Quotes & Sayings

We, and creation itself, actualize the possibilities of the God who sustains the world, towards becoming in the world in a fuller, more deeper way. - R.E. Slater

There is urgency in coming to see the world as a web of interrelated processes of which we are integral parts, so that all of our choices and actions have [consequential effects upon] the world around us. - Process Metaphysician Alfred North Whitehead

Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The most true thing about you is what God has said to you in Christ, "You are My Beloved." - Tripp Fuller

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. - Tripp Fuller

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

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - 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

We become who we are by what we believe and can justify. - R.E. Slater

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) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

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

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

In Whitehead’s process ontology, we can think of the experiential ground of reality as an eternal pulse whereby what is objectively public in one moment becomes subjectively prehended in the next, and whereby the subject that emerges from its feelings then perishes into public expression as an object (or “superject”) aiming for novelty. There is a rhythm of Being between object and subject, not an ontological division. This rhythm powers the creative growth of the universe from one occasion of experience to the next. This is the Whiteheadian mantra: “The many become one and are increased by one.” - Matthew Segall

Without Love there is no Truth. And True Truth is always Loving. There is no dichotomy between these terms but only seamless integration. This is the premier centering focus of a Processual Theology of Love. - R.E. Slater


Note: Generally I do not respond to commentary. I may read the comments but wish to reserve my time to write (or write from the comments I read). Instead, I'd like to see our community help one another and in the helping encourage and exhort each of us towards Christian love in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. - re slater

Friday, May 10, 2013

Peter Rollins, "The Idolatry of God"

We have followed Peter since his introduction at Mars Hill Church many years ago. I have found in him the seeds of a restorative faith through honest recognition of our failings, hurts and harms. He approaches Scripture from primarily a philosophical perspective in order to integrate redemptive theology towards healing and wholeness in Jesus. As such, it is meant as relevant philosophical theology for the postmodern 21st century as versus other restorative disciplines such as psychology, social theory, or normative church instruction.

I have used Peter to help determine what is meant by the idea of "deconstructing the Christian life" primarily through his observations as to how Christian symbols and imposed church structure are used in our worship of God and faith. Knowing Peter to have a heart centered on Jesus-and-His-resurrection, I can also say that Pete is fundamentally orientated towards spiritual "reconstruction" within the Christian life albeit through "torching" those ideas about God that pre-postmodernistic religion has imposed upon the human spirit. He calls this "pyrotheology," a subset of which is his idea of "idolizing" God in our own image rather than in God's own  divine image that he finds to be, in a deeply religious sense, mystical and mysterious, moving and paradoxical.

Generally, I find Pete's ideas helpful, if not sometimes outlandish or weird. But within that weirdness there are always glimmers for me into my life with Christ and the heart of faith we are called to commit and be founded upon. As I am not a philosopher but primarily a theologian, I find it helpful to listen to those whom God has led before me into areas that may be fruitful for discussion and discernment - even as He has with past Christian philosophers such as Soren Kierkegaard of the 19th century. There is always room in the family of God for differing perspectives. Peter Rollins is one such voice to whom we might listen.

R.E. Slater
May 10, 2013

Idolatry of God Trailer

Peter Rollins

Peter Rollins is a widely sought after writer, lecturer, storyteller, and public speaker. He is the founder of Ikon, a Belfast, Northern Ireland, faith group that has gained an international reputation for blending live music, visual imagery, soundscapes, theater, ritual, and reflection to create what they call 'transformance art'. He currently resides in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Peter gained his higher education from Queens University, Belfast and has earned degrees (with distinction) in Scholastic Philosophy (BA Hons), Political Theory (MA) and Post-Structural thought (PhD). He is currently a research associate with the Irish School of Ecumenics in Trinity College, Dublin and is the author of the much talked about How (Not) to Speak of God. His most recent work is entitled The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales. He was born in Belfast but currently resides in Greenwich, CT.

Commentary by Peter - http://relevancy22.blogspot.com/search/label/Commentary%20-%20Peter%20Rollins

Peter's website - http://peterrollins.net/

Peter's blog - http://peterrollins.net/?cat=276

Peter's youtube channel site - http://www.youtube.com/user/TheOrthodoxHeretic?feature=guide

The Idolatry of God

You can’t be satisfied. Life is difficult. You don’t know the secret.

