Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

When the Lost Find

April 13, 2017
Now, I know all you folks are the right kinda parents.
One fine night, they leave the pool hall,
Headin’ for the dance at the Arm’ry!
Libertine men and Scarlet women!
And Rag-time, shameless music
That’ll grab your son and your daughter
With the arms of a jungle animal instinct!
Mass-staria!
Friends, the idle brain is the devil’s playground!
Trouble, oh we got trouble,
Right here in River City!
With a capital “T”
That rhymes with “P”
And that stands for Pool,
That stands for pool.
“Ya Got Trouble” from The Music Man

 

I’ve been playing pool all of my adult life, which means countless hours spent in pool halls and bars.  I’ve seen a lot of things in those places, but there’s also a lot of things I haven’t seen, primarily because I don’t know what I’m looking at or looking for.  Pool halls and bars have earned their reputations at least in part, however, and just because I don’t see the sexual solicitations or the drug sales all the time doesn’t mean that they aren’t happening.

But there are also times when it’s pretty obvious what I’m looking  at, and then there are times when I’m reminded that I’m not seeing everything I ought to.  Not by a long shot.

I stopped in to a familiar bar with the best tables in town up the hill from my house the other day to snatch a quick few games of pool before an afternoon of meetings.  I knew a few of the guys playing there, and I quickly got my cues assembled and the balls racked and broke.  It was only after a few moments that I saw a girl I didn’t recognize chatting with one of the guys.  And as the game progressed I rapidly realized that the man was making pretty free use of her as she sat with her eyes glued to her smart phone.  Far more use than a casual acquaintance or even a good friend might, to put it diplomatically.

They disappear to his car for a few minutes and emerge in a haze of marijuana smoke and laughter.  But by this time I have to get back to the office.  I’ve packed up my cues and am on my way out of the bar, giving my regards to the guys I know and passing the couple as they re-enter the bar.  As I exit the cavern-like darkness of the bar into the blinding Central Coast sunshine, fumbling for my sunglasses,  I hear a woman calling Hey! after me.

You and I need to talk, she says as I turn in the parking lot to look back.  It’s the young woman the guy was with.  Her attire is eye-catching without being too over the top.  Faded denim jeans and a white t-shirt.  Her blond-ish hair has purple tints in it and her make-up is not light.  She’s probably in her late 20’s and the scent of her perfume alone is enough to nearly knock me unconscious.

I don’t imagine the conversation will be too long, as there can’t possibly be much to say.  Of the three guys at the pool table she was closest to, I paid her the least attention (by far!).  I assumed she just wanted to make sure I properly acknowledged her vanity, as it should have been obvious that I wasn’t interested in her services.

Are you really a priest? I mean, a real priest?   I assure her that I am, indeed, a card-carrying minister, realizing that the guy must have filled her in on that detail for some reason during their time together.  She’s taking her time now, sizing me up.  We’re blocking traffic in the parking lot so I move us out of the way.  I’m in a slight hurry, and not interested in playing around conversationally or otherwise.  But at length she asks What church?  I tell her the name and where it is.  She hasn’t heard of it.  Not surprising, I think to myself.  I start to search for a business card to give her.  My dad died a couple of months ago, and I’d like to think he’s with you.  When I look back up at her face she has tears on both cheeks that she’s wiping away.  I hope he’s with God, I respond after a stunned second.

In the bar I first saw a young woman who was so jaded in life that she didn’t care how men used her as long as they noticed her.  Then I saw a woman supporting herself with that attention and exploiting it.  What I had failed to see – in part because I didn’t want to pay too much attention to her – is someone lost.

My work in the recovery community has taught me a lot, but the one thing it has to keep teaching me over and over again is something that my faith taught me but is difficult at times to bear in mind.  People are more than the sum of their circumstances and choices.  They might be a train-wreck of addiction and crime and moral degradation, but it isn’t who they are.  It isn’t all they are.  And given the right circumstances and situations and the power of God the Holy Spirit, even the most monumental of train wrecks can be repaired.  The tracks cleared, the rubble swept away and a life of promise and possibility stretching into eternity put in place.

