You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Christian’ tag.

The two-year-old speech “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” by Al Mohler has been thoroughly praised and criticized point by point since it was first given at the 2010 Ligonier Conference, and I have no intention of arguing against the particulars here. But having read and listened to it for the first time today, I was struck by how much of a misnomer it is and nauseated by what this mismatch between speech title and speech content reveals about the viewpoint Mohler is espousing.

In a conference about difficult questions that Christians face, Mohler was assigned to answer the query “Why Does the Universe Look So Old?” (You can read it abridged here or listen to it here.) Astonishingly, his sixty-six minute speech spent only the final four minutes truly addressing his topic, offering the standard two woefully inadequate answers of appearance of age and catastrophism. The first sixty-two minutes addressed an entirely different issue, namely why belief in an ancient universe and evolution wrecks the doctrine of biblical authority and demolishes essential theological issues like Adam’s role in the fall of mankind. This topic has its place, and many people have disagreed strenuously with every point Mohler made, but to me, the very approach of answering the question in this way is startling. Imagine a Q & A at your church and someone asking the preacher the question given to Mohler. Now picture your pastor beginning his response with, “Well, first off, we cannot believe in an old earth because too much is at stake to essential Christian beliefs.” This is essentially Mohler’s approach.

It Messes Up Our System and Therefore Can’t Be True

At one point, he states, “[…] the exegetical cost…is just too high. […] The theological cost is actually far higher.” In other words, it cannot be true because if it were, it would wreck everything we believe to be true about God. It cannot be true because the Bible says it is not true. This answer shows a surprising disregard for objective truth. Mohler is effectively (albeit, unconsciously) saying, we cannot consider the idea of an ancient earth to be true because it would mean that what I believe is not true. It would complicate things too much. “Galileo, your theory cannot be true because it would mess up our whole system that we have labored so hard to build.” No one will be convinced by a faith that says this; no Christian struggling to reconcile faith and science will remain in a faith that says this. In order for there to be rational dialogue on the veracity of any position, there must be an understanding that it is possible for that position to be untrue. I am sure that Mohler would concede this, but the answer he gave does not.

There Are Two Books of Revelation, But One of Them Is Illegible

Mohler acknowledges that truth comes from nature as well as from scripture. However, he lowers the volume on nature’s voice so much that not much can be heard from her. “There is a book of nature. We do learn much from it. […] God has revealed nature to be intelligible.” But, as he ponts out, Paul teaches that “given the cloudiness of our vision and the corruption of our sight, we can no longer see what is clearly there.” I would need a lot more convincing before I accepted the notion that Paul really taught such a skeptical view of the comprehensibility of nature. About our knowledge of God from nature, yes, but not about our knowledge of nature from nature. Make as many qualifications as you like about the instrusion of Ptolemaic thinking into Christian dogma, the fact still remains that it was nature’s witness, not the Bible’s, that showed us clearly that the earth revolves around the sun. The fact also remains that if the descriptions of the Bible receive nary a one “Amen” from Mother Earth, that if she responds with nothing but dissent to Mohler’s understanding of Genesis 1, then the future congregations of this earth will not believe the claims of Christianity. “Disaster ensues when the book of […] general revelation is used […] to trump scripture.” Disaster also ensues when we are told to believe only the book of books and to stop up our ears to resounding calls of general revelation, as if nature were a brood of Sirens enticing us to the rocks of shipwreck.

“We would not be having this discussion today,” said Mohler, “[…] if these questions were not being posed to us by those who assume that general revelation […] is presenting to us something in terms of compelling evidence […] so forceful and credible that we are going to have to reconstruct and reenvision our understanding of the biblical text.” This is a statement of the obvious, and I am not sure what Mohler is driving at, since the fact is that people are posing these questions as well as assuming that the evidence is compelling. The operational word in this statement, I suppose, is “assume,” and I imagine that the implication is that there IS no “compelling evidence.” But to say this is to bury one’s head in the sand.

