Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Image of God 3-- Sovereignty

Often, when we have a puzzle in Scripture, it is best to go back to the text, to see if there are clues we have missed. And in the midst of the text about God’s image there is a description of humanity’s function: to rule over the animals of the earth. It seems a curious placement unless the description of the rule pertains to the idea of being made in God’s image. And if we think about it, the main characteristic of God, as given in the Hebrew Bible is that He is in charge. There is no being—god, angel, human, animal, cosmic force—that is above God. And it seems that Genesis 1 is actually all about God’s superiority over the powers that the ancient world found significant and frightening and awe-inspiring. God is above the ocean, because He divided it. God is above the sun, moon and stars and established their authority. God is above all powers, and even though there may have been others who participated in His creation, it was His command that made it happen.

Given this understanding of God, then it would make sense that if humanity is to be in God’s image, it is in the area of sovereignty. Humanity is like God in the area of having a huge realm to rule. Humanity has great authority, to determine the shape and purpose of the earth, as well as all the animals. Humanity is granted god-like powers of sovereignty.

And, in fact, Psalm 8 is a hymn to exactly that nature. “What is man that You take thought of him?... You have made him a little lower than God.” And a description of humanity’s rule over the earth is given. Even little children have power to rule, the psalmist says.

And every single human does rule. It seems, at first, that some humans rule and some do not. But that is simply over other humans. Although, most humans do rule over other humans—every parent rules over their children, every pet owner rules over their pet (although cats think it is the other way around). Yes, governments are the big rulers, but every human has an aspect of rule, a sovereignty to rule over. And, in fact, humans are different from animals in that they rule over themselves. They are responsible for their actions, and recognize themselves as responsible. And this completely natural, powerful tendency is our godlike nature. We are like God in that we are in charge of ourselves, our environment, those below us. And humanity, as a whole, is in charge of the earth as a whole.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Image of God 2

Many Trinitarian theologians declare that humanity, in one’s nature, is Trinitarian, just as God. This also poses a difficulty in determining what that Trinitarian nature is. Many theologians say the three parts of humanity are: body, soul, spirit. But Aquinas said that it was the memory, the understanding and the will. What we need to recognize is that humanity is exceedingly complex and that counting only three parts lessens the creation of humanity. It assumes that the divine nature in humanity is based on a number, rather than a nature. This seems to be poor theology.

Some would say that humanity is like God in the manner in which humanity is superior to animals. In other words, the divine nature of humanity is found in that which animals lack. Thus, some have put forward intellect, long term memory, self awareness, or other features. The problem with just stating this is that as animals are studied, it is clear that animals have many of the characteristics that humans have, just in a more minor capacity. Some animals can be trained in language, are very creative and can learn as much as humans. Certainly humans are unique in the animal kingdom, but it might be difficult to determine in exactly what way.

To be continued...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Image of God 1

One of the great questions of Jewish and Christian theology is how humanity is made in God’s image. We know humanity is, it says so in Genesis 1:26-27—“ Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

But in reading this passage, many have become confused. HOW are we created in God’s image? What exactly is the “image” of God?

Of course, the first thought anyone would have by looking at the word “image” is physical appearance. After all, when we see our image in a mirror, all we are saying is that the image looks like us, not that it has any other characteristic, even so our image in a statue or a photo. However, this idea causes a number of difficulties. First of all, it is both the male and the female that was created in God’s image—so which one would God look like? Is it a general appearance? And the passage is saying that God created all humanity to be in His image—how can we all look like God when we all look so differently? What color, size, shape is God? These questions seem nonsensical, but I think that the problem comes in assuming that the image of God must, in some way, be physical.

To be continued...

Friday, June 25, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 7

Humans are sinful

Sin is the destruction of relationship, disloyalty, the harm of the Other. Sin is disloyalty to God who created us, who loves us and provides all good things for us to meet our needs. We tend to think much more of ourselves than God. And even though our relationship with God is much less complex than our relationship to government or family, and much more central to our needs, we gravitate toward the latter relationships rather than the former.

