Noah and the Flood — What is going on in Genesis 6-9? Part I: The Big Picture

Given the amount of posts that I have devoted to a critique and satire of the teaching of Ken Ham and his organization Answers in Genesis, I think it is about time that I presented my own views of this well known but often poorly understood narrative. (See Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis Posts)

The first thing to note about this story is that it does not appear in isolation and should not be treated as such. Furthermore, the narrative as we currently have it was written at least 2500 years ago and this historical reality ought to inform our interpretation of the text as well. Continue reading “Noah and the Flood — What is going on in Genesis 6-9? Part I: The Big Picture”

Ken Ham’s Double Standard & the 7Ds of Deception

Or the Ark of Deception

This post is a follow-up to my recent post Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter is Fantastic! In that post, I note the Double-Standard of Answers in Genesis when it comes to depicting the Ark. They chastise illustrators of books for children for their inaccuracies (as defined by AIG) but in their own advertising and practices they do not live up to their own standards.

A Tweet brought another Ken Ham approved message on the dangers that lurk between the covers and frequently on the covers of children’s books and Bibles. In a post on the ArkEncouter.com, Ham reveals that the Ark Encounter will dedicate a whole wall to “Fairy Tale Arks” and the 7Ds of Deception. Next thing you know, he will be insisting that David wasn’t really an Asparagus and Goliath was not a Giant Pickle.

Click Here for “What is a Fairy-Tale Ark and Why Is It Dangerous?

Tantalizingly, Ken Ham only reveals three of the 7Ds of Deception in this post. I can’t wait to visit the Ark Encounter and find out the other four. At $40 a ticket, that’s only $10 per D. A bargain by any post-diluvian standard.

So, what are the first three Ds of Deception? Continue reading “Ken Ham’s Double Standard & the 7Ds of Deception”

Creation & the 10 Plagues of Exodus

What if it is not the frogs but the water that is significant?

When considering the plagues in the book of Exodus that precede Israel’s departure from Egypt, various explanations have been suggested for the order of and the reason for specific plagues. Why frogs, why hail? Do the boils have anything to do with the gnats and flies? Following and building upon lectures given by Rikk Watts at Regent College, I suggest that the best explanation is that the God of Israel is revealing Himself as the Creator God.

Some have attempted to map the plagues onto the Egyptian deities and this suggestion seems to me to be one of the more plausible interpretations. However, Continue reading “Creation & the 10 Plagues of Exodus”

How Ken Ham & Answers in Genesis Led Me to Accept Evolutionary Theory

Ken Ham and the folks at Answers in Genesis (AIG) often suggest that what leads people, including biblical scholars, to propose interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that differ from a “literal” interpretation of Genesis akin to AIG‘s own is a desire to conform their understanding of Scripture (and doctrine) to modern scientific theories, i.e. “deep time”, the Big Bang, and, of course, the theory of evolution. In other words, the suggestion is that beliefs about evolution and the age of the universe not only precede but drive Christians to seek alternate interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis that better accommodate modern scientific theories.

The polemical and apologetic narrative usually sounds something like the following from a 2011 post condemning the work of Wheaton College professor John Walton:

Why are we seeing more and more bizarre and elitist ideas (e.g., William Dembski—see previous blog post for details) coming out of Christian academia? I believe it is a form of academic pride, largely from academic peer pressure, because these people ultimately “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

Continue reading “How Ken Ham & Answers in Genesis Led Me to Accept Evolutionary Theory”

How to Teach Genesis 1 (Part II): Psalms: Creation or Exodus

Duck-Rabbits and Other Ways to Transform Perception

How to Teach Genesis 1 (Part I): Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “

In these well-known optical illusions, on initial observation the observer sees one or the other of the two possible figures in the image.img_0232-1 At first, one sees either the duck or the rabbit. When the observer who sees a duck is told to look for the rabbit, they must begin to identify rabbit features to reframe their perspective.img_0233 The duck’s bill becomes the rabbit’s ears. Similarly, with the old/young woman, one must focus on a particular feature and reinterpret it or see it as something else.

It is not possible to see both simultaneously. The brain switches back and forth between the two possible interpretations.

In a somewhat analogous way, something similar happens when we look at other creation accounts in the Christian Scriptures. And yes, you read that correctly. There are other portrayals of creation beyond the two that are most familiar to us in Genesis 1-3. (See for example Job, Psalm 77, 78, passages from Isaiah, John 1, Colossians 1, etc.) Moreover, it may be that these other biblical creation accounts pre-date those we find at the beginning of our Bibles. That is, they may have existed as part of the oral culture and worship practice of Israel and may even have been committed to papyrus before Genesis 1-3. (Of course, dating of texts is often difficult.)

As the title of this post suggest, the two events that Israel often described coincidentally and in overlapping images are the establishing of the cosmos and the establishing of Israel. Both events are seen as the creative acts of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These events are so closely associated for the biblical authors that it is frequently (and, perhaps, invariably) the case that they find they cannot speak of one without speaking of the other.