Don’t Look Too Closely, or It Might Be Compelling After All

The mountains of compelling evidence are out there, if one will only be humble enough to survey their heights. I do not think Mohler has given much more than a cursory glance in their direction, judging from the final minutes of his speech, in which he finally turns his attention to why the earth appears so old:  “In the limitations of time, it is impossible that we walk through every alternative and answer every sub-question,” but the two basic principles for understanding the illusion, he says, are that God makes things whole (i.e., they have an appearance of old age) and that creation has suffered from the consequences of sin (the flood, e.g.). These two answers can only be satisfying from a great distance, but the moment that you begin to look more closely, the moment that you do consider a sub-question or two, the more you see just how unsatsifying and inept these responses are. It’s one thing, for instance, to say that God created light to appear as if it had traveled millions of light years to get here, but quite another when you consider that those rays that were supposedly created en route tell stories of stars that exploded a billion years ago. This is just one of many “sub-questions” that have to be considered instead of being brushed aside in the concluding minutes of a speech. Most infuriating of all, Mohler says that really, the ultimate answer we have to why the universe is so old is that it is telling the story of the glory of God. “Any more elaborate answer, is known only to the Ancient of Days, and that is where we are left. And it is safe.” No, it is not safe. Mr. Mohler is effectively saying that if data pointing to an ancient earth cannot be explained by the appearance of age or the catastrophism arguments, then we should just trust that the earth is young regardless and that the answer lies with God. We should just not worry about it.

With all due respect to Mr. Mohler whom I consider a sincere Christian brother, I urge him to consider that we cannot reject the veracity of the belief in an ancient earth based on what is at stake. It does complicate our theological systems. It does cause us to reconsider how we read scripture. But what ultimately matters is whether or not it is true. It does no good to ignore the mounds of reasons why scientists believe that age to be 4.5 billion years (or why all life shares a common descent). Nor do we get off the hook by saying that our judgment is clouded by sin. We have to acknowledge the evidence and engage it. Please, Mr. Mohler, take some time to hear a scientist out on what that evidence is before you answer this question again.

Advertisements

Why do you accept an old earth and not evolution? Is it for scriptural reasons? Scientific objections?

YE creationist blogger Sirius Knotts has posted about a recent case of racism in my home state of Louisiana. I completely agree with him on the ugliness of this sin, but I find his concluding paragraph a bit confusing.

I think we need to toss the word “race” into the garbage can.  The idea of human races is an evolutionary by-product. The Bible teaches that there is only one human race, born of Adam and Eve.

In another post on interracial marriage, Sirius does an excellent job showing that there is no scriptural basis for racism, despite the many attempts by others to misuse various passages to justify this sin. However, he makes a similar comment about evolution in one of the comments, when he writes:

I’m not sure what we expect here. We teach evolution in our schools exclusively which teaches that there are human races and that we’re in competition with one another. All of the tolerance teaching on the planet cannot overcome what we teach them about people groups in the name of science. We lay the foundation for racism in our science classrooms.

Is this a fair criticism of evolution? Is there a necessary connection between evolution and racism? Absolutely not.

In the first place, evolution is an explanation of how the variety of life came to exist. It is not a code of morality. We do not determine what is right or wrong based on what we see in the natural world. For example, some animals kill their own young; others assert their dominance over other males by sexually forcing themselves upon them. This obviously does not have anything to say about how we ought to treat other people. To assert that these phenomena occur is to merely describe what happens in nature, not to condone the behavior. We should not treat evolution any differently.

Second, both evolutionists and young earth creationists alike believe that all human beings have a common ancestor. YECs believe in two original human beings, and evolutionists believe in an original group from which we all come. Therefore, both groups can argue against racism by asserting that all of humanity is of the same blood. It can even be asserted that there is hardly any difference in our DNA.

Though the differences among red, yellow, black and white are small, there are still differences. I would venture to say that both YECs and evolutionists explain these differences through the separation of various groups and the subsequent changes that took place over time. To say that we should throw the term “race” in the garbage can is, I think, too sweeping a statement to make. Racial distinctions are both apparent and, in the field of medicine, are helpful in understanding diseases that affect certain races but not others. If by “race,” we mean separate species, then yes, throw that understanding in the trash. But I don’t think anyone believes that.

Let’s remember that YECs (at least those who adhere to AIG) do in fact believe in survival of the fittest and in change over time, which they term microevolution. It puzzles me therefore to read Sirius’ comment faulting evolution for leading to racism because it teaches that we are “in competition with one another.”

