Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Looking Ahead to a New Year

I believe that 2007 will prove to be a banner year for Kirk of the Hills. We came out of 2006 in great health:
  • Mission giving in 2006 exceeded $1,000,000 for the first time.
  • The number of Kirk people participating in mission and service is way up.
  • Even though we had unplanned substantial legal expenses, we may come close to being in the black for 2006.
  • Pledges are significantly up for 2007.
  • The congregation’s response to the New Wineskins Convocation demonstrated that we can effectively host national events.
  • We have had incredibly encouraging support from local (non-presbyterian) congregations during our disaffiliation. The Tulsa church community, apart from some mainliners, are solidly behind us.
  • There has never been a greater sense of unity in the Kirk congregation (at least in the 25 years I've been here).
What about 2007? What can we expect of the new year?
  • We will increase the number of mission trip opportunities for Kirk members.
  • We will greatly expand our mission work in Tulsa.
  • We will be close to starting one new church in the Tulsa region.
  • Worship attendance and membership will increase.
  • We will know where we stand on the 61st Street property.
  • We will be admitted into the Evangelical Presbyterian Church denomination.
  • A significant number of PCUSA churches will either disaffiliate or ask for dismissal. The New Wineskins’ task force anticipates that more than 100 will leave. We’ll see.
What else?
  • Don't expect the PCUSA or EOP to be kinder or gentler to us or churches like us.
  • Typical church problems will not go away: we'll still need to remind folks to give, to minister to difficult (and lovely) people, and we will still need to solve problems as they present themselves.
  • The new denomination (EPC) will not be perfect for us, but it will be Biblically faithful.
  • On any give Sunday I'll get two notes--one saying that the hymns are too fast, the other saying that they're too slow.
  • My sermons won't get any shorter; Wayne's won't get any longer (he won't get any taller, either--even though I'm getting shorter).
Keep praying--keep the faith,
Tom

80 comments:

Mark said...

"A significant number of PCUSA churches will either disaffiliate or ask for dismissal. The New Wineskins’ task force anticipates that more than 100 will leave. We’ll see."

Why do you list this as a gain for the Kirk of the Hills?

mike said...

uh...mark. It isn't listed as a gain. It is under what we can expect for the new year.

Mark said...

It just seems out of place to me in a post that otherwise talks only about the Kirk of the Hills.

John West said...

Tom, just as an example of how out of hand the PCUSA situation is you and your readers might want to look at Carl Peterson's web at the address below. Peterson is an Australian and the inventer of the Peterson Swing Saw Sawmill which for woods types is the best portable sawmill in the world, anyhow, even though he has made lots of money he has some way out economic and governmental ideas and supports the Griffin book. Look at his web at www.truthaboutax.com/site/1515517/page863514

Pillip J. Owings said...

Mark, how is it out of place when we the members of Kirk of the Hills regret the need for our disffiliation from the PCUSA. We did not leave the faith, but the PCUSA and its leadership left the faith and that is a sad and disappointing thing. Of course we will be concerned about other local churches and their struggles wih the denomination.

Arnie Dahl said...

Dear Pastor Tom,

Thanks for putting 2006 in clear perspective. It truly was an exciting and blessed year for me and Pat. We love you, all of you, and are solidly behind you, no matter what, in our committment to maintain the integrity and authority of God's Holy Word.

Praise God for your leadership, strength and insight.

Arnie Dahl

Anonymous said...

Tom -

Glad to see you refer to the structure as "the 61st Street property"... makes it clear that it is a building - not the Church.

Ford Brett

Anonymous said...

Tom,

The New Year may be anything but happy and prosperous for the PCUSA if the report I read yesterday (1/5/07)about the ruling of the Synod of the Trinity's PJC is any indication of what is to come.

For those who don't keep up with such things, here is a summary of the situation. Pittsburgh Presbytery recently approved a set of ordination standards for their presbytery which were in compliance with the standards set forth in the Book of Order as being essentials. Two churches in their presbytery appealed to the PJC (judicial commission) of their synod (Synod of the Trinity)which issued a stay of enforcement. Therefore, the standards of ordination passed by Pittsburgh Presbytery cannot be enforced.

About 30 Presbyteries (including Eastern Oklahoma) have also passed ordination standards. It will be interesting to see which of these presbyteries will have challenges made to their standards and how the PJC's of their synods will react.

If a presbytery can't insist on stardards of ordination that are listed as essentials in the Book of Order, then the Book of Order is not binding in any way at all! One might as well use it to start the fire on a cold winter evening.

Peggy Alexander

Rick Walton said...

In response to the pre Christmas posting, Ted Rossier said:
"As a scientist, and a Christian, surely you would agree with me that science will never contradict Scripture. When we see an "apparent" disconnect between the two, what do we do? We start with God's Word and go from there. We do not place our limited understanding as paramount over God's revelation."

My training is in science and not in theology so I risk blasphemy in jumping into this. However, as I teach graduates students in a Christian university, I find myself often having to deal with related issues. My understanding is this. Everything we need to know that is necessary for our salvation is contained in the Bible. With regard to our salvation it is inerrant. However, it was never intended to be a treatise on scientific principles. The whole of "God's Truth" exceeds that which is contained in the Bible, and science is slowly unfolding these truths. When science comes to a complete understanding of the process of evolution, it will be consistent with "God's Truth", but it has not yet reached that point.

Mr. Rossier went on to say:
...But most of what we know today as "evolution theory", that is, abiogenesis, coupled with animals starting out as lower order and then transforming into higher order, was developed after Darwin's work by scientists operating in an atheistic worldview."

Theory is not equivalent to Truth. No scientist claims that it is. A theory is simply an attempt to explain observable phenomena taking into account the available data. To be considered a vaiable theory it must be able to generate testable hypotheses, the results of which either lend additional support to the theory or require it to be modified based on this new information.

Evolutionary theory best accounts for the data available to date. The hypotheses it has generated have supported it for the most part. Is it Truth? We won't know until all the hypotheses have been tested and there are no contradictions. That should keep science busy for a few more years at least.

In the mean time I will continue to study the Bible as God's will for my life, as a guide to my daily decision making, and as a promise for what is to come. I do not rely on it for my science as it was never intended to be the entirety of "God's Truth". This is a brief summary of my understanding to date, open to additional information.

Ted D Rossier said...

Rick,

You and Arthur certainly do have the proper perspective when it comes to the intersection of science and Scripture. Of course, I would expect as much given that you are believers, like Gregor Mendel and Louis Pasteur, and those others that came before.

The problem is, many of your scientific brethren who are not believers treat the scientific evidence in a wholly different fashion, and they seem to get all the press. They completely discard all supernatural possibilities and claim that their science logically allows them to do so (which of course it does not). Evolution is actually an unproven theory but when one reads the likes of Richard Dawkins, it becomes a "just-so story" paraded as truth by atheists with an agenda to destroy religion in general and the Christian religion in particular.

I would take issue with one part of your statement though. Because macro-evolution is unrepeatable and unverifiable, it cannot be proven by the scientific method, therefore it cannot be a scientific explanation for the available evidence. Yes, the Bible is not a science book, but it is inerrant, and if God chose to reveal certain truths in the context of Scripture about the natural world we live in, then we must accept those revelations, or we begin the descent into neo-orthodoxy, which we need to avoid.

I do not see any possible reconciliation between animals and plants being created "according to their kinds", and the idea of fish turning into horses. Draw me all the pictures you want, but unless you can come up with a credible, verifiable fossil chain with no other logical explanation that shows the necessary transitionary forms AND verifiably dates them within the appropriate time periods, I don't see that evolution has a leg to stand on.

The earth may be immensely old. Creation may have been progressive and the many "explosions" of new species in the different eras (events in themselves which I see as unexplained by, and contradictory to, evolutionary theory) may be evidence of this. Or, we could just be misinterpreting the whole thing. What I would like to see happen is the scientific community publicly admit that the "missing links" (for they are legion) may never be found, and stick to focusing their energy on what science can do now instead of continuing the attempt to discredit the Bible with "pseudo-science".

Ted

Arthur said...

Ted,

You seem to be ignoring the apparent scientific fact that the Second Law of Thermodynamics (from which the notion of Entropy arises) implies that the farther back in time we look the harder it will be to read the fossil record. It just decays into dust. The “missing links” you require for proof most likely can never be found even if they existed in abundance. The fact that there are gaps in the fossil record could never be proof of the invalidity of Evolution theory.

Also, no reputable scientist actually believes your “fish turning into horses” scenario ever actually happened. That’s mostly a myth created by non-scientists who don’t fully grasp scientific principles.

The “explosions” of new species you seem to think are contrary to Evolution theory are actually expected. I see this all the time in my work with genetic algorithms. We actually count on it happening, although it’s virtually impossible to predict when it will happen.

So far, Ted, none of the evidence (or lack of evidence) you have presented here contradicts what is expected in Evolution theory. Believe me when I tell you that the Larger Scientific Community doesn’t hang on to theories that are contradicted by credible contrary evidence. Evolution theory is alive and well, isn’t “pseudo-science”, isn’t an attempt to discredit the Bible, and doesn’t contradict Creation in any way. The broader Evangelical Christian community could support it if they would ever seriously take the time to properly understand it.

Ted, my advice to you is: When you’re around experts, ask more questions, and make fewer comments.

Arthur

Jodie said...

Ted Rossier’s letter has some misconceptions that I think need correcting.

The word “Theory” when applied to the word “Evolution” has the same meaning as it does when applied to the term “Music”. Music theory is not a hypothesis about whether music happens but rather the body of knowledge that describes >how< music happens. Likewise, the theory of evolution is the body of knowledge that describes how, when and why living organisms evolve.

There is no distinction between micro and macro evolution except time and breadth. They are like the distance a car travels in an hour vs. the distance it travels in a millisecond. If all I have time to measure is the single inch a car travels in one millisecond, even a lawyer can figure out that if it doesn’t get stuck in a traffic jam the car will travel about 60 miles in one hour.

The claim that macro evolution is “unrepeatable and unverifiable” is false. It is indeed verifiable by scientific methods, and the evidence in its favor is overwhelming.

The doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture on the other hand >is< an unverifiable religious invention that fails the tests of science. There is reason to believe that it is even bad religion because it leads to idolatry (faith in a man made object or doctrine rather than faith in God). The Scriptures are said to be God breathed in the same way Adam is said to be God breathed but not even the Scriptures say that they are therefore inerrant.

The notion that somebody is pitting science and evolution against religion and faith is a paranoid delusion. The only kind of faith that can be threatened by the theory of evolution or any other branch of science is a faith that is based on the worship of idols. Such faith should indeed feel threatened.

