Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things that are written in it, for the time is at hand. (Rev. 1:3, ESV)
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2, ESV)
“Revelation”, the common english translation of the greek word “apocalypsis” (αποκαλυψις) which opens this text, is such a familiar term that its basic meaning is almost lost to our ears and eyes. Similarly, the term “apocalypse” has come to refer to any large-scale catastrophic event that threatens the extinction of humankind and life as we know it i.e. zombie apocalypse. (Pace Rick Grimes et al.)
But slow down and listen to the text. John’s first readers did not have this linguistic and cultural baggage hanging on these terms. They were not dispensationalists. There was no such thing as guns or atomic bombs. They had not heard of global warming. John and his early readers had their own linguistic and cultural milieu which shaped their understanding of the term “apocalypse” and the other terms, allusions, and images John uses throughout this prophetic letter to the Christian communities in first century Asia Minor. Like learning a new language, it takes some mental effort and yes some reading and research to understand and interpret an ancient text, including those included in our Scriptures.
Or I Feel Like I’m Taking Crazy Pills!
So, last time, I mentioned that a friend of mine posted my Part II of this series on a Facebook page called Evidence for Creation. At first, I watched the discussion unfold without commenting but against my better judgement I jumped into the fray. As with most internet exchanges, it did not end well. It barely started well. And I am certainly not innocent, here. I get a little frustrated after being on the defensive and arguing in circles for about 400 posts. My patience wears a little thin especially when someone suggests that I need still more education and really means that I need to read a particular scholar that agrees with them. Meanwhile, the majority of YEC contributors demonstrate a pervasive anti-intellectualism but I’m the one who needs yet another MA. We’ll get to this double-standard.
What would be apparent to anyone (except the YEC contributors) to this thread would be that at almost every turn of the argument and with every new contributor they confirm the main thesis of my post. My argument is: Many YECists, in their endeavour to defend their commitments to their particular version of “biblical inerrancy”, their peculiar interpretation of Genesis 1, and their belief that the earth is less than 7,000 years old will frequently employ statements and make assertions and recapitulate arguments that were deemed heretical and unorthodox by the Church. Moreover, the traditionally orthodox position that I set forth is greeted as heretical. Additionally, I am frequently rebuked, my faith in and commitment to Christ is questioned, and, so, the question of my salvation is up for grabs (Christ’s grace is apparently not sufficient to cover my supposed doctrinal errors).
Now, as they were responding to my post about Apollinarianism, it was not surprising that the main focus was what Jesus knew, how and when did he know it. Yet, time and again and in predictable circular fashion and as new people joined the thread (having read my post or not), the orthodox position that during the incarnation there were things Jesus did not know was rebuked as unbiblical and heretical and tantamount to denying Jesus’s divinity.
Now, a few of the contributors did throw in the occasional theological term like Trinity, person, etc and one individual even mentioned the hypostatic union as though that doctrine somehow supported Jesus’s omniscience during the incarnation. Yet, Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II.1: Double-Standards and Hypocrisy”
A recent twitter exchange with a Young Earth Creationist (YECist) has been the source of inspiration for this series of posts providing me with examples of the resurgence of heretical arguments in an effort to defend YECism and their peculiar though popular way of interpreting the Bible. In the last post (tap here), I addressed the use of arguments akin to those of Bishop Apollinaris of Laodicaea in the fourth century.
A friend of mine posted Part II to a YEC Facebook page and sure enough there was a strong reaction to the idea that during his incarnation Jesus set aside his omniscience. As my friend and I kept pointing out as we “dialogued,” many of the assertions that they made demonstrated my argument. In this post, and following the turn of this same twitter exchange that motivated the first post I review the Christological heresy known as Modalism or Sabellianism.
What is Modalism?
