The Dissonant Note

By Natalie Vestin

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

debussyI have a heart arrhythmia that, though benign, is frustrating and feels like death despite its clinical insignificance. It has no cause and no effect; cardiologists call it capricious. It’s meaningless and unreasonable and irregular, and I hate it.

After a night of insomnia and errant heartbeats, I spend a comforting morning on the piano with Claude Debussy’s First Arabesque. Its rhythm is purposefully unpredictable, notes falling all over themselves.

I played the piano all the time when the arrhythmia was first monitored and diagnosed, drifting toward arrhythmic music I hated learning as a child. All those misplaced beats and skittering hands and attempts to hold multiple melodies in my head at the same time. It felt wrong, but my piano teacher knew: This one, she will never befriend the metronome.

The arabesque is a problem that never gets solved, an unanswered question. Playing it is like endlessly falling with nothing to right the body. It is all sky and no ground.

Arrhythmia is distressing in any form. Debussy’s use of arrhythmic structure—bitonality—got his music shunned by the artistic thought leaders of the day. In nineteenth-century Europe, tone was integral to composing music, tone being a steady sound in one key that predicts and guides the composition. Haydn and Bach were the greats, the ones to be emulated: repetition leading to rhythm, a diversionary tactic here to indicate that something is happening, a return to the source soon after. Set the metronome; do not deviate. [Read more...]

Ray Bradbury Lives Forever

martian_chronicles_250On Labor Day weekend in 1932, a twelve year-old boy from Waukegan, Illinois, having just emerged from a family funeral, noticed a carnival tent by the shore of Lake Michigan and went to investigate. He had heard of a magician there named Mr. Electrico, who sat with a sword in hand on an electric chair with current passing through him, making his hair stand on end.

When Mr. Electrico stood up to knight the boy, making the current pass to him, he shouted: “Live forever!”

Ray Bradbury told this story about his childhood hundreds of times, insisting that the experience set him on the path to becoming a writer-magician, a teller of fantastic tales.

On one level this is a story about vocation—a baptism by electricity—but it is also a story about time and eternity, death and resurrection—themes that would preoccupy Bradbury over a writing career that spanned seven decades.

In all the tributes that have been paid to Bradbury since his death in June 2012—from lengthy newspaper obituaries to blog posts—one aspect of his life and work has been conspicuously missing: the centrality of faith. [Read more...]

Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos and the Megachurch

This post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

My suspicion grows apace with the slickness of a presentation. This is one reason I squirm in a megachurch. PowerPoint slides, emotion-tugging video clips during the pre-game show, music crafted to feel edgy and relevant—my skin crawls like I’m about to hear a sales pitch, which I guess I am, which maybe isn’t so bad for God-seekers who aren’t inveterate curmudgeons.

“Slick,” likewise, was my first response to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos reboot, which evoked its own megachurch feeling, alternating sci-fi videography with fervent sermons about evolution. The risk in a new set of films from the BioLogos Foundation, which seeks to draw people into a conversation about the intersection of science and faith, is that they will spark exactly that, only one that marries the megachurch’s Jesus-Superbowl with the liberation theology that is evolution theory in the mouths of pop scientists like Tyson.

The danger, in short, is that the conversation is over before it begins, because participation requires one side to lay down their presuppositions, but allows the other to continue clutching theirs like a toddler his candy. [Read more...]

Living With Darwin

LivingWithDarwinThis post was made possible through the support of a grant from The BioLogos Foundation’s Evolution and Christian Faith program. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BioLogos.

A few years ago, Philip Kitcher wrote a book called Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith. Kitcher is a well-respected philosopher. He currently holds an appointment in the philosophy department at Columbia University.

Kitcher often writes about science, the scientific method, and more specifically about science and its clash with faith. He has dipped his toe, more than once, into the murky waters of creationism and the arguments around intelligent design.

[Read more...]

The Creationist Crisis Reprise

Sevbible2eral months ago I blogged about the Ken Ham Bill Nye debate at Liberty University. I hadn’t given the two much thought since then until last week when they both rose back into the media. My son’s Popular Science magazine arrived with Nye on the front, his fists wrapped like a boxer’s, and the title of the article about him: Nerd Fight! The same day, Ham hit the news as a butt of jokes for blogging that intelligent alien life cannot exist because, “the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation… To suggest that aliens could respond to the gospel is just totally wrong.”

What struck me about the Ham kerfuffle is how this arises from the same place that his strict stance on young earth creationism does. At its core, this is not about the science; it is about hermeneutics.

[Read more...]


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