Saturday, February 12, 2011

What's With Evolution Sunday? A Sermon

I have been trying to observe Evolution Sunday/Weekend for several years, probably from the very beginning.  This year I'm not going to focus on the faith and science issue in my sermon, but because I believe this is such an important issue I'd like to share one from an earlier year, one that lifts up the issue.  Perhaps it will prove helpful as you wrestle with these two very important issues.

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What’s With Evolution Sunday?
Genesis 1:1-5


Everybody loves dinosaurs, especially young kids. From Barney the purple T-Rex to Little Foot and his friends, dinosaurs tickle their fancy. Discovery Channel, PBS, the History Channel, all air programs that tell dinosaur stories. Then there is the Jurassic Park franchise, which was a mega-hit.

I remember my visit to Dinosaur National Monument when I was about seven. I can still remember the great wall of fossils being excavated. Brett loved the Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas. It didn’t have a T-Rex, but it did have a big reptilian-like fish that swam the sea covering Kansas millions of years ago. With so much interest in prehistoric life, it seems odd that nearly half of Americans reject the science that explains the very things that fascinate us. For many people, science is either the enemy of faith or it is redefined in a way that fits a so-called biblical time-line.

Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, appeared a century-and-a-half ago, offering natural selection as the theory to explain how things came to be. Theories of evolution have been around for centuries, but Darwin’s theory revolutionized the study of human origins and development. He helped explain why there is so much diversity in earth’s flora and fauna, and we’re still discovering new species deep within jungles, caves and oceans.

Now, not everyone liked Darwin’s solution, mainly because it seemed to conflict with the Bible. The choice was simple, Darwin or God. Of course, this wasn’t the first time that science and the Bible had come into conflict. St. Augustine turned to allegory to explain Genesis because it seemed to conflict with the science of his day. Galileo’s telescope proved controversial, because his discoveries seemed to contradict the Bible. Despite the objections of some Christians, many other Christians have found ways of “adapting” to Darwin.


So, What’s Evolution Sunday?

You won’t find Evolution Sunday in the church’s annual planning guide, but with the ongoing debate about intelligent design, creationism, and evolution, it seemed like an appropriate topic to consider. While it’s not an official religious event, more than 400 congregations from around the country are observing it, and we’re one of them. Evolution Sunday is an expression of the Clergy Letter Project started by a biology professor from Wisconsin. After becoming involved in this debate, he decided to work on building a bridge between science and Christians. More than 10,000 clergy from across the country have signed his “Open Letter on Religion and Science,” and I’m one of them. You will find a copy of this letter in your bulletin today and there is more information on the web.

We’re observing this event today because I’m concerned about the growing debate over science and religion. The divide between the two communities is widening every day, and we live at a time when we need science to help solve a whole host of questions and problems. We also need the moral and ethical input of faith to help guide our use of new technology. As this debate grows louder, fewer young people are entering the sciences. I think there is a correlation between the growing rejection of evolution and these trends. There is another problem. By rejecting mainstream science, many Christians have made Christianity seem unreasonable and anti-intellectual. That’s too bad, because it puts an unnecessary barrier to the hearing of the gospel.

What Does Science Say?

I’m not a scientist, but I do read, and I’m the curious sort, so I’ve looked into the issue. I may not understand all the details, but I get the gist of it. Science says that the universe is very old. Some say it started with a bang and others say it’s always been there, only it’s changed a bit over time. When it comes to humans, science says that we developed over millions of years from a very primitive ancestor. Some people don’t like this. I guess they don’t like having an ape in the family tree, plus it seems to conflict with Genesis.

The problem is, there is overwhelming evidence to support evolution’s claims. There have been many challenges to aspects of the theory, but none have replaced it. The piece of evidence that I find most convincing is one that affects our daily lives. Evolution lets medical researchers use animals, like mice and chimps to test medicines that save human lives. These tests wouldn’t work if we didn’t all share some common DNA. Darwin didn’t know about DNA, but it supports his theory. So, if you like modern medicine, you’ve got to like evolution.



What Does the Bible Say?

