November 20, 2017

Genesis and My Post-Evangelical Wilderness

By Chaplain Mike

A couple of years ago, I agreed to help a small group that was losing their “pastor.” They weren’t really a “church,” but a small band of exiles from traditional churches that met in house groups and then gathered together on Sunday. When the church planter who had formed them moved away to take a more traditional pastoral assignment, they needed someone to lead and give them guidance.

Enter me, part-time. I agreed to lead their services on Sunday and help them decide where they wanted to go.

They said they wanted to be a “community” church—a church that majored on the majors and allowed for differences in other areas of doctrine and practice. Of course, that needed to be defined.

One fellow in the church was interested in “creation science.” He had convinced the previous pastor to let him lead Sunday evening studies using an Answers in Genesis video series. He invited me to one after I got involved with the group.

I found the experience agonizing. I’m no expert in science, but the “evidence” presented certainly did not ring true to me. Furthermore, the Biblical teaching was pure dogmatism, completely dismissing all other views as wrong.

I made an appointment to meet with my new friend. In his home I expressed my opinion that these videos should not be used in the church. They represented a fundamentalist approach to the Bible and the subject of creation and allowed no room for any perspective beside their own. This kind of teaching was not conducive to the kind of “community” church the group had expressed interest in becoming.

One Sunday morning soon after, I taught my understanding of Genesis 1. I tried to do it humbly, expressing clearly that there are other views and that I was offering my interpretation as one possible option.

To make a long story short, the whole thing fell apart. Though some said they appreciated my teaching and found it helpful, others reacted not so much to what I said but to what I didn’t say. I did not believe in six literal 24-hour days? And so on. In an instant I was persona non grata because I couldn’t repeat the YEC code to their satisfaction. The fellowship soon decided to break up. To be sure creationism was not the only (or even the most important) issue, but it was a straw that helped break the camel’s back.

That was my last experience in church ministry.

As I’ve shared here before, I consider myself a “post-evangelical” Christian”. That means I have moved outside the evangelical culture and forms that have dominated conservative Christianity since the post-WWII years. My experience with that little group illustrates one reason why.

Evangelical culture has always been characterized by conflict. Battles over specific doctrinal, practical, and cultural issues flame up regularly. When I was a new Christian in the 1970‘s, the charismatic movement and biblical eschatology were hot topics. Inerrancy later became a battleground. Public issues associated with the “culture wars” have provided ongoing debates. In recent years the hot button issue of creation vs. evolution has prompted cultural, political, and theological skirmishes aplenty.

I’ve been wounded in more than a few of these types of conflicts. For example:

I’m not charismatic, but on the other hand I believe the evangelical church has long neglected the reality of the Spirit’s ministry. Boy, do I remember those days when the charismatic movement was influencing churches everywhere, and some were writing about “charismatic chaos” in response. Some felt that fire from heaven was finally falling on the church—a new Pentecost! Others were busy trying to put out wild fires and fireproof their congregations. Each side has had its proof-texts and ways of looking at Scripture. I found it hard to “take sides.” I saw where each side made legitimate points, and where each was on thin ice.

Eschatology has been a biggie. I was converted in Hal Lindsey’s heyday and used to sing “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” with great passion. I graduated from a strongly dispensational Bible college, and attended a seminary that was premillennial by confession. But I was always skeptical. Dispensationalism was just too neat, too mechanical. It turned the Bible into a giant puzzle, and try as I might, I couldn’t put the pieces together. I struggled to work out my views while attempting to teach the Bible in church. One church to which I sent my resumé had no place for anyone other than a convinced pre-mil, pre-trib advocate. I was not that man. It seems I have never fit comfortably in any of the communities where I’ve studied or ministered. And I’ve gone farther from the original positions I was taught the more I’ve read and considered the Scriptures. Over the years my studies have led me to a form of amillennialism. Anthony Hoekema’s book, The Bible and the Future, is one of the finest theological texts I’ve ever read. I think N.T. Wright is an eschatological breath of fresh air. I think the “Left Behind” series is a travesty of literature and theology. I’ve never found one single text that supports the idea of a Pre-Trib rapture. Friends don’t talk about the subject when I’m around.

A third issue is creationism. I suppose I was exposed to evolutionary teaching in high school classes such as biology and anthropology, but not being much of a science student, it made little lasting impression on me. The Bible college I attended was YEC in orientation, but it was not stressed. We read The Genesis Flood, and took a literal approach to Genesis. I accepted this perspective but thought little about it.

And then came seminary. Old Testament and Pentateuch scholar John Sailhamer opened my eyes to the wonders of the Torah, and he taught Genesis in that light. He encouraged us to read the creation story in the light of Israel’s story, and I’ve never read it the same since.

I taught Genesis and the Torah to my little church in Chicago. When we moved to Indianapolis, I led a five-year class in Genesis. In every other church and ministry where I’ve been involved, I have focused on the first book of the Bible and especially its opening passages. Rarely in any of those settings did the subject of evolution come up. I never taught the book in order to “answer” the ungodly worldview of secular science. I did not think that was the author’s intention in writing Genesis, so I did not approach it that way.

However, in recent years, the increasingly loud and strident voices of “creationists” on one side and “new atheists” on the other have polarized the debate and have made it difficult to present any other views without getting hammered from one or both sides.

So, is there a place for someone who may not toe the party line, but who simply wants to teach the Bible to help people know God better, be shaped to be like Jesus, and participate in God’s mission in the world?

  • Where can a non-charismatic charismatic fit?
  • Where does a person fit who thinks eschatology is a supremely important aspect of Christian theology, but who finds the “Left Behind” approach to be terrible Biblical interpretation?
  • Where might someone fit who does not think Genesis was written to answer modern scientific questions, and who would like to teach the book according to its original meaning and intent?

The post-evangelical wilderness.

Some of us are here because of what I call these “evangelical fad-fights.” Someone decides that a particular doctrine or issue is the crucial matter of the moment upon which Biblical Christianity and godly culture will stand or fall. Pressure mounts to choose sides. Armies muster. Trenches are dug. Ammunition is stockpiled. Strategists strategize. War plans drawn up. Propaganda campaigns attempt to rally the patriots, discourage the enemy, and persuade the uncommitted. Battles are waged. Losses mount. Who will win the victory?

You try being a conscientious objector in that atmosphere. Try being someone who utters the opinion that the issues may not warrant an all-out war. Try saying, “You know, those folks on the other side have a point here.” Try expressing your reservations about the absolute rightness of the cause. Try calling the whole endeavor an adventure in missing the point.

“Now the land was an uninhabitable wasteland…” (Gen. 1:2, my paraphrase).

Somewhere God’s Spirit is hovering over the dark deeps. In this I hope.

Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this.

    To add to what you say about evangelical “fad-fights”, I remember a couple of years back when marriage and family was a big deal. Several well-known evangelical leaders were trying to get people behind the idea that if you are single you ought to marry as soon as possible, and if you are married you ought to have as many children as possible. Michael Spencer did a post about this one back in 2005: Have We Said Too Much? (About Marriage, that is)

  2. Mike,

    I fit all three bullet-point criteria that you listed here. I believe in the continuation of all of the spiritual gifts except apostleship. I don’t adhere to a Left Behind eschatology. I am a young earth creationist, but I am not dogmatic about it, and I think you and others have raised important points about the interpretation of Genesis that need to be heard (I especially like Vern Poythress’ treatment of it).

    And I belong to an evangelical (even some might call it “fundamentalist”) church in which none of these things are problems for anybody.

    Don’t equate evangelicalism with the particular subset of evangelicalism that annoys you. There is a much bigger evangelical world out there.

    But even aside from that fact, whose to say you can’t find a place at the table with people who love Jesus but happen to annoy you on some things? This is where I think Michael Spencer might have gone in the wrong direction. Instead of calling believers with the same kinds of concerns to love their confused brothers and sisters with a radical kind of love that looks past these annoyances, it looks like Michael was saying, “Leave the church; I don’t blame you.”

    Now, I realize that you have not left the church, but you have very publicly announced (repeatedly) your exodus from evangelicalism. Why not stick around with evangelicals and love them? That’s what Jesus is doing. That would seem to be a very Jesus kind of thing to do, if you ask me.

    • Aaron, thoughtful and gracious post, thank you. You bring up some good points.

      First, I agree that things are changing in some evangelical circles and becoming less dogmatic about certain doctrinal issues. On the other hand, matters like creationism are becoming more and more polarized.

      Second, my issue isn’t so much “hanging around with evangelicals” but trying to determine God’s leading with regard to vocation, teaching and ministering. I think both Michael and I struggled with the issue from this perspective, not just on a personal level. It’s one reason I thank God so much for this blog and the opportunities it has been giving me to teach and to make new connections that are hopeful and encouraging.

      Third, I continue to have wonderful fellowship with many of my evangelical friends as well as many of my new found mainline church friends that I never would have met without this wilderness experience.

      Still, there is a marked lack of “form” and “fullness” when it comes to church and vocation right now.

      • I think it would do you some good to plant yourself in the middle of an evangelical church as a pastor of some sort and stay there for years, decades, the rest of your life.

        If you decide to try ministry in that setting again, be open about who you are from the beginning, but make it clear that your only agenda is to preach the gospel and love people. And then do it. Love those blue-haired, Left Behind reading, young earth creationist, dispensationalist, scared-to-death-of-the-gift-of-tongues old ladies. Hold their hands as they lie dying in bed and tell them again about the Savior they so love to hear about. Preach at their funerals. Play with their grandchildren. Serve them at the Lord’s Table and give the event the kind of gravity it deserves. And watch them grow in Christ.

        Oh, sure, there would be plenty of mess to put with. It would be plenty difficult to do day in and day out for years. But that’s why you could always remind yourself that this is the church for which Christ died.

        I hope that kind of thing stirs your imagination about the possibilities that may be out there for you.

      • Dear Chaplain Mike
        You’d fit in really well with my evangelical fellowship. If you’re ever in the UK come and see us…

      • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

        Third, I continue to have wonderful fellowship with many of my evangelical friends as well as many of my new found mainline church friends that I never would have met without this wilderness experience

        And it’s in this that I find the real fruits of post-evangelicalism. iMonk used to talk about a trend of “Evangelicalizing” the mainlines, Catholicism, and Orthodoxy as Evangelicals who left Evangelicalism head toward Canterbury, Geneva, Rome, Constantinople, etc.

        Similarly, due to those post-Evangelicals who remain in Evangelicalism but learn from the “wider, deeper, more ancient” forms of Christianity, there has been a slow re-introduction of those traditions into Evangelicalism.

        This is all very good in my opinion. It may be the first steps undoing some of the fracturing in the Western Church that we’ve seen in recent centuries. Some of the inter-Communion dialogs I’ve been keeping abreast of indicate that this is happening. My suspicion is that post-evangelicals have had a bigger influence on this sort of thing than they get credit for.

    • But even aside from that fact, whose to say you can’t find a place at the table with people who love Jesus but happen to annoy you on some things?

      Maybe that works in some circumstances. The problems is that far too often there’s what I call an “asymmetry of tolerance”. Once other Christians find out that you’re not a YEC | Dispensational Premillennialist | Republican | Teatotaller | Inerrantist they won’t allow you a place at the table.

      This is where I think Michael Spencer might have gone in the wrong direction. Instead of calling believers with the same kinds of concerns to love their confused brothers and sisters with a radical kind of love that looks past these annoyances, it looks like Michael was saying, “Leave the church; I don’t blame you.”

      Sometimes that’s the only option when you can accept them as they are, but they won’t accept you as you are. 🙁

      • I think that’s probably a rare situation of which you are speaking. Plus, we have to look at some matters in light of Paul’s teaching about the strong and the weak and the necessity of giving up our rights for weaker brothers who do not share our own personal convictions. Let’s take beverage alcohol as an example, since that is such an explosive concept in my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention.

        My conscience does not forbid me from partaking of alcoholic beverages in a self-controlled manner. But when I was a pastor of a small, rural Southern Baptist Church, not only did I not drink, I rarely even brought up the subject. I knew there were bigger matters to address, and that if I went around crusading for my personal convictions all the time, it would be a stumbling block in my ministry. So I left the issue alone, for the most part. I focused on the gospel and loved people enough to leave matters of adiaphora where they belong. I would imagine that in most churches, you will be accepted if you approach these kinds of matters wisely.

        • I think that’s probably a rare situation of which you are speaking.

          Not in my experience, but then I grew up attending a fundamentalist independent baptist school, and just left a very conservative SBC church after 17 years. Such treatment was the rule, not the exception in my life.

