I just finished reading an article by Eric Metaxas – author of Miracles – over at the WSJ on the increasing scientific evidence not specifically pointing to an uncaused cause for the universe; rather, to the ever growing data pointing to the sheer unlikelihood of life ever existing in the first place. I’ve read several articles on this topic and always find the data a bit unsettling. An overwhelming sense of smallness, truly overwhelming smallness at the sheer impossibility of life apart from a Creator. To say it’s humbling would be an understatement at best.
My recent post on the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye resulted in a surprising amount of response. Sixty or so comments later I’m going to respond to just a few…
“My feeling about the debate is that it is so 19th century. I outgrew the need for such things when I outgrew adolescence. And, had I watched the [debate between Ken Ham & Bill Nye], I would have probably ended up frustrated with both men because they are both equally missing the point.” – Charles
“Your [post was] poorly written and can’t be further from the truth and actually marginalizes scripture into a fairy tale or “storytelling” – John
It is precisely because I believe Scripture is the inerrant and inspired Word that I wrote this response. To co-opt a text that does NOT provide the answers that a scientific debate on creationism and evolution require is to strip Scripture of its grandeur, beauty, and mystery. It’s a grand excursion into missing the point. Or course we believe that an intelligent designer – Yahweh – spoke everything into existence. The text doesn’t provide much more detail than that and it doesn’t need to…because it does so much more that staggers the imagination.
The story that we have told and re-told for all of recorded human history is the story of our need for redemption. There’s a villain that has no equal and never will who committed a deed more terrible than any other. He found a way to separate the Designer from the designed. Ever since that moment humanity has felt a wound that cannot be ignored. We are fatherless and homeless.
Against all odds and beyond the imagination of any Hollywood screen play a hero arose; the greatest hero that has ever been and ever will be. He’s no mere myth or by-product of some Bronze Age imagination. He’s the eternally victorious never to be defeated King of Kings – Jesus. Beyond all hope and human imagination the one who called creation into existence was wrapped in human flesh and experience life as one of the designed. He has forever defeated death, sin, sickness, and everything else that we lost in the beginning. I don’t believe this because of empirical data. I believe it because he gave me eyes to see and ears to hear and made himself visible to this wretched mess of a person in need of a savior. This *fairytale* is the most beautiful truth ever told and He who spoke it into being is our Lord.
“I have to disagree… Using the bible in a debate as such as Kent Ham does is relevant and important. Kent Ham here is correctly arguing that the origin of truth is not found in science but in God. God created science, and what we study (science) needs to checked against the foundation (Bible). Since the Bible is the only documented source of infallible truth we can and should check our hypothesis against it. This is exactly what Kent is doing. Much like a teacher might use an answer key to show that the student came to the wrong conclusion, Kent is doing the same. Not only does he have the foundation to prove that evolution, the big bang… is bad science, he is also proving that hey, the (His) hypothesis checks out with scripture… the Bible and science agree! This is a very important since studying science is really studying general revelation (what God is revealing to us about Him and His creation) and as such, we know that God does not lie… so the Bible and science NEED to agree. As was pointed out in the debate, what is really at issue here is authority (worldviews). In short, If you claim that the Bible can’t be used to speak to us about science, then it can’t be used to speak to a man about his heart! In this case, the Bible is reduced to nothing more than as you say… a mythical fairytale.” – John
I expressly said that the *story* of the Gospel is in fact NOT a myth, fairytale, or the product of Bronze Age imagination…and I agree with you that the study of science is in a sense studying the general revelation, but the Bible isn’t a textbook and it was written to be a textbook full of empirical data about science. It’s truth and we know this to be true because God is truth, it’s an essential reality of His existence.
This doesn’t mean that I disagree with apologetics. At times it’s an essential art to be practiced by those who have a gift to wield such a sword as God would lead them. There absolutely should be an ongoing discussion about where faith and science intersect. I would even agree that there are those who’s purpose in teaching evolution is to attempt to debunk faith or drive what they perceive as myth and the detritus of superstition away with reason. For this reason there should be debate and dialog about how people of faith can also be people of reason and science.