Let’s look at an example from Psalm 89. Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1 (Part II): Psalms: Creation or Exodus”

Daily Living on Mount Moriah: An Insight from Jacques Derrida

In his book The Gift of Death or Donner La Morte, Jacques Derrida interacts with Søren Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous work Fear and Trembling in which he examines the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah. Spoiler alert: In the end, Abraham does not kill his son. Still, the text suggests that he was willing to do so out of obedience to the God who brought him out of Chaldea and faith in this God’s promises of blessing, land, and abundant offspring through his son Isaac.

While Abraham is often and rightly presented as a hero of faith and even the father of the faithful, he is almost as often presented as an exception and extraordinary individual in extraordinary circumstances. As Kierkegaard’s pseudonym Johannes de Silentio notes after hearing a sermon on Abraham a pastor would be disturbed if one of his congregation told him that he felt called to sacrifice his child. So, yes, Abraham’s circumstances are extraordinary and exceptional.

Nevertheless, as Silentio explains, from an ethical perspective, Abraham is a murderer. Continue reading “Daily Living on Mount Moriah: An Insight from Jacques Derrida”

Inspiration and Incarnation (Part IV and Final): A Review of Peter Enns’s Book 

In the fourth chapter of Peter Enns’s  Inspiration and Incarnation, Enns turns his attention to the question of how the New Testament authors use the Old Testament. It is a question of hermeneutics or interpretation. Thanks to Rikk Watts at Regent College it is also one of my favourite topics in Biblical Studies. So, as with much of this book, I come at with preformed opinions. As I indicated in the previous post, I thought if I were going to find something “disagreeable” in this book it might come in this chapter. Yet, again, I found nothing in this chapter that accounts for the negative and sometimes viscious reaction of some evangelicals against Enns and his view of Scripture. Continue reading “Inspiration and Incarnation (Part IV and Final): A Review of Peter Enns’s Book “

God Has Spoken 2: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book

“Some modern theologians say, ‘God doesn’t speak.’ Well, He says, He does.”

J.I. Packer from Lecture at Regent College

God Has Spoken: Revelation and the Bible 3rd Edition

Chapter Two: The Lost Word

Apparently, although I have not scientifically verified it, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Likewise there is more than one way to lose the Word of God.

Losing the Word

In the second chapter of God Has Spoken, Packer draws an analogy between the famine of the Word announced by the prophet Amos to the people of the Northern Kingdom in the eighth century BC and his contemporary situation. That is, while Creator God spoke to the people through the prophets to His people, there came a time when a refusal by the people (especially those with power) to listen to God resulted in God answering with silence. If you won’t listen, then I will stop speaking or I will make you deaf.

Christians have always affirmed the authority of the Bible. The earliest Christians affirmed the authority of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings which Christ and the apostles read as witnessing to the character, covenant and promises of the God of Israel and to Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of those promises and climax of those covenants. At the same time, particular texts written by the apostles and their close associates were used in much the same way. These are commonly referred to as the Old and New Testaments, respectively. Continue reading “God Has Spoken 2: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book”

God Has Spoken 1: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book

“Theology is for doxology.” J.I. Packer

As I find myself in the middle of a conversation that is dominated by Evangelistic Atheists (EAs) on the one hand and the heirs (wittingly or unwittingly) of American Fundamentalism on the other hand, I find myself disagreeing with both sides with respect to how they frame the debate and on their assumptions about the nature of Christianity. I have described their almost symbiotic relationship in a series of posts entitled  An Unhappy Marriage.

As one who grew up reading and watching Carl Sagan and other modern scientific apologists, I too imbibed a particular views of Christianity especially with respect to the nature of revelation and of the Christian Scriptures aka the Bible. I accepted their understanding of the nature of Scripture and of Biblical Revelation. This view was reinforced by some Christian relatives, televangelists, and pop-culture in general. For instance, my grandfather was into End-Times charts and, as far as I know, I was the only one of his grandchildren that enjoyed these theological conversations. Like Carl Sagan, I was much more into extra-terrestrials but was fascinated by people’s beliefs in and the idea of supernatural beings as well.

For the most part, those who engage in evolution vs. creationism or science vs. Christianity debate seem to share similar views on the nature of Scripture. Obviously, atheists reject that any text ought to be authoritative in the way Christians hold the Bible to be authoritative but many atheists tend to grant that people like Ken Ham and other heirs of American Fundamentalism are normative with respect to how Christians do and ought to read Scripture. Continue reading “God Has Spoken 1: Reflections on J.I. Packer’s Book”

Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part III: Because there was no room in the . . . Hey, where’s the Inn?

In the previous post in this Advent series, I suggested that Mary was not likely full-term on the 70 mile journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. So, she was a lighter load for the little donkey that may or may not have made the journey with them. I have also saved Joseph, the patron Saint of Canada, from any accusations of being so insensitive as to make his full-term wife ride a donkey.

It is possible that Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem.But depending on how far along she was in her pregnancy, she may have even have walked at leisure alongside her husband. Is that such a bad picture to have leading up to the Nativity? These newlyweds strolling along the path to Bethlehem, enjoying one another’s company, and talking about plans for the future. Maybe Joseph was filling his wife in on the quirks of his family in Bethlehem. Continue reading “Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part III: Because there was no room in the . . . Hey, where’s the Inn?”