Whether readers are devout believers or distant seekers, The Idolatry of God shows that we must lay down our certainties and honestly admit our doubts to identify with Jesus. Rollins purposely upsets fundamentalist certainty in order to open readers up to a more loving, active manifestation of Christ’s love.

In contrast to the usual understanding of the “Good News” as a message offering satisfaction and certainty, Rollins argues for a radical and shattering alternative. He explores how the Good News actually involves embracing the idea that we can’t be whole, that life is difficult, and that we are in the dark. Showing how God has traditionally been approached as a product that will render us complete, remove our suffering, and reveal the answers, he introduces an incendiary approach to faith that invites us to joyfully embrace our brokenness, resolutely face our unknowing, and courageously accept the difficulties of existence. Only then, he argues, can we truly rob death of its sting and enter into the fullness of life.

Book Review
By Greg Tenni
February 11, 2013

 In this book, Pete continues his program of incendiary theology - burning all the things that get in the way of having a bare bones, gut-level relationship with God. He talks about our quest for answers and victory over our circumstances as being idolatrous, as being the real object of our worship rather than God Himself.

He is not writing anything new, because people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Soren Kierkegaard have written in a similar vein many years before , but Pete brings his unique version of this message in a different style, using more contemporary images and stories.

As an example, have a look at this passage from Bonhoeffer (Ethics):

"Only by God's executing judgment upon Himself can there be peace between Him and the world and between man and man. But the secret of this judgment, of this passion and death, is the love of God for the world and for man.

What befell Christ befalls every man in Him. It is only as one who is sentenced by God that man can live before God. Only the crucified man is at peace with God. It is in the figure of the Crucified that man recognizes and discovers himself. To be taken up by God, to be executed on the cross and reconciled, that is the reality of manhood." [in chapter titled Ecco Homo - The Successful Man]

Peter Rollins puts it like this:

"This means that the crucifixion bears witness to a form of life that is free from our obsessive drive for the idol, a form of life in which our zombie nature is cured. For to lose the idol means to lose that drive which prevents us from fully embracing our life and taking pleasure in it. It means giving up our desire for ultimate satisfaction and then, in that act, discovering a deeper, more beautiful satisfaction, one that is not constantly deferred but that can be grasped here and now. Not one that promises to make us whole and remove our suffering, but one that promises joy in the midst of our brokenness and depth in the very embrace of our pain." [End of Chapter 4]

Obviously they are writing in very different styles and using very different perspectives, but essentially they are bringing the same message.

This is one of those books that should be read slowly, and every image savoured. Like Bonhoeffer's Ethics and his Christology, it should be re-read every year because new meaning and application can be found again and again.

Anyone looking for answers or new methods of creating "meaningful worship experiences" will be disappointed by this book. It doesn't give answers, but raises questions that we need to explore in our own lives and communities. And ultimately it's questions that keep us close to God, whilst answers drive us away from Him.

What Could Be More Biblical, More Redeeming, than the Non-Stop, Screwed-Up World of Glee?!