    • I have to wonder why it’s assumed that leaving evangelicalism, or even leaving church, means going to a place where it’s not possible to love evangelicals, have engaging friendships, pursue ministry, know and follow Jesus with others, extend welcome to those unlike yourself, etc. That seems to have been Michael Spencer’s message- not “leave the church, I don’t blame you,” but “follow Jesus, and if that means leaving the church, then so be it.” What’s more and more clear to many is that there’s no reason to assume that Jesus-shaped living insists on staying in church. Whatever that even means.

      Nate

  3. undercover says:

    I pastor such a fundamental/evangelical church. I’m young earth, believe in 6 literal 24 hour days, am pre-mil/ pre-trib. In our church we have many fine people who just want to walk with Jesus and yet we do have a vocal minority that wants to turn every molehill into a mountain and make it a hill to die on. And they are killing me. Their failure to embrace Christ’s character and disinterest of anything outside of their own dogmatic world view has long since robbed them of their joy and they sap the joy from most who are around them.

    We are told in scripture to test all things and to hold fast to that which is good. Yet the arrogance of unfair scrutiny, the blindness of flawed deductive reasoning, and a general lack of charity in the name of being right is in itself a posture of the heart and mind that is not good and it is not an attitude to hold on to. It does not resonant with the character of Christ.

  4. Hi again, Chaplain Mike. Don’t mean to be a gadfly, but it sounds like you are expanding here on some comments you made to some of my comments. I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little bad about making you feel sad, as you say, at my remarks. And this post does help clarify what you were getting at. And I’m passionate on the subject because I’m a text guy, and what I say shouldn’t be confused with YEC, even though I think a young earth is what the text is teaching. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with thinking “Genesis was written to answer modern scientific questions.” Quite the opposite, in fact. And yet there it is. I’m not trying to give you grief on the subject but trying to interact meaningfully. There is a line right above this box where I’m writing that says “Speak Your Mind.” I’m guessing you mean this….literally… 😉

    Only thing is, after our interaction, dangit, I wish I could say you didn’t just drop more tells. Sorry, really I am, CM, but you’d just as soon I tell it as I see it, right?

    So I’m saying, just how far is your “I consider myself a ‘post-evangelical’ Christian” all that different from my “I ain’t no fundy” club? Apart from mine being more annoying?

    And you state right out that you are reacting to your more fundamentalist background. Well, again “hidden agenda” may be too strong a term, but CM, reaction is an energy source. It’s a motivator. A swinging pendulum will of course swing far in the other direction, and this is a kind of balance, certainly, but perhaps not the kind one would seek.

    Anyway.

    Changing direction a bit… you say: “Where might someone fit who does not think Genesis was written to answer modern scientific questions, and who would like to teach the book according to its original meaning and intent?” Yeah, you too? Me too. Only after years of study I’m convinced the meaning and intent of Gen 1 has God telling us He did the thing in 6 days because that’s what He in fact did.

    And “to read the creation story in the light of Israel’s story.” Yup. Me too. And yet this brings me back to “(a)” and no reason to move past it. “(b)” and company keep coming up again and again, but its always nice try, close but no cigar. Really, I’m not hung up on the 6 days, because of the 6 days. It’s the power of the text. So if someone can show me a better explanation of the text, I am all ears. It just has to work, really work. If it is just song and dance, even beautiful choreography, I appreciate the art, but the result is unconvincing.

    And I still ask, why not “(a)” ?

    • Marv, the simple answer is, we disagree. And while no one has absolutely pure motives, I say with a clear conscience that as far as I can tell, my interest has also been in the meaning of the text. We just plain disagree.

      I’m fine with that. And I don’t feel a need to attribute motives to you for the position you take. I have held your position before. The more I’ve studied, and the more I’ve heard other perspectives from teachers I respect, the more I’ve moved away from that original position. That’s the simple truth about how I moved from (a) to (b).

      And my view of Genesis is not a REACTION to my fundy/evangelical background. The real turning point for me was Dr. Sailhamer’s teaching, which was one of those “Aha!” moments for me. I don’t agree with everything he teaches, but his approach literally changed my life and my mind about Genesis.

      Now you might argue that Sailhamer has an agenda. He did after all write a book in which he tried to show how his view can accommodate an old earth. But I happen to think that is his weakest work! And I can tell you honestly that this part of it was never much of an emphasis in his classroom. I have been interested almost entirely in his exegetical work and his canonical approach.

      So, if you can accept it, we disagree. We have a legitimate intellectual difference of opinion.

      If I had any sense, I’d be motivated to shut up about all this.

      • Fortunately for us both, we apparently don’t…

        Which book are you referring to of Sailhamer’s that is the weakest? I was encouraged today by someone to read Genesis Unbound. That one?

        I am in the middle of his latest right now. And surely shall be in the middle of it for some time to come.

        • Genesis Unbound is the only place I know where he tries to relate his exegesis to questions of science. The book contains many good things (from my perspective) that grow out of his exegetical work. But the harmonization with science stuff? I don’t find that too compelling.

      • Re Sailhammer. Have you read his Genesis commentary in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary? I wonder how it compares to what he taught in the classes you attended.

    • Thus Marv:

      nd I’m passionate on the subject because I’m a text guy, and what I say shouldn’t be confused with YEC, even though I think a young earth is what the text is teaching. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with thinking “Genesis was written to answer modern scientific questions.” Quite the opposite, in fact. And yet there it is.

      I want to call this out, hopefully striking more light than heat, because I think this is a dodge.

      YEC is a position on science. More accurately, it’s a position staked on the “facts about creation,” science’s turf. To say that the text teaches it is to say that the text was engaged in a discourse on fact and factuality.

      And this is worth pointing out, because it’s a very, very serious assumption that the author(s) of Genesis are engaged in any such discourse.

      As a creature of 20th / 21st century epistemological interests, we sometimes think that the text must have been interested in that. Heck, it speaks about it, right…?

      Well, no.

      Not right.

      Not at all.

      Your belief that the text speaks to factual descriptions is an assumption already committed to categories of thought (“fact,” “fiction”) that are suspiciously recent.

      On your blog, Marv, you used the example, “The Broccoli is green,” and said that the color green is a sort of “default meaning.” Perhaps. But I think it’s not special pleading for Mike to redirect us to the discourses that actually mattered to the author(s) rather than to ourselves.

      That is, it is not beside the point to ask, “Who is speaking, and what are their fields of discourse?”

      If I live in a city and have a history of being weirdly ecological (and this is not at all a bad metaphor for early Judaism), it’s not safe to assume that my statement (“Broccoli is green”) is about a color.

      • “facts about creation” is an interesting statement. Facts about “what creation is now” is the realm of science. On that YEC and OE’ers agree.

        “Propositions about creation in the past” is the realm of history. This is where YEC and OE’ers disagree. To label history as science (or for science to believe it can determine history) is asking for error.

      • No, it’s not an assumption to treat “green” as a default meaning. There isn’t equality and equivalence between the uses of words. Different words will have different characteristics, and vary from speech community to speech community. But there is generally a default value that comes to mind when out of context. Green being very prominently the color of broccoli, even if the word “green” does not turn out empirically to be at default, a color term, the collocation of green with broccoli is almost certain, in most cases, to signal the color sense of the word “green.” If not, something very weird has taken place.

        And it is wholly falacious to suggest that taking the six days and six actual days is someting about science or is equal to YEC. “A discourse on facts and factuality…”??? You imagine, do you, that ANE life was some kind of fact-free existence? We didn’t invent facts until the modern era? Must’ve been hard to communicate back then. Someone tells you some information, don’t take any of his particulars as having actual ontological reality. It’s a deeper truth than just a fact.

        This imagined mind-set of the ancient world, I suggest, is what is a recent invention. Where does it come from? Where do you get this? Did you interview some ANE people who had been frozen in an ice bank, holed up in a bomb shelter?

        This is what I meant by “chronological snobbery.” You suppose the people then were different from people now. Somehow it did not occur to them to think in concrete terms. This is a world of your own imagination, I submit. Or of someone else’s that you have adopted. It’s kind of the noble savage concept, mind pure, unstained by civilization, especially by the modern world. People are people, cognitive function and communication run a gamut from concrete to abstract, from literal to figurative, and I defy you to show me evidence that this was not true of people in the ANE. This conception is a figment of someone’s imagination.

        • You imagine, do you, that ANE life was some kind of fact-free existence? We didn’t invent facts until the modern era? Must’ve been hard to communicate back then. Someone tells you some information, don’t take any of his particulars as having actual ontological reality. It’s a deeper truth than just a fact.

          What I imagine is that they didn’t have Francis Bacon behind them, or even Aristotle, both of whose ghosts crowd into your exegesis with a host of others that were unknown to the ANE.

          And until you at least look closely at the veneer on our own minds, you can’t get very close to the ANE mind.

          This is what I meant by “chronological snobbery.” You suppose the people then were different from people now. Somehow it did not occur to them to think in concrete terms. This is a world of your own imagination, I submit.

          I think rather it’s humility to acknowledge that things that seem obvious to me are not necessarily obvious to the past, but rather that they have a way of thinking that better articulates their minds and experiences.

          It would be arrogant to cram scripture or any other ancient document into categories of thought that we arrange for them.

          But no, I’m not saying they had no notion of the concrete.

          When the scriptures and other ancient texts ask for two or three witnesses, they are acknowledging that there is a distance between what one can perceive and what “actually happened.”

          But then too when a wind from God hovers over the deep, we are not appealing to two or three witnesses but to the imagination of the reader.

          • Of course they didn’t have Bacon. They were Jewish.

            Now, you cite the case of two or three witnesses. Sure there is a distinction between perception and what “actually happened” (in SCARE QUOTES….oooh!)

            The same is just as true today.

            So you suggest that in a trial setting the calling of two or three witnesses was not an attempt to establish the facts of the case? Because being Bacon-free and pre-Aristotelian, the whole category of FACT just wasn’t in their vocabulary???

            The whole POINT of calling two or three witnesses is testimony to the fact that they had a concept of fact. We live in an imperfect world, certainly, but our best bet of separating fact from non-fact is to hear it from more than one person.

            And what do you suppose they expected to hear from the witnesses? Did they expect them to employ their creativity and speak out an imaginary account that spoke truth without the category of fact even being in their psyche? My goodness, they expected, required, witnesses to speak the truth. Even if that “truth” were so unkosher as to involve a Baconian concept like fact. Of course they wanted the facts. What do you think these people were anyway? They can sail through abstract and sublime realms of truth, but can’t even begin to conceive of the concept of fact vs fiction.

            So the commandments says not to bear false witness against your neighbor. Well, say he did steal my ox when he didn’t. Because when we talk about false witness, we aren’t talking about facts, because facts won’t be invented for several centuries.

            Get real. And I mean that literally. ANE Hebrews clearly and plainly had the concept of fact and distinguished it from fiction. I’m not sure you do, frankly. Maybe this is just projection. I love me some fantasy, sure, but constructing a fantasy universe peopled by odd creatures who don’t have basic human cognition skills may be great fun, but is a poor basis for exegeting ancient texts. You’ve been listening to some wrong-headed stuff, I’m afraid.

        • Marv Writ:

          This imagined mind-set of the ancient world, I suggest, is what is a recent invention. Where does it come from? Where do you get this? Did you interview some ANE people who had been frozen in an ice bank, holed up in a bomb shelter?

          I read what they write.

          And in reading the writings of their contemporaries, and knowing as much as I can (nobody could ever know enough) you encounter some dim notion of the shape of their minds.

          They don’t do “natural history” the way you and I do.

          They don’t do history the way you and i do.

          They certainly don’t do science the way you and I do.

          When Jacob does his little bit of folk-magic or folk-natural-history with the rods and speckles his flock, the category of “fact” slides sideways.

          You don’t have to disparage literature for doing this: it does it in all times and places. It bends fact to suit its purposes, but you can’t tell what the purposes are until you relinquish the modern fact-fetish and admit that a thing can be perfectly true without being perfectly factually true.

        • But there is generally a default value that comes to mind when out of context. Green being very prominently the color of broccoli, even if the word “green” does not turn out empirically to be at default, a color term, the collocation of green with broccoli is almost certain, in most cases, to signal the color sense of the word “green.” If not, something very weird has taken place.

          I think that’s not exactly right.

          Hebrew, like most ancient languages, is insanely contextual. There was no dictionary to define authoritatively what a word meant, and while I think you’re right that ירוק means “color green” as the “base meaning,” in the Hebrew Bible it comes mainly as a substantive adjective. That is, context determines how green-ness functions.