If we believe in the God of Scripture we believe in Intelligent Design, but apart from knowing that the rest of the *science* being connected to Genesis is conjecture at best and again it’s an adventure in missing the point. What’s the point? That God – The Designer – has rescued the designed – us – through his son Jesus Christ who is eternally victorious and eternally united to his humanity and divinity.
I’ve never stated that Ken Ham’s ultimate conclusions are wrong…God absolutely could have created an old universe 6,000 years ago in six days…because (wait for it) HE’S GOD AND HE SPOKE EVERYTHING INTO BEING. My issue is with the questions he asks, the way he forces the text to answer, and the fact that he presents his entire thesis as the one true thesis that all of Christendom hinges upon. As you’ve stated John “If you claim that the Bible can’t be used to speak to us about science, then it can’t be used to speak to a man about his heart!” You’ve hit upon the heart of the matter and this is precisely why I disagree with this debate. You’ve essentially said “the Bible is scientifically accurate and if it’s not or can be proved not to be it’s all untrue.” I absolutely agree that there is a question that must be answered when it comes to the authority of Scripture and if you’ve read this blog before you’ll already know that I believe in Ultima Scriptura – Scripture alone should be the final authority by which we weigh and measure everything else. However, you’re ignoring the fact that Genesis occupies a completely different culture, context, language, and genre from the New Testament. It wasn’t written to be a scientific treatise. It wasn’t written with the same intent and purpose as the New Testament. The entire premise of you’re statement is ignorant of the culture, history, and context in which the Bible was written and received.
“God works in a variety of ways and has no formula. For some people, an intellectual breaking down of the components of Christian faith is a helpful endeavor in that person coming to Christ. I don not subscribe to the idea that one CAN’T come to Christ through discussion and debate (in conjunction with the Spirit) and I also do not subscribe to the idea that apologectis is good all the time in all circumstances. There are atheists, some atheists, whose main stumbling block before considering the Cross is entirely academic in nature. That God has chosen to use us as a vehicle to spread His word means that if we choose one o those methods as discussion, debate, and the breaking down of components to address academic objections, than who are we to say that this is ineffective or ‘wrong.’ I think a witnessing exercise is only ineffective when we aren’t wise enough to know that it’s NOT the only way.” – Jae
Well said indeed. Thanks for engaging in great dialog. Amen brother.
“Alright, bud. Allow me for a moment to take a contrary position – you know, in a sword-sharpening kind of way. I read your ancientfutureworship blog installment and have been following the posts here on this subject. I understand fully where you’re coming from. But apologetics has not merely become necessary only just today – in our world (ask Ravi Zacharias, William Lane Craig, Michael Brown, John Stott and/or, if we could, C.S. Lewis et al.) – it’s actually scriptural: cf. Paul “arguing” and “persuading” Acts 17:1-34; Apollos “powerfully refuting” in 18:24 and previous; or Paul arguing even for “months” thru 19:8-10. There are plenty more to cherry-pick from. Again, I’m not saying I necessarily take a contrary opinion from the one you’ve voiced. I’m just saying, as hard as it may be to believe, someone’s faith (or lack thereof) may actually be hinging on a point of discussion that no one has ever been able to “intelligently” break down for them. I bump into this kind of person nearly on a daily basis now. God may lead you to such a person. But you’d better be ready for an argument, no frills. Nothing cushy. That is our world over here: Jewish culture – also historically – is heavily characterized by “argument.” Ham’s approach is really nothing new, and not actually unbiblical. Apparently Paul the Apostle thought he could argue people into his worldview – even idol-worshipping Greeks, who had no use for – or understanding of – the Jewish concept of Messiah. Talk about a paradigm shift. (Although in essence, I do agree that Ham takes up a text that was not intended for such purposes. It would have been interesting to hear what texts Paul the Apostle used in such debates.)” – Matthew
A great response Matthew. I think we’re in agreement.
