Our Modern Quest For Truth

Science continues to create theological problems that we have never been presented with before. This isn’t going to go away. We live in a scientific age where science is the dominant method for attaining truth.

Science is no conspiracy. While there is a degree of error, every scientific theory is under constant scrutiny and peer review. If someone were to find an alternative to, say, germ theory, they would instantly be famous. So how do Christians and other religious believers deal with our faith in light of such a science-dominated culture?

The Authority of Scripture

 

I recently had a dispute with a friend on Facebook. This individual (falsely) accused me of not accepting the authority of Scripture because of my views on Genesis 1-3. I have not doubt that this friend was well intentioned and was genuinely looking out for me as a fellow believer, but I think he missed the point. As Christians, our faith is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anything that threatens those truths can rightly be seen as diminishing to the authority of Scripture. I do not see how one can say Genesis 1-3 affects that truth. This is not an issue of authority. It is an issue of interpretation. While an alternative to the literalism of Genesis 1-3 does present significant theological problems (death before the fall, historical Adam, etc.), none of them affect the authority of Scripture.

The History of Young Earth Creationism

While it is important to note that 7-day creationism was a view that some theologians had before the 20th century, it has not been, by any stretch, the dominant view. Ellen White, a Seventh Day Adventist in the 19th century, has been considered by many to have developed modern Young Earth Creationism. Later, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb wrote The Genesis Flood as a way to explain the fossil record. In 1925, we had the Scopes trial. Combine these three events together, and you have modern day Young Earth Creationism. Origen, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and many others saw the Genesis account of creation as having a very poetic nature to it and did not see the creation of the world as being bound by seven literal 24-hour days.

The problem is that Ken Ham and many others today have made a literal interpretation of Scripture as being the only way to properly understand the Bible as the authority of God. This is not true. In fact, in some ways, this it is the opposite. True authority comes from God, who inspired certain men to write the biblical texts, which are communicated through a specific cultural context. If we are to take the authority of Scripture seriously, we have to understand what exactly the author of any given text is saying. To just assume post-Enlightenment literalism does a disservice to Scripture. Literalism is a hermeneutic, just like any other, and it has to be defended on the same grounds.

Galileo Galilei

 

Not only did Galileo provide sufficient evidence for a heliocentric solar system, but he also set a precedent for a particular kind of hermeneutic. It was widely accepted, without question, that the heavenly bodies did revolve around the earth, and the earth was fixed and could not be moved (Psalm 93:1; 1 Chronicles 16:30). It would not be seen as very sophisticated in this day and age to make a claim that these verses are literal, scientific texts that ought to overpower our basic understanding of astronomy. Galileo was vehemently accused of heresy in the Catholic church, but he stuck to what he believed is right, and now we have a proper understanding of the astronomy of our own solar system. “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” We should listen to Scripture on the basis of how we are to be reconciled with Christ, not what the material world has to teach us.

Charles Darwin

 

Darwin was no Christian, but he did not see his theory and Christianity as being in conflict. He had many friends who were Christians, and none of them saw evolutionary theory as a threat to their faith. Darwin developed his theory based off of his own observations. It had nothing to do with his lack of belief in God. Asa Gray, a friend of Darwin’s who was a Christian, wrote him after he developed his theory and said that it actually helped him make better sense of his theology. Charles Kingsley, another theologian who was acquainted with Darwin, wrote “We knew of old that God was so wise that he could make all things; but, behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that he can make all things make themselves.” Charles Spurgeon, one of the most popular pastors of the 19th century, said in a sermon once that the notion of millions of years should not be a threat to biblical theology. YEC pastors and theologians were not widely known in the 19th century, and Darwin was seen as giving a rational method that God used to create.

Interpretation

The Bible is a very old book. It is easy to take it literally, and when any given literal statement contradicts objective reality to just assume it is literary or some sort of metaphor. People in the Ancient Near East really did think that the heart, intestines, and other body parts controlled intellect. People really did think hell was actually underneath the earth. People really did think there was a dome above the sky and the stars and other heavenly bodies were carved into it. This is ancient science, and nobody actually accepts it. Just because Ancient Near East writers had a false conception of what the cosmos actually looked like does not diminish the inspired theological truth of the Scriptures. The Bible is not a book to the universal truths of every field of study; it has a very specific message just like any other piece of literature.