          That takes a habit of mind that responds better to context than to lexical and syntactical relationships.

          • Marv, no, you misunderstand me. Those aren’t scare quotes (and if you’d pull back your snark just a bit, it’d be really sweet. Thanks).

            I DO admit that they had a category that you and I call “fact” in judicial contexts, but their literary habits did not drive the same kind of wedge between “fact” and “fiction” as literary genres that you and I insist upon. (These are not scare quotes: these indicate that the terms “fact” and “fiction” as literary descriptions have a history all their own that never arose as such in the literary production of Israel or Judah. I gather you’re a Hebraicist of some sort, so you’ll be familiar with the ways that the rabbis distinguish between genres of literature. You’ll know it doesn’t derive from the same basic categories that we use, derived from the Romans and Greeks and conditioned by the printing press and other social forces.)

            I’m sure you don’t think that, growing up as we did, in a culture that had a hyperliteral means of recording events (film, video) we didn’t grow up with a much different attitude towards a cultural memory of events than, say, the Jews.

            So what’s the difficulty with acknowledging that the way you present words, stories, and poems to yourself and others actually can be shaped by the fields of interpretation that are available to you?

            If you read what I write above a little more carefully, you’ll find that I’m not denouncing the idea that they knew what a fact was. I’m saying that for in their literature a judicial fact is not what you’ve got in Genesis.

          • Of course it’s contextual. Not sure what “insanely” contextual means. I cannot fathom how you have enough insight to be able to characterize “most ancient languages” since by definition you have encountered no speakers of them, you have only scant texts, and you cannot possibly have even cursorily studied more than a handful. The vast majority of these perished without leaving a trace.

            Somehow “substantive adjective” means “context determines how green-ness functions”? Do you know what a substantive adjective is?

          • Ot,
            What you were presenting to me earlier is that they were culturally incapable of thinking in terms of the category factual. That suggestion is just absurd.

            If you mean these are people who spoke a different language, lived in a different place, had a different culture and a different history, different customs, different conventions and expectations when composing texts, I agree with you completely. If you mean that their languge and culture did not include things we would identify as novels, certainly this is correct. The forms of their literature need to be taken into account when we interpret them.

            However, if you suggest that an account such as Gen 1 cannot possibly be understood as intending to indicate seven actual days, as we know days, since the Hebrews would never culturally think of reporting an event in terms of its factual details, I think you are seriously out to lunch. If you wish to say that in your opinion the days referred to are metaphorical, athropomorphic, mythological or what have you, why you have the option of doing so. I may then ask you for your evidence that persuades you of this.

            If however, it is just unthinkable that the account is “literal” or straightforward (like my scare quotes??) since “fact” is a wholly alien concept to an ancient Hebrew…I might ask you to reveal your smoking preference… 😉

            Do you have some idea what I take the interpretation of the text of Gen 1 to be? I mean it isn’t difficult to imagine what, perhaps from your perspective, it APPEARS to say. That in the space of six days God made all the things described therein.

            Let me ask you something. Would a Hebrew be able of understanding the story that way? That God in a literal week produced all this? Let’s say a Hebrew speaker wrote that account in Hebrew. What differences, if any, would there be between that text and the one we have in Gen 1? I for one cannot imagine how it would be any different.

            In other words how can you tell the difference between a text that relates a creation story as factually occurring over six days and one that presents the same as part of an elaborate metaphor?

            Seriously, there have to be some kind of clues that indicate figurative rather than non-figuratvie, since I take it you agree, a Hebrew person could have written either.

          • Let me ask you something. Would a Hebrew be able of understanding the story that way? That God in a literal week produced all this?

            Sure.

            Let’s say a Hebrew speaker wrote that account in Hebrew. What differences, if any, would there be between that text and the one we have in Gen 1? I for one cannot imagine how it would be any different.

            Well, I’ll take that bait, though I think the fundamental problem with Genesis 1 as fact has more to do with its status vis-a-vis the biological column or cosmic background radiation. What I’m all about is trying to reassure Christians (I’m not one, largely because of nonsense like this) that they don’t need to be ashamed if Genesis 1 never happened as advertised.

            For starters, your God would not be anthropomorphic: if you had the inside information required to gin up a six-day creation, you have the inside information to know that God is spirit, at least in the Christian vision. If you’re imagining him in the form of ANE gods and doing things ANE gods do, you’re already stepping into the realm of metaphor and poetic visions, and more importantly you’re stepping into the realm of literary genres: the creation myth that depends upon metaphor, symbol, symmetry, and mood. The minute you make a statement like “God said…” you have become completely metaphorical. A spirit has neither vocal cords nor breath, and cannot vibrate the one with the other.

            Stylistically, if you’re going for fact, let’s keep it factual. God did not _say_ it is good.

            That’s metaphor.

            If God had an opinion, it came through some other medium.

            And it’s profound as literature.

            As fact, it’s up against mountains of evidence that says, “Not here, He didn’t.”

    • Lukas db says:

      Marv, if I still have you here, I’d there’s something I’d like to ask you.

      I’ve been reading this whole exchange with the dim comprehension of a dabbler. Biology is my field, not exegesis. However, if I understand you, you believe that both a literal six-day interpretation of Genesis, an a non-literal six-day interpretation, are acceptable possibilities. However, the evidence for the former view is more convincing to you, from an intertextual point of view.
      What I’m wondering is this. Do you think that evidence outside of the text can weigh into the evaluation? Consider an example. Suppose we have an ancient text that tells of an historical event. Suppose also that, due to spotty understanding of the language, some details of the text are ambiguous, but one interpretation of the questionable parts is overwhelmingly better-founded. But then we make an archeological discovery that conclusively points to the less well-supported (from a textual standpoint) interpretation being the factual one. Would we not then be justified in adopting the viewpoint of the less textually supported interpretation?

      This is the situation I find myself in. I am not a scholar of ancient texts. I cannot really make a judgement about which interpretation of Genesis is a better one, all outside evidence being equal. But when all evidence from biology, geology, astronomy, and anthropology seem to point to an old earth, and to the gradual development of life over a long period of time (wherever it may have come from in the first place)….I feel that this may not be irrelevant to the interpretation of Genesis. Does this sound reasonable to you?

  5. Hey, Chaplain Mike…on your three bullet points…I am Catholic and I can fit those three things, I think. You will never hear me say that Catholicism has it all right, but in those three respects, I think it does.

    Thank you for sharing the story as to how you came to be in the place you are. We love having you in THIS place, right here, right now. But I know we all need a group of people we meet with in person who can help us become disciples of Jesus. I hope that you will be among people like that too.

    • I’m with Joanie on this one.

      I don’t feel qualified to have an opinion because, as a Catholic, I didn’t even know we were amillenialists until I saw all these divisions about pre-, post-, mid-, tribulation before, during, after, Rapture and all the rest of it and out of curiosity looked up what our Official Position was.

      I certainly am not claiming perfection for the Roman Catholic church, just that we obviously have different hills to fight on when you can live and die as a Catholic without knowing what kind of eschatology we profess 🙂

      • JoanieD says:

        Martha, I still can’t remember what all those millenial things mean! And like Brian down below on this page says, it doesn’t even really matter. Jesus matters.

        • Joanie, I literally have no idea whether I’m coming or going with all these. One thing I do know: I’m not likely to be Raptured.

          😉

          • meet ya at the pub for our not-so-surprised-we’re-kinda-pagan party……whooo-hooo bring your Jerusalem bible and a pint…. 🙂

        • Martha and Joanie,

          I was most surprised when I started exploring Catholicism. The Church had already claimed amellenialism which I had figured out on my own.

          I was one happy camper then. (and I had gone through the Hal Lindsey, Rapture stuff before I started doing my own theology)

      • In contrast to what the majority of non-catholic Christians think/believe about the Catholic church, there is a lot of room for differences of opinion about things that are not the essential truths of the faith based on the Creed (church uses both Apostles and Nicene creed versions), the Sacred Scripture is the Inspired Word of God (I capitalize Word out of respect not to equate it with the Logos (incarnate Word of God in Jesus), the Sacraments ( as means of increasing the grace of God in one’s life aiding in the work of sanctification), the Commandments as guides to teach what we are to strive for in our relationship with God and other people, and tradition especially in relation to the Eucharistic Celebration.

        This is not to say that the RCC doesn’t have positions and teachings on other subjects, because we all know it does. The point I’m trying to make is that one’s eternal salvation is not based on what one thinks about a various things like creation/evolution nor does this alter one’s being a Christian. Being a Christian is about being Grafted into the Body of Christ through Baptism and making a personal decision to acknowledge and embrace Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior and to strive to follow His way of life Glorifying God in all things and live out the 2 Great Commandments of Love. This is stating it in as much of a “nutshell” as I can.

    • Isaac Rehberg (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

      Heh, y’all Catholic gals are awesome! That exchange made me laugh! It’s stuff like this that makes me thankful for the way these post-Evangelical discussions cast wide nets! It is very refreshing to be reminded that some of our Evangelical issues just don’t merit a blip on the radar of some of the wider Church. Shoot, considering Catholics form the majority of worldwide Christians (1.6ish Billion out of about 2.1 billion Christians, if I remember right), I guess our issues really are those of a vocal minority!

  6. Here is the way the problem has played out in my life.

    Through a very long course of events, personal study and etc. (far to long to discuss here) I have come to the personal conclusions:

    1) The universe is 13 billion years or more (after spending decades as ICR groupie),
    2) I am now post-Mil (after spending decades as being pre-mil),
    3) That the charismatic gifts, as I have exhibited them myself during my charismatic phase, and as I have witnessed them are psychological phenomena of self-deception. This is not a theological position but an honest appraisal of what I’ve witnessed, even thought I wanted to believe them with my whole heart that they were supernatural. I am open to them being true. Show me a Bible-grade miracle, someone blind from birth suddenly seeing, someone dead for three days, stinky and then coming alive, someone instantly speaking a tribal language of New Guinea without study . . . and I would believe it. But leg stretching, cancer healing (only to then die in three months), speaking the same gibberish that I’ve witnessed among Muslim Sufis doesn’t do it for me any more.

    With those things said, most of my Christian friends believe the opposite of the above. I prefer never to talk about these issues with them. I have full respect for them and would never, ever doubt their commitment to Christ. I would not hesitate a second to break bread with them, go to church with them, have my daughter marry their son and etc. I believe this way because of Jer 17:9. We are Fallen and we can not know certainty in doctrine. I’ve known wonderful, Christian, smart, faithful people on each possible position of these issues.

    Here is the problem. While I deeply respect those who believe differently from me, and I honestly, in my heart know that I could be wrong on each issue, I can never share these things with my Christian friends. I even expect the same to happen here. Because, when i do, invariable I am told that 1) I can’t be a real Christian, 2) I am very stupid, 3) I don’t have my eyes on Jesus, 4) I have been influenced by the evil, secular world, 5) I have not been baptize by the spirit, 6) I am demon oppressed, 7) I don’t know scripture and etc. Not only is it hurtful, how can you have fellowship with people who don’t respect you at all. This is the world that I live in because I’m still with the church who treats me this way. I sat through the entire Ken Ham video series until my head almost caved in, keeping my mouth shut. When, at the very last one, I did speak up, the senior elder said that I could not be a Christian and hold my position (old earth).. If my wife did not insist that I stay in this church, I would leave.

    • If my wife did not insist that I stay in this church, I would leave.

      I sympathize and empathize with you; I was in almost the exact same situation a couple of years ago. I _did_ leave, and it was the best think I could have done for my spiritual and psychological well being. My wife was resistant to leaving at first, but has been amazed at the change she’s seen in me since we left. Just something to think about…

    • JMJ,

      I hear what you are saying and agree in principle. I wouldn’t call myself an a-mill because the term carries too much baggage and so I refrain from a stated position. I’m happy to discuss it, but I don’t see that it’s worth arguing about since the differences are not in the text or even the immediate interpretation of the text, but the suppositions and prejudices one brings into the text before reading it.

      I’m like you with charismata. I would love for it to be true, but have never seen or been around what I would say with any sort of conviction was a genuine or authentic experience.

