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

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Ken Ham & Bill Nye's Arguments between Science and Religion

Bill Nye v. Ken Ham: giving credibility to nonsense
(or, walking into an apologetic war machine)

Select Comments from the
Biologos Community


Those who follow the activities of BioLogos—including seekers, scholars, scientists, and pastors—probably won’t be surprised that we haven’t been too optimistic about the potential consequences of yesterday’s debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. As scientists and science aficionados, we’ve been concerned that the rhetoric employed by Ham would seem to undercut the validity of evolutionary theory for those without a strong grasp on the body of evidence supporting it. As Christians, we’ve worried that our faith will be presented to the world as a tree with only one branch, rather than a rich community of believers with diverse views on origins and God’s ongoing relationship to creation.

But perhaps even more distressingly, we’ve anticipated that one of the lasting effects of this debate will be to further alienate Christianity from science in the public consciousness. As BioLogos president Deb Haarsma wrote recently, constant struggle, argumentation, and debate about worldviews is not the only way to view the relationship between science and faith!

So who won? How did it go?

Of course, we at BioLogos agreed with both debaters at various times throughout the debate and were pleased to note an atmosphere of (mostly) civility and courtesy between both parties. It’s impossible to encapsulate two and a half hours of intense conversation in a single blog post—and only time will tell what effect this event will have on the public conversation on creation and evolution. We anticipate much commentary in news and blog outlets in the coming days regarding who “won” the debate and what was said by both debaters.

Since we are more concerned with how this event will affect the acceptance of evolution in the evangelical community and the accurate representation of what a Bible-believing Christian looks like to the general public, our response to the debate is not a blow-by-blow of the arguments made but rather a series of “big picture” reflections by BioLogos scholars.

From John Walton, BioLogos advisor:

In general I appreciated the cordial and respectful tone that both debaters evidenced. Most of the debate was about scientific evidence, which I am not the one to address. The only comment that I want to make in that regard is that it was evident that Ken Ham believed that all evolutionists were naturalists—an identification that those associated with BioLogos would strongly contest.

But both speakers also showed assumptions about the Bible that provide opportunity for analysis. Bill Nye repeatedly returned to the idea that the Bible was a book translated over and over again over thousands of years. In his opinion this results in a product that could be no more trusted than the end result in the game of telephone. In this opinion he shows his lack of clear understanding of the whole process of the transmission of texts and the textual basis for today’s translations. The point he should have been making is that any translation is an interpretation. That is the point on which to contest Ken Ham’s “natural” readings of Scripture. We cannot base the details of our interpretations on translated (and therefore interpreted) text. We have to interact with a Hebrew text, not an English one. Nye also tried to drive a wedge between Old Testament and New Testament—a non-productive direction. The point he was trying to get at, but never fully exploited was how dependent Ham’s position was on interpretation.

I commend Ken Ham’s frequent assertion of the gospel message. His testimony to his faith was admirable and of course, I agree with it. I also share his beliefs about the nature of the Bible, but I do not share his interpretation of the Bible on numerous key points. From the opening remarks Ham proclaimed that his position was based on the biblical account of origins. But he is intent on reading that account as if it were addressing science (he truly believes it is). I counter by saying that we cannot have a confident understanding of what the Bible claims until we read it as an ancient document. I believe as he does that the Bible was given by God, but it was given through human instruments into an ancient culture and language. We can only encounter the Bible’s claims by taking account of that context.

One place where this distinction was obvious was that Ham tried to make the statement in Genesis that God created each animal “after its kind” as a technical statement that matched our modern scientific categories. We cannot assume that the same categories were used in the ancient world as are used today (genus, family, species, etc.). Such anachronism does not take the Bible seriously as what it “naturally” says. In the Bible this only means that when a grain of wheat drops, a grain of wheat grows (not a flower); when a horse gives birth, it gives birth to a horse, not a coyote.

The fact is that Ken Ham rejects scientific findings because he believes the Bible offers claims that contradict science. He believes that he can add up the genealogies to arrive at the need for a young earth. He never stops to ask whether it is “natural” to read ancient genealogies in that way. In the ancient world genealogies serve a very different function than they do today, and numbers may well have rhetorical rather than strictly numerical value. He believes that there could be no death before the fall because he has interpreted the word “good” as if it meant “perfect.” That is not what the Hebrew term means. Furthermore, if there was no death before the fall, people would have little use for a tree of life. What is a “natural” interpretation—our sense of what it means or the sense that an ancient reader would have had? Ham actually made the statement that we have to read the Bible “according to the type of literature” that it is. Yet it was clear that he has done no research on ancient genres and how parts of the Bible should be identified by the standards of ancient genres (after all, our genre categories are bound to carry some anachronism and therefore cannot be applied directly). Reading the Bible “naturally” cannot be approached as casually as Ham suggests.

When Ham was asked what it would take to change his mind, he was lost for words because he said that he could never stop believing in the truth of the Bible. I would echo that sentiment, but it never seemed to occur to him that there might be equally valid interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis, or maybe even ones that could garner stronger support. He stated that no one can prove the age of the earth, but he believes that the Bible tells us the age of the earth. Nevertheless, it is only his highly debatable interpretation of the Bible that tells him the age of the earth. What if the Bible makes no such claim? There are biblical scholars who take the Bible every bit as seriously as he does, who disagree that the Bible makes a claim about the age of the earth.