I hadn’t seen that with this girl.  So perhaps God the Holy Spirit sent her after me to make sure that I saw it.  I went to my car to search for a business card and brought it back to her.  By this point she was standing by a beat-up car lighting up a pipe of marijuana.  I recognized the young man in the car as someone who had been sitting at the bar earlier, and surmised it was her boss.  I handed her my card, wondering what he thought of the whole thing and realizing he probably didn’t think anything of it.  I wasn’t likely going to upset their arrangement.

I wasn’t.  I’m not.  But God the Holy Spirit, that’s another matter.  That’s a daugher of God the Father I was talking to.  That’s a woman The Son of God died and rose again for.  And while I may not want to look at her too long or bother to get involved too deeply, the Holy Spirit of God is after her.  He can do what I can’t.  He can lead her away from the pipe and the pimp and the random encounters in darkened bars in midday.  He can find the lost and lead them home and I pray that’s what happens with her.

It was a good reminder of the power and purpose of the Gospel.  One of the key reasons God gathers his people together, so that the Word might go out and reach the lost.  So that He might bring them home – the very people we don’t want to look at to closely or be seen talking to in the bright early afternoon sunlight of a busy parking lot.  It’s not a comfortable place to be, but it’s a necessary discomfort for somebody.  Perhaps even me.

 

 

 

Maundy Thursday

April 13, 2017

I was surprised when researching the history of Maundy Thursday.  I understand the idea that it is based on the Latin word for command, mandatum.  But I always assumed that this was in conjunction with the Lord’s Supper.  Jesus commands his disciples to take and eat, take and drink.  However the actual service is based on Jesus’ command in John 13:34.  And specifically, the term for this day became associated with Jesus’ demonstration of the kind of love He was commanding by washing his disciples’ feet.

This is a worthy commandment (nice of me to agree with Jesus, eh?).  It is incumbent upon all followers of Jesus to take it seriously.  But by making Maundy Thursday about this, about us and what we do to and with each other, it takes our focus off of Jesus, and that is problematic to me.  Each Gospel writer sees fit to spend a substantial portion of their account of Jesus’ ministry on his last week of ministry.  John spends five chapters alone on the evening of the Last Supper!  I can’t help but think that we are intended to look and listen to Jesus rather than look to ourselves on this night.

So I like this short essay that explains how Lutheran theology ‘hijacked’ Maundy Thursday a redirected the focus towards what Jesus gives to us – himself – rather than what we do to and for one another.

Interpreting Sacrifice

April 11, 2017

Kudos to this pastor for taking a stab at arguably one of the most difficult passages in the Bible – Abraham’s call to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22.  I don’t know who this pastor is as his blog site has no personal data.  And I thank him for his post because he helped me to clarify some of my own struggles and responses to this passage, and together, we hopefully can help make sense of what God is doing.

Firstly, I think it’s important to clarify a few points of order.  Genesis 22 begins with the clear word to the reader/hearer that this is a test.  The reader/hearer is never under the assumption that what transpires in the following chapter is a directive of any kind from God regarding human sacrifice.  Nowhere in the Bible does God demand or even permit human sacrifice or child sacrifice.  There are plenty of passages that speak to this implicitly and explicitly (Leviticus 18:21, 27:28-29; Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10, 2 Kings 3:27, 21:6; Jeremiah 7:31).

Secondly, though God does not want child sacrifice, we have nothing in Scripture that clearly indicates Abraham’s spiritual background.  In other words, it would be reasonable to assume that Abraham was not a lifelong follower of the Biblical God.  As such, Abraham would have been very familiar with neighboring religious practices that made use of child or human sacrifice.  The Bible indicates it was a practice among the Ammonites who worshiped Molech.  Scholars have argued that Phoenician Carthage practiced human sacrifice.  The deities from this area have been found in carved sculptures in northern Israel (Hazor), which means that possibly child sacrifice was practiced in those regions by followers of the deities Tanit and Baal Hammon.

A.R.W. Green researched this topic and reported evidence of human sacrifice throughout the Ancient Near East, including  Mesopotamia, Egypt and Syro-Palestine.  In other words, while we today would gasp in horror at this test, it would not have necessarily been such an uncommon test for Abraham.  In other words, Abraham would have been familiar with deities who demanded such things.  So this would actually be a real test – would Abraham be willing to actually give what he actually believed God might actually ask of him?  Or would He refuse?

