Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Launch of BioLogos Website

If you've read some of my earlier posts on evolutionary creation, then you might be interested in the new website called BioLogos.  It looks like it will be a great resource for Christians seeking to reconcile their faith and science.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Layout

I've been experimenting with new Blogger layouts to find one that is a little easier on the eyes to read.  So if you see this site change its look from time to time, you'll know why. (I can be terribly indecisive about such things.)  If you have suggestions or preferences (bigger font, different color) that make it easier to view, feel free to let me know.  Thanks!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and Everything In Between

My husband and I have elementary school-aged children, and like many parents, we have always made it a priority to try and shield them from negative influences.  We don't get cable, we restrict what cartoons they can watch, and we monitor the games they play on the internet.  The worst offending influence we had to correct in their preschool years was the "just believe in yourself" pop psychology that is so prevalent in kids' cartoons.

Our job became much harder when our kids entered public school, as we expected it would.  Now they often come home and ask about an offending word or gesture, or talk about why so-and-so's parent is in jail.  It can be stressful at times, but I hope that as we teach them to think through these issues, they will be able to make good choices when we are not around.

A couple weeks ago, though, our kids were at a friend's house and were exposed to a very violent video game.  I was very dismayed when I heard about it later, as they were describing what they saw.  I was even more dismayed when they tried to argue with me why the game was OK, even after I told them why it was a bad game.  I finally had to say, "That game is BAD.  You don't not play that game EVER.  If a friend has that game, you say your Mom does not allow you to play or watch that game EVER."

Kids think in terms of black and white.  They have to be told "this is bad" and "this is okay."  It's hard to explain the subtleties of morality to a five-year-old.  Thus the world is cast in black and white for little eyes.  Everything falls into two categories--good/bad, permissible/not permissible, moral/immoral.

Part of growing up, then, is realizing that the world really isn't black and white.  It's black and white and a million shades of gray.  There is moral, immoral, and amoral.  There is sometimes moral under some circumstances and immoral under different circumstances.  Very few things in life are cut and dry.  I think of 1 Corinthians 13:11: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me."  We have to put childish reasoning aside in order to fully mature.  That means we have to set aside our tendency to see everything as either "all good" or "all bad."

The Christian life would be easier if it were a set of rules.  We could have our list of what was good and what was bad and check it off as we go.  We could feel pretty confident we were doing things right.  God gave the Law to Israel, arguably the ultimate list of "right and wrong."  It became a burden because they could not live up to it, and those who tried often lost the whole spirit of the Law that calls people to love God and love other people.  We as Christians do not live under the law (which is a good thing for many reasons, not the least of which is that cotton/polyester blends are much easier to iron).  But we do well to observe many aspects of the law (such as the "do not murder" part).  Then Jesus came along and upped the ante.   Calling your brother a fool could be akin to murder, and lusting in your mind is adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:21-30).  

If we try to apply the Bible to our lives as merely a rule book or a guide for daily living, we are going to run into obvious problems.  Take "do not murder," for example.  Seems simple enough.  But then we run into the tricky issues of war, euthanasia, the death penalty, and so forth.  What started out as a black and white issue now has a whole spectrum of moral decisions that don't seem so clear.  

Take lying for another example.  We could find many examples in scripture that support the idea that lying is a bad thing.  Yet Rahab, who lied her face off to protect the Israelite spies, is commended in Hebrews 11 as an example of great faith.  (I'm waiting for the day when my ever-perceptive children come home from Sunday School class and ask me about that one!)

There is true freedom for the Christian: "'Everything is permissible'-- but not everything is beneficial. 'Everything is permissible'-- but not everything is constructive.  Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others" (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).  Rather than a list of rules, we are told to put the good of others above our own self-interests.  That's messier business than a list of rules, but it allows the nuances needed in dealing with people.  We don't live in a one-rule-fits-every-circumstance world, and God gave us the freedom to be guided by His Spirit and our own discernment to respond to each situation as needed.