In the end, then, while Ham kept challenging Nye about whether he was there to see this history that he claimed, Nye should have been challenging Ham about what makes him so certain that the Bible is making the claims that he thinks it is. What appears to Ham as a “natural” reading, is extremely debatable if one attempts to read the text of Genesis as the (God-inspired) ancient document that it is.

From Dennis Venema, Fellow of Biology:

Dennis Venema photoI was surprised that Nye did not delve into genetics– I was hoping for a good discussion of genomic comparisons between humans and other species, for example. Modern comparative genomics is one very strong line of evidence for evolution in general, and human evolution in particular – and one that I have written about extensively on the BioLogos Forum. So, from my perspective it would have been nice to see Nye press Ham with this evidence. For example, why do humans, as placental mammals, have the defective, fragmentary remains of gene for making egg yolk in our genome exactly where one would predict it to be based on examining the genomes of egg-laying organisms? Why is it that we share many mutations in this defective gene with other placental mammals, to say nothing of the many other defective genes with the same pattern of shared mutations? Did the exact same mutations happen over and over again in many distinct species (species that even Ham would agree are separate “kinds”) or did those mutations happen once and then were inherited by species that later went their separate ways? This line of evidence could have been brought to bear to show how compelling the case for human evolution is when looking at our genome and further highlight, as Nye did, that evolutionary biology is a predictive science – a theory in the scientific sense. This would have also shown that Ham’s position – that of independently created “kinds” of organisms – has no support at all from a comparative genomics perspective. As such, it’s not surprising that Ham didn’t bring it up, but I expected Nye to do so, and to argue it forcefully.

The only discussion of genetics was a brief mention of the work of Richard Lenski, a microbiologist who has been performing a decades-long experiment on the evolution of bacteria (E. coli) in his laboratory. One key result of the Lenski experiment was to catch an evolutionary innovation “in the act” and then tease out the many genetic changes that were required for it. Specifically, Lenski and his colleagues documented the basis for the bacteria to acquire a new function – the ability to utilize the compound citrate as a carbon source in the presence of oxygen. The genetic details of how this new function arose are complex and fascinating, and certainly not the simple case, as Ken Ham claimed, that “nothing new” had arisen and that it was merely the case that “a gene that was previously present was suddenly switched on”. Indeed, this is a well-documented case of a new function, with new genetic information, arising through evolutionary mechanisms – and one that I have written about extensively for those interested in this fascinating story.

Despite these particulars, overall I had the general feeling what is really needed for the conversation on evolution among brothers and sisters in Christ is twofold. First and foremost, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of the Bible, especially the Ancient Near Eastern context and setting of the original audience of Genesis (for which I am glad for the work of others with expertise in that area, such as my colleague John Walton). Secondly, evangelicals need a deeper understanding of how science works in general, and specifically how the lines of evidence for evolution converge on a robust picture of how God used this means to bring about biodiversity on earth. While I am of little help with the first point, the second is the goal of the Evolution Basics series I have been writing for the last year. This series is intended to bring the average layperson “up to speed” on evolution – a resource that I hope will be useful for many who watched the debate and came away with questions.

From Deb Haarsma, President of BioLogos:

Deb Haarsma photoWhile the debate pitted two extreme positions against one another, I was glad to hear references to other options. Bill Nye repeatedly pointed out that many religious people, including Christians, accept the evidence for evolution and the age of the earth. Nye even mentioned our founder, Francis Collins! Ken Ham pointed out that the scientific method grew out of the Christian context of medieval Europe and that the faith is in harmony with the process of science. He even shared a love of technology with Nye! But several times we here at the office groaned in frustration, like when Ken Ham made false scientific arguments or Bill Nye turned to science to answer questions of meaning and purpose. When Ken Ham was asked something like “If science were to show conclusively that the earth was older than 10,000 years, would you still believe in the historical Jesus?” I wished he would have simply said “yes.” Our belief in the Bible and Jesus is more fundamental than our views on science. When Bill Nye referred to religion as a source of social connection and comfort for millions, I wished that he had a deeper understanding of what Christianity is all about. Our faith is much more than a social club; it’s about absolute truth and salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The highlight of the night for me? Seeing people discover the resources at BioLogos from our tweets during the debate.

* * * * * * * *

The debate was available to view online via live stream. The full debate can be seen below in HD online for free in the Youtube video below for a period of time. It can also be viewed on debatelive.org.

The Ham vs Nye live debate tickets for the 900-seater hall sold out within two days of tickets going on sale. Many churches and schools have organized to watch the debate live.

