Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A glimpse into the life of Tim

So, in lieu of a real post this week I BEG YOU to go and read Michael F. Bird's post over at the Euangelion blog (here). You may remember that I featured Michael Bird a few weeks ago (here). The reason why his post struck such a chord with me is because I also suffer from the INTJ personality type! His post applies to me in many ways!!

Anyway, enjoy some of the following INTJ humour!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas

I hope that all of you have a wonderful time this year celebrating the amazing incarnation of God!

I hope that the angels' blessing in Luke 2:14 rings true in your life.

But, of course, I can't just leave it at that! Here's a fun little video that we'll be using during our Christmas Eve service:

This is a fun way to bring a bit more of a realistic, Biblical focus to our sometimes overly traditional celebrations.

If you want to look into this a bit more I'll point you back to a post that I did back in '07 (here) and to a recent post that Ben Witherington III did on his blog (here). If you have the time, his post is definitely worth the read. You'll also notice that he backs up my own theory that Jesus was simply born in a house and not a cave (certainly not a stable!).

The Bible says nothing about stables or caves. It does however mention a house (Mt. 2:11) and a guest-room/upper-room (Lk. 2:7 - see the NEB or the TNIV). Plus, archeological records from the 1st century show that many houses had mangers in their houses in the entryways.

Jesus was born in a house.

Anyway, rather than continuing the deconstruction of Christmas traditions I will echo the sentiments expressed in that fun little video: however you celebrate Christmas, whatever it looks like, don't let it go by without taking some time to meditate on the enormity of God becoming fully human.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In the beginning...

So, my main point from last week was that we need to let the Bible serve its own agenda rather than us pushing our agenda onto it. We need to come to the scriptures and let them shape us; let them tell us what they are designed to say.

One of my biggest beefs with "creationists" is that in many (...but not all...) cases I don't think they use the Scriptures properly. Week hermeneutics = poor theology.

Maybe I'm a heretic but I honestly don't think that the point God is trying to make through Genesis 1 is an historical (by modern standards...), chronological account of how He created.

If He thought it was important to let us know the exact "how", He would have given us more specifics. As it is, Genesis 1 is VERY unspecific (scientifically/historically speaking). Genesis 1 is moving; it is beautiful; it is powerful... it is theological... but it is not scientifically or historically precise.

If God wanted it to be, He would have made it that way.

If God wanted Gen. 1 to be scientifically/historically accurate He would have explained how there was "light" & "dark" (Day 1) before there was sun, moon, stars (day 4).

If God wanted Gen. 1 to be scientifically/historically accurate He would have explained how there was "evening" & "morning" (every day) before He had created the sun and moon (day 4).

In fact, how were there "day"s before day 4? How were they measured? Were these metaphorical days (day/age theory... Heb. "yom")? Were they 24 hr. periods (the Hebrew is rather ambiguous)?

There is just as much theory and speculation in creationism as there is in evolution.

Please do not read anything into the picture below: it's a joke! :)
As I mentioned last week, Genesis 1 is a Hebraic poem.

The 6 "days" of creation in Genesis 1 follow an ABC - ABC formula (with "day" 7 providing the "D" conclusion):
Day 1. A
Day 2. B
Day 3. C
Day 4. A
Day 5. B
Day 6. C
Day 7. D

Each of the "days" has a parallel.

A breakdown of the structure of Genesis 1 is as follows:

A. Day 1: Light and Dark || Day 4: Sun, Moon, Stars
B. Day 2: Sea & Sky || Day 5: Fish & Birds
C. Day 3: Fertile Earth || Day 6: Land Animals (including Mankind)
D. Day 7: Rest

In the first half of the parallel God creates something and then in the second half He populates it: ie. Day 2 - God creates the sea; Day 5 God creates Fish.

Remember, most scholars agree that it was Moses who wrote Genesis. This was written so that it could be read to (not by) the people of God: it was an oral culture. Things were written so that when they were read they could be remembered (hence the Hebrew emphasis on REPETITION).

This was written to a people who did not know or value science. It was written to a people who needed to know who God was, what He had done, and how they were called to live in response to that.

These words still speak powerfully to us today but we cannot impose our western/modern cultural expectations onto an ancient religious text. When we do that we come up with some wacky stuff!