The Senseless, Beautiful, Topsy-Turvy World of Glee
Glee has hit the world running exposing all the best and worst of the human spirit. It focuses on the disabilities and insecurities of our impersonal societies and heartless spirits. From its nastiness to its beauty – from humanity's warts, pimples, byoptic near-sightedness, weirdness, and ugliness, to its wonder, amazement, incredibility, incredulity, and soaring hopes and dreams. Glee is the Disney version of the Bible’s exposure of our hearts, minds, souls and spirits. It shows to mankind the worst and the best within us. From our disabilities and disbelief, to our insecurities and inner turmoils. From our gross frailties and failures, to our impossibly unchained ambitions and soulful concessions.
God’s Word exposes us. And so did Glee as we sat glued to the TV waiting breathlessly for the next big blowup, the next devastating heart break, the next miraculous human touch that would make sense of the senseless world thriving around us. It’s topical pop music lifts our spirits giving hope, healing, and a steely-eyed reality of strength to the deep complexity and oft-times senseless destruction that overwhelms us. A destruction that never quite ends in our teen years but seems to hang-on through our later mature years of denial. Our bigotry. Our unresolved hurts and harm. Our need for compassion, mercy, understanding. For real friendships that stay with us through all that we are and hope to be.
Postmodernity and Glee
At Glee’s essence is the struggle of the human spirit to know and express love beyond its bounded freedoms and chained disappointments. To find a group of friends - and especially that one close soulmate - who sees and accepts us at our most unvarnished exposure. Who brings out the best in us when we fail to be at our best. Who might endure our meltdowns and unkindness to help us become less toxic to those family and friends around us bewildered by our too-hasty actions, misspoken words, and intolerable cruelty. To reach a place that we might see sin’s ugliness in our lives and accept God’s world of love, hope, healing in bonds of unbroken fellowship. To find-and-recreate communities of redemption, hope, mercy and forgiveness. Here is the teenage world of postmodernity at its deconstructive best and reconstructive heights binding human souls into depths of fidelity unthought and undreamed.
To modernity’s excesses and brutalities, its impersonal arguments for-or-against God-and-country, comes postmodernity’s reach of the human touch admitting froth and failure, helplessness and lost, disappointments and reality. The youth-of-today give to the-world-of-tomorrow a pageantry of hope wrapped within the tenuous tissues of God’s redeeming love that would rescue the worst of us from the ugliness waiting within the cesspool of our loneliness. Tissues that tear too easily and yet cling tenaciously until our human souls might find the exit doors to its dilemmas and confusions, anger and hate, denials and destructions. God’s love is that fibrous tissue – so seemingly frail and yet spidery strong. It is everywhere around us to the one brave enough refusing to give-up or give-in.  His Spirit mighty enough to grant a strength we fail to have against such impossible odds of self and world. His Cross wide enough to take a world of suffering and give to it a resurrected hope little understood until personally found, claimed, and received. This is the world of Glee. The world of the Bible. Our world of God’s love and reach and depth. Cling to it and “Don’t Stop Believing” in the renewing worlds of tomorrow.
R.E. Slater
May 10, 2013
Glee - Don't Stop Believing
Short clip
Glee 3D Movie - Don't Stop Believing Performance



Below is a video produced by resident philosopher/theology Peter Rollins of Belfast, Ireland. His observations fall in-line with the biblical idea of redemptive introspection that was written of above. And is a consistent message of God's directive love and care through our own moments of implosion and failure, griefs and torments, where the bond of forgiveness and understanding through Jesus can bring restoration and healing by the hands and hearts of those God brings into our circumcised lives. - R.E.Slater

For Further Reference - Peter Rollins, "The Idolatry of God"

Here's One Denomination Willing to Adapt Their Theology Against Past Church Ideology