* * * * * * * *

The Best Quotes of Bill Nye’s Evolution
vs. Ham's Creationism Debate

Feb 5, 2014

I am an Evangelical Christian. I believe the Bible is God’s inspired word. I believe that Jesus is God in the flesh who died for the sins of the world and rose again bodily on the third day. And yet, according to Ken Ham in his historic debate with Bill Nye tonight at the Creation Museum, because of my belief in Evolution, I cannot be who I am. I cannot be both a follower of Jesus Christ and someone who believes in the evidence presented by the vast majority of scientists worldwide. Or at least, it is a very unlikely fit. Even though I insist on a theistic evolution model that includes God as the beginning point, the uncaused cause of the universe. Even though I affirm all of the core doctrines of the Christian faith and even though I have had an undeniable experience with Jesus Christ, according to Ken Ham, it must be difficult for me to be a Christian. I am deceived and adhering to one of the greatest Satanic lies ever created. All because I believe what the majority of people on planet earth do — that our beautiful planet is millions of years old and that all of life has common origins and undergoes a process of evolution that helps us to adapt, progress, and survive. Makes sense…

Those of us in the Evangelical world understand that Ken Ham represents a very small minority of Christians worldwide. The amount of Christ followers that believe in his version of creationism is waning and the reality seems to be that most millennial Christians are discovering balance between scientific fact and the experience of our faith. These are very exciting times. But tonight, thousands upon thousands tuned in to watch Ken Ham speak for “Christianity” or at least “Evangelical Christianity”, both of which I identify with. Thousands upon thousands were exposed to a man who can barely be called a scientist let alone a theologian who represented the perspective of Christianity against Bill Nye’s scientific agnosticism.

Michael Graves: The Early Church Father's Many Methods of Interpretation of the Bible

Augustine and his figurative–and therefore not at all modern evangelical–view of the Bible
Augustine operated with a theology of Scripture that led him to interpret the Bible differently from most Christians today. To be specific, Augustine read Scripture in a figurative way that often does not correspond to modern literalist methods of interpretation.

For example, in dealing with what appear to be harsh deeds done by God or the Israelites in the Old Testament, Augustine says, “Any harsh or even cruel word or deed attributed to God or his saints that is found in the holy scriptures applies to the destruction of the realm of lust” (On Christian Teaching 3.11.17; transl. R.P.H. Green). Later he says, “But if [a statement in Scripture] appears to enjoin wickedness or wrongdoing or to forbid self-interest or kindness, it is figurative” (On Christian Teaching 3.16.24). This is not the exegesis practiced by many who today cite Augustine for support…

It is not surprising to find all sorts of figurative readings in Augustine, since he believed that “anything in the divine discourse that cannot be related either to good morals or to the true faith should be taken as figurative” (On Christian Teaching 3.10.14).

Graves ends with some sober observations that, in my experience in these matters, is too often ignored or simply not understood:

Christians today may share Augustine’s belief in the complete truthfulness of what Scripture teaches. But if we imagine ourselves as holding to a “traditional” view of inspiration, then we cannot simply borrow a quotation from Augustine about the truthfulness of Scripture and then ignore the very interpretive methods that made Augustine’s beliefs about Scripture work in the first place. That is historically and theologically incoherent.

Twenty-first-century readers may not share all of Augustine’s beliefs about how best to interpret Scripture. I think this is perfectly understandable. But this means we need to reframe how we understand biblical inspiration to function as a whole. In my opinion, this is the best way to maintain a “traditional” view. Instead of just taking a small piece of the tradition and using it to defend our own interpretive methods, we should look at the ancient system as a whole and then think constructively about how to capture the essential truths about Scripture for today.

As I see it, not only is Augustine deferring to figurative readings in these morally troubling instances of Scripture, but note that his “standard” for deciding what is morally troubling or upright does not come “from the Bible” but from outside of it. He seems to “judge” the Bible by a standard foreign to it, which in much of contemporary biblical apologetics is about as sure a sign of  harboring a “low” view of Scripture as anything.

Anyway, as I put it in my blurb, Graves “invites readers of Scripture today neither to pillage the ancients for our own agenda, nor to ignore them to our poverty, but to converse with them along our own contemporary hermeneutical journey.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Read Graves’s post and stay tuned for the upcoming interview.

* * * * * * * * *

An Interview with Michael Graves

a new book on what Christians today can learn about the Bible from people who have been dead for about 1500 years

by Peter Enns

1. Scripture Is Useful for Instruction.
2. Every Detail of Scripture Is Meaningful.
3. Scripture Solves Every Problem That We Might Put to It.
4. Biblical Characters Are Examples for Us to Follow.
5. Scripture Is the Supreme Authority in Christian Belief and Practice.

The Spiritual and Supernatural Dimension:

6. Divine Illumination Is Required for Biblical Interpretation.
7. Scripture Has Multiple Senses.
8. Scripture Accurately Predicted the Future, Especially about Jesus

Mode of Expression:

9. Scripture Speaks in Riddles and Enigmas.
10. The Etymologies of Words in Scripture Convey Meaning.
11. God Is Directly and Timelessly the Speaker in Scripture.
12. The Scriptures Represent Stylistically Fine Literature.

Historicity and Factuality:

13. Events Narrated in the Bible Actually Happened.
14. Scripture Does Not Have Any Errors in Its Facts.
15. Scripture Is Not in Conflict with “Pagan” Learning.
16. The Original Text of Scripture Is Authoritative.

Agreement with Truth:

17. Scripture’s Teaching Is Internally Consistent.
18. Scripture Does Not Deceive.
19. Scripture’s Teaching Agrees with a Recognized External Authority.
20. Scripture’s Teaching Must Be Worthy of God.