      As for YEC, I used to be a strong advocate, but no longer. The reason? I looked at the fossil record and asked questions. Literally. I have written to folks at AiG asking how vast beds of mature fossil organisms representing complex, highly developed ecosystems exist on land if the flood only lasted for a year. Their fossilization mechanism doesn’t hold up even the most rudimentary logic. Does that make me an evolutionist? Not by a long stretch. As a biology major in college and having taught biology for five years, there is no credible mechanism for change from one genus to another. There is a lot of smoke and mirrors, but the best minds in evolution today are still searching for a means of generating novel genetic information that confers a selective advantage that is transmissible to offspring. So where do I belong? My evangelical church doesn’t want someone who can blow holes in their AiG speakers and my friends in the lab aren’t comfortable with my skepticism of evolution.

      Like you, I’ve learned to just be quiet on certain topics. The trouble for me is that I have to be quiet both in church and out. The agnostics and atheists can be just as fundy on naturalism as the church is on their beliefs.

      • @ Rick: nice post….we are in roughly the same spot reg. crreation/evo. I’m definitely OE, but massively skeptical of evolution as responsible for all the genetic variety we see. I’m open to some kind of middle ground : God producing “kinds” and these evolving to what we see. I share your fatigue in talking about this with nearly anybody, both within and without the body of Christ……it’s 98% of the time just an flame looking for gasoline.

        looking to major in the majors; while not staying stupid in the minors;
        Greg R

        • I agree with you totally that these are minor issues, none of which I would be willing to die for. I think that you too will agree with what I’m about to say.

          The difficulty isn’t the issue, but the fact that you have to remain a close: t old earth-doubtful about fakey miracles- not-pre mil person.. I’m content to be in the closet over these issues, which is the profile I usually take. But it becomes a major when you are pressed into a corner and you have to step out of the closet, for the sake of honestly. Then you must experience character and spiritual assassination by the people whom you love and whom you’re always respected despite not agreeing with them over these minors..

          Case in point. As I said, I sat through the entire Ken Ham video and never said a word . . . just kept the church-smile on my face, the one everyone expects.

          But then, on the final day there was a huge discussion. Again, I stayed in the closet. Then the head elder and pastor’s right hand man started to rant and rave that the REASON OUR YOUTH ARE DROPPING OUT OF CHURCH IS BECAUSE THEY ARE BEING EXPOSED TO OLD EARTH EVOLUTIONIST IN COLLEGE. His solution was to not allow our kids to go to “secular colleges.”

          I couldn’t be quiet any longer. I’ve never seen in the New Testament the concept of “Being Stupid for Jesus.”

          I politely shared my view that the reason the youth are leaving the church (at over 80%) is because they see the church as a farce. One of the reasons they see the Church as a farce is because when they get to college they find out that people, like Ken Ham, have been lying about the issues (mis representing what evolutions are saying, mis representing the Bible, mis representing geology, mis representing dating etc.).

          That’s wen the rest of the men frowned and the statement was made, “My Bible says the earth is six thousand years old. How can anyone claim to be a Christian when they don’t even believe the Bible?”

          So, like you said, these are very minor issues for most part. I am most happy when no one brings them up. But it becomes a major issue when the Church uses these minor issues as a barrier between people and Jesus.

          I

      • Lukas db says:

        “Darwin? That’s just the party line.”

        Microevolution is pretty much in the bag; we’ve observed it. There is good scientific reason to believe in macroevolution. But many scientists studying it are entirely unable to entertain any objection to macroevolution. Sometimes I don’t think humans were designed to be impartial. Too tribal.

    • Con Brio says:

      Posting under a different name than usual — am going to recall a story which I don’t want to be traced down for the innocents’ sake.

      Mr. Jones, I’m reminded of a bumper sticker I used to see a lot around here. It says “You can’t be both Christian and Pro-Life.”

      I worked for a Christian school during the last presidential election. Naturally, in my tiny conservative hometown, the election was reduced to “God vs. Negro” for the majority. (Face it — it’s true. How many millions of people voted that way?) The principal of the school where I taught, who is someone I hold in my highest respect, spiritually and otherwise, wrote a letter to the newspaper about a week before the election to voice her opinion that she didn’t understand statements like the ones on that bumper sticker, nor did she understand the incredible amount of pressure she was getting from her church community to vote Republican based on whatever religious doctrine they wanted to invoke. (and please PLEASE PLLEEEEEAAASSEEE don’t take me to mean I want to start a political discussion. I DO NOT.)

      We had at least a dozen parents (in a school of maybe 250 students, K-6) call angrily into our school after that letter was published to throw a fit about her letter. Some even threatened to pull their kids from our school. Then election day came around, I walked into class, and there are 15 kids asking me who I was going to vote for later that day…

      …Chaplain Mike, I think I understand how you feel about your work environment. It hurt me pretty badly not to be able to tell the kids how I felt about the situation. Mr. Jones, I also agree with your seven points.

      • Con Brio says:

        That is to say, I agree with your assessment of being judged by those seven points when you voice a different position. Not that I agree with those people who used them against you. 🙂

  7. So, is there a place for someone who may not toe the party line, but who simply wants to teach the Bible to help people know God better, be shaped to be like Jesus, and participate in God’s mission in the world?

    After 40 years in the Baptist church, I found such a place at a Lutheran church. YMMV, of course. 🙂

    • undercover says:

      Sounds like you experienced much of what I have, but I thought I would have seen the last of some of this stuff when I left the Baptist church. I’m looking into something a bit more liturgical and hopefully more Christ centered than man.

    • K Bryan, as I’ve said before, we’re in a mainline Lutheran church right now. There is a healthy respect for the Word, though not much serious study or knowledge. I have had freedom to teach, which is one of the reasons we are there now.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        It is perhaps worth noting that the issues you describe in this post simply aren’t on the radar in Lutheranism. Young Earth Creationism? I have never heard the topic arise, except perhaps in an anthropological context whose subject is American Evangelicalism. It wouldn’t surprise me of some of this creeps into Lutheran churches in those parts of the country where Evangelical Protestantism is culturally dominant, but it is not a characteristic element of American Lutheranism.

        • ahumanoid says:

          “Young Earth Creationism? I have never heard the topic arise. . .”

          Check out the LCMS, second-largest Lutheran body in America.

          • And the Wisconsin synod, the 3d largest Lutheran body, where my wife and I once belonged. We were told plainly that Genesis 1 must be interpreted literally, there was a 6/24 creation period, and there was no death of any kind (even cellular) before Adam and Eve ate from the tree, etc Very rigid.

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            OK, fair enough. I lost my head there and used “Lutheran” when I should have written “ELCA”. I belonged to an LCMS congregation for a few years, when I was in a small city and couldn’t stomach either ELCA congregation in town. For what it is worth, I never heard any Young Earth nonsense there, but I erred in over-generalizing.

  8. dumb ox says:

    As shallow as it may sound, I feel your pain.

    I am facing the reality that the next book to invade the Lutheran congregation where my family attends will not be the next Rick Warren book, but Ken Ham’s “Already Gone”. Simply put, while post-evangelicalism is claiming that YEC is causing many to leave the faith, folks like Ham are blaming those who are letting science influence the interpretation of Genesis 1 (rather than the other way around) for the bible becoming irrelevant and thus causing the mass Exodus from the faith (i.e. if Genesis 1 is not accurate, neither is John 3:16, motherhood, apple pie, etc). Both sides are predicting a coming Evangelical winter quickly approaching, but both sides blaming the other.

    I feel a bit ill-equipped to take on the followers of Ken Ham. If I start suggesting some of the theories of Genesis presented here, I will be eaten alive.

    I place myself among the camp who believes there is room for diverging views on Genesis, but with both polar extremes of this argument wielding bloody slippery-slopes at anyone diverging from their position, the middle ground will not last long. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, there is no room for analog thinking, only polarized, digital (i.e. binary), on-off logic – if you can call that human logic.

    I wish I could offer encouragement; however, all I think I can offer is an expanded cultural war which needs to be fought on two fronts – against both extremes. But like Poland caught between Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union, the odds don’t look very good.

    • dumb ox says:

      Actually, I think the answer is to preach the gospel. I saw a sign that said that the gospel is not the ABC’s of Christianity but the A-Z’s. The gospel is our filter. It is our world view. It is our relevance. It is what we use to interpret scripture.

      That’s going to be a hard sell to those who are staring down the telescope from the opposite end, that the gospel is one small part of scripture, that all scripture forms a Jenga tower, where the removal of one piece will cause everything to topple.

      • wonderful analogy about the Jenga tower: that is pricisely the point (IF I remember rightly) in Pearcey and Colson’s “Total Truth” reg. creation/evolution….that if THIS was misunderstood, then all the truth dominoes would fall over… I bought this four or five years ago. Not any more, as important as it is, it just aint’ the whole enchilada that it’s been made out to be: the GOSPEL is.

        Nice post(s); I’m with you on this getting a lot uglier before it gets better. Possibly very strong persecution will get us to not make EVERYTHING a frantic food fight.

        • dumb ox says:

          I think I have some heavy-duty studying before I completely endorse a gospel-centric approach. It seems like Bultmann and Barth each tried this almost a century ago, and both fell into opposite ditches. A gospel-centric approach can result in a very shallow message empty of any philosophical depth.

          Two things I don’t know how to digest:

          1. Christianity rubbed up closely against Greek philosophy and not only survived but mastered it.
          2. Protestants have chopped away a big chunk of the Septuagint – the bible used by the apostles and Jesus Himself – by eliminating the apocrypha. Some important nuances have been lost, but Christianity survived. I certainly don’t endorse this, but I think it shoots a big hole in the Jenga theory.

        • dumb ox says:

          Michael Spencer referred to it as the “domino theory”. I need to pay more attention in imonk class:

          “I could cite any number of blog comments that indicate a complete ‘domino’ theory: Inerrancy = young earth creationism = orthodoxy = the Gospel. It’s not much trouble to find advocates of this view who will say departure from the “truth” of Hamm’s version of creationism equals abandonment of the Bible, the Gospel, the truth and righteousness.”

          http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-classic-answers-not-in-genesis

          • Inerrancy = young earth creationism = orthodoxy = the Gospel.

            WOW: you’ve put into words a construct that I’ve seen and heard (sometimes in an indirect, between the lines kind of way) MANY times, and could never quite put my finger on it. The tragedy, as I see it, is not that steps 1 thru 3 are wrong (difficult to know for sure about #2, but science, so far, is screaming FALSE), but that the GOSPEL is held hostage by our very limited understanding of 1 thru 3.

            No agreement on 1 thru 3 ?? then we foolishly divide regarding the gospel…… this seems to me to be a formula for a fractured church till SOMEBODY steps off the tilt-a-whirl.

            nice post(s)
            Greg R

          • “but science, so far, is screaming FALSE”

            Science is an abstract noun. Abstract nouns *hate it* when you personify them 🙂

            Seriously, science is a methodology. Science says “what did I see”, “what should I see”, “how can I see the same thing as Joe”. Origins is about assumptions (“the present is the key to the past”). Don’t confuse origins stories and science.

  9. Here is what I think about all of this. I really don’t think any of it matters. Not one whit. Why? As Thomas Merton puts it, ” life is more than the reward for him who correctly guesses a secret and spiritual “answer” to which he smilingly remains committed. This is more than a matter of “finding peace of mind, ” or “settling religious problems.”
    What does this mean? Trusting Christ is about HIM!!!!! Not us, not our opinions, not our theories. Jesus doesn’t say that our theology has to be correct in order to obtain salvation. He says trust and follow him. That’s it and that’s all.
    All these types of questions use to bother. The wars between camps used to bother me. I took part in them. Because of them I left the faith a long time ago and have called myself variously either an Atheist or an Agnostic. I am here to tell people that these questions, these fights, other than being totally unecessary are driving people away from Jesus. I know, it has driven me away. It has been a very slow road for me to find my way back. I’m still finding my way back, outside of my fundamentalist upbringing.
    I am here to tell people that the devil loves theology, it is dividing the Church and killing not only minds but souls. This side of death none of us can know these things beyond a shadow of a doubt. pre-mil, post-mil, who really cares? When it happens it will happen and God will be sure to let you know about it I promise you. No one is gonna be left behind for bad theology.
    personally, I agree with science and the idea that one can believe in both creation AND evolution. It is only the fundamentalists on both sides of the debate trying to convince us otherwise.
    It’s causing people to take their eyes off of Jesus and what he did. It’s no longer about what he did on the cross, it’s now about us obtaining our own salvation by figuring everything out.
    I’m done with all this crap. I really am. I can’t take it anymore. All this stuff has literally almost driven me crazy. I told my fiance I was experiencing an existential crisis because of all of it. Then I realized it’s all so unnecessary. It really is.
    It’s about Jesus not about our own pet theories.
    And this is coming from an Agnostic.