I've encountered many adults in the last few weeks who are still seeing the world in stark contrasts.  They have labeled "good" all that they consider "good," and everything else is as evil as the fire of hell itself.  Trying to reason with them to take a more nuanced approach is about as effective as trying to get my 5-year-old to reason through the moral complexities of a violent video game.  I expect it from a child, but I get a little exasperated when I'm talking with an adult.  While there certainly are issues that I view as black and white and non-negotiable, that list is a lot shorter than it used to be.  And I hope I am not belligerent when I discuss those issues with others.  I obviously have a long way to go in the process of maturing, but I can recognize a few areas where I've put away childish thinking (through a rather painful process, but it happened eventually).  Ultimately, when it comes to an issue where I'm unsure of the morality/immorality of it, I try to err on the side of love and grace extended toward people.

A final thought-- Jesus said that "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:15).  So on the one hand we are to mature, yet we are still to be like little children.  Having kids has helped me to understand this verse.  I don't think having a "childlike faith" means never questioning anything and taking everything blind.  On the contrary, my kids are incredibly inquisitive and question things all the time.  But they look to us for guidance, and they long to be with us and do what we're doing.  They don't have egos or agendas when it comes to spending time with Mom and Dad.  In the same way, we should approach our Heavenly Father with all our childish questions and let Him guide our thinking.  The world will still be black and white and a million shades of gray, but we will start to see it with His loving eyes.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How Charles Dickens Made Me A Democrat

I don't watch much T.V., but I do enjoy watching Masterpiece on PBS when I get the chance.  Lately my local PBS station has been airing the works of Charles Dickens--David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and the one I watched a few nights ago, Little Dorrit.

I consider David Copperfield to be one of my favorite books of all time.  I like the book for many reasons; the obvious ones of course-- a colorful cast of characters and a remarkable story-- but also because it had a profound impact on my thinking.  Reading Dickens, one can't help but notice the stark poverty that existed in 19th century England.  Even though England was one of the most developed nations on earth, with an empire that stretched around the globe, its streets were still filled with beggars and orphans, and its debtors' prisons were full of families with little hope of paying their debts.  Reading David Copperfield for the first time, I wondered how people in such a wealthy nation could be so poor.  How did it happen?  Why didn't anyone help them?  I know there was a lot of factors contributing to the landscape of 19th century England, but Dickens turned my radar on to the plight of the poor in this day and age, in my own country, and in my own town.

Growing up, I had the mindset that you are what you make yourself.  Hard work would be rewarded, and laziness would lead you to financial ruin.  (Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and all that.)  Those who looked to government handouts were simply people who didn't want to work, and inefficient bureaucratic government rewarded their slothfulness.  As I always like to say, I grew up watching my father read his Bible with a Wall Street Journal in his other hand and Rush Limbaugh on the radio.  Thus, I equated a Republican, "conservative" view of government with the most Christian view of government.  A person's welfare was their own responsibility, and government had no business addressing what people should obviously be able to fix themselves.  If a person was really in need, they could go to a church for help.  Or so I thought.

Then I encountered poverty, not just in the pages of a book, but in real life.  I encountered my own experience with financial hardship and the need to rely on government services.  I realized that these things are never as simple as political stump speeches like to make them.  And I realized that many churches in the U.S., either through ignorance or choice, are not equipped to help those in need in their own communities.

I've seen churches go above and beyond to help those in need, and I've seen churches completely drop the ball in helping the people literally outside their front door.  I've seen government inefficiency at its bureaucratic worse, and I've seen government programs help people in tremendous ways, saving them from financial ruin.  I'm not naive enough to think government can or should fix everyone's problems, nor is it the best vehicle for meeting the needs of people in poverty.  But I look at the world of Charles Dickens-- a world with few government services, a world where the church (and indeed, being the Church of England, a very structured one) was responsible for caring for the poor-- and I wonder what made things finally improve.  Many things changed--economically, politically, socially, and religiously-- so it's hard to point to what brought the most relief to a desperate situation.  While government wasn't the sole source, it certainly played a part.  I then imagine what our country today would look like if we had no government services-- no welfare, no medicaid, no WIC, no state child health insurance, no laws protecting workers, no unemployment aid, and so forth.  Where could people go for help?  Surely the church would help, but could the church help everyone, in every town, in every village?  Without a safety net that covered the entire country in an organized way, how many people would fall through the cracks?  

For this reason (and a few others), I came to the conclusion that government can play a positive role in people's lives, and until our churches get their acts together to address the needs of their communities, then government will have to continue to meet this need.  