Why is ancient thinking about biblical inspiration a vital topic for evangelical Christians?

Because understanding Scripture is vital for Christians, and I think the early church makes a significant contribution to this understanding.

To be more specific, I would point out that many Christians today wrestle with how to be faithful to the teaching of Scripture in their own contexts. In this discussion, reference is often made to the “traditional” view of Scripture, but without any explanation or basis for what this “traditional” view is.

In my book, I describe ancient thinking about inspiration with many citations from patristic sources and specific biblical texts, showing the range of available ideas and the qualifications that came from grappling with specific textual issues. I believe that ancient Christian thinking about biblical inspiration is vital for Christians today who are intent on living faithfully in accordance with Scripture’s teaching.

Yet, vague or inaccurate notions about the “traditional” view of inspiration are not helpful. We need to be as specific and concrete as possible if we are to learn the right lessons. The goal of my book is not to shut down critical thinking by appealing to tradition, but to open up paths of faithful thinking by seeing the pious, critical reflections of ancient Christians about Scripture.

What is the big idea that you would like people to take away from this book?

That is a hard question to answer, because I imagine that different readers will perceive different strengths and weaknesses in patristic thinking about inspiration, and so they will legitimately take away different big ideas.

I expect that many readers will find significant elements in these sources with which they already resonate, and perhaps other elements that may challenge their thinking in constructive ways.

One big idea that arises from these sources is that the heart and soul of inspiration is that the Bible is useful and profitable for instruction (2 Tim 3:16), and so we should ask from every biblical text what God is teaching us.

Another big idea is that the discipline of discerning what Scripture teaches is complex and involves many steps, including ad litteram (“literal”) exegesis, comparison with other biblical texts, theological reflection, and spiritual receptivity. All of this was seen as part of the nature of Scripture itself as inspired by God.

Ancient Christian approaches to Scripture can set the stage for a rich encounter with the Bible. This encounter is genuine, in that is arises from the texts and makes full use of the intellectual resources we have been given. It is rich because it incorporates the full range of Christian spiritual experience in the act of interpretation.

You suggest in the book that “the example and teachings of Jesus serve as a lens through which all interpretations of Scripture must pass” (p. 136). Could you elaborate? Is this a particularly important takeaway of your book?

Yes, it is one of the major ideas from ancient Christianity that I think remains important today. Let me briefly state here two angles on this topic.

First, I try to show how the process of reading Scripture involves willingness to listen to what biblical texts actually said and also a rich and somewhat complex process of perceiving what God is teaching through any part of Scripture in the context of Scripture as a whole.

This requires from us virtues such as humility, patience, and love, so that we have genuine encounters with Scripture that can challenge us, and Scripture does not become a tool that we use to harm others. The example and teachings of Jesus provide us a tangible model and illustration of the virtues we need to interpret this way.

Second, the ultimate takeaway for our lives in reading Scripture should be love of God and love of neighbor, as Jesus taught and demonstrated. In sum, it is precisely because biblical interpretation is no simple task that we need illumination and the example of Jesus to guide us.

Imagining Miracles and A Brotherhood of Man

The word "miracle" seems to me to be a term that is both dissembling and ambiguous.... It seems to give a false impression or misleading appearance to the real reality or truth of an event or circumstance. Used by many, it is meant to put on the appearance of a truth, resembling something that normally wouldn't happen, and occurring in a fashion that is abnormal or non-normative. And by ambiguous is meant to also give a false or misleading appearance to something concealing the real nature of motives, thoughts, presence, or pretense, of a speech or act. One that contains several meanings or interpretations but is difficult to comprehend, perhaps distinguish, or lacking the necessary clarity to the observers around, many times passing unnoticed to the general public. A public that is at all times skeptical and unbelieving.

In common parlance, it refers to an observation of a non-normative event into a distinctly meaningful interpretation for an individual, or group of individuals, who awaken to a truth or reality previously unseen through an unusual occurrence that gives spiritual definition and meaning to further acts and speech. To spiritually enliven one's life giving to it shape and definition that previously wasn't there before. Sometimes to one's error and regret, and more often to one's benefit as well as those about.

So then, in this postmodern age of science and skepticism how are we to think of the word miracle in connection to the biblical miracles of the Bible? At once the term "miracle" seems to be immediately at odds with the scientific method's pursuit for verifiability, evidentiary examination, and confirmatory proof. Without the ability to replicate a "miraculous" event or occurrence the claimed "miracle" is considered doubtful and held in disregard until proven true. Thus, it is considered suspect and non-normative of the everyday "facts" of life as we think we understand them. On the opposing side, those wishing to see a miracle will, whether it is there or not, driven as they are by the delusion to believe or interpret an event that is seems unexplainable (see "Criticisms" in the Wiki article at the end of this post):

In psychology and cognitive scienceconfirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret
new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, and avoids information and
interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. It is a type of  cognitive bias and represents an error
of inductive inferenceor is a form of selection bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under
study, or disconfirmation of an alternative hypothesis. Confirmation bias is of interest in the
teaching of critical thinking, as the skill is misused if rigorous critical scrutiny is applied only
to evidence that challenges  a preconceived idea, but not to evidence that supports it.[18] 

As example, I think of a woman's medical discussion on NPR who was considered become demonic until later discovering her brain's physiology was deficient a specific chemistry balance (A Young Reporter Chronicles her 'Brain on Fire.' November 14, 2012, NPR).