Sin is harming other people, who were made in God’s image, because of our own fears and desires. It is acting out destruction against others because it is better for us. It is not acting for the benefit of others, even though it is in our power to do so, because of our own fears and drives. It is listening to that which oppress us rather than God’s Spirit who leads us to do what is good for all.

We do not sin because of Adam’s sin. Rather, each and every one of us enacts Adam’s sin ourselves. We believe in our independence more than we believe in our relationship with God. We rely more on our sense of fear and our sense of need rather than our more obvious factual knowledge of another’s need.

Why are we sinful? Because we are weak. Even our displays of strength—our technology, our ability to travel in space, our ability to fly around the earth in hours, our communication with each other no matter where we live, our growth of amazing amounts of food, our ability to control the atom, our ability to crush diseases—are paired directly with our weaknesses—the multiplication of diseases, the ability to destroy innocents at the push of a button, two billion people starving, a thriving porn industry and slavery associated with that, an epidemic of homelessness, diseases that ravage a continent although they can be stopped, millions of people drinking contaminated water. The internet is used to gossip and dishonor much more than uphold the good. Television is used to encourage fear instead of provide social benefit. Knowledge of the Bible is used to destroy people’s morality instead of building up people’s love of God and others.

But I can’t really blame anyone. I do the same things, although I try not to. I am weak. I am human. Lord, let me dive into You so Your love drowns my desires and fears. Let me come out a new creature of purity and new hope.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 6

Humans focus on the wrong solutions

We recognize our oppressions, our tendency to over-compensate, and the fact that we tend to do things that are not helpful to ourselves or others. And so we try to find solutions. “If only I lived somewhere else,” we say to ourselves, not realizing that the next place will be just as full of oppressions as this place. “If only I met the right person,” we say, not realizing that the next person is just as imperfect as we are, and just as much in need, driven by their own desires. “If only I had more money,” we say, not realizing that money doesn’t change who we are, it only magnifies who we are, causing our problems to increase, not decrease. “If only I had the right job,” we say, not realizing that jobs are not about the needs of the employees, but the needs of the owners or customers, so employees always get the short shrift, no matter what the context (this isn’t always the case for professionals—the only workers who are treated as full human beings). “If only I had more pleasure,” we say, but pleasure only requires more pleasure, creating a cycle of oppression.

What we really want is an easy solution that will meet all of our needs. Of course, part of the problem is that we don’t actually want what we need. We need to work hard to become the best of who we are. We need to face our fears to be free of them. We need to refuse our desires at times in order to obtain our true desire. The most amazing thing is that at times we need to be still and do nothing, allowing others to provide for us completely, just as if we were a baby, in full trust. Of course, none of us are wise enough to know when is the time to do one or the other.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 5

Humans focus on the wrong solutions

We often recognize our oppressions, our tendency to over-compensate, and the fact that we tend to do things that are not helpful to ourselves or others. And so we try to find solutions. “If only I lived somewhere else,” we say to ourselves, not realizing that the next place will be just as full of oppressions as this place. “If only I met the right person,” we say, not realizing that the next person is just as imperfect as we are, and just as much in need, driven by their own desires. “If only I had more money,” we say, not realizing that money doesn’t change who we are, it only magnifies who we are, causing our problems to increase, not decrease. “If only I had the right job,” we say, not realizing that jobs are not about the needs of the employees, but the needs of the owners or customers, so employees always get the short shrift, no matter what the context (this isn’t always the case for professionals—the only workers who are treated as full human beings). “If only I had more pleasure,” we say, but pleasure only requires more pleasure, creating a cycle of oppression.

What we really want is an easy solution that will meet all of our needs. Of course, part of the problem is that we don’t actually want what we need. We need to work hard to become the best of who we are. We need to face our fears to be free of them. We need to refuse our desires at times in order to obtain our true desire. The most amazing thing is that at times we need to be still and do nothing, allowing others to provide for us completely, just as if we were a baby, in full trust. Of course, none of us are wise enough to know when is the time to do one or the other.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 5

Humans are oppressed

If we take as a basic definition of freedom “the ability to do what is right without punishment”, then there is not a single human being that is free.