As a Christian, I'm not entirely happy with this conclusion, as I'm still convinced churches have the potential to do a better job of addressing poverty than the government. I get frustrated when I hear Christians bad mouth government services and the people who use them and yet don't do anything in their local church to help those people.  Maybe we need to venture out of our comfortable church buildings and into our communities to see where the needs are--because the needs are there.  

Or maybe we just need to read more Dickens.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Hope of the Resurrection

I received two e-mails recently that I've thought a lot about today.  One, forwarded from a friend, was a reminder of the beginning of the 100 Days of Remembrance to mark the 15th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.  In 1994, almost one million Rwandans were killed by their fellow countrymen in about 100 days.  I spent a little time reading more about that wicked and tragic event.  I can't get my mind around it.

The other e-mail I received was from my Mom, who serves as a missionary in Zimbabwe.  That country has been experiencing terrible economic and political turmoil.  Food is scarce, disease is running rampant, and a dictator holds a stranglehold on the country.  My Mom e-mailed to tell me about the Easter program her church did about the last days of Christ's life.  She said the favorite part of her program was the colorfulness of it-- Jesus and his disciples were black while Jesus' mother Mary and Mary Magdalene were white.  Knowing that country's history, it is an encouraging testament to the healing Christ can bring.  

While thinking about all these things, I listened today to the audio of a dialogue between N. T. Wright and Bart Ehrman on The Problem of Evil.  (I really recommend listening to the whole discussion.  Both men are intelligent, articulate, and passionate about their beliefs.)  Bart Ehrman is a former evangelical who gave up on his faith in light of the horrendous suffering in the world.  N. T. Wright spoke on evil from his Christian perspective. Ehrman cannot accept a God who would allow such terrible suffering in the world.   He has come to the conclusion that this life is all there is, so you better live it and enjoy it as best you can.  Bishop Wright said many insightful things about the problem of evil, but towards the end, he boiled it down to what is, quite literally, the crux of the issue.  He said (and I'm roughly paraphrasing) that were it not for the resurrection, he would be in the same boat as Ehrman.  

In other words, without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, this life means nothing.  We have no hope.  There is no point. Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.

"And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

And so this is my reflection on the resurrection this Easter-- without it, we're screwed.  

Jesus' resurrection is central to all of human history.  It is our only hope of being saved, not only as individuals, but as a world.  It is the promise that God will restore and renew this world some day.  It is not a vague, sentimental hope of  "Yippee, God forgave all my bad stuff so I can fly off to heaven."  It is God reconciling us to Himself and redeeming creation for His glory.  All the genocides, the wars, the famines, the dictators-- all the evil in the world we see and can't adequately explain or understand-- we look from that straight to the cross.  The place where God chose suffering. The place where God demonstrated His love. The place God vowed that He would restore all that was lost.  Look to the cross and to the resurrection.  It's our only hope.

If you would like to donate food and help alleviate some of the suffering in Zimbabwe, click here.

And here's an easy way to help coffee farmers in Rwanda while promoting reconciliation.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Biblical Worldview"-- Polished Arguments or Selfless Love?

My church is currently going through a video series designed to help Christians form and articulate a "Biblical worldview."  I've only been able to see one of the sessions, so I really can't speak to the whole series.  But the one session I saw started me thinking on the phrase "Biblical worldview" and what it might mean.

Simply put, having a Biblical worldview usually means seeing the world through the lens of the Bible.  It makes the Bible one's ultimate authority for decisions on life, faith, and morality.  It recognizes that there is an absolute truth that transcends time and culture.  In general, I think that is a very important thing for Christians to know.  Christians need to know their Bible, how to read it, how to understand it, and how to apply it.  Christians need to know their theology and what it means for their life.  What we believe directly affects how we act.  So in this sense, honing a "Biblical worldview" is a very good thing.

But two main concerns arise in my mind whenever I hear people talk about a "Biblical worldview."  (And it's not just this particular video series-- there are countless books, magazines, websites, articles, and conferences designed to help the Christian "think Biblically.")