My friend Tom Oord has been a great-and-good influence in demonstrating to those within his denominational reach of how to adapt one's theology to the present understanding of scientific knowledge. Consequently, he and other theologians within (and outside) of his denomination (sic, Biologos for one) have been willing to accept the fact that their theology is out-of-step with today's academia and are showing their flexibility in remitting incorrect church doctrines in the face of fact-and-not-fancy.
That Evolutionary Creationism is beginning to become a broad-based understanding to the early creation stories of the Bible has been reflected herein within the journals of Relevancy22 as evidence to this movement's intent. That this is beginning to become a legitimately accepted viewpoint within today's postmodern church has also been demonstrated in the writings of those willing to speak out against the more popular rhetoric of refuting Christian colleges, churches, mainstream publications, and media outlets.
Little-by-little the evolutionary doctrine of creation is becoming understood as the only valid scientific process by which our Creator God has chosen to create His creation against the centuries-old proclaimed teachings of the non-postmodernday church (sic., in pre-postmodernistic language these movements go under the several names of Young Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, or Intelligent Design). Because this theological view confronts those countering church dogmas on so many doctrinal planes it has behooved theists both left-and-right of the issue to reflect on the many differing doctrinal subjects which have been abrogated and must be updated.
To those far-sighted theologians willing to brave the task at hand, and accepting the challenge that scientific discovery has brought to the church's understanding of the Bible, we are discovering a far deeper (and far richer!) grasp of our Creator-Redeemer God than initially comprehended (or originally feared lost) through such study. Hence, the Bible itself - along with its many integrating doctrines - are being challenged as to their truer course of revelation to which the church had formerly understood (and applied) those doctrines (and dogmas) under previous administrations and enlightenment eras.
Slowly, newer, more hermeneutically palatable explanations and study of the Scriptures are arising to replace poorly understood - and misapplied fears - to the truths of "scriptural evolution" as they affect our understanding of God, His Being, His elected processes of creation, His considerable judgments and wisdom, His oft-times incomprehensible revelation and communication to man, His reach, intent, majesty, and glory. Nay, into the very spirit of redemption itself as God renews, reclaims, recreates, revives, creation towards His sovereign goals and plans.
Consequently, the church has everything to gain and nothing to lose as has been demonstrated within the articles contained here in Relevancy22 in its many arguments for Evolutionary Creationism, and its varied exploration into the depths of the divine mind and will. As such, to the inquiring heart-and-mind willing to suspend past ideological arguments for a deeper, richer, insight into God Himself, there will be paradoxically discovered profound satisfaction that will include an expansive array of the world's resources and native storybook everywhere written about us into the cosmologic and biotic landscapes surrounding our hearts and minds, souls and spirits. "Hail," brave adventurer, "to the beauties of our Creator God, His wondrous world, and ancient mysteries of the divine!"
R.E. Slater
May 10, 2013
Nazarenes Exploring Evolution
The Project
Recent polling shows that the majority of scientists believe in evolution. More than 9 of 10 professional scientists believe the evidence for evolution is compelling.1 While the theory of evolution comes in a variety of forms, virtually all forms say that gradual changes occurred to produce new species over long periods of time.
Not only do the majority of scientists affirm evolution, the general features of evolutionary theory – including an old earth and natural selection – are widely accepted in culture today. Most public television and scientifically-oriented programs simply assume the general truth of evolutionary theory.
Recent polling also shows, however, that more than half of American Evangelicals believe humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.2 Those who hold this view typically believe the world is relatively young. And they interpret Genesis (and other books of the Bible) in a particular way to support their young earth view.
This difference between 1) the majority of Evangelicals and 2) the majority of scientists seems true of the Church of the Nazarene. Many denominational scholars in various disciplines – scientific, biblical, and theological – believe the general theory of evolution is compatible with Wesleyan-holiness theology. Yet, many non-specialists in the Church of the Nazarene reject evolution. In fact, a 2007 Pew poll said only 21% of Nazarenes mostly agree or completely agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of life on earth.3 Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, sums it up: "the bulk of our Christian scholars/scientists are in a camp different from the bulk of our laity [on issues of evolution]."4
The Nazarenes Exploring Evolution project works to foster greater understanding among members of the Church of the Nazarene about the potential fruitful relation between Wesleyan-holiness theology and evolution. It does so by exploring scripture, science, theology, and other realms of knowledge. It seeks not to ridicule those who hold non-evolutionary views of creation, such as Young Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, or Intelligent Design. Instead, it offers Theistic Evolution (or similar views) to members of the denomination as a viable alternative among accounts of how God creates the universe.
Nazarene Scientists on God Creating through Evolution
In a 2009 Pew research study, 97% of scientists said humans and other living things have evolved over time by natural processes, guided by God, or evolved in some other way.5 To date, no one has taken a poll of scientists in Church of the Nazarene colleges and universities to determine how they think about evolution. But some scientists in the denomination have published their views on the subject.
