Dr. Peter Enns and the conversation between the scientific and faith communities

Peter Enns has got to be a smart and courageous guy.  He's has been grappling with Old Testament scripture (especially the book of Genesis) and attempting to "open" a conversation with scientific assertions and theories (specifically those of human origins)…that's an astute and challenging intermingling of disciplines and passions (not to mention the implications of worldview).  After a friend plowed through Peter's book, (The Evolution of Adamsummarized well on the "Jesus Creed" blog) I decided to pick up a copy.  Fact is, I encouraged a "scientifically curious" (his words, not mine) pal of mine to read it and give me his take.  After he informed me that it "rocked his world", I decided to wade into the waters myself.  

I don't want to give you a full overview here…you can read what work has already been done on the blog I alluded to above.  That blog will take you through a series of posts that outline the book as well as pose a significant number of excellent questions which will challenge any reader. What I WILL be willing to say is that this book is a MUST READ for anyone who  is serious about wrestling with issues having to do with cultural engagement, intellectual honesty, biblical faithfulness, as well as having a bird's eye view of how serious scholars engage biblical material in light of the context in which we live. I found the book fascinating to read…I highlighted much of it…discovered and re-discovered exegetical conclusions that were challenging and rather enjoyed a divergent hermeneutic (in other words, a different interpretation) of key passages in Genesis as well as the letters of Paul.  Make no mistake about it this book is one which wrestles with "interpretive" issues…for example, how do we faithfully interpret the book of Genesis without reducing it to a bunch of disconnected, morality based tales? How would people in Genesis' original audience react to the material and how might that be different from how people in the apostle Paul's day?  How did Paul view Adam and what difference does and should that make in how we view these biblical stories?  As Peter says in one of the final chapters, "if Adam had stayed within the confines of Genesis 2-5, there would be far less difficulty in synthesizing evolution and Christianity-a "historical Adam" would likely be no more crucial to the Christian faith than a literal talking sanme or a literal garden paradise."  If that question interests you, than this book is for you.  It will make many uncomfortable…trust me, it will.  When I was a college kid and my first bible professor told me that some scholars believed that Moses didn't write the first five books of the bible, I walked out of class (only to be followed by my professor who explained to me that I needed to open my mind to some new insights into the bible if I was to be the person God was forming me into be).  If you haven't thought through some of these issues before, the book will take you to foreign territory.  If you have, it will challenge you in your assumptions and poke at your biblical "sacred" cows.  This is an important book to read because this conversation is a necessary one.  It is necessary NOT because we need to be apologetic for believing what we do about the bible as followers of Jesus but rather because as Peter states in one of his theses at the conclusion of the book, "scientific and biblical models of human origins are, strictly speaking, incompatible because they speak of 'different language.'  They cannot be reconciled and there is no "Adam" to be found in an evolutionary scheme." He also discusses the fear that many people who love and follow God have in even opening their minds to this discussion…and I imagine he's right on that account.  Our usual point of reference in these discussions is defensiveness or intelletual naivete.  Truthfully, if you desire a good read that will stretch you and get you to ask some good questions about the bible and faith and science that you may have never asked before, pick up the book.  

In fact, you can get a good "sense" of the book by watching a lecture that Dr. Enns gave at Westmont College in 2011.  Here it is for those who want to wade into the waters:

I’ve written on community before…but this is worth a look:

Ablog-communityGenesis 1:13–“in the beginning…”  In the beginning, there was a relationship…there was a community.  In fact, what makes Christianity what it is theologically is its emphasis on a Trinitarian view of God, in other words, there is a community concept/eternal community of the Godhead that is essential in understanding how biblical people think.  As the bible begins, it reveals this Community in action: "Elohim barach", when God created or began to create, "fathering-mothering-creating" the existence we know; when the Spirit was hovering, floating, and present as creative force or dynamism encountering and transforming chaos; when we hear/recognize/expereince the Speaking God, that Word of God, that Word which was God, whose very utterance made things happen or emerge into existence…when this Eternal Word was present (see John 1 for the reference that exclaims that the Word became flesh) we get a glimpse of many things…more than one blog post can summarize…but we do "see" and behold the power of community.  

It was this God, multiple in action but/and united/connected in purpose that brought humanity into reality with the mark of the "image of God."  In other words, each of us were not only created for a purpose by a loving and creative God but we were created for relationship – the same dynamism and unity of purpose in the very essense of who we are that reflects the nature and character of the One we worship and serve.  