The Quest For Truth

Literalism is easy. After all, if God wanted to convey truth to us through His Word, wouldn’t He make it easy to understand? Sadly, it is not that simple. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes the whole bible literally (at least in the post-Enlightenment sense). Many only take the Bible literally when it doesn’t conflict with common sense or their prior convictions. This is not a consistent hermeneutic, however. Culture plays a huge part in how the Bible was written, and it plays a big part for us when we go about interpreting it. God speaks to cultures. There is not one objective way to speak to a human being, it is done differently depending on the understanding that person has about the nature of reality. In an age of science, where much of the data we acquire in the fields of biology, geology, physics, anthropology, etc. contradicts a literal reading of Scripture, we must be careful to take the Bible for what it is. The Bible is the Word of God, but it does not define every aspect of truth that can be discovered. God created the natural world, so it will not contradict His Word. Science and religion are not in conflict; they both point us toward truth.

When Scripture Gets Nasty: How to Read the Bible Today

I’m not going to lie, there are times when I really do not like reading the Bible. It’s not always the fun-loving book I want it to be. In fact, there are times when I am straight up uncomfortable with the Bible. When I wake up in the morning and open my Bible, I feel as though I am never prepared for what I am going to get. There are days where I feel total spiritual satisfaction after my morning devotional, there are times when I feel confused, times when I feel sad, and there are even times where I feel like I have wasted my time. There are messy stories in the Bible. There’s murder, destruction, rape, the slaughtering of entire people groups, the desolation of entire cities, people who are struck down by God, and many other things. I started to ask myself a few months back: Why is this stuff in the Bible?! Isn’t the Bible the inspired Word of God, which is supposed to help us gain knowledge and insight about Him? Why such a nasty book? Aren’t we supposed to grow spiritually from it? How should we make sense of the Bible?

The Bible is Not God’s Love Letter to Us

 

I was at a church camp several years ago and the speaker said something to me that I will never forget. He held up his Bible and asked, “Why would you not follow God if He wrote you such a massive love letter?” I think part of the problem Christians have with reading Scripture is that they are reading it through the lens of a false expectation. Let me make a bold statement: The Bible is not written TO us. It is, however, written FOR us. When you pick up the Bible, you have not just picked up a book, but an entire library of different genres that were written specifically to different cultures of different times. The Bible is an ancient document; so it would suit us well to read it like one. Not only is the above statement false, but it is also oversimplified. Instead of the Bible just being a love letter to us, it is a huge collection of documents that are all centered around the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his eternal plan that IS full of love. The Bible is not a love letter, it is much more than that.

The Bible is Not a Rulebook

This one is kind of a given, but it’s difficult to live out sometimes. I often have a hard time reading the Bible and not getting the impression that it is just I giant book full of rules and regulations that I have to follow or God is going to cut me down. This is not what God intended for His Word. We will always be a slave to something, be it our own desires or something else. Christ has given us the opportunity to be a slave to Him, and He calls this the only real, true freedom. Instead of viewing the Bible as a book of rules that we have to follow or we are dishonoring God, view it as a book full of freedom opportunities. God has not given to you what is the only way to live, but what is the BEST way to live.

I only bring up what the Bible isn’t because I believe it is spiritually unhealthy to go into Scripture reading with those two expectations.

The Bible IS a Story Book

 

The Bible is full of stories. I have always wondered why this is. Once I figured it out, it became a lot more meaningful to me. People love stories. Jesus often taught in parables in order to keep people focused. The Bible has so much messiness in it because that is reality. There is very little you can encounter that is not documented in some form in the Bible. Often times the best way to learn is through the story of the experience of someone else. This is crucial. The Bible is not something written directly to us, and it is not a list of rules either. It is a book of insight. It is a book of real people who are messy, broken, and trying to find their way back to God. I am convinced that this is the reason so many Christians find the Old Testament obsolete. Instead of asking, “What does this have to do with me?” ask, “What can I learn from the men and women in this story, who are on their own journey to finding God?” The Bible can be difficult to handle sometimes, but if we keep in mind that these harsh, sometimes crazy stories are all about the journeys of people who lived a long time ago, we can gain more insight about what God is actually trying to teach us through His Word.