This test would not have worked in Moses’ day – just a few hundred years later.  Thus the clear indication at the beginning of Genesis 22 that this was only a test.  Moses’ hearers would have been just as aghast and confused at God’s request as you and I, so Moses clearly prefaces the episode with the disclaimer that this is just a test.  Scripture makes it clear that God does not permit or desire such sacrifices, and therefore we don’t need to be concerned that He might ask us to do so.  Even if the “sky opened up and God’s voice boomed down”, we would do right to say no.  It’s clear that such a voice could not be God’s voice.  God might test us in other ways, but not in this one because we already know his clear will in this regard.  I would be far more concerned about the sky opening and the voice of God demanding that I give my entire IRA to someone in need.  That’s not necessarily an impossible (unBiblical) demand.  I can only pray that I would have the faith of Abraham to obey.

There is a confusion about midway in the essay as to the nature of God and his relationship to his rules.  The issue – though not raised this way in the Lutheran Pastor’s essay – centers on what makes something good, and how is God (or the gods) bound in this regard?  It’s an issue that Plato records Socrates dealing with in Euthyphro.  Is good an abstract absolute that the gods must obey, or is good something that the gods determine, and therefore subject to change at the discretion of the gods?  It seems like quite the conundrum.  The Biblical answer to this issue is that neither option is correct.  Good is not an objective absolute – a pre-existing condition to which God is bound.  Nothing pre-exists the Biblical God.  But by the same token, good is not an arbitrarily defined thing.  God doesn’t decide today that the color pink is good and the color green is evil, but then decide thousands of years later to change this.  God doesn’t have to decide what is good because God is good.  It is the definition of God himself.  God could no more command something that was evil than He could create a rock so big He couldn’t lift it.  It’s a matter of philosophical categories and not confusing them.

So God didn’t arbitrarily decide that human sacrifice was demanded of Abraham and then change his mind later.  The preface to Genesis 22 makes it clear that God never intended for Abraham to actually sacrifice Isaac to him.  But Abraham didn’t know that about God yet.

I like the way the author wraps up his essay.  He acknowledges that most of us have a limit to our faithfulness.  Would I really cash out my IRA and give it to someone else because I thought God was asking me to?  That would require a lot of faith.  I’d like to think that if I was convinced that this was definitely God speaking to me, that I would trust him enough to obey.  That’s the goal, of course.

But we all fail at times as well, so we need to focus first and foremost on what God has sacrificed in his Son Jesus, and that this sacrifice is not a moral example for me to follow, it’s actually atonement for my inability to obediently follow God’s directives in my life.  Maybe I’d be willing to cash in my IRA.  But am I willing and able to allow God to dictate my thoughts and actions every moment of the day?  Hardly.  So rather than debate about whether I could be faithful in the big things, I need to recognize that I’m not even faithful in the little things.  I don’t simply need help to be faithful in epic proportions, I need to be saved from the sin that is so much a part of me that I’m blinded to it.

So if you hear a voice from heaven telling you to sacrifice your child, don’t.  Period.  But if you hear a voice from heaven telling you to sell your house and go to a strange land?  Well, do some serious praying and talk with some brothers and sisters in the faith that you really trust.  If you really believe it’s God calling you to this, and if it doesn’t require you to abandon the vocations He’s already given you (spouse, child, etc.), then I pray you’ll have the faith to follow.  And just as importantly, that I would.

 

 

I Am the Resurrection

April 4, 2017

The Gospel lesson for this past Sunday was the raising of Lazarus from the dead in John 11.

While we focus on the amazing conclusion, as Lazarus steps out of the tomb alive again after four days of being dead and buried, the critical moment is much earlier, in Jesus’ discussion with Martha outside town.  In response to Jesus’ assurance that her brother Lazarus will live again, Martha responds with an affirmation in a doctrine of resurrection.  Her brother will live again on the day of the resurrection.  But Jesus corrects her doctrine slightly.  She is not, in fact, looking forward to the resurrection as a time or an event.  Rather, she should be looking forward to the resurrection of the dead as a person – the promised one of God.  That one, that Messiah or deliverer will be the source of the resurrection.

