Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

You Will Love this Blog or Hate It

This blog is an on-line journal of a minister's attempt to make sense of Christian theology in the 21st century. My blog is viewed as a breath of fresh air by some, and breath of demon fire by others. The reason for that is becoming more and more clear to me.

I begin as a given with the modern scientific view of cosmology and anthropology.

1) The Universe is 14 billion years old. Earth is a small planet in the arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, 30,000 light years from the galaxy's center, and there are millions, perhaps billions, of galaxies. In other words Earth is not the center or focal point of the universe.

2) Human beings are a product of four billion years of evolution on planet Earth, evolving from earlier life forms. Human beings are therefore more connected to than different from other living things.

If you do not affirm those two basic observations of modern science, this blog will do nothing but frustrate you. I urge you to go somewhere else. For example, if you wish to get your religion from a theologian who believes Earth is 10,000 years old, I suggest you go here. He'll fix you right up. There are plenty of options.

These observations regarding cosmology and evolution are quite recent. At the time of the ancient Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews, Jesus, and the authors of the Apostle's and Nicene Creeds were around, the universe was imagined somewhat like this:


1) Earth was the center of the universe. The sky or heaven was the abode of the gods and the stars. The idea that the Earth was the center of the universe didn't get changed until the Copernican Revolution in the 16th century.

2) Human beings were considered the highest life forms, different from other creatures, just a little lower than the angels, and created in the form they are now.

The Bible and the creeds which the church affirms were developed in a pre-Copernican, pre-Darwinian, pre-Modern time. They made sense. One could imagine Jesus ascending to Heaven and descending from Heaven. The early Christian creeds, in a literal form, are too small for the Universe. They are no longer credible. This is from Roy Hoover, regarding the Bible and the Modern World.

Again, if you do not affirm modern cosmology and evolution, you will get very little from me. What I have to say will be nonsense and unimportant and wrong. However, for those of you who do affirm modern cosmology and evolution, this discussion may prove very fruitful. It is an attempt to understand the convictions of the early creeds, what they meant when they affirmed that Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, will return again, and whether or not we can transpose the meaning of those affirmations into our world. More than that, it is an attempt to understand what it means to be human today, what is our great work and our hope.










17 comments:

  1. John, I think I may have just been invited off of your blog. However, since I think this is an answer to my question about the return Of Jesus Christ in a resurrected body I have some comments. First of all to be quite frank, no I don’t believe in the evolution of one species into another species. But I do believe in an old earth. But there are Christians who are theistic evolutionists in their beliefs who see humanity as special and different than the rest of creation in that they have been made in some way in the image of God so I think you are reaching a bit too far. And they do believe that God started creation and had a part in it, and here I am not meaning the kind of panentheism that is proposed by people like Teilhard De Chardin.

    Secondly, when you write that you are trying to “transpose” the early Christians’ and the biblical writers’ views about Christ’s return and his resurrection into our contemporary understanding you are committing a historical mistake and theological shipwreck. The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promised return ware considered just as outlandish in Jesus’ time as it is to unbelievers today. For instance, when Paul preached in Athens, he was rejected by many because he preached the resurrection. “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.’”(Acts 17:32) When Paul presents the resurrection to King Agrippa he is accused of being out of his mind. And of the second coming Peter writes to the Church, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of his coming?”

    Theologically you would have to create a different religion if you do not accept the resurrection and the second coming of Christ as presented in the Bible. And that you should have to do that is silly since many extremely intelligent and educated men and women such as N.T. Wright, Elizabeth Achtemeier, Ben Witherington, Marianne Meye Thompson, Richard Bauckham, Morna Hooker and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, a wonderful historian who died just this year, would all agree with the Bible on those issues.

    Be faithful John and he will give you a crown of life.

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  2. John, if the universe is 14 billion years old, how come the horizon of the universe is calculated at being 28 billion light years from the center? According to physicists, nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. "The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and his promised return were considered just as outlandish in Jesus’ time as it is to unbelievers today."

    Yes, Viola, but why was Jesus's resurrection outlandish, not only that, but treasonous and a threat to the powers?

    It wasn't the miracle of resurrection, or that a body could ascend to heaven. It wasn't the claim that Jesus was "SON OF GOD." Augustus was considered SON OF GOD.

    The scandal of the preaching of Paul is that he claimed that JESUS is son of God, not Caesar.