But a faith that is based on trusting the living Jesus shows no such concern and is open to all the wonders of reality, both the natural and the supernatural.

Jodie

Ted D Rossier said...

Arthur,

I can accept that what you are saying is true when you are describing what evolutionary theory is or isn't, but that is certainly not the story being put out by Dawkins and his ilk. I suspect that you are using similar terminology but your meaning is radically different. Doesn't the scientific community have some kind of common lexicon so that you don't talk past each other? I mean, you can tell me that evolution does not mean that fish turn into horses, or that apes turn into people, but there are plenty of scientists who believe that they do and furthermore insist that they are right and the Bible is wrong.

Jodie,

I feel like I'm repeating myself here, but if you don't believe the Bible is true then how do you know that Jesus is who he says he is? How do you even know anything about him?

Inerrantists do not worship the Bible, we worship the God who has revealed himself within its pages. If you don't believe the Bible is true, then you do not worship Jesus as he is, you worship your own personal idea of what he should be. Now who's the idolater?

Ted

Arthur said...

Ted,

I can certainly imagine a universe that looks just like ours and behaves just like ours, except there is no God. I would have no trouble conceptualizing this. Clearly this is also true for Richard Dawkins. Possibly the difference between Dr. Dawkins and myself has to do with the fact that I have felt the irresistible power of the Holy Spirit working in my life. Possibly Dr. Dawkins has never been so fortunate. Unfortunately I can’t prove to him or anyone else for that matter that the power I feel is really there. You just have to be receptive when God decides it is your time.

I can’t imagine losing my Faith as a result of listening to a lecture or reading a book by Dr. Dawkins. I don’t find him threatening in any way. That’s not to say that I can’t imagine anything threatening my Faith, because I certainly can, I just know that it will take much more than Richard Dawkins to do it.

I personally don’t believe that Science establishes Truth. I do believe that Science helps us establish understanding of Natural Law. God is Truth (among other things), and God created Natural Law. The two should never be confused into being the same thing.

The Bible (NIV) uses the word Faith (in one form or another) more than 400 times. You would think we would come away from reading the Bible with the impression that God values our having Faith more than anything else. Yes Ted, I know that Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment”, but to do so, we must have Faith first. It also says in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”

It seems to me that God Created a Universe in which we will not see Him, but we will be able to come to Him only through Faith. I’m afraid that because of this the “Science” of “Intelligent Design” will be nothing more than a sad contradiction in terms.

Arthur

Jodie said...

Ted,

How do I know that Jesus is who he says he is? I think the only answer you would believe would have to come from Jesus himself, so… Ask Him! Let us know what happens.

Jodie

Toby Brown said...

Ted,

I appreciate your comments in this forum! Thanks.

You need to understand that Jodie is espousing neo-orthodox sentiments in her(his?) comments.

New-orthodoxy tries to slay the 'dragons' of both what it sees as the twin errors of 'fundamentalism' AND 'liberalism'.

The problem is that neo-orthodoxy fails in this attempt and merely confuses believers into thinking that nothing really can be objectively true in all times and places.

In other words, neo-orthodoxy inevitably leads the church into apostasy within two generations after it is adopted.

Case in point: The PC(USA)!!!

Anyway, thanks for standing firm in the faith once delivered!

Anonymous said...

On the topic of objective truth and science...

People like to say "truth is relative", and then use "Einstein's theory of relativity" to "prove" it.

Anyone with ANY post high school physics knows that Einstein's theory states that EVERY observer will measure the speed of light in a vacuum to be the EXACTLY the same. Therefore, very interestingly to me, no matter who you are, who you are, where you are, or when you live, or what you believe, if you look you will OBJECTIVELY measure the speed of light to be objectively ~9.8e6 m/s in all times and places.

So the theory that may people ignorantly think 'proves' truth is relative, actually has as it's fundamental tenants just exactly the opposite - the speed of light is an objective absolute. Science does show that at least one truth isn't relative - and that's the speed of light.

Also interestingly,
"There was a true Light, which coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him." Jn 1:9-10

Not sure what all this means, but it's beautiful to me.

Ford Brett

Ted D Rossier said...

Arthur,

You said:

"I can certainly imagine a universe that looks just like ours and behaves just like ours, except there is no God."

That's the difference between us, then. I cannot so imagine.

Imagination is one thing, just so long as you know it's fantasy. Dawkins clearly believes that it's reality. He thinks that we are the ones imagining things.

As for faith being "threatened", that is a mistake of terminology. I am not threatened by any atheist. However, when the church (universal) is attacked, I feel compelled to respond. I do not wish to allow Christ's name to be disparaged and just let it slide. Dawkins could simply say that he doesn't see evidence for God's existence (wrong, but not really antagonistic). However, he and others like him feel the need to wage verbal war against Christ and His Church, and I take severe umbrage at that.

Toby,

I'd call that hitting the nail on the head!

Thanks for your comments.

Ted

Arthur said...

Ford,

One small detail: The speed of light in a vacuum is ~3.0e8 m/s.

Also, the fact that the speed of light is the same for all inertial observers (emphasis on inertial) means that pretty much everything else we observe varies depending upon our relative state of motion and perspective.

Arthur

Jodie said...

Toby,

You claim that that I am espousing Neo-Orthodoxy and then dismiss me at the same time you use me as an excuse to malign the theology of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

What is up with that?!

Jodie

Anonymous said...

This is a direct copy of an article written by Hank Hanegraaff. Whether you like his theology or not this answers questions for me.

Creation versus Evolution. As the debate rages, there remain those who contend that they can subscribe to modern evolutionary theory and, at the same time, believe in God’s Good News as revealed in the Bible.1 Is this truly possible?

Theistic evolutionists claim that God created man by evolutionary processes, that is man is said to have evolved from lower forms of life. If this were the case, then all life, including man and his presumed ancestors, would have been subject to death throughout history. This is because evolution depends on death to weed out lesser fit organisms to make room for the development and refinement of surviving species. However, the Bible tells us that death came about as a result of sin. If Adam had not eaten of the forbidden fruit, if he had not fallen into a life of constant sin terminated by death, what need is there for redemption? None! What all of this means is that we cannot give up the Genesis account of creation, but we could the doctrine of Geocentrism and get along.

Genesis 3 unmistakably asserts that death overcame man when he transgressed God’s command. Death, according to Scripture, had no hold on man until some later period following his creation. This flies directly in the face of evolutionary theory. Still, theistic evolutionists may try to skirt these passages by regarding the opening portion of Genesis as non-historical. But such recourse can only lead them to even more disastrous avenues. Theistic evolutionists can allegorize Genesis as much as they want, but to do so, they have to contend against Scripture itself. Paul, in such passages as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, clearly treats the Genesis account in historical terms and he speaks of human death as God’s judgment on sin. It was for this very reason—to answer for God’s punishment for our sin—that Christ died. This is the very heart of the Gospel. Quite frankly, Theistic Evolution, in my opinion, is a contradiction in terms, somewhat like talking about burning snowflakes.

But if human death were not God’s judgment on sin, as theistic evolutionists would have to maintain, what then did Christ die for? Those clinging to evolutionary dogma would have to admit that Jesus lied when He claimed to die for our sins. Consequently, the atonement is robbed of all meaning, while the Gospel is hollowed to an empty shell. In their attempt to fuse evolutionary theory with Scripture, theistic evolutionists only wind up perverting God’s Good News into no news, as we remain dead in our sins.

Mark P.

Jodie said...

Humm… I guess Theistic Evolutionism as described above is almost as bad as Scientific Creationism. For the life of me I cannot figure out why people keep trying to syncritize (is that even a word?) the Theory of Evolution with the Genesis Story.

This debate is just like the debate about the nature of Christ. In the early church there were those who believed that Christ had only one nature – the divine – that either the human was swallowed up in the divine, or that the human was just a shell. They were known as the monophysites and they were very popular and powerful at one time. We reformed protestants inherited the doctrine that Christ has a dual nature: He is simultaneously fully God and fully Man.

It’s kind of like the dual nature of light. Light is fully particle (photon) and fully energy wave. In any given instance, the nature that applies depends on the question you ask.

It is quite incomprehensible even to those of us who fully understand it.

For people who believe in the dual nature of Christ I wonder why it is so hard to accept the dual nature of reality itself. The Universe, humanity included, is fully created and fully evolved! Which we talk about depends on the question we ask.

I’d say “Get over it and move on already”, but if the hundreds of years it took most people to come around to the dual nature doctrine of Christ is any indication I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath.

Jodie

Arthur said...

Mark,

I certainly hope you aren’t rejecting the Scientific Principles of Evolution based upon the sort of “Theistic Evolution” ideas you reported here. The notion that God actually Created mankind through evolutionary processes (contrary to scripture) is absolutely inconsistent with my understanding of both Creation and Evolution. The way I view both Evolution and Creation (a Modern Physicist’s perspective), neither invades the other’s turf. Fossil evidence of life appearing to have existed billions of years ago is not fundamentally inconsistent with the notion that God created the Universe several thousand years ago. I can however understand how a classically trained mind (true of the vast majority of us) would have a problem with this (nothing that the inquisitive mind couldn’t overcome though). I don’t have a problem wrapping my mind (nothing very special I assure you) around the possibility that God created both “Past” and “Future” (neither immutable) at the time of Creation consistent with the Natural Laws that He also Created. The notion of events occurring in time-reversed order is not contrary to our present mathematical (theoretical) understanding of the physical interactions governed by the fundamental forces of nature. In the current “State” of the universe we observe events only as they carry us into the future. God (who Created the fundamental forces of nature) would not be so limited.

Arthur

Cameron Mott said...

Didn't Paul also say that Old Testament Scripture can be allegorical?

Does anyone give any credence to the claim that the Creation Story in Genesis 1 is in the form of a hymn?

Aren't there several declared uses of the figurative/allegory [depending on translated word used] in the Old and New Testamant? I get 5 hits searching for "allegory"/"figuretively" alone? Another 69 hits if you include "parable".

Arthur said...

Cameron,

“Didn't Paul also say that Old Testament Scripture can be allegorical?”

I guess you’re referring to Galatians 4:24.

He didn’t refer to all of the Old Testament that way, only one particular set of passages in Genesis, but it does stand to reason that other passages could be allegorical as well.

It’s interesting to me that the King James Version pretty much says that the Genesis passages, about Abraham’s sons born of Sarah and Hagar, ARE an allegory, meaning that’s the way they SHOULD be taken, but the NIV says that the Genesis passages “MAY be taken figuratively” (emphasis mine), which sort of implies that the passages COULD be taken literally as well. Which is right?