We are controlled by our fears, which force us to do actions to alleviate that fear. We fear losing our jobs, which give us the money to live our lifestyles, so we do whatever the jobs necessitate, even if we know it’s wrong. We fear confrontation, so we stay away from relationships that would cause us to grow to avoid that which we find unpleasing. We fear those who are unlike ourselves, so we avoid all those who are in greater need than ourselves, and make up stories about why we shouldn’t connect to them. We fear punishment from the government, so we keep ourselves from doing good things that would get us punished. We fear being shamed, so we try to fit into our society, even when our society is wrong. We fear death and pain, so we don’t do the good things that cause these things. And because we do not want to face our fears, we make excuses for why following our fears is the right thing to do.

But we do not live by our fears abosolutely—we not mice, scurrying away from every hint of monsters. We also have drives. We are driven by our addictions—that which we know harms us but makes us feel better or normal. We are not afraid of our addictions, but we know that they should be feared. They are too close to who we are to allow us to be fearful. We are driven by our pleasures—our need for excitement or relaxation or to forget our normal life. We are driven by need for family and community, and we will face our fears of meeting the opposite sex, of having a baby, of going to a new meeting full of strangers, just so that we can find or create that community that meets our drive.

But we are forced to do these things, either by ourselves, or by others. Some of these things are good, some are not. But the ethics or spirituality of the situation is almost never what drives us. Rather we are like magnets, either pulled toward or driven away by this or that force. We may claim independence, but rarely do we make a decision based on our own free will, on what is good. We are led by others, by the context we live in. This is oppression. We are not free.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 4

Humans are survival-oriented

Human beings are wired to be survivalists. This doesn’t mean that we can necessarily be dropped in the middle of any wilderness and figure out how to live in harsh conditions. I know that I would die, and quickly, if stuck in that kind of a situation. Rather, we are wired to focus on the things that pertain to our own needs, and to help us attain those needs.

I am not just talking about food, clothing and shelter, although this is part of it. But most of us live in a society in which these foundational needs are provided for, even to those who are unable to obtain them on their own. Once the basic survival needs are taken care of, then we focus on other aspects of survival. We focus on security, so we are protected from harm, whether that be from wild dogs or from the threat of terrorists. We focus on social connection, because we know that there is strength in numbers. We focus on inner peace, because we know that excessive stress can kill us (or others if we tend to be an angry type).

And there is nothing wrong with trying to survive in these ways. The problem is, even when we have our needs met in these areas, we tend to do more than our survival necessitates, and when we overcompensate, our ability to survive actually goes down, not up. Our need for security easily becomes anxiety, which causes excessive stress and we tend to overreact to others—causing destruction to both ourselves and others. We can eat to survive, or we can eat to self-medicate our mental instabilities which causes us physical problems. We can work to maintain enough money to live on, but if money becomes a matter of societal honor, we can horde money for ourselves—money we don’t need or use—until we become dependent on an obscenely high salary, and that becomes our level for survival. And society can become obese as well until they make it a legal necessity for others to live according to their high level of normalcy, where they end up punishing those who do not live with electricity or a certain kind of housing.

Because of our tendency to focus on survival, humans tend to over-survive. We see certain levels of lifestyles as the “basics”, but we very much overcompensate for what we actually need. Paul said, “With food and clothing we shall be content”, yet try to find a single follower of Paul who agrees with this statement.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 3

Humans are self-oriented

In the womb, every human being is alone. For nine months, there is no one else in the universe. Then we are born and we have the stark reality of others thrust upon us as a stark reality. However, in our minds, the Other does not exist. There is simply those who provide for our needs. Eventually, we recognize other human beings who might even be equal to us. But the habit of thinking of ourselves as the only individual in the universe is hard to break. Perhaps in general we see others as equal to ourselves, at least philosophically, but when it comes down to it, when stressed or in severe crisis, we take care of ourselves first, or only.