1.  My first concern is that a "Biblical worldview" invariably means more than just the Bible-- it means taking the Bible and applying it to specific issues within our culture.  Trouble is, the Bible doesn't specifically address many of the issues we are facing in the 21st century, just as it didn't specifically address issues in the 5th century or the 16th century.  There is a lot of room for subjectivity in our attempt to be objective.  Two different people can both view the Bible as inerrant and as the ultimate authority for life and faith, but when they seek to apply that to cultural or social issues, they may apply it in very different ways.  Who then has the Biblical worldview?  

Too often, these attempts to help Christians develop a "Biblical worldview" are just thinly veiled disguises to get Christians to support a particular side in the debate of a cultural issue.  For instance, it might be geared to helping Christians develop a politically conservative worldview.  It is often implied that if one is truly "thinking Biblically," then it would be impossible for that person to, say, vote for a pro-choice politician or stand in opposition to a "just war."  What a beautiful argument that is-- if someone doesn't vote for your candidate, you can accuse them of not having a "Biblical worldview."  Then it becomes an issue not of political preference but of obedience to a holy God.  Politics is just one example of where disagreement can occur.  Devout, faithful believers can find their "Biblical worldview" translating into very different actions in the public square.  So... who is right?

2.  My second concern is that these attempts to disseminate a "Biblical worldview" end up giving believers an "us versus them" and "Christians versus culture" mentality.  It sees our "post-modern"culture as the enemy out to destroy everything we as Christians hold near and dear.  Thus, the solution is not teaching believers to love their neighbor, but to arm them with strategic information to thwart the attacks of "culture."  If believers can learn the weaknesses of their enemy's arguments, find the holes in their logic, then they can sweep in with their well-formulated arguments and score a major victory for Christ... or so the thinking goes.  

Trouble is, it doesn't work.  Culture is not something we can grab and take control of-- culture is made up of people and the things they do.  So "culture wars" are not simply ideas versus ideas.  They pit people against people.  As Christians, we know our "fight" is not against people.  Our struggle is a spiritual one (Ephesians 6:10-18).  We are told to love people, even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).  Presenting someone with a logical argument for our faith is not the same thing as loving them.  

I worked on formulating my arguments for years.  I studied Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel, took notes, and memorized the facts.  (I'm not criticizing McDowell or Strobel--I greatly appreciate their books and their testimonies.) How do you think it played out in my interactions with other people?

Non-Christian Friend: "You know, I don't know why you read the Bible.  It's just a big bunch of myths written by monks hundreds of years later."

Me: (Excited to get to use what I know)  "Actually, there is a lot of historical evidence for the veracity of the Bible.  Most of the books were written soon after the life of Christ.  And did you know there are hundreds of manuscripts in existence, while Homer's Iliad only has a few...?"  (Continues with amazing, brilliant argument)

Non-Christian Friend: "Wow, I never knew that.  I had no idea there was so much evidence for the Bible.  I guess I better give it another look.  Can I go to church with you on Sunday?"

As you can imagine, it never played out like that.  It usually looked something more like this:

Non-Christian Friend: "You know, I don't know why you read the Bible.  It's just a big bunch of myths written by monks hundreds of years later."

Me: (Excited to get to use what I know) "Actually, there is a lot of historical evidence for the veracity of the Bible.  Most of the books were written soon after the life of Christ. And did you know there are hundreds of manuscripts in existence, while Homer's Iliad only has a few..." (Blah, blah, blah)

Non-Christian Friend:  (Shrugs)  "Whatever.  I guess I just don't buy it.  Cool for you, though."

That little scenario has happened with frustrating regularity.

It doesn't matter how great our speeches are.  Our logic may be impeccable.  But if we are not loving people and the Holy Spirit is not working, it won't make a bit of difference.  If we hope to influence culture with our "Biblical worldview," will we do so with well-polished arguments or selfless love?  

I love to debate.  I thrive on arguing.  But I save those exercises for fellow Christians who know me well; otherwise, I come across as rather unloving.  We are told to "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have," but that is to be done "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15).  That mandate is given after the passage tells us to "live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing..." (1 Peter 3:8-9).  A "Biblical worldview" should not make one militant or aggressive, seeking to win an argument.  A "Biblical worldview" does not want to see another person put to shame.  A true "Biblical worldview" is one that sees the world full of hurting people that need to be loved with the love of Christ.  If our apologetics do not serve this goal, then they are not truly Biblical.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

"They'll Know We Are Christians By Our...?"

