According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Biologos - How Are Christianity and Evolution Compatible?


Charles Darwin's Glad Reception Amongst British and American Churches


How Are Christianity and Evolution Compatible?
https://www.bigquestionsonline.com/content/how-are-christianity-and-evolution-compatible

June 2, 2014

Asking whether evolution is compatible with Christianity is a bit like asking whether playing baseball is compatible with being American or playing cricket compatible with being British.

The very first written response to Darwin’s famous book On the Origin of Species [1859] was from an Anglican priest and was so positive in tone that Darwin quoted from it in the second edition of the Origin.

The priest was the Rev. Charles Kingsley and on November 18th, 1859, six days before the publication of the Origin, he was thanking Darwin for his kind gift of an advance copy, writing that:

All I have seen of it awes me’, commenting that it is ‘just as noble a conception of Deity, to believe that He created primal forms capable of self-development...as to believe that He required a fresh act of intervention to supply the lacunas [gaps] which He Himself had made’.

Since 1859 most Christians have been equally happy to incorporate evolution within their biblical understanding of creation. Yes there was some opposition at the beginning, as there is for any radically new theory, but the most influential church leaders soon realized that Kingsley was right. The idea that evolution was greeted with general horror by the Church is a myth.

The British historian James Moore comments that:

with but few exceptions the leading Christian thinkers in Great Britain and America came to terms quite readily with Darwinism and evolution’,

and, the American historian George Marsden reports that:

‘…with the exception of Harvard’s Louis Agassiz, virtually every American Protestant zoologist and botanist accepted some form of evolution by the early 1870s’.

One of those biologists was Asa Gray, professor of natural history at Harvard and a committed Christian, who was Darwin’s long-term correspondent and confidante, helping to organize the publication of the Origin of Species in America.

Some Christian theologians were particularly welcoming in their response to evolution. One such was the Rev. Aubrey Moore, a scientist-priest at the University of Oxford who was Curator of the Oxford Botanical Gardens. Moore claimed that there was a special affinity between Darwinism and Christian theology, remarking that ‘Darwinism appeared, and, under the guise of a foe, did the work of a friend’. The reason for this affinity, claimed Moore, was based on the intimate involvement of God in his creation as revealed in Christian theology, for:

There are not, and cannot be, any Divine interpositions in nature, for God cannot interfere with Himself. His creative activity is present everywhere. There is no division of labour between God and nature, or God and law… For the Christian theologian the facts of nature are the acts of God.

In contrast to the robustly theistic views expressed by Kingsley and Moore, Darwin himself was a deist (see here and here) when he wrote the Origin, meaning that he believed in a God who started life at the beginning, but who after that had no direct involvement with it. This is clear from the very last poetic sentence of the Origin, quoted here from its sixth and last edition (1872):

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Darwin eventually became an agnostic in later life, but was never an atheist, maintaining that indeed it was possible to be ‘an ardent Theist and an Evolutionist’.

Contemporary Evolution and the Church Today

Given that Darwin’s Christian contemporaries largely embraced evolution, how is it that today, 150 years later, many American Christians reject his theory?

First, it should be noted that evolution is still widely accepted by the Christian community in Europe.

Second, it is an unfortunate fact that evolution since Darwin has become infested with different ideological agendas that have nothing to do with the biological theory itself. For example, some have sought to invest evolution with an atheistic agenda, so Christians who naturally reject atheism are in danger of throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Third, a sizable segment of the American Church has adopted a literalistic stance towards the interpretation of the Bible. Reacting against the inroads of liberal theology into its ranks in the earlier decades of the 20th century, many American Christians started reading Biblical texts, such as Genesis 1-3, in a highly literalistic manner, as if it were teaching science rather than theology. Such modernistic handling of ancient texts inevitably leads to a clash with science.

Once we return to a more traditional way of interpreting the Bible, assisted by the early Church Fathers, then any possible clash between science and Biblical texts simply vaporizes.

Augustine, for example, wrote a commentary between AD 401 and AD 415 entitled The Literal Interpretation of Genesis. The twenty-first century reader coming to this volume expecting to find the term ‘literal’ interpreted in terms of strict creation chronology and days of 24 hours, is in for a surprise. Instead Augustine read Genesis 1 as a theological literary text written in highly figurative language. Other Church Fathers (such as Origen, 3rd century) did likewise, as did Jewish commentators like Philo of Alexandria in the 1st century.

