Thursday, November 26, 2015

To Renounce...a Crack Pot.

"My father was always very adamant about one thing - if you can't trust the Book of Genesis as literal history, then you can't trust the rest of the Bible.  After all, every single doctrine of biblical theology is founded in the history of genesis 1-11.  My father had not developed his thinking in this area as much as we have today at Answers in Genesis, but he clearly understood that if Adam wasn't created from dust, and that if he didn't fall into sin as Genesis states, then the gospel message of the New Testament can't be true either."
Ken Ham (2008) Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World.



“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.”  



Billy Graham, Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997. pp. 72-74



The picture at the top of this post is of the entrance to Bethel Theological Seminary in Arden Hills, Minnesota.  I attended both Bethel College (Now, Bethel University) and Bethel Seminary. (I never got ordained.) Both schools are solidly evangelical with traditional, orthodox views on scripture and the main issues in christendom.

I have a tendency to view what goes on in the church today through the lens of those schools, particularly Bethel Sem.  Whatever the issue might be, I will ask myself if it would fly with my old professors at Bethel.  That's my bias.  I admit it.  But I do so because of the respect & admiration that those godly men...and a few women professors, earned from me through their scholarship, dignity, diligence and wisdom.

I loved going to school there.  I loved the learning environment.  I loved being able to pick the brains of those teachers.  They took the bible extremely seriously, and taught me to do the same.  Some of my non-christian friends say I take the bible to seriously.  So be it.  I love the bible.

More on Bethel later...

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The following is an portion from a blog post of a former professor of mine from Bethel College, Roger Olson.  He doesn't remember me, but I certainly remember him.  He never let his students be lazy on an intellectual level.

He was writing about attending a conference where the speaker was to be Alister McGrath.  He was also bemoaning the lack of intellectual rigor among the church in America.  You can read the entire piece here, if you like.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/11/an-evangelical-superstar-scholar-alister-mcgrath/?ref_widget=related&ref_blog=rogereolson&ref_post=thanksgiving-thoughts


"One of the great sadnesses of my life is that “evangelical” and even “Christian” have become words often associated with ignorance, anti-intellectualism, intolerance, obscurantism, fundamentalism, aggressive right-wing politics. McGrath has done so much to undermine, even explode, those stereotypes and caricatures, and yet he remains largely unknown even among evangelical Christians because his books, many of them popularly written, are not best-sellers in the popular “Christian bookstores” that instead devote entire endcaps and special displays to, for example, “Duck Dynasty.”


Personally, I do not blame Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchins or other promoters of “the new atheism” for anything except misrepresenting Christian theism (which I think they have done in some of their writings and speeches). The decline of evangelical Christian intellectual life is evangelical Christians’ own fault. We, especially in America, have done it to ourselves. On the popular level “in the pews” and on the pastoral level “in the pulpits,” too often, Christianity has been presented and believed in as a “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up” fideistic obscurantism. (I actually heard an evangelical Baptist pastor use that line in a sermon as an example of what a Christian should say to an atheist!)"


For more on Alister McGrath, click the following links...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alister_McGrath
Or
http://alistermcgrath.weebly.com/

What happened?!?!?!

For centuries, Christians were the leading thinkers and philosophers in the western world.  The foundations of modern science were laid down by people of faith.  Now?  Now I walk into the only "Christian" bookstore chain in the Twin Cities, Lifeway, and I'm surrounded by this...



To be sure, there are some good books by guys like Francis Chan, John Piper and others.  But you can't escape the fact that there are reams & reams of intellectual candy & "milk" covering the shelves. (I think I even saw a "Duck Dynasty" version of the bible the last time I was in there.) Plenty of Amish romance novels and works designed to give you the biblical magic spells to fix your life and to force God to fart his blessings all over you, line the shelves.

When I go in there, I'll ask if they carry the latest works by Peter Enns, John Walton, McGrath, and so on, the answer is almost universally "No, but we can order it for you."

If a "Christian" bookstore won't carry and push works by genius level scholars, I don't want to give them my business.  I tend to go to Barnes & Noble, where they often actually have the books on their shelves.