Arthur

Ted D Rossier said...

You all are confusing what Paul said in that passage. He is in no way making the claim that the account of Abraham's family was not historical fact. Paul is simply adding another layer of understanding onto the events, in the same way that OT prophecies can have more than one fulfillment.

The entirety of Scripture is redemptive history, anyway. It's historically true and you can allegorize it also, for instance the Exodus and entry into the Promised Land is a picture of our journey from sin to salvation, with all the hardship which we create for ourselves along the way. That doesn't change the fact that the Exodus really happened.

All of creation proclaims God's glory and shows us His mind and His attributes. Scripture doesn't have to be either allegory or real history, it can be, and is in some cases, both.

Ted

Ted D Rossier said...

Arthur and Jodie,

Both of you have presented a viewpoint on evolution theory that I had not previously heard or considered. At the moment it still appears to me to be contrary to Scripture, but I will need time to digest it.

There is one thing I'd like to see sometime, though. Perhaps some winsome scientist can do a study on what effect the cataclysmic Great Flood must have had on the Earth's geology. Can we really trust any geological or fossil evidence to show us anything about what the Earth was like prior to the Flood? The entire surface of the planet was re-made in the space of several months. Can we trust our ability to interpret the current evidence in an antediluvian context?

Ted

Anonymous said...

Most of the time with these discussions, I feel as if my side is being argued for me by my opponent. There is an important difference to be understood which can be found in the below excerpt. I recommend the entire book. As well as Nancy Pearcy's(spelling?) book 'Total Truth', which has been mentioned several times on this blog. Hope this helps. Next we can debate 'the nature of abortion'. Does it have a dual nature of both murder and choice?

Mark P.

Some hope to avoid the contradiction of theism and evolution by asserting that naturalism rules only within the realm of science, and that there is a separate realm called "religion" in which theism can flourish. The problem with this, is that in a naturalistic culture scientific conclusions are considered to be knowledge, or even fact. What is outside of fact is fantasy, or at best subjective belief. Theists who accommodate scientific naturalism therefore may never affirm that their God is real in the same sense that evolution is real. This rule is essential to the entire naturalistic mindset that produced Darwinism in the first place.

If God exists He could certainly work through scientifically explainable processes if that is what He wanted to do, but He could also create by some means totally outside the ken of our science. Once we put Him into the picture, there is no good reason to attribute the creation of biological complexity to random mutation and natural selection. Direct evidence that these mechanisms have substantial creative power is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record. An essential step in the reasoning that establishes that Darwinian selection created the wonders of biology, therefore, is that nothing else was available. Theism says that something else was available.

Perhaps the contradiction is hard to see when it is stated at an abstract level, so I will give a more concrete example. Persons who advocate the compromise position called "theistic evolution" are in my experience always vague about what they mean by "evolution." They have good reason to be vague. As we have seen, Darwinian evolution is by definition unguided and purposeless, and such evolution cannot in any meaningful sense be theistic. For evolution to be genuinely theistic it must be guided by God, whether this means God programmed the process in advance or stepped in from time to time to push it in the right direction. To Darwinists evolution guided by God is a soft form of creationism — that is to say, it is not evolution at all. To repeat, this understanding goes to the very heart of Darwinist thinking. Allow a preexisting supernatural intelligence to guide evolution, and this omnipotent being can do a whole lot more than that.

Of course, theists can think of evolution as God-guided whether naturalistic Darwinists like it or not. One problem with having a private definition for theists, however, is that the scientific naturalists have the power to decide what the term "evolution" means in public discourse, including the science classes in the public schools. If theistic evolutionists broadcast the message that evolution as they understand it is harmless to theistic religion, they are misleading their constituents unless they add a clear warning that the version of evolution advocated by the entire body of mainstream science is something else altogether. That warning is never clearly delivered, because the main point of theistic evolution is to preserve peace with the mainstream scientific community. Theistic evolutionists therefore unwittingly serve the purposes of the scientific naturalists by helping persuade the religious community to lower its guard against the incursion of naturalism.

We are now in a position to answer the question, What is Darwinism? Darwinism is a theory of empirical science only at the level of microevolution, where it provides a framework for explaining phenomena such as the diversity that arises when small populations become reproductively isolated from the main body of the species. As a general theory of biological creation Darwinism is not empirical at all. Rather, it is a necessary implication of a philosophical doctrine called scientific naturalism, which is based on the nonscintific assumption that God was always absent from the realm of nature. Evolution in the Darwinian sense is inherently antithetical to theism, although evolution in some entirely different and nonnaturalistic sense could conceivably (if not demonstrably) have been God’s chosen method of creation.

To return to the game of Jeopardy with which we started, let us say that Darwinism is the answer. What, then, is the question? The question is: "How must creation have occurred if we assume that God had nothing to do with it?" Theistic evolutionists err in trying to Christianize the answer to a question that comes straight out of the agenda of scientific naturalism. What we need to do instead is challenge the assumption that the only questions worth asking are the ones that assume that naturalism is true.


Phillip E. Johnson is Professor of Law at the University of California. He is the author of Darwin on Trial and Reason in the Balance, and also the forthcoming Defeating Darwinism — By Opening Minds (InterVarsity Press).

Arthur said...

Mark,

Mr. Johnson’s first paragraph is so full of logical non-sequiturs that I don’t even know how to comment on it other than to say: WHAT!?

Mr. Johnson begins the second paragraph rightly enough by saying: “If God exists He could certainly work through scientifically explainable processes if that is what He wanted to do, but He could also create by some means totally outside the ken of our science.” I agree with that statement whole-heartedly.

Unfortunately, he goes on to make the highly questionable, utterly unsubstantiated statement: “Once we put Him into the picture, there is no good reason to attribute the creation of biological complexity to random mutation and natural selection. Direct evidence that these mechanisms have substantial creative power is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record.”

First of all, does Mr. Johnson (a Law Professor with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature), or anyone else for that matter, know how to quantify “substantial creative power” in order to conclude that random mutation and natural selection doesn’t have enough of it? Also mutation and natural selection aren’t the only natural mechanisms involved in the process of genetic evolution.

Secondly, he says that the direct evidence “is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record”. Does he have some insight into the future that the rest of us don’t seem to have? I guess we should all stop looking because Mr. Johnson and his ilk say there’s nothing to find. Using his logic we should just go ahead and name the nearest convenient bystander as the default culprit in every murder, just so we’ll have someone to pin it on in the event we find no direct evidence of anyone’s involvement. And we won’t need to look very hard for that evidence either because we’ll already have our culprit. How convenient is that? Science doesn’t introduce mechanisms into theories without good reason, and at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to require God’s Hand as the only likely explanation for macroevolution.

If we ever get to the point that we require God’s Hand as the only likely explanation, I’m afraid we will all be in big trouble. Coming to the knowledge of the existence of God through Science is heresy… it’s almost Gnostic!

God wants our Faith.

Mark, don’t fall into Mr. Johnson’s trap of concluding that people who like the Science of Evolution and who believe in God and also the possibility that the Biblical account of Creation could be literally true (i.e. people like me) necessarily fall into his category of “Theistic evolutionists”. I’m not one of them. It looks to me like Mr. Johnson likes to pick on the “Theistic evolutionists” (in the narrow sense he describes them) and the Atheistic evolutionists as if they are the only kind of evolutionists there are. He is very wrong.

Arthur

John West said...

This is an unbelievable blog. Tom starts off with a discourse about the past and future of the Kirk and that gets changed somehow to a repeat of the monkey trials. Good work Tom, you're a genious. What I want to know is from the bottom line, does it make any real difference what we believe about creation. My wife, a real Bible student believes in the young earth creationist idea. As one who has spent a lot of years with big equipment digging through layers and layers of rock my belief from reading the rocks is different. She believes you must believe all of the Bible. I believe in most of it literally but Moses appears to be explaining origins in terms people of his time would understand. The message of the rocks is that God had a good time with creation over a very long time span in essentially the same order described by Genesis. Think how much fun it must have been to watch the giant reptiles of their age on an earth that was essentially all hot and humid nearly to the poles. Then he changed things and wanted to go further. Certainly men and women were the ultimate beings of his creation but almost immediately, if we put any credence in the tower of Babel deal, He "regreted that He had made man". Now, having said all of that, does that make my wife saved and me lost. I doubt it. Basing a faith entirely on the scriptures as passed to us is fine. Basing a faith on viewpoints of the obvious physical world and the scripture seems allowable as well.I have some fears that Father God was unhappy with what Moses was writing, so unhappy he took him high on a mountain and enscribed some rules Himself. I see no other reason for such an elaborate scene portrayed twice in fact. One day as we meet with Jesus and the Father we will know all things, but not till then. John West

Anonymous said...

Arthur,
I like you. I like your dialog. I admit I'm getting lost in all of it. I'm just a novice and probably need more explanation than the average person. Please teach me exactly what is your belief regarding evolution. I hope you don't think I expect a full dissertation, just a clear outline. Thanks!

Mark P.

Ted D Rossier said...

Arthur,

You said:

"Science doesn’t introduce mechanisms into theories without good reason, and at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to require God’s Hand as the only likely explanation for macroevolution."

Scripture is clear that God's Hand is in everything! There is no such thing as "chance", there is no blind process. What appears to us to be random in reality is not. To believe otherwise is to say that something can usurp God's sovereignty, which cannot happen. I'm sorry Arthur but you have now strayed firmly into non-Biblical territory, right down the road of Open Theism.

Darwinism is a naturalistic and atheistic mindset, wholly incompatible with Christianity, for the above reason as well as what others in this discussion have said.

God doesn't "want" our faith. God gave us our faith so that we can act on it.(e.g., Ephesians 2:1-10)

John,

Somebody moved our evolution discussion here from another thread, that's what happened.

You wrote:

"I have some fears that Father God was unhappy with what Moses was writing, so unhappy he took him high on a mountain and enscribed some rules Himself. I see no other reason for such an elaborate scene portrayed twice in fact."

Do you understand the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture? That is not a criticism, it's an honest question. Because of your statement, I'm assuming that you have not studied or been taught the doctrine and therefore just don't know. That's not your fault, it's the church's.

But leaving that aside for the time being, where do you get the idea from the text that God was unhappy with Moses' writing of Genesis? For that matter, where do you get the idea that Moses wrote Genesis before the Mt. Sinai experience? What rules did Moses write down that were not handed down from God? I'm sorry but your statement makes no sense. The "reason for the scene" is to show God's power and authority over the moral behavior of His creatures, and that He is the Lawgiver and there is no other.