How do we reconcile the facts of science with our faith and our reading of Scripture? Do we have to choose between God and science? Genesis says that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and it uses a six-day pattern to describe the creative acts. Finally, on the seventh day God rested. There is a constant refrain in Genesis 1 that seems important. That refrain is: “It is good.” This passage suggests that human beings are created in the image of God, but what does this mean? Does it mean that we look like God? Does it mean that we share God’s intellect? Or does it mean that we serve as God’s icons or representatives in creation? These are good questions.

Then there is the question of how we read we read Genesis 1-2. Must we read Genesis as a scientifically and historically accurate narrative to be true to its intent? Or, should we read these creation stories as a theological statement? When I read the opening chapters of Genesis, I don’t find answers to scientific questions. That’s because the writers and the recipients weren’t asking scientific questions. What Genesis does is challenge another creation story, the Babylonian one. In that story God isn’t the creator, the creation is God. In fact, in this story, the sun, the moon, the earth, and the sea are different gods, and these gods aren’t necessarily good. While the Babylonian story instills fear, Genesis calls for praise and adoration.

So, here we are on Evolution Sunday. We have a choice, we can build a wall between faith and science, or we can build a bridge. I think building a bridge would be more productive, because it will lead us to giving praise to God. In the mean time, let us rejoice because the “heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).
 
Preached at First Christian Church of Lompoc

43 comments:

Gary said...

The historicity of Genesis must be denied by evolutionists. But then comes Exodus. Chapter 20 begins, "And God spake all these words, saying,", then God proceeds to give to Moses the "Ten Commandments". Verses 8-11 record God's commandment regarding the Sabbath. In verse 11, God says He made heaven and earth, and everything in them in six days and rested on the seventh day.

Now it is obvious to any evolutionist that either God did not say those things to Moses, or God was lying. Either way, the so-called "Ten Commandments" are fiction. God does not require that people refrain from idolatry, taking God's name in vain, killing, stealing, committing adultery, lying about their neighbor, or coveting what others have. I'm sure this realization comes as a great relief to every evolutionist. You all can now do as you please, without any negative consequences from God. Enjoy.

Sam said...

My church observes Evolution Sunday. Last year John Shelby Spong preached.

Human Ape said...

Jeebus was a creationist. When Christians accept evolution they are admitting Jeebus was an uneducated moron. It's fair to ask, why do these pro-science Christians worship an idiot?

The choice is Jeebus or science. It's dishonest to choose both.

I noticed the preachers who pretend to accept science virtually always pollute evolutionary biology with their magic god fairy (god guided, used, or invented evolution). This means they are denying evolution is a completely natural process. They are saying evolution wouldn't work without a magical inventor or magic as a mechanism. Not one real biologist in the world would agree with that childish nonsense.

http://darwinkilledgod.blogspot.com/

John said...

Gary,

Seriously? We are going to do this again?

Instead of quoting someone quoting Moses quoting God for a purpose we cannot agree on, why don't we start with a different text, which both of us agree is binding on us from Deut 5:7-9 "you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God...."

I read this to say that we are not to make idols to substitute for the unknowable God and we are not to worship those idols instead of the one true God.

I am sure this is not your intention, but whenever I hear someone revering Scripture in the way that you do, it sounds to me as if such a worshiper is treating the words on the page as if they are yet another incarnation of God. We agree that Jesus was the only incarnation of God, and he came bearing a message of love and forgiveness. He did not com with a message of judgment, and he did not come bearing a message of scientific instruction. He did not require that people accept his science, but that people accept his ethics of love and his love of the father.

The words of Scripture are words written by men, handed down by men, and though they were originally inspired by God, they are still just words, and only words. The men who wrote them, wrote within the context of their knowledge and their circumstances. They were trying to teach others what they knew about God.

The true inspiration in your reading of Scripture is the Spirit you brig to it, the Spirit which enable you to discern the core truth which the Spirit wants you to discern.

John

David said...

No, you're a thousand years off-

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Jebusites (Hebrew: יְבוּסִי, Modern Yevusi Tiberian Yəḇûsî) were a Canaanite tribe who inhabited and built Jerusalem prior to its conquest by King David; the Books of Kings state that Jerusalem was known as Jebus prior to this event. According to some Biblical chronologies, the city was conquered by King David in 1003 BC,[1] or according to other sources 869 BC.[2]

Gary said...

