January 20, 2018

Evolution: Scripture and Nature say Yes!  Chapter 9- Let the Students Speak!

Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!
Chapter 9- Let the Students Speak!

By Denis O. Lamoureux

NOTE TO READERS: Denis has contacted me and proposes to hold a discussion session via Adobe Connect, which will be free to all interested Imonkers.  It’s a great opportunity to interact with the author of this book personally, and I appreciate Denis offering his time.  Denis begin his next semester January 8th, so I’m thinking either Thursday night January 4th or Saturday afternoon January 6th.  Let me or Chaplain Mike know, in the comments, or in an email to Chaplain Mike if you are interested and which time you prefer.  When we firm up a date, I’ll get you some more details on how it will happen- Mike the Geologist.

Denis teaches at St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.   As noted on their homepage , St. Joseph’s College is a university community established by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton and affiliated with the University of Alberta. It is administered by the Congregation of the Priests of St. Basil, also known as the Basilian Fathers.  The University of Alberta is a public university while St. Joseph’s College is a Catholic educational institution.  Denis is an Associate Professor of Science and Religion at St. Joseph’s College in the University of Alberta. His appointment is the first tenure-track position in Canada dedicated to teaching and research on the relationship between scientific discovery and Christian faith. Denis’ academic specialty focuses on the modern origins controversy.  Denis teaches courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level including a doctoral level reading course in science and religion.  All Denis’ courses are accredited by the University of Alberta.

Given the nature of Denis’ courses and his teaching position, I believe, gives him a unique insight into how young people of college age are integrating their faith with science.  Although in Canada surveys indicate only 15% of Canadians have any kind of creationist belief, according to Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis is set to open a branch of their ministry in Canada in 2018.  There already is a Creation Science Association of British Columbia.  There is still a sizeable group of conservative Christians in Canada who are opposed to evolution.  So in this chapter, Denis relates some of the experiences of his students as they deal with the “creation vs. evolution” issue.  Denis notes:

Most of the Christian students who enter my class say that to embrace their faith and accept modern science, they have to place each of these in separate compartments.  On Sunday mornings at church they are warned in sermons and Sunday school lessons of the dangers of the evolutionary sciences.  But from Monday through Friday in their science classes, they are shown overwhelming evidence that the world is billions of years old and living organisms have evolved.

Denis recounts one excellent student he had.  At the end of the course she said he had taught her that she was completely free from any dichotomy between creation and evolution.  And now she could “love God and embrace evolution”.  Another geology student sat through his entire thirteen-week course without saying one word.  Afterward he came to Denis’ office and revealed that he had entered the class with his “faith on a thread”.  Most of his family were strong young earth creationists, and his growing acceptance of modern geology was creating serious tension with them.  The compartmentalization was breaking down and he was almost ready to give up his faith.  This is the damage that harping on the supposed dichotomy of faith and science causes; sometimes the young person chooses to reject faith.  The family thinks they are “choosing this day whom to serve, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord” and “believing the infallible Word of God over the fallible word of fallen man”, and so on…  But what they are really doing is taking a stand on an “interpretation”.  And to a young man who is being educated on the empirical observations that he himself can see, it seems a choice between reality and denying reality.  It’s a poor strategy for encouraging a relationship with Jesus.  In fact, I’m convinced that young earth creationism is a recipe for creating atheists out of thoughtful young people.

Usually, on the second day of class, Denis introduces the Metaphysics-Physics Principle, as discussed in Chapter 3.  He does this to quickly challenge the conflation of science and atheism and the false dichotomy of creation vs. evolution.  Many of his Christian students are instructed by church and family to learn about evolution to pass exams, but to never accept evolution is true.  That is a terribly dysfunctional way to study biology, and virtually guarantees the student will experience cognitive dissonance.  I’ve heard all the humbug about “starting with different worldview assumptions”, but any interpretive grid can be challenged by the steady accumulation of measureable, observable phenomena.  I’ve had this happen to me professionally a number of times.  I’ve gathered data and interpreted them according to a certain set of assumption.  But as more data came in, it became apparent that the interpretive grid I was trying to impose was not going to be the best explanation of what was being observed.  To maintain my “worldview assumptions” would be to become a disingenuous ideologue.  Think tobacco company “scientists”.