"One day as we meet with Jesus and the Father we will know all things, but not till then."

That's true, but we are responsible for putting to proper use the revelation that we have been given. This means the proper handling of God's Word. So yes, what we believe about the Bible is central to our religion. You can't believe in only "most of it literally" without heading down the road of Neo-Orthodoxy, picking and choosing which parts you think are inspired and which are not. If you do that, you can believe anything you want to and justify it from the text. So ask yourself on what basis you consider part of the Genesis account to be inaccurate. Are you judging God's Word by your own human experience and understanding? If so, you've got it backwards.

Ted

Arthur said...

Ted,

“Scripture is clear that God's Hand is in everything! There is no such thing as "chance", there is no blind process.”…“usurp God's sovereignty”… “non-Biblical territory, right down the road of Open Theism.”

Once again you make comments when you should be asking questions and paying attention. Actually Ted, I'm NOT a proponent of the element of chance being involved in natural processes. Mathematical Probability is a convenient man-made tool that allows us to make predictions of outcomes in complex highly multi-dimensional (multi-variate) systems. Also, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle tells us that it is impossible to know the complete state of anything to arbitrary precision, and gives us quantitative bounds on that precision. As a result, we are forced to accept that the best we can do, in answering quantitative questions concerning the state of Nature, is to answer in probabilistic terms. So when I used the term "likely", I wasn't making a comment about some inherent randomness in Nature, I was making a comment about the uncertain nature of our own perception and knowledge (Nature only looks random to us). Therefore you should retract your implication that I was trying to usurp God’s sovereignty. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Next point:

You've got Ephesians 2:1-10 all wrong. The gift from God is salvation through grace not a gift of faith.

Arthur

Cameron Mott said...

Ted,

I'm not confusing what Paul said, on the other hand you are not saying God could/did not breath an allegory/parable in Scripture [even the New Testament]either I'm sure. What says God was not breathing an allegory in the Creation story, is that possibility excluded by Scripture? I apologize for my laziness but are all the allegories/parables in Scripture identified as such in Scripture?

I'm not in favor of mangling the language into loopholes but neither do I want to misunderstand by inflation what God is telling us.

Arthur said...

Ted,

I may have misinterpreted what you meant by mentioning Ephesians 2:1-10. I thought you were saying that passage was a proof text of God’s gift of Faith (it’s not). God did provide us with a gift of Faith as it is clearly written in Romans 12:3. As far as I am aware, this is the only passage in the Bible that speaks of this. The question is: What does this really mean, and how does it relate to my statement that God wants our Faith?

The term Faith (and its variants) is used more than 400 times in the Bible, and all of them (except Romans 12:3) refer to how we realize (use or display) our Faith or how God shows his Faithfulness toward mankind.

Jesus expressed his astonishment from time to time of the lack of Faith in some individuals or groups. Are we really to conclude from this that Jesus was unaware of how much Faith they were given? No. His astonishment wasn’t really with how little faith they had, but rather how little faith they realized or used. So to me it makes sense to interpret God’s Faith gift (Romans 12:3) as a gift of Faith Potential and not Faith Realized. That being the case, it is certainly reasonable for me to state that God wants our faith, since what that means (consistent with most of the Bible) is our faith realized.

I hope this clears up the issue.

Arthur

Ted D Rossier said...

Cameron,

Others in the past have and still do hold to the perspective that Genesis chapters 1-11 (or some fraction thereof) is a parable or an allegorical account as opposed to actual history.

However, the consensus of the current state of Hebrew language scholarship is that the style of writing, the words used, the arrangement, phrasing, etc. indicates that the writer (Moses) was writing historical narrative, just like the rest of Genesis, especially considering the inclusion of geneologies which are inimical to historical records. There is no good linguistic reason to distinguish chapters 1-11 from the rest of Genesis.

Besides that, Jesus makes many statements that indicate the historical fact of Adam and Eve's existence, the Flood, etc.

Arthur,

Thanks for clearing up your statements. The wording you used was confusing initially. And what I think Paul is saying in Ephesians relates to the "ordo salutis", that is, the entire thing, grace-salvation-faith, is all a gift from God.

Ted

Jodie said...

Ted,

“the consensus of the current state of Hebrew language scholarship”??!!!

You obviously have never ever sat in a room of Hebrew scholars and listened to them debate the Scriptures.

Moses wrote Genesis? That, my friend, is pure legend. There is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate such a wild claim. “The Law” is named after him, but the Scriptures don’t even have him writing the Ten Commandments.

Regarding the “many statements” of Jesus indicating the historical fact of Adam and Eve’s existence, could you tell us a few? How many statements did he make regarding Noah?

Ted, you make such wild claims of supposed facts. The Gospel does not need fabrications in order to stand on its own two feet. You can stick to verifiable facts and personal witness and get by just fine. When you step outside those bounds, just like in a court of law, you sabotage your own position and undercut the credibility of the Gospel. A little good judgment on your part would go a long way.

Jodie

Ted D Rossier said...

Jodie,

You're awfully sure of yourself, but I haven't seen you quote one single Scripture passage in context to support your assertions, or any other works for that matter. Why don't you believe the verifiable facts and personal witness contained in the Bible?

Let's start with Noah:

36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. 37 For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, 39 and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

--Matthew 24:36-39

Luke 17:22-37 is even better, because Luke records more of Jesus statement where the Noah reference is put right along side the events regarding Sodom and Gomorrah, and Lot, all referred to as actual events. Now, before you start in with something like "it's just a parable", or Jesus is "using legend as an example", take a look at the context of those passages. Jesus is talking to the disciples privately. He is not using the usual language associated with parables. It's clear that he's not telling a fictional story, he is pointing out the redemptive significance of historical events.

As for Adam and Eve, Jesus' teachings about divorce in Matthew 19 and parallel passages clearly refer to Genesis as real history. And, of course, Paul refers to Adam and Eve as real people, but you may be one of those who disregards Paul's writings, so this may not convince you.

Here's another good one: in Matthew 12:38-42, Jesus uses the real events in the life of Jonah, including being swallowed by the whale, as a parallel to his own future and as a sign (Biblical language for a miraculous event with redemptive significance). I bet you thought the book of Jonah was just a fable, huh?

As for the scholarship and authorship issues, I am well aware of the liberal commentaries which question the authorship of every single book and do their best to throw doubt on the inerrancy and inspiration of the Bible. If you have the nerve, I challenge you to read a conservative commentary such as the "New Bible Commentary" by Carson and Motyer, et al., or "Introduction to the Old Testament" by Dillard and Longman.

At least inform yourself before you start accusing others of "wild fabrications". Sure, there are probably parts of the Pentateuch that Moses didn't actually write or couldn't have written, that were added later, but that doesn't change the fact that he was responsible for most of it, and again Jesus confirms this in many places in the Gospels. (e.g., John 5:44-47) Do the additions change the inspiration or inerrancy of the books? No, they do not.

And your statment about the 10 Commandments is confusing. Of course Moses didn't "author" them, God did! The entirety of the Law was received by Moses from God and passed down to the people. They were God's words, written down by a man, a prophet. That's what is meant by inspiration. When we speak of "authorship" we mean the person writing down the words, not the source of them!

Really, Jodie, you need to get off your liberal high horse and take a look at some other points of view. I've extensively studied these issues of authorship and historicity under the tutelage of Presbyterian and Reformed pastors and elders. I've familiarized myself with the people who espouse your viewpoint in coming to my own conclusions. Can you say the same about yourself?

Do the Scriptures hold any authority for you? Are they your only rule of faith and life?

Ted

Jodie said...

You’re funny, Ted,

Why do I need to quote the bible or any other text to prove you have made up non-facts? It is up to you to prove your claims, not me.

To wit, you claimed Jesus said many things concerning the historical existence of Adam and Eve, but there are exactly zero such claims attributed to Jesus in Scripture. You claimed he said many things concerning Noah, but he is quoted as saying exactly one thing only. It is you who is taking a rather “liberal” interpretation of the Word, interpolating and extrapolating things it does not say.

You admit also that you exaggerated a little on the “consensus” claim. Let me try to edit your claim more accurately: “the consensus of the current state of Hebrew language scholarship THAT AGREES WITH TED ROSSIER is that … the writer (Moses) was writing historical narrative”.

That would leave out about 95% of all the scholars in the field, but at least it would not be a false statement. I presume that the fact that the 95% are laughing the other 5% right out of their ranks doesn’t matter to you because all you have to do is label them “liberal” and suddenly they don’t even exist anymore, right?

You said about the Ten Commandments “They were God's words, written down by a man, a prophet.” Go back and read the story of the Ten Commandments and tell us again who literally >>wrote<< them. Heck, even Hollywood did better than you. (Ex 24:12).

I’ll let you say he wrote something about Jesus though (John 5:44-47). Do you know what exactly?

By the way, the word “inspiration” means “God breathed”. It means to fill something or someone with God’s Holy Spirit. It is exactly what the Scriptures say God did to Adam. Whatever else you want to say that means, it means of Adam the same as it means of Scripture.

Regarding the teachings on divorce, I am curious about how you think we should incorporate them into our ordination standards?

Ted, I clearly hold the Scriptures with much more respect than you. It is because I have such high respect for them that I object to your loose fabrications and misinterpretations. You obviously have no idea what it means to be subject their authority. Instead you are subject to human ideologies that you label “inerrant word of God”. That, my friend, is the very definition of idolatry.

Jodie

Ted D Rossier said...

Jodie,

I don't know what you've been reading or who you've been talking to, but your assertions regarding scholarship and interpretation are just plain wrong. I simply do not have the space here to quote all my sources, so I mentioned a select few. It's not "5%" and they are not getting "laughed out of" anywhere. These are serious pastors and scholars from major churches, universities and seminaries, and oh by the way, people have been studying the Scriptures for nigh unto 2000 years, and only in the last 150 years did liberal higher criticism rear its ugly head. Did you even look into the works I mentioned? Have you made one simple effort at research? Or are you just repeating what others have told you? I don't think you must get out very much. Try googling the following list of people:

D.A. Carson
Douglas Moo
Leon Morris
Tremper Longman
F.F. Bruce
Vern Poythress
John Frame
Lorraine Boettner
Richard L. Pratt
John MacArthur
Ligon Duncan
Raymond B. Dillard
Robert L. Reymond
Geerhardus Vos
Francis Schaeffer
Norman Geisler
William Hendriksen
James White
Alistair Begg
William Lane Craig
Greg Bahnsen
J.I. Packer
John Piper
N.T. Wright

...I could go on. There are plenty of scholars who reject the documentary hypothesis, and it's on very shaky ground right now due to recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries. Of course, most of your liberal writers will conveniently leave out these facts because it interferes with their "de-mythologizing" (i.e, gutting) the Scriptures.