John,

Exodus 20:8-11 is a direct quote from God. If you're really a Christian, why don't you believe what God said? The answer is, you don't believe it because you're an unbeliever, not a Christian.

dcsloan said...

The scripture was written to and written for and written by ancient people of an ancient culture living in an ancient time. Those ancient people and that ancient culture and that ancient time are gone, never to return. It is impossible for that ancient culture and that ancient time to be recreated and it is impossible for us to be that ancient people or to live as did that ancient people. To put it another way, the scripture was not written to us, the scripture was not written for us, the scripture was not written about us.

Whatever understanding we have of that ancient time and ancient culture and ancient people is unavoidably imperfect, incomplete, inaccurate, and is wrong in ways in which we will never be aware and in ways we will never be able to discern. Whatever understanding we have of the scripture, and no matter how comfortable or confident we are with that understanding, we will always have an unavoidably imperfect, incomplete, inaccurate and wrong understanding of the original intent, theology, and cultural incorporation and use of the scripture. All that we are left with and all that we will ever have is our own understanding in our own time in our own culture. The value and truth of the scripture is not in what it was. The value and truth of the scripture is in what it is – for us here and now.

The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt – (an attempt that would be disrespectful and unfaithful) – to limit the scripture to historical fact. The truth of the scripture goes beyond and is more than any attempt – (an attempt that would be disrespectful and unfaithful) – to limit the ancient languages of the scripture to an arbitrary single definition or an arbitrary single translation. The truth of the scripture is more than factuality, physicality, legal requirements and restrictions, legally-acceptable objective evidence, peer-reviewed repeatable scientific experiments, mathematical proofs, or statistical analysis. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always involves “the more” that is beyond life, beyond the universe, beyond physicality, beyond factuality, beyond objective evidence and beyond provable theorems. The foundational and eternal truth of the scripture always recognizes “the more” as a perceivable presence and a knowable consciousness that is grace-full and loving and relational and even dialogical. The universal foundational and eternal message of all ancient scripture is that it is possible to live in synchronous harmony with "the more" by living "The Way."

Doug Sloan

Gary said...

Doug Sloan,

You could have put it more succinctly by just saying, "I don't believe the Bible, and I make up my own 'truth' as I go".

John said...

Gary,

So we can agree that I do not believe the Bible ever directly quotes God and we can agree that instead of worshiping the resurrected Lord you have made an idol of letters copied onto paper by humans.

I guess we both have something to pray about.

John

Gary said...

John,

Why do you pretend to be a Christian? What do you think you have to gain from that pretense?

John said...

Gary,

Are we not all to some extent pretending? No one seems to be very good at this "living in Christ" thing - certainly not you or me. We try the best we can with our own consciences as a guide and our own experiences as limitations, to walk humbly with the Lord.

John

Gary said...

John,

You're just fooling yourself. Your religion is a sham.

Don said...

"To argue with a fool ONCE, one has to try. To argue with a fool the second time is to make a fool our yourself." (ANDY SEZ) The Bible is a book of faith that answers the question WHY. Science, pyschology, history and education asks the questin HOW. A Christian is one who confesses "Jesus is Lord" as the WHY of faith. What a person believes is the HOW of one's faith. Jesus was fond of saying not to judge others lest one be judged by the same standard. When asked what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said, Love God and Love Neighbor as self, on these two the Law and Prophets (Hebres Scripture) hinge.The test for any of one's beliefs, opinions, arguments or actions is "how will holding to my postion help me to Love God and Love Neighbor?" Jesus concluded his ministry by saying " A new commandment I give to you, 'love one another' for they will know you are my disciples by your ove for one another." So be careful not to make a fool our yourself. Don (retired Disciple pastor)

Brian said...

John wrote: "Are we not all to some extent pretending? No one seems to be very good at this "living in Christ" thing - certainly not you or me. We try the best we can with our own consciences as a guide and our own experiences as limitations, to walk humbly with the Lord."

Me: That's the best sermon I've come across in quite some time.

RE: scripture, Fred Craddock once said (paraphrasing) that when we read scriptures, it serves us well to remember that we are reading somebody else's mail. It was not written for, or to, us.

