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

Friday, November 11, 2011

Common Christian Mistakes Made about Adam and Evolution


For further review from a biblical, historical viewpoint please refer to -




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“Most of all, perhaps, we need intimate knowledge of the past. Not that the past has any magic about it, but because we cannot study the future, and yet need something to set against the present, to remind us that the basic assumptions have been quite different in different periods and that much which seems certain to the uneducated is merely temporary fashion. A man who has lived in many places is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times, and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that prints out from the press and the microphone of his own age.”

- CS Lewis, The Weight of Glory


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Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion, Part 1
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2011/11/recurring-mistakes-in-the-adamevolution-discussion/

by Peter Enns
November 10, 2011

Over the past two weeks or so, there has been quite a bit of blog discussion over the question of Adam in light of evolution. I have kept up with various websites and other postings—not to mention comments on my own website.

Opinions vary, of course, and the Internet can be a good place to air one’s views and have a rousing back and forth debate. Nothing at all wrong with that. But, as I began reading editorials and comments, I saw patterns of responses that served more to obscure the issues before us than enlighten.

I began jotting down these patterns, thinking that, perhaps, I’ll write a brief post about “problems to avoid if we want to get anywhere in this important discussion.” But my list of recurring mistakes grew to fifteen—well beyond one post.

So, we’ll begin today with the first three recurring mistakes —in no particular order whatsoever. The others will follow in the days to come.


I.  It’s all about the authority of the Bible.

I can understand why this claim might have rhetorical effect, but this issue is not about biblical authority. It’s about how the Bible is to be interpreted. It’s about hermeneutics.

It’s always about hermeneutics.

I know that in some circles “hermeneutics” is code for “let’s find a way to get out of the plain meaning of the text.” But even a so-called “plain” or “literal” reading of the Bible is a hermeneutic—an approach to interpretation.

Literalism is a hermeneutical decision (even if implicit) as much as any other approach, and so needs to be defended as much as any other. Literalism is not the default godly way to read the Bible that preserves biblical authority. It is not the “normal” way of reading the Bible that gets a free pass while all others must face the bar of judgment.

So, when someone says, “I don’t read Genesis 1-3 as historical events, and here are the reasons why,” that person is not “denying biblical authority.” That person may be wrong, but that would have to be judged on some basis other than the ultimate literalist conversation-stopper, “You’re denying biblical authority.”

The Bible is not just “there.” It has to be interpreted. The issue is which interpretations are more defensible than others.

To put all this another way, appealing to biblical authority does not tell you how to interpret the Bible. That requires a lot more work. It always has. “Biblical authority” is a predisposition to the text. It is not a hermeneutic.


II.  You’re giving science more authority than the Bible.

This, too, may have some rhetorical effect, but it is entirely misguided.

To say that science gives us a more accurate understanding of human origins than the Bible is not putting science “over” the Bible—unless we assume that the Bible is prepared to give us scientific information.

There are numerous compelling reasons to think that Genesis is not prepared to provide such information—namely the fact that Genesis was written at least 2500 years ago by and for people, who, to state the obvious, were not thinking in modern scientific terms.

One might respond, “But Genesis was inspired by God, and so needs to be true.”

That assertion assumes (1) that “truth” requires historical accuracy (which needs to be defended rather than asserted), and (2) that a text inspired by God in antiquity would, by virtue of its being the word of God, need to give scientific rather than ancient accounts of origins (which is also an assumption that would need to be vigorously defended, not merely asserted).

Put another way, lying behind this error in thinking is the unstated assumption that the Bible, as the word of God, must predetermine the conclusions that scientific investigations can arrive at on any subject matter the Bible addresses.

To make this assumption is to run roughshod over the very contextual and historically conditioned nature of Scripture.

If Scripture were truly given priority over science in matters open to scientific inquiry, the church would have never gotten past Galileo’s discovery that the earth revolves around the sun.


III.  But the church has never questioned the historicity of Adam.

This is largely true—though it obscures the symbolism especially early interpreters found in the Garden story, but I digress. On the whole, this statement is correct.