About 10% of Denis’ students are atheists or agnostics.  One atheist student told Denis she could now see that evolution is not necessarily atheistic and was appalled at other atheists who tried to make out that atheistic evolution is the “official” view of science.  Of another atheist student, Denis says:

In one of the class discussions, he told us that in middle school he was continually teased and mocked by young earth creationist students.  He said, “If I would have been allowed to believe that God created plants and animals through evolution, I probably would not have become an atheist.”  Ouch.  Here was another heart-crushing moment in my teaching career.  Can we learn from this story?  Are Christian anti-evolutionists a stumbling block (2 Cor. 6:3) between God and evolutionists who are searching for him?

The Message-Incident Principle and the Principle of Accommodation (that God accommodated his revelation to the level of scientific sophistication of the ancient Hebrews) are another two principles that Denis observes help challenge the literalist and concordist view of scripture for his students.  Of another Christian student he had who said she hated the first half of the course, he says:

However, everything changed dramatically in the middle of the term once she was introduced to Galileo and his views on biblical interpretation in the “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina.”  She realized that her issues with evolution and Scripture were no different than those regarding astronomy and the Bible in Galileo’s day.  In particular, she discovered the problem with scientific concordism.  It is impossible to align the ancient astronomy in Scripture with modern astronomy.  With this information, it was easy to for her to see that the Bible has an ancient view of the origin of living organisms, and as a consequence, Scripture does not reveal how God actually created plants and animals.

Denis feels strongly that these principles of bible interpretation reflect the reality of what the bible really is and are simple and straightforward enough they can, and should, be taught in Sunday school.  He got a note from a student one day after a class discussion on origins that, to this day, makes his heart ache.  The note read:

I think that the conflict between the Bible and modern science taught in Sunday school is part of the reason I lost my faith a long time ago.  Maybe, if we had been taught principles of biblical interpretation in Sunday school, I would still have my faith today.  As I am now, being raised in a mostly literal interpretation of the opening chapters of the Bible, I am too critical of Christian faith, and I don’t think I’ll return.

I know Ken Ham has said of these types of anecdotes that the young person should have been given more creationist apologetics, double down as it were.  That Christian students well drilled in creationist apologetics, he says, tend to keep their faith.  Well, Denis is enough of a scientist to know that the plural of anecdote is NOT data, but I doubt Ham realizes that.  Someone like Ham is far too invested in his creation ministry to ever be persuaded by any amount of evidence.  He has devolved (sorry!) to the level of the geocentrists and flat-earthers , which of course, he cannot admit to himself.  For the average staunch conservative evangelical, who views loyalty to the “literal” interpretation of scripture as loyalty to God, I still have a modicum of sympathy.  However, I cannot reconcile my faith with that view of science I know to be false.  I do not wish, nor do I intend, to give up my faith in Jesus, so the principles Denis puts forth in this book of the complementary relationship of God’s two books seems to me to be the best answer.

That being said, you staunch conservative evangelicals better not make a literal interpretation of Genesis a test of salvation, and you had better not allow that difference of opinion to break fellowship with other Christian believers.  Otherwise you are guilty of setting a stumbling block ala that student’s heart breaking note above (climbs off soapbox).

We’ll let Denis have the last word:

I am certain that you have figured out the title of this book.  It is only when Scripture and nature are taken together in a complementary relationship that they can say “yes” to evolution.  In dealing with the origin of the universe and life, God’s Two Books, complete one another in that each adds something not found in the other.  The Book of God’s Words reveals spiritual truths.  The Book of God’s Works offers scientific facts.  The Bible tells us who created and science shows how he created.  Together these two divine books provide an integrated revelation of our Creator, his creation, and us.

Comments

  1. Michael Bell says:

    “I’m convinced that young earth creationism is a recipe for creating atheists out of thoughtful young people.”
    “Are Christian anti-evolutionists a stumbling block (2 Cor. 6:3) between God and evolutionists who are searching for him?”

    THIS is why this topic is so important.

    • And a lot of it goes back to being radically honest about what the Bible is. And not what we’ve made it to become.

      YEC and Evolution aren’t issues when you approach the Bible honestly.