This does not mean that humans cannot be altruistic. They can, although it is rare, and requires a severe form of discipline. But the same firefighter who was willing to sacrifice himself for a victim of a fire might also beat his wife. The philanthropist could ignore her children for her work, and then excuse her wrong as “necessity.” In the end, we put energy into that which we feel compelled to focus on, not because it is right or because it helps the most people, but because we have some innate drive to do so.

It is fascinating to hear people talk about “love”, meaning erotic or romantic attachment. This love more than any other is driven by inner need, yet it is spoken of at times as altruistic, as focus on the Other. Another person is involved in erotic love almost by default, but erotic love does not in any way necessitate the benefit of the other. Rather, erotic love is driven exclusively by inner desire, and when that desire acts in opposition to the other’s need, then the other is sacrificed on the altar of Love. Romeo and Juliet were perfect examples of the inner selfish drive ignoring the needs of the Other. Yes, they loved the object of their desire, but ignored the needs of everyone else and allowed their families to be destroyed for the sake of their desire.

Another kind of love is often confused with selflessness, which is parental love. Again, this is a love that is based on an inner drive, not necessarily focused on the needs of the other. We can see this in the abuses of parental love. How often does fatherly love—the love of provision and discipline—turn into the narrow-focused selfishness of a workaholic or an abuser? And motherly love—the love of empathy and benevolence—can easily turn into co-dependence or depression, if the love is driven by inner need instead of the need of the other.
All too often do we call our selfishness “love” and then excuse all the wrongs we do because they were done out of “love”. “Love” is only a benefit when it is done out of knowledge and true concern for the Other, not due to single-minded adherence to our inner drives.

Friday, June 18, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 2

Humans are mentally weak

The human brain is an amazingly adaptive creation. If a person is blind, the brain takes the cells used for sight and uses them for other tasks, strengthening other senses. However, our minds are somewhat too adaptive, able to adapt to imaginary structures, thus becoming maladaptive to real situations. It requires a strong mind to respond appropriately to the unbelievably complex physical, social, and intellectual environment we find ourselves in. Society is more complex than ever—and our brains adapt, somewhat. But more often than not, our minds confuse reality with a lie, confuse what is with what we’ve been told, confuse our thinking with what is real. More and more people are mentally and socially incapable of functioning in our society. But even the functional will make grave mental mistakes. We trust that which we ought not and distrust that which we can rely on. And in the simplest of tasks, we find ourselves in error.

40 Percent of all Americans have been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Many have severe social limitations without being diagnosed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

How Is Humanity Weak? 1

Humanity is sinful. The Bible teaches that every human being that separated themselves from God due to their sin. And every human being is weak. The Scriptures that I posted below clearly talk about how weak they are, comparing human effort, nations and individuals as weak. But how are they weak? Over the next seven days, I'll be posting an essay explaining a good chunk of human weakness:

1. Humans are physically weak
God specifically made humanity physically weak, at least compared to the spirit world. In the Bible, “spirit” doesn’t mean ethereal, but supernaturally strong. An angel is some kind of superman who can turn invisible and transport to another place instantly. Humans, individually, are weak—easy to kill, quick to get sick, weak when young and weak when old. Humanity is just a weak species. Which is why it is amazing what humanity has done. They have created mountains out of steel and glass. They have changed the surface of the world in ways only God has done. Individually, humans are weak, but collectively, humanity is a god—creative and powerful. For this reason the God says, “Nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible to them,” and then He limits human capacity for community (Genesis 11:6-7). Humans are made to be weak so that only through God’s strength can they accomplish great things.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Human Weakness-- A Scriptural Guide

Psalm 8:3-4
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him?

Isaiah 40:21-25
Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, Scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, But He merely blows on them, and they wither, And the storm carries them away like stubble. "To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?" says the Holy One.