BTW: While this post may sound angry, it's not meant that way.  But this has been building up in me for a long time now.  I simply need to vent a little.

I've just grown so frustrated at the laziness in the intellect of modern American evangelicalism.  Unless we are content to preach to the choir, we will never be able to speak to the greater culture at large if we settle for catch phrases and simple minded theology.


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MEANING: Where does it come from when you read any given text?

How many times have you walked out of Menard's or Target with a new home appliance, gotten home and read the instructions and said to yourself, "Wow, these are some really cool song lyrics."?  Or maybe you said of the instruction manual, "This is some really interesting history."

Odds are, you haven't done that.  Why?  Because it's an instruction manual, not song lyrics or a history text.

Meaning...


Traditionally, there have been three main ways of defining what a text means.

The Legal Option: Meaning comes from the letter of the law.  No more, no less.

Ephesians 5:18 says, "Do not get drunk on strong wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Well, it's mighty convenient that Paul didn't mention anything about whiskey & schnapps.  So bottoms up!

The Personal Option: In other words, "What does it mean to you?"  Obviously, this leaves the door wide open for any interpretation no matter how ridiculous.  Back in the day, Charles Manson thought the Beatle's song "Helter Skelter" was telling him to start a race war in America.  That's what it meant to him.  If you choose this option, then his interpretation is perfectly legit.

The Context Option: Anyone who has gone to Bethel Seminary in the last few decades has probably had this option beaten into their heads until it felt like a tumor.  And there is good reason for this.  The meaning of any given text, be it sacred or secular, can only be understood in context.  In other words, what did the writer intend to be understood by the person/persons he is writing to!!!!!!

This IS the only proper way to understand a text.

The only way to do that is to show the text enough respect to respect it in it's linguistic and cultural context.  It simply isn't good enough to know what a word means in english.  Every translation of the bible is also an interpretation.  You must do your best to understand the text in it's original context.  If you do not do that you will get it wrong...every single time!



This picture is of the Rev. Chuck Baldwin.  Chuck is a Crack Pot. Chuck does not like to use the bible in context.  He prefers to cherry pick his verses to make the bible say what he wants.  And what he wants is rather interesting...

Luke, chapter 22, tells the story of Jesus from the moment Judas agrees to betray him, all the way up his arrest and being brought before Pilot.  In the middle of this portion, right before Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives, he tells them that they are about to cut & run like a bunch of little girls after he gets arrested.

Verse 36 is interesting, He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one..." To Chuck, this means that Christians must own AR-15s and other assault weapons incase we need to overthrow the Federal Government.

How do I know this?  Because I lost a friend over it.  I still have the 6 page screed that he wrote me on how Chuck's interpretation of this verse is the correct one.  This is what happens when you refuse to read the bible in context.



This a picture of Reverend Kenneth Copeland.  Ken is a Crack Pot.  Ken does not like to use the bible in context.  He prefers to cherry pick his verses to make the bible say what he wants.  And what he wants is your money.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer. 29:13

This passage, along with the entire prophecy, was written by Jeremiah to the Jews in exile in Babylon.  God was telling his people that he hadn't given up on them.  He was telling them to settle in to their punishment in a foreign land and to start having lives again.  It was not written to people in 18th century Japan or 20th century Canada.  It was addressing the very specific issues of exiled Judah over 2,500 years ago.

However, Ken thinks it was written to him and his devotees.  You will often hear him say things along the lines of, "God wants to prosper you...with RICHES!"  If you send Ken your money, God will be forced to make you win the lottery.  Ken's god is easy to manipulate.  If you use the right biblical incantations, "Name & Claim" them, God will have no choice but to grant your wishes.

This is what happens when you refuse to read the bible in context.

_____________________



This is a picture of Ken Ham.  Like Chuck Baldwin & Kenneth Copeland, Mr. Ham is very passionate about his beliefs.  Like the others, he has thoroughly spelled out his beliefs.  Like the others, he follows Jesus. (Hey, until Jesus tells me otherwise, if someone claims to be a Believer, I just take them at their word despite what I might think about their positions on issues.)

Mr. Ham is also a "Young Earth Creationist." (YEC) He is extremely popular among a subset of American Evangelicalism.  In fact, he is probably the most popular YEC ever known.