We need to bear this in mind today.  Christians are likely (or perhaps it’s just me) to treat the resurrection of the dead as a bit of doctrine associated with a time and place, an event in the life of the Church and all creation.  But more accurately, we anticipate the resurrection of the dead that will result from a person – the return of Jesus the Christ in glory.  Where Jesus is, there is life.  We see this in Lazarus in physical form, but we profess that we have life here and now through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are brought from spiritual death to spiritual life through the Holy Spirit leading us to faith in Jesus.

Our life is in a person, and our doctrine is a profession of that person, not just a dis-embodied event!

Good Riddance

March 23, 2017

Thanks to Ken for this article on recent developments among Presbyterians here in the United States.  A traditional and hugely successful (in terms of numbers, books, congregations and ministries planted, and 5000 worshiping members in his current church – which may or may not be the best definition of successful) pastor and theologian has been rejected from an award after being awarded it because he dares to hold to the Bible and thus the traditional teachings and standards of the Christian church that deny we get to remake God into whomever we desire him to be in order to justify our redefined peccadillos of the day.

Tim Keller is a well known author and pastor who happens to teach and confess what the Church has taught and confessed for nearly 2000 years – human sexuality and gender are created by God, who alone gets to define how they are expressed and interacted with.  This if course is not the most vocal definition of things today, and those who oppose the Biblical stance on these issues in favor of radical reinterpretation that legitimizes what the Bible calls sinful demanded Princeton Theological Seminary rescind the award.

Amazing when a few letters and e-mails and phone calls can ride rough-shot over the Bible and centuries of teaching and confession derived from it.  It calls into question not so much Mr. Keller’s orthodoxy, as who determines the arc and trajectory of the institutions that train people like Mr. Keller.  What are theological seminaries committed to – the long-standing confession of the Bible and clear Biblical witness or the preferences of the students it hopes to attract to the program.

When I went to seminary, the buzz-word was theological formation.  I’m not sure this was ever really explained fully, but the basic assumption was that whatever I thought I knew as I entered the program, the intent of the program was to shape and shape me, rather than visa versa.  I could take or leave the program, I couldn’t demand the program accommodate my personal theological preferences.  It amazes me that other programs – theological or otherwise – around the country have so much trouble explaining this to their students.  I assume this has to do more with economics than anything.  For a school to survive it needs students.  To entice students you make it appealing to the students.  If the students demand something, you have to take it seriously or else your institution or your faculty are at risk of disappearing (at least that’s the assumption).  It is predicated on the relatively recent idea that students get to determine what an institution is, rather than students selecting an institution of higher learning (or a business to work for, or whatever) for what they want the institution to teach and define about them.  The authority is completely reversed.  The students get to lecture the institution.

At which point, the institution is already irrelevant and has for all practical purposes already disappeared.  I suspect Mr. Keller does what he does not for academic prestige or awards.  I have little doubt this snub will not change his theology or practice.  And as such, he demonstrates greater permanency than Princeton and it’s 200+ year tradition of education.  That’s commendable for Mr. Keller, but so sad for Princeton.  I hope what results from this are future generations of theologians questioning if they really want to attend an institution that allows students to dictate what it teaches, where the students insist on being the smartest and wisest people in the room.

Fear or Life

March 22, 2017

In a few weeks we depart on an epic family vacation that has taken us almost four years to plan and save for.  It is the culmination of persistence and hard work and great blessing as well as a particular approach to education and life.

But in the past few weeks there have been multiple reports of terrorist attacks throughout Europe.  Paris.  Dusseldorf.  London.  Not all places that we plan to visit, but reminders that there are dangers to this type of education for our children and for ourselves.  I don’t believe that the world is a fundamentally more dangerous place today than it has been in times past.  But our ability to know instantaneously what is happening across the globe certainly affects our way of looking at the world and the people in it.

On a regular basis people in town here die on a particular highway just outside of town.  I don’t drive it often but there are times that I do and I think about the fact that it is a notoriously dangerous stretch of road.  Sometimes I opt to take the longer way around, but sometimes I don’t.  Life is full of risks and dangers.  Ones close to home somehow seem less ominous than those far away, where we’ll be guests and visitors rather than locals and residents.

Our children have to learn to balance fear and life.  They have to learn to make the best decisions possible given the available data.  They have to recognize that there are no guarantees of a happily-ever-after.  Every day there are people just like us who become statistics out of no fault of their own.  It is not what I wish for myself or my children or those people, but it is a reality of this broken, sin-infested world.  We have to learn to handle the statistics and the fear they create if we hope to live.