Tell you what: when you list out every single scholar upon which you are relying, and prove to me that they represent 95% of the existing Biblical scholars in the world, then I will believe your figures. That's your assertion, you back it up.

And as for the Scripture passages, yeah, I could list them all out here, but I have a question for you: Does Jesus have to say something more than once for it to be considered definitive Divine revelation? Good grief, you sound like John Dominic Crossan! Maybe Jesus only used the example of Noah once, but how exactly does that once invalidate my argument? The most I'm guilty of is a numerical mistake, and I'll cop to that. Fine. Jesus quoted from 24 different OT books, many of them more than once, and each time he used them as authority to back up what he was saying. That tells me all I need to know about how Jesus viewed the Scriptures. If Jesus quotes from Genesis 1, 2, and 5 as authority for teaching on marriage, and behold! Genesis 5 contains a historical geneology starting with Adam, what conclusion do you draw? Looks like real history to me! If you're going to argue "well, he didn't say the name Adam", that's just silly. But if you don't believe the Bible is true, then does any of this make any difference to you?

As for the Pentateuch, a) you totally ignored what I said. Go back and read my last post; and b) I know what Jesus is referring to in John 5: The Pentateuch! And so did his audience, which is why he did not have to say what Moses wrote about him (Jesus). If you said "Moses wrote" to a first-century Jew, to them it could only mean the Torah. They knew what Jesus was talking about. You pretty much don't.

As for ordination standards, that's outside the scope of this discussion, and I'm a member of a Baptist church right now, so it's not my place to speak about the PCUSA constitution. However, if you're curious, in my church, divorced men are disqualified from holding the office of pastor or deacon (we don't have ruling elders). I agree with that position.

And I'm just about tired of you calling me idolatrous. I've got a few idols in my life that I need to get rid of, but studying the Bible certainly isn't one of them. You are not the first liberal to call a conservative Bible-believing Christian a "Bibliolater". You people just can't resist resorting to name-calling. Your ad hominem is offensive and detracts from your already non-existent arguments. You do well to be offended by idolatry in principle; it shows that you do take the Bible seriously in some sense. But there's some serious judgmentalism coming from you and I really think you ought to take a hard look at your attitude.

I've backed up my claims, you haven't. The ball is in your court. The plain and simple fact of life is, you either believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God or you don't. If you don't, you have no logical or rational basis for believing anything. What do you believe about the Bible? Tell us. Does it hold objective truth, or just that truth to which you, Jodie of the Blog, assign it? I guess since nobody can know anything, we all might as well believe whatever we want and go with it, huh? Why don't we all just do what's right in our own eyes? What could be wrong with that? Oh wait...

Ted

Cameron Mott said...

Ted,

I'm no Bible scholar but Genesis 1 seems to have a distinctly different style to me especially in the repeating of the nth day text.

If none of the Creation Story is God-breathed allegory than it seems to me Adam/man[male] is said to be created on the 3rd day [Gen 2:7] with Eve/man[female] following on the 6th day [Gen 2:22] while both are also created on the 6th day [Gen 1:37].

Be gentle now.

Ted D Rossier said...

For the benefit of those reading, here is a link to a concise summary of the problems with the "JEDP" documentary hypothesis for the Pentateuch, problems which liberal scholars simply ignore or ridicule without basis.

http://www.equip.org/free/DW035.pdf

I hope it's instructive. It's written by Gleason L. Archer, a professor of OT studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a well-known author. His Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is outstanding.

Whether or not the mods decide to post the response I wrote to Jodie last night, I think this will end the conversation for me. When people fail to engage my arguments, hold me to a standard to which they will not subject themselves, make accusations with no basis in fact, and call me names, I tend to get snarky, and that's a besetting sin for me.

So no more temptation. I've answered a fool according to her folly, and now I'm going to leave Proverbs 26:5 and head for Proverbs 26:4.

Because of situations like this, I fear that further schism in many denominations inevitable and probably necessary. Perhaps we are entering a new period of reformation for the Church (universal). I certainly hope so. Let the faithful remnant unite!

Ted

Toby Brown said...

Ted,

Preach on brother! You made my day!

I am thankful today that you have spoken so well for the historic biblical faith 'once delivered' and that you speak so clearly and ably for what Reformed people (Baptist, Presbyterian and others) know to be true.

And to Jodie:

I amend my earlier labeling of you. You are not fully neo-orthodox. You are actually now revealed as the classic liberal. I pray that you will come to know the biblical faith of Christianity better.

Ted: Again, thanks for being a winsome witness!

Presbyman said...

My own experience at a mainline seminary (Princeton) was a wake up call regarding the true state of Biblical scholarship. In our introductory OT class, we were presented with the documentary hypotheses (meaning multiple sources for the Pentateuch, ruling out primary Mosaic authorship) as if these hypotheses were the only scholarly option. And we also were presented with the multiple Isaiah theory as the only option. In our NT class we were generally given the revisionist understanding of dating the Gospels (there was an automatic dismissal of earlier dating because of an automatic dismissal of Jesus actually speaking prophecies about the destruction of the Temple, regardless of any other evidence that supported an earlier dating). And, needless to say, several Epistles traditionally credited to Paul were labeled "Deutero-Pauline").

Now, it is true that there is a considerable body of scholarship supporting all of these claims listed above, so in that sense it was appropriate to tell us about them. HOWEVER, what we were NOT told in class is that there is ALSO a considerable body of scholarship supporting the traditional view of Mosaic authorship; the unity of Isaiah; the earlier dating of the Gospels; and the Pauline authorship of most Epistles credited to him.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered, in my own research in the PTS library, that reputable scholars, such as those listed by Ted, who have authored very scholarly, highly regarded commentaries including the Expositor's series and the NICOT and NICNT (New International Commentary on the Old Testament and New International Commentary on the New Testament), affirm the traditional understanding of Scripture. This was never brought to our attention in class.

The liberal/revisionist claim that their views are supported by the overwhelming weight of scholarship, even contemporary scholarship, is simply false. SOME scholarship supports their perspective, yes ... but not all scholarship by a long-shot. Unfortunately, if mainline seminary students simply swallow what they are presented in class, and do not do any of their own reading, they will be brainwashed into the liberal/revisionist perspective ... a great loss for them and the church as a whole.

Unfortunately, in my experience at seminary and as a law school graduate, some professors are more than willing to give a slanted or distorted perspective on reality. But because a professor says something is true, does not necessarily make it so.

Respectfully,

Rev. John B. Erthein
Elderton Presbyterian Church
M. Div., Princeton Theological Seminary, 2002.
(And J.D., University of Michigan Law School, 1994).

Presbyman said...

Oh yes, one other comment, to address something else raised in this recent discussion ...

I think it's a scandal that our denomination has taken such a permissive view of divorce. Even the evangelical wing has fallen down on the job about this question. With limited exceptions, such as adultery, Jesus clearly names divorce as a grave sin. Some kind of repentance or rehabilitation should be instituted in the church for people who have been divorced. Instead, we seem to let it slide as a matter of discipline, polity and theology. It is going to be that much more difficult to oppose same-sex sin if we tolerate opposite-sex sin like this. And don't get me started on abortion, which is, of course, exclusively a heterosexual sin.

We need to be as firm about divorce and abortion as we supposedly are about homosexuality, or else we will deserve whatever happens to us as a denomination.

Respectfully,

Rev. John B. Erthein
Elderton Presbyterian Church

Ted D Rossier said...

Cameron,

I'm always gentle! Except when I get riled up. :)

Your comments about Genesis 1 are dealt with in a lot of commentaries and they really say it better than I can. Dr. Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is a real help. The best explanation I have heard is this: Gen. 1 appears to be in a poetic or "singsong" style, making it appear metaphorical or allegorical. However, it does not bear the hallmarks of Hebrew poetry, especially the traditional "doublet" form. Look at the Psalms, note how they flow in two and four-line stanzas, saying the same thing in different words twice in a row. Gen. 1 doesn't have those features to it.

Others have postulated that Moses wrote it down this way to serve as a pnemonic device, to help people remember the creation order. Or, alternatively, he wrote it down in the form that it had been in Hebrew oral tradition, possibly due to the necessity to teach it to children (hence the easily remembered nth day repetition), because that's how everyone remembered it from their youth. Either explanation sounds reasonable to me.

In any case, Gen. 2 does not restate Gen. 1. Instead, the text is an expanded description of the sixth day, and focuses on the creation of man, and the language there is very stylistically historical narrative. I know you are wondering about Gen 2:5 in relation to the third day. That one's a bit tougher, because of the way the Hebrew language is translated. It appears that several of the Hebrew words there can have multiple meanings. In context, Gen. 1 is an account of universal and global creation. Gen. 2 deals with the localized creation of man and the Garden of Eden in the area of ancient Mesopotamia. When Gen. 2:5 says that there were no small bushes or plants "in the land", that doesn't mean "anywhere on the earth", it means in the land where the Garden would be created. So Eden started out as just so much Middle Eastern desert, until God created Adam and made the Garden for him. I think that's what's in view here. Remember, there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original text. Those were added by the Church hundreds (in the case of Genesis, thousands) of years later. Sometimes we have to look past our artificial reference system and see the text as a whole. Hope this helps.

Ted

Ted D Rossier said...

Toby, thanks for your encouragement brother.

Rev. Erthein, I very much appreciate your contribution as well. It is wonderful to hear from a PTS graduate who has experienced these matters real-world. I've done the law school thing, but never set foot in a seminary, liberal or otherwise. While I can only report second hand information, to have it confirmed by first hand account is nice. I'd be happy, in fact, if I weren't so sad over the current state of PTS, seeing as how it was once a bastion of orthodoxy and Reformed theology.

Ted

Jodie said...

Wow guys,

You are like a bunch of fire ants defending their nest. What exactly are you trying to do?

Ted, if you get any more “winsome” you are going to have an aneurism.

Toby, is it because you like the airtight box you are in that you keep trying to put me in one as well? It is on the other hand so nice of you to be praying for me. I shall be praying for you as well.

I like Rev Erthein’s tone. It seems college professors are the same everywhere. Education is indeed a buyer be ware proposition. In the search for objective truth, nobody wants to claim that they are teaching something potentially unobjective or false. At least the post modernists embrace that what they are teaching is their own point of view.