“My anthropology professor at UVA told us he didn’t believe evolution (I have no idea what his faith background was) on the basis that there aren’t enough facts and hard evidence to support it. You can dismiss science like that. I don’t think faith works that way at all. People are still “demanding a sign”…and God is still under no obligation to provide one.” – Jennifer
“Bill Nye and Ken Ham are not scientists there debate is akin to expecting a car salesman change your transmission. Bill and Ken sell cars but neither have been under the hood.” – Andrew
I think this debate is a terrible idea. I’ve met Ken Ham, sat through his lecture, and read several of his books. I thought his presentation was excellent and he delivered it with humor and wit. I found him eminently likable. Here’s why I think he get’s it wrong. He’s attempting to prove something by using a text that was never intended to answer his questions while asking questions irrelevant to the original storytellers. Why is he doing this? He believes – rightly or wrongly – that people can be argued into his worldview. I think he get’s this one wrong too. There’s a point at which all of us need to decide whether or not we’re all in on our beliefs and decide at what point we can no longer stay silent and/or compromise. In matters of empirical data you actually can show a chart with repeatable results and claim truth. When it comes to matters of belief…I can’t even begin to define how to argue or debate you into my worldview. I don’t think it’s possible. You believe because…you believe. I find science often times as wondrous a source of inspiration awe as my faith. I don’t find one negating the other. I know that I am in a very small minority here. To clarify what I mean by “science” I invoke the definition put forth by Neil Postman, “science then is the quest to find the immutable laws that govern processes, presuming that there are cause and effect relations among these processes,” i.e. science seeks empirical data that we can all objectively observe
Those within the church that believe in evolution and those that adhere to *creation science* have appropriated the text for purposes that are quite foreign to the biblical narrative. Neither understanding has anything to do with the oral tradition of the Hebrew people and their understanding of the universe and God. The first account of creation reflects Israel’s understanding of the structure of the cosmos. They viewed the earth as flat and circular. Above the earth was a dome-shaped sky or firmament that rested on the mountains around the edge of the earth. Water above the sky was the source of rain. The earth rested on pillars that floated in the water below the earth. These waters supplied the springs, streams, and rivers.
The Genesis account of creation does not allow a great deal of observation concerning immutable laws nor does it offer any empirical data that science can quantify. The account was not meant to be an expository piece regarding the methods, processes, and elements Yahweh used to create. Rather, it addressed the more practical aspects of creation that surround our experiences of living and surviving, e.g. the author does not attempt an analysis of the physical properties of light nor is he concerned about its source or generation. Light is the regulator of time. The functioning of the cosmos was much more important to the people of the ancient world than was its physical makeup or chemical composition. They described what they saw and, more important, what they experienced of the world as having been created by Yahweh.
I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – one of the truly great film and stage actor and director of his generation. He leaves behind an incredible body of work that was the result of not only a well honed talent, but also good old fashioned character acting skills. It’s yet another tragic loss to addiction. His performances in films like Capote and Doubt rightly earned him the respect and acclaim of his peers. His portrayal of a priest, Father Brendan Flynn, in the film doubt was mesmerizing and I found his sermons in the film powerful and full of truth.
I came across this article that presented Philip’s reflection on faith and Christianity, originally published by Busted Halo, via a post Fr. Kenneth Tanner posted on Facebook. You can follow the link to the original source or read below:
“[Philip Seymour Hoffman’s] strength as a director of ‘The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,’ which debuted at the Public Theater in 2005, was partially the result of his interest in, and familiarity with, the raw material of the play. From the beginning, he encouraged the cast to ask questions about the Gospels and the story of Jesus and Judas. Some of this comfort had to do with his religious background.
“As a boy growing up in a town outside of Rochester, New York, Phil attended Sunday classes in preparation for confirmation in the Catholic Church, though his parents were not especially religious. ‘My parents were pretty liberal people, who didn’t talk about God much in the house,’ he said.
“Early on, religion was uninviting to him. ‘Those Masses really turned me off,’ he said. ‘Lots of rote repetition, pretty boring and sometimes really brutal.’