    • JoanieD says:

      “This side of death none of us can know these things beyond a shadow of a doubt. pre-mil, post-mil, who really cares? When it happens it will happen and God will be sure to let you know about it I promise you. No one is gonna be left behind for bad theology.”

      Good points, Brian. I agree.

    • Hi Brian, great stuff coming from an agnostic indeed!
      Sounds like my story in many ways, all the crap drove me crazy too! I tried a few times flushing it all down the can and becoming an atheist, but it never worked. Once I got a taste of the hope of the Gospel and eternal life, I could never be content going back to the world.
      I think one can be a Christian and agnostic at the same time. I am always praying to God that I believe, help my unbelief!
      keep seeking!

      MT

    • dumb ox says:

      “It’s no longer about what he did on the cross, it’s now about us obtaining our own salvation by figuring everything out.”

      Nicely said. A cerebral works religion.

    • Yes! My mother always said that theology was a sin. To this day I don’t know what she believed, but I know how she behaved – and that’s enough.

  10. So my suggestion to you chaplain mike would be to bring the troops home. Give up the fight, at least on all these things that don’t matter. You don’t have to switch sides from the fundamentalists to the liberal side of these debates. You can just refuse to take part in the debate any longer. When people ask you about creation vs evolution, just say, “You know what? i don’t know and I don’t care and I don’t think it’s important.” I mean who really cares how God created things, or how long it took. All that’s important is that he did it. That’s what Genesis is about. That’s it. All this other stuff really stems from a mistrust of God. We really don’t trust him that he has everything under control we have to take control by figuring his plan out for ourselves. We have to know what he’s up to. We have to be questioning him, when’s he coming again? Will I be raptured before the tribulation? After? Did he create everything in 6 literal days or was it millions of years? I mean come on God, just how did you do it?
    Relax!!! It doesn’t matter!! Trust him!!! He knows what he’s doing. He really does. You’ll know when the time is right. Until that day, just friggin relax. let it all go!!! Like water off a duck’s back!!! Put all these burdens on Jesus. He knows all! We don’t. Trust him!!! Arguing about this stuff only betrays a lack of trust in Him.
    Let it go!! Everyone!!!

    • Brian, in one sense that is what I have tried to do here. You may notice that I am not posting articles or opinions about science, ala BioLogos, but am focusing my attention on the Biblical text. I am doing so to show people that there are other ways of looking at the Bible rather than through the lens of the culture war.

      However, one of the points of my post is that evangelicalism in many places has become so invested in the culture war; it has become such a part of our identity and practice, that it is difficult for “conscientious objectors” like me to find a place for ministry.

      • And I absolutely agree. I guess my rantings are directed more towards those evangelical Christians that you speak about. In many ways, they should be ashamed of themselves, reducing the love of God to a theological equation. I think there are more liberal churches out there though, aren’t there? I’m hoping so because that’s what I’m looking for. I do so want to find my way back to Christ, but I can’t go back to my fundamentalist roots. It took me a long time to realize that I may have thrown the baby out with the bath water.
        Great stuff though. Keep up the good work. I’m new here by the way.

        • Speaking of the culture war that evangelicals seem to be so gung ho about, I recently wrote this on my facebook page. Might not all be relevant to science vs creationism but I think it is relevant to the culture wars and how the religious has co-opted politics to suit their narrow agenda:

          Ok, here’s where I stand at the moment. If being a Christian means that I have to be a Republican, that I have to love Sarah Palin and hate Obama, that I have to believe that Fox News, Glen Beck, Hannity and Rush are paragons of truth and virtue, that I can’t criticize anything that Israel does without fear of being labeled an anti-semite,
          that I have to shut off my mind and deny the past 100 years or so of scientific thought and advancement, instead believing in a very narrow interpretation of Genesis 1, that the universe, the earth and people were all created in 6 literal days, not more than 6000 years ago, that I have to have a short memory and forget that it was actually Bush that nationalized the banks, not Obama, that supporting our troops means that I have to agree with every single war that America finds ourselves involved in, that I have to believe that Jesus would be a Republican or be proud of the Republican Party today, that I have to believe that all Muslims are terrorists bent on destroying America, that Obama is not a US citizen, but he is a Muslim and a radical socialist in bed with the Arab countries, bent on destroying America, then I’m sorry, no, I don’t think I can be a Christian. Did I leave anything out? if it means that I have to believe in love but practice hate, being afraid and hateful of everything and everyone that doesn’t look like me, act like me or believe like me, then no, I do not believe that I can be a Christian. On the other hand, if being a Christian means that I believe in what Jesus taught and how HE lived and what HE did, then I do believe we can have a conversation.

          • Word.

          • Savannah says:

            Brian, I deeply feel what you are saying here. According to many, I am not a Christian, although I love and have placed my trust in Jesus and believe and adhere to the Apostle’s Creed. I don’t how that’s possible, but according to so much wisdom dispensed to me by “real Christians” (in sometimes hateful or belligerent ways), those are the facts. Apparently Jesus is not the actual author and finisher of our faith, but some arbitrary committee which seems to exist in every evangelical church of which I have ever been a part decides who the “REAL” Christians are.

            I really don’t care what other evangelicals believe, but I don’t want to be forced to check my brain at the door to be considered their sister in Christ. And, yes, that’s what it feels like to me. Appreciation of complexity and nuance are treated like vices and questions or even doubts are the death knell of faith, apparently.

            Here’s the constant drumbeat: “Stop thinking, put away your cognitive dissonance, and stop asking questions. Questions are divisive and breed doubts in others. Ignore facts and the ones you can’t ignore, twist them into pretzel shapes to fit this construct that is so essential to your salvation. That’s what we all do and it works just fine for us. What is wrong with you?”

            Well, I don’t know what is wrong with me beyond being a broken human being, but I know I can’t do it any more. I can’t pretend and I’ve always been a lousy hypocrite anyway. It’s just easier for me (and easier on others apparently) if I avoid meaningful fellowship, so that’s where I’m at right now – beyond fellowship with other believers in my family and close circle of friends.

            If the evangelical church at large (I know the SBC is struggling with this) is wondering why people are wandering away, this is part of it. I don’t pretend to know why every single person is getting off the evangelical merry-go-round, but a lot of us have because of this issue combined with the culture wars and all the rest the superfluous stuff that really doesn’t have a thing to do with Jesus.

            I do know that there is somewhere that God wants to lead me, but I just don’t know where that is yet. In reading Michael’s book, I am very encouraged and feel hopeful again that God still has a plan for me to fellowship with and serve my community.

          • textjunkie says:

            Amen to that!!

          • double word: the group of smart, educated christians I was ministsring with last wed. night were OUTRAGED that those evil muslims had the temerity to want to build MOSQUES…….gasp….. what the heck do you say to THAT ?? I feel like the cat at the kennel show, and it’s very BIG doggie day……

          • While I certainly appreciate where you are coming from, I do think there’s a danger in going completely the opposite direction. I’ve seen many a post-evangelical Christian who seems to indicate that a Christian who is a Republican or political conservative is necessarily a backwards, dogmatic, unloving, thoughtless, mindless, robotic, duped, anti-intellectual, and anti-science bigot who loves nothing more than kick the poor and drop nukes on anybody who doesn’t agree with them.

            I’m not saying that’s what you said by any means but I wonder if post-conservative or post-evangelical Christianity is just another way of saying liberal (politically and theologically) Christianity rather than a new (or perhaps renewed/revived) commitment to seeking Christ above politics or very particular views.

          • greg r: I had a similar experience in a home bible study group a couple of years ago. They were ready to declare war on the Muslim infidels. I calmly told them that I had been born and raised in a Muslim nation to missionaries who spent 40 years brining the good news of Jesus to Muslims in word and deed. You could have heard a pin drop. Still, it was one of the many experiences that pushed me into the evangelical wilderness.

            Too much interest in being right and gettting the spiritual upper hand. Too little interest in actually being like Jesus and following his path of servanthood and sactifice.

          • Brian,
            Let me add my voice those who are supporting you here in your search for truth. I am confident that you will find your way back to Jesus (if you aren’t there already, which I have a sneaking suspicion that you are). I think that you demonstrate part of the importance of having conversations like these at iMonk – letting people who don’t want to believe what you were taught know that they don’t have to throw out Jesus with Sarah Palin (we also have to remember that Sarah Palin and Jesus are not incompatible, but somebody already touched on that point).

          • To Savannah: I really really share your pain….. I’m sure there is a place for you, even if it’s with just a few folks (though I hope it’s more). I’m glad you refuse to check your brain at the door, I’ve it can come in handy here and there. I know that sometimes getting ‘lost’ in a work of charity helps for awhile. My prayers go out to you and all the travelers thru the ev. wilderness.

            Greg R

          • I saved that note to my computer.

          • “Did I leave anything out?”

            Yes, universal public health care. Christians have to be against it, too.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Speaking of the culture war that evangelicals seem to be so gung ho about…Ok, here’s where I stand at the moment. If being a Christian means that I have to be a Republican, that I have to love Sarah Palin and hate Obama, that I have to believe that Fox News, Glen Beck, Hannity and Rush are paragons of truth and virtue, that I can’t criticize anything that Israel does without fear of being labeled an anti-semite… — Brian

            Question, Brian: How does that differ from the classic Communists? Party Line or Purge/Gulag? As in “Ees Party Line, Comrades”?

            Here’s the constant drumbeat: “Stop thinking, put away your cognitive dissonance, and stop asking questions. Questions are divisive and breed doubts in others. Ignore facts and the ones you can’t ignore, twist them into pretzel shapes to fit this construct that is so essential to your salvation. That’s what we all do and it works just fine for us. What is wrong with you?” — Savanna

            The flip side of “Ees Party Line, Comrades”:

            Thoughtcrime, i.e. “DIE, HERETIC!!!!!!”

            “Questions lead to Thinking. Thinking leads to Heresy. Heresy deserves Retribution. Blessed is the mind too small for Doubt.” — Warhammer 40K

          • dumb ox says:

            That kinda nails it.

          • “On the other hand, if being a Christian means that I believe in what Jesus taught and how HE lived and what HE did, then I do believe we can have a conversation.”

            Thank you,Thank you.

        • Brian,

          The theological equation has appeal because it is easy. It is much simpler to “study” the Bible for Answers, whether they be in Genesis or Revelation and pronounce a position than it is to adopt a lifestyle that lives out the message of Jesus. I can feel secure driving down the freeway with my Jesus Fish eating the Darwin Fish because I’ve answered that question, unconcerned about flipping off the guy who cut in front of me because that’s not really the question I was trying to answer.

          No one asks, “What must I do to be more Christ-like?” at an AiG conference, prophecy seminar, or healing service. These questions never even come up. If it is mentioned at all, it is just a footnote to the Main Attraction. We would rather fight than switch, a la Romans 12:1-2. Especially among ourselves.

          It is no wonder that we are so ineffective at evangelizing because we are engaging The Culture and not individuals, we are “defending the Bible” rather than demonstrating it, we are seeking more faith when our mustard seed is more than enough to move spiritual mountains. In essence, we are looking for power, spiritual power I admit, but power nonetheless to do what is in essence magic (getting prayers answered, getting “victory,” winning arguments, etc.) when what Jesus tells us to seek in Mark 10 is submission. He tells us that if we want to rise to a position of power in the Kingdom, then we must seek to be the lowest of slaves to all. This message is too hard for most Christians to accept, but that’s where the gospel takes us. Sad that too few are willing to go there.

          • Great points Rick. I would contend though that obviously studying the Bible for answers isn’t as simple as some would have us believe. If it was so simple there wouldn’t be so many different theologies, so many different denominations, we would all still be Catholic.
            That’s why i like reading things like CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity, it comes from an ecumenical place of trying to show what all Christians have in common. It’s what in common that is where salvation lies anyway.
            I’m coming from a place where I was so turned off by all the fighting and the fact that I didn’t see Jesus being lived out in the lives of ordinary Christians, that I just left the fold entirely. At 37 years of age, I’m coming to realize I may have been a little too hasty in my retreat.

          • To Rick: ironic that the world largely doens’t give a fig for the minutae of our apologetics, they typically aren’t asking the questions we are asking……meanwhile they would be fascinated with 5 min. worth of real submission through servanthood (minus the not-so-obligatory gospel tract);

            it’s not as if they aren’t spiritually hungry and thirsty, they just don’t like our brand of luke warm Kool Aid.

    • ahumanoid says:

      “You can just refuse to take part in the debate any longer.”