    The one in authority, the one changing this world was Jesus. Who is your god, Caesar (peace through victory and domination) or Jesus (peace through justice and non-violence).

    That is the scandal in any age.

    Be faithful Viola, and you will likely get crucified like Jesus did.


    Stushie,

    I am sure there are many places to go for your question. Here is one

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  5. Interesting debate, John. Thanx :)

    Sad to see people being more about the flesh than the spirit. But flesh, as in physical resurrection, is much easier to cling to than the faith it takes to focus on the spiritual aspects of the holy existence. So I kinda understand. Truth isn't easy, and as Jesus taught us, it's better to be divided in truth than united in fallacy.
    Why do fundis get so bent at the thought of evolution? It doesn't disprove God. Only those of little faith would think that anything could disprove God.

    I personally have a very hard time believing that humans evolved from monkeys. Perhaps there are some humanoids on earth that did, but I don't see it. I would have to view the missing link before I could accept that. Whales and Tuna look alike and have many similarities, but one did not evolve from the other as one is amphibian and one mammal.

    However, to say "no I don’t believe in the evolution of one species into another species." rejects all truth or worse, all possibility thereof. LINK
    Clearly, all species evolve in one way or another. Physically and mentally. Humans included.

    Now, Fundies, pay attention...
    Hypothetical situation:

    Suppose that tomorrow some great discovery convinced you that we did evolve from primates. Would God be out of the picture? Oh ye of little faith. Of course not. God created the universe and all that exists within it. Which would mean God created evolution too. The truly faithful will always be able to see the great spirit in anything. Evolution included. God cannot be disproved, quit acting like he can.

    You fundies do God a great disservice by limiting his greatness to one tiny speck of matter in the middle of infinity.
    It's amazing. The anti-Christ, Pat Robertson, is a classic example of a fundi that minimizes God. He actually blamed God for the Katrina disaster. What a heretic bastard, huh? LOL

    God created all in nature and all in infinity. To confine Him, or His science to earthbound and 10,000 years is almost blasphemy when you really think about it. Jesus did not exist to comfort your fear of dying. He existed to bring us the way and the truth to live our lives by.

    Evolution? I'm not convinced on all aspects of it. But I'll tell you this, since the Political "Christian" Evangelical reared it's ugly, multi-eyed head in America with it's lies and evil deeds, men appear more and more as "primates" every day. Reverse evolution perhaps? Just look at George Bush.

    My apologies to the Ape.

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  6. TN420,

    I appreciate your presence and comments and your thoughts here, but I gotta ask you to chill on the language.

    Seeker,

    Your comment was great, but no one got to read it but me! Send it again or make another.

    Viola made another comment on this blog.

    So Seeker,

    These good folks are not trying to convert me. They are trying to trap me.

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  7. TN420,

    You would be interested in reading Viola's comment as well.

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  8. John, I don't have the exact text that I posted, because I didn't save it. So I guess I'll reformulate my ideas from scratch.

    I was asking myself why it is that people who are so offended by what you write in this blog continue to read it anyway. Viola's last sentence in her comment suggested to me that they hang out here because they are trying to convert you. But you are probably right--their intentions are hardly as benign as that. Trying to trap you fits in more closely with the witch hunting mentality that unfortunately seems to pervade certain elements of your church.

    The witch hunters will not rest, I am afraid, until all who don't toe their line are hounded out of their (and your) denomination. It's a nasty business, and they don't play nice. As I stated in the posting that I deleted, you have shown great patience in dealing with the people who would persecute you--more patience than one such as I would have. You even reached out in one case that I am aware of, offering to meet a pastor who opposed you for lunch; the last I heard, this offer was rebuffed.

    As for the whole cosmology question, it is clear that the theology that some people adhere to is built on a primitive scientific understanding that no longer holds true. The mythological elements of the Gospel are clearly predicated on this three-tiered cosmology. One way to respond to this is to be in denial--to cling to outdated, unscientific ideas, such as by denying evolution. But this can only go so far--even those who reject evolution don't really subscribe to the three-tiered universe that their theology rests on. It seems that a hefty amount of denial has to therefore take place. Entrenching one's self against the onslaught of science and reason an make one rather defensive. Which may explain the intensity of the hostility and resistance to you and what you represent within your church.

    It is very saddening to witness this. It is also frustrating.