10 Biblical Passages That Radically Shape My Worldview

The Bible can be a tricky book. Much of what I study is how to properly interpret it. However, to make things simple, I’m just going to post ten different passages that have had a significant impact on my life:

  1. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.                                                     Romans 12:2

This verse is fairly well known among many Christians, but there’s just something deep about it that really sticks out to me. For one, to be conformed to Christ, by definition, is a moment of radical change that cannot be achieved by means of anything else. Also, it shows the powerful, life-transforming power of Christ to change someone, regardless of who they are or what they have done.

  1. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a]whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1: 2-4

One thing that my dad always told me growing up was to try and figure out what God is teaching you during any given hardship. While this is difficult to do, this verse is speaking to that kind of situation. When I have this kind of perspective, it not only makes hard times bearable, but it also gives me a tremendous amount of comfort, knowing that God will make all things work together for good. It is a method of spiritual growth that cannot be achieved any other way.

  1. The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Psalm 19:1

People have different ways of connecting to God spiritually. My particular way is through being out in His creation. This helps me to connect to God in a way that no other method does. This verse just helps shed light on God’s beautiful handiwork.

  1. Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

James 1:19

Try this. You would be amazed the amount of wisdom, insight, and joy you can get from listening to others (particularly those who have more life experience than you).

  1. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:39

To turn the other cheek when you are slapped in this culture is a sign of shaming the other person. Do so in love, not in hate or an act of revenge. A non-violent behavior can go a long way with people who cause conflict in your life.

  1. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

Colossians 3:2

This verse is simply speaking about focus. The human struggle revolves around a constant anxiety, and sometimes even depression that can hinder people from living the abundant life that God has meant for them to have. The main cause of this is focus. Have your focus on things that are good, things that are of God, and not things that are meant to cause you harm.

  1. One who is full loathes honey,
    but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

Sometimes it’s good to throw in a metaphor. I like this verse because it puts the satisfaction of God in simple human terms. This sort of connects to John Piper’s idea of Christian hedonism. “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

  1. he predestined usforadoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

Ephesians 1:5

Adoption is a beautiful thing, one that I have had the privilege to witness first hand in my own family.

To know that Christ had the intention to adopt us, children who were lost, is a powerful message that fully grasps the sovereignty of God.

  1. “If your brother or sister[b]sins,[c]go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.

Matthew 18:15

Need help solving problems in your personal relationships? There you go. That’s as simple as it gets.

  1. He will destroy death forever.
    The Lord God will wipe away the tears
    from every face
    and remove His people’s disgrace
    from the whole earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The knowledge that Christ will defeat death in the end is what gives the most powerful feeling in the Christian walk: Hope.

Sexual Ethics and Homosexuality

god and gay

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

 

-Rick Warren

 

 

I am writing about this issue for a couple of reasons.

 

  1. I have been asked to by many people.
  2. I have been avoiding it too long and it is arguably the biggest issue our culture is facing today.

 

To start off I posted a quote from Rick Warren. Many people have criticized Warren for being hateful and a bigot because of what he said. Looking at this quote from any sort of viewpoint, I cannot see what they are talking about. He stated his opinion, and he stated it good. Now, in terms of the issue of homosexuality, I have recently, in the past few years seen a few very, very big issues on the news and in the theological world surrounding the issue of same-sex relationships.

 

  1. The Chik-Fil-A issue – S. Truett Cathy states his view on same-sex marriage… JUST HIS VIEW! What happens? Protests, protests, and protests. In this area, many people who supported same-sex relationships showed just what they were claiming to fight against: hateful bigotry.
  2. Phil Robertson stating his view on homosexual relationships. Now, while it was his own view, A&E did have the right to suspend him for whatever reasons. I don’t have much to say about this issue because it was blown way out of proportion on both sides.
  3. Then we have good ole John MacArthur. MacArthur recently released a video describing what he thought about how we should handle professing Christians who are gay, claiming we should completely alienate them. He gave a very hateful response to the gay community that should not be advocated by any kind of Christian group.
  4. Then we have a new book that’s been put out on the radar. God and the Gay Christian by Matthew Vines has grasped the attention of many in the evangelical community. He offers a new outlook on how Christians should view same-sex relationships.