      This debate is a necessary one. Until Evangelical Christianity refuses to hinge the entire framework of the faith on a belief in YEC, young people will continue to reject Christianity when the evidence for evolution is thoroughly analyzed.

  11. Hi Mike,

    I attend a Baptist church in Perth, Western Australia. I have trained at the Baptist Theological College of WA (now called Vose Seminary) but I am afraid that I cannot be a member of the church because of its rigid statement of faith which includes verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the original manuscripts (which is not interpreted by the pastors and the congregation in a nuanced way) and dispensationalist eschatology. Although its statement of faith does not mention young earth creationsim, I do not know of one person (except myself) who is not a YEC and there is extreme hostility shown if you suggest that the universe is about 14 billion years old.

    Instead of taking a nuanced stand on inerrancy, I have grown tired of the debate and now think that Jesus is the Word of God and tha bible is simply God’s word in human words in history, pointing to the One to whom it bears witness. I now see an indirect identity between the words of the bible and the Word of God a la Barth. I want the good news of the coming of the kindgom of God to be central to my theology and most other things ( including eschatology and the nature of creation) to be peripheral to this.

    A compassionate Jesus centred theology, ethics and spirituality should enable us to accept one another in love. Unfortunately there are some who will not allow theological differences aznd will try to impose their views on others.

    Shalom,
    John Arthur

    • John as a fellow Perth-ite can I get you to clarify? Is it just your specific church that has such a rigid statement of faith or the Baptist Union in general? Not a Baptist myself but I have friends in those circles and a good friend doing classes at Vose and I know they would disagree with several of those tenets you listed.

      I’m at a church where (fortunately) these issues have not become divisive. Generally there is a focus on community and love rather than the nitty gritty of these secondary issues. When they do come up from time to time people seem to genuinely respect each others’ differences. My own personal approach is to gently acknowledge my views but not to go in with guns blazing, and sometimes just bite my tongue for the sake of peace and unity. When we had a Ken Ham clone YECer visit our church last year for a seminar I simply chose not to go. I do feel that some (not all) of the leaders I serve with would be horrified at some of my views on these issues but fortunately they just don’t seem to be hot topics in our community. I pray that things stay that way – I would hate to go through some of the battles described by others above.

  12. Allen Krell says:

    I have noticed that several posters to this blog often mention the Lutheran church. But even the Lutheran church seems to have fallen prey to the forces of evangelism. Like most all protestant groups in the United States, they have split into 2 (or more camps). One camp, a fundamentalist camp that defines itself by YEC, literal interpretation,… and a liberal camp that defines itself by social issues (homosexuality). The Missouri Synod website states that YEC is core to their beliefs. Looking at ELCA, they have let some define the church by certain social issues (e.g., homosexuality).

    What I long for is a group of Christians that defines itself by the story of redemption, sanctification, and glorification. It is not that I don’t have an opinion on the other issues, it is just that I am tired of both sides trying to define Christianity by those issues.

    • Awesome Allen. And I thought I was the only one. I especially liked the part where you said, “What I long for is a group of Christians that defines itself by the story of redemption, sanctification, and glorification. It is not that I don’t have an opinion on the other issues, it is just that I am tired of both sides trying to define Christianity by those issues.”
      It’s interesting to me that Jesus never defined salvation on those other issues.
      Speaking of Lutherans, it’s always funny to me the religious ignorance of so many people today. I was reading a review of a Martin Luther documentary and this person said, “Hmmm, I would have thought that Luther started the Lutherans, not the Protestants, I learned something from this documentary.” lol Apparently they didn’t.

    • The Missouri Synod website states that YEC is core to their beliefs. Looking at ELCA, they have let some define the church by certain social issues (e.g., homosexuality). What I long for is a group of Christians that defines itself by the story of redemption, sanctification, and glorification.

      There is a difference between how the ELCA as an organization defines itself and how a particular ELCA church defines itself. I’m sure the same is true for the Missouri Synod. The ELCA church I attend defines itself exactly as you describe in what you long for.

      • Allen Krell says:

        But that is my frustration with protestant churches in general. I find a local congregation that doesn’t require me to believe in either fundamentalism or extreme liberal social causes, then a new group takes over, or the pastor changes, and I am left without a church. I am weary and tired.

  13. dan baker says:

    Chaplain Mike,

    Thanks for posting this series. I have never heard this reading of Genesis before. I have been studying Wright a lot lately, and this perspective you’re sharing dovetails nicely with some of the things i’ve had to rethink about what the bible actually teaches. As someone who grew up ultra-dispensationalist and immersed in theology, i feel like i’m hearing God’s story for the first time. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

    Dan

  14. Chaplain Mike, I am 68 years old, 38 years into a walk with Christ, born-again into old-time holiness, 30 years within that same church as it evolved into something much more akin to the Charismatic tele-evangelistic movement that came through in the 80s, and now content to sit on the back pew of another assembly, doing ministry within a local rescue mission and a nearby Youth Detention Center…and “no”-I never did fully buy into all that legalism, but remain fully “at home” in my experience of knowing a resurrected Savior who is more than just a theology I’ve drawn from the Book. I sat in a Sunday school class this past weekend that was beginning a new series entitled “Twisting the Truth” and directed more toward those who do not recognize the Bible or maybe have adopted “addendum” literature to it. It’s a good class, great teacher, and we had no argument in our midst; but, when I suggested that there were plenty of “lies” to be found within our own bunch (i.e. speaking in tongues is required to be saved), it was noted that, while we do have erroneous dogma within the “denominational spread”, yet because Jesus is the foundation upon which all rest, all are secure in Him as we pursue the facts. To that I offered the imagery given by Damaris Zahner of God being the master juggler, controlling various orbs representing truth as we attempt to pull a slice from any individual sphere for examinatin. My extension of that sees it as an atom gained at conversion, placed within me as a point of being anchored to Him, an anchor-line “belly-connection” that we get in this that works in conjuction with “the guy who lives upstairs”, the fellow who finds himself usually in a stagger down the strait path. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn’t be found guilty of following our own “christian agenda” more than we, in actuality, follow Him….

    This site continues to feed me, a refuge in the storm. Thank you, sir, for your honesty and your efforts.

  15. great blog Mike, glad I found it! I found it at pyromaniacs. So while you may not change the mind of the regulars over there, there are plenty of lurkers that may be positivly influenced by your posts! keep up the good work!
    MT

    • LOL…..I thot Chap Mike smelled a little like a Kingsford after the grill party………

      • Anyone spare a little self-esteem? Mine got blasted at TeamPyro.

        • I posted there once or twice. Never again. If this were 500 years ago and in real life as opposed to the internet, my heretical body would be smoldering at the stake for not acknowledging the truth. Blessings to you for enduring it.

  16. Kenny Johnson says:

    I’ve been lucky to be part of communities that have been open to differing points of views on the non-essentials. I’ve even had friendly debates with my friends on different issues. My current church has a basic faith statement. It’s basically the Apostle’s and Nicene creeds plus centrality of the Word of God. Our website belief statement even includes the quote “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”

    I imagine that there are people at my church who are YEC, TE, OE, etc. I know several who are fans of N.T. Wright. There are both political conservatives and liberals.

    I’ve been lucky to only have a few occasions in my Christian walk where I felt I didn’t fit in because people didn’t like my views.

  17. Kenny Johnson says:

    Scot McKnight’s blog currently has a blog post up about civility:
    http://blog.beliefnet.com/jesuscreed/2010/06/christ-and-the-dragons-5.html

  18. After reading all this my initial actual response was – WOW !!

    Years of experience living within various community settings in which there was room for diverse opinions on some issues regarding how to live out the vocation we had and yet there were other topics which could cause real divisions, some which, as far as I was concerned, really didn’t make that much of a difference in relation to the life of love, service and prayer we had embraced, taught me many basic truths about human nature. Where there is more than 1 person conflict is sure to follow but, where there is more than 2 people at times conflict will lead to polarities being created which have deep roots within and no amount of discussion will bring about unity of those polarities. It is within human nature to want to be right and human insecurity can deepen the “need” of an individual to believe they are on the right side of things. To ask some people to look at things differently, never mind actually change what they’ve held on to as true for a long period of time, can shake the foundation of their identity, pull the floor out from under them not just the rug, bring them to a level of intolerable insecurity. It is only by the grace of God and each person’s openness to the Holy Spirit that the true unity Jesus prayed for can be realized.

    Until that happens, in my humble opinion, we should focus on Love, becoming Rays of True Love, witnesses of God Who Is Love. Let ourselves be transformed into Love…to be Love in this world. Surrendering to Jesus, letting go and letting go again and again and again, out of Love, is something the Holy Spirit will enable us to do if we are willing. To love those who claim to be Christian yet treat us in a way Jesus would not; to remain peaceful and quietly silent, because of God’s Love in us, with those who think differently than ourselves and try to convince us how wrong we are and we know there is no way they are going to try to just hear and understand our point of view.

    Satan’s greatest tool is division. Love, agape, is the greatest weapon. The Holy Spirit cannot break into a spirit of division unless a person is willing to take a stance of humility that they might be wrong, they might have more to learn. The experience of being truly loved with God’s Love, with no strings attached, loved just as one is at that moment in time, over and over again for no reason other than to be loved, massages the heart and soul, so to speak, and enables the Holy Spirit to enter. The Holy Spirit can enable someone to take the risk of insecurity and let God turn their world upside down and inside out if necessary.

    I found the only stance in which to have peace in the mist of such conflict is Love. In the end, based on what really truly matters, who cares how old the earth is – does it really matter in the end, who cares if Adam was the actual first human being created, or first being to be breathed into by God and thus become human, or just an image representing the first human being, or the beginning of Israel – does it really matter in the end ????? I say NO !!

    God is God. I know He exists. I know He is the Creator of all that is. How doesn’t matter. He is God and doesn’t need to have me know and understand everything. The 2 greatest Commandments given by Jesus our Lord and Savior is: to Love God with All our heart, mind, and will and to Love our neighbor as ourselves. Everything Jesus did speaks of Love, Love and Mercy. In the end is Faith Hope and Love and the greatest of these is Love.

    What matters in the end – Love – that is what matters.

  19. You hit the nail right on the head, Mike! Too many people are straining at gnats and swallowing camels. Some years back, some people found out I didn’t believe the Hal Lindsey pre-trib pre-mill line, and surrounded me trying to ‘set me straight’ on my prophetic views. As they went on, I was feeling a strange kind of irrelevancy in their remarks. If they believed half of what they were throwing at me, they wouldn’t be wasting their time setting me straight, they’d be out evangelizing like there was no tomorrow! But that didn’t seem to matter as long as everybody toed the line on their dispensational eschatology.

    And the same goes on YEC, charismatic or no, KJV only beliefs and a host of other molehills that some think are mountains that one can’t be saved without believing in. That analogy of a Jenga pile is excellent. People think these can’t be pulled without bringing down the whole pile.

    And it brings up another pet peeve. It shows the tragedy of what came of the Fundamentalist-Modernist debates of the 20’s and 30’s. When the smoke cleared, both sides ended up in heresy.

    One central doctrine of the Church has been of the Incarnation of Christ, that, according to the creed of Chalcedon 451 AD, Jesus Christ was in two natures, truly God and truly Man, unmingled, unvivided, unconfused. However, it was seperated in the above controversy.

    The Modernists believed in a Jesus that was all man and no God, except in a Gnostic way that we are all divine.

    The Fundamentalists believed in a Docetic Gnostic view that Jesus was in effect all God and no man. YOu don’t realize how many times I have had to defend the true humanity of Jesus in my own church.

    And it has gone down the line, you dont’ realize how much this confusion on the Incarnation has effected other things.

    Scripture:

    Modernist: It is a purely human work.

    Fundy: It is a purely divine work, almost an Islamic view of inspiration, as if it just dropped down out of the sky, KJV complete with Scofield’s notes.

    ANd I could go on and on. but I have liittle time. But I’m glad somebody has spoken out. Like Rick, I’ve often had to be silent when people expounded YEC or other things like it like it was the center of all truth and you couldn’t possibly be saved without it.

    • it just dropped down out of the sky, KJV complete with Scofield’s notes.

      …and Left behind movie trailers….. nice post

      GReg R

      • …If KJV was good enough for the apostle Paul, then it’s good enough for me…

        • that’s a very sad statement….but I can’t stop laughing…….imagine hearing that out loud, during a sermon….I’d be in SERIOUS trouble if I was drinking my usual hot coffee..