  2. john barry says:

    Mike the G Man, thanks for this article, it really verbalizes so well and so much what I cannot articulate myself. My own explanation I use is God gave man the Bible that would be understandable and believable based on where man could comprehend at his place in time that God created. Almost like we learn as children, the basics then we grow. Bronze age science and knowledge were a lot different than now. In any event , forgive my rambling explanation , the offer sounds good to expand on the subject but just the above article by Mr. Lamoreux was just excellent, Thanks

    • Do you believe God gave man the Bible/Scriptures, or do you believe man created the Bible/Scriptures out of encounters with God?

      • Burro [Mule] says:

        Are the two mutually exclusive?

        I didn’t think so.

      • brianthegrandad says:

        why nitpick? his statement was thoughtful and gracious. Why the need to draw lines and put up walls when there was none of that in his statement? Mule hit the nail on the head.

        • ?

          Did I say I disagree with Mule? I don’t. I’m not understanding this response. I think it’s a good relevant question to ask within the context. The direction Scriptures come from informs the conversation.

          • Just guessing here, but I think he thinks your comment to John Barry felt like a nitpick.

            • I get that. I’m trying to not be nitpicky, as I think that comment is aligned with all the discussion further down in the comments.

            • brianthegrandad says:

              you are correct, it was directed at the response to johnBarry. I see how it could have been taken as a reply to Mule’s comment. Maybe nitpick isn’t the right word, but StuartB’s response seemed like a defensive, reflex-level retort instead of an honest probing question.

  3. Hi CM, Denis, Mike the Geologist and others I may have neglected to give credit to,
    I wanted to let you all know how grateful I am for your articles and posts here on iMonk. My Christian life started in an evangelical church, which of course dutifully taught YEC, among other things. I have always read a lot, so I would encounter ideas and facts that didn’t correspond with church teachings. Naturally and sadly I kept all this to myself; I knew what would happen otherwise. Then I discovered Michael Spencer and the iMonk site, where people can come to discuss various things in a respectful fashion. Water in the desert!

    I’ve always been interested in “space”, that is, stars, planets, galaxies, and the inhabitants of them, all created by God. The “universe”, in the definition of the word as the pocket of space-time we inhabit, is vast beyond our comprehension. That a God who created all this has limited images of Himself to a few creatures on one planet of one galaxy, and nowhere else, strikes me as absurd. This idea and those of Denis and Mike don’t lessen or inhibit my faith, they increase it! I always look forward to more posts of this kind. Thanks again!

  4. senecagriggs says:

    “That being said, you staunch conservative evangelicals better not make a literal interpretation of Genesis a test of salvation…”

    Well I don’t but the problem becomes; what part of the O.T. is actually factual?

    If ADAM and EVE were not real persons, Abel and Cains, not real person; at what point do you look at the “begats” and say, “This was a real flesh and blood person?”

    Logically speaking – you are left hanging.

    Ultimately Scripture is doubted and one is left with a “Jesus shaped spirituality” which basically denies the authority of Paul, Peter and John.

    So, can you be a believer and hold to evolution? Yes. Is it going to create some serious difficulties regarding the truthfulness of Scripture?

    Yes

    [ I have no doubt that Mike the geologist is a very, very nice guy. We differ significantly about Scripture ]

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      Your comment deserves a more extended response than I am able to give at work right now.

    • seneca, I’m sorry, but I do not see the problem here. Your question arises from a strictly modernistic mindset: if it’s not historically true and utterly accurate to the historic facts, it can’t be trusted or have true value as a foundational and formative building block of faith.

      Says who?

      Why couldn’t the ancients, who did not have this modernistic mindset, have built their faith upon stories and poems and other kinds of literature that gave them their identity and helped them know God?

      I think that’s exactly what they did, passing these stories down from generation to generation, and at times throughout their history editing and adapting these stories and even adding others to communicate to new generations. That’s not to say there is no historical core to these stories — there very well may be and I happen to think there is. But that does not mean we have to defend what are obviously ancient stories written according to ancient literary forms and genres as some modern kind of journalistic reporting.

      This does not “deny the authority of Paul, Peter and John” because the mere fact that someone refers back to a story as fundamental and formative to faith does not mean that they accepted it as the kind of historically precise reporting you think is required. The “truthfulness” of scripture is not dependent upon nor does it equate to the historical factual precision of scripture.