“His perspective changed when one of his two sisters became active in a Christian evangelical movement, to which she still belongs today. She encouraged her brother to accompany her to meetings with her friends, and Phil went along happily. ‘There was something that was so heartfelt and emotional,’ he said. ‘Nothing about it felt crazy at all. And my sister was certainly the sanest person you could ever meet. It all felt very real, very guttural, even rebellious.’
“The idea that a young person could be sane, generous, intelligent and Christian held out great appeal for him. So did the palpable sense of community he felt with his sister and her friends. Still, he held back from the total commitment that his sister made. ‘It was a little too much for me,’ he said. ‘And by that time I was more into partying and acting.’
“So Phil, who describes himself as a believer and someone who prays from time to time, carried this positive approach to Christianity with him into the Public Theater during the rehearsals for the new play about Jesus and Judas. ‘My time with my sister and her circle of friends is something I still think about today.’ He noted that he is often defensive about the way that many actors react to the idea of evangelical Christians. Is there a bias, I asked, against that kind of person in the acting community?
“‘Absolutely!’ he said. ‘It pisses me off that there is this knee-jerk reaction against them. There is certainly an antipathy against them in the acting world, just like there is an antipathy in the politically liberal world. And, as a result, the liberal Christian is not heard from as much. And, you know, a liberal person who has a deep belief in Christianity can be a very powerful influence on things.”
May he find the One Whose Memory is Eternal. God’s peace upon his family. May they know His presence and experience His mercy.
Now, I don’t doubt the sincerity or conviction of the ROC and agree that we in the West have spiritually disarmed our nations and ourselves. These are men of God and defenders of the faith crying out to their countrymen to turn back from the abyss. Yet, at the same time I find myself as a Western Protestant (who may also be considered Catholic) in the crosshairs of the ROC and Putin.
“Western values, from liberalism to the recognition of the rights of sexual minorities, from Catholicism and Protestantism to comfortable jails for murderers, provoke in us suspicion, astonishment and alienation,” Yevgeny Bazhanov, rector of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic academy, wrote in a recent essay.”
Apparently being Protestant or treating those with different values systems with respect and humanity provokes suspicion and quite possibly hostility. It would seem to me that “liberalism” means the church making Christ visible by extending mercy to those in need and offering reconciliation an restoration to the spiritually wounded.
“Patriarch Kirill has honored the group’s leader, openly anti-Semitic monarchist Leonid Simonovich, for his services to the Orthodox Church. The Banner Bearers, who dress in black paramilitary uniforms festooned with skulls, regularly confront gay and liberal activists on the streets of Moscow.”
While one could label Leonid Simonovich a contemporary Slavophile – those Russian Intellectuals of the 19th century who wanted to move forward by looking back to those things that were particularly Russian…I think he’s just another version of a Pharisees or Sadducees. Reading about these Banner Bearers reminds of the scene where the crowd threw down the woman caught in adultery at the feet of Jesus.
We tend to have this view in the West that all nations should follow the same path towards Western Democracy. It’s one of our assumed values that Western Democracy in the highest form of societal evolution. We can’t wrap our minds around the possibility that not everyone craves Western Democracy. Russians love strong leaders. There was a very paternal connection between the people and their Czar. Stalin attempted to cultivate the same paternal relationship. Despite the past 100 years of revolution and change Russia is still conservative and traditional, because what’s 100 years really in scope of history? Sadly, we sadly have such a short historical memory…it would seem Putin and the ROC do not.
Here’s the painful reality. Mr. Putin and Patriarch Kirill are right. Our nation IS morally bankrupt. In the name of tolerance and the dream of being inclusive we allow nearly any and everything a place at the table. We lurch ever closer to meaninglessness and irrelevance as the Church because we’ve decided it’s more important to look like the culture, sound like the culture, and indeed to be as indistinguishable from the culture as possible in the hopes of “reaching” more people. In reality all it seems that we’ve reached is a dead end.