Fred Cawthorne, of Trevecca Nazarene University, says that "evolution by no means contradicts the fact that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and that he has been actively guiding and sustaining the universe for all time. If we say God cannot create through a gradual, progressive process such as evolution, then we limit God's transcendence and immanence."6
Karl Giberson, long-time professor at Eastern Nazarene College, affirms evolution: "I think evolution is true. The process, as I reflect on it, is an expression of God's creativity, although in a way that is not captured by the scientific view of the world... God's creative activity must not be confined to a six-day period - 'in the beginning' - or the occasional intervention along the evolutionary path. God's role in creation must be more universal – so universal it cannot be circumscribed by the contours of individual phenomena or events."7
Darrel Falk, of Point Loma Nazarene University, says that "for the past century and a half, thousands of scientists from disciplines as diverse as physics, geology, astronomy, and biology have amassed a tremendous mass of data, and the answer is absolutely clear and equally certain. The earth is not young, and the life forms did not appear in six twenty-four-hour days. God created gradually."8
Rick Colling, a long time scientist at Olivet Nazarene University, says that "some people, on religious grounds, choose to aggressively ignore or deny many scientific concepts and principles, especially in the domain of evolution... The problem, as I see it, is that we tend to squeeze God into small rigid boxes... Unfortunately, this approach to religious faith is fraught with liability because it prevents God from truly being God – a creator capable of using any means He chooses for His creation."9
Without polling, it is difficult to know if these views represent the majority of Nazarene scientists. But it is true that the voices quoted above are not alone among Nazarene scientists who believe the evidence for evolution is strong and evolution does not necessarily conflict with the belief God is Creator.
Nazarene Biblical and Theological Scholars on God Creating through Evolution
There is little doubt some people reject evolution based on their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible says little to nothing about evolution. And the first chapters of Genesis, when read literally, do not easily fit the theory of evolution.
Many biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers in the Church of the Nazarene, however, believe the Bible should not be interpreted as a straightforward science or history book. For instance, many believe Genesis 1 reads like a hymn of praise. Others believe it draws from Jewish Temple literature, which is religious and not scientific. Most Nazarene Bible, theology, and philosophy scholars believe the main point of Genesis and other creation texts is theological: God is Creator. Genesis and other books of the Bible need not mention the specific ways God creates for this main point to be true.
Robert Branson, a long-time professor at Olivet Nazarene University, says that "it is one thing to say we believe that God is the Creator. It is quite another to say that in Scripture God described with scientific accuracy "when" and "how" he created."10
Dennis Bratcher, a long time Bible scholar in the Church of the Nazarene, says that "sometimes it is hard for us to realize that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is an Oriental book... The thought world of Oriental culture is radically different from the thought world of Western culture, particularly when we recall that there is a period of three thousand years between us and that culture... That's why they are not writing about evolution in Genesis 1; that's 3,000 years in their future."11
Alex Varughese, of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and his Nazarene co-writers of Discovering the Bible say that a "careful reading of Genesis 1:1-2:4a shows that the focus of the text is on the Creator and what He made. Our usual questions of why, how, and when are not answered in this account."12
Michael Lodahl, of Point Loma Nazarene University, says that "a Wesleyan reading of Genesis – and of the world – need not and should not shy away from the dominant ideas of the contemporary natural sciences. It is obvious that if the evolutionary story of the universe (including our own planet and all of its living inhabitants) is generally accurate, then the opening chapters of Genesis cannot be assumed to be giving a straightforwardly literal account of the creation of the world."13
Thomas Jay Oord, of Northwest Nazarene University, sums it up: "The Bible tells us how to live abundant life. It does not tell us scientific details about how life became abundant. The Bible also tells us how to go to heaven. It does not provide the science to tell us how the heavens go."14
Without polling biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers in the denomination, it is difficult to know if the quotations above represent the majority. But the available literature suggests that these views do represent most scholars in these disciplines. Most scholars in Bible, theology, and philosophy seem at least open to the possibility that Wesleyan-holiness theology is compatible with evolution. And many are convinced the two are compatible.
Does It Matter?
Even those mildly interested in questions of theology and evolution know the science-and-religion discussion has a history of conflict. Any progress toward insight or reconciliation comes slowly, if at all. Veterans of the discussion are prone to weariness, and denominational leaders might wonder if the "fight" is worth the trouble. Does addressing the issues of evolution really matter?
Christians have long believed that truth matters. Although Christians may not ever know all truth because we "see through a dark glass" (1 Cor. 13), we are called to search for truth in our attempts to love God with our minds. Because the natural and social sciences are primary avenues for discovering truth about existence, these sciences can play a central role in helping Christians discern how to love God and others as oneself.