In the end I believe that what we are intended to know is simply this: GOD CREATED.

God created all that is.

God created us:
A. in His image
B. as the climax of His "good" creation
C. to live in unity with Him & the rest of His creation.

I am not trying to say that really getting into creation-science is wrong or bad, 'cause it's not. I think it is important to have "specialists" in all areas of Biblical scholarship... but it should be just that: people who are passionate about the theology of Genesis, not people who are passionate about reading science into the text.

That's all for now. Let me know what you think!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Asking the right questions?

"Asking the [Bible] the right sort of questions, and avoiding asking the wrong ones, is a key not only to understanding the Bible as a written expression of God's Word, but it also prevents us from creating more troubles in interpretation than are necessary" (Ben Witherington III; The Living Word of God, 25).
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I have provided, as bookends for this post, two quotes that I hope can emphasize the point I am trying to make:

I hope that in post-modernism we as Christians may be able to regain a view of the Bible that was damaged during the modern era. Following the Enlightenment much of Western Christianity bought into the worldview of modernity. One of the results of this was an emphasis on "Systematic Theology." Systematic Theology was a way of approaching theology that followed the scientific method. Observe the following quotes from two prominent Christian Systematic Theologians:

“…the theologian must be guided by the same rules in the collection of facts, as govern the man of science.” - Charles Hodge

“the laws of methodology are as essential in the science of systematic theology as in any other science” - L.S. Chafer

“... the Bible contains the truths which the theologian has to collect, authenticate, arrange, and exhibit in their internal relation to each other” - Hodge

I won't take the time and space right now to argue with these quotes other than simply saying that I think this approach to theology has had some very destructive results (if you want some of these ideas just ask and I can comment on them). One of these results is, in my opinion, the largely pointless debate of creationism/evolutionism.

One of the biggest follies Christians have committed is attempting to claim scientific truth in the scriptures. Just ask Copernicus, Galileo, etc...

Obviously this is a hugely dense topic with a tonne of baggage so there's no way I can deal with this with any justice in a blog post but for now I will just highlight one or two points.

Genre, people... genre. In most cases it is not very difficult to identify the genre of any given passage of scripture. For example, to argue that the earth is flat because Ps. 135:7 talks about the "ends of the earth"; or to say that the sun goes around the earth because Ps. 104:22 says that "the sun rises"... to argue these points is just plain silly. Why? (aside from the fact that science has clearly proven otherwise) Because it is poetry! Why on earth would one attempt to derive scientific fact from a sacred poem? Maybe it's just me, but you'd think that a religious poem would be trying to address something other than the natural sciences.

Here's the thing: the Bible has it's own agenda. In a sense it is providing us answers to questions that we may not be asking. So part of the interpretive task for any and every Christian is to find out what questions we need to be asking it (see top & bottom quotes). When we come to the scriptures with our own questions/hypothesis we are almost guaranteed to be misinterpreting it.

It is coming out of this that "Biblical Theology" has risen. The emphasis in Biblical Theology is to read the Bible as a whole and to discern what God's agenda is in the written Word and then yield our agenda's to His.

In short: Systematic Theology starts with our questions and looks to the Bible to answer them while Biblical Theology starts with the Bible's answers and asks us to change our questions.

[This is not to say that all Systematic Theology is bad or that all Biblical Theology is good; nor is it saying that Systematic Theology isn't Biblical or that Biblical Theology isn't in some sense systematic. They are just two different approaches]

So, if we are to even begin to address the creation/evolution debate we need to come to the creation account with no agenda (as much as is possible) on our own part. Or maybe I should say, our only agenda needs to be to hear the answers that God provides us with and then ask if we've been asking the right questions.

I'd like to keep going but I'm not sure how much more you poor readers will keep reading... maybe more next week.

Please provide me with your thoughts and comments :)

** ** ** **
"Even when only partly understood, the Bible remain(s) bigger than the niches to which it (has been) relegated. For it requires that we be hearers of the Word,
listening for what it asks us, not bringing our questions to find the Bible's answers, but prepared to have our current questions revised or even discredited by its own" (James McClendon; Ethics, 37).