My parents were on the fringe of the Jesus Movement in the early 70s.  As a result, I grew up singing such classics as Pass It On, I Wish We'd All Been Ready (got to love Larry Norman!), and the ever popular They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.  If you aren't familiar with the lyrics of that song, the verses talk about unity in the Spirit, working together, walking together, and the chorus wraps it all up with: 

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, 
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

One might be suspicious that such a touchy-feely kind of song was nothing more than a Christianized version of hippie free-love folksiness.  But the lyrics actually convey a very Biblical idea.  Jesus said "A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).  Not only are we to love those within the body of Christ, but we are clearly commanded to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to put others' needs ahead of our own (Philippians 2:1-11)-- all so that Jesus Christ may be glorified.

Love is the calling card of the Christian--the identifying mark that distinguishes us in a world full of narcissism, egos, and hatred.  But not just any kind love, for everyone loves and knows how to love to some degree.  God calls us to a self-sacrificial love, a love that denies its own rights for the benefit of others, that pours itself out continually, that dies to self so that others may live.  This type of love can be painful and difficult, or at the very least, uncomfortable and inconvenient.

As I look back on my life, I wonder if other people ever thought, "Wow, look at how loving she is.   She must be a Christian."  I'm ashamed to admit that probably isn't the case.  Sure, I've always been a nice person.  I've always been generally kind and pleasant to others.  I've had my Christian wear, my Christian music, my squeaky clean language, and my PG-rated movie preferences.  Was I banking on those things to identify me as a believer in Jesus Christ?  Or was I hoping that my "Biblical worldview" and my well-formulated arguments for the veracity of the Bible would give me away?  Was I hoping people would know I was a Christian because of how I voted, the petitions I signed, and the letters to the editor I wrote?  Was I hoping that my faithful church attendance would tip people off to my beliefs?

Christians should look different from the world, but I wonder if too often we look different for the wrong reasons.  Instead of being known for our extreme love, we're known for our extreme political positions, our extreme responses to hot-button social issues, our extreme separatist sub-culture mentality.  To borrow from 1 Corinthians 13-- if we vote for a certain party, boycott the right company, protest the right issue, but have not love, we are nothing and we gain nothing.

I haven't mastered this concept yet.  Not by a long shot.  Loving my neighbor seems to be made up of many small choices and opportunities, every day, every week, every month.  Nothing flashy.  Not a big campaign or program.  It's much easier to sign an online petition that Christians are forwarding via e-mail and think I've furthered the cause of Christ in some way than it is to spend time with the snot-nosed, unsupervised neighbor kids who always seem to be knocking on the front door at inopportune times.   Sacrificial love is hard.  It seeks the best for others at the expense of self.  It doesn't try to get noticed, but extreme acts of love will be noticed.  

Lord, help me to love as Christ loved.  May they truly know that we are Christians by our love.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Finding Common Ground on Creation

My last post briefly described how I came to accept the position of theistic evolution (also known as evolutionary creation, among other names).  I realize that this view may place me outside of mainstream evangelical thought (at least in the United States), but I am convinced one can hold this view and still hold an inerrant view of God's Word.  Evolution does not demand atheism, nor does it demand a rejection of Genesis 1 and 2.  A believer who accepts the scientific propositions of evolution should not automatically be accused of capitulating to science at the expense of Biblical integrity.

The American Scientific Affiliation: A Fellowship of Christians in Science, produced a "General Statement on Creation" that encapsulates common ground between the differing viewpoints of creation.  Citing Biblical references under each main point, the statement affirms:
  1. God is the creator of all things.
  2. God is as active in "natural" events as in "miraculous" ones.
  3. God actively cares for His creation.
  4. All Creation is the object of God's redemptive plan.
  5. We humans are given stewardship responsibility over creation.
  6. Scientific study of the natural world can be a spiritual calling in service to God.
  7. Scientific description and divine action need not be in conflict.
I encourage you to read the whole statement and see how Christians from different schools of scientific thought worked past the arguments and debates to recognize areas upon which they could agree.