 

While these issues may be big, all they really show is issues on both sides of; (a) People who support homosexual behavior and, if you oppose it, you are being hateful, and (b) Conservative Christians who take issues with sexuality way too far and end up becoming hateful themselves.

 

So, where does the heart of the matter really lie? Is homosexuality wrong? To ask such a question, as the great theologian N.T. Wright says, is to admit defeat right off the bat. If what is “right” or what is “wrong” is defined by social or cultural standards, then we have no choice but to subject ourselves to an arbitrary way of thinking when it comes the issue of sexual ethics. For instance, Paul wrote Romans 1 in an effort to describe to the people of that time what was honoring to the Lord and what was degrading. It is so incredibly easy for us to jump on the bandwagon of “this was just a cultural issue.” Once we do that, the game is lost. Every single ethic, and in this case, every sexual ethic, goes directly against what is considered “love” in our way of thinking. This is a mistake that our society has made, and it is the very lie that Pastor Warren was describing in that quote.

 

Now, it is very important to discuss WHY many Christians claim that homosexuality is not sinful. The argument often goes like this: “Every moral or ethical issue in the Bible has one central problem behind it: It causes harm to people. As long as an action is out of love, such as homosexuality, then there is no harm.” Wait, so as long as it doesn’t cause harm, we are to disregard it completely, right? After all, who am I, a sophomore in college, to tell someone that they can’t love who they want because I think the Bible says so? Yes, homosexuality is counter-intuitive to our culture. I completely get that, but let’s not be so quick to jump to a conclusion because of our current cultural state. I think everyone would agree that there is something that they think is pretty screwed up about our culture. The purpose of Paul’s teachings were to establish just exactly what the creative order should look like. Not only that, but they are about how to become a renewed human in the sight of God, to restore his very image within us. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Homosexuality is just the wrong way. Yes, I get that it’s counter-intuitive to the culture, but that’s because the entire system of sexual ethics in the Bible are counter-intuitive. It’s not supposed to be abnormal to our culture simply because, well, our culture has accepted a huge moral lie. Everybody struggles with SOME kind of sexual sin that they can’t seem to shake off (Pornography, polygymy, pre-marital sex, lust in general, HOMOSEXUALITY, etc.) Everybody craves sexual intimacy, and everyone struggles with it for different reasons in the wrong way. This does not in any way excuse the behavior. Just because “that’s the way you are” doesn’t mean the behavior is beneficial in any way. THIS is the point that Paul was trying to get across. Not that “homosexuality is wrong because your culture says so”, but “this is literally God’s creative order.” We must be very careful about our biblical compromises, because, what may look beautiful on the outside may just be a lion ready to attack.

 

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

-C.S. Lewis

 

The Cosmological Hell

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I’m taking a small break from my Genesis series to discuss a few other topics (Genesis series should resume in the late summer). As many of you know, I’m not a huge fan of Christian fundamentalism. However, I am also very opposed to mainline liberalism as well. This is mainly due to the fact that I am very careful about what traditional beliefs we, as a Christian body, should hold on to, but I am also not a big fan of progressing into something new at every corner. There is a healthy balance to be found in there somewhere. Today, I am going to try and find a healthy balance in a big area. Possibly one of the biggest controversies within the Christian faith is the topic of hell. What is hell exactly? Most people have a pretty good idea as to what they think hell is.

 

First of all, I want to start out by saying I know this is a touchy subject. Many of us have lost loved ones who have not known Christ, and we wonder what awaits them after they pass from this life. Also, many of us have wondered why a loving God would send people to hell for all of eternity for not making one simple decision during their life on this earth. These are good things to ponder! There are a few simple things you should know about my personal beliefs on this subject before I dive into the deep stuff. First, I do not believe that God sends people to an eternal hell in order to be tortured for all of eternity. This would reside far from the reach of God’s character, one that is loving and full of grace and mercy. However, I am also in no way, shape, or form a Universalist. This would also be completely contradictory to God’s character. Now that I have that on the table, I just want to discuss.

