History

BioLogos and the Ham/Nye Debate

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BioLogos wrote an article on the aftermath of the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate two days ago and I thought they did a good job to capture some of the tensions that were presented in the debate. I really appreciate what BioLogos does and consider them to be an invaluable resource in regard to matters of science and Christianity. Here is a snippet from Jim Stump, who is the content manager for the BioLogos forum:

The question of the debate was whether creation is a viable model for explaining origins. Not surprisingly, they disagreed. Perhaps part of the reason for that was that the question was not specific enough: Viable for what? Viable for whom? Young Earth Creationism is certainly viable for millions of Christians. It’s not viable for millions of other Christians. From both sides we heard a lot about what is reasonable and what is unreasonable. But “reasonable” like “viable” is a relational term. Individual claims like the age of the earth or the reality of miracles seem reasonable or unreasonable only against a backdrop of other beliefs. If Ham’s interpretation of the Bible is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think the universe is billions of years old. So no amount of evidence about the age of the universe will convince him otherwise. The argument instead needs to focus on his interpretation of Scripture before he’ll even consider the science. If Nye’s naturalism is accepted, then it isn’t reasonable to think that God has any role in the world today. So no amount of quoting Bible verses to him will be effective. Perhaps his concerns about suffering and Christian exclusivism need to be addressed before he’ll even consider a Christian view of creation.

At BioLogos we are not just seeking to defend what seems reasonable to us, but we’re seeking truth from Scripture and from the natural world to form a coherent picture of God’s action in the world.

The Dynamic of Deuteronomy

As I referenced in my last post, I was privileged with the opportunity to travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan in order to attend a tremendous conference entitled A Missional Reading of Scripture. I am thrilled to report that this conference exceeded my expectations and I am confident in expressing such excitement because I am still (and will continue to do so in the coming weeks) processing through the all the insight, stories, and concepts that were presented throughout the course of the two-day conference.

The conference was a nice vacation for me (which sounds strange to some of you, I realize). Thankfully, I was able to travel with some dear friends with whom I laughed and maintained a consistent dialogue about all that we were learning/grappling with. It was a great conference because each speaker enfolded their hearers into different aspects of the biblical narrative – keying in on different moments, situations, and stories that all participate in this greater story, which they might call The Mission of God in History.

I was thankful to have the chance to meet some of these speakers and even talk to them ever-so-briefly. The main argument (perhaps the assumed argument) of the conference was that the mission of God is the main lens through which we look in order to understand and experience the entirety of the biblical narrative. All of the speakers are convinced that the mission of God is the premier narrative of the Bible and thus gives form and understanding to every story, situation, and crevice that the Bible puts forth. I have previously been slightly skeptical of a “one – main – narrative” reading of Scripture, but this conference has furthered my assurance about the mission of God being the main lens through which we read all of Scripture. If you have questions or comments about this, please let me know – I would love to discuss this with you (and it would be helpful to me)!

As I stated before, there were four main speaker sessions and there were three workshops and for each workshop slot there were three options from which we chose. I chose the following workshops: Church for the Thriving World: Preaching Deuteronomy Missionally, Missional Plurality: A Hermeneutic of Christian Witness, and Missional Spirituality. I enjoyed all of these workshops thoroughly and they were all equally challenging in different ways. I especially appreciated the workshops on Deuteronomy and Missional Spirituality mainly because I felt that they spoke specifically to the season I currently inhabit.

A guy named Mark Glanville  taught this workshop and I sincerely appreciated the combination of his tender personality and academic rigor that were apparent during the course of the workshop. He supplied all of the attendees with an outline for a sermon series on Deuteronomy and other notes for which I am very grateful. The main thrust of this workshop was about framing Deuteronomy in a particular manner. Glanville explained a three part dynamic that we see in Deuteronomy that, he argued, is evidenced throughout Scripture and directly applicable to the church at large today. The three part movement that he explained was as follows:

  1. God has given generously
  2. His people with respond with thanksgiving and rejoicing
  3. Thanksgiving results in generosity, justice and inclusion

    Famous painting of Moses by Rembrandt

    Famous painting of Moses by Rembrandt

This was the three part movement that Glanville proposed as the central theme to Deuteronomy and the rhythm that our churches need to recover. This dynamic is expressed in Deuteronomy through a fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel concerning land, the flourishing of Israel, and ultimately that God would “bless Israel to be a blessing” to the surrounding nations. This is evident in Deuteronomy and in a lot of ways, evident in the rest of Scripture too! Deuteronomy is all about Israel being put on display for the sake of the nations. The law, the land, and God’s blessing were not an end in themselves, but instead were for the sake of the nations. God’s intention was that the nations might know God through Israel’s witness to him as the one, true God… Amazing stuff.