It should be noted that popularity does not necessarily mean you are right.  If that were the case, Joel Osteen would be the Protestant Pope.

Here are some links for more resources on Mr. Ham...
https://answersingenesis.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ham

Remember what I said early on in this post about me filtering everything through the lens of Bethel?  To my knowledge, Mr. Ham has never been asked or allowed to teach a course or speak at either the college or seminary. (I could be wrong about that.) Why?

To be fair, one of his employees, Dr. Gary Parker did speak at a Bethel University chapel service back in 2012 when both were in town and speaking at Grace Church of Eden Prairie.  But Ken?  Nope.

A quick aside: Ken spoke about "Race" at Grace church.  I agreed with him that racism is evil.  I believe it to be evil because all humans bare God's image.  Ken believes it's wrong because we are all related to each other since we're all the spawn of incest. (You can understand why I might find that disturbing.  Especially when I'm having dinner at my folk's place.) You'll have to look that up yourself.  I'll be posting more links than ever before on this thing.

So anyway...
Why?

Mr. Ham is very, very insistent that his understanding of early Genesis is the correct one.  He makes no bones about it.  Any other interpretation is false.  Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who teaches something other than his take is referred to as a "Compromiser" (At best.) or "False Teacher." (At worst.) Those are his words, folks.  Not mine.  He is so certain of his view that he has built a multimillion dollar, largely tax-free, ministry out of it.  Like I said, he is very popular.

However, this also means that people who are Old Earth Creationists, Intelligent Designers, and certainly Evolutionary Creationists, are all wrong and are therefor compromisers & false teachers.  THIS means that C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel and even Billy Graham are all false teachers & compromisers.

For more on Lee Strobel, click below...
http://www.leestrobel.com/

Now I happen to like Lee Strobel a lot, even though he can't speak without using his hands.  I like C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham even more.  Personally, I think referring Billy Graham as one who compromises the gospel to be a bit much.  But I could be wrong...

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This past summer, I was driving out to the cabin.  Geek that I am, I had MPR on to listen to whatever.  As it turns out, the program was about the mining industry in N.E. Minnesota.  They had two mining scientists on.  One of them mentioned that the rock strata that they were currently working on was approximately 2.5 million years old.

Oddly enough, the next thought that popped into my head was about a YECky trying to get a job as a scientist up there.  If he/she walked in there and said something along the lines of "Oh, no, no.  Your science data and equipment are all wrong.  Those rocks are only a few thousand years old." What would be their chances of getting a job there?

The Evangelical Disconnect: Many American Christians say one thing but do another.  This is not an overt form of hypocrisy.  I think it's more an internal defense mechanism.  I call it the "Evangelical Disconnect." The following person is an excellent example of it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/12/science/12geologist.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Marcus  Ross is a YEC Paleontologist.  He got his degree from the University of Rhode Island on various marine reptiles that vanished 65 million years ago.  He now teaches at Liberty University.  He says that the earth has only been around for a few thousand years.  How does he reconcile these two beliefs?

He doesn't.  He does the evangelical disconnect.  He says that teaching paleontology & science requires one paradigm, while his faith requires a different one.  The evangelical disconnect is a defense mechanism designed to protect people from actually having to think thoroughly through their beliefs.

FACT! Every single time you fill up your gas tank, you are denying a young earth.  The technology that is used to find fossil fuels to be pumped is based on the science that the earth is really, really, really old.  The same for the car you are driving to put the gas in.

FACT! Every single time you use your cell phone, you deny that the universe is young.  The science that NASA and other space agencies use to put satellites up in space for your cell phone is based on the truth that the universe itself is billions of years old. (I could also point out that scientists can actually measure light speed in a laboratory.  They know that light has been cruising for more than a few thousand years from those distant stars.)

FACT! Modern medical science, specifically genomic work, is largely based on evolutionary biology.  For the record, I don't know if evolution is true, but I hope it is.  I have friends with cancer.  I'm hoping that the newest medical discoveries based on this science can help them out.  If this fact disturbs you, you could always find a nice shaman or witch doctor to help you with your birth defects.