 

I recently came across a post on Patheos describing by one of their writers, Tony Jones, entitled Christian Universalism: Cosmology. Now, Jones brought up a really good point that I would like to address. Jesus held incorrect cosmology. I don’t want to put the focus on Jesus, however, because everyone held incorrect cosmology. This isn’t really anything profound, seeing as if you pay attention to the text, it’s pretty easy to notice. Now, the cosmology back then was very different. Jesus probably believed that he lived in a geocentric universe, on a flat earth, with a literal hell existing underneath our feet. Now, Jones was right when it comes to the ancient cosmology being inaccurate as it relates to hell. What he didn’t address was what exactly the ancient cosmological concepts symbolize. Let’s look at the cosmology as it relates to hell:

 

  1. Isaiah 14:15, “But you are brought down to the realm of the dead, to the depths of the pit.”

-This verse is talking about Lucifer falling from Heaven. If you notice, this shows how ancient writers thought that hell was an actual physical place in the ground. The term that is often used is “Sheol”, which literally means “dirt.”

   2. Matthew 5:22, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[a][b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[c] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

      -Now, what is this verse saying exactly? The term “fire of hell” is translated into Gehenna. There is much debate as to what this is exactly, but the Matthew would have understood it as a garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. What does this mean? It means that hell is a really bad place. Simple as that. Matthew isn’t describing hell, he is comparing hell to something else.

3. 2 Peter 2:4,  “For if God spared not the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto judgment;”

-In this context, hell is translated from the Greek Word Tartarus, meaning an abyss, one that is in the ground. What do we know now? There is no abyss in the ground.

 

So, overall, what are we to make of hell in light of this incorrect cosmology? This is a really good question. Many would assume that these verses simply mean that there is no hell. The problem with this assertion, however, is it makes the verses completely meaningless. This is not the case. Most of what the Bible says about hell is a representation of something else. So, if someone were to ask me what hell is, I would say that it is a place of eternal conscious torment, not because of any physical lake of fire, or an endless abyss, but a place where God, the only source of goodness, simply is nonexistent. Does God send people to hell? No. He casts people away from Him, and that is the ultimate punishment. Hell is not a place as much as it is a state of being; a place that is so terrible and horrible that no living human can even comprehend it.

Genesis 1

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If I were to ask you what a computer is, what would you say?  For most people, a computer is a machine that you can use to surf the internet, type papers, play games, etc.  Suppose the computer was just a machine, with no purpose at all.  It didn’t work or anything, it was just a useless machine.  Would you call that a computer?  The reason why we call it a computer is because it has a certain function, one that gives a purpose to the machine.  This analogy ties in to the Genesis account of creation.  After the Enlightenment era, a much different way of viewing the world began to rise.  This view consisted of a much more materialistic worldview, and it definitely had an impact on how Scripture was being interpreted.  Biblical literalism started to become a major part of hermeneutics and the original meaning of certain biblical texts was ignored.  In this post, I will not try to answer the question of whether the creation account is “literal”, “metaphorical”, “mythical”, etc.  To do so would be a major oversimplification.  In this post, I will attempt to be answer the question “what does Genesis 1 mean?”

 

First of all, I will emphasize why it is very important to interpret this text properly.  We live in an age of science, and one may find it difficult to reconcile current mainstream scientific ideas with the biblical creation account.  Geology is a major field that has wrecked post-Enlightenment literalism.  There are two ideas that are withheld in the field of biology:  Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism.  Catastrophism is the idea that Noah’s flood created the geologic layers and even the fossil record that we see today.  It wasn’t until about 200 years ago that this was found to be very problematic.  Uniformitarianism quickly replaced catastrophism in the current scientific paradigm.  This is the idea that slow, gradual processes brought about the fossil record and the geologic layers over millions of years.  The main reason why this view has succeeded is because it’s testable.  Catastrophism is based off of radical assumptions that cannot be tested and have no scientific basis to them.  Uniformitarianism, on the other hand, can be tested and the evidence shows very little geomorphological change in the earth around the time of the flood.  This is a huge problem for the catastrophist, and on top of that, Darwinian evolution has dominated the field of biology.  These two factors go directly against post-Enlightenment literalism.  So, how do we interpret the creation account?  The truth is that the language of Genesis 1-11 is unapologetically folklore in its face-value reading.  However, I won’t focus on that too much.  I’ll start by discussing Genesis 1.