    • Yeah, I hear you loud and clear on that one. I’ve heard a lot of things that essentially deny the humanity of Christ- not just in conservative circles, but in my fairly middle of the road church. Awhile back I heard NT Wright point out that most of the conservative church is essentially Docetic. It was like a window opened and began to see all the implications of this. The church begins to see God as a magic genie, spirituality is the pursuit of magic experiences and visions, Scripture is viewed as a message beamed directly from God to the reader, the Holy Spirit is reduced to an esoteric cloud, etc.

      Scripture is both human and divine, just like Jesus. Which is why it’s misused unless you account for the human/cultural vessel AND the divine inspiration behind it.

      Jesus washed dishes and went to the john just like everyone else. Which is profoundly helpful, cause now we can know that he sympathizes with us.

      Nate

  20. Rick Ro. says:

    If we Christians can’t converse repectfully about things we DON’T believe, then how in the world will we be able to love our neighbors as ourselves?

    And if all we are able to say is “I am right, you are wrong,” might that prideful stance put us in danger of blowing not only the second greatest commandment, but also the greatest: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”?

    • Did Jesus not Love those who didn’t understand His position?? Did He not Love those who disagreed with Him?? We can Love someone and not agree with anything they believe or say. We can love someone even if they think we are wrong about something. We can Love someone even if they say we are not Christians because of… XYZ… We can Love someone even if they are not willing to hear our side of a situation.

      How is this possible?? First of all by not stating I am right you are wrong. That’s a position of pride. All that does is put the other person in a defensive stance and builds a barrier to communication. How do we know there isn’t some truth in what another person says. How we understand and interpret the words another persons uses is not always what is exactly within them that they are trying to say. God alone is the One who can see into the heart and mind. Sure, sometimes things are plain true or false. Jesus is both God and man. Jesus lived, suffered on the Cross, died and rose from the dead.
      If someone doesn’t believe these things that doesn’t make them untrue. But, humbly speaking from the “I believe” position and explaining why “I believe” and then leaving it at
      that, leaving the other person in the hands of the Holy Spirit, is a position of love. We are showing kindness, patience, respect for them as created by God and if it be the case respect for them as a child of God. Each person can only believe and understand at each moment what they have the grace to believe and understand. Each person has the graces at hand that he/she is open to receive.

      Simply put, I believe Loving our neighbor is wanting the best for them at each moment we are with them, talk about them, think about them. God has often put people in my path who don’t see things at all the way I see them. It can be very trying. God was testing my patience, my forbearance, my compassion and understanding. I cannot make someone see light if they are unwilling to open their eyes. But that doesn’t mean I don’t help them if they have a need. That doesn’t mean I have nothing further to do with them like have a cup of coffee, give them a ride, watch their children, mow their lawn…etc., etc. whatever way I can love them. If someone wants to argue with me to convince me of their position, I believe I love them by stating gently what I believe and why and add something like “let’s pray for each other that the Holy Spirit will further open our minds about this.” I then move on an leave it to God.

      I love talking about God and the things of God with anyone. I am fine carrying on an ongoing discussion with others who share different views and beliefs. I am always open to things God might be trying to teach me. But I’ve learned when to stop and let go and let God do the work.

  21. AMEN!!!
    I echo your statement, “I’ve gone farther from the original positions I was taught the more I’ve read and considered the Scriptures,” and on more than just those issues.

    And if I may say, Hoekema and Wright are AWESOME!!

  22. john book says:

    My bottom line: The Bible is perfect the way it is…God made it that way… even if it doesn’t fit in with “science”.
    Then if that is true why try to add to it so it sounds more believable? We are not to be re-writing as it clearly states. Where is our faith that believes what it cannot see? God can and has done anything He wishes… is that so difficult for a …pastor…. to handle? Genesis doesn’t need science to make it true. God said it/inspired it..that’s good enough for me.

    If you think Genesis needs to be “re-written” so it sounds more scientific and believable for you then I assume you believe there are other areas in there that need changing too….. Perhaps you might go along with the idea that there are many ways to get to Heaven? Did Jesus really die and go to hell and take our sins with Him then ascend into Heaven? Etc..etc…. there are all sorts of changes you can make so you feel better …. why stop with just Genesis?

    Jesus/God loves unity… why break up a church just so some folks can feel comfortable with non-Biblical “science”? Unless it affects someone’s salvation, why fight over it? That seem pretty simple to me.

    This from a retired missionary of the Gospel

    • I haven’t seen anyone suggest that Genesis should be rewritten.

      To briefly summarize my own experience, I was raised in a church that taught a young earth understanding of Genesis. As I grew into my teen years and became interested in natural history, I found the teaching of my church irrelevant. For more than 30 years I called myself agnostic.

      When Christ brought me back, my first instinct was to dismiss Genesis as irrelevant myth. I didn’t see how it mattered in any interpretation. Jesus mattered. Jesus lived!

      These comments would become unnecessarily lengthy if I detailed the progression of my faith. As time passed I came to a growing appreciation for the awesome wonder of God as Creator and as mystery. It is beyond my limited human understanding to grasp all that is God. Yet even as I continued to study natural history, I gained a new appreciation for Genesis.

      I can only speak for myself, but I tell you this in complete honesty. When I seek to better understand how the stories in Genesis were originally interpreted, it is not to change the stories. It is in reverence, and to gain more understanding.

      • You’ve stated that far better than I could have, which is why I didn’t respond to this post earlier.

        The key here is not that we are re-writing Genesis, but rather, that we are re-discovering how it was originally understood. In the process many of us have rejected an interpretation that has been assigned to the verses in question.

        As for the question: “Why fight over it?” I would respond with: “Why pursue a faith that, as someone stated earlier, requires me to ‘check my brains at the door?'”

  23. Ekstasis says:

    Sorry to introduce a whole new controversial idea, but shouldn’t we as Christians step back and look at how the Orthodox Jewish scholars and scribes view the whole creation thing? I am not suggesting that they have a monopoly on truth, but when it comes to the Torah, well, if they did not write the book they certainly have maintained and cared for it and studied the heck out of it.

    According to Jeffrey Satinover in Cracking the Bible Code, Jewish scholars do not generally interpret the 7 days literally, nor do they believe in a young earth. In fact, a famous Rabbi from a thousand or more years ago actually, using bible codes, derived the age of the cosmos as approximately 15.3 billion years old, which is practically the exact figure that science has produced currently!! Jewish scholars, using bible codes, also determined a lunar month down to an extremely accurate figure, even more accurate than the ancient Assyrians, Egyptians, and Persians.

    P.S. Chaplain Mike, can I suggest for the next contentious topic we take up the topic of bible codes. And maybe throw in Kabballah just for the heck of it!

  24. What troubles me in this discussion is the assumption (by some) that if specific verses are not viewed with a present-day literal interpretation, all of Christian faith will crumble.

    Having grown up in a fundamentalist church I do realize that it is common enough to select a few disconnected verses to build a doctrine.

    It is as though each verse is a separate stone with the words inscribed in present-day language with present-day meaning. All these stones are inside a box. The stones can be taken out and arranged with other stones in any manner that furthers an agenda. And apparently some believe that if any one stone is shown to have other meaning, the entire box will crumble into dust.

    But shouldn’t we view each verse as a part of a chapter, each chapter as a part of a book and each book at part of the whole Bible? When we do this, we see the meaning as a whole. We also see that it is far more enduring than the current understanding of any particular collection of verses.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Having grown up in a fundamentalist church I do realize that it is common enough to select a few disconnected verses to build a doctrine.

      That’s treating the Bible as a grimoire of unconnected one-verse verbal-component spells. Quote X and Y will happen — never mind Harry Potter, even D&D was more coherent.

      But shouldn’t we view each verse as a part of a chapter, each chapter as a part of a book and each book at part of the whole Bible? When we do this, we see the meaning as a whole.

      Isn’t that the whole idea? It’s a story arc of more-or-less connected stories about encounters with God and what God wanted us to hear?

    • I think I remember a metaphor for doctrine that Rob Bell used in his book Velvet Elvis of a trampoline. In the past we have viewed our doctrine as a carefully constructed wall. It is used to separate rather than unify and if we remove one piece, then the entire structure becomes less sound.

      He was suggesting that a trampoline is a better metaphor. You can take out a few springs and question if they are needed – just don’t remove them all at once.

      A trampoline is a lot more fun at parties too.

  25. Nice essay, Mike. I noticed that each of the themes you encountered as “big division” issues always neatly slide the soul around Christ and his cross per the controversy. Whether we are talking about the fundamentalist or the post-evangelical if we’re not talking about Christ’s life, death and resurrection, then we’re really not talking about much at all.

    Brad

    • Brad, good comment. I would add that two out of the three deal with subjects in the distant past and future, neither of which we could offer “proof” for if we wanted to!

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Especially if we open up Ken Ham’s playbook and go “HOW DO *YOU* KNOW? WERE YOU THERE?”

  26. Great perspective from someone who has obviously been around the block a few times. This is the debate de jour, and the call to arms is going forth on both sides (see the John MacArthur’s blog; love the folks there, and I’ve been helped quite a bit, but it’s not exactly designed to provide a forum for a give and take of ideas, but rather a “you with us or with them?” ultimatum). Oh, and right on on amil (I was converted by Riddlebarger) and on being a non-charismatic charismatic. I thought surely I was the only one!

  27. You’re a dangerous man, Chaplain Mike. You and iMonk must have gotten along just great.

  28. Question to all the Theistic Evolutionists: Do you respect the views of the YEC? Or do you think that they are an embarrassment to Christianity? I attended a large methodist seminary where Theistic Evolution was mainstream. There were a few Old Earth Creationists and almost no YEC. I was open about my beliefs but always felt that I was not respected. I was actually laughed at for my belief.

    I am YEC because I think it says something powerful about our epistemology. It says that scriptural will be my axiom for knowledge against all other sources.

    For the record, I am not a fundamentalist. I am a presbyterian. Dispensationalism drives me bonkers. I love NT Wright. I am laid back with people who disagree with me (even Old Earthers and Theistic Evolutionists). And I like a higher liturgy.

    http://religionannarbor.wordpress.com/ .

    • I suppose it depends on what you mean by ‘respect.’ Can I respect people who hold YEC views? Absolutely. My pastor is convinced of a literal week-long creation and he is an intelligent man that I respect a huge amount.
      I don’t think it is YEC views in and of them selves that embarrass me as much as the fanatical adherence to them, the view that one cannot deviate from it and still be a Christian, and the history of deception and ignorance that people who have those views possess do.
      Can I respect it as a scientific belief? No, I have looked at the evidence on all sides of the issue and I have found that YEC simply cannot hold up to rigorous testing.

      Do I think that Jesus’ love depends on my understanding of creation’s history? No, I don’t think that either. “In essentials, unity. In nonessentials, liberty. In everything, charity.”

    • W. Vida,

      To me, the YEC’s aren’t an embarrassement. I’ve just learned that not to bring up certain topics with them. I think that in the wrong place that they hurt their witness to the world, by being so insistent on that interpretation.

      For many of us here, YEC people make it a necessary item of faith, and that is what bothers us.

      As far as being laughed at, some of things that people have laughed at me have included my accent (I still have some Southern present), and where I worked, The friendly stuff doesn’t bother me, the mocking did.

    • One of my best friends is YEC. We’ve been friends for most of our lives. I realize that since she has never been particularly interested in science it is probably easy enough to accept what she has been taught.

      With my friend I merely avoid the topic. In fact, I have discovered that it is best to avoid discussions about scripture with her altogether. This is a shame because faith is very important to both of us.

      I would be content to leave the topic alone entirely if the YECers would quit trying to force their views into science curriculum in the public schools.

      • Hi Prodigal,

        Thanks for the answer.

        //I would be content to leave the topic alone entirely if the YECers would quit trying to force their views into science curriculum in the public schools.//

        I don’t try to force my views on creation in the public schools. But I do have to deprogram my kids every day when they come home. There really is no neutral.

    • Question to all the Theistic Evolutionists: Do you respect the views of the YEC?

      As another poster noted, it depends on what you mean by respect. I can respect a person without respecting their views or opinions on a given subject.

      Speaking as a former YEC, I can respect YEC as a religious belief, but not as a scientific position. If a person says “I believe the Bible teaches YEC” and leaves it at that, I have no problem. When someone claims that YEC is scientific, then there’s a problem.