It shouldn't come as a suprise with the importance of community within the DNA of the Jesus following experience that I have reflected on community in the past.  I've spelled out before that community is that which experiences "ONE-ness", that expression of biblical love (“ahab”) from which we have expressed to us the one God, one flesh, mystery of unity (“they act/play as one”) dynamic.  A community of Oneness is not only central to understanding of God but it is central to our understanding of relational nature of world, our lives, and God’s design for community.   This is why we crave community…to be intimately involved with each other's lives…this is why you get any group of people together and eventually they try to find ways to connect – because relationships are integral to humanity.  Relationships are essential to what it means to be HUMAN (not an afterthought or a result of what the bible spells out as "the fall" – Genesis 3).

Community cannot be an afterthought for followers of Jesus…in other words, we cannot continue to behave in community/ekklesia (aka "local church") as if we were defined by Genesis 3. We are a Genesis 1 and 2 people…yes, we are living with the reality of the fall, evenso, that was not God’s original intent. Redemption/Salvation isn’t about God doing a “new” thing as much as it is God restoring us to our original design.  The “not good” of the opening chapters of the bible has NOT ONLY to do with essential human brokenness but also the "not good-ness" of disconnectedness.  That's why it is so dangerous to say, ‘all you need is God’ – that type of thinking really is lethal.  Why?  Because not even God thinks like that! Even God knows that we need more than him…we need each other! When God sees "alone" what does He say?  “Alone??? This is not going to work!”  So God idea of life…His giving of life…includes other people – we are continually formed by God (in the Spirit and in the very image of God's incarnation in our lives through what the New Testament calls "the Body of Christ) in community with one another.  

Well, now that I have THAT out of my system, let me share something more with you – you can click below and read a very good article done by the author of 1000 Gifts and the Holy Experience…15 Reasons why Community is Important (even if You've been hurt).  Let me tell you honestly, in the day to day grind of life where it seems that it would be much easier to avoid problems by avoiding people, calls continues to call us into relationship…why?  Not only are relationships our life-blood but they are the ONLY way God works His transformative power…He relates to us…He relates to others through us…He relates to others…God relates.  Community…pray for it to be alive in your life…pray for others to see God's love in the midst of it and as it is shared.  Oh, and fill your hearts and minds with more thoughts about it (read Philippians 4:8-9 to underscore that point).  

Download 15 Reasons Why Community is Important …


Raising children a “LUXURY?” Come on…

T220103_37868Actually our growing debate (links here and here) in the USA about "women and working" will clarify just how far our values have changed…the insinuation is that it is now preferable for children to be raised by daycare providers, schools and government programs while women go out into the marketplace and live a "real" life…for those of us who see what damage has happened to the family as a result of this societal shift it is extremely enlightening…what is fascinating and sad at the same time is that a majority of women I know would love for the clock to turn back and for our culture to return to single wage earner paradigms so that children could be cared for and raised by the people who brought them into the world in the first place and in whom is ultimate responsibility – parents.   I have said it often – I thank God for the women in my life who have chosen sacrificially to stay at home with their kids…these women are competent, intelligent, leaders, and extremely gifted women who could and did and would make a huge difference in the marketplace but they CHOOSE to raise children…their children and they work hard at guiding, mentoring, training, disciplining, and essentially preparing children to grow up as responsible adults in the world.  Many families are CHOOSING to live "smaller" economic and materialistic lives because they "GET" that it is more important to raise children and love children…they are choosing to (and I quote a great Hybels book's title) to Descend into Greatness…in this instance, greatness is a scenario that involves the family at the potential cost of giving up materialistic and personal goals. Now, I know that this is a multi-faceted issue and that many families don't have that choice…I get that and accept that.  Vicky and I had to make tough decisions in our past…in fact, we were both single parents for a time in our lives.  So, we know both sides of the debate by personal experience.  But for anyone to imply that women don't have a "real life" (or that doing this, as noted by the President, they have some sort of "luxury" in their life) or understand the world because they choose to raise children is purely ignorant, arrogant, and delusional when it comes to real importance in life.  It is aggrivating…I hear yesterday that there are cities and states where kids can have three meals a day at school (breakfast, lunch AND dinner)…again, I get the issue of poverty and their importance of "ministering" to those individuals and families..but to "train" children to depend upon the "state" vs. their families to feed them because of the economic and values structure of culture is way off base.  There's much more that could come from this post and I'm under the "gun" timewise…I'm already running 10 minutes late.  For now, let's chew on that!

There is something comforting about this picture…

I just discovered this photo in my daily cruise through the blogs to which I subscribe…I looked at it several times.  Everytime I looked at it, there was a sense of peace and calm that came over me.  There is nothing better than having assurance and a presence in your life that give you the feeling that all will be “OK.”  In our faith community, we just finished a three month study of the book of Revelation…craziness aside, the book’s main proclamation is that God will have the final say in all matters that concern His creation.  The book begins with a snapshot of the glory of the Risen Jesus and ends with the words, “I make all things new…I am coming soon.”  That’s a huge promise when life goes crazy…I need that!  Daily, weekly, moment by moment.  Take a peek…how does this photo feel to you?