Of course, this point in no way detracts from the holiness of the scriptures. It simply provides an honest starting point.

David said...

Well said Don/ Gary.


Why do you pretend to be a Christian? What do you think you have to gain from that pretense?

I don't think earthly gain was ever suggested as a guarantee.

David said...

"When you get to heaven" (at the risk of repeating...

http://www.andrubemis.com/index.php/media/music

If we don't try (or care), then we are unfaithful.

jj said...

Gary, you can't just go around picking out pieces of Scripture and putting them in whatever context you want in order to support the point that you want to make. Well, you can, but it makes a mockery of the entire Bible (which is what I believe you would accuse me of doing with the way in which I interpret Genesis). Invariably, you are ignoring the other Scriptures I could use to refute you (I won't bother, because I would probably be taking them out of context also).

For example, take the impending rapture (which I'm assuming you believe is going to happen if you're like the other fundamentalists I know), which has now been impending for about 2000 years. However, one thing that clearly comes across from reading the New Testament is that the 1st generation of Christians were expecting the Messiah to return in their generation, and Jesus even indicated as much in more than one of the Gospels.

It didn't happen. If I read the Bible the way you seem to read the Bible, Jesus lied, so did Paul, etc.. Or maybe they didn't lie, maybe they were just wrong, but that presents a bit of a problem also, doesn't it. Or maybe we're reading it wrong, and one really just needs to reinterpret what they said so that now it means the 2nd coming is going to happen in the very near future. Wait, you can't do that, because to do so would be a violation of the way you read the Bible in the first place, and then you have a faux faith also (which is what you accused me of in a previous thread). You have to severely ignore and alter the text of scripture to get the meaning out of it that you want. That's the thing about logic and reason, it can be very inconvenient.

On top of that, most "fundamentalists" then decide to take a clearly nonliteral book, Revelation, and have the gall to reassign its meaning by suffusing it with future "historical" events (which they've been consistently revising over the last 3 decades that I've been paying attention) while "fundamentally" ignoring the original intent of the book (to offer support and hope to the persecuted church of the day). Fundamentalists cut and paste scripture so it says anything they want, and yet someone like you tells me my faith is fake because I'm trying to thoughtfully come to terms with the theological context of Genesis, because as history it cannot be taken literally without sacrificing our God given mental faculties. You're accusing Christians who accept evolution as scientific reality of doing something that you are in fact doing to a much greater degree. I would suggest that by attempting to put God in a neat little box, you've ended up inside it yourself.

I, however, will not accuse you of having a faux faith (something you weren't willing to grant me, but if it is one thing that I've seen fundamentalists unwilling to grant, it's grace...ironically). However, I will suggest that your faith is blind and you are walking towards a precipice. I hope God will bring you up into the clouds before you fall off the edge, but nowhere is it written.

BTW, there is another group of fundamentalists who misuse their scriptures, and several of them flew planes into buildings not so long ago. A faith built on a house of sand can be molded into anything before it crumbles. I see your faith as being strong, but I see it as being potentially dangerous; and not in the "Aslan" sort of way.

Gary said...

jj,

I think you and I are talking about different things. Not only do we have different views of the Bible, but we don't even mean the same thing when we talk about God.

Does the "God" you believe in have a name? I ask because it is obvious that the "God" you reference cannot be the God of the Bible because the Bible portrays God as the Creator of the universe, which could not be true if your evolutionary beliefs are true.

jj said...

Gary,

A classic fundamentalist response demonstrating a clear inability (or fear?) to think critically about anything, but I give you high marks for consistency.

John said...

Gary,

Unlike many Fundamentalists, you have repeatedly shown that you understand Christians who accept the role of evolution as a tool used by God in creation. I would like to ask some questions but I need first to clarify if I understand your position.

You reject evolution as a tool used by God on the evidence of Scripture, that is, that because evolution is not mentioned in Scripture and because Scripture at various points embraces non-evolutionary factual descriptions in Genesis 1-3 as true. From this evidence you conclude that evolution was not used by God. You are not saying that GOd could not use evolution, just that God did not because Scripture does not document such.