I find it a huge stretch to claim there is “evidence” Moses even existed, let alone authored the Pentateuch. Instead it boils down to a question of faith. The point Jesus was making was that if you are going to base your faith on someone, Jesus is a better choice than Moses. I in all modesty agree. If your faith is based on a certain view of the Bible as the verbatim inerrant word of God, it is not based on the person or work of Jesus Christ and ultimately it is impeachable. I choose to place my trust in the living Jesus. My relationship with Him is living and dynamic. It is something you can read a million books about and never get, but a two year old can. I guess I am a two year old at heart.

Jesus lives,

Jodie

Mark said...

Dear all,

I've stayed away from posting on this blog because, as Ted stated, I get "snarky" when people blast away at me disrespectfully. I know because he blasted away at me more than once for being a liberal.

Even so, I've been reading this blog so I could stay current with what biblical literalists/inerrantists are thinking. So far, it disturbs me.

I'll tell you some of the reasons why I'm not a literalist/inerrantist.

YHWH is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament as a capricious, irrational, cruel, bloodthirsty god. To follow that god is to follow a cosmic bully.

"Adam and Eve, here's a tree covered with delicious fruit. Whatever you do, don't touch it." Let's see a show of hands for how many parents would put a plate of their children's favorite cookies in front of them and say, "Here you go, but don't eat any," and then get mad when their children eat them.

I've heard all the arguments, but it still makes no sense to me that God would even suggest to Abraham to sacrifice his own son (forget about whether or not he actually went through with it). Who among you would willing bind ANY child and raise a knife to kill them? It's no wonder Isaac was so messed up and his sons were at each other's throats. We put people in jail for chaining children to beds; what kind of sentence would Abraham have gotten in today's courts? "Oh, sir, we'll let you off with a warning this time, seeing as GOD TOLD YOU TO DO IT." I think not.

And don't get me started on Jephthah's daughter, offered up to God by a hubristic father. We must keep our vows, mustn't we, even when it means killing our own children. No one even had the decency to record her name.

"Kill that city full of people because they stand between you and the Promised Land. What does it matter that I made them, too? The Israelites are my chosen people. Who cares about those Canaanites?"

"I think I'll just strike that man dead because he touched my ark, even though he was only trying to keep it from falling over."

Spare the rod and spoil the child? Beating children only teaches them that the most physically abusive person makes the rules.

As for the argument that the New Testament mitigates the Old Testament, I can't buy that. (Sorry, Tom!) That argument is neither made in the New Testament, nor does it support the continuity of the two Testaments. Further, it suggests that (a) God flubbed up so badly that a course correction was required, and (b) such a flub represents a less that glorious god.

"Oh, but what about OT prophecies that point to the coming Christ?"

What about them? The argument for the NT mitigating the OT still makes both God and the OT look bad.

If Moses did in fact write the entire Pentateuch by himself, how is it that he could record his own death and burial in the Pentateuch? Don't tell me God gave it to him in prophecy before he died, because the text doesn't say that, and literalism doesn't allow you to add in things that aren't written in the text.

And those are just a few examples from the OT. I won't take time to go into the problems with the NT. On incarnational grounds alone I accept the crucifixion of Jesus, not as God sacrificing "his" son, but as God offering Godself for our sins. That's a far cry from suggesting that the sacrifice of Isaac foreshadows Christ on the cross, and more along the lines of Abraham sacrificing himself in order to save Isaac, Sarah, Ishmael, and Hagar from danger.

Here's some of what I do believe about the Bible. I believe that the Bible gives internal evidence of an evolution of understanding over thousands of years. It is filled with cultural baggage that slowly, though not completely, falls away by the end of the text to reveal highpoints of the Word of God. I believe the Bible contains a trajectory of divine will and love that glimmers through the fog of human emendations that weigh down the text. I believe the Spirit works with and through us to lift that fog more and more over time.

Go ahead, call me a relativist. Call me godless. Worse yet, call me a liberal. I wear the badge proudly because my only other option is to worship a god even the Gnostic heretics called the demiurge.

I decided to make one breif appearance back on this blog today because I received word last week that a dear friend had left the Church to become an atheist. My friend is tired of what he calls the logical absurdities of religion. I believe he'll come back to the faith some day, because I know God hasn't lost faith in him, but I also know that it won't be because of the brand of biblical interpretation exhibited by the proponents of this blog.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Anonymous said...

Jodie -

How do you propose as a body we handle the following?

Jesus tells me to trust his word in the Bible; He assures me it's reliable. He apparantly tells you otherwise. What to do?

"... for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, throught the living and enduring word of God." 1Pet1:23

Jesus does live.

Ford

Toby Brown said...

Mark,

I'll just say this: For every person who leaves a church for atheism because of the tenets of biblical teaching, there are hundreds if not thousands who come to church and are transformed by God's Word.

Thanks be to God, who gave us the inspired writings of his prophets and apostles to tell of of His love in Christ!

I hope that your friend will come to one day know the God who created him and the Savior, Jesus Christ, his only Son.

Presbyman said...

If I understand her correctly, Jodie is saying that she puts her trust in a relationship in the living Christ, as opposed to a specific view of Scripture. Let me say that I even agree, up to a point ... without faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of ancient writings.

But then the question arises, who is Jesus Christ? What does it mean to have a relationship with him? Is it possible to have a relationship with the real Jesus Christ without a high doctrine of Scripture? If we detach Jesus Christ in any way from the Word written, we fall into the danger of worshiping a "Jesus" of our own invention. That is the problem I have had with the neo-Orthodox perspective on the Bible. Jesus can mean anything, depending on the subjective wishes of the individual.

The Word of God should serve as our anchor, or our teacher, always pulling us back or correcting us when our thoughts and desires wander off in strange directions.

Mark's disdain of the OT is not a new phenomenon. Marcion shared it. Augustine shared it for a time as well. I myself have been very uncomfortable with certain passages.

(Less nobly, the Nazis tried to purge the Bible of the OT as well, so as to "liberate" their own Aryan Christ.)

The question we have to ask is, by what standard do we judge the Bible? We say we do not like certain parts of it. What are we measuring the Bible against? Are we really so much more humane or reasonable than the writers of Scripture at their time? We may shudder with horror at the idea of being asked to sacrifice a child (although such was pretty common in those days, and the lesson is that the one true God did NOT accept such a sacrifice, in fact he detested that), but we are a society that somehow considers it normal or reasonable to sacrifice over one million unborn children each year. We're judging Moses??

When I was in seminary, I heard fellow students reject important parts of the Bible/Christian doctrine simply because they did not like those parts ... the blood atonement, hell, etc. But they were setting themselves up as somehow superior to the Word of God written! They gave no reason or justification for their position except that "I don't like this. It makes me uncomfortable."

People will have to do a lot better than that to convince me to disregard wide swathes of Scripture. I think we are called to be uncomfortable at times, and to struggle with parts of Scripture, and to approach the Lord in prayer, asking "why?" But we are not called to turn away from the Bible because we don't like it in our 21st century American context.

Respectfully,

Rev. John B. Erthein

Presbyman said...

One more thing ...

The idea of primary Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch does NOT, in fact rule out some added editorial features after his death, such as a postcript discussing his death.

That is, however, a far cry from assuming that the Pentateuch is made up of several different strands stitched together over a period of hundreds of years.

John

Anonymous said...

Did anyone watch American Idol last night? You know that feeling you have after someone so absolutely ridiculous performs that you are thinking the entire time "Where do these people come from?" ...and then you feel sad and just shake your head because you know they are so completely out of touch, completely lost, and really need help....but you can't imagine how anyone could ever help them. Then you realize you can pray for them.

This is how I felt after reading Mark's comments. Lord please help him!

But seriously, I am trying to imagine what it would be like if I shared his views. How would it change my beliefs, my behaviors, my witness? What would I gain? What would I lose? I think this is something very interesting to pursue and let iron sharpen iron.

Mark P.

Jodie said...

Excellent post Rev Erthein,

You asked

“Is it possible to have a relationship with the real Jesus Christ without a high doctrine of Scripture?”

Of course! Jesus can and does have a relationship with anybody he likes in any way he wishes.

In my own life experience however, He uses the Bible to get through to me about 80% of the time (prayer 18% and all other ways 2%). Through Him (the Paraclete), the Bible comes alive in new exciting ways everyday. One of my key objections to the way the Fundamentalists treat the Bible is that they make it so hard for everybody else to read it. The unfortunate trap laid out to the many who cannot stomach the ultra-conservative and fundamentalist points of view is that they believe the fundamentalists’ view of the Bible is nevertheless correct. So, in rejecting the fundamentalists they reject the Bible as well, thus defeating the fundamentalist goal of making people biblically literate while at the same time confirming to the fundamentalists that all other points of view are non-biblical.

Nasty trick of the devil.

The only solution is a radical trust in the Holy Spirit that celebrates when others are studying the Scriptures and believes the Holy Spirit will guide them in all understanding at His own pace and in His own time, even when said understanding seems strange. We should all pray for such guidance and not assume we have exclusive rights to it.

You suggested:

“If we detach Jesus Christ in any way from the Word written, we fall into the danger of worshiping a "Jesus" of our own invention.”

I think we do anyway. It is impossible not to. The danger is more that in doing so we fail to recognize that we have, and in confusing the Jesus of our own invention with the real thing, we try to impose on others the Jesus of our own invention calling it evangelism. It happens all the time. But it would appear that Jesus can work with that anyway. Must have something to do with the incarnation.

You also said,

“I think we are called to be uncomfortable at times, and to struggle with parts of Scripture, and to approach the Lord in prayer, asking "why?" But we are not called to turn away from the Bible because we don't like it in our 21st century American context.”

I couldn’t agree more. A two-dimensional explanation of the Scriptures dismisses them just as effectively as throwing them out altogether. Some things don’t make sense, and trying to pretend they do is much more disrespectful of the text and the reader than simply staying in the moment and savoring the non-sense. God can speak even out of chaos.

Jodie

Mark said...

Dear Presbyman,

You said, "Mark's disdain of the OT is not a new phenomenon. "

I did not say that I disdain the OT. I said that I am not a literalist/inerrantist, and I gave a few reasons why. In your mind that might mean that I disdain the OT. For me, that does not.

I do not disdain the OT, nor do I disdain the NT. I believe the Bible contains the Word of God, but I do not believe it IS the Word of God. No written document could possibly reflect the fullness of God's Word. I believe that the Bible is the unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ. However Christ, not the Bible, saves us.

I believe that God gave us all brains to use. We may, from time to time, experience God's will as suprarational, but it is never irrational. To accept the Bible without questioning those things I mentioned in my last posting (and many other things) would be irrational. To question what appears to be irrational in the scriptures is not irreverent -- it is good stewardship of the resources God gave us, namely our brains.

