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, September 13, 2013

Discussions in Science and Religion - Week 1: "Faith and Trust"

 
 
Week One's introduction didn't do much for me mostly because I'm pro-science and pro-Christianity and have written quite a bit about how science and the Christian faith have bisected my life and brought a fullness to it that without either would make each the poorer. However, within Philip Clayton's own context, he has encountered a lot of vitriol from Christians and their church denominations to his scientific paradigms for a Christian interpretation of the Scriptures... which means that he has received a lot of sarcasm from Christians, and gotten a lot of professional disregard by the atheistic elements of his science profession (what he calls the new atheism). This is regrettable because as week one's discussion has shown, Philip has taken pains to professionally bridge the gap between the two antithetical cultures, as his books and lectures have repeatedly shown these past many years by attestation.
 
For myself, I determined immediately from the onset of writing Relevancy22 that my philosophic direction would be one of integrating the science that I was trained in (through university) with the religion that I had learned and was also trained in. Most admittedly I had allowed the two to live in separate rooms (if not separate houses) of my mind and heart, disavowing any restriction by the one to the other. As such, I lived with a dualism of scholastic cultures that neither upset me nor conflicted me. I pretended there was no conflicted and lived happily within each purview giving to each one their fullest due.
 
But when I began blogging it became immediately apparent that I had to admit that my Christian faith was the more naïve for this outlook, and that my scientific outlook was built upon the beggarly foundations of an agnostic or a-theistic system. Each had much to recommend to the other but if left to separate dwellings it would be to my greatest folly and ignorance. Hence, as of this date, there are approximately 150 articles written, edited, or published in the area of science and the Christian faith. And it is left up to you, the reader, to discover each one as they might provide help or assist in this Area 51 between the Christian faith and today's scientific system.
 
 
Thus, it is from within this effort that I have tried to bridge the gap between the two areas of life that should never have been left so completely separate. My first admission was to the factual findings of biology, genetics, geology, and cosmology, and to finally agree that my understanding of it with the records of Genesis 1-3 were in great need of revisal. That if I were to admit to evolution than I must also admit that my hermeneutic (interpretation) of Genesis was not allowing me to see God's authorship in its design. Nor was my view of God's immediacy of creation realistically allowing me to see the paradoxical naivete of my limitation of God's greatness and wisdom by disallowing another kind of mediated (evolving) creation by this God that I professed. That He was bigger than the religious box I held Him within, and greater than the boundaries that I had philosophically restricted Him to. That at the last, it was myself that needed changing, and not my Bible, nor my faith, nor some purported fabrication of science.
 
As such, I have not only written about an evolutionary understanding of creation (sic, Evolutionary Creationism) but have also found that to make this effort likewise required of me to write of an expanded hermeneutic and theistic understanding of the God I once thought I knew, but in actuality knew very little of.... The strident voices of my fundamentalist (and lately, evangelic) upbringing required attention to the matters of the heresies it claimed... and when I did, it didn't do much for my personal or religious life amongst friends and family. For many, they lost trust in my Christian witness - which was unfortunate for I had endured much in life because of it. And they lost trust in my leadership to teach God's truth - which was equally unfortunate because I have become the richer for my belated explorations. Finding an amazing God beyond what I could have ever imagined!

But, like the prophets of the Old Testament, we each bear our burdens, and mine has been one of updating Christianity's secular modernism and anti-intellectualism into the 21st century's requisite embracement of post-structuralism, post-foundationalism, and post-modernism. Fancy words that basically say that by entering into this kind of Christian faith you must expect all your faith structures and foundations to be torn down and replaced with a surer foundation. One built on rocks instead of sand. And a foundation that both I, and Philip Clayton, will each aver is worth the cost, the mental pain, and the faith challenges. Thus Relevancy 22. And thus this journal of my experiences in lending a way out of the unenlightening wilderness which today's present Christianity has become lost within for too long.
 
Consequently, though I appreciated Philip's introductory session, my postmodernist, existentialist, Christian faith has moved beyond the dualistic kind of oppositional A-versus-B type of thinking found within my previously secularized, modernistic faith. Not that I don't utilize these pedantic structures, because for people like myself who are being led of God beyond the God of their imagination, I must provide some conceptual linkages to the past that might be helpful to those on similar journeys as mine own.
 
But I must also write to this generation's present Millennials who are not as conflicted as mine own generation of the 60s and 70s by science's more profound discoveries (Richard Leakey for one, in his discoveries of million(s)-year-old humanoid skeletal parts). Mostly, science now reigns supreme, and has become the philosophic anvil upon which all other religious faiths must fall, becoming either broken or sharpened. But to remain neutral to science is impossible. And lest the ancient faith of Yahweh become yet another religious shard upon the pile of mythological ruins it must be updated into the cultural times that we live.
 