Genesis 3:17-19
All the days of your life both thorns and thistles shall grow for you. You will eat the plants of the field—By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground because from it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Psalm 90:3-12
You turn man back into dust And say, "Return, O children of men." For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night. You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades and withers away. For we have been consumed by Your anger And by Your wrath we have been dismayed. You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence. For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away. Who understands the power of Your anger And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Romans 3:9-18
We have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one." "Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "The poison of asps is under their lips"; "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes."

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Romans 1:18-32
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man -- and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

Psalm 103:13-18
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, and its place acknowledges it no longer. But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reflections on Brunner's "Man and Creation"

The beginning of a human relationship with the Creator is to know ourselves as creatures. Humanity is dust—one with the world—yet created in God’s image. Earthiness and divinity in one neat package, multiplied by billions. Weakness and strength; bound to both the physical and the spiritual; fallen yet eternally linked to God. Humanity is the perfect bridge, between heaven and earth, yet fundamentally warped.

The Jesus of One's Imagining

"All theological statements about the divine revelation must begin with Jesus Christ, as the Word of God Incarnate, and that we are not bound by any biblical passages taken in isolation, and certainly not by isolated sections of the Old Testament." -Emil Brunner, "Man and Creation" from The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption.

I am in complete agreement with this statement. However, after this, Brunner then claims a theology for Jesus without any support from Jesus himself. This means that Brunner's theological "Jesus Christ" is one of his own imagination, where the basis of his theology is not the Jesus of the Bible, but the Jesus of theology. And when one creates one's own intellectual starting point, then one also lacks the humility of actually being led by God toward and understanding of God's will.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Warning: Speculative Theology Ahead!

I know I have said negative things about speculative theology. But I am only opposed to speculative theology as orthodoxy. I think it can be helpful for presenting an alternative, biblical concept, as long as people don't accept it as God's own truth. -SK

But what about God’s participation in a process that took millions of years? This requires a little speculation, but it is possible to reconcile theology and science in this regard as well. It is clear in the biblical text that God had “helpers” in creation. Some of these helpers are metaphorical, such as “wisdom” in Proverbs 7, but some are considered to be literal, such as the Word in John 1 and Jesus in Colossians 1. And Elohim in Genesis 1 calls himself “we”, which is rare in the Bible text.

My speculation is this: that God created the earth much in the way that a CEO of Microsoft creates programs. The CEO orders the programs made, but the actual creation is done by underlings. This is not that the CEO cannot do the programs himself, but that he is teaching his underlings to create. Thus, there is a progression in creation, and it happens over time, while an all powerful, all knowing creator would do it all at once.

My speculation goes further: A computer program is not actually made by a single person, but later programmers actually borrow pieces of earlier programs in order to quickly develop their programs, without having to re-invent the wheel. Thus, if one looks at computer programs over the whole of the invention of them, it looks as if they “evolved”, that is, developed in a natural progression. This is because a single program develops a useful set of text, which is then found after in many other programs. However, we understand that there were many designers involved that made that progression possible.

Again, this is speculation, but it is this sort of speculation that might help there be a new kind of creationism that, like the intelligent design philosophy, would take a fair look at both the biblical text and the fossil record and try to determine God’s plan from that.

From the fossil record, and from looking at other creatures, we can determine that the parts of humanity were compiled from other creature’s collections of cells. However, the whole of humanity remains unique. Humanity truly is a special creation.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Putting Them Together

What exactly is the source of the conflict between evolutionists and creationists?

Well, the evolutionists look at their evidence and see the interpreters of biblical text ignoring what seems clear to them: a long progression from simple life to more complex. And the biblical interpreters see the secularists ignoring what is obvious from their evidence: God’s creation and a special human creation.

And these two evidences ARE difficult to reconcile. After all, if one believes in a single creator, all knowing and all powerful, then it makes no sense that there would be a progression of creation over time. And if one believes in a natural progression, when why should human creation not be a part of the same progression, and if the process can be seen as natural, why claim that God is involved in the process at all—it simply is not necessary to determine the facts.

