Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part II: Just How Round Was Yon Virgin?

Last time, I took away the Donkey from your Nativity set. But I put it back.

I promise that I won’t take Mary away. Rather, in the Spirit of Christmas, I seek only to relieve a bit of the Donkey’s burden, to make his pilgrimage to Bethlehem a little lighter. In the process, I also hope to raise the status of Joseph in the eyes of every woman who has been “great with child”. Maybe, just maybe, he did not make his labouring wife ride a donkey for 70 miles.

Was Mary Nine Months Pregnant on the Journey to Bethlehem?

Let’s go through the same process we used in the last post, shall we?

What says, Luke? Continue reading “Advent, Christmas, and Nativity Part II: Just How Round Was Yon Virgin?”

Consider the Ant!? Answers in Genesis suggests Invertebrates May Not Be Alive in the “Biblical Sense” or Whaaaat the Sheol?!?!

I can’t make this stuff up. Okay, I could. But I don’t have to because Answers in Genesis has a whole staff of writers who make this stuff up.

In order to defend AiG’s assertion that death only entered the world when ha’adam ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and following a typical AiG strategy, Avery Foley suggests that ants and other insects are not living things[1],

Aside from the possibility that ants, and other insects, are not even alive in the biblical sense . . .

What does “not even alive in the biblical sense” even mean, is it like “knowing someone in the biblical sense”? “Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him well.”[2] Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.[3] Well, under the veneer of real research, AiG often includes footnotes [of course, footnote 1 is the only footnote but surely this indicates that this “scientifically” or “biblically” grounded article must have data to back up such a bold and paradigm shifting claim], let’s scroll down, shall we? Continue reading “Consider the Ant!? Answers in Genesis suggests Invertebrates May Not Be Alive in the “Biblical Sense” or Whaaaat the Sheol?!?!”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VI: More Hippo, Less Ham

Or the Harmonization Temptation

This post continues and concludes (for now) my engagement with Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis.
I simply want to note some of the intriguing and insightful elements in this work. I will give particular attention to Augustine’s suggestion that Genesis 1 presents God’s causal creation of all things, including human beings, while Genesis 2 describes the formal or material creation of human beings which for Augustine is God’s ongoing creative activity. Finally, I suggest that one of the errors that is common to Ham, Augustine and many errors is the desire to harmonize Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

[For related Ham-Handed posts follow these links: Augustine IAugustine II, Augustine III)

Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VI: More Hippo, Less Ham”

Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity

Following from the idea of sola scriptura (scripture alone), many Christians, primarily those coming out of the Protestant traditions, have come to think that if people will just read the Bible they will become followers of Christ. That is, they seem to suggest that acceptance of the Bible as an authoritative text for life precedes acceptance of Christ Jesus as Lord and Savio(u)r.

In convincing the world of this basic though generally erroneous assumption, we Protestants have unfortunately been quite successful. I am reminded of this through my recent interactions with non-Christians of various kinds.

To witness our success, take some time to listen to how non-Christians portray Christianity. For a moment, you might see yourself as in a mirror, it may be a funhouse mirror but it is a mirror, nonetheless.

When you do take time to listen, to ask questions, to create space for your neighbo(u)r to give voice to their ideas, frustrations, fears, dreams, desires, and concerns, I think you will hear what I hear quite consistently. That is, in the distortions of the funhouse mirror, this view of the authority of Scripture is an accurate reflection of what they hear from Christians. Continue reading “Humanity was not made for Scripture but Scripture for Humanity”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics V: Some Inconclusive Thoughts After Reading Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis

Having just finished reading Augustine’s On the Literal Meaning of Genesis, I offer some inconclusive thoughts on this little work. My comments are inconclusive because Augustine himself is far from conclusive on this subject.

Now, the original impetus for this series of posts was to test the assertion of Ken Ham, founder and spokesperson for the YEC movement Answers in Genesis, that the church has always interpreted the early chapters of Genesis “literally.” In the article that occassioned my response, James R. Mook writes,

In its first 16 centuries the church held to a young earth. Earth was several thousand years old, was created quickly in six 24-hour days, and was later submerged under a worldwide flood. (Page visited 11/23/2015)

Having made this bold claim, Mook immediately acknowledges that three of the most significant and influential church fathers Augustine of Hippo, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen of Alexandria read these passages allegorically. In addition, he notes that from 600-1517, or the Middle Ages, the church largely followed Augustine’s lead. (I will eventually look up Aquinas view, if he gave one.) So, Mook’s bold claim about “the church” holding to young earth and interpreting Genesis 1 as referring to six 24 hour days must be softened a bit, don’t you think? Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics V: Some Inconclusive Thoughts After Reading Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis”

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

Given that my post How to Teach Genesis 1 in 30 Minutes remains one of my most popular posts, I thought my readers (new and old) might appreciate a little more detail and a slower walk through the process.

While my previous post was aimed at a single session, this series will hopefully aid those who teach introductory or survey courses either in an academic or church setting.