I believe that ultimately, this means that we have to learn to look death in the face and acknowledge it.  We are taught to avoid thinking about death, regularly coddled and swaddled in assurances that if we just do the right things, good things will follow and bad things will stay away.  But this isn’t necessarily true.  Certainly we can and should make good decisions.  But sometimes those decisions don’t protect us from the variable, the random, the unknown, the unpredictable.  And those things can kill.

It’s possible to be run down by a terrorist in a foreign city just by being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  I also know people who get hit by distracted drivers right here in town.  These things happen.  I have to acknowledge that this is a possibility and then determine whether or not to get out of bed in the morning, or drive on the freeway, or fly across an ocean, or find my way through lands where I don’t speak the language.  I have to decide whether those things are important enough to my wife and children to expose them as well.  And I have to be able to live with my decision, whether we return from an amazing, life-altering but fundamentally safe trip, or whether some or all of us never return.

I can face death and reality through my faith that death has been defeated by the God who created everything.  I rest that faith on the historically accurate material contained in the Bible.  It tells me some things that are hard to believe.  But it also tells me other things that plenty of people assumed weren’t true or real, only to be proved wrong.  Incredulity is not a reliable means of determining truth.  I trust the accounts of people 2000 years ago who saw a dead man raised to life and then raised to heaven with the promise to return.  I trust that my life and my children are not accidents of chance and time, that we have meaning and purpose beyond mindlessly perpetuating genetic code, and that our lives don’t end in a plane crash or a terrorist’s explosion.  We don’t go out looking for these things.  We try to avoid them.  But we recognize that if they should find us, we are together in the hands of the God who brought us into existence and has promised to sustain us for eternity.

So we’ll keep finalizing plans.  We’ll keep assembling the final elements for our trip.  Shoes and jackets and fleeces all crammed into carry-on luggage to sustain us on an adventure that will require us to face down death.  That is the adventure that every single one of us is on, ultimately.  Not a matter of if but when and how.  I’m ready.  I’ll do my best to make sure my children are ready.  And I’m always prepared and willing to talk to anyone – even you – who want to be ready as well.

It Bears Repeating

March 20, 2017

As we get closer to Easter, the number of articles, television specials and other commentaries on the Bible and Jesus are likely to snowball.  Very few of them will be faithful, helpful, or accurate.

This essay is an old one and came out around Christmas rather than Easter, but the points are salient and need to be reiterated over and over and over again.  Because the false assertions never let up.

Reading Ramblings – March 26, 2017

March 19, 2017

Reading Ramblings

Date: Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 26, 2017

Texts: Isaiah 42:14-21; Psalm 142; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9:1-41

Context: We are blinded by sin. It’s easy for us to forget this, to treat sin as a matter of what we do or don’t do separate from our ability to rationalize or understand things. But blindness affects not only what we do but how we perceive and relate to the world around us. There is no aspect of us that is unaffected by sin. The readings for this Sunday center around the issue of blindness, and the vision and light God desires to restore to us. The result is God’s glory but also our very real and eternal benefit.

Isaiah 42:14-21 – Previous chapters have spoken words of comfort and encouragement to God’s people while deriding the foolishness of those who place their hope in idols and false gods. In Chapters 41-42 God the Father elaborates on his Chosen Servant, the one through whom He will deliver his people and bring judgment on those who resist his sovereign and divine will. Today’s reading picks up God’s voice in a song of praise to God for his action. God who has restrained himself as He watches his own people wander away and others seek to dislodge him from his people’s hearts, but that restraint has come to an end and God will act powerfully and irresitibly (vs. 14-15). So pervasive and all-encompassing will his actions be that the ways will be unknown. The blind will be guided, and the darkness that surrounds them will turn to light as the ground levels, making their passage possible. But those who persist in blind worship to idols will be shamed and shown as fools. Israel was supposed to be God’s messenger to the world, bringing the light of God’s Law to the nations. He has failed this utterly. Israel is blind and deaf to the revelation of God, and so his blindness and deafness exceeds that of all others. Yet in all of this the goal is not to remove or eliminate the Law of God, but rather to magnify it to show it for the true glory that it is – the very purpose and intent of God the Father. All creation will one day fully understand that God’s Word has been right in every respect all along.