And in theological terms - especially in light of the truths of evolutionary creationism and relational process theology as discussed here on this blog - the term miracle may give the false impression of a God who is set wholly apart from us. Who is outside of our sphere of reality but then comes to engage our world on an intermittent, temporary basis to interrupt this world's natural processes, flow, and rhythm, as He had previous set them. Who does something unusual that we notice before leaving us again to suffer the affects of our sin and evil alone.

At once we misunderstand the idea of miracle by forcing it into the molds of both scientific rationalism and theological deism. Which should indicate that it is we, ourselves, who are the problem here, and not the idea in itself. We have forced a good biblical concept into the modes of our overly-rationalistic worldviews to become false interpreters, or witnesses, to the every day, extremely normative, God-centered events in our everyday lives. Perhaps we interpret these too literally. Perhaps too casually or indiscriminately. Perhaps demanding it be read as we think the Bible portrays it (I think of the 2014 film of Noah as popularly envisaged by Russell Crowe's latest film). Disconnecting the theme or concept to the extant biblical movement surrounding a passage within its covenantal time, while on the other hand neglecting to do the hard work of interpretation in preference to our imaginations of what we think the Bible says or doesn't say.

For example, the era of the church gives witness to two biblical constructions that were present in the older covenantal times periods of the Bible but not yet enacted historically - that of Jesus' incarnation and resurrection. As a flesh-and-blood event that was unexpected in Adam and Eve's day. And Abraham's. And  Moses. And even in Israel's day (which is why Jesus was such a surprise to Israel's astute religious establishment). But upon the backwards glance becomes readily apparent when seen through each covenantal period's redemptive typologies and parallelisms. Meaning, that God was purposely at work effecting salvation to His people, and to the world of man at large (think Melchizedek, among others). So that when Christ's incarnation and resurrection actually did happen historically it launched the new ecclesiastical Age of the Church (better thought of as the Age of the Spirit). And with it the beginning of the end of the old creation, and the start of a new creation, that would usurp all predecessors like yeast to leaven, or a gnat-sized mustard seed to a mighty tree, or new fermenting wine to old wine skins bursting them asunder. Even as God's heavenly kingdom broke out upon man's many kingdoms through the incarnate/resurrected gospel of His Son. Things that were non-normative then would now become normative, unhidden, noticeable and seen.

Which brings us to the idea of biblical miracles. In essence, however they are understood, they are pointers to the larger idea that God is with us. That He is present with us. That His mighty hand of redemption is there to redeem and save. As can be seen in each of its telling in the Bible through the many lives of His people - both wicked and professing. None are beyond the hand of God, nor outside His boundless compassion and mercy. God is the God of every man, and not just that of Israel's, or the church's, or the elect and predestined as misunderstood by Calvinism's derelict doctrine. Nay He is the God to all peoples. Both to the wicked and to the righteous. For good or for ill as we respond to His goodness and love in denial or acclaim.

So then, what is meant by this? Should we expect to see a God who is intimately present and involved in the processes of this world? Even through its creation is nowadays regarded scientifically as formed by random chance and chaotic evolution eventuating into the birthing of the homo sapien race? The backwards glance tells us yes. That God has worked His will upon His creation over all things seen and unseen by the power of His Spirit however it has occurred. Whether we understand it or not. That through His Son - which the theologian would describe as the midpoint of redemptive history - all things move and have their being to the formation of this godly event of creation. And that it is at this spiritual midpoint of history that we even now are moving towards an expansion of God's spiritual kingdom across all nations and lives, events and acts. That through His church will come the works of His Spirit into the hearts of desperate people without hope or love, truth or justice. That this Spirit of God will warp all time and space into the furthering of God's will upon this earth. And that with His rejection shall also come the harsher realities of sin's evil and evil's sin should we deny its presence in our lives - a presence of love, mercy, forgiveness, and peace with all men.

Hence, by the word miracle is not meant - at least in my mind - that God comes into our desperate lives to resurrect them willy-nilly.... Nay, He has been in our lives all along enacting this very thing. We just haven't noticed it. Nor have we recognized His hand at work in the many daily things that have protected our spirits, if not our very lives, against the sin and evil we suffer under. Perhaps we have been given hardship to humble us. To cause us to look away from ourselves, or from others, as fleshly saviours to the One who would be our Sovereign and Saviour. Perhaps we have suffered because of our sin and must look to the One who has taken our sin upon Himself and has given to us freedom and release that we thought wasn't there until beholding Jesus in His incarnated glory.

The miracle of God is the one that releases us from our sin, and from the hands of sinful man - if not by death, than by freedom from those who would harm our spirits and inner man to the lamentation of soul and mind, heart and body. To see in the life about us that we have been empowered by a God who loves us to defeat the sin and evil we experience or see in ourselves and in the lives of others. To bring justice where no justice is. To bring hope and salvation where none existed. To resurrect the lives of those dead about us to the Living Waters at the Well of the Lord. To speak peace and love and mercy in the strength and power of the Holy Spirit.