As I understand you to be saying: for someone to claim evolution as a likely truth would of necessity require one to conclude that apparently factual statements in Scripture are not to true, and if Scripture is shown to be untrue in this respect, then Scripture cannot be reliable in any other aspect.

Before I go any further in response, will you acknowledge whether I have fairly stated your position.

John

Gary said...

jj,

I don't have the ability to think clearly about anything? I have to disagree. I think I see the issues very clearly.

You're asking me to change my view of the Bible in order to accomodate a philosophy that denies the historical accuracy of the Bible. Am I correct about that? Isn't that what you think I should do?

But you don't seem to understand that you cannot dismiss the history in the Bible and still retain the meaning of it. As Jesus told Nicodemus "If I have told you of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?" John 3:12

Gary said...

John,

Yes, that's fair.

John said...

Gary,

So we can agree that God is capable of using evolution but we disagree as to whether God actually did so.

The issue then is not "evolution" per se, but instead whether one is going to accept (1) the accuracy of all factual assertions in Scripture, and (2) whether statements attributed to Jesus and certain others were properly attributed and/or accurately preserved.

You would say that as a 'non-negotiable' element of Christian faith, one must accept:
(1) the accuracy of all factual assertions in Scripture,
2) that all statements attributed to Jesus and certain others were properly attributed, and
(3) all such statements were accurately preserved.

Would you say that the rejection of any of these items constitutes a wholesale rejection of the Christian faith?

Would you say that the rejection of these Scriptural precepts also constitutes a rejection of God and thus will result in a loss of salvation, or in ultimate damnation?

Just to be honest here, I am not setting you up, just clarifying what you are saying. I really haven't yet figured out where I want to go with this, but I want to clarify what you are saying before I waste time on non-essentials.

John

jj said...

Gary,

No, you got me wrong. I never said you don't think clearly. In fact, your thoughts are very clear. I said you are not thinking critically (not critical in the sense of "censure", but critical in the sense of weighing the various arguments and pieces of data on both sides of the issue and forming a rational decision based on the entire set of data).

I'm suggesting that by seeing everything as black or white, you end up having to reinterpret portions of scripture to fit your view of Biblical literal inerancy. In effect, to maintain literal inerancy you are adding error to the Biblical material (as briefly outlined in my earlier post in this thread). You are trying to remain consistent in literal interpretation, but if you are like most fundamentalists, you fail to maintain that consistent interpretation across the entire Bible (this is impossible to do, because there are Scriptures that are contradictory to each other, but can be explained when put in their proper context of the people, place and situation for which they were written). When one commits to Biblical literalism and inerrancy, one sacrifices a proper contextual reading (I'm not sure this always has to be the case, but I haven't yet seen otherwise in anybody who adheres to young earth creationism).

Gary said...

John,

Those who are real Christians believe the Bible. Those who don't believe the Bible, after learning what it says, but still claim to be Christians, are mistaken about the reality of their faith.

A real believer will no more deny the historicity of Genesis than they will deny the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, or anything else taught in the Bible. Christians without a background of exposure to the Bible might not know that God created the universe in six days, but when they learn that is what the Bible says, they will believe it. They won't argue that the Bible is wrong.

Gary said...

jj,

I think I have weighed the various points of view and reached a rational conclusion.

I don't view everything in the Bible as literal. Parts of the Bible are metaphorical, or poetic. But there is much in the Bible that is historical, and the history should not be metaphorized.

I do believe that the entire Bible is inerrant. The moment you hold the view that there are errors in Scripture, you have two choices: either dismiss the whole thing, or you must assign to someone the job of deciding which parts are wrong and which are right. Most people choose themselves for that job. And naturally, opinions vary.

John said...

Gary,

Are you acquainted with the specific history of the composition of the Old Testament and the New Testament, that who wrote what and when they wrote it, and when each book of Scripture was accepted as authoritative and when and by whom it was determined to be part of the canon of Jewish, and then Roman Catholic, and then Protestant Scripture?

I ask this because you may well know it and I don't want to waste words on things you know and accept.

Alternatively, acting from faith, you may have chosen to ignore the history of the composition of the Bible as irrelevant and instead elected to accept the Bible (King James Version, I assume) as an divinely endorsed item in its entirety, uncorrupted and uncorruptable from the moment it was written, regardless of the circumstances of the composition of its component parts and regardless of the method by which its component parts were assembled.