Psalm 142 – The psalm is introduced by way of explanation – composed by David in a cave. Perhaps this is a reference to the events of 1 Samuel 22:1, or perhaps 1 Samuel 24. Regardless, it is a beautiful cry to God for help and guidance. The speaker recognizes their limitations. They are overwhelmed with fear because their enemies wait for them, but they have no ally to stand with them, nobody to watch over them and protect them. Human help fails, but God can save and so it is right to cry out to him for deliverance. The speaker exhorts God to save them so that they might praise God and join those who love him and rely upon his mercy and grace. Throughout the psalm the idea of vision and perception is woven. Traps are hidden, God is told to look to the speaker’s right side, and none takes notice of the speaker’s plight.

Ephesians 5:8-14 – We are new creations in Christ, through faith and baptism we die with Christ and are raised to new life in him – our old behaviors and ways of thinking about the world are no longer appropriate or relevant. Having summarized in vs.3-5 some of those previous ways of acting and thinking, Paul exhorts the Ephesians rather to walk in light, since what happens in the light is good (as opposed to the list of bad things previously, which happen under cover of darkness and shadow). Exposure to the light is the means by which the dark things lose their power. Personal transparency in our temptations and struggles is a means of freeing ourselves from their destructive power. Our first instinct is to hide our sinfulness and temptation but Paul assures us that the opposite is far better for us!

John 9 – This healing episode in Jerusalem is an extended consideration of the nature of blindness and the power of God to heal our blindness and give us sight. The physical restoration sight to the man is only the beginning of this process. Through the episode, the man who can now see is moving towards spiritual sight and understanding. He moves from not knowing who Jesus is (v.11 – the man called Jesus) to recognizing him as a prophet of God (v.17) to finally worshiping him as the Son of God (v.38).

In contrast, the religious officials remain blinded the entire time, refusing to see in Jesus’ actions the hand and affirmation of God the Father. Instead they lash out in frustration at the formerly blind man, angered that they are powerless while Jesus, who they seek to expose as a fraud or an apostate is able to do amazing things. The man with restored sight is last described humbly worshiping Jesus. The religious leaders are last described in proud indignation, throwing the healed man out of their sight.

The man had no predetermined attitude or knowledge of Jesus. As such he was able to be led to proper faith in a very short time. The religious leaders were convinced that they fully knew and understood Jesus (John 7:27), yet they do not (John 1:10). They remain blind as they insist that they alone can see clearly.

Our sin blinds us, and even those saved in Christ do not have full sight restored – yet. This should lead us to a degree of humility in regards to those things of the faith that are not explicitly defined by Scripture. We see our savior, but if we are convinced that we completely apprehend him, completely understand him, we are on dangerous ground, possibly demonstrating blindness to what He is doing among us or where He wishes us to follow him.

Movie Review: Is Genesis History?

March 16, 2017

I’ve stopped doing movie reviews by and large, since I’m apparently hyper-critical.  However this movie bears mentioning, and actual encouragement to see it.

Is Genesis History? provides an examination of common assumptions about our world that are grounded in an evolutionary/natural selection model.  The movie asks the question, is the evolutionary/natural selection model, which predicates that the earth is millions and millions of years old and that all of the animal and plant species we see today evolved from much simpler organisms over time supported by the physical evidence in our world?

The movie is a series of interviews with a variety of scientists who are Christian and believe that the best interpretation of the data available in the world around us is the Genesis explanation, which states that creation came into being in six days and that the earth might be much, much younger than the evolutionary/natural selection model asserts.  They offer intelligent and compelling arguments showing how the answers most of us were given in school about the world and how it came to be are unsatisfactory at best, and completely contrary to what we actually see in the world.

Normally I wouldn’t go to see a movie like this, but last week at happy hour, a recent Westmont Grad who is preparing to go to medical school mentioned that she had seen it and it made a favorable impression on her.  She doesn’t hold to a six-day creation perspective despite being a strong Christian, and is much more comfortable with some sort of theistic evolution answer, where God gets the ball rolling but evolution is the tool He uses.  She thought the movie raised some really good questions that gave her good food for thought.  I’m pleased to report that her assessment was very fair.