I also believe that the Bible is not intended to be taken literally in those places that show obvious signs of myths and symbols as vehicles for bearing truth. Myth and symbol can sometimes reflect truth more powerfully than literal words.

My faith in the Triune God revealed in the Bible is not threatened by these ideas because God is greater than the Bible.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

Mark said...

Jodie,

Thank you for your last post. It has the benefit of reflecting a high view of scripture without allowing for an unnaturally narrow view of scripture. It was much better than anything I could write or say.

Yours in Christ,
Mark

John said...

If I have a map and I decide to believe that what it says is North is really South, will I ever get home? Could I tell someone else how to get home?

Ted D Rossier said...

Mark,

So who decides which parts of the Bible contain God's Word and which ones do not? You? Your pastor? Someone else? The problem with your neo-orthodoxy is that it is man-centered, and therefore constitutes idolatry of the highest order.

You make man the arbiter of whether God truly said anything or not. If you distrust certain parts of the Bible, on what basis do you then trust other passages? Your own opinion? The mistake you make is that you forget who you are.

You are a sinner, so am I. Our intellects are tainted by the curse. We cannot trust ourselves to discover such revealed truth on our own, for how do we know that we do not deceive ourselves? That is why God gave us an objective standard. That is why the Bible *must* be true. Someone like you who places his own personal opinion as paramount has an extremely *low* view of Scripture. Lower than yourself. That's pretty low.

Have you forgotten that one of the main ideas of the Reformation was "sola scriptura"? It is precisely because Martin Luther had a high view of Scripture as the Word of God in its entirety, that the Reformation was even possible. Without it, we would all be under the opression of the Roman church, unable to worship the Lord in Spirit and Truth.

Ted

Ted D Rossier said...

To all:

God is a God of order, not chaos.

Genesis 1
Jeremiah 31:35-37

Anonymous said...

To All...

I’m wondering how Tom’s missive on the Kirk's plans for 2007 became a discussion of the historicity of Genesis.

Tom outlined a practical way forward (expand mission work, start a new church, etc etc) for this part of the Body of Christ. One that I think will bear fruit.

“So then, you will know them by their fruits.” Mt7:20

We need to move on to being good branches and bearing some fruit.

Elvis isn’t biblical but seems like it’s time for … “a little less talk and a little more action”.

We know what we believe (thanks to HIS Grace) – and because we have a common ‘map’ (thanks to the LORD) this part of the His Body can all move in the same direction. Through prayer, and by HIS Grace will continue to grow and through HIS power bear fruit.

Ford

Mark said...

Dear Ted,

I'd rather be honest about my questions than to accept doctrine without question. That's what 42 years as a baptized Christian (with a BA in Religion and an M.Div), 26 years as an ordained deacon, and almost 12 years as an ordained minister have taught me.

More importantly, it's what my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ taught me when he turned away those who would stone an adulterous woman. According to the Torah, the crowd had a right -- even an obligation -- to kill her. Yet he went against that requirement of the Torah of death in favor of the overriding Torah of God's mercy. According to your logic, Jesus himself picked and chose which scriptures captured his fancy and which didn't. The end result was that the crowd's narrow interpretation of Torah was broken open, and the woman was given another chance to align herself with that same Torah.

And Christ taught me further when he freely expressed his doubts in the Garden of Gethsemane. The words, "nevertheless, your will be done," came only AFTER he raised his questions and struggled with the meaning of God's Word. Even so, the "traditionalists" of his day still charged him with heresy and secured his execution for daring to question the "objective standards" of Torah as they interpretated them.

Now, about the matter of labels. You keep labeling me and others with whom you disagree, "neo-orthodox", while at the same time calling us liberals. You obviously don't understand either label well. Neo-orthodoxy repudiated excesses of 19th and early 20th century liberalism and fundamentalism alike. While I am not a follower of neo-orthodoxy, I am indebted to its best influences.

You recommend readings for others. I recommend that you read the article "Neo-Orthodoxy" written by H. Martin Rumscheidt in The Encyclopedia of the Reformed Faith (W/JKP, 1992), and edited by Donald K. McKim. Perhaps after reading that article you'll stop misusing the term.

I also recommend that you read Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation, recently on the national bestseller list. Though I do not agree with his premise that there is no God and that Christianity is a farce, he does a good job exposing the weaknesses of the literalist/inerrantist perspective. Actually read the book, not just conservative reviews.

May God continue to bless you with faith.

Your fellow sinner in Christ,
Mark

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Christian. I am, however, intrigued by Jesus and some of what Christianity proposes, and often eavesdrop on religious blogs in search of spiritual inspiration.

This "conversation" (and I use the term loosely)is horrifying. If Ted is an indication of what a good Christian is supposed to be, then count me out. What an ugly, mean-spirited way to live. If it's Jody or Mark, then why should I bother? It won't make a difference what I believe.

I'm sure I'm oversimplifying, but that's because I don't want to spend any more time writing this, or reading it (it's made me sick to my stomach).

Don't bother replying to me -- I won't be back to read it. I think it might be awhile before I revisit Jesus & his people.

And although I had planned to visit Kirk of the Hills this month, I've lost interest in that, too.

Jim Loughlin said...

Dear anonymous

On the chance that you stop by this blog again, please realize that neither, Jody, Ted, or Mark (and a number of other posters here) are members of or attend Kirk of the Hills. I would ask that you reconsider visiting the Kirk. I think you would find the congregation interested in what questions you may have. If you want to get a feel for the church prior to visiting, go to the church website (www.thekirk.com), look around and listen to some of the sermons.

Ted D Rossier said...

"Anonymous unbeliever" is likely a troll so I'll accede to his or her wishes and not respond.

Mark,

Same old song, different dance. You misapply the Scriptures and then accuse me of being legalistic simply because I'm an inerrantist. Neither you nor Jodie has ever once interacted with my arguments. Your analysis of "my logic", as it were, is plainly wrong. All you can do is trot out the old saw, "Well Jesus was a radical who went against the religious conservatives, so we should do the same!" That's a vast oversimplification and you know it. Or, as a minister of the Gospel, you should.

God's mercy is not a license for antinomianism! In Romans Paul makes that perfectly clear. Precisely because we have been saved by grace, we should be utterly driven to mortify our flesh and seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. The desire for behavior in conformity with God's Law is a fruit of the Spirit. We were created in Christ for good works. But how do we know what that Law is if we can't trust the Scriptures? We certainly can't trust ourselves, that's how we got into this mess in the first place!

The story of the "woman caught in adultery" may not even have happened. It's not in the earliest manuscripts. It's one of the questioned passages, along with the extended ending to Mark and the Johannine comma in 1 John 5. However, even if it did happen, do you see anywhere in the text where Christ condoned the woman's sin? Did not Christ, in John 4, call out another adulterous woman for the same sin?

So if the woman didn't just get a "get out of jail free card" from Jesus, what exactly happened? Two things. First, Jesus showed by his actions that his presence ended the necessity for following the OT ceremonial and civil laws (but not the moral law!). Second, the woman's heart was changed, so that she responded to Jesus in repentance and faith. Do you think Jesus would have said "go and sin no more" if he hadn't given the woman the desire to do that very thing?

Your statement that Jesus "struggled with the meaning of God's Word" is odd: first, you agree with me that Jesus considered the Scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament) to be God's Word, so if that's the case, then why don't you believe it? Second, your comment borders on blasphemy. How could Jesus struggle with the meaning of words he himself inspired? On the contrary, Jesus knew every jot and tittle of the Law and the Prophets, and knew exactly what they meant. Perfectly.

You say you are not neo-orthodox. Call yourself whatever you want, but what I object to is your statement that the Bible "contains the Word of God", but that it is not actually the Word of God. Perhaps you could enlighten us as to which parts are which. BTW I don't think I ever called you a liberal, and if I did, that was my error. So what's your stance on Christian morality? What's your standard of behavior for the believer? What do you teach your congregation?

I do not accept doctrine without question. That's your caricature of conservatives. I check everything against the objective standard of the Scriptures. If you have no standard but your own faulty sense of what should be right, then you and the congregation you lead run the risk of being "blown about by every wind of doctrine". Are you seriously getting your ideas on Bibliology from a militant unbeliever like Sam Harris? Make no mistake, you will be held accountable for what you teach. I am calling to task the church which failed and misled me and so many others for my childhood and most of my adult years. The church which does not teach the Scriptures and the Gospel, but instead reduces our faith and reason to blind emotionalism and mere human sentimentality. Be it UPC/PCUSA, Methodism, so-called "mainstream" (neo-orthodox) Baptist, whatever the stripe.

The Lord has his winnowing fork and we're all about to be threshed. The chaff will blow away. And if all of this makes me ugly and mean spirited, then I stand so judged by men. But my judge is the Lord.

Ted

Ted D Rossier said...

Well I should have realized. Dr. Machen says it much better and gentler than I can.

http://www.lgmarshall.org/Apologetics/machen_chrmodern.html

Ted

Jim said...

Does anyone know if there is a list of Churches that have left PC(USA) or have asked to leave? I know the current exodus started a few years ago, and GA will not admit to such a list. I know many went to EPC, but some went independent.

Ted D Rossier said...

Oops, my link got cut off. Just either go to the main website www.lgmarshall.org and look for Machen's work, or else google him and look for "The Christian Faith in the Modern World". Published in 1936, it's now public domain.

And all of the things that have heretofore been discussed in this combox are laid out systematically in that work. And that was 70 years ago. You see? There is nothing new under the sun.

Ted

Mark said...

Dear Ted (and others),

I am glad for you that you have such contented and unshakable certainty in the inerrancy of scripture. I agree that it helps your argument simply to accept the entirety of scripture without question. You follow what it says, no questions asked. That simplicity may very well explain the popularity of fundamentalist churches.

Yet, I am continually amazed at the complex mental gymnastics literalists/inerrantists undergo in order to get around what appear in scripture to be (1) clear contradictions; (2) illogic; (3) cultural practices long since abandoned, even by fundamentalists; and (4) downright callous and/or bloodthirsty behavior attributed to God or God's command.

I raise my questions not because I think I have everything figured out, nor because I think my way is better, but because these questions are real for me and also for many Christians (and non-Christians) I have known over the years. I continue to look for ways to reconcile my faith in Christ and reliance upon scripture with what appear to be logical absurdities in parts of scripture. For years I've read what inerrantist/literalists espouse, and it rings hollow for me. I own that: it rings hollow FOR ME, not necessarily for you.