But this rather obvious observation is irrelevant to the issue at hand.

Knowing what the history of the church has thought about Adam is not an argument for Adam’s historicity, as some seem to think, since the history of the church did not have evolution to deal with until recently.

That’s the whole point of this debate—evolution is a new factor we have to address.

Appealing to a time in church history before evolution was a factor as an authoritative voice in the discussion over evolution simply makes no sense. What Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and the Puritans assumed about human origins is not relevant. (And, no, I am not dismissing the study of church history, historical theology, etc., by saying this.)

Calling upon church history does not solve the problem; it simply restates it.

Appealing to church history does not end the discussion; it just reminds us why we need to the discussion in the first place.


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More Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion, Part 2
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2011/11/more-recurring-mistakes-in-the-adamevolution-discussion-2/

We continue today with three more recurring mistakes in the Adam/evolution discussion.

IV.  Both Paul and the writer of Genesis thought Adam was a real person, the first man. Denying the historicity of Adam means you think you know better than the biblical writers.

As with the issues we looked at in my last post, phasing things this way has some rhetorical punch, but it simply sidesteps a fundamental interpretive challenge all of us need to address on one level or another.

All biblical writers were limited by their culture and time in how they viewed the physical world around them. This is hardly a novel notion of inspiration, and guiding lights of the church from Augustine to Calvin were quite adamant about the point.

A responsible, orthodox, doctrine of inspiration understands that the biblical authors were thoroughly encultured, ancient people, whom God used as ancient people to speak. Inspiration does not cancel out their “historical particularity.” God, by his Spirit, works within ancient categories to speak deep truth.

We do indeed “know more” than the biblical writers about some things. That in principle is not a theological problem. The problem is that this principle is now touching upon an issue that some feel is of paramount theological importance. The stakes have been raised in ways no one expected, for know we understand that the ancient biblical authors’ understanding of human origins is also part of their ancient way of thinking.

Should the principle be abandoned when it becomes theologically uncomfortable?

As I see it, the whole discussion is over how our “knowing more” about human origins can be in conversation with the biblical theological metanarrative. This the pressing theological challenge before us, and we really need to put our heads together—not insulate ourselves from the discussion.

Acknowledging that we know more than biblical writers about certain things is not to disrespect Scripture. We are merely recognizing that the good and wise God had far less difficulty condescending to ancient categories of thinking than some of us seem to be comfortable with.


V.  Genesis as whole, including the Adam story, is a historical narrative and therefore demands to be taken as an historical account.

It is a common, but nevertheless erroneous, assumption that Genesis is a historical narrative.

Typically the argument is mounted on two fronts: (1) Genesis mentions people by name and says they are doing things and going places. That sounds like a sequence of events, and therefore is a “historical narrative.” (2) Genesis uses a particular Hebrew verbal form (waw consecutive plus imperfect, for your Hebrew geeks out there). That is the verbal form used throughout Old Testament narrative to present a string of events—so-and-so did this, then this, then went there and said this, then went there and did that.

Apparently, one is to conclude that a story that presents people doing things in a sequence is an indication that we are dealing with history. That may be the case, but the sequencing of events in a story alone does not in and of itself imply historicity. Every story, whether real or imagined, has people doing things in sequences of events.

To be clear, this does not mean that Genesis can’t be a historical narrative. It only means that the fact that Genesis presents people doing things in sequence is not the reason for drawing that conclusion.

The connection between Genesis and history is a complicated matter that many have pondered in great depth and that involves a number of factors. The issue certainly cannot be settled simply by reading the text of Genesis and observing that things happen in time.


VI.  Evolution is a different “religion” (i.e., “naturalism” or “Darwinism”) and therefore hostile to Christianity.

There is no question that for some, evolution functions as a different “religion,” hostile not only to Christianity but any belief in a world beyond the material and random chance. But that does not mean that all those who hold to evolution as the true explanation of human origins are bowing to evolution as a religion. Nor does it mean that evolutionary theory requires one to adopt an atheistic “naturalistic” or “Darwinistic” worldview.