      • I’ve got a 1,000+ word article about this topic and how it relates to The Last Jedi bouncing around my head…

        • senecagriggs says:

          My son called, we’re off to see the Last Jedi tonight. Reading the reviews, apparently anybody can be a Jedi – nothing really special.

      • senecagriggs says:

        Chaplain, because GOD, not some nomadic semite, is the ultimate author. My belief, it is ALL “Spirit breathed.” Even the Apostle Paul to say nothing of Moses – author of the Pentateuch.
        _______

        So the author you are judging is God himself.

        • Actually, you and Chaplain Mike aren’t contradicting each other. All scripture is Spirit breathed whether it be history or poetry.

        • Ronald Avra says:

          God seems rather content with the nomadic Semite’s adaptation.

        • Mike the Geologist says:

          Seneca: you are going to like the next series. It is “Testing Scripture: A Scientist Explores the Bible”
          by John Polkinghorne

        • Ronald Avra says:

          As to Scripture being ‘ Spirit breathed’, it’s been inhaled and exhaled a couple of times.

        • If – IF – God is an enlightenment rationalist who is solely interested in Timeless Eternal Truths, your rejoinder is valid.

          But the very structure and content of Scripture proves otherwise. You can (mis)read Scripture *as* a rationalist, and read rationalism INTO scripture, but you cannot get Platonic rationalism from out of Scripture. It’s just not taught there.

        • Seneca, I appreciate this, and I too believe that Bible, in an ultimate sense, is God’s revelation and inspired by him. But that in and of itself says nothing about how Scripture came to us, what channels it came through, and what kind of literature it has to be. I accept the Church’s verdict that these books are sacred scripture, foundational and formative for my faith. In that sense they form God’s Word. But once again, that doesn’t imply anything about how they must speak. The Bible is also a human book, containing materials passed down in various ways through human channels, written down, edited, compiled and evaluated as to their sacred status by human beings. Understanding that part of the equation is a matter of study, not faith.

          So, please, I am not “judging God,” I am merely doing what I think God has called us all to do — use my mind and come to conclusions based on the best evidence before me.

          And what I see is that Scripture is clearly an ancient book, written by ancient people in ancient settings according to ancient forms of literature. It is not only a divine book but a divine book inspired through those kinds of human channels. I have to take the humanity of the Bible just as seriously as I do its divine status. And if God chose to work that way and bring us his perspectives in that manner, then I have to read the Bible with that in mind and interpret what I read accordingly.

          If I don’t do that, if I just sit back and say, “Well it’s God’s Word, therefore it must be this or that,” then I am not being a faithful steward of the mind God gave me.

    • So, can you be a believer and hold to evolution? Yes. Is it going to create some serious difficulties regarding the truthfulness of Scripture?

      Yes

      No. Why do you think it does?

      • +1.

        This falls into the category “just because this is a dilemma for you doesn’t mean it’s a dilemma for me.”

        • I think its’ more than that. For some it’s a test of orthodoxy and truthfulness and whatnot.

          A simple statement like “inspired by God” has so many different extremes and degrees between them. It’s not enough to say scriptures were inspired by God, to some it has to mean God is the True Author, literally wrote the Scriptures, inspired with a heavy hand, etc. Anything less makes him less than Divine and God. But for others, it means their experience of God, or direct interaction with God, inspired what they wrote and the events they lived through and their predictions for the future.

          Both myself and say seneca can say that we believe Scripture is “Spirit breathed”. We’re both being equally honest. But what that means varies widely. I don’t believe at all anymore that God divinely orchestrated every single jot and tittle and thought that went into Scripture, as if there was a Throughline of Authorship that happened every few centuries/decades, skipping over some works but engaging with others, leading to it’s finalized form in our modern 2017 Canon (or showing up briefly in 1611 as the church of my childhood believed, having been dead since 90ish AD). But I fully believed that every single book in the Bible was written by men and possibly women who were inspired to write by their experiences with God, their community, their culture, their history, etc, and out of that inspiration they included God’s verbal words, their interpretation of events as they believed them unfold from their community’s standpoint, their predictions and hope for the future, etc.

          Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’d think seneca and others would disagree with my interpretation of what “Spirit breathed” means. Yet I believe we’re both being honest and both believe that Scriptures are “spirit breathed”.