Is Genesis History? is not an attempt at debate.  No counterpoints are raised, no experts are interviewed to explain how they refute the assertions made by the experts in the film.  That’s not the film’s purpose.  The film intends to show that there is some good reason to doubt the prevailing ideas about the universe and our little corner of it, and to suggest that Genesis might really be taken seriously not in contradiction to science, but in an alternate interpretation of physical data.  It isn’t the Bible or science, but the Bible as a guiding lens for how science interprets the data it has.

The biggest question that was raised in my mind against their interpretations of data has to do with the Flood.  I believe the flood narrative, and I believe that it means what it says – a worldwide flood.  My question is that the various experts in this movie proposed a theory that says that the dinosaurs lived before the Flood, and went extinct with the Flood.  Yet Genesis 6 & 7 give the impression that representatives of every type of living creature were present on  the ark with Noah and his family (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:8-9, 14-16).

Did God determine which animals would be saved and which would not?  Did some of the animals that were saved on the ark die on the ark?  Genesis doesn’t state specifically that every animal or species on the ark was saved.  I like the answer that the experts in the film give, but if we want to take Genesis seriously (and we should!), then how do we come to grips with this issue?  I’ll be doing some more research to see if they answer that question on their web site.

 

Particles vs. Bodies

March 14, 2017

I’m often asked whether I think that cremation is an appropriate alternative to burial.  My standard response is that how we dispose of our bodies should reflect what we as Christians are told we are in Scripture.  We are special creations of God, distinct from anything else in creation whether animal, vegetable, mineral, whatever.  The fact that we may share some of the same elements, the same base ingredients as these other aspects of creation is not surprising given the description of our creation in Genesis 2.  But we are far more than the sum of our parts, far more than the chemicals and elements that constitute us.  We bear the imago dei.  How we dispose of our bodies should reflect this at some level.

Which is why I reject other options (or at least some other options) for dealing with a deceased human body as unacceptable.  I’ve repeatedly stated that I disagree with burial options that foster a different view of humanity as simply one part of an eco-system, using a decomposed or cremated body as part of the planting material for a seed(s) that will grow into trees or other vegetation.  I think this confuses the distinctness of humanity that Genesis clearly articulates.

And it is why I’m not a fan of this option – liquefying the body.  The process liquefies the soft tissue of the human body, leaving only the skeletal remains which can then be pulverized into a fine powder and given to the family.  But the liquefied remains are intended to be flushed into the local water system to be chemically treated like any other water.  The idea is that once all you have are basic chemicals and elements, there is no difference.  Treat ’em all the same.

That’s the part I object to.

Our modern obsession with science is problematic in that it all too often insists that everything and everyone is the same.  Genetics seeks to demonstrate not our uniqueness so much as our similarity to other species.  Chemistry dictates that we’re just walking chemical reactions that eventually – for one reason or another – stop.  By viewing humanity exclusively under a microscope we are able to justify any manner of dealing with our bodies – both while we’re alive as well as after we’re dead, arguing that there are no theological or even moral implications since we’re just a collection of chemicals and elements.

The Bible insists that we lift our eyes away from the microscopes sometimes, to see things as He sees them.  Yes, He created the chemicals and the elements that constitute our being.  But He sees us not in these terms, but in terms of being his creation, his unique creation, even the pinnacle of his creation.  We are more than the sum of our parts, more than just a collection of chemicals and elements that happened to accidentally arrange themselves as a human being for a few years.  Our choices for what to do with our bodies after our death should reflect this as a final testimony to our hope in Jesus Christ.

Yes, the body decomposes.  Given proper conditions and time it will on its own liquefy and disintegrate into the ground.  But it does so in the ground, not in a cylinder to be flushed into the water supply like any common grey water or sewage.  Cremation disposes of a great deal of our physicality in smoke and steam, but these elements are released, rather than incorporated back into some sort of system to be repurposed.

You were created unique.  Not an accident or an oversight.  Planned before the dawn of creation by the God who called the cosmos into being.  Special and unique in all of time and space.  Far, far more than just the sum of your parts.  Intended for eternal life and glory.  Step away from the microscope long enough to appreciate that.  You don’t have to deny that our bodies contain basic chemicals and elements.  Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s what defines us.