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

Monday, May 6, 2013

Evolving as a Postmodern Christian - Asking Questions of Evolution and Theology

 
"Looking beyond our own beliefs"
 
 
Last November I asked the question whether the Bible needed an historical Adam (Why Do We Need a Historical Adam? The Bible Doesn't). I then asked whether the Gospel of Jesus needed the same. At which point I also left a half dozen articles that I had previously worked up for interested readers to follow within that same article. Later, this past April, I then made the observation that Evolutionary Creationism would require rethinking our major Christian doctrines (How Evolutionary Creationism Will Require Rethinking Scriptural Doctrine) to which I have spent the past two years doing just that as I investigated our historic Christian faith and updated it into a postmodern, Emergent Christian frame of reference without losing sight of our historic, orthodox creeds as long as they could be biblically substantiated. It has been a large task (as you can tell from the many articles and topics along the right-hand sidebars), but a fruitful one. It required a change of boundary markers and a change of viewpoint from which I had familiarly grown up with, and become comfortable, within. A journey that has been spiritually satisfying as my faith matured, while allowing me to become reacquainted with the majesty and glory of the Lord God Almighty. At the center of all my searches as been Jesus, His glory, His love, and His atoning sacrifice - without which this effort would all have been meaningless.
 
Since the questions I have asked, and the explorations I have made, appear to make radical departures from most of today's more popularly-rooted evangelical beliefs, I did not think that these topics would make for popular reading material. However, as an evolving, emerging Christian, I did believe that there would be others like myself who would be interested in these same discoveries, and so, have pointedly laid out my observations and arguments as patiently, and insightfully, as I could. Meanwhile, I have been careful to give heed to past non-scientific, pre-postmodern orthodox doctrine and dogmas, while at the same time have actively sought to uplift this same Christian faith into a postmodern, emergent context - one that would be more flexible and more relevant with our current understanding, education, scientific knowledge, and cultural/social movements. It has been a large endeavor, but one that I have thankfully explored with the help of other Christian minds and souls whom I have liberally quoted, and have provided references to their likeminded observations, as they have lent additional insight to mine own.
 
Hence, I would encourage further examination of the articles here on this web journal. The questions I have been asking - and am still asking- are questions I believe every Christian should be asking, and should remain necessarily relevant for generations to come. Namely, how does one break out of one's own background and be able to see beyond the borders of one's own discontinuities, intolerances, and short-sightedness? That in itself is an impossible task but if undertaken by the power of the Holy Spirit is made significantly satisfying when finally discovering the distant shores of other lost worlds, tribes, and people thought long dead (metaphorically speaking). For in the end, the Gospel of Jesus is one of following and obeying His call to lose one's faith in order to find one's faith. I think prime examples of these kinds of believers are the biblical heroes we know by the names of Abraham, Moses, the prophets, Jesus, His disciples, and the apostle Paul. Each one had to doubt what they knew of God in order to be able to hear God's call in their lives again. Without that doubt, that lose of faith, they would never have been able to follow after God's call to move beyond the boundary markers of their lives framed in yesterday's religions and inflexible beliefs.
 
The Christian faith, at the last, is a faith that demands we submit and obey to God's revelation in our lives, against our own wills of disbelief and incredulity. To me, this is the clarion call of God's Spirit to our own... one that listens and obeys like the little shepherd boy David watching over his father's sheep far from the fields of battle. A lad of tremendous faith who packs 5 rocks into his slingshot bag and marches off to confront Goliath and his four brothers. Who refuses the heavy, protective armor of King Saul to stand in defiance to the armies of the Philistine arraigned in hatred to God's covenanted people of Israel. Who, at the last, by his actions and faith, removed the obstacle to Israel's own lack of faith through his courage and trust in God. And patiently endured the many hardships to come in order to be able to lead God's people by his own faith struggles and disbeliefs, into a deeper covenant commitment despite surrounded by a wilderness of doubt and dismay.