Is there a way to pull together these claims? Yes, if one looks at both sets of evidence, but doing so requires some release of favorite interpretations. It means that we, as theologians, must look at the fossil record fairly for what it says. That the earth truly is old, and that there is a progression. Is there any hint of this in the biblical text? And, in fact, there is a hint, although not easy to find.

Psalm 74 says:
God is my king from of old, Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan; You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You broke open springs and torrents; You dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, Yours also is the night; You have prepared the light and the sun.
17 You have established all the boundaries of the earth; You have made summer and winter.

This is an ancient interpretation of Genesis 1. It describes the creation event as being an act of war against Leviathan and sea monsters, which the earth had to be delivered from. This indicates not only that the earth already existed, but that some kind of creatures already existed on it. That there may have been a creation before the Genesis 1 account.

And this makes sense. After all, the Genesis 1 creation begins with the earth already existing and it being covered with ocean. Interestingly enough, this is the same state of affairs in Genesis 8, after the flood in which God “delivers” the earth from the mass of humanity who had become too violent. Thus, a creation event could very well be a wiping of a previous creation and the creating of a new one. The biblical record, then speaks of two of these events.

It just so happens, that the fossil record also speaks of a “wiping out” of species. In fact, there are indications of five mass extinctions in the fossil record, followed by a heightened period of new species being developed. The complexification of species does not exclusively in this period, but it certainly increases. Thus it is possible that both science and theology can agree upon various periods of destruction and re-creation.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

What the Bible Doesn't Say About Creation

As to the biblical facts, these come from what the text of scripture actually says. It says that God created all things, and that a creation took place in six days. It says that God created humanity in a special creation, not naturally, for his own purposes. It also says that all the earth’s creation was handed over to humanity to be under humanity’s rule.

What is remarkable is what the textual record does not say. Not only does it not indicate that the earth was created at approximately the same time as humanity, but it says that the earth, heavens and oceans already existed before the six day creation began. Thus, there is actually biblical evidence that counters a young earth theory along with all the interpretations that go with it. Also, the order of creation is not clear in Scripture, for while Genesis 1 is clear, the parallel creation account in Genesis 2 discusses a different order. Thus, the order must not be significant. There is little biblical evidence for a canopy of ice, dinosaurs existing at the same time as humans or other creation speculations. Certainly there is no evidence of this in the fossil record, and in fact the fossil record clearly speaks against a young earth, the Genesis 1 order of creation (in which day and vegetation exist before the sun), and dinosaurs and humans existing at the same time.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Weakness of the "Gospel"

Are you ready to really be challenged? Watch these videos, if you dare:

Is This Forgiveness?

Is This God's Forgiveness?

So tell me, is this what God's forgiveness is like? Is this what the Bible teaches? If it is, is it really just? If it is not, in what way is it different?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Facts Don't Help Us Live

The earth revolves around the sun, but this does not explain what we should focus on.
There are hundreds of kinds of penguins, but this does not help us to love as we should love.
Multnomah County Library system has more than a million and a half materials, but this does not lead us closer to wisdom.
Yellowstone National Park has – acres, but that does not tell us who we are.
The Catholic Church used to determine saints through an adversarial system, but that does not teach us the lifestyle we should live
We kill bacteria with each breath, but this does not show us the way to love.
It takes money to make money, but that doesn’t drive us one inch closer to success.

Just because we know some truths, they won’t necessarily set us free.

