Friday, February 27, 2015

Our New Gnosticism

Almost every aspect of modern Christianity assumes that the faith is first and foremost a set of ideas to be believed. That's it. Sure, we encourage some marginal action on the side, but that's not truly important, not central. Our worship is primarily about explaining and singing ideas, our schools focus on transferring ideas, our evangelism spreads ideas, our apologetic tries to persuade others of ideas, community means chatting with people who share our ideas, our entry into heaven requires holding the right ideas in our heads. In centuries past, this strange obsession with ideas simply went by the name of Gnosticism--the ancient heresy that ideas and intellect are more important than bodies and people and actually doing something. We even have a safe, approved word to hide our new Gnosticism--"worldview."1

1.  Douglas M. Jones, Dismissing Jesus: How We Evade The Way Of The Cross (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books; 2013), pp. 45-6 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Evolution, Abiogenesis, and Beer

When someone argues that evolutionary science has nothing to do with the science of origins, instead of being a jerk about their beliefs, try these few simple steps instead:

1)  Grab a beer (because scientific discussions are always more enjoyable with a nice micro-brew in hand). 
2)  Ask whether evolutionary science has anything to do with philosophy (i.e. the science of knowledge, reality, etc.).
3)  Discuss. 

(If they say "yes" then refer to the "A" steps below. If they say "no" then refer to the "B" steps below.)

A1) Offer them a beer 
    A2) Discuss their philosophy of origins (i.e. what they believe about how or why the world, as they know it, originated).
        A3)  Pay attention to your beer and theirs. Replenish often.

Hopefully somewhere between the micro-brews and the philosophical discussion about "origins" two minds will meet at two identical conclusions: (1) that beer really did make the discussion more enjoyable, and (2) evolutionary science has something to do with the science of origins: it has a philosophical connection, because both subjects cannot be discussed in relation to each other without some philosophical pre-commitments

(If they said "no" to the question above)

B1)  Offer them a beer anyway (because, hey, who doesn't like beer?) 
    B2)  Discuss their philosophy about evolutionary science supposedly having nothing to do with origins (i.e. why they think that is necessarily the case).

If it turns out that some participants in this discussion suddenly feel intimidated, or don't want to "debate" their philosophy versus ours anymore, at least everyone had an opportunity to enjoy beer!

The bottom line is this: A nice micro-brew makes every philosophical discussion better. So while you're sipping down your micro-brew, pray that each party within the discussion realizes that evolution has something to do with origins. Pray that they realize it makes no real, knowledgeable (i.e. philosophical) sense to discuss why the science of evolution has nothing (or something) to do with the science of origins unless both sciences are mutually dependent upon some philosophical commitments.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Book Review: Mysterious Apocalypse, by Arthur Wainwright

Mysterious Apocalypse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are so many books about John's Apocalypse, yet this one is supremely helpful in a wide variety of ways. By far the most valuable aspect of this book is Wainwright's meticulously detailed and organized survey of the Church's (widespread) interpretation of John's Apocalypse, from the 1st through 20th century. Do you want to know the earliest forms of premillennialism, postmillennialism, and every other "ism" (including many cult interpretations/movements?) in Church history (both east and west)? Look no further. Are you interested in knowing how the "historicist" or "preterist" positions began to take root in church history, and for what purposes those socio-political interpretations were originally introduced? Look no further. It's all here in this gem of a book. This is truly an excellent book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Five stars all the way.

Book Review: The Theology of the Book of Revelation, by Richard Buckram

The Theology of the Book of Revelation

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was fortunate (?) enough to read this in less than 24 hours as I rested sick in bed (but could not sleep). So not much of the Bauckham's theological nuances slipped past me.

It's most noteworthy aspects are its 1) speculation about first-century interpretation 2) trinitarian threads of emphasis and 3) balanced theonomic (but non-reconstructionist) motifs in relation to holy warfare and Christocentric "witness" (i.e. martyrdom).

The only major disagreement I had with Bauckham is his repeated insistence that John's Apocalypse has absolutely nothing to do with the tumultuous Jewish wars (causing strife among christian Jews as well), the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and the end of the old covenant "creation." He places a lot of emphasis on the new covenant kingdom already being inaugurated, but he insists that the first century audience of John's Apocalypse would not have considered Jerusalem and Herod's Temple as a center of power or idolatry (and hence, could not have been mistaken for any "beastly" figure in Revelation). To Bauckham, all of the beastly images have to do with powers and idols of the early/ancient Roman Empire.

Even though that is a significant disagreement i have with the book, I would still highly recommend it for its clarity and exegetical balance. I think it steers much of contemporary speculation about John's Apocalypse in a healthier direction than all "futurist" (pre-millennial) views offered today. It also steers clear of the unhealthy "dominionist" abuses far too often emphasized among postmillennialists, as well as the cerebral pietism highlighted among amillenialists. I suspect that if Bauckham were asked what his own personal "millennial" position was, he would respond by pointing out how insignificant the theological implications of the millennium are when compared to the rest of the book's much clearer theological implications