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.
Are you excited by this news? Are you appalled by this news? Are you angered by this news? Are you totally confused by this news because what’s “Answers in Genesis”?
Whatever your reason for clicking through to my blog, welcome. I hope you find my posts on this organization and the linked resources helpful and informative as you prepare for the arrival of Ken Ham and his Fantastic Ark in the Great White North.
Whether you are a churchgoing Christian like me, an atheist, agnostic, or come from an other faith tradition, you should become familiar with Answers in Genesis and the possible implications for its official arrival in Canada.
What is Answers in Genesis and Why Should You Care?
In the wake of the allegations against Judge Roy Moore, many American evangelicals are pulling out the defences, excuses, and verbal acrobatics that they used in the face of the myriad sexual allegations against then candidate Donald Trump, especially in the wake of the Access Hollywood recording in which Trump confesses his predatory habits and even identifies the approaching female host as a potential victim should the opportunity arise. Alongside multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual advances, Moore has been accused of assaulting women as young as 14 years old. The accusations against Moore come amidst a wave of such allegations that hopefully reflect a sea change in American culture that will allow women and girls to come forward more quickly and while the cases may still be prosecuted. I hope this trend in the U.S. spills across the border into Canada as well.
As they do in relation to Trump, many self-professing American evangelicals are taking comfort in and finding refuge behind ill applied biblical passages to diminish the voices of Moore’s accusers and maintain their loyalty to the Republican Party. In a culture in which being Republican and being an evangelical Christian are often treated as synonymous, one’s loyalty to the party now trumps (pun intended) one’s loyalty to creed or historic standards of Christian morality. For many people (including some white male evangelical Christians like myself), the level of hypocrisy is so patently obvious that I’m surprised it does not produce a detectable stench. If I read the Psalms and prophets correctly, it is a stench in God’s nostrils.
IN his Hexæmeron, a Lenten series of homilies on the six days of creation, Basil of Caesarea provides us with his interpretation of Genesis 1. In contrast to the default practice of reading Genesis 1 metaphorically or allegorically, Basil insists upon a literal reading of Genesis 1.
As I am writing this series of posts, in the season of Lent, I plan to proceed by giving each Homily its own separate post. Hopefully, at the end of this series, I will be able to write a post summarizing the Hexameron as a whole and its relation to modern YECism. So, what you will see in this series of posts is my own grappling with Basil’s exegesis of Genesis 1 as kind of a running but far from exhaustive commentary.
You can find the full text of Basil’s Hexameron and other extant writings of the Church Fathers on CCEL.org. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics VIII: The Hexæmeron of Basil of Cæsarea – Preface”
In the past few weeks, I have had numerous on-line interactions with YECists (Young Earth Creationists). Prior interactions inspired my recent posts on the tendency of many YECists to react to simple statements in accord with orthodox Christian doctrine with shock and seemingly “righteous” indignation and, subsequently, in defense of their YEC beliefs and supposedly in defense of Christian orthodoxy, they frequently make assertions deemed heterodox by the Christian tradition.
When the error is brought to their attention via relevant quotes and links to texts, YECists will not change their position but change the authoritative source of their assertion. That is, in their initial reaction, they will claim that their position is the traditional orthodox position. Yet, when I or someone else provides evidence from Church Fathers, councils, and creeds to demonstrate their error, then, persisting in their error, YECists will reject the arguments of the Church Fathers, councils, and creeds. Usually, at this point, YECists will then claim that it does not matter what the Church Fathers, councils and creeds say for those teachings are the “fallible words of men” and their position is based in the “infallible Word of God.” In other words, they retreat into the argument that their position is the biblical position based on the plain reading of the text (of course). Any position that is contrary to their position is then obviously not biblical but shaped by non-authoritative extra-biblical sources.
Of course, for those of us familiar with the development of doctrine, this begs the question (and I think I am using this idiom in its proper sense from logical argument). Arius assumed that his teachings were biblical. Apollanaris assumed his teachings were biblical. Yet, whether YEC and indeed the doctrine of inerrancy into which YECists ultimately retreat are biblical and in such a way that excludes all other interpretations of the Scriptures is precisely the question at hand.
Having a “dialogue” (and I use the term loosely) with a YECist is quite predictable in its circularity and its self-serving inconsistency. I have written the following dialogue as a way to draw you into the limited circle of reasoning that is characteristic of YECism. Continue reading “Stop Playing Chess on my Checkerboard!”
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”