 

Verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I have often been accused of claiming that this verse is true, but the other parts of the Genesis account are mythical.  At best, that is a perversion of the text and in no way do I advocate it.  Context is everything and, like I said before, Genesis is an account of functional ontology rather than material.  That being said, the word “beginning” is translated in Hebrew as bara.  This is giving the creation account a function from the very beginning.  It is used in the context simply to give a functional beginning for the rest of the creation account.

 

Verse 2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

In Hebrew, “formless” means tohu and “empty” means bohu.  Again, both of these words mean simply something that is “unproductive.”  This is giving function to the text.  What’s interesting is Genesis 1 is the only text in the Bible where the words “formless” and “empty” are used in the context of not being material properties.  It is important to note that in this context, these words do not mean something that lacks material, rather it simply means that nothing was happening.

 

Day 1:  Verses 3-5

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

The ancients didn’t really have a clear concept of what “light” was.  This is important because it helps us to understand what the ancient function of light was.  Now, look at verse 5.  Notice how God calls the light “day.”  This is interesting, because the Hebrews had two distinct words for “day” and “light.”  So why not use them?  What the writer of Genesis was doing was using a rhetorical device called “metonymy.”  The Hebrews would have understood the text as a “period of light” as opposed to just “light.”  Essentially, it would make more sense for the text to say “God called the period of light “day,” and the period of darkness He called “night.”  This makes more sense because it takes care of the “light being day” issue and it gives a condition to “light,” which is how the Hebrews would have better understood it.  Not only that, but many people wonder why God would have created light before the sun.  If “light” is established as a period of time, as opposed to a material object, there is no contradiction between God creating light before the sun.  It just makes more sense.

 

Day 2:  Verses 6-8

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.  God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Many people thought that the modern science of evolutionary theory and the age of the earth contradicted the literal reading of Genesis 1.  This is true, but so should this.  The ancient hebrews thought there was a vault, or firmament (a solid dome) in the sky that held up the waters above the earth.  This is drastically problematic for the biblical literalist, because nobody believes this.  Man has traveled to the moon and our technology has gone even further.  To put it simply; the firmament does not exist.  However, the ancients thought it did.  This was part of their model of the universe, one that is 3-tier.

 

Day 3:  Verses 9-13

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

What’s interesting about day 3 is that it does not describe God actually creating anything.  He gives the land responsibility to produce vegetation.  This clearly shows function over anything else, because God is establishing a creative order for how plants and vegetation are supposed to work.  It is not a material creation, it is a functional description.

 

Day 4:  Verses 14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,  and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.  God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,  to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Again, more problems with the firmament.  The ancients thought that the stars and other celestial bodies were in the firmament, but, as we now know, the firmament does not exist.  The function focuses on the terminology of the “greater light” and the “lesser light” established times.  This is not God “creating,” but “establishing.”

 

Day 5:  Verses 20-23

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

Fairly simple.  The function here is to establish the roles of living creatures, and one of their primary functions is to reproduce.

 

Day 6:  Verses 24-31

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Again, establishing more function for creatures.  God then proceeds to instill His Image within mankind.  This is the most important functional aspect of the creation account because it establishes man’s role, which is the most important thing God has created.

 

This was just a simple overview of Genesis 1.  For the next post in this series, be watching Ryan Ellington’s blog = ryanwaitforitellington.wordpress.com

New Blog Series: A Deeper Meaning of Creation

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you have grown up in an evangelical church, you have more than likely heard this verse many times. This is the very first verse of the Bible and the starting point for the book of Genesis. However, I would argue that the opening chapters of Genesis argue a much more profound and creative view of our creation than what is commonly believed in our post-Enlightenment Christian world. In this series, my friend Ryan Ellington and I will tackle some of the most difficult literature in the Bible, Genesis 1-11. This will be in in depth study of the purpose and the meaning of God’s creative order. Some of it will make the average reader uncomfortable, but I encourage all to bear with me through it as we explore the oldest and some of the most interesting literature in God’s Word.