A Dialogue on Materialism

Josh: Science is the king of current metaphysical thought. If it is proven by science, then it is true. And if something is true, that something becomes the basis of all other truth, whether proven or opined. We may disregard this study or that, but the method of science is honored above all truth. And it has its significant place. The scientific method is a way of discerning between truths by careful observation. It is the finest of all human philosophies, and the main discoverer of the world around us.
What is science? What is the methodology which we honor above all? It is the proving of truth through repeatable experimentation. The scientist—no matter what age or social class or economic backing—performs an experiment with an expected outcome. Perhaps the outcome occurs, or something unexpected occurs, so either truth is affirmed or it is discovered. Even if there is a variety of outcomes, then a chart is made, indicating probability. You can’t lose with science.
The problem, however, with having science as the center of our metaphysics, is that all that is significant, the basis of all truth, is the observable and the experienced. And we tell ourselves, then, that all that is really important in our lives is that which we can experience, and that which is material. Only the sensible is sensible and the non-material is immaterial.
This limits the scope of significant reality to that which our eyes can see and to what our hands can touch. This is unfortunate. For we forget how much we, as humans, cannot know and can never experience. We, in our pride, neglect our limitations. Since that which we can experience is all important, then that which is beyond our understanding is insignificant.
But if that is the case, then it is unimportant that Ken’s mother died of unknown causes, because it is outside our sphere of knowledge. And Ken’s grief and love for his mother is insignificant, for we cannot open Ken up and observe his emotions with a microscope. Yes, it is within Ken’s experience, but since his experience is not material and not within our scope of experience, it is insignificant for the rest of us. Perhaps our observation of his experience can be significant to us because that becomes our experience, but the initial experience of it is significant to no one but Ken. Thus Ken is isolated, alone. Unloved. All because we believe in the experienced rather than the unseen.
The problem of science as the metaphysic of the age is not that of minimizing the unsensory, but also that of signifying the material. In our lives, that which is important is the material we can experience, the experience we can repeat. We have all become scientists of our own lives, experimenting with that which gives us experience. That which gives us a positive experience we tend to repeat, while that which we find negative we set aside. Then we base our actions on this personal utilitarianism—measuring our pleasure and diminishing our pain, creating repeatable actions that give us the best life.
However, we fail in our experimentation, mostly because we have neglected the unknown, unseen forces in our lives—our connection with others. We have an unseen relationship with every person we meet. We experience their experience—to a lesser degree, but it is still real. The emotion they feel, we feel. The joy another experience is, to a degree, experienced by us as well. The sorrow another has is sucked into our hearts, and we have no choice but to experience that sorrow. It is unseen, undiscovered, yet as real a force in our lives as the sun that shines and the air we breathe.
To focus on the material in our lives to grant us joy or sorrow is to deny the much more powerful force that is around us—the ebb and flow of human emotion around us. If we think that we can obtain happiness through a computer screen, the isolation we have becomes a more powerful reality and we go insane trying to push it aside. If we think that we can obtain happiness through a drug, we do so only by hiding ourselves from the human experience, by clouding the reality. And if we try to close the door to this ocean of emotion by politeness and social conventions, we soon find the edges of our door becoming damp, and the cracks widening by the pressure of the tide and soon the door bursts open and the emotions overwhelm us, dragging us down to the bottom.
We cannot fight or control the sea. All we can do is learn to ride it.

John: Is science truth?

Josh: It is an aspect of truth. But not all truth is significant.

John: So are you saying that science is insignificant?

Josh: Not at all. It is important for a smoker to know that cigarettes can cause lung cancer. But how important is it for us to know the names of the internal organs of the jellyfish? For some that might be important, but it is not important for the majority of people.

John: So some studies are important, while others are not.

Josh: Correct. We must determine not only what is true, but what is importantly true.

Pete: How can we know the difference between that which is important and that which isn’t? After all, all we have is a huge accumulation of knowledge, that which is fed to us or that which is discovered on our own, but how are we to sift through all that to determine the significant?

Josh: First you must know who you are in your community. Significance can only be found in context.

John: So you are saying that what is true is only found in context?

Josh: No. That which is real remains real. But if reality shifts, then the significance of one reality lessens and another becomes greater.

Nate: So, Josh, are you saying that the most significant truth is the immaterial, undiscovered truth?

Josh: Again, we must remember the vastness of that which we do not know. There is an infinitude of potential knowledge, yet both our knowledge and our potential knowledge is finite—a thimbleful of understanding amidst an ocean of reality. Much of that reality is insignificant to us. Much of the thimbleful is significant. But doesn’t it stand to reason that we are actually missing the majority of truth that is important for us to know? So if we limit important truth to that which is observable or experienced, then we are dismissing so much that is actually significant.