The general statement is followed by specific statements from the four main schools of thought-- Young Earth, Old Earth, Theistic Evolution, and Intelligent Design.  They are helpful summaries of each of these viewpoints.

Ultimately, I do not think it matters a great deal which point of a view a Christian holds.  There is no "proper" view of creation that is "essential" to salvation (although I've heard many Christians argue as if this was the most important tenet to orthodox belief).  Yes, one can argue that how a person views the first two chapters of the Bible will greatly influence how he/she views the rest of the Bible.  But genuine believers fall into different camps on this issue, and they all can stand before God with a clear conscience.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Science and Faith-- Enemies or Allies?

I thought for my first topic I'd start with an issue I've been reading about and wrestling with a lot these past 2 months-- evolution.

I used to believe the earth was created by God in six literal days, sometime in the recent past (as in less than 10,000 years ago).  From everything I was taught, I thought this was the only acceptable position a Christian who wanted to stay true to the Bible could take.  As I entered my science classes, I went in with the mindset that any scientist who believed in evolution was delusional, blinded to the truth of God's word and the true nature of our universe.  I didn't even allow myself to hear the case for evolution, because I assumed it was contrary to my faith and thus should be avoided and argued against vehemently.  I had no trouble believing in a worldwide flood of Noah, but I actually had the audacity to question whether dinosaurs really existed or if their bones were put here as a test to our faith.  ?!

Looking back, I'm rather ashamed at what a pig-headed, egotistical stance I was taking.  Here I was, not knowing a thing about science (and very little about theology), brazenly standing in the face of 150+ years of mainstream scientific research and saying, "Nope, you're wrong!"  Of course, I assumed that the evidence that creationists gave me as talking points was valid science and that they were in the minority simply because they chose to stand up for their faith in a godless scientific community.

That little paradigm started to fall apart when I started to contemplate the vastness of the universe.  I don't know if it was a PBS program or just an evening gazing at the night sky, but something made me think about stars that were millions of light years away from our galaxy... and I thought, "If they are millions of light years away, and we can actually accurately measure this, then the universe would have to be at least that old for the light to even get here..."  The wheels started turning in my brain.  I searched for the creationist answer to those stars millions of light years away and was dismayed to find the contortionist reasoning and mental gymnastics they had to do to explain this away.  So I dug further and thought I found a happy place within the ID (Intelligent Design) movement.  There I found scientists that believed the earth was indeed very old, but God was still the creator and we could still render a (fairly) literal reading of Genesis 1 and 2.  

Still, I had the uncomfortable feeling that somehow all the finagling we had to do in response to the fossil record just wasn't quite... right.  I didn't know what to do with that, so I decided to put it on the back shelf of my mind and just not think about it.  I was done with my science courses by this time, so that didn't pose a problem.

But now I have a 7 year old son who is crazy about science and dinosaurs and reads everything he can get his hands on about space and the universe.  What was I going to tell him about where we came from?  Was I going to tell him that much of what he read in his science books was lies?  How could I tell him that when I really didn't know?

So I launched out to give evolution a second look.  I've been surprised to find just how many scientists who are believers in Jesus Christ not only accept evolution but consider it an ally to their faith.  They have no difficulty reconciling evolution with their belief in God as creator and sovereign Lord.  In fact, the farther they delve in their scientific research, the more they find that makes them want to worship God in awe and wonder.  This was shocking to me-- why had I never heard from these people before?  Has the creation/evolution debate in our schools become so loud and cantankerous that no one has ever given them a chance to speak? Apparently there is not a lot of public interest in finding harmony between faith and science.

I'm not going to present the case for evolution here.  I don't understand enough about science to do it justice, and there are plenty of good books and websites written by people who have devoted their life to studying it.  I'll let them make their case.  I simply offer a few observations:

--Accepting evolution does not automatically equate to atheism and relativism.
--Accepting evolution does not automatically lead to a godless society.
--Evolution is the major axiom of all biological study for the past 150 years.  It is a forgone conclusion in almost every scientist's mind, because the evidence for it is so overwhelming.  If we as Christians are going to invalidate an entire wing of scientific research, we better have very good evidence for doing so.  
--While there are a few scientists who reject evolution and do so on scientific grounds, by far most of the prominent voices arguing against evolution know very little about science.  When did theologians, lawyers, and radio talk show hosts suddenly become experts in biology, geology, genetics, paleontology, etc.?  
--Darwin should not be blamed for things such as Social Darwinism, eugenics, Nazism, etc.  The "slippery slope" argument says that once we accept evolution, then it will inevitably lead to these other things.  I don't think that's the case.  If we're going to blame Darwin for Nazism, then we would also have to blame the gospels for anti-Semitism.