These alone are greater miracles than any miracle of the Bible. Did not Jesus say the same, "...which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?"
  1. Matthew 9:5
    For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
    Matthew 9:4-6 (in Context) Matthew 9 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations
  2. Mark 2:9
    Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
    Mark 2:8-10 (in Context) Mark 2 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations
  3. Luke 5:23
    Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
    Luke 5:22-24 (in Context) Luke 5 (Whole Chapter) Other Translations
Let not the word "miracle" confound us in the popular banter of its remit or surmise but allow it to breathe into us God's peace and redemptive work. This is the fuller meaning of the term. Not how it occurred. Or by what method, time, or space. It is miraculous no less and doesn't require us to effect the seeming impossible to experience or prove the power of the Spirit of the Lord. God's power is everywhere about. It is a sublime power known only to those who live in its streams and mighty waters. It cannot be proven by mere occurrence and happenstance because it is there already. We just haven't seen it because we haven't thought to see it. To take the backwards glance in our lives. To use it. Believe it. Or move within it. Until now. Until this day. This hour. Through every word spoken from our hearts, minds, and mouths. To every act committed by our hands, feet, and will. Like John Lennon once said, "Let it be." Or better yet, "Imagine" a world of possibilities and opportunities. A world of miracles. A world where a new kingdom creation is spreading out and overtaking an older world of fleshly desire and sin.

R.E. Slater
February 6, 2014

John Lennon - Imagine HD

imagine, "a brotherhood of man"

* * * * * * * * *


We cannot fit the resurrection of Jesus into a modern materialist
worldview of 18th century rationalism and enlightenment;

Nor can we not the incarnation and life of Jesus into this
modern materialist worldview either.

"Let’s give up the world miracle because the word "miracle" comes to us now in our culture from that Epicurean or deist worldview which envisages a God who is outside the process and occasionally reaches in and does something funny and then pushes off again.

Now, that is not what the New Testament is talking about. So when people say can we believe in miracles I say no, because the word miracle gives us this sense of a normally absent God sometimes reaching in, that’s not the God of the Bible.

What we have, and I talk about this in Simply Jesus, is the launching of space, time, and matter in a new mode. And it’s not discontinuous with our present space, time, and matter, but this is God’s new creation.

And the thing about what we call the miracles, is not… "Wow! there seem to be radical abnormalities within the old world." No... the point is that these are the things that are starting to be normal in the new world which we see close up and personal with Jesus and then which, through the ministry of the gospel thereafter, start to happen in different ways in the wider world.

It’s about the launching of new creation. Not about an invasion [backwards] into the old creation."

- N.T. Wright, Simply Jesus

* * * * * * * * *

- Wikipedia: Miracle

A miracle is an event not ascribable to human power or the laws of nature and consequently attributed to a supernatural, especially divine, agency.[1] Such an event may be attributed to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader. A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what are considered miracles.[2] Theologians say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through created nature yet is free to work without, above, or against it as well.[3]

The word "miracle" is often used to characterise any beneficial event that is statistically unlikely but not contrary to the laws of nature, such as surviving a natural disaster, or simply a "wonderful" occurrence, regardless of likelihood, such as a birth. Other miracles might be: survival of an illness diagnosed as terminal, escaping a life-threatening situation or 'beating the odds'. Some coincidences may be seen as miracles.[4]

A miracle is sometimes thought of as a perceptible interruption of the laws of nature. Others suggest that God may work with the laws of nature to perform what people see as miracles.[2] Some theologians say that, with divine providence, God regularly works through created nature yet is free to work without, above, or against it as well.[3]

* * * * * * * * *

Divine Synchronicity:
What Does It Mean for Christianity?

The Concept of Synchronicity
Part 2 of 2

Continued from the article, LOST in Purgatory, Part 1 of 2
August 16, 2011

A significant concept that was not readily apparent on the TV show LOST until the flash forwards and flash sideways episodes began appearing in the third and fourth seasons was the concept of synchronicity. When reviewing my notes from several years back I believe that some of what was being implied through the concept of purgatory discussed in part one above, could easily fall into this metaphysical idea here, where, during our lifetimes, and quite unknown to us (if at all), coincidences based upon a-causal events may interlope (or intersect) within our lives in phenomenal ways. Some Christians call these events miracles, others an "intervention of grace," where non-normative events, ideas or people may enter into our lives in either profound or non-significant ways.

Most philosophers, psychologists and physicists, regard synchronicity as an extremely rare event (as initially conceived), but I am more or less of the opinion that synchronicity is a very common, normative event at work at all times in everyone's lives and that we are simply unaware of it, just like we are unaware of the act of breathing, or thinking, or behaving, or acting, or passing through time for most of our lives. It is an all-pervasive fact that we only may rarely glimpse like the tip of an iceberg. This has become known as joined collective dynamic very similar to the physics term of quantum mechanics, but operative on a metaphysical level that occasionally intersects with our physical, symbolic world, and with others who cross-sect our daily routines sometime in life.