FACT! Not even 1%...not even 1% of the world's paleontologists, biologists, astronomers, astrophysicists, geologists, archeologists, and so on, agree with the pseudo-science of YEC scientists.  They may not like this fact, but they know it to be true.  If that's your set up, you have a problem.


However, science isn't really what I'm interested in.
I'm more interested in the bible.

____________________


If someone came to my church and claimed to be the expert on Matthew's Gospel, I would like to know of his credentials.  Like I said, I take the bible very seriously.  If you're going to make a claim that your the guy, I want to know how you got your expertise.

Me: "So, you have a background in biblical Greek?"
You: "No."
Me: "Okay, what about 1st century Judaism & culture?"
You: "No."
Me: "Umm, okay, what about the Roman Empire and it's history in the middle east?"
You: "No, I don't have a background in any of that.  But I know the english translation really well."
Me: "C-YA!"

Here is a link to the staff of Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis ministry.  Click the link and see if you can spot the experts in biblical Hebrew, Ancient Near-East history and culture or any type of biblical exegesis.
https://answersingenesis.org/answers/books/new-answers-book-2/contributors/
That's right.  There are none.

The only one closest enough to qualify remotely is Dr. Terry Mortenson, who has a delightful attack on one of my old professors from Bethel Seminary, Millard Erickson.
https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/terry-mortenson/2014/05/14/millard-erickson-failing-to-do-his-homework-on-creation/

Millard Erickson is one of the titans of American evangelical scholarship.  His works on systematic theology are standard readings at most seminaries and are considered to be some of the greatest works of 20th century theology.  It was a privilege for for me to study under the feet of this master.  To have this intellectual light-weight, dunce go after him doesn't make me angry, it makes me laugh.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Erickson


I don't worry much about Ken Ham's "Scientists."  Both non-christian & Believer scientists tend to not give them a thought.  However, I do concern myself with his use of the bible.


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Consider this for a moment.

Ken clearly doesn't start from a position of science.  That's painfully obvious.  However, he doesn't start from the bible, either.  He starts from his father.  Scroll back up to the top and read his quote about his dad.  Daddy done gave him a choice.  Either the earliest portions of Genesis are literal history and science, or the Gospel of Jesus is a lie.

That's a pretty heavy load to put on a kid.

I've seen the result of that kind of choice before.  God forbid your kids weaned on thoughts like that go off to Bethel, Northwestern or Trinity and take an astronomy class.  They will soon know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe is billions of years old.  Now they have a choice to make, even though they are attending a christian school.

I've seen them walk away.
All because of a false choice made by folks who refuse to read the bible in context.

____________________


I have never met a professor of the Old Testament or Biblical Hebrew who was a YECky.  I'm sure there are some, but I've simply never run across them.  There certainly weren't any at either of Bethel's schools.

There was no consensus as to what was actually going on in the earliest parts of Genesis.  However, there was absolute, uniform agreement that you must never view ANYTHING in the bible, let alone the creation stories, from the perspective of a 20th/21st century American.  You cannot read science into a text that had no knowledge, view or interest in that.  That would be like expecting this ancient document to comment on phones and automobiles.

If you actually respect the bible enough to read it in context...especially linguistically, you will easily conclude that this is not a journalistic account of a scientific occurrence.  I remember asking my Hebrew professor about the first creation story/poetry.  He said, "Joe, it's about the WHO, not the HOW," with a big grin on his face.

In fact, if you take a moment to read the Genesis One account, you might notice that it never, ever says how God created anything.  What it does insist on, and rightly so, is that YHWH is the creator of ALL, not Zeus, Odin, Marduke or Ba'al.

Anyone who knows biblical Hebrew can tell you that the first creation story isn't even a story. (Not in a traditional sense, anyway.) It's POETRY!  Traditional Chiastic Hebrew poetry to be exact.  Are you supposed to read poetry like a history text...or maybe like an instruction manual from Menard's or Target?  NO!

You had better read the bible in context, or you will always get it wrong.  You read poetry as poetry, epistles as letters, prophecy as prophecy, and wisdom literature as exactly that, and so on.  You do not take a document, written as a poetic narrative to an ancient people that addresses their concerns & questions, and read ideas about 20th century, western science into it.