Modalist theories were around prior to the Council of Nicaea and were therefore historically prior to Apollinarianism. Reformed Theologian Louis Berkhof described Modalism in this way, like the Gnostics, Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy III: Modalism à la Mode”
Or What Did Jesus Know and How Did He Know It
A Dubious Test of Faith
In the previous post (click here), I noted that in on-line interactions with Young Earth Creationists (YECists) it is never long before the YECist questions my faith, often in a way that demonizes me, or on more than one occasion by suggesting that I am really an atheist in disguise (which for YECists amounts to pretty much the same thing). In their judgement, I am either deceived by the devil or a deceiver in league with the devil. There does not seem to be an available third option. Yet, what truly intrigues me is that these condemnations usually occur when I have asserted something in accord with orthodox Christian doctrine. Ironically, the counterclaim that YECists offer as a corrective rebuke to my orthodox asssertion is usually a blatantly heterodox or heretical statement.
The most frequent heretical assertion that I encounter in these exchanges is the assertion that Jesus was omnipotent during his earthly ministry. This assertion is similar to the Christological heresy known as Apollinarianism (or Apollinarism). Apollinaris of Laodicaea voiced his theory in the fourth century as he attempted to defend Jesus fully divinity against the Arian theory. It was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD because it undermined the Nicene affirmation that Jesus was fully human. Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy II: Apollinarianism Abounding”
Or The Litmus Test of Young Earth Creationists
The Web of Gnosis
Over the past year, I have been openly critical of the teachings of Ken Ham and his organization Answers in Genesis. The more I attended to their teachings — beyond the obvious and overt commitment to Young Earth Creationism — the more I discovered that this fundamental commitment is bolstered and defended by a web of less obvious commitments. Many of these commitments are simply bizarre (i.e. Dragons in literature are evidence that human beings lived at the same time as dinosaurs) but others are outright heretical with respect to the traditional teachings of the Christian Churches.
If the Wool Sweater Fits
While my primary aim in using social media is to point out problems with the teachings of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis, this activity occasionally garners response from Ham’s defenders. In these brief exchanges, when I identify myself as a Christian, it is not long before I am demonized as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Or more gently, I have exchanged man’s fallible word for God’s infallible word. On occasion, I have even been accused of being an atheist pretending to be a Christian for the purpose of leading ‘true believers’ astray. I have never been an atheist but I have not always been a Christian. What an elaborate hoax I have played over the past twenty years of my life! I guess the joke is on me. 😉
No Creed is the New Creed
Ironically, I am most often charged with being a false teacher when I am stating a traditionally orthodox position and my conversation partner is defending a traditionally heretical position. Continue reading “Heresy is the New Orthodoxy”
At the end of this post, some of you may be wondering what all this has do with my promise to explain what I think is going on in the story of Noah and the Flood. Yet, I ask your patience and refer you back to my insistence that context literary, canonical and historical is of utmost importance when it comes to interpreting Genesis 6-9. (Previous Post)
In the Image of God
Recent discoveries (relatively speaking) have shed light on the meaning of many biblical phrases and concepts that share resonances with similar phrases and concepts in the broader Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context. Continue reading “Noah and the Flood — What’s Going on in Genesis 6-9 Part 2: Living Idols”
How does a 21st Century Norwegian become a King James Only, Dispensationalist, Not Merely Young Earth but FLAT-EARTH Creationist?
A Living Riddle:
To @aigkenham @CreationMuseum Outer space does not exist, Ken. We live under the firmament on a flat earth which is still. You should know.
When I first saw this Tweet chastising Answers in Genesis’s Ken Ham, I thought it was a jest. The type of jest I might make to emphasize the limits of literalism and to note that every literalist stops being a literalist somewhere. Or do they?
I doubt there are many young earth creationists who adopt a biblical biological perspective when it comes to human conception or medicine. If they did, their doctors would prescribe heart medicine for mental disorders and fertility doctors would treat women only and treat the discovery of ova like AIG treats the discovery of background radiation in space and carbon dating.
Out of curiousity, I replied to this tweet and asked, Do you really believe the earth is flat? The individual responded with “Of course I belive the earth is flat that is what the Bible teaches.” I had found someone who was at once more consistent and more of curiousity than Ken Ham.
Continue reading “Dispensationalism, Dividing the Word, Dividing Walls and all on Flat Earth”
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).
Duck-Rabbits and Other Ways to Transform Perception
In these well-known optical illusions, on initial observation the observer sees one or the other of the two possible figures in the image. 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. 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”