Even so, I continue to engage the scriptures very closely. Like Jacob alongside the Jabbok Stream, I wrestle with God and ask for -- nay, demand! -- a blessing. Every now and then I believe God grants me insight, but the cost is great and I must hobble along with my spiritual hip out of joint after those encounters.

Having said that, I hasten to add that I find the majority of scripture to be clear, authoritative, and morally compelling.

By what authority, then, do I distinguish between the authoritative and the absurd? For starters, I follow the maxim, "let scripture interpret scripture".

For example, Ezra urges the returning exiles to "put away" both their foreign wives and the children born of those marriages. There are no provisions for the needs of those who are "put away"; they're simply thrown out. Is that God's true desire, or is it Ezra's idea that ethnic purity will keep the faith pure? More importantly, how does Ezra's advice square with the regular refrain throughout the Old Testament that we are to care for the orphan, the widow, and the stranger in our midst because we were once strangers in Egypt? And what part does the book of Ruth play in criticizing Ezra's ideas of purity? I cannot believe that God would be as callous and Ezra's interpretation of the law suggests. Rather, I'm swayed by the orphan/widow/stranger refrain and by the reality that the Moabite Ruth was Jesus' forebearer.

Does that mean I reject the books of Ezra and Nehemiah? No, I do not. I simply cannot accept that God desired the expulsion of the foreign women and their children. I don't doubt that it happened; I doubt that God wanted it to happen.

That's one example only. Perhaps it sheds light on the wrestling I go through to determine what in the text is authoritative. And I never wrestle in a vacuum. I study extensively (not just "liberal" sources) and converse with colleages (not just "liberal" ones) and parishioners (dito). I also turn to the confessional heritage of our denomination. (Okay, everyone, get the shrieking out of your systems before proceeding; I'm going to quote C'67.) As the Confession of 1967 states:

"The Bible is to be interpreted in the light of its witness to God’s work of reconciliation in Christ. The Scriptures, given under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, are nevertheless the words of men, conditioned by the language, thought forms, and literary fashions of the places and times at which they were written. They reflect views of life, history, and the cosmos which were then current. The church, therefore, has an obligation to approach the Scriptures with literary and historical understanding. As God has spoken his word in diverse cultural situations, the church is confident that he will continue to speak through the Scriptures in a changing world and in every form of human culture." (BC, 9.29)

Yes, that's in there right alongside the Westminster standards. Therefore, I'm well within the bounds of the confessional heritage of the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition. More importantly, I continue to turn to scripture as the unique and authoritative witness to God's reconciling work in Jesus Christ.

I think, like anonymous, I've had enough of this blog. I ask for God's blessings for all of us. May God lead us into peace with each other and with the world God has called us to serve.

Your fellow sinner in Christ,
Mark

Mark said...

Ted,

One last thing. I did mean to respond to your comment:

"The story of the "woman caught in adultery" may not even have happened. It's not in the earliest manuscripts. It's one of the questioned passages, along with the extended ending to Mark and the Johannine comma in 1 John 5. However, even if it did happen, do you see anywhere in the text where Christ condoned the woman's sin? Did not Christ, in John 4, call out another adulterous woman for the same sin?"

Of course, Jesus did not condone adultery. What gave you the idea that I thought he did? I was commenting on the behavior of the self-righteous crowd, not the adulterous woman. My point is that THEY took a rather narrow interpretation of scripture while JESUS chose a more merciful one. That goes right to the heart of your question about how we make judgments about scripture. If I adopt your way of thinking, Jesus chose to overlook a biblical requirement to kill the adulterous woman. You suggest that if you adopt my way of thinking, we throw out all law. Hardly! I DID say (perhaps too poetically, which is why you may have missed it) that he gave her the opportunity to come back in line with the law. Perhaps I should have worded it thus: Jesus rebuked her for her sin. You say tomayto, I say tomahto.

And while we're on the crowd's behavior, why didn't they drag the adulterous man in front of Jesus also? Why just the woman? It takes two to tango, unless you wish to suggest that her adulterous act was masturbation. The crowd appeared to apply a double standard: penalize the woman, let the man off the hook. Of course, I can't say that for sure, because the text is silent on the man. But it does leave one wondering.

Now onto those juicy tidbits of yours: "The story... may not even have happened," and "even IF it did happen" (emphasis added). Well, knock me down with a feather!!! A literalist/inerrantist QUESTIONING the originality of passages in the RECEIVED TEXT?! By what criterion do you question the canon? Surely not that old "clap-trap" about it not being in the earliest manuscripts. That's a "liberal", "neo-orthodox" argument. For heaven's sake, the text has been canonized! The argument is that God inspired the canonization, otherwise "silly little books" like the Gospel of Thomas would have made it in. Oh, do tell by what criterion you leave passages out of the Received Text.

I'll linger long enough to read your answer, but as I stated before, I'm leaving this blog. I won't be responding.

Your fellow sinner in Christ,
Mark

Arthur said...

Ted,

The whole link you gave is actually all there in your original post. If you copy (past the end of the line), and paste into your browser, it works just fine.

You said:

"And that was 70 years ago. You see? There is nothing new under the sun."

I have to disagree. I have to admit that I have only read the first two chapters of Macken's paper, but one of his statements in the second chapter:

"How, then, has God revealed Himself to us?

In the first place, He has revealed Himself by the universe that He has made."

Given today's (70 years later) understanding of the universe and modern mathematical concepts, his statement reduces to something that is at best marginally better than pure idolatry. His Biblical references don’t really make the case either.

Arthur

Toby Brown said...

Mark,

Ted will also respond to this, but for your information most of those who today hold to biblical inerrancy--especially those in the Reformed camp--hold to inerrancy only in the original autographs.

In other words, the Holy Scriptures were inerrant when God inspired and moved the authors to write these books. There are (very few) inconsistencies in the manuscripts that we have today, so there is a slight variance in some passges.]

Of course, these variance are--as almost ANY biblical scholar will admit, pretty slight and of no doctrinal importance.

So, one CAN hold to inerrancy and still do critical study of the Bible. Historical research is the friend of inerrancy, not its enemy.

Inerrantist scholars are not afraid of archaelogy or text critical studies of God's Word, because the more research is done, the greater evidence exists as to the Bible's accuracy and historical validation.

Even if the John account of the woman caught in adultery was not penned in John's original manuscript, the church consensus holds that it is authoritative for us. That means that this passage is still 'God breathed' and without error, as it is truly God's Word to us all.

Jim said...

I have started a list of churches leaving or have left the PC(USA) on my blog List of Churches.
Corrections, additions, comments welcome.

Arthur said...

Jim,

I think you had better be more careful in preparing your list.

I checked out the one at the top, Central Presbyterian in Huntsville Alabama (within my presbytery).

There has been no official disaffiliation or dismissal or even a statement from them that they want to pursue that.

It is no secret that Central Presbyterian believes that the local congregations should have full rights to the church properties. Central Presbyterian, last year sponsored a proposal to our Presbytery that they send an overture to the 217 GA amending the Book Of Order property trust clause. This proposal was co-sponsored by the Session of the congregation I belong to (Covenant Presbyterian, Huntsville). The proposal failed (by a very significant margin) in Presbytery.

Although Dr. Randall Jenkins of Central Presbyterian is in the Leadership of the NWAC, I have seen no concrete evidence that they are actually leaving the PCUSA. I did find it interesting though that (according to the Presbytery minutes) they sent no elders to the last Presbytery meeting.

I wonder how many other congregations on your list are likewise erroneously listed.

Arthur

Ted D Rossier said...

Mark,

First of all, I believe in the inspiration and inerrancy of the original autographs, not the Textus Receptus. I happen to favor the ESV which is base on the majority/critical textual evidence.

Read what Toby said, and then go find online the "Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy". It's shocking that I and others have to teach a minister of the Gospel how to read the Bible, but such is the world we live in.

Providentially, we are studing Ezra-Nehemiah in Sunday School at the moment. Yes indeed, it was God's will, spoken through Ezra, that the foreign wives and children be put out of the land. The definition of "the people of God" was different in the OT. The Jews were called to be ceremonially clean as a type and shadow of the reality of Christ. Once Christ appeared on the scene and did His work, the ceremonial clean-unclean laws were no longer necessary, as the Lord showed Peter in the "Holy Sheet" vision.

You need to do 2 things: first, stop using your 21st century mindset as a filter when you read the Scriptures. Let redemptive history speak for itself. Second, release yourself from a man-centered view and let God speak to you. You presume to judge God and that is blasphemy and idolatry.

Arthur, I'm not surprised that you disagree with Machen, but if you are accusing him of being illogical then you must be using different rules of logic than the rest of us.

Ted

Arthur said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Arthur said...

Ted,

I'm not accusing Machen of being Illogical at all. It’s not Machen’s logic that is faulty (the mechanics of doing logic is rather simple); it’s his lack of understanding of nature and mathematics that’s at fault (understandably faulty premises). I don’t blame him for that. It was 70 years ago after all, and a lot has changed since his day.

There are lots of people who make very good logical arguments, but base their proofs on questionable or just plain faulty premises (Robert Gagnon quickly comes to mind). Some simply don't or can’t know any better, others have their heads stuck in the sand, and still others (like many lawyers and advertisers) do it deliberately to convince an unsuspecting or naive audience that an untruth is true.

Arthur

Jim said...

Aurther
Yes, What you say about Central Presbyterian is correct. That is why in this small table I have place N/A (not applicable) in the TO column. I will update my site to footnote what N/A means.

Fell free to comment on my blog, not here please, as it adds to the noise level. Unlike your comment, I will not ascribe motives to your tone or conclusions, as I have not followed your POV here.

Arthur said...

Jim,

You said on your blog:

"I have not found a list of churches that have left or want to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). So I am starting one."

You included Central Presbyterian (our sister congregation that our congregation grew out of 50 years ago) in your list of churches that either have left or want to leave the PCUSA. In fact, you put them at the top of your list. It is inappropriate to have them listed at all even with your N/A designation. I don't speak for Central, by my congregation, who historically has had a strong affinity toward them, also wants property control, and we have no intention of leaving the PCUSA.

You made a possibly erroneous public statement concerning the intent of Central Presbyterian Church. Like I said before, you should be more careful. This could very easily turn into a rumor or worse yet, gossip.

What purpose does this list of yours serve anyway? What is your motive?

As far as my ascribing motives is concerned: I have no idea what you're talking about. I simply pointed out an error in your very first entry, and wondered if there were others.

Arthur

P.S.

I will also post a notice on your blog.

Bayou Christian said...

Tom,

any time I think I wish I had more comments on my site I'll come scan through this again

wow ;)

Have a great day.