At the behest of a dear friend and brother – Fr. Kenneth Tanner – I read an article by Peter J. Leithart titled “The End of Protestantism.” What follows is my response to a thread begun by Fr. Kenneth on Facebook (the place where all intellectual discourse should occur…).
We are all children of the reformation, including our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church, which responded and adapted to post-Reformation social and theological constructs). Our faith traditions require the Reformation as a point of origin. The Church as a social and cultural institution experiences the same process, dynamics, and changes as any other cultural institution because it’s populated by people. I agree with the author and understand the need for caricature in his very well written article to make his point, but caricature doesn’t facilitate unity or explain the real reasons the divide is in fact far deeper than the article would suggest. I completely agree that “salvation is inherently social;” however, I believed this growing up in the Presbyterian Church. We believed that salvation was a both and, i.e. we individually and communally experience salvation in Christ. Were we flawed Presbyterians? While the moniker is highly problematic I count myself a reformational [anglo] catholic.
Currently it appears to be en vogue to long for or hope for the death of Protestantism as though it’s some sort of beast that needs to be put down. I’ve noticed several of the “hipsters” (for lack of a better adjective) strongly identifying as anti-protestant or post-Protestant while still attending a church (small “c”) that is very much a child of the Reformation. It’s hip to be pseudo-catholic or pseudo-orthodox, but it’s not hip to actually follow the path to the Orthodox Church or the Roman Catholic Church…because it’s still about individuality. Whenever I talk with someone who professes a deep love of the Pope and the teachings of his church and ask why they’re not actually a member of the Roman Catholic Church (or as many of my RC brothers and sisters refer to it, “the Church”) they have a reason that is sometimes theological and sometimes presented as historical, e.g. “I don’t believe that we should submit to the Magisterium” or “I don’t believe that the Papacy is actually valid.” Whatever the reason, essentially you are still protesting – you are Protestant. Let’s stop being disingenuous about our Protestant and individualistic affectations when it comes to theology and praxis. Admit that you’re Protestant…stop idealizing your a-historical view if the ancient church as “the Church” and follow Christ. Love Jesus. Love him with every fiber of your being (if you’ve truly been encountered by the Resurrected Christ and been filled with the Holy Spirit this shouldn’t be a challenge). Stop pretending that your not Protestant. If we really want to get back to or ancient roots my mostly Northern European ancestors (Germanic & Scandinavian) would be martyring us right now. That’s my heritage. I’m am ethnically pagan and should be hacking you to bits, but IN CHRIST I AM ADOPTED INTO THE FAMILY OF GOD. We are all children of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords whether or not we burn incense, wear drapes, quote the Heidelburg Confession…whatever. We are loved by God in Christ!
I would have kept going but my soapbox collapsed…it must have been Protestant. Man…I got a splinter. It’s keep quoting the Scofield Study Bible. Not a fan of splinters…
I spent this past Saturday participating in the 2013 Remix Conference at Grace Church in Netcong NJ. The Remix Conference was birthed out of the ministry of Segun Aiyegbusi (founder of The Remix and fellow ATS alumnus). The keynote speaker was the Rev. Dr. Robert Reimer, Senior Pastor at South Shore Community Church in Brockton Massachusetts. I’ve been blessed to hear Dr. Reimer speak on several occasions. At this conference he spoke on father wounds, the blessing of a father, and the God’s love as a father to his children – huge topic! His teaching was amazing and transformative. Here are some things he said that struck me (bear in mind I was typing notes into an iPhone so the quotes are as pretty close, but not exact):
“God loves you regardless of your performance because you are his child. We can’t prove our worth or earn a place in his family. We are in his family because he has adopted us. The issue of your value was settled at the cross.”
“You cannot [experience] healing in that which you will not admit.”
“When I find myself robbing time from my family to please people at my church I’m lost.”
“You know you’re a grownup when you take responsibility for your own life.”
“If you can’t deal with criticism or input then you probably have a father wound in that particular area.”
“If you received correction or discipline from your father because he was embarrassed by something you did that discipline was not out of love, but out of shame…if you’re struggling with shame that may be the source.”