Components of mDNA…

For friends who are living a Kingdom journey along with Vicky and me, Alan Hirsch has been a "online" friend, companion, coach and encourager. His books have prophetically spoken to 1000's across the globe and he has personally been used by the Spirit to be able to continue the pressing conversation of how followers of Jesus live the mission of God in today's culture and world. This video is really a compilation of a series of videos Alan did for the Verge ministry…the video outlines all of the components of "mDNA" (missional or mission-driven DNA) that needs to be implanted and realized within faith communities to be able to insure faithfulness to the call and commission of Jesus. I've posted it here for two reasons: one, there are leaders within my faith community in Washington state that I am leading through Alan's book, The Forgotten Ways. It is best to summarize the components of mDNA by simply allowing people to hear Alan describe them personally. The other reason is that it is simply good to do so…for any of you who haven't seen these components spoken of before, they are foundational in allowing the Spirit of God to release Kingdom potential into and through any gathering of Christ followers.  May the power of the resurrected Lord be released in and through us as we serve Him in our spheres of influence and relationships to HIS glory!

I love this…”herding cats” and God

Good AND prophetic!  I wonder if God feels like the problem with "Church" in the world has to do with the fact that every one of the local expressions (i.e. churches, denominations, etc.) feels like THEY are god…I can almost visualize a few angels ribbing each other and saying, "you know the real problem with the Church today is…it's like herding cats."  Then I can see them all LOL…unfortunately, the jokes on us at the expense of God's vision for the Kingdom. Cats-Religion

Not sure about the “Hunger Games” flick…

ATheHungerGamesMockingjayI haven't read the books – OK, that's my disclaimer!  I just innocently wandered into the theater yesterday as a clean slate – not knowing what to expect, NOT knowing the storyline or characters, NOT knowing much except that it was great to be at the movie with Vicky and a couple of our close pals.  I love films…I really do.  I love to see divergent worldviews artistically portrayed…and although it has always been my experience that a film never reaches the scope, entertainment value and depth of a literary work, it is fun to see somebody with artistic vision take their best shot.  Subsequently, I have the books on my Kindle because, as a committed student of the culture (yeah, right) I feel I need to get my head around something that obviously is a cultural phenomenon.  I heard about the books at Christmas time…I kept seeing them at the "top of the best seller list" and I was curious…but I have a HUGE list of books I have "on deck" in my life (good ones too – including NT Wright's new book on the Kingdom of God, Bass' book on Christianity after Religion, a book on Gettysburg, etc.) so I bypassed the temptation.  To say the least, the movie got me curious…

All I can say is "bleak"…in fact, that's what one of my friends in our faith community and I talked about when we briefly discussed the film today – "bleak view of the world."  I must admit, the film is hard to watch…not much "redeeming" value unless you want to see authoritarianism, abuse, death, and discrimination played out for you.  I compare my experience of the film with what I felt after watching Schnidler's List…in fact, that isn't too bad of a comparison because the themes of the two movies are a bit alike – one historical and one apocalyptical.  If someone wants to see what totalitarianism is all about, take a gander at the Hunger Games.  I want to read the books  for one BIG reason…to catch more of the backstory of how the world got to be in the shape it is in as seen on screen.  I get a bit but need more information.  I tell you, left to our own devices…stripped of any shred of morality other than what comes out of the "mind" of a human being, you can see where the world could get this debased.  This is a world where life is expendable for the entertainment of the privileged masses.  The director of the film does a good job showing a world of "COLOR" versus a bleak world that has natural beauty but is "toned" in colors that are obviously less vibrant, alive and distinctive.  There is an extreme "duh" moment when you realize the differences in living between the "districts" and those in the city.  And the fact that the privileged watch a spectacled television show (reality show at that, with all the trimmings of a show we would watch – complete with manipulation, rule changes, etc.) about people who are being sacrificed for entertainment value smacks so much of what our culture is becoming.  

Like I said, I am going to start reading the books…there is a very noticeable absense of some human realities in the storyline…one of which has to do with anything having to do with a "God" figure (unless you look at an "exalted" ruler played by Donald Sutherland as some sort of human deity)…it appears that the storyline is really about human potential run amok.  And when "run amok" the end result is pretty bleak.  Oppression, obliteration of the world, slavery…it's all there.  

Here's something that was interesting to me – kind of a "raw" moment…when the film ended, I turned to my friend Tom (we went to see the movie, John Carter the week before) and I said to him, "well at least with John Carter we had a few laughs!"  This is not a funny movie…purposely so.  I think it is one to be pondered…one to be soberly viewed…with the question in mind, "can we really do this to ourselves?"  You know what…we can!