          And thus my seemingly nitpicky question above. Where people come from frames this whole topic. And I know what I believed for 25-28 years of my life, and what I’ve since been convinced by (or, maybe discovered what I was misled by) and currently believe. And I am fully aware how much of a threat that is to some, and how much of a relief it is to me. (And how much of a nonfactor it is to others as well who see all this as silly lol)

          • Maybe I don’t believe that God cares about the Bible or the Canon. He cares about people. Jesus seemingly demonstrated that with his constant rejection and reinterpretation of the scriptures. Very rarely did he say “write this down” in a way of meaning different from “ok now pay attention”.

            The Bible is a poor substitute for a living God. And the ones who cleave closest to the Bible tend to be the ones who reflect God the poorest. The Scriptures only reveal God; God is most revealed in each other and ourselves.

            • –> “Maybe I don’t believe that God cares about the Bible or the Canon. He cares about people. Jesus seemingly demonstrated that with his constant rejection and reinterpretation of the scriptures.”

              Amen. He did a lot of “I know scriptures say X, but I say Y.” And many of the points he makes is via parable, not scripture.

            • Burro [Mule] says:

              All you have to do is look at the difference between Mishnaic interpretation of the Old testament and contrast it with Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the same texts, and you’ll get kind of a sinking feeling that we’re probably still misunderstanding the scriptures.

    • Patriciamc says:

      The OT is a book containing many different types of literature such as poetry. It’s not all pure history. I have nothing to back this up with other than my own gut, but I think Gen 1 is a retelling of the Babylonian creation myth to show that it was actually the Hebrew God that created the universe while Gen 2 is another story to show people’s rebellion against God. To me, from Abraham forward, we get into real history except for Job. I’m fine with that being another story that illustrates an overall point. As for Peter, Paul et. al, well, I’m not evangelical enough to make them my god. To me, they can further explain Christ’s teachings but can’t create doctrine on their own – but that’s getting into a whole different issue.

      • Being honest that the Biblical authors frankly had no idea of how the world was created, but that God obviously had a hand in it, is OK and should not be a stumbling to anyone’s faith that isn’t built on sand.

        • Exactly.

          • Patriciamc says:

            i’m sorry, let me clarify. I’m not saying that Seneca’s faith is built on sand. No, no…

        • Unless you are convinced that God only talks in Timeless Eternal Truths, and that the Bible is 100% God’s Word. Then, you’re rather stuck.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Unless you are convinced that God only talks in Timeless Eternal Truths, and that the Bible is 100% God’s Word.

            Like the Koran?

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        “I think Gen 1 is a retelling of the Babylonian creation myth to show that it was actually the Hebrew God that created the universe”

        Yes. To expand on this, consider why it is that no one has any trouble looking at the Psalms and reading them as lyric poetry. The idolatry of “literal” reading of scripture bounces off them. “The Lord is my shepherd…” God is a literal shepherd? And furthermore, he is the Psalmist’s shepherd? What does that mean? Is God in the employ of the Psalmist, or is the Psalmist a sheep–not a metaphorical sheep, mind you, but a literal sheep? The hermeneutic breaks down before it even gets started. Yet this doesn’t actually disturb anyone. No one has a crisis of faith because of this. The most ardent New Atheist doesn’t point to this and mock it.

        Why not? Because it is immediately obvious to everyone that the Psalms are lyric poetry. This, in turn, is because lyric poetry is a familiar genre today. There is an unbroken tradition of lyric poetry from ancient times to the present. We all understand the rules of the genre. When Simon and Garfunkel sing “I am a rock. I am an island.” no one points out that neither Simon nor Garfunkel are in fact an actual, literal rock or an actual, literal island, and so the song is a pack of lies.

        We lack this intuition about how to understand the first chapter of Genesis because it belongs to an unfamiliar genre: the Near Eastern Creation Myth. (Note that “myth” is often used today to mean “a story that is untrue.” That is not the operative sense here but, from Merriam Webster, “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon”.) Not only did people stop writing Near Eastern Creation Myths a long time ago, but all the other examples of the genre were lost. Lacking the cultural context in which to place the text, people naturally tried to fit it into some other genre, with its own rules for how to read it. Typically, people read it as if it were a newspaper article, or perhaps a police report.