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  9. I think the key point is that things such as the age of the universe are not fundamental. God created it and we're still only scratching the surface of how He did it and how His laws continue to hold it together.

    In our view of science we are required to be humble and reserved. That reminds us not to jump in with a strict and literalist interpretation of Genesis nor embrace every scientific theory that has staying power. The truth is we have merely crossed the 50 yard line of scientific theories. We have much farther to go. To say anything less would be disingenuous and anything but humble.

    I would add that evolution as Darwin spelled it out has major problems. What we see today is that there occurs periodical reprogramming in all species. It's as if someone went in and re-arranged the DNA rather than cosmic rays having zapped Cousin Fester the Ape's gonads. Darwin's specific view has passed the way of the earth-centered universe.

    Just as the pre-Copernican idea that objects revolve around greater objects was true, some of Darwin's assumptions were true, but many have been proven false.

    As God would say, "you've got a long way to go, baby" (Job 38:1).

    Our focus should always remain on that Word guy who is Love and can live in us if we ask Him to. All else is peripheral.

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  10. By the way, John, it is interesting to look at the blog you linked to, where Viola attacked you. While she freely enters comments here in strong disagreement with your views, her diatribe against you is posted to a blog that spells out: "All comments will be moderated. Only comments that are on topic, and represent the evangelical, reformed, orthodox Christian perspective will be posted, this is not an open forum."

    It's pretty amusing, actually.

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  11. John
    I would be interested in your definition of evolution. Personally, I am not confident that it is a fully worked out system or that major elements of the theory have been proved beyond doubt. Of course, having a brain, I regard Biblical accounts of creation as complete mythology. However, I am not yet prepared to say that Darwinism answers all the questions for the religious or the secular.

    I think the problem may be that evolution theory is based entirely on classical science and observation without any regard for the quantum dimension of life, which I am sure, will throw up all sorts of curve balls in the years to come.

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  12. Mystical, you remind me of one of my friends in elementary school who went from one group to another telling tales.

    I'm sure that John knows all about this stuff. I disagree with a lot of what John writes and will sometimes entangle horns with him when he goes over the line, but it's all entertainment.

    Maybe we should set up a WTF - World Theological Federation Ring and get Vince McMahon to set up the Biblical bouts.

    John also causes me to really think hard about why I believe things differently from him. Christian Apologetics is not for the faint-hearted.

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  13. Stushie, I wish I could believe that this was all harmless entertainment. But given that people have lodged complaints against John, and given the similar witch hunts are going on in other denominations against progressive clergy, I am afraid that this is not quite so benign.

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  14. Good thoughts, Mad Priest. Certainly genetics have changed the theory. But the professionals I speak with in my church are pretty confident that evolution is about as solid a scientific theory as you can get. Here is my definition:

    "Evolution is quantifiable change in the gene frequency in a population. Organisms that survive and reproduce pass on genes. The ones with the best chance of survival have enough variation and will pass those favorable genes on to their offspring, giving them a better chance at survival. These changes in the genes are gradual and usually happen over millions of years and are measurable. That change in the genes is evolution."

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  15. Stushie,

    I'm disappointed in you. "wrasslin?" You've spent too much time in TN. Let's handle this like the Scotch Presbyterians we are:

    The Calvinist Caber Toss!

    Whoever throws it the farthest gets to tie up the loser to the caber and burn him at the stake! (Or, in true Calvinist fashion, ask for clemency and see if you can get him beheaded.)

    John,

    I'm concerned about your denial of the plain sense of resurrection and depravity...not your concern for evolution and cosmology. It's the fundamentals of the faith that are of importance, not agreement on every jot and tittle.

    TN420,

    Your statements about the resurrection being "fleshly" thought show a characteristic unfamiliarity with scriptural categories of flesh and spirit. John the Elder wrote that it is antichristian to talk about Christ's divinity separate from his flesh after the incarnation. Further, Jesus told Nicodemus that we shouldn't believe him about spiritual things if we can't believe him about physical ones.

    It's not "super spiritual" to try to remove the historical claims of the Bible when they contravene what we claim is possible (such as miracles). It's quite the opposite.

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  16. I thought organism was a blatantly bigoted discriminatory prejudice against using organs in worship.

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  17. Stushie,

    Aren't you the one to call another a "tattler!"

    Chris,

    So tickled you are concerned about my tittles. Sorry I can't say I care as much about your jots.

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