Related Posts: Why Seven Days?Review of Michael Cosby’s Interpreting Biblical LiteratureHave Sex and Eat: The First Two CommandmentsWhen is a Snake not Merely a Snake?Review: Pete Enn’s Inspiration & Incarnation 1

Mistakes to Avoid:

Mistake 1. Beginning with Genesis

Do not begin with Genesis. As I have stated elsewhere, I think the majority of textbooks and biblical overview courses make a pedagogical error in beginning with “In the beginning . . . ” In any other subject, you teach the basics first before you jump into the really difficult material. You don’t jump into Hamlet before you teach grammar and the basics of poetry.

What’s a rhyme? What’s a simile? What’s a metaphor? Am I reading a comedy or a tragedy? If Romeo & Juliet is really a love story, then why do they die in the end? If Hamlet is a tragedy, why are there so many funny moments? Is that another dirty joke? Err, I mean, Is that more ribald humor? How come the clowns aren’t funny? Continue reading “How to Teach Genesis 1  – Part I: Don’t Begin with “In the Beginning . . . “”

Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Dispensationalist: What’s the Difference?

A recent conversation with a family member who was a little disturbed by me describing myself as an Evangelical Christian inspired this post. In this conversation, it was clear that the term Evangelical is often seen as and used as a synonym for Fundamentalist.

I am an Evangelical Christian but I am neither a Fundamentalist nor a Dispensationalist (nor a Young Earth Creationist — but I have written enough about that in other posts).

Whaaaaat? Is that even possible?

Yes. Yes it is.

In this post, I attempt to clarify the meaning of the terms evangelical, fundamentalist, and dispensationalist by setting them in their historical and Christian contexts. Continue reading “Evangelical, Fundamentalist, and Dispensationalist: What’s the Difference?”

What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.

A Brief Interview with N.T. Wright

As I was writing my previous post, What Motivates Ken Ham? or What AiG Gets Wrong about N.T. Wright, I thought to myself maybe I should just ask Dr. Wright myself.

I wonder if the folks at Answers in Genesis have thought of this radical off the wall approach to dialogue. Do the writers at AiG consider actually engaging in conversation with the scholars that they so readily judge and condemn? I have it on good authority that Wright and other scholars do receive mail from Young Earthers, hate mail, that is.

In my view, scholarship is engaging in an ongoing conversation. Conversation requires listening and responding. Moreover, as the word itself suggests true conversation allows for the possibility of conversion. That is, when one enters into a conversation it is possible that you or your conversation partner may have a change of mind. (see “The Discipline of Study” in Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline) In Academics, this dialogue is often carried out by reading one another’s writings and seriously engaging with and responding to each other’s arguments and thoughts.

Now, I have met Wright a few times at Regent College and at Society of Biblical Literature meetings. He likely does not remember me but we do have some mutual friends who could vouch for me. So, I re-introduced myself and asked him the following questions:

1. What motivates you to engage the Academy?

2. What motivated you to accept the theory of evolution (if indeed you have)? Continue reading “What Motivates N.T. Wright? Well, Why not Ask Him? So, I Did.”

What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright

A common tactic of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) is to attack fellow Christians and accuse them of being “compromised Christians.” In the process, if they don’t outright misrepresent these men and women (mostly men), then they most certainly under represent their significant and valuable contributions to the Church and yes, even to, the Academy.

Most recently, Simon Turpin, one of the UK spokespeople for AiG, has aimed his crosshairs at the distinguished Biblical scholar and former Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright. (Click for AiG article.) Wright has devoted his entire life to the service of the Church and the Academy. Moreover, he is of that all too rare and special breed of scholar who is not only able to write to his academic peers but to translate that work into simpler, more accessible, popular books. Indeed, he helps his reader by using the name N.T. Wright on his more difficult and erudite books and Tom Wright on his more popular works. In addition, he is an incredible public speaker and is among the best preachers I have had the privilege to hear.

Later in this post, I will address Turpin’s misleading portrayal of Wright. For now, it is enough to suggest that even Wright’s “secular” colleagues and critics would be amused to hear him described as compromising and seeking their approval. Indeed, if they read Turpin’s descriptions, they would likely mistake his descriptions as ironic or satirical like when you name an elephant Tiny. Having met Wright myself, I suspect this description would be met with a chuckle. Continue reading “What Motivates Ken Ham? or What Answers in Genesis gets Wrong about N.T. Wright”

Sarai’s Exodus: from My Princess to Princess (Genesis 12)

In Genesis 12:10-20, immediately after the call of Abram (aka Abraham) and his journey to Canaan (aka the Promised Land), the author tells the following disconcerting narrative:

Abram and Sarai in Egypt

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to reside there as an alien, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know well that you are a woman beautiful in appearance; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. When the officials of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male and female slaves, female donkeys, and camels.

But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her, and be gone.” And Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him; and they set him on the way, with his wife and all that he had. (Genesis 12:10-20 NRSV)

So, what is going on here?

Think Exodus. Continue reading “Sarai’s Exodus: from My Princess to Princess (Genesis 12)”