      I’m honestly not trying to be uncharitable, but YEC as a scientific position is pseudoscience. I treat belief in YEC as a scientific propostion no differently than I treat belief in astrology, homeopathy, dowsing, etc. If someone brings it up in conversation, I nod, smile politely, and wait for the conversation to move on. If someone asks me my opinion, I may give it to them if I think they can handle it; otherwise I steer the conversation in another direction.

      In short, I can respect a person who is a YEC, but I cannot respect YEC as a scientific position because it is demonstrably false.

      • Hi K,

        I believe it for biblical reasons. Not science reasons. I do have an engineering degree and recognize from many hours in test labs that science is not “an exact science”. And to say that things that may or may not have happened millions years ago are “demonstrably” anything seems a bit over confident to me.

        Thanks for the answer.

        • And to say that things that may or may not have happened millions years ago are “demonstrably” anything seems a bit over confident to me.

          Well, facts are facts, regardless of how much we wish them to be to otherwise. 🙂 As a young and eager college student (engineering degree as well) 20 years ago, I went out armed with all of the “scientific” YEC arguments, and had my tuchis handed to me on a platter by people who actually knew the science. So I went back to the books, and I couldn’t find a single scientific argument for YEC that held up in light of the evidence.

          If you’re interested in further study, here are a few resources. There are a number of books that document the problems with the scientific claims of YEC. Two of the most comprehensive are Strahler’s Science and Earth History and The Counter-Creationism Handbook, which is the print version of the online “Index to Creationist Claims”. The article “Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective” provides an excellent overview of how we know the age of the earth. For a book-length treatment of the topic, see Davis Young’s The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth.

          It’s a fascinating subject that I’ve enjoyed studying over the past 25 years. Have fun!

          • I would also recommend “The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism” by Ronald L. Numbers.

          • As Peggy says, Ron Numbers book, “The Creationists” cannot be recommended enough. It is, hands-down, the best historical treatment of creationist movement.

        • W. Vida,

          I love your statement. “‘science isn’t an exact science” How true, how true. I’m a lab chemist and butt my head against that almost daily.

          I agree with you about not knowing how things were millions of years ago is not science, not history (as we think of history now ), but something else. Perhaps philosophy or theology.

          Unlike many of the YEC’s who are trying to force their views into the public schools, I want both sides presented, and even include the original Intellligent Design ideas. The kids might as well find out that science is messy. (More fun that way, if you ask me.)

          • I am YEC, but I actually don’t think public school teachers should teach it. The reason? They are almost certainly not going to present it with a good heart. They will likely not understand it, and not agree with it. Leave it to the parents and the church.

            I would be glad if they removed propaganda about an old earth, leave history to written history and present origins as some sort of philosophy.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Ever notice it’s always the OTHER guy’s teaching that is “Propaganda (TM)”, never your own?

  29. Pastor Mike, I am sorry you have received those knocks from churches. I can say with a full heart how thankful I am to have been in a fellowship for 30 years where pre-trib, YEC, etc. has never been an issue. We have people from all sorts of church backgrounds and so far we have never gotten into that stuff. Me thinks our Lord is looking after us. John (PS the Reds are back in 1st place. They beat the Doctor today!)

  30. “I think N.T. Wright is an eschatological breath of fresh air. I think the “Left Behind” series is a travesty of literature and theology. I’ve never found one single text that supports the idea of a Pre-Trib rapture. Friends don’t talk about the subject when I’m around.”

    “Like.” 🙂

  31. I’d like to recommend this book:
    “Getting the Old Testament: What It Meant to Them, What It Means for Us,” by Steven L. Bridge.
    Never before, in all my 66 years of church sermons and Bible studies, has Genesis made more sense to me than after I read this book! If you want to “read the creation story in the light of Israel’s story,” this is THE book for you.

  32. Mike,

    Good essay. Like you I’ve had my eyes opened to Genesis by going back to the source. I’m currently taking a Hebrew Bible class taught by a Rabbi and from all the Jewish commentaries that are out there on creation very few take it to be a literal account. Besides there are two creation stories in the first two chapters: the first has man created after the animals, the second before. Which is it? This isn’t science.

  33. dumb ox says:

    Would it help if Christian cosmology began with John 1, rather than Genesis 1?

  34. dumb ox says:

    I found these Michael Spencer quotes in the archives:

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/the-trouble-with-too-many-compliments

    “Stop assuming that science must give its nod before the Bible is true. The Bible is true because Christ is the Truth.”

    “The point of creation is Jesus
    The point of the fall is Jesus
    The point of the flood is Jesus
    The point of the Abraham story is Jesus

    This is the only level of truth that matters. The truth is a person, not a scientific proposition.”

    I think this supports a gospel-centric, Christ-centric interpretation of Genesis which is not dependent on winning debates with evolutionists or wringing ones hands out of concern that the next fossil discovered or the next theory proposed will debunk everything we believe.

  35. One specific observation from a Briish perspective.

    The nature of the wars and conflicts you have decribed cannot, in my view, be understood in isolation from the wider cultural context in which they are occuring.

    America is a warlike nation – especially since 1942 – and militarism is one of its most significant cultural forces.

    Perhaps this combative mindset has shaped America’s evangelical theology more than we realise.

    • flatrocker says:

      Al Shaw,
      Seeing how Britian has been a “warlike” nation especially since – oh somewhere about the 1100’s, what pray tell has shaped her theology?

      • Similar values in many ways – hence the theological justifications for empire that arose in Britain especially during the 18th and 19th centuries.

        A difference between the two nations now is that, whereas Britain is a post-colonial power, the United States is currently actively pursuing imperial policies.

        My point was not to disrespect America but to highlight how the culture of the nation in which the chuch finds itself can have an influence on the church’s formulation of its theology.

        • flatrocker says:

          I am giddy with excitement at the prospect of post-colonial ambivalence settling in. You wouldn’t by any chance have the phone number for the Church at Laodicea would you?

    • This interpretation strikes me as very plausible. Its hard not to see parallels between Cold War political rhetoric and the tone of post-WW2 evangelical rhetoric. The Soviet Union was a prefect foil for fundamentalism’s dystopian view of the future, for perpetuating concerns about cultural crisis, and for seeing everything as as a battle between belief and atheism. The more optimistic side of Cold War pro-Americanism fit the less caustic, but equally militant moderate evangelicals.

      America’s political situation isn’t the cause, but it could well be a contributing factor.

  36. Mike, that was one of the most moving things I’ve read by you. While I am far outside of this battle, I hope that you find your way to the eye of the storm (to mix metaphors).

  37. Az Azel says:

    Somebody said you can tell a lot about yourself depending on whether, when you hear the story about the woman caught in adultery, you think of yourself as her or one of the Pharisees.

    So here, you’re the courgeous liberal fighting against those close-minded YEC people. But soon the topic of gays in the Anglican / Episcopal Church will come up, and then you’ll go back to being a Pharisee.

  38. CM,
    Thanks for sharing your history. I sympathize and know exactly what you mean on all three counts you mentioned. Although I don’t share your enthusiasm for the particular Genesis approach you’ve settled into, I appreciate the fact that it shows you (and your mentor who led you there) were actually bringing thoughtful research into play. Honest study with the humble willingness to change one’s mind on occasion is the only way to produce really great Biblical scholarship. I hope all of us in the “wilderness” never stop studying, but that in many cases, like you with Genesis, we can individually find a sense of “rest” with an explanation that satisfies us.

  39. CM,

    I’m an outside in the YEC/OEC fights, but it’s my impression that the responsed of the two groups to each other are markedly asymmetical. Old earthers seem much more tolerant of young earthers than young earthers are of old earthers. OECers may poke a little fun at YECers, and roll their eyes a bit, but that’s about all. On the other hand, as I saw over at Pyro, YECers appear to be ready to burn OECers at the stake. At a minimum, they can barely contain their desire to shout “heretic” from the rooftops.

    Do you have any guesses as to why there is such a difference in the group’s responses to each other? While I’m an outsider, I have plenty of friends and family who are OEC, and frankly, they seem to be much better Christians than most of the YECers I’ve encountered on the web (although web encounters will obviously give a distorted view of things) . Where do these folks get off shouting “heretic” at people that I consider to be examples of what a Christian should be?

    • On the other hand, as I saw over at Pyro, YECers appear to be ready to burn OECers at the stake. At a minimum, they can barely contain their desire to shout “heretic” from the rooftops.

      About 10 years ago I attended a two day “Case for Creation” seminar at my (now former) church. Duane Gish and Frank Sherwin of IRC were the featured speakers. Some choice quotes:

      Gish: “The only reason a person wants to believe in evolution is because they don’t want to believe in God.”

      Sherwin, when asked about Hugh Ross and Old-Earth Creationism: “Old Earth creationism is a pagan philosophy, and we hope that people like Hugh Ross will come to accept the Christian view.”

      Do you have any guesses as to why there is such a difference in the group’s responses to each other?

      One word: fear. They’ve been taught by their pastors, Duane Gish, Ken Ham, et. al. that the truth of Christianity stands or falls on a literal YEC reading of Genesis one. If you call that into question, you question the very basis of their faith and life. Of course they’re going to lash out in fear and try to suppress other viewpoints.

      In my case, some people in my former church just stopped speaking to me when they found out that I wasn’t a YEC and accepted evolution. Some would even avert their gaze when we past each other in a hallway in church.

      • “Some people in my former church just stopped speaking to me when they found out that I wasn’t a YEC and accepted evolution. Some would even avert their gaze when we past each other in a hallway in church.”

        Wow.

    • In my experience, OE tend to ignore YEC. They also dismiss them as “unscientific” and “unreasonable”.

      YEC come off as “intolerant” or “witch hunters” – because an Old Earth view paints a very different view of God. They are vigorous (maybe a little too vigorous) about defending God’s good name.

      An old earth says that God tortured and murdered countless animals for hundreds of millions of years. For no reason, other than He was too incompetent to make man directly.

      • Savannah says:

        I will cop to the “ignore” part – not the YEC-believing person, just the point of view. As in, I have never gone remotely out of my way to get into a discussion of OC vs. YEC with a YECer. However, if one YECer heard that we (my family and me) were OEers, word seemed to spread among the YECers and there was no shortage of those wishing to try to “dialogue” with us about it (i.e., “confront” and “correct”).

        And I will tell you this: I NEVER once stated or implied (or even personally believe) that any YECer was “not saved” because of their view of this issue. If I had a nickel for every time, however, that it was stated or implied to me, that my very salvation was questioned over the issue by a YECer, then. . . well, I’d have a lot more money.

        Now I certainly have YEC friends who accept me and I accept them and mostly, we just agree to disagree on the issue, not viewing it as a central tenet of the faith. I don’t believe ALL YECers are one way or another, and certainly not all OEers are one way or another. It is easy to demonize the other side of any issue, particuarly if one has been wounded in the crossfire.

      • Was God incompetent for taking a whole week to do it? Like you said, He could have done it directly in one instant.

        • The creation week sets the pattern for the rest of history. The seven day week has survived to this day (every Saturday or Sunday we are reminded that God is Creator).

        • Also, at each step in the week it was good.

          What is good about the extinction of an estimated 90% of all species that ever lived before the advent of man?

          What is good about a t-rex devouring its weight in meat every week or so? Animals crushed and killed and drowned by fire, flood, and earthquake – before sin.

  40. BetaIotaMu says:

    In a Biblical word – “Amen”. I’m so glad for your articulate rendering of the viewpoints I have arrived at over the years. I’m encouraged by the (growing?) community that is seeing these issues in a similar light. I have hope that the church, whatever shape the Holy Spirit is molding (hammering?) it into, will be one that holds the things of little import loosely while holding courageously to the Cross.

  41. Can anyone tell me why, if each day of creation was a literal 24 hours, why God took so long at each stage of creation? Why not 24 nanoseconds. and do the whole thing at one time.

    • See above.

      We live in 24 hour days. It shows God is willing to step down into our frame to do His work. It also establishes the 6 day work, 1 day rest pattern.

      • God could’ve made 23 hour days and 9 day weeks and 423 days in a year. Then that would be our frame.

        I think the presence of 24 x 7 in Genesis simply shows how we impose our frame of reference on our story of God.

        God probably did create the world in a micro-second in one sense, and in another sense he’s still at work.

  42. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Out of curiosity, Chaplain Mike, what’s the painting at the top of the post?

  43. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    When I was a new Christian in the 1970‘s, the charismatic movement and biblical eschatology were hot topics.

    From what I remember of the 1970s, “biblical eschatology” usually translated as “The Gospel According to Hal Lindsay” and its corollary “Christians For Nuclear War.” 1970s-era “Biblical Eschatology” messed up a LOT of heads.