John

Gary said...

John,

To save time, I'll go with paragraph three of your last post.

John said...

Gary,

Well, as long as you reject the history of Scripture as irrelevant, you separate yourself from those who examine the history of Scripture and cut off the conversation.

Are we to simply ignore what we know about the history of the composition of Scripture? What about the differing opinions of what belongs in Scripture?

I hold Scripture in high regard, thus I will seek confirmation of my religious views in Scripture and demand the same of everyone else. But you hold Scripture in a different way, it is as if Scripture were the same as Jesus himself, perfect, uncorrupted, incorruptible. Moreover, you hold Scripture to be transparent, containing only one meaning which is clear and unambiguous and obvious to all true believers (a characteristic which I don't think you would claim about Jesus, who often spoke in riddles and confused even his most ardent followers).

Your extraordinary reverence for Scripture, together with your apparent unwillingness to examine the compositional history of Scripture seems to compel you to adopt your position that all who critically examine Scripture and reach a different interpretational conclusion than you do must be in clear error, and are surely risking damnation.

I have to believe that if you could honestly consider the implications of the fact that God did not dictate the text of the King James Bible, you might be more likely to allow that there is room for others to disagree with you over the meaning of Scripture without risking their salvation - or yours.

Truth sets you free and knowledge leads to truth. Avoiding knowledge, even for reasons of genuine faith, leads to misinformation, and misunderstanding, and ultimately to enslavement by those who control knowledge (or hide it from you) and that obviously will not set you free. Available knowledge must be examined, tested, and integrated into one's rational understanding of God's Creation.

To do anything else is to dishonor God, and to play the role of Ostrich, with your head in the sand.

True faith comes in gaining comfort in the ambiguities which appear in God's creation (and in Scripture), and is expressed in a willingness to accept mystery, and a willingness to let go of certainties in favor of trust in God.

So what if a loving God employs evolution in the process of Creation - we both agree that God has the power to do so. Isn't that acknowledgement more important than certainty as to whether God did or didn't - are we not called to have faith in God's power and sovereignty?

I'm just saying....

John

Gary said...

John,

If God employed evolution in creating everything, it would have to be very fast evolution, since the Bible says that God created everything in six days.

Is there anything in the Bible, told as history, that you believe is actually true? And if there is, why do you believe that particular thing is historically true?

jj said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jj said...

Gary,
First, as an aside, errors in transmission of the biblical texts are extensively documented. I'm afraid God left imperfect humans to record who He is and what He is about. "The Inspiration of Scripture" is a good read on this topic (by Paul Achtemeier). I'm sure there are a million books on this subject, but this one was written by a believer (at least how I would define one), which is one reason why I read it.

I'm happy to see that you've made some attempts at contextualization of scripture. You have, of course, opened the door with regards to what is history and what isn't (e.g. Job is presented like events of a real story, but it is obviously wisdom literature). So I would ask how do you know Genesis 1 is literal history? I note 2nd Peter, 3:8

"But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

I'm assuming you'll grant me that the overall impression here is that God's frame of reference with regards to time is much different than ours, not that there He has a literal 1 day per 1000 year point of view (and, in fact, this is a critical passage in letting us know that we have no idea exactly how or when human history is going to end).

Therefore, are the days in Genesis to be interpreted with our narrow understanding of time, or God's understanding of time? Who are we to impose human limitation on God's creation because of one word in the first book of the Bible (which has been subject to translation into English, at that)? There's a reason why the "scientific" creationists have their own schism between young earth and long earth points of view (I don't aree with either of them, but at least the LEC has a bit more credibility in their reading of scripture...at least in my opinion).

John said...

Gary,

Sure, there are a number of statements in the Bible which are fairly accurate, though often just a little bit off on places, dates, and names (here I am thinking especially of the books of Kings, Chronicles, Sammuel, Daniel and the Gospels). But when I read a Bible passage, I am not often concerned with historicity so much.

If I want history I will go to a contemporary historian. A contemporary historian portrays history in a meaningful fashion, according to contemporary principles of historiography and supported by corroborative evidence.