Christian evolutionists—at least the ones I know—do not see their work in evolutionary science as spiritual adultery. Christian evolutionists take it as a matter of deep faith that evolution is God’s way of creating, the intricacies of which we cannot (ever) fully comprehend.

In other words, “evolution = naturalistic atheism,” although rhetorically appealing, is not an equation those Christians in the field make, and I think their convictions should be taken at face value, rather than suggesting that have been duped or are inconsistent Christians.


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Still More Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion, Part 3
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/

by Peter Enns
posted November 17, 2011


VII. Since Adam is necessary for the Christian faith, we know evolution can’t be true.

Evolution causes theological problems for Christianity. There is no question of that. We cannot simply graft evolution onto evangelical theology and claim that we have reconciled Christianity and evolution.

The theological and philosophical problems for the Christian faith that evolution brings to the table are hardly superficial. They require much thought and a multi-disciplinary effort to work through. For example:
  • Is death a natural part of life or unnatural? Is it a punishment of God for disobedience?
  • What does it mean to be human and made in God’s image?
  • What kind of God creates a process where the fittest survive?
  • How can God hold people responsible for their sin if there was no first trespass?


A literal, historical, Adam answers these and other questions. Without an Adam, we are left to find other answers. Nothing is gained by papering over this dilemma.

But, here is my point:

The fact that evolution causes theological problems does not mean evolution is wrong. It means we have theological problems.

Normally, we all know that we cannot judge if something is true on the basis of whether that truth is disruptive to us. We know it is wrong to assume one’s position and then evaluating data on the basis of that predetermined conclusion.

We are also normally very quick to point out this logical fallacy in others. If an atheist would defend his/her own belief system by saying, “I reject this datum because it does not fit my way of thinking,” we would be quick to pounce.

The truth of a historical Adam is not judged by how necessary such an Adam appears to be for theology. The proper response to evolution is to work through the theological challenges it presents (as many theologians and philosophers are doing), not dismiss the challenge itself.


VIII. Science is changing, therefore it’s all up for grabs.

Science is a self-critical entity, and so it should not surprise us to see developments, even paradigm shifts, in the near and distant future.

Is the universe expanding or oscillating? Are there multiple universes? How many dimensions are there? What about dark matter and dark energy? How many hominids constituted the gene pool from which all alive today have descended? And so forth.

But the fact that science is a changing discipline does not mean that all evolutionary theory is hanging on by a thread, ready to be dismissed at the next turn.

Also, the fact that science is self-correcting doesn’t mean that, if we hold on long enough, sooner or later, the changing nature of science will eventually disprove evolution and vindicate a literal view of Genesis.

Change, development, even paradigm shifts in scientific work, are sure to come. That is how science works. But further discoveries will take us forward, not backward.


IX. There are scientists who question evolution, and this establishes the credibility of the biblical view of human origins.

Individual, creative, innovative thinking often leads to true advances in the human intellectual drama. I would say that without these pioneering voices pushing the boundaries of knowledge, there would be no progress.

However, the presence of minority voices in and of itself does not constitute a counterargument to evolution.

Particularly in the age of the Internet, it is not hard at all to find someone with Ph.D. in a relevant field who lends a countervoice to mainstream thinking. This is true in the sciences, in biblical studies, and I’m sure any academic field.

There is always someone out there who thinks he or she has cracked the code, hidden to most others, and disproved the majority. And, in my experience, too often the promotion of minority voices is laced with a fair dose of conspiracy theory, where the claim is made that one’s view has been ostracized simply because it cuts against the grain.

Those without training in the relevant fields are particularly susceptible to following a minority voice if it conforms to their own thinking. But neither having a Ph.D. or some advanced degree, nor having research experience, nor even having written papers on minority positions, establishes the credibility of minority positions.

The truthfulness of minority claims must be tested over time by a body of peers, not simply accepted because those claims exist and affirm our own positions.


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Two Final Recurring Mistakes in the Adam/Evolution Discussion, Part 4
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/

by Peter Enns
posted November 25 2011


X. Evidence for and against evolution is open to all and can be assessed by anyone.

The sciences are technical and complex, and so require years of training to grasp.