I am now reading through Deuteronomy once again (by the way, when I first became a Christian, I remember pronouncing this book as “Dutronomy” – things like that are funny to look back on) and I am continually finding the themes that Glanville proposed. Today I read this verse in Deuteronomy 12:

There in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

In verse 7 of chapter 12 we see God’s blessing, Israel’s rejoicing, and Israel “putting their hand” to justice and generosity. This verse is a timely message for our holiday season. As we approach the eve of Thanksgiving and draw near to the season of Advent, be sure to meditate on all that God has blessed you with so that you might respond with rejoicing and generosity.

History & Vision-Why We Need Both

In my reading today, I came across a quote that clearly and concisely summarized one of the reasons why I appreciate history. I have tried to explain this idea verbally to others but for some reason it has never come out in these terms (nor as concisely as these writers put it). This quote is from a book entitled “Colossians Remixed” by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat (while they have differing surnames, they are actually married-pretty awesome!). In one chapter they write this:

This story has come from somewhere and is going somewhere [referencing the last paragraph], and we can truly know where we are going only if we know where we have come from. In order to have vision we must have memory. Indeed forgetfulness or amnesia is precisely what strips us of vision-without the past there can be no future. So our contemporary improvisation must be informed and directed by both profound indwelling of the biblical vision of life and a discerning attentiveness to the postbiblical scenes that have already been acted out in the history of the church.

Their argument about the necessity of remembrance (history) for any sort of vision is intriguing and I think extremely significant. I don’t think that this is an argument for a particular philosophy of history, whether cyclical or linear, but rather a proposal for the purpose and necessity of history in the present and future.

In an attempt to illustrate their point, let us imagine for a moment that you and your spouse (imagining you have one if you don’t) adopt a young boy. The child is rather old for adoption (maybe 13 or 14) and his parents left him at a young age and since then he has been in and out of a number of foster homes that were not always actually “fostering” him in a manner that was positive. You don’t really know the details of his story, but just have a general idea of what his life has been like. You and your spouse are ecstatic about this adoption and have always wanted a young boy of your own. Together, you have dreamed about what school he should go to and who he should marry and what his vocation will be, but you have done this without knowing much about the boy you are soon to adopt. You have very much enjoyed carefully crafting a vision for his future.  As you drive this boy home from the courts, while hardly being able to keep your eyes on the road because you constantly want his eyes to meet yours from the backseat, you realize that he has a story of his own that is not quite what you expected. As you ask questions, he meets you with answers that you weren’t at all prepared for. He has more wounds than you could have imagined and peculiar passions that you never would have guessed. Thus, his story begins to change what you thought adoption would look like. It not only changes your view of adoption, but also your vision for what you thought his life would become. Slowly you realize that his story is going to affect all the dreams that you had for his life and they are going to have to change. You realize that you were ignorant to who he was and where had come from and as he spoke you came to see that his story was shaping the present circumstance and your vision for his future in your midst.

Simply put, when we are attentive to the past, we tend to see the future differently. How are we to know where we are going if we are ignorant of our own history or the history that shapes our context, community, and/or character? We can have no vision for where to go next if we don’t know where we’ve been and thus don’t know where we presently are. There can be no vision for reform if we have nothing to re-form.

The writers who provided that quote hone in on church history and I think that this is particularly important yet forgotten in the church. Church History is vital for the church, but alas we are fighting against a postmodern age that Hauerwas aptly describes with a saying that he has become known for:

America is the exemplification of what I call the project of modernity. That project is the attempt to produce a people who believe that they should have no story except the story that they choose when they had no story.

In essence, Hauerwas is saying that our culture has forgotten and been severed from any semblance or remembrance of History. We are a culture of wanderers without any concept of how we fit into the history of the world. Without history (whether someone’s personal story or a global history) we lose deep appreciation for stories of the past (and how those affect the present), an understanding of where we fit in, and a vision for where we are going.

Poem by George Herbert

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Read this poem this morning and wanted to share it…

Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin,
But quick-ey’d love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
If I lack’d any thing.

“A guest,” I answer’d, “worthy to be here”;
Love said, “you should be he.” “I, the unkind, the ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.”
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply “Who made the eyes but I?”

“Truth, Lord, but I have marr’d them; let my shame go where it doth deserve.”
“And know you not,” says love, “Who bore the blame?” “My dear, then I will serve.”

“You must sit down”, says love, “and taste my meat.”
So I did sit and eat.

FINIS
Glory to God on high, and on earth peace, good will towards men.