Finally, before anyone starts giving me examples of people who used evolution to justify this monstrocity or another, let me remind him or her that just because someone uses a belief to justify his own racism does not mean that racism logically follows from that belief per se. We have had racism long before Darwin, and just as many people have used Christianity to justify this and a host of other sins.

Before this year, I have never really celebrated Halloween. In fact, I was brought up with ideas of it originating from pagan, even Satanic practices. The church I am currently a member of wastes no energy making a righteous fuss over the holiday, but they do put on a Fall  (not a Halloween) Festival for the neighborhood that includes costumes, games, and candy. A lot of churches in my denomination host Reformation Day Parties, complete with pinning the 99 Thesis on the doors of the church of Wittenburg.

After reading a few posts from the Internet Monk, however, I realized that Halloween, or more specifically, All Saints Day, is a Christian holiday that celebrates the victory of the saints through Jesus Christ. It is a day to remember the souls of believers and of those whom God used in a mighty way to further his kingdom. Why would we not want to celebrate this?

Today, the baby was a little under the weather, and my wife graciously sent me off to church while she stayed with him alone. I decided to go to St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church instead of my home church because I knew that they observed the church calendar. How encouraging it was to remember the destiny of all saints! I’ll leave you with this passage from Revelation 7, part of which we read during the service.

9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried out in a loud voice:
   “Salvation belongs to our God,
   who sits on the throne,
   and to the Lamb.” 11All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12saying:
   “Amen!
   Praise and glory
   and wisdom and thanks and honor
   and power and strength
   be to our God for ever and ever.
   Amen!”

 13Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

 14I answered, “Sir, you know.”

   And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore,
   “they are before the throne of God
      and serve him day and night in his temple;
   and he who sits on the throne will spread his tent over them.
 16Never again will they hunger;
      never again will they thirst.
   The sun will not beat upon them,
      nor any scorching heat.
 17For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
      he will lead them to springs of living water.
   And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

I was flipping through the channels early Sunday morning, trying to let my wife sleep a few extra hours while I held our son. Let me tell ya, Sunday morning Christian shows/church services can be downright depressing. The television portrays a Christianity obsessed with a million things other than the one thing we ought to be obsessed with–the gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ has taken a back seat to more pressing or interesting issues, or maybe it is viewed as that event that gets us into Christianity and from which we move on to bigger and better things. The idea of obsessions in Christendom is an interesting one to me, and I have been thinking about a few that I wish Jesus would cleanse from his Temple. Here are a five:

1.  An obsession with the end times. I am sick of hearing preachers treat the Old and New Testament prophets as if they are a code book for the coming apocalypse (which is always, incidentally, imminent, depending on when Russia or Iran decides to attack Israel). Please, I beg you, study the original context and the type of literature that these books were written in, and be willing to hear a different view of the end times. May I suggest a little book on the Revelation called The Throne, The Lamb, and The Dragon by Paul Spilsbury? 

2.  An obsession with thickening our wallets. Please stop promising that those who are hearing you will be free of their house payment within a year. Please stop implying that those who are blessed will be driving high end cars. The Bible says nothing of the sort. In fact, there was a guy in the Bible who had a lot of faith and yet still lived in poverty–what was his name? Oh yeah, Jesus.

3.  An obsession with positive thinking and other self-help stratagies. There’s a wonderful aisle in your local bookstore that talks about the power of positive thinking. I’m pretty sure the Bible isn’t on that aisle.

4.  An obsession with being hip and sexy. Church services become concerts or stage performances. Cute video skits are played in the middle of the sermon, which the guy with the spiked hair and tatoos is preaching. What I find offensive is that these styles of worship are specifically contemporary, i.e., they are for people in their teens, twenties, and thirties. What about those who are forty, fifty, or older? Do they matter? Or do you have a separate, more traditional service for them, so that now you have a church devoid of the influence, wisdom, and leadership of the older crowd?

5.  An obsession with literal creationism. If you think that the Bible teaches that the earth was made 6000-10,000 years ago in six literal days, then that’s fine. However, if you think that anyone who believes in an old earth is a compromiser, an apostate, a heretic, or an ineffective Christian, then you’d better be careful. You have entered the realm of judging your neighbor, in my opinion. Does creation science dominate your religion? Maybe it’s become an obsession.

There you have it. What do you think about these obsessions? Do you have any to add?

Blog Stats

  • 27,708 hits