Al Truesdale, long-time professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary, summarizes the importance of seeking truth in the Church of the Nazarene: "Denominations that stand in the Wesleyan tradition [such as the Church of the Nazarene] are at their best when they advocate a vital faith that seeks understanding through a bold examination of the results of all human exploration, whether in technology, in the sciences, or through historical research."15
One reason this discussion matters, therefore, is that the search for more adequate understandings of God and the world God creates relies upon a variety of sources, not the least of which are the sciences. If evolution is widely accepted among those who have studied the natural world most intently – scientists – it matters how Christians engage the science of evolution in light of Christian Faith.
This brings us to a second reason why the discussion of evolution and theology matters. It matters because many (but not all) scientists in the Church of the Nazarene affirm the general theory of evolution. These scientists often feel ostracized, get labeled as ungodly, are marginalized, or considered deceived.
The testimony of Nazarene biologist, Darrel Falk, is similar to the testimonies of many Nazarene scientists: "One of the biggest deterrents (to entering a Nazarene community) was my impression that I could never become part of an evangelical fellowship because of my belief in gradual creation.... Unless the church begins to downplay the significance of believing in some variety of sudden creation, there will continue to be thousands of individuals ... who will be denied true fellowship in God's kingdom."16
Christian Witness Today
A third important reason why the evolution and Christian theology discussion matters is the nature of Christian witness. And the Christian witness pertaining to evolution is especially true for how young people think of God and Christian faith.
In a recent Pew study, more 18- to 29-year olds reported having a positive view of science than those in any other age category. More specifically, sixty-one percent of young people believe life evolved over time due to either natural process or divine guidance. Seventy percent of all college graduates – no matter their age – affirm some form of evolution. In sum, young people and those with degrees in higher education are more likely to trust scientists who argue for the validity of evolution.
Statistics also show, unfortunately, that young people leave the church and/or become atheists because they perceive the church to be opposed to science in general and evolution in specific. In his book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman uses the data from Barna Group research to show why 18- to 29-year olds are leaving the Church. Nearly 3 in 10 say the church is out of step with science, and one quarter say Christianity is anti-science. About one quarter of young people are turned off by the creation vs. evolution debate, and about one-fifth say Christianity is anti-intellectual.17
Kinnaman quotes one young person and why he left faith over the church's failure to accept science: "To be honest, I think that learning about science was the straw that broke the camel's back," says the young person. "I knew from church that I couldn't believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn't believe in God anymore."18
Stories from Nazarene parents, youth pastors, and university professors indicate that some young people are leaving the Church of the Nazarene for the reasons Kinnaman reports. These young people think they cannot affirm the idea that God creates through evolution and still feel welcome in the denomination.
Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, asks an important question of himself that also applies to the Church of the Nazarene, "Will I engage a young generation in an open-minded biblical conversation that welcomes scientific discovery, reasoned philosophy, and careful logic? Or will I ignore all of these in favor of an interpretation of creation that is barely one hundred years old and rooted in the fear of science?"19
In a loving, constructive, and humble endeavor, the Nazarenes Exploring Evolution project seeks to help the Church of the Nazarene consider how evolution can complement rather than contradict Wesleyan-holiness theology.
2 Research Center for the People & the Press. http://www.pewforum.org/science-and-bioethics/public-opinion-on-religion-and-science-in-the-united-states.aspx. Website accessed 1/18/13
3 Association of Religion Data Archives. http://thearda.com/Denoms/families/profilecompare.asp?d=1001&d=601&d. Accessed 1/23/13. Rich Housel, who alerted me to this website, notes that the sample of Nazarenes polled was very low: 103.
4 Dan Boone, A Charitable Discourse: Talking about the Things that Divide Us (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2010), 106.
6 Fred Cawthorne, "The Harmony of Science and the Christian Faith," in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren't Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 105.
7 Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 216.
8 Darrel R. Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity, 2004), 214.
9 Richard G. Colling, Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator (Bourbonnais, Ill.: Browning, 2004), 107.
10 Robert Branson, "The Bible, Creation, and Science," in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren't Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 105.
11 Dennis Bratcher, http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/bbgen1.html Accessed 1/18/13
12 Alex Varughese, ed. Discovering the Bible: Story and Faith of the Biblical Communities (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill, 2006), 65.
13 Michael Lodahl, God of Nature and of Grace: Reading the World in a Wesleyan Way (Nashville, Tenn.: Kingswood, 2003), 63.
14 Thomas Jay Oord and Robert Luhn, The Best News You Will Ever Hear (Boise, Id.: Russell Media, 2011), 25. See also Oord, Divine Grace and Emerging Creation: Wesleyan Forays in Science and Theology of Creation (Eugene, Or.: Pickwick, 2009) and Oord, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2010), ch. 4.
15 Al Truesdale, "Introduction," in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren't Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 10.
16 Darrel R. Falk, Coming to Peace with Science, 230. For similar testimonies, see Richard G. Colling, Random Designer, and Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin.
17 David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011), 136.
18 Ibid., 131.
19 Dan Boone, A Charitable Discourse, 102.