea of creation was not about material but function. So that, in all the ancient creation myths, the thing that is created is order, things are named and given roles and a place in the world. How the “stuff” that things are made of came into existence was simply not a concern to the ancients.

If that’s true, and Walton makes a very good case for it, here is the way it cashes out: Genesis 1 is about functional origins not material, the original audience would have understood it as being about how order was created out of chaos, not how matter came from non-matter.

So the Bible takes no particular side in the debates we have about Evolution or the age of the earth, that Story is about something else entirely.

And suddenly I don’t have to choose between the Bible and those books about dinosaurs.

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Love God with All Your...Entrails?

by Mason Slater
August 18, 2011

In the ancient world the seat of thought and emotion was not the brain, it was the heart - or more specifically the entrails.

So when the Scripture tells us to love God with our mind, it’s actually telling us to love YHWH with our entrails.

Why would the Bible say such a thing if it's not scientifically correct? Because God was not interested in correcting their physiology. It didn’t matter if they believed that they thought with their entrails, so long as they thought in ways that were holy and righteous.

Similarly, the text is quite clear that ancient Israelites held a cosmology (understanding of how the world works) quite similar to their neighbors.

They saw the earth as a disk, with the stars and sun close at hand, Sheol was underfoot along with the oceans of the deep, and the dome of the sky held back the waters of the heavens.

Interestingly, YHWH never seems interested in correcting this idea either, even though as a scientific error it goes far beyond where we imagine thought takes place.

In fact, John Walton goes so far as to suggest in The Lost World of Genesis One “Throughout the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity.”

Having heard Walton speak last night I’m still wrestling with the implications of that claim, and I’m curious to hear your thoughts -

- Can you think of a passage where God did reveal new scientific data?

- If not, does that change the way we approach the text?

Grace and peace
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Are We Missing the Point of Genesis One?
August 19, 2011


Continuing yesterday’s conversation if YHWH did not choose reveal scientific truths to the people of Israel that they would not have already known, and I’ve yet to come across a place where he does, why then do we assume Genesis 1 is a modern scientific account of creation?

Now, right away that question becomes problematic, or at least it seems to. It’s one thing for God to accommodate his speech to fit ancient ideas like thinking with your entrails, and quite another for him to fabricate an entire creation narrative that turns out to be misleading at best.

But what if it’s not a question of making Genesis 1 fit either Young Earth Creationism or Evolution?

What if the text is about something else altogether?

In The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton makes what I find to be a quite convincing argument that we’ve imported an idea of creation into the text that was quite foreign to the ancient mind.

We, as good post-Platonic Westerners, are concerned with creation as material – the story of how there was no “stuff” and then God brought that stuff, that material, into existence.

In the Ancient Near East creation narratives were never about the creation of matter, but rather the creative act was a matter of bringing function and order to elements which were not serving their proper role. Case in point, the idea of “nonexistence” in Egyptian literature could be used to speak of the desert, which clearly exists in material terms but has not been given function or order in relation to the life of people or the gods.

{Similarly,] the story of Genesis 1 becomes the story of how the ancient world went from “formless and void” to properly ordered and given function by the God who, at the end of the story, sits down to rest and rule in his newly inaugurated temple – the cosmos.

Of course, the question behind the question for many of us will be this: if Walton’s understanding of Genesis 1 is correct, and it’s not about the creation of material, is there any biblical reason not to take up the scientific account of material origins?






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