And so, "Yes," science has become as disruptive, as dangerous, as anti-Christian (seemingly so) in our day-and-age as it was back in Copernicus and Galileo's day when the Catholic Church fought against it. But for the followers of Christ we must not run headlong into the age-old arguments of a Richard Dawkins who so easily dismisses Christianity, its God, and its Bible. We listen to these professing agnostics and atheists to try to understand how we have so admittedly failed in our understanding of God's Word, and to learn how we might re-work our paradigms, Christian culture, and attitudes, so that we might re-discover the God-of love behind the God-of-the Bible whom we thought we knew, and don't.
 
Sure, its fun to bash the "unbelievers" amongst our religious groups... those of us with Facebook accounts see this behavior daily, accusing one-another of a questionable faith, of a faith that is divisive, or even a faith that too easily gives in to the world around itself. But this does not drive the discussion forward. It simply uproots the "old man" within us to gleefully rejoice in another's perceived faults and imperfections without realizing the "plank" in our own eye, and the "needle-like" entrance we have laid for ourselves as we bow before the foreshortened walls of our own Mecca-like Jerusalem.
 
 
Pulpits have become strident instead of informative. Christian media lobs pejorative labels upon everything outside of its own fundamentalist, non-progressive structures. The newspapers, friends and family, stir up old ills by causing Christian believers to fight between one another. Our faith is judged primitive. Our spirituality judged religious. Our churches a vacillation between medieval barbarism and insignificance. Christianity has lost its epistemic humility, its sense of discernment, and its broader insight into the ways-and-workings of God our Savior. Rather than becoming spiritual creatives we have become spiritual viruses living off of 4th century creedal debates, a labyrinth of quixotic Christian traditions, and sincerely misled faith cultures. We make false assumptions about a scientific discipline we don't understand, or put our heads in the sand that would ignore the claims of vast discoveries that changes everything we thought we knew as good Bible students of God's Word.
 
Has the Christian faith become so absurd or, can we find within it a reasonableness to today's scientific certainties, without losing the God-of-our-faith behind those verities? Can we let go of the epistemological structures of certainty that we grew up with to allow in some paradox and mystery that has long fled our knowledge of God? Can we as the church of the 21st century find a place to reconstruct theology and to carry it forward beyond the mockery that it has become to the world at large? To understand that since the days of Paul, the church's best thinkers have  joined in the highest of this world's debates and philosophic discussions in attempts to rediscover a God endlessly challenged to His viability and interior claims of truth within our lives? That each Christian era has entertained its own challenges: from Judaism to Greek  Hellenism and sectarian gnosticism in Paul's day; from Aristotle and Plato to Medieval scholasticism; from the Enlightenment to today's era of Secularism; and so on and so on.

And so where does this leave Science and Religion today? Christian scientists are discounted, their views resisted by both sides of the discussion, and our faith made a mockery from Hollywood to the Halls of Academia. Trust has been lost by today's non-Christian cultures, and with it we have witnessed Christianity's rapid devolution into the world's claims to its religious mythology. Rightfully so have philosophers such as Kierkegaard, Tillich, Bultmann, Barth, and Caputo, leapt in to recover this most ancient faith refusing that "all the facts belong to science, and all the emotions, beauty, and poetry belong to religion." Nay, they wished to speak a more constructive theology in their day even as we do today. Refusing antithetically opposed statements that "Science has disproved God even as Faith distrusts Science." To not rest within oppositional elements but to show a synergy of admission to each that would allow both viewpoints a marriage out of agreement and not by necessity.
 
How? To begin with, by stating that "my faith isn't absurd, but neither can it prove all things." To rest in the knowledge that we don't know. That we don't have the answers. To not demand of our faith that it must prove all things for it to be believed and followed. For myself, it began by admitting that the ancient author(s) of Genesis utilized the science of their day - that of the predominant Babylonian belief in their cosmological constructs of heaven-and-earth as a refractory beginning to describing their own Creator God of the Hebrews. Or, by jettisoning the arguments of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) for perhaps Wolfhart Pannenberg's creatio continua (creation from something that always was). To think through what it means for humanity to have a soul as distinguished from the animal kingdom that seemingly did not inherit its own consciousness in evolutionary development. Or, how homo sapien man might be unique from the evolutionary hominids before him. Or, how one might describe a biblical miracle in today's scientific understanding (cf. synchronicity, miracles, virgin birth herein). Or, the ethics of our ecology and environment. Or even, the implications of how our faith might be practiced differently with this knowledge.

It is at this point that we must admit that this is a journey of reconciliation that must be made, even as it is one that cannot not be made. To know that all must change within us if we are to begin such a journey. That like Abraham of old, living amongst the Chaldean's of Ur, we must trust God to leave our faith's homelands for the more challenging homelands of faith beyond. That we will stumble, fail, and even run into our own disbelief, but throughout this journey of separation God is our God and will be with us guiding, protecting, blessing. It can be so. We must only allow it to be so.
 
R.E. Slater
September 13, 2013
 
 

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