Taking this concept one step farther, I would entertain the idea that the operating mechanism behind the concept of synchronicity is that of the Holy Spirit infilling (or, infusing) all creation to bring it into the very plans and purposes of the Godhead. And it is through this metaphysical idea of joined collective dynamic that God interweaves the lives of people with one another through the work of His Spirit to bring about both His purposes as well as our spiritual well being. Not our physical well being, but our spiritual well being (some would call it blessedness to our lives). So that, regardless of our experiences in this life under the reign of sin, death, hatred, evil, wickedness, brokenness, abandonment, dissertion, betrayal, and dysfunctionalism and so on; but through all of this, God is weaving a redemptive tapestry predicated upon His purposes of redemption, reconciliation, wholeness, and healing. Whether we understand this or not. Whether we see this or not. Whether we acknowledge this or not. It is synchronous.

So then, we are given this time to make amends, to recover, to process our existence into a meaningful existence at one with the union of God's purposes. To allow what order can be made of it before we are removed from this life. And in a sense, this life of ours is our time of purgatory (one which emergent Christians have lately been calling our "heaven on earth" or a "hell on earth": sic, Rob Bell's book, Love Wins). Now I'm sure this is not what Bell had in mind, but as long as we're thinking through the concept of purgatory, we could very easily align it into this life rather than into a future expectation that is un-discovered (or, un-stated) in the Bible, just like Bell is aligning acts of heaven and hell into this life (otherwise known as Inaugural Kingdom Eschatology).

Consequently, though there may be a purgatory-like existence into heaven's entrance, (or in fact, into hell's entrance) - if we wish to allow for a type of universalism into this discussion - but I am not of the opinion that it is either necessary or biblical. For me, this meager life that we live will contain all those facets of purgatory, heaven and hell, to be sufficient for the redemptive purposes of God of establishing a creative order of blessedness. He does not need to extend our agonies nor our pains yet another second beyond this, our lifetimes. He will have worked out his purposes in our lives sufficiently despite evil, the devil, this sinful world, and ourselves, to be satisfied with its culminating end (which is a good working definition of Sovereignty). And the true fact is - one that should cause fear and trembling in our souls - is that we must not allow even one more breath or life-event to pass living separate from God's grace, love, and care in our lives!

For like the survivors on the mythical island of LOST we may be indeterminately and immediately snatched away by death once our purpose of existence has been completed. Should those purposes have striven towards wickedness and sin, towards striving against God, towards hatred and creating a hell for those around us, than we should not expect anything less than what we have brought into the lives of those whom we have harmed. And if, as Christians believers, we continue to seek ungodly and wicked demonstrations of harsh judgments upon both innocents and the true seekers of God alike, we too should expect nothing less than a judgment upon our hearts (known as the bema seat of God in Scriptures). There will be tears and agonies, vexations and the gnashing of teeth, on both sides of heaven and hell, but in the end God shall rule as He now rules in a broken, mis-shapened world. So then repent and be at peace.

RE Slater
August 17, 2011


* * * * * * * * *

Diagram illustrating concept of synchronicity by CG Jung

"The temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events."
- Carl Jung


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events as meaningfully related, where they are unlikely to be causally related. The subject sees it as a meaningful coincidence, although the events need not be exactly simultaneous in time. The concept of synchronicity was first described by Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychologist, in the 1920s.[1]

The concept does not question, or compete with, the notion of causality. Instead, it maintains that just as events may be connected by a causal line, they may also be connected by meaning. A grouping of events by meaning need not have an explanation in terms of cause and effect.

In addition to Jung, Arthur Koestler wrote extensively on synchronicity in The Roots of Coincidence.[2


The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined as the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships that are not causal in nature. These relationships can manifest themselves as occurrences that are meaningfully related.

Synchronistic events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework that encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems that display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Carl Gustav Jung.[3]

Jung coined the word to describe what he called "temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events." Jung variously described synchronicity as an "acausal connecting principle", "meaningful coincidence" and "acausal parallelism". Jung introduced the concept as early as the 1920s, but gave a full statement of it only in 1951 in an Eranos lecture[4] and in 1952, published a paper, Synchronizität als ein Prinzip akausaler Zusammenhänge (Synchronicity – An Acausal Connecting Principle),[5] in a volume with a related study by the physicist (and Nobel laureate) Wolfgang Pauli.[6]

It was a principle that Jung felt gave conclusive evidence for his concepts of archetypes and the collective unconscious,[7] in that it was descriptive of a governing dynamic that underlies the whole of human experience and history – social, emotional, psychological, and spiritual. Concurrent events that first appear to be coincidental but later turn out to be causally related are termed incoincident.

Jung believed that many experiences that are coincidences due to chance in terms of causality suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances in terms of meaning, reflecting this governing dynamic.[8]

Even at Jung's presentation of his work on synchronicity in 1951 at an Eranos lecture, his ideas on synchronicity were evolving. Following discussions with both Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Pauli, Jung believed that there were parallels between synchronicity and aspects of relativity theory and quantum mechanics.[9] Jung was transfixed by the idea that life was not a series of random events but rather an expression of a deeper order, which he and Pauli referred to as Unus mundus. This deeper order led to the insights that a person was both embedded in an orderly framework and was the focus of that orderly framework and that the realisation of this was more than just an intellectual exercise, but also having elements of a spiritual awakening. From the religious perspective, synchronicity shares similar characteristics of an "intervention of grace". Jung also believed that in a person's life, synchronicity served a role similar to that of dreams, with the purpose of shifting a person's egocentric conscious thinking to greater wholeness.