The Christian faith should never be static. Never dull and out-of-step with society. We need to hear God's clarion call of belief and follow hard after His leading without fear of never finding Him again. Creation attests to the Lord Almighty. It is everywhere about us. We simply need to hear and obey. And to hear we must leave behind those giants of illusion, fear, and mis-statement. We must trust and believe. Even within our own disciplines that would persuade us otherwise causing us to stand on the sidelines of battle and tremble. For many Christians we spend too much time "defending our faith" when we should be spending more of our time "embracing our faith." The issue is not in defending our view of religion but in discovering the God of faith Himself. Paul had to let go of his sentiments about Jesus in order to see the Savior of his faith. His religion stood in the way of his sight while his heart knew all along that he must bow before his Creator-Redeemer.... Now what say you?
 
R.E. Slater
May 6, 2013
 
 
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Does Paul’s Theology Require a Historical Adam? Thoughts from J. R. Daniel Kirk
I want to open up the conversation to the possibility that the gospel does not, in fact, depend on a historical Adam or historical Fall in large part because what Paul says about Adam stems from his prior conviction about the saving work of Christ. The theological points Paul wishes to make concern the saving work of the resurrected Christ and the means by which he makes them is the shared cultural and religious framework of his first-century Jewish context.
 
Note the two key issues Kirk mentions here:
 
1. What Paul says about Adam is set up by his prior conviction that in Christ the “new creation” has broken in to present time. Paul draws Adam into a conversation begun by the resurrection of Christ, not vice-versa, and in doing so recasts Adam’s significance beyond that which he has in Genesis.
 
2. To the extent that Paul sees Adam as the first man, Paul is not making a binding scientific or historical  declaration but reflecting his view on such things as a first-century Jew.
 
In my opinion, both of these observations are absolutely key in coming to a biblically literate and historically knowledgable understanding of the role Adam plays in Paul’s theology.
 
Later Kirk makes the following observation concering Adam’s function in Paul’s argument in Romans:
 
What difference might it make to our discussions about a historical Adam that Paul was claiming, “Christ, is (un)like Adam, therefore God’s people are not demarcated by Torah”? This latter statement is, in fact, the point of Paul’s argument in Romans 5 (cf. 5:12–14, 20–21). Paul’s Adam theology is an avenue toward affirming that God has one worldwide people; therefore, the specially blessed people are not defined by the story of circumcision. 
 
What if Paul’s Adam is not a lesson for us about where people came from, but part of Paul’s rhetoric to establish the oneness of God’s people–Jew and Gentile together–that so dominates his letter to the Romans?
 
Here is one more quote that captures Kirk’s point:
 
[W]hat is a “given” for Paul is the saving event of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The other things he says, especially about sin, the Law, and eschatology, are reinterpretations that grow from the fundamental reality of the Christ event. Recognizing this relieves the pressure that sometimes builds up around a historical Adam….Adam is not the foundation on which the system of Christian faith and life is built, such that removing him means that the whole edifice comes crashing down. Instead, the Adam of the past is one spire in a large edifice whose foundation is Christ. The gospel need not be compromised if we find ourselves having to part ways with Paul’s assumption that there is a historical Adam, because we share Paul’s fundamental conviction that the crucified Messiah is the resurrected Lord over all.
 
I hope you have a chance to wonder over to Fuller’s website and read the article for yourselves. At the very least, counterarguments would need to provide a more compelling account of Paul’s overall theology in Romans rather than simply lifting verses out of that carefully crafted work and using them for reasons Paul never intended–and never would have understood.