With that, I offer up some further reading.  Check out the books by Miller, Collins, and Giberson in the links to the left.  These sites may also be helpful:
--"Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?" - An essay by Kenneth Miller, Brown University
--Kenneth Miller's website Evolution Resources
--And coming soon... The BioLogos Foundation at

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What is Slope Sitter? - Part 2

Just to be clear-- being a Slope Sitter doesn't mean one shouldn't have convictions.  Far from it.  This blog isn't so much about "sitting on the fence" as it is bravely, calmly, and sensibly examining both sides before coming to a decision.  We as humans are given to extremes-- we like to pick our side and fight tooth and nail to defend it.  I will not deny that some things are non-negotiable.  There are some areas a believer in Jesus Christ cannot compromise on without compromising the true essence of our faith.  What I propose, though, is that too often we take our stances without examining all the evidence, and we die on hills of triviality.  That is not only a waste of precious energy but also can be damaging to our witness as Christians.  So part of finding sensible places to perch on the slope includes deciding what issues are essential and what issues are negotiable.  It also means conceding that those with whom we disagree might be just as faithful, obedient, and devout as we consider ourselves to be.  

What is Slope Sitter?

I can't tell you how many times I've heard the phrase "slippery slope."  It's usually offered as some kind of warning-- "That leads to a slippery slope"-- an ominous prediction of what will happen when someone follows a certain line of thinking.  Asking certain questions or allowing certain thoughts will inevitably lead to a dangerous point of no return.  I used to use this phrase a lot.  I guess I've always figured it was true.

Recently, though, I came to the realization that I've been perched on the side of that slippery slope for quite some time.  Quite happily even.  

Let me explain.

I grew up as what you might call a fundamentalist (and I use that term not in the good sense, such as The Fundamentals published in the early 20th century).  While I hate using labels to describe a person, you might get a sense of what I was like with words such as: right-wing, Republican, liberal-hater, vitriolic pro-lifer, gay-basher, pre-tribber, young earth 6-day creationist, stereotypical Bible-thumper, "see-the-world-in-black-and-white" evangelical Christian.  I use those terms not to impugn those who wear those labels proudly; rather, I offer them as a quick snapshot of my beliefs.  If you are (or were) someone like that, or know someone like that, you are probably nodding your head in recognition.  You know the type.  Well, that was me.

But somewhere along the way, I started to realize that the way I saw the world didn't satisfactorily answer the questions that life posed to me.  I started to wonder if it were possible to be a Christian and actually think differently than I was taught to think and still be "saved."  The thought frightened me a little.

The last four years or so have been a time of intense questioning and searching for me.  Rather than turn my back on my faith, I feel like my faith in Jesus Christ has deepened and matured as I've tried to rethink issues I assumed I had already figured out.  I have by no means come to the end of my search.  But I've come to the point of accepting the fact that I don't know everything and can never know everything, and there's a certain freedom in admitting you just don't know!  I've learned to live with disconnect, with uncertainties, and with unanswered questions.

I've been thinking about starting a blog for some time-- not to point fingers, not to try to change people's minds, but rather as a humble offering to those who may also be searching and questioning everything they thought to be true.  I hope to offer some of my thoughts on hot-button issues and maybe some lesser known issues, areas of disagreement for people of the Christian faith-- from theology, to politics, to science and beyond.  

Francis S. Collins, in his book The Language of God says, "...mature observers are used to living on slippery slopes and deciding on where to place a sensible stopping point."  This blog is about finding those "sensible stopping points."  I hope you will help me in that search.  Welcome.

One simple request-- feel free to comment, but please keep all comments civil and respectful.  I don't mind questions and comments that challenge the status quo-- I strongly encourage them-- but I will not tolerate mean-spiritedness.   Thank you.