 

Check out Ryan’s blog at ryanwaitforitellington.wordpress.com

Guidance of a Father

I remember as a little kid looking at people who were older than me and, based off of what I saw, I developed a very specific kind of worldview.  The way I saw it was that your parents raise you, you grow up in their home under their guidance, and then you become an adult and leave and live your life without any outside guidance.  As a kid, I was semi-right in what I observed.  The world is full of people who receive no guidance when they leave their home.  This is the life that I, along with probably every American teenager out there, wanted.

 

I grew up in a family in which my dad was a Southern Baptist preacher.  I accepted Christ as my personal Lord and Savior at the age of six, got baptized when I was nine, and went on to live to normal “preacher’s kid” life of being in church every time the doors were opened.  My dad gave me a lot of guidance growing up, not just in regards to spiritual issues, but also in regards to issues such as yard work, how to act in public, how to treat others, how to make smart decisions with money, school, and other things.  As I grew up and my dad instilled these values within me, I also had a sense of rebellion against my dad.  I wanted to be different than him.  Why?  Because every teenager wants to be different than their parents.  As I got older I began to get tired of the rules and the lifestyle that my dad was having me live.  In the deepest parts of my heart I knew he was doing his best to do the right thing for me, but I longed for that day when college hit and I could be free from his grasp.

 

That day finally came when I moved off to college.  I was so excited for this day because I could finally make almost all of my decisions for myself and not have my father’s guidance.  It didn’t take me very long to realize a few things.

 

  1. My dad was right in almost every decision he made for me my entire life.
  2. This life of doing whatever I wanted was not all that it was cracked up to be.
  3. I still needed guidance from my father, and it just simply wasn’t as convenient anymore.

 

As I reflected on my life, I realized that the one big thing I was missing was my relationship with God.  While it may be less convenient to get guidance from my dad now, it is always extremely convenient to get guidance from my Heavenly Father.  As I develop my views on religion, I try to keep this principle at the core of who I am.  In high school I never read my Bible.  In college, now, I have to drink from God’s Word every day to gain knowledge, wisdom, and most importantly, guidance.  While I was blessed to have such a great father, I cannot express how even more blessed I am to have such a great Heavenly Father.  This life is absolutely meaningless if it lacks guidance.  My view as a small child was that adults had it all together and knew everything there was to know about life.  My view now is that, no matter how old you get, you will ALWAYS need guidance from the Father.

 

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

-Psalm 32:8

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Is the Bible Inerrant?

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A few weeks ago there was a conference in Baltimore where two biblical scholars, Albert Mohler and Peter Enns, each gave speeches on biblical inerrancy.  Mohler claims that holding to inerrancy is essential for maintaining the truth of the Christian doctrine, while Enns claims that abandoning inerrancy is essential for maintaining the truth of the gospel.  So, who’s right?  Personally, I don’t like the question “Is the Bible inerrant?”  Often times people think inerrancy means that there is absolutely no flaw at all in any sort of context whatsoever.  On the other hand, believers of non-inerrancy are accused of believing that the Bible is “fiction” or is full of contradictions and flaws.  I don’t think it’s a black and white issue so I will lay out what I believe about the Bible without directly answering the question, “Is the Bible inerrant?”

 

First of all, “inerrancy” did not come out of Protestant Orthodoxy.  Saint Augustine was actually the first person to ever coin the term.  Later scholars, such as Calvin and Luther, spoke of the Bible as being free from error.  Many later popes challenged inerrancy except in the case of salvation.  Later, the Princeton formulation of inerrancy was developed.

 

This is the view that I hold most closely to.  It basically states that “The only really dangerous opposition to the church doctrine of inspiration comes either directly or indirectly, but always ultimately, from some false view of God’s relation to the world, of his methods of working, and of the possibility of a supernatural agency penetrating and altering the course of a natural process.”  (Biologos)  

 

Another thing to take into consideration is that issues concerning things such as authors, dates, and composition that are not inconsistent with the testimony of Christ or his apostles as to the Old Testament or with the origins of the books of the New Testament, cannot invalidate Scripture.  Every part of Scripture was written with the culture of the time in mind.  We must realize how crucial historical criticism is.

