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”

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”

How Little Grey Men Got into My Bible or Extra-Terrestrial Eisegesis

New Jerusalem or the Borg?*

When Star Trek: First Contact was in theatres, my friends at Regent College noticed the similarity between the design of the Borg ship and the shape of the Revelation‘s New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:9-27). We came up with our own Christian Borg slogan, “Resistance is futile. You will be resurrected.”

We laughed but maybe we were not so far off. For a quick Google search will reveal that indeed there are aliens in our Bibles! Continue reading “How Little Grey Men Got into My Bible or Extra-Terrestrial Eisegesis”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 2: Reading the Church Fathers II: Theophilus of Antioch (Bishop of Antioch ca. 169-181 AD)

Answers in Genesis (AiG) are consistent in a few things. For instance, they are consistent in their assertions that every geological and archaeological discovery that seems to suggest an old earth can be explained by a global flood. Second, they are consistent in their general inconsistency. (In a future post, I will write about the inconsistency of Ken Ham and AiG with respect to adopting a “biblical scientific worldview”.)

Related Posts & Pages: Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 1: OrigenHeresy of HamHow to Teach Genesis 1Why Seven Days?Cosby’s “Interpreting Biblical Literature”How To Read the Bible for All Its Worth

ken-ham-dinosaur-getty-creation-museumOn the one hand, they decry those who appeal to “the traditions of men” whenever those traditions seem to contradict their raison d’etre. Yet, on the other hand, they are quite prepared to appeal to those same traditions when it suits their purposes. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 2: Reading the Church Fathers II: Theophilus of Antioch (Bishop of Antioch ca. 169-181 AD)”

Why Seven Days? Heavenly Bodies, Ancient Gods, and 24 Hour Tangents

The number 7 plays a significant structural role in both the writings and practices of ancient Israel. Is there something ontologically significant about the number? Is the number 7 something like the c in e=mc2? Maybe, I don’t know. Ask a physicist.

(I am sure somebody somewhere has written a book with the spurious claim that the number 7 is the key to unlocking the universe and used the Jewish and Christian Scripture to “prove” it.)

Why is the number 7 significant? Why do we have a 7 day week? Continue reading “Why Seven Days? Heavenly Bodies, Ancient Gods, and 24 Hour Tangents”

Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 1: Reading the Church Fathers I – Origen of Alexandria (ca. 184 – ca.254)

Currently, on Ken Ham’s website Answers in Genesis, there is a presentation of the Church Fathers’ reading of Genesis 1 by James R. Mook. The claim of Mook and the people at AIG is that up until the Enlightenment the standard interpretation of Genesis 1 is in keeping with and supports the claims of Young Earth Creationism. That is, the universe is less than 7,000 years old and that the reference to a day in Genesis 1 is to be taken as a concrete or literal 24 hour period. Continue reading “Ham-Handed Hermeneutics 1: Reading the Church Fathers I – Origen of Alexandria (ca. 184 – ca.254)”