For me the Bible is not a history or a science textbook, but a source of inspiration and guidance and spiritual understanding. It is a source of divine revelation, and though its content is limited by the humanity of its writers, it was still preserved by God because the writers were indeed inspired, and were indeed telling truths, just not about science or history.

Furthermore, the truths those writers told were recorded were set usually in a narrative framework. My perception of the reason for that is to allow a degree of interpretive suppleness to those who would read and hear the message in later generations. For me a narrative invites conversation with the text, and encourages in me a flexibility and adaptability in how I read and apply the message in contemporary circumstances.

In other words, I am not reading a timeline of past events, but a re-telling of those events through the words of someone whose experienced of them was with a spirit-filled heart. As I listen, I listen for my own place in that story.

John

David said...

Deuteronomy 22.

This is full of gems. One example-

28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.

I found a joke for Gary-

A Baptist, a Catholic and a Disciple of Christ were standing before the pearly gates. Jesus himself met them: "I have one question that you must answer: who do you say that I am?" The Catholic replied, "The church teaches . . ." Jesus interrupted, "I didn't ask about the church, I asked about you! You cannot enter!"
The Baptist answered, "The Bible says . . ." Jesus interrupted, "I didn't ask about the Bible, I asked you! You cannot enter!"
The DOC then said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" Jesus said, "Yes, that is correct!" The DOC then continued, "but on the other hand . . ."

Gary said...

jj,

Genesis is literal history(including literal 24 hour days) because it is written that way, and confirmed as history in other parts of the Bible. And, everything that follows in the Bible depends on Genesis being historical.

Gary said...

John,

If I understand you correctly, you only believe the history in the Bible if it is comfirmed by extra-Biblical sources that you trust. So, your confidence is in the extra-Biblical sources, not in the Bible.

The Bible clearly makes historical claims. If those claims are false, I don't understand how anyone could get inspiration, or guidance, or spiritual help from a source that is unreliable.

If you had written the Bible, but could not get the history correct, I wouldn't trust a thing you said. And I certainly would not rely on you for moral instruction, or inspiration.

John said...

What if I could document 1,000 historical/factual inaccuracies in the Bible?

Besides, for spiritual guidance I look to spiritual resources; for history, history books; for science, science books; medical advice, doctors; etc, etc.

If a doctor doesn't know history, I wouldn't then doubt her medical advice. However, if I recklessly relied on her historical remarks to form my understanding of history, for example about the Roman Empire, and one day I found out that she thought that Julius Caesar was a Russian nobleman, then I suppose I would then doubt her medical advice - not because I should doubt it, but because I naively assumed that her medical expertise implied that she was just as well informed about Roman history. It is reasonable that I would have to question my judgment regarding her medical expertise as well.

Where I went wrong in my example was in the assumptions I made and the judgments I concluded from those assumptions. The doctor was still just as well qualified, but I can no longer trust my own judgment. And so when you make unfounded assumptions about the Bible's accuracy on matters outside of its writer's expertise, you will surely be disappointed to find out they were wrong, and you will likely call into question the truth claims that the Bible makes abut spiritual matters.

Alternatively, you could refuse to consider information which would conflict with non-essential factual statements made in the Bible to preserve your belief in its accuracy on those points and thus protect your trust in its truth claims regarding spiritual matters.

And the DOC continued, "but on the other hand...."

John

Gary said...

John,

You cannot document 1000 historical/factual inaccuracies in the Bible. But what we can all document is your disdain for the Bible. You have placed your trust in everything but the Bible. Your claim that you believe the Bible for anything is unbelievable.

Getting back to the original subject, which was the incompatibility of the Bible with evolutionary philosophy, like all evolutionists, you have placed your trust in what you regard as "science", and have rejected the word of God.

You have tried, unsuccessfully, to argue that you can read the Bible in a way that is both legitimate, and allows room for evolution. But, as you have demonstrated, what you really have to do is destroy the credibility of the Scriptures in order to pretend they are compatible with evolution. Evolution and Scripture tell two different stories, and there is no way that both of them can be true. What I find interesting is the contortions some of you will go through in order to try to reconcile two conflicting philosophies. Neither the atheists, nor the Bible believers have those problems.