The irony is that Mr. Ham insists that we read the bible literally, but then does the exact opposite.  He is no different from guys like Chuck Baldwin or Kenneth Copeland in that he doesn't take it literally/in context.  Instead, he reads into it what he wants, just like they do.  The result is that they ALL get it wrong...every single time.

 I will not, and cannot respect a self-styled expert who won't even make the effort to at least try and do some rigorous study of the bible on it's own terms, not their agenda.  I want my scholarship to come from actual scholars.  I insist on it.



I am so tired...so tired of having to open with an apology after people find out I'm a Believer.  Even one of my own bosses at work was stunned when he found out I was a Christian, but didn't think that Adam & Eve rode vegetarian dinosaurs in Eden.  "We're not all like that," is a phrase I've had to repeat more often than I care to think about.


Like I said near the top.  I know this post sounds a little angry, but it wasn't meant to be that way.  I just needed to vent and get some stuff off my chest.

I guess I'll just end with this question; Is Ken Ham a Crack Pot?  I dunno.  You decide...the next time you're filling up your gas tank or using your cell phone.

Peace

Joe



________________________________________

I guess I couldn't end everything that easily.  Along with Alister McGrath, I would like to introduce you to a fellow named John Polkinghorne.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Polkinghorne


John is an interesting fellow.  Other than being one of the world's most renowned scientists & theoretical physicists, he is also an Anglican priest, theologian and was knighted by the Queen.  He is a voracious defender of orthodox christianity and can think other, lesser men, under the table.

This video below is of a lecture he gave answering the question of whether or not modern, legitimate science and christianity are compatible. Needless to say, he thinks they match perfectly.

Give it a watch.



And finally, food for thought...specifically desert.

How should a Believer view science and the bible?  Do they contradict each other?  If you watched the video above, you would know that Dr. Polkinghorne doesn't think they do.

Far too often, people both Believer & unbeliever, often treat science and religion like a pie.  They divvy up the pieces of the pie according to what they discover about the known world.

Science can explain how the moon's gravitational pull acts upon the ocean's tides.  "Okay, we'll give that one to science." Science cannot explain how to cure male-pattern baldness, or why girls always go to the toilet in pairs. "Okay, we'll give that to the magic of a diety."

The problem is that if you fall into this false, intellectual trap, then as science begins to explain more & more, this god just gets smaller & smaller.

So let us switch deserts and move to a more biblical view of science and the sacred...


A better biblical perspective is like this cake.  The inside dough is the realm of the physical.  It can be weighed & measured by science, and is the purview of scientists.  The outside frosting that covers the cake entirely is the realm of the spiritual/metaphysical.  It is the purview of philosophers & theologians.

The world of science cannot comment on the metaphysical realm, because it has no method of measuring or weighing this realm.  It simply isn't set up to do so.

When a scientist comments that a new discovery in science proves that God doesn't exist or is unnecessary, they are being foolish.  That discipline can make no comments on the spiritual.  And honest scientists will readily admit that.


The world of the bible during the time of the ancient Hebrews cared very little for how God/YHWH went about his business.  What ever existed, God/YHWH made it...period, end of story.

The ancients assumed that what ever was happening, God was intimately involved in it.  This is one of the reasons you wont find many references to the word "Miracle" in the Old Testament like you do in the New Testament.  The thinking was that you couldn't miraculously intervene in what you were already doing, and God was doing it all.

It would be as if you were out mowing the lawn, and all of a sudden you stop and say, "Hey, I think I'll mow the lawn."

A biblical perspective requires us to understand that God's sovereign, creative & sustaining will is constantly at work and never ceases.  "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid..." (Luke 12:7) Whatever science discovers is simply & only how God goes about his business.  After all, since he is, in fact, the creator, then he is also the creator of the rules of science to see how he gets it done.

THAT is what the bible teaches.


"We have the right to believe whatever we want, 
but not everything we believe is right."
Dr. Ravi Zacharias.



So have a piece of cake and chill out.  Put a scoop of ice cream on God's science while you're at it.


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