The biblical creation theology of the early Church Fathers, mediated to the European Church by great theological scholars such as Thomas Aquinas in the thirteenth century, provides a framework within which evolution can comfortably be accommodated. The Christian understanding of God creating is very different from human types of creating. God as creator in the Christian view is the ground and source of all existence. Anything that exists, be it the laws of physics, mathematics, quantum fluctuations, Higgs bosons or the processes of evolution are therefore, ipso facto, aspects of this created order. When human beings make things, they work with already existing material to produce something new. The human act of creating is not the complete cause of what is produced; but God's creative act is the complete cause of what is produced.

So speaking of God as the ‘creator’ of the evolutionary process is not some attempt to smuggle ‘God language’ into a scientific description, as if God were some ‘extra component’ without which the scientific theory would be incomplete. Far from it, for then such a concept of ‘God’ would no longer be the creator God of Christian theology. Rather the existence of the created order is more like the on-going drama on the TV screen – remove the production studio and the transmitter and the screen would go blank.

The biblical writers underline this point by employing the past, present and future tense when speaking of creation. God is immanent in the created order, an insight with a Christological focus in the New Testament, where John insists in the prologue to his Gospel that “Through him [Jesus the Word] all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” and the Apostle Paul makes the astounding claim that not only by Christ have all things been created, but also that in Christ “all things hold together”.

It was such reflections that led 19th century theologians like Aubrey Moore to celebrate Darwin’s theory because, in their view, it helped to move theology away from the deistic notion of God the distant law-giver to the idea central to Christian theism of the creator God actively involved in upholding and sustaining the complete created order in which the evolutionary process is a contingent feature.

This is the evolutionary process which, as a matter of fact, provides the best explanation for the origins of all the biological diversity on this planet. Taken overall it is a tightly constrained process. The late Stephen Jay Gould likened evolutionary history to a drunk lurching around on the side-walk, but the point about a side-walk is that it’s a very constrained space. In the phenomenon known as ‘convergence’ the evolutionary process keeps finding the same adaptive solutions again and again in independent evolutionary lineages. Replay the tape of life again and it’s very likely that the diversity of life-forms would end up looking rather similar. There are only so many ways of being alive on planet earth. A pattern of order and constraint is rather consistent with a God who has intentions and purposes for the evolutionary process.

Does the fact of evolution raise challenging theological questions for Christian faith? Of course. For example, when did humans first become responsible to God for their actions? How should Christians understand the doctrine of the Fall in the light of evolution? And what about the problem of pain and suffering? No-one pretends that such questions have simple answers, and I have written a book that tackles them in some detail (Creation or Evolution – Do We Have to Choose? Oxford: Monarch, 2008). Understanding evolution is a help rather than a hindrance on that last question. There are necessary costs in the existence of carbon-based life and all living things, including us, play our part in sharing the burden of those costs. Biological existence, with all its rich diversity, is a costly existence.

“Nature is what God does” wrote Augustine in his commentary on Genesis. We exist within God’s created order and the evolutionary process is a key feature of that order, essential for our existence. That means a lot more than mere ‘compatibility’. And the good news is the future tense of creation. The best is yet to come.


Nightscapes of Delhi, India


The slums transform after dark into enchanted villages, Delhi


India at Night: photographs by Gavin Evans
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/photography/10902342/India-at-Night-photographs-by-Gavin-Evans.html?frame=2943021

June 18, 2014

It was 8am when photographer Gavin Evans arrived in Kolkata. "In India, the onslaught starts the moment you step from the cab" he says. "The cities hustle the senses. People vying for attention block your path. Tuk tuks, carts and bikes attack from every side, only the meandering cows are blissfully oblivious. I collapsed in my hotel bed. At midnight I awoke and ventured outside. The deafening streets were silenced. The tidal waves of distraction had evaporated. Buildings previously shrouded by bodies were now exposed. India moves at breakneck speed but in the dead of night the frame is frozen. People sleep where they stand: stalls by day are beds by night. The face of India is laid bare."

Feet of rickshaw pullers, Kolkata

A clothes presser is cocooned as the embers if his iron stove glow, Kolkata

Shoes, not flip flops indicate that this cautious man is of a certain status, Delhi

A Gray Langur monkey incarcerated in slum communal toilets, Delhi

Dogs huddle with strangers to keep warm

A family camp on the pavement, Delhi

A young man sleeps oblivious on Main Bazar, Delhi

Safety in numbers, workers congregate to sleep near Old Delhi station


A Love Song from a Father to his Daughter




EDDIE VEDDER OFFERS GORGEOUS NEW SONG
‘SKIPPING’ FOR COMPILATION
http://antiquiet.com/music/2012/04/eddie-vedder-offers-gorgeous-skipping-on-new-compilation/

9:21 AM Sunday, April 29th 2012


We have a beautiful new song from Eddie Vedder this morning, called Skipping. The track is featured on the new compilation Every Mother Counts, the namesake of a foundation dedicated to addressing the issue of maternal mortality during pregnancy.