John said...

Gary,

I place my trust in God. Disdain is obviously not a fair word to describe my regard for the Bible.

As for the Bible and evolution, they really have nothing to do with each other. One is Spirit-filled collection of human reflections on the presence of God in the history of the people of Israel and on the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, while the other is a theory about how humans are related to other biological life forms on the earth.

If you want to treat Scripture as a science textbook, that is certainly your choice. If you believe that treating Scripture as a science textbook is a demonstration of Christian faith, that too is up to you.

You stand in a long line of faithful Christian in taking that position. The Roman Catholic Church successfully prosecuted Galileo for his scientific theory that the earth revolved around the sun by relying on the incontestable Scriptural evidence that the earth stood still and that it was the sun which moved in the sky. You and those who believe as you do can proudly stand along side those holy fathers who did such good works based on such sound principles.

But fortunately, in today's world, just as I cannot tell you what you must believe, the same applies to you. I will seek the truth which God has made available to me from all of God's revelation, whether it is revealed in Scripture or in the natural world.

The world is not flat, it does not have four corners, there is no 'end' to the earth, the sun does not move in the sky, and God does not reside in a geographic place located "above" the earth and plants were not created after humans came into being.

I'm just saying.

John

Gary said...

John,

You and I have different religions that have nothing in common. We don't believe in the same God. We don't believe the same account of how things came to exist. We disagree on what constitutes reality. I have as much in common with you as I do with Buddhists or atheists, or Muslims.

jj said...

Gary,

You have not really addressed one question or point that has been raised except with a "Genesis is true, you're wrong" approach. There are clearly errors in the Bible as well as numerous contradictions that arise for those who espouse the beliefs that you do. Instead of honestly addressing them, you have taken the "it's in the Bible so it's true" sort of (il)logic. The intellectual bankruptcy of which ought to be so obvious that, quite frankly, it is disturbing to me when I see people put up such catastrophic mental blocks. Apparently you don't see it, but certainly all of the nonbeliever's I know will, so as far as I'm concerned you have only threatened the credibility of the Christian Faith and Christians in general.

Additionally, this approach when trying to reach people of other faith's is highy questionable. I can imagine the conversation.

"It's in the Bible, so you should believe it."

"But this is in the Koran (etc.), so you should believe this."

Now what? If we can't honestly approach the obvious questions and concerns of our own faith, we shouldn't expect people of other faith traditions to do so either.

Sadly, we are supposed to be brothers in Christ. But my "faux" faith can not relate to your blind, unreasoned faith, so it appears common ground is harder to find than it ought to be. No wonder so many view the divided Church with disdain.

You mentioned that you recognize the various literary forms that are in the Bible, and yet it seems the complex literary form of Genesis has escaped you, that the highly stylized lyrical and almost poetical form is somehow to be regarded as plain history (and science, apparently). Additionally, it is rather ignorant to try and read Genesis outside of the ancient culture in which it was written (afterall, it wasn't originally written for you or me, it was composed for the people for whom first received the document).

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/6-02Watts.html

In some respects, I've come to see your style of Christianity as Biblical idolatry. In an attempt to remain Faithful to the Gospel, you've traded your woship of Christ for worship of the Bible. You will no doubt disagree with me, I'm just giving you my take.

The below link better illustrates my thoughts on this matter (from one of the most effective pastors I've yet encountered):

http://coramdeo.typepad.com/coram_deo_living_before_t/2010/11/why-i-dont-believe-in-the-bible.html

Gary said...

jj,

I addressed your question as to the length of days in Genesis chapter one. But I see no benefit in answering the questions of those who are not going to agree with the answers. You are convinced that the Bible has many errors, and there is nothing I could say that will change your mind.

It is interesting that you would say it is me who is threatening the credibility of the Christian faith when I'm the one saying the Bible is true! I submit it is unbelievers like you, who falsely call youselves Christians, but deny the truthfulness and validity of the Bible that cause confusion and lead people to conclude that Christianity is a farce.

And I checked out the link you provided. That "pastor", falsely so-called, is as big an infidel as you are.

jj said...

There's nothing that will change my mind? Now that's funny.