        Then some interesting developments took place n the 19th century: archaeology and the deciphering of ancient Near Eastern texts. Suddenly other Near Eastern Creation Myths were available, and the similarities with Genesis were immediately obvious. To a large extent, the history of western Christianity since then has been the history of how Christians responded to these discoveries.

        So here is how I read the first chapter of Genesis: It takes the then-familiar form of a Near Eastern Creation Myth, but with a twist. The zinger is that the god of the Hebrews was the source of all creation. The Hebrews? That no-account tribe out in the sticks? That’s a surprise. But the Bible is full of such surprises, such as the Messiah not being a military leader to kick Roman butt, but a nobody from Nazareth, of all places, crucified as a criminal. God is one zany dude.

        • Mike the Geologist says:

          Great comment

        • petrushka1611 says:

          When people say all the Bible is to be taken literally, which includes the Psalms, I’d like to ask them who the cattle on hill 1001 belong to. I’d like to ask them the same thing when they say the creation HAS to have happened in 6 literal days.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            I have never encountered anyone who explicitly states that the Psalms must be taken literally. It is the Bible as a whole that is so claimed. This of course includes the Psalms. At this point the literalist generally changes the subject. The smarter of the literalist set avoid the whole issue restricting the discussion to Genesis, or even merely the first two chapters of Genesis. This, however, raises other issues, as this looks suspiciously like special pleading.

  5. Burro [Mule] says:

    About thirty years ago, I got into an argument with a Baptist about the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper as I thought of it then. Even as a Charismatic, my thinking was that the Lord’s Supper was very different from the Memorial service it was depicted as in both of our Churches. “It’s just bread! It’s just grape juice!” the Baptist hissed. “How could you possibly think it’s more than that? Do you see anything else? Do you taste anything else? No! Of course not! That’s because there isn’t anything else!”

    I didn’t have an answer for him then, but I remember shaking my head and telling him I felt he was wrong, even though I couldn’t prove it. “But He said ‘This is my Body. This is my Blood.” The Baptist snorted. “How can you take that literally? Jesus said He was the door as well. Do you believe He is literally a door?” Then suddenly it dawned on me that Jesus had been a Door infinitely earlier than before any of us monkeys got the idea to put a rock or a piece of wood in an entryway to block or allow passage. Jesus’ “door-hood” was prior to and necessary for any other physical or logical door-hood we knew about, and, although I didn’t know it, I had ceased to be a Nominalist at that moment, and I didn’t have any issues with Genesis vs science from that time forward.

    That said, my wife watched that virulently pestilential movie A Matter of Faith on Netflix recently, which provoked a violent argument between us. She is not intellectually curious and has a simple faith based on the words of Scripture. In many ways I envy her. She comes from a traditional culture that has a mostly pre-scientific understanding of the world. The idea of God making the Universe in a workshop like Geppetto made Pinocchio works for her. The miserable movie weaponized that world-view against me.

    I believe Adam and Eve are historical personages, but my idea of history may not be your idea of history.

    • Mike the Geologist says:

      I had the same problem with my wife. She watched some anti-evo screed on TBN and marched out of the bedroom and demanded I stop “teaching” evolution to the kids and grandkids lest I corrupt their faith. The kids and grandkids, on the other hand, are glad they can talk through these issues without having to choose between their faith and science. Sigh… whatya gonna do?

      “She comes from a traditional culture that has a mostly pre-scientific understanding of the world.” So does mine… Kentucky Southern Baptist 🙂

      • My daughter attends a Christian high school. I know that they are rather fundamental in their approach to science. I’ve told her that if she ever hears someone question a person’s Christianity just because that person believes elements of the theory of evolution are likely true, she can challenge that, and make the “evolution” Christian feel loved and accepted.

        I’m not sure where she stands regarding “creation vs evolution,” but she gets this part of it, that Christians needn’t be divided over silly stuff like this.

        • —> “…that Christians needn’t be divided over silly stuff like this.”

          And maybe more importantly: “…needn’t be SHAMED over silly stuff like this.”

        • Amen. Be proud of her. I imagine my life would have been better and less stressed if someone had had that courage to stand up to the bullies and reassure me that I wasn’t crazy or wrong or less of a believer. Maybe I’d be a stronger one today if that had happened; I just know I need to do for them what I wish someone had done for me.