Since evolutionary theory is the product of scientific investigation, it follows that those best suited to evaluate the scientific data and arguments are those at the very least trained in the relevant sciences—or better those who are practicing scientists and therefore are keeping up with developments.

A loose analogy can be drawn with biblical studies.

To be sure, the Bible is not remotely as technical a field as the sciences. There is a true sense in which most anyone has access to the Bible and can understand it, which is definitely not true of the sciences.






Still, the academic study of the Bible—which is a necessary requirement in the Adam discussion—requires certain skills that take years of training to acquire.

Simply gaining some facility with Hebrew and Greek takes years, not to mention a grasp of the diverse cultural, literary, and historical contexts of Scripture. Many debates about biblical interpretation (Adam being just one of them) involve us right away in some involved and complex areas that very serious scholars invest a lot of time (whole careers) and energy trying to understand.

Again, I am not saying that the Bible is closed to all but experts. I am saying that there are areas of biblical study that require a level of expertise.

Biblical scholars can normally tell whether or not someone has dealt with biblical languages and the cultural backgrounds to the Bible. And, I will say candidly, we can sometimes get frustrated with those who “don’t know what they  don’t know” [(re: academicians and technical scholars) - res].

As much as biblical studies requires some training and expertise, it is much more the case in the sciences. The years of training and experience required of those who work in fields that touch on evolution rules out of bounds the views of those who lack such training.

This is certainly the case with those who have no scientific training whatsoever beyond basic high school and college courses. I fall into that category. I remember being handed the periodical table of the elements in seventh grade and told to memorize it. I told the teacher if he thought this was so important he should memorize it himself and leave me out of it.

My science career ended before it began. It didn’t help that I had to take calculus twice before getting a C or that I conducted puppet shows with the lab animals in sophomore year biology.

My point is that serious scientific questions require serious scientific training—which only a fraction of the earth’s population can claim to have.

My point is that most of us do not have a place at the table where the assessment of evidence is the topic of discussion. The list of non-participants includes the following:
  • biblical scholars,
  • pastors,
  • the self-taught,
  • science hobbyists,
  • church historians,
  • theologians,
  • philosophers,
  • politicians,
  • celebrities,
  • seminary administrators,
  • musicians,
  • neighbors,
  • mathematicians,
  • physicist,
  • engineers,
  • best friends,
  • parents,
  • grandparents,
  • that cool website.

You get the idea.

Some have earned the right to take a seat near the table but not at it. High school or college biology teachers, for example, even if they are not practicing research scientists, are people I am going to have to listen to, especially if they are keeping up with the literature. But they are not going to be able to speak with as much conviction as those who are on top of their fields.

I also include here philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science (“science” modifies all three). These scholars look at the philosophical, historical, and sociological conditions within which scientific work takes place. They give us the big picture of what is happening behind the scenes intellectually and culturally.

Science is not a “neutral” endeavor, and these fields are invaluable of putting science into a broader intellectual context. I am all for it.

But here is the problem I have seen. Practitioners of these disciplines overstep their boundaries when they pass judgment on evolution on the basis of the big-picture context these disciplines provide.

I am going to guess that those who make such claims are likely not trained well enough to understand the boundaries of their disciplines, but that is another topic.

Even though it is very helpful to understand what may (or may not) be happening behind the scenes of scientific research, evolution cannot be judged from 30,000 feet. You still have to deal with the scientific data in detail.

I think I stand on very solid ground when I say that the three disciplines I mentioned and technical scientific practitioners need to be in conversation with each other, not one standing in judgment over the other.

Anyway, short story: you have to know what you are talking about if you want to debunk evolution. The problem is that, most trained, practicing, scientists have concluded that evolution is true.

If you want to argue with them, you have to argue better science that stands the test of peer review, not better ideology.


XI. Believing in evolution means giving up your evangelical identity.

Many arguments I have heard against evolution come down to this: my evangelical ecclesiastical group has never accepted it, and so, to remain in this group, I must reject it too.

It is never stated quite this bluntly, but that is the bottom line.