The love letter from a parent to a child is a delicate, complexly personal yet gorgeous composition, a conveyance of unquenchable adoration between souls that may be entirely lost on those without children of their own – or at least a true depth of love with which they can relate.

Framed by the sounds of his own daughter playing and gentle acoustic guitar tones, the Pearl Jam frontman delivers a heartfelt performance full of gorgeous self-harmonizing that does a fine job of encapsulating the tenderness, fragility, pride, joy and immersive love of a bond between a father and child, wrapped in the metaphor of skipping along with her. He knows that the moment and innocent joy can’t possibly last forever, and the song is a conveyance of cherishing that fleeting purity of a childhood connection with a parent.

Listen to Skipping here, or below:

Eddie Vedder - Skipping



It’s a deeply personal track, once which doesn’t fit the single cycle or the hype headline machine. So it’s with a warm feeling that I’m able to post this on a quiet Sunday morning.


Lyrics

I didn't have to ask you, just took my hand
Off we went skipping throughout the land
The sky was blue and the blood filled my head
Me and you skipping throughout the land
All of my life from beginning to end
What I remember is holding your hand
And all that I'll cherish is that time that we've spent
Me and you skipping throughout the land.

All the loves lost and the one that I found
You lifted my gaze up off of the ground
Forever we'll talk and forever we'll drown
In each other skipping around.

Gravity pulls so many men down
The atmosphere breathes but not in this town
You took me away and you held me so proud
Skipping, skipping, skipping around.

All the king's horses and all the king's men
Could not keep me from holding your hand
When all that I wanted was something to protect
And all that I needed was your voice in my head
And all I remember from this life that I lived
Is me and you skipping throughout the land.

- Eddie Vedder



YWAM's Witness from the Fields of Cambodia 2014






SBS UofN Battambang 2013-2014




2014 YWAM School of Bible Studies, Battambang, Cambodia

Hey friends!

I finished my School of Biblical Studies! The nine-month school has walked me through the Bible five times, and has really challenged me in applying what God’s word says. This training has affected my approach to cross cultural ministry, and given me a foundation I feel much more confident leading people from.

The outreach locations for teaching the Bible study method are still undetermined because the communication trails are tricky to navigate over here with which churches can host us for a certain amount of time doing a specific ministry. I will keep you all in the loop as soon as I hear more of what the outreach will look like.

Street Musicians, Battambang, Cambodia

Here are two stories that happened the other day when I was studying my last book, Matthew:

Fruit!

One of the students from my Bible class that I’d been teaching accepted the Lord last week! I have six students now as a few of them have invited their friends to come. Two of them are not Christian so you can be praying their curiosity continues to develop!

In teaching 'Christian Values' they all love the person of Jesus, but still have a difficult time getting past their worldview of not needing a Savior. They believe the level of heaven they are assigned is based off of how good of a person they are in this life (merit-based salvation).

I believe the power of prayer, and the conviction of the Spirit is at work with what I’m seeing, so please continue to partner with me in this! There were five other students from the Youth Center that had accepted the Lord the same night my student had so it’s been encouraging to see some fruit. A great reminder of why I’m here!

2014 YWAM Students, Battambang, Cambodia

Seeds!

A small coffee shop that I’ve been going to for work always gives me plenty of opportunities to build relationships with the beggars that make their routes everyday. This past week a drunk man walked in with his hands in the pleading clasped position, so I asked the owner to cook up some chicken fried rice for him. They politely asked him to wait outside so I stopped studying the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, and took the God given opportunity to apply it.

He wreaked of beer so I told him the reason I was happy to buy him food but not give money was because I didn’t want him to buy more beer with it. Praise God my Khmer language is well enough for conversation, and I got to hear about this man’s life.

He had arthritis in both knees, and he actually lived in a village pretty far from the city where he took care of his grand kids with his wife who was sick because their parents had passed away. The man was in the city begging for money so he could bring back the money for his family. The fried rice took a long time to cook, thank the Lord, and I found out he had heard the gospel before, but hadn’t believed in Jesus. I relayed the Beatitudes to him, and shared how there are difficulties in this life that Jesus will one day take away. I shared how alcohol had affected my family and I, and he started crying!