        • You know, I think that’s one of the reasons I still comment and get involved here and elsewhere, as unhealthy as it is for me at times. It’s because someone needs to stand up. Someone needs to “dare to be a Daniel”. Someone needs to fight the theological bullies. Someone needs to have compassionate for those who are hurt and confused and struggling. I might have to limit my involvement in order to protect myself at times, and not engage with the unmovable every time, but I’m often not speaking ‘to’ them, I’m speaking to those who are listening and watching, and my FB inbox and other places of people sending me private thank you messages tells me I’m doing something right.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        So does mine… Kentucky Southern Baptist

        Where (according to the original Internet Monk) the highest complement you can pay a preacher is “He has NO book-larnin’ and HE IS LOUD!”

    • The idea of God making the Universe in a workshop like Geppetto made Pinocchio works for her.

      I like this, and think it’s valuable, especially as a concept to teach kids as we transition them into adulthood and understand more about the universe and it’s nature. We do the same with historical concepts. They aren’t lies, tho they can be used to present falsehoods (Christopher Columbus as one example), but they are super useful.

      The problem as I see it is not that YEC follows a Geppetto/Pinocchio model, but that it insists on marrying it to Science and that it is Literal Hard Truth. That doesn’t work. But if you preach it hard enough you can convince people it does.

    • –> “I believe Adam and Eve are historical personages, but my idea of history may not be your idea of history.”

      Bingo. This is a similar point to my “just because this is a dilemma for you doesn’t mean it’s a dilemma for me.”

    • “It’s just bread! It’s just grape juice!” the Baptist hissed. “How could you possibly think it’s more than that? Do you see anything else? Do you taste anything else? No! Of course not! That’s because there isn’t anything else!”

      It never ceases to amaze me how very similar Christian and Atheist fundamentalists think. Its little wonder Bart Ehrman was able to flip between the two so easily.

  6. Mike the Geo, could you maybe bold/italicize/or offset the opening paragraph to draw people’s attention better to it? I think it’s a good idea but I know I’d definitely need to learn more, and maybe make it a recurring paragraph over the next couple weeks, plus have a link to this Adobe software mentioned.

  7. It’s posts like this that make me thankful for my relatively healthy upbringing and semi-late-in-life Christian walk which helped me avoid the unhealthy Christian viewpoints that burden so many, many Christians with shame and guilt over differing opinions on evolutionary theory (as well as other things).

    Thanks to Mike the Geo for your continued posts here at iMonk.

  8. Wisdom from Fr Stephen, 20 December (much like the wisdom from Ch. Mike, above). His upcoming article should be very interesting. All of my anxiety regarding the “literalness” of Scripture disappeared more than 10 years ago, as I found out how the earliest Christians approached interpretation of Scripture – which was not anything like modern Evangelicals do, and which was with so much more depth.

    “…I agree that a historical account in the Scripture is not pure fiction by any means. There is an event beneath it – maybe even largely as described (though the describing is theologically shaped for God’s divine purposes). I do not mean to deny that in the least. I think there is an open question viz. the early chapters of Genesis – whether they have any historical intent or not. I do not think that can be insisted upon – and there is a variety of treatments on that in the Fathers. All agree and treat Adam as historical – but deal with the event in a very theological manner rather than historical.

    “I’m working on an article after Christmas/Theophany to explain more precisely what I’m trying to say viz. the role of the historical in the Scriptures. The heart of my point has been that, as far as the OT is concerned, the Church does not see its primary meaning (and thus its use and importance) as lying in its historicity. That doesn’t mean to say that it’s not historical, only that the NT and Patristic use of the OT is placed in its Christological meaning – not in its historical meaning.

    “In that manner, actually, the Church made deep, deep use of the OT – for almost everything. Moderns place the meaning in its historicity, and have reduced it to a book of the past – a curiosity about other people. For the NT and the Fathers, the OT is about us.

    “So, when I’ve written or inferred that the history is unimportant, I did not mean to say it was not historical, or that the history made no difference, only that the history was not and is not the primary place of meaning….

    “My intention has only been to bring our attention back to the interpretive usage of the NT and the Fathers – a method largely unknown to moderns – and explain its importance, and the theological significance. It’s not a literary technique – it’s a true discernment of something that is actually there.”

    Dana

  9. senecagriggs says:

    My last comment tonight as a conservative Evangelical.