But everything depends here on what you mean by evangelical. In recent decades, the term has become a moving target. Just Google “evangelical identity” or “evangelical controversy” and you will see what I mean.

What is up in the air is whether evangelicalism is a stable, unchanging movement, or whether built into evangelicalism is an openness to change.

More importantly, it all depends on whether holding on to evangelical identity should be our primary concern, or, whether as God’s creatures we should pursue truth wherever it leads—even if it disrupts familiar paradigms.

We all need to make that choice.


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For further review from a biblical, historical viewpoint please refer to -







When Reading the Bible Learn to Discern Biblical Genre


Biblical Genre and Relational Truth
November 7, 2011


Narrated by Chris Tilling
NT Tutor for St. Mellitus College & St. Paul's Theological Center,
London, England
on reading the text of Scripture



*Today's video is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director  | editor of Satellite Pictures



In today’s video, theologian Chris Tilling, New Testament Tutor for St Mellitus College and St Paul's Theological Centre in London, discusses biblical genre and the relational truth of Scripture. Tilling notes that when we read the Biblical text, we bring our own presuppositions and assumptions to the text (what theologians call “eisegesis”). The genre of the text is central to how we understand the Bible. For example, we read poetry very differently than we would read a phone book.

The text often contains clues to how it was intended to be read. The rhythmic nature of Genesis 1 and 2 hints to the hymnic and poetic functions of the text.  However, the Gospels parallel ancient biographies, which were concerned with historic factuality in a way symbolic theological accounts were not.

Ultimately, Tilling notes, it boils down to the questions that we ask of the text. The author of Genesis was not asking biological questions but theological ones. To stay true to the text, we too must be asking the theological questions, because theological truth is always more than information; it is transformation . The Truth (capital T) of Christian theology is relational truth which addresses us, which has us as the objects. That Truth is a person. That Truth is one to whom we relate. What kind of truth are we talking about?


Transcript

Dr. Chris Tilling: “The crucifixion is detailed in the gospels. We assume that the suffering of the cross, that the physical agony, is the main focus of the crucifixion. This may tie in with various theological commitments, but it also ties into our own world view in various ways. Yet, when we actually go to the gospels, they focus more on the shame of the crucifixion, and less on the pain of the crucifixion. So there is an example where it is just a subtle difference, but it does illuminate how we read a text or how we misunderstand a text.

Now, to come to the question of historicity—what it means to write history—we have particular presuppositions about what makes history work. Today, we would prefer (to a greater or lesser extent) some kind of unbiased, impartial observation of evidence, but what we are actually doing is what scholars would call eisegesis: we are bringing our own presuppositions and assumptions into a text and reading it in light of that as if it were in the text. One way of responding to that is to point to the centrality of genre in understanding the Bible. We read poetry in a way that is very different to the way we read a phonebook, and there are clues in a text as to how the text should be read. So with Genesis—the rhythmic nature of Genesis one and two—the almost poetic and hymnic effect it would have played in the liturgy of the earliest Jewish lives. There is liturgy of life, there is the snake which eats dirt, there is God walking in the garden…it seems to me that there are clues here that it should be read in a theological way.

When you get to the gospels, however, the closest parallels that we have for the gospels is ancient biography—they seem to look like the way ancient biographies were written. In other words, they were concerned with what was happening in a way that a symbolic theological account would not. So, the genre of the different parts of the Old Testament will determine to what extent there was historical factuality involved. It boils down, ultimately—though we might not like to put it so sharply—it boils down to the questions that we are asking. The author of Genesis was not asking the kind of questions that we are often asking in a biological sense. These were theological questions that were being asked, and our questions, if we want to stay true to the text, likewise, need to be theological…because truth is always more than information, it is transformation.

It isn’t just about things that we can look at and that we can put in a test tube—small “t” truth if you like. Capital “t” truth is relational…is the truth which addresses us, which speaks to us, has us as the objects. That truth is the subject. Jesus Christ speaks of himself as the truth, the way, and the life…that truth is a person, that truth is one to whom we relate. What kind of truth are we talking about?”

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