Thomas: But how can we know that one aspect of unproven truth is more important than another? Like you said, not all truth is significant for us, and a vast majority of truth is unseen, unproven. This means that the majority of unproven truth either is insignificant or it is actually misleading—not a truth at all. Is not all unproven truth like pulling out jellybeans from a bag—some are good and some are bad, but you don’t know until you prove it by experience?

Josh: Unless you have someone who has been in the bag and can hand you the best candy of all. (Hands him a chocolate kiss). After all, there are those around you—unseen, unknown—who have already seen and experienced that which you have longed for all your life, but have never known. If you find the true master of reality, you will find the significant truth.

Thomas: What do you mean, “master of reality”?

Josh: Remember, dear students, the path of peace, and you will be on your way to truth.

Evidence and Interpretation of Evolution

Let’s talk about the evidence for evolution. Evolution has been seen by human eyes, and recorded. It is shown that birds, who have a variety of colors, will tend toward colors that keep them camouflaged in the environment that they live in. This only makes sense, for predators will capture the birds that are not camouflaged well. And this means that within that species, there will be changes over time. No problem, for any breeder or horticulturalist well knows that you can remarkably change the appearance of an animal or plant to suit one’s purposes—whether on purpose or by accident. Changes happen.

For evolution there is also the fossil record. The fossil record shows that over a long period of time, species have changed remarkably, and that most species that existed in the early times of earth no longer exist. And that humanity is a young species compared to the many varieties of species over time. The fossil record also shows, in general, that species develop in complexity over time. Species with fewer cells consistently exist earlier in the fossil record, and systems develop and then are included consistently later on in the fossil record. This indicates development over time.

However, the mechanism of that development is not clearly seen. To understand that, there must be interpretation of the evidence. Darwin was a marvelous interpreter, but many seculars who honor his findings, also find that his interpretation has need of exam and re-interpretation, not least of which is Stephan Gould. Thus, “survival of the fittest” is simply a principle which could interpret the findings, but not the only one. In fact, scientific interpreters find, the facts are much more complex than “fittest” could explain.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Bodies of Evidence

The current debate between evolution and creation philosophies are based on a couple different bodies of evidence.

First, on the evolution side, we have the fossil record. And then we have various philosophies that popped up from an interpretation of the fossil record.

On the creation side, we have the biblical text. But we also have various theologies that developed from interpretations of the biblical text.

And most of the arguments between the evolutionists and the creationists have occurred from the philosophies, not the evidence. It comes down to the interpretation we want to believe just as before we read the evidence and what conclusions we come to after. It also depends on what community we belong to, as to what kinds of interpretation we will allow ourselves to have.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Humanity Heart Earth

The meaning of humanity is ultimately tied into the making of the earth. All traditions, whether religious or secular, see a connection between humanity and all the other species on earth, ultimately connecting humanity to the earth and how it was made. This is one of the reasons that the evolution debate persists, because the philosophy of how we see humanity hangs in the balance. If humanity is a result of a series of random events, then humanity has no purpose, no meaning and all we do is of no import. If humanity was created based on principles of power, then humanity is about power. If humanity was created in the image of God, then humanity is purposed to act like God. This is all very heady and conceptual, but the fact is, we have little actual evidence to help us understand the purpose of humanity, so conceptual ideals is all we have.

What the Bible Doesn't Say

“Bible believers sometimes take refuge behind defensive positions not supported by the Bible itself. The Bible does not teach that the world is flat, or that it was created in the year 4004 BC, or that the earth, or the solar system, or our galaxy is the center of the material universe. Adhering to non-biblical positions in a dogmatic “religious” spirit has created unnecessary problems for biblical faith.” –J. Oliver Buswell, Jr. The Origin of Man


We're going back to Millard Erikson's edited book Readings for Christian Theology. In Volume 2, he's got a section on the study of humanity. I'll be writing about that for a while.