    You cannot separate God from his word – The Bible.

    If you want to know God, read the Bible.

    • You: This snowball is white. That is irrefutably its core essence, there are no alternatives.
      Others: Yes, it is white. But is is also round. And it is also cold. To fully describe this snowball requires a non-linear, non-dualistic mindset.

      Our God is far greater. No finite collection of words could possibly come close to capturing Him, Scripture is but a taste (a mighty good one though certainly)

    • Sen,

      I love the Bible. I have read the Bible with great benefit and blessing since I was a child.

      The Bible is very clear, esp the vast majority of places where “the Word of God” is found in the NT, that Jesus Christ is the Word of God. Jn 1:1 isn’t talking about the Bible.

      One thing I had to grapple with at a certain point in my life is that “the Bible” as we know it wasn’t completely assembled until the 300s – so what did Christians do before that? How did they communicate to others what it means to be a Christian, and how did they interpret what they called “scripture” – the OT? These were important questions for me as a conservative Evangelical.

      Blessings-
      Dana

      • And even beyond the 300s, what about the billions of people who didn’t and don’t have access to Bibles or lived near large-scale printing presses?

        • We can’t think about those things. We can’t use our minds or even hope that Jesus saved them. This is what I learned from someone on another blog.

          Hogwash…

    • –> “You cannot separate God from his word – The Bible.
      If you want to know God, read the Bible.”

      Nothing about Jesus, eh?

      My rebuttal: If you want to know God, know Jesus. And yes…Reading the gospel accounts is perhaps the best way to do that, so “reading the Bible” is indeed an element of that. But nothing about God is revealed except through His son.

      And yes, you CAN separate God from his word – the Bible. He existed apart from it for quite a while, actually, since it only made it into written form within the last 600 years or so. Now if you want to say, you cannot separate God from His Word – Jesus – I’d agree with you there.

      • senecagriggs says:

        If you wish to know about Jesus – read Scripture.

        [ As seen from the comments; the great dividing line between “Mainline Christianity” and the Evangelicals is the place of Scripture in your worldview. ]

        • Yep. And Jesus in the Gospels talks and teaches in many ways – with rationalism and biblical literalism being conspicuous by their absence.

        • I’m sorry you don’t get it, Seneca, but I’m happy to keep trying.

          • senecagriggs says:

            C.M., what do YOU perceives as the difference between the majority of the Internetmonk commenters world view and the world view of conservative Evangelicals. Sen

            • There is no consensus among “the majority” of iMonk commenters. We have everyone from nonbelievers and agnostics to Baptist, nondenominational, and charismatic evangelicals to Catholics to Orthodox to representatives from mainline Protestant denominations. We have people who are from different parts of the world, where certain theological arguments we have here in the U.S. don’t seem to matter much at all, such as the creationism debate and inerrancy. This is a vibrant community of people who think for themselves and have varying degrees of agreement with each other.

              There are various streams of “post-evangelicals,” just as there are various streams of conservative evangelicals. I would say that a couple of the differences with much of conservative evangelicalism that we have in common are represented in the words of Eugene Peterson that I quoted on Tuesday:

                We don’t see “God as a truth to be argued; [nor] God as a weapon to be wielded in the culture wars.”

              Another difference, that I mentioned in a comment on one of Mike’s earlier posts, is:

                I have come to believe that many evangelicals don’t read Scripture well. On many levels.

                Second, many don’t believe human learning can advance and discover things that might change our understanding of the Bible (though in this regard they don’t know their history very well). Many have no clue how to reconcile the Bible with advances in human learning. Conservative evangelicalism often comes out looking like simple fundamentalism with its head stuck in the sand.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          i.e. “SCRIPTURE! EES PARTY LINE!”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      If you want to know God, read the Bible.

      doubleplusduckspeak SCRIPTURE?

  10. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I know Ken Ham has said of these types of anecdotes that the young person should have been given more creationist apologetics, double down as it were. That Christian students well drilled in creationist apologetics, he says, tend to keep their faith.

    “INCREASE POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS, COMRADES!”

  11. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    With a name like By “Denis O. Lamoureux”, he’s either Louisiana Creole or Quebecois.

    Though I thought the “-ux” ending in a family name was more characteristic of Louisiana French than Quebec French.