I’ve never seen anybody from the older generation cry. He didn’t accept the Lord into his life, but he was ready for a change. After he got his rice we talked a little longer, then I asked if I could pray with him, and he consented. In saying goodbye I gave him a few dollars, and said, “I hope you spend this on your family, and not on beer. God bless you”. I plan on seeing this man again, and believe this next time I won’t smell beer on his breath.

Not ten minutes later a couple walked in that I had met before who were making their begging route. The couple is in their fifties, and the husband is blind. I had told them the gospel four months ago, and asked if the wife remembered my face. She said, “Yes”, and the blind husband remembered my voice! I repeated the fried rice process sitting with them outside, and kept going with the Beatitudes. Telling the blind man that he would see one day made him sit on the edge of his seat, and seeing how the wife was much warmer to hearing the hope of Christ was really encouraging for me.

Streets of  Battambang, Cambodia

There’s something God’s doing in my heart with the poor in this city, and I’m excited to see how God will continue to develop it. When hearing a podcast back home the question was thrown out, “When do you feel like your closest to the Lord?”

I found my answer! There’s a sense of joy that I can’t express after having conversations like these that is undoubtedly from the Lord. It’s a great question to ask yourself as well. I think it reveals a bite size piece of purpose and duty that we were created for, and the congruency when we do it is very fulfilling. I was planting seeds of the gospel, but at the same time I feel something growing in my own heart.

I hope and pray you’re all being encouraged with seeing fruit where you’re investing your energy as well! “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

Ben
June 17, 2014


2014 YWAM Students, Battambang, Cambodia



For more information on YWAM - 


YWAM: "To Make Jesus Known in all the world"




Thomas Jay Oord - On Salvation: God's part and ours



On Salvation: God's part and ours
by Thomas Jay Oord


A short Wesleyan explanation of God's offer of 
salvation and free creaturely response

Related



*preferred: "Essential Kenosis Freewill Theism"

Comments

  • Russ Slater Thanks Tom. I kept waiting for an open kenosis view where a new band comes in, pushes the old band off the stage, and plays hip hop or something, which neither partner knows, and must learn together. 
    June 16 at 3:59pm · Edited · Like · 3
  • Kenneth L. Harrell Thomas Jay Oord, thanks for this. I am glad you distinguished views 2 and 3. Many from view 1 insist that 2 and 3 are the same. In a lecture at Calvin College a professor insisted that Wesley and all Arminians are semi-pelagian. While I am sure that is true of Finney and that that view of conversion is still popular among Southern Baptists I do not believe that it does justice to the Wesleyan-Arminian position. Will you show how your view is not just more attractive but more biblical?
  • Thomas Jay Oord Thanks, Kenneth. The arguments for showing the view is more biblical come from arguments about love, covenant, and moral responsibility found in Scripture. Find the details in books such as "Why I am a Wesleyan and Not a Calvinist," by Jerry Walls or "Arminian Theology," by Roger Olson



This is good and consistent with the revelation of God's action to humanity in scripture. It is important to note that the freedom and ability to respond to the invitation and the dance is a God ordained, created dynamic of humanity. People do not have any agency removed from God's design. That said, the ability evokes a responsibility that is either directed cooperatively with God or otherwise. In the conversations I am in the objection to the third option in favor of the first is the perception that we on the other side of the dance floor are dead, incapable of response. 


I agree entirely, Ron. We Wesleyans think God's grace makes us alive to respond freely to the gift. So while we are dead abstractly speaking, in reality God's grace enlivens us to the possibility of responding to God's call and living abundant life!

Love the analogies, even though it sounds odd to hear of a Nazarene dancing haha. The third part you discussed, with free agency in dancing, would that be considered divine-human synergism?


Thanks, Nick. Yes, the third part involves synergism, but with God acting first -- preveniently -- to empower and inspire response.

I love this image of the dance ! There is one other scenario as well, God stays on His side of the "gym" and makes us work our way all the way to Him. You may have to crawl on hands and knees over broken glass, or pray x- number of prayers or in some way earn enough merit to gain His attention and favor. Only when He thinks you have done enough does He stoop to save you. How wonderful to realize that God comes all the way to us and then graciously, humbly, non-coercively " asks for our hand." I just love this!!


Thanks, Bob. You describe even better the second way I mention briefly in this video. I wish I had added the additional "works righteousness" examples you offer!

Great explanation of the Wesleyan view of salvation. Prevenient Grace + Free Will.


Dance on! And follow His lead.