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Q&A: Our New BioLogos Book
How does my walk with God relate to modern scientific discoveries? Can I maintain biblical Christian faith even if I change my mind on an issue like evolution? Many Evangelicals today are pondering these questions. Finding the answers will involve more than a mere synthesis of scientific facts. We need to hear stories from others who have wrestled with evolution and Christian faith. That’s the basis for Evolving: Evangelicals Reflect on Evolution, a collection of essays from Evangelicals sharing their personal journeys of science and faith being produced by BioLogos. Some essays will appear on the BioLogos blog in coming weeks and months, with the full collection published in a book by Russell Media by the end of 2013.
We sat down with BioLogos Program Director Kathryn Applegate and Tom Oord, two editors of the essay collection, to learn more.

1. Where did the idea for the book come from?

Kathryn: We were all talking about how much we personally have been impacted by stories, and how coming to our present-day understanding of origins is not simply a matter of learning new facts.  We thought it would be interesting to compile stories from people in many different disciplines to see what factors were most important for them as they wrestled with evolution and their faith.

Tom: A growing number of Christians -- including Evangelicals -- are rethinking their opposition to evolution. The idea for this book basically comes from trying to witness to this significant growth. We wanted Christians to speak about how they are working through the myriad of issues pertaining to evolution and faith.

2. Were most people eager to share their stories of wrestling with science and faith?

T: We were encouraged by the number of people willing to share. For some, this meant risking criticism. Forces are at play that discourage such honesty and openness to science. But Evangelicals know the testimonies of the saints are among the most powerful evidence to God's working in the world and in the midst of complex questions.

K: Almost all the scientists we asked were eager to write, and so were many scholars from the humanities.  The most hesitant group, perhaps not surprisingly, were the "professional Christians"--prolific Christian authors and parachurch leaders.  In some cases they were simply too busy, but in others they were concerned about damaging relationships with their constituencies.  Talking about evolution in the church is still a risky business!

3. What were some of the common themes you found throughout the testimonies?

K: Many of the contributors were raised in the church and took on young-earth creationist beliefs at an early age, but somewhere along the line began to discover that a) it wasn't the only position faithful Christians can hold, and b) it didn't make sense in light of what they were learning about science, history, and the Bible.  Many wrote about role models--parents, teachers, or pastors--who had an influence on their thinking.  Some mentioned a conviction that accepting evolution brought a sense of peace, even as legitimate questions remained.  They sensed that they were pursuing truth about God's creation, not taking the path of least resistance.

T: Christians care about the Bible. It has been and continues to be a well-spring of wisdom. So many essayists rightfully explore the scriptures as a guide for their coming to terms with the mounting evidence for evolution. The results affirm the central role of Scripture for finding truth, but it also reveals that Christians care about the truth of God found in creation.

4. Why do you think a book like this is important for the Church?

T: This book is important for many reasons, but let me just highlight two: (1) Sometimes putting in words what we are thinking can help us hone our own intuitions and partially-formulated thoughts on a subject. This book is helpful both to those who wrote the essays and should be so for those who read them. (2) For some time, a significant number of Evangelicals have accepted evolution as compatible with Christian faith. But many were unaware that others thought similarly. This book helps those who may think they are all alone see many others exist in their tribe who also believe evolution can be compatible with robust Christian faith.

K: Many people still believe that evolution is a creation story for atheists, when in fact there are many, many believers who are striving to follow Jesus even as they accept that God created through an evolutionary process.  When we hear someone's story and sense the Holy Spirit's working in their life, it becomes harder to dismiss them as not a "real" Christian.  Without needing an advanced degree in genetics or evolutionary biology, church leaders can learn ways to more effectively minister to those who are struggling over origins--and avoid creating stumbling blocks for seekers of God.

5. What has been the most rewarding part of working on this project?

K: It has been a real privilege to work with the authors on their essays.  They're a highly intelligent, faithful bunch—all leaders in their own fields.  And they still express an intellectual humility and a desire to keep learning and growing.

T: I especially enjoy hearing time and time again that a prominent leader wants to participate in this project because he or she has wanted to write on his or her affirmation of evolution. This provides further evidence for the growing sense that momentum is building on this crucial set of issues!



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