A close associate of Jung, Marie-Louise von Franz, stated towards the end of her life that the concept of synchronicity must now be worked on by a new generation of researchers.[10] For example, in the years since the publication of Jung’s work on synchronicity, some writers largely sympathetic to Jung's approach have taken issue with certain aspects of his theory, including the question of how frequently synchronicity occurs.

One of Jung's favourite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, in which the White Queen says to Alice: "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards".[11][12]'The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.'
'It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"' Alice objected.
'No, it can't,' said the Queen. 'It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know.'
'I don't understand you,' said Alice. 'It's dreadfully confusing!'
'That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: 'it always makes one a little giddy at first--'
'Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. 'I never heard of such a thing!'
'--but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
'I'm sure MINE only works one way,' Alice remarked. 'I can't remember things before they happen.'
'It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.

The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that, in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fontgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fontgibu. Many years later, in 1832, Deschamps was at a dinner and once again ordered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fontgibu was missing to make the setting complete – and in the same instant, the now senile de Fontgibu entered the room.[13]

In his book Synchronicity (1952), Jung tells the following story as an example of a synchronistic event:
A young woman I was treating had, at a critical moment, a dream in which she was given a golden scarab. While she was telling me this dream, I sat with my back to the closed window. Suddenly I heard a noise behind me, like a gentle tapping. I turned round and saw a flying insect knocking against the window-pane from the outside. I opened the window and caught the creature in the air as it flew in. It was the nearest analogy to a golden scarab one finds in our latitudes, a scarabaeid beetle, the common rose-chafer (Cetonia aurata), which, contrary to its usual habits had evidently felt the urge to get into a dark room at this particular moment. I must admit that nothing like it ever happened to me before or since.[14]
Jung wrote, after describing some examples, "When coincidences pile up in this way, one cannot help being impressed by them – for the greater the number of terms in such a series, or the more unusual its character, the more improbable it becomes."[15]

In the book Thirty Years That Shook Physics – The Story of Quantum Theory (1966), George Gamow writes about Wolfgang Pauli, who was apparently considered a person particularly associated to Synchronicity Events. Gamow whimsically refers to 'The "Pauli effect", a mysterious phenomenon which is not, and probably never will, be understood on a purely materialistic basis. The following anecdote is told:
It is well known that theoretical physicists cannot handle experimental equipment; it breaks whenever they touch it. Pauli was such a good theoretical physicist that something usually broke in the lab whenever he merely stepped across the threshold. A mysterious event that did not seem at first to be connected with Pauli's presence once occurred in Professor J. Franck's laboratory in Göttingen. Early one afternoon, without apparent cause, a complicated apparatus for the study of atomic phenomena collapsed. Franck wrote humorously about this to Pauli at his Zürich address and, after some delay, received an answer in an envelope with a Danish stamp. Pauli wrote that he had gone to visit Bohr and at the time of the mishap in Franck's laboratory his train was stopped for a few minutes at the Göttingen railroad station. You may believe this anecdote or not, but there are many other observations concerning the reality of the Pauli Effect! [16]

Among some psychologists, Jung's works, such as The Interpretation of Nature and the Psyche, were received as problematic. Fritz Levi, in his 1952 review in Neue Schweizer Rundschau (New Swiss Observations), critiqued Jung's theory of synchronicity as vague in determinability of synchronistic events, saying that Jung never specifically explained his rejection of "magic causality" to which such an acausal principle as synchronicity would be related. He also questioned the theory's usefulness.[17]

In psychology and cognitive science, confirmation bias is a tendency to search for or interpret new information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions, and avoids information and interpretations that contradict prior beliefs. It is a type of cognitive bias and represents an error of inductive inference, or is a form of selection bias toward confirmation of the hypothesis under study, or disconfirmation of an alternative hypothesis. Confirmation bias is of interest in the teaching of critical thinking, as the skill is misused if rigorous critical scrutiny is applied only to evidence that challenges a preconceived idea, but not to evidence that supports it.[18]

Likewise, in psychology and sociology, the term apophenia is used for the apparent detection of a pattern or meaning, in what is actually random or meaningless data.[19] Skeptics, such as Robert Todd Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary, argue that the perception of synchronicity is better explained as apophenia. Primates use pattern detection in their form of intelligence,[20] and this can lead to erroneous identification of non-existent patterns. A famous example of this is the fact that human face recognition is so robust, and based on such a basic archetype (essentially two dots and a line contained in a circle), that human beings are very prone to identify faces in random data all through their environment, like the "man in the moon", or faces in wood grain, an example of the visual form of apophenia known as pareidolia.[21]

It has been asserted that Jung's analytical psychological theory of synchronicity is equal to intellectual intuition.[22]

Although some scientists[who?] see potential evidence of synchronicity in areas of research such as quantum theory, chaos theory, and fractal geometry, the concept is not testable by any current scientific method.

The concept of synchronicity is somewhat related to the concept of serendipity.

See also