 

Another thing we need to consider is our own methods of interpreting Scripture can be subject to error.  Some discrepancies we find can be due to imperfect copies, which can be corrected with proper textual criticism.  Sometimes we may not even have all the information that we need to properly understand a certain part of Scripture.  Our own presuppositions may also get in the way of this understanding.

 

We must never assume that the authors who wrote these books of the Bible are infallible, perfect people.  The COMMUNICATION is inspired, NOT the people.  The authors seemed to be very aware of this themselves.  They depended on many other methods that are fallible and so sometimes they could understand that their personal judgements were wrong.  So, the Scripture is still inerrant when properly interpreted for its intended use.  

 

The last thing is we have to understand what the biblical authors were AFFIRMING, not ASSUMING.  Anything that is affirmed in Scripture is free from error, but not everything that is assumed.  Biologos gives a great illustration of this:

 

“For example, critics often point to Matthew 13:32, where Jesus refers to the mustard seed as “the smallest of all seeds.” From the context it is clear that Jesus was not making a botanical claim but drawing on the familiar experience of his hearers, for whom the analogy would have worked perfectly well. If every statement in Scripture is a propositional truth-claim, then there are obvious errors. A reductionistic view of language is implied at this point both in many of the criticisms and defenses of scriptural accuracy. It is unlikely that in his state of humiliation, in which by his own admission he did not know the day or hour of his return, Jesus had exhaustive knowledge about the world’s plant life. Whatever contemporary botanists might identify as the smallest seed, if it were unknown to Jesus’ hearers, the analogy would have been pointless. We have to ask what the biblical writers are affirming, not what they are assuming as part of the background of their own culture and the limitations of their time and place.”

 

Inerrancy is an uncomfortable and often misused concept.  The most important thing is that we understand what each part of the Bible is saying in its own context instead of putting labels on it.

 

Why Legalism Has to Die

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One of the biggest problems in the church today is legalism.  Legalism is probably the biggest turn off for people who are interested in getting involved in a church or having a relationship with God.  It is the core reason why many people view Christianity as “not fun” and most people really start to hate God because of it.  The definition of legalism is “Strict, literal adherence to the law or to a particular code, as of religion or morality.”  Now, some people like to take this and blow it way out of proportion.  Now, it is important to address some examples of legalism.

 

Recently I had a friend text me and tell me that he went to a church in North Carolina where the pastor preached a sermon on Disney, and why the are an immoral industry.  Basically, Disney promotes stories that say you should follow you’re heart and this goes against the Bible.  This is a classic example of legalism and it is embarrassingly unbiblical.  Another example is my grandfather, growing up in a Mennonite family, was unable to play cards, dance, watch movies, etc. because he was taught that the Bible condemned these things.  We live in a day and age where this kind of garbage has to end in our church so that we can reach people for the gospel.

 

Many people are finding that they cannot walk into a church without being condemned by others for having tattoos, wearing certain clothes, listening to a certain kind of music, preferring one political party over another, and many other things.  This is a tragedy, and actually, I can kind of understand why so many people don’t want to come to church.  Something we have to realize is that anything that is morally okay can be used to commit a sin.  So, by the legalist’s logic, we really can’t do anything to function properly in society.  And we’re not going to stop sinning, because we live in a sinful world.  Legalism can go as far as saying that we cannot eat because eating promotes gluttony.  We cannot watch TV because we might hear something that is “of this world.”  We cannot play cards because it promotes gambling and improper use of money.  This is a huge problem because these are all just normal daily activities.  To say that someone cannot watch a certain kind of movie because it might have some unbiblical elements to it is unbiblical in it of itself.  Many can also say that we shouldn’t share the gospel because, God forbid, we might interact with somebody who says something that is unbiblical and we can’t be filling our minds with that stuff.  So, where do we draw the line at what is okay and what isn’t okay?

 

We have to look at the Bible and take it as what it says.  We cannot avoid things that MIGHT promote some kind of sin, and then call that action a sin.  To do so would be to go directly against God and His Word.  To create an atmosphere where people want to come to church and learn more about God, we have to teach them what He is really saying in His word.