…Or Eruptions of Conflict (RJS)

I occasionally receive e-mail after posts when readers agree, disagree, or just have questions. The e-mail address I include at the bottom of each post is there to allow this kind of communication. An e-mail message after the post last Tuesday, The Wellsprings of Conflict, raised an issue that I think deserves some serious consideration here.  The title of the post referred to the wellsprings of Koch’s inner conflict between religion and reason. But “wellspring” is a little too passive a term perhaps, periodic eruptions … something like Old Faithful (or perhaps a less predictable geyser) provide a better description. This inner conflict is present for many of us, and the core question is whether this conflict is intrinsic, we must choose either religion or reason, or the conflict is an artifact of the approach we take to the relationship between religion and reason. If it is an artifact of approach, what provides a better way?

After some preliminary greetings not copied here, the e-mail continued with the essence of the issue for this reader:

At any rate the one theme that I resonate with most in your discussions is the cognitive dissonance I experience between my faith and my intellect …. What bothers me the most is not so much that I feel rather foolish among others for maintaining faith in a personal God and a resurrected Christ, but that I often look at myself as living in denial of the facts before me, of turning off my brain because I want to believe in the hope I find in the God revealed in Christ. … When I go to a church and hear a sermon on Noah in which the pastor claims that there is more than enough evidence to accept the Genesis account as speaking to a universal flood and further claiming that prior to Noah it had never rained on earth and then ending the sermon by comparing the one door on Noah’s ship to the one way of salvation in Christ I cringe. I feel ridiculous for even being around such people. I feel as if I am in a cult that denies what is right in front of us. Then I begin to wonder if, though I accept evolution and don’t hold to inerrancy, by holding on to the overarching narrative of Scripture I am living in the same sort of self-delusion in my own way and refusing to accept what is quite clear. That is, I often feel as if Scripture and it’s testimony to resurrection and God’s work in the world has already been shown to be ridiculous and I just continue to believe based on spurious evidence at best because I crave the God revealed in Christ.

I realize I’ve not yet really asked a direct question.  I guess I am wondering if you ever feel that way especially teaching in a secular and intellectual environment?  I myself do not teach at all and am not in such an environment and I still feel this disconnect. … I guess I am asking if you think it is intellectually viable to continue to trust Scripture’s revelation of God?

The answer to the first question is yes. Frankly, I can relate with this writer. There are times, sometimes more, sometimes less, when I wonder if I am just fooling myself when I try to explore and test the issues relating to the intersection of reason and Christian faith. This is a real conflict that erupts at times flamed by internal thoughts and external situations. The pervasive influence of scientific naturalism, ontological naturalism, is quite powerful in our western world.

Certainly that I am fooling myself is the opinion of commenters (one recently, but many over the years) who equate “the abundance of serious, devout practicing Christians who hold a high view of scripture AND reject reading Genesis as a literal explanation of creation without having their faith fall apart” with the woe of Luke 6:26: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” I am, apparently, a false prophet leading others astray through my desire to curry favor with “the world.”

That I, and all those who try to reconcile religion and reason, are fooling ourselves is also the opinion of outspoken critics like Jerry Coyne, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins. Harris’s relatively mild NY Times opinion piece following the nomination of Francis Collins to head the NIH is a case in point. But it isn’t just these outspoken few. The vast majority of my colleagues will agree to varying degree. Religions are, after all, ancient superstitions disproved many times over. As the e-mail writer put it, the conviction is that “scripture and it’s testimony to resurrection and God’s work in the world has already been shown to be ridiculous.”

Perhaps the commenter who linked to Luke 6 simply needed to move up a few verses:

Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

The battering of these influences is enough to drive anyone to questions and doubts.

The answer to the second question is also yes. I do think it is intellectually viable to continue to trust Scripture’s revelation of God, corroborated by the witness of the church over the last two millenia.

I don’t think this requires the abandonment of reason although it does require the abandonment of some ideas put forth at times in churches – like a unique human pair, progenitors of the entire human race, a world-wide flood, and the origin of most languages some 4000 years ago. But there are abundant reasons, many arising within the pages of scripture itself, to back off from the literal interpretation of these passages.

It does require critical thinking, and a very careful look at the places where the conflicts actually lie. This is something I try to do when writing on this blog. So far I have not come across anything written in blood, essential to the Christian faith, that is intellectually nonviable unless one drinks deeply from the river of ontological naturalism (a pervasive influence in our world today). On the other hand, many things written in pencil must be erased, and some things written in ink must be reconsidered and revised (like the meaning of original sin for example). See here for the reference to blood, ink, and pencil; one of the most helpful essays I’ve found.

We can not argue absurdity on ridiculous grounds in order to preserve a favored theological element or interpretation. But all apparently absurd claims are not based on ridiculous arguments.  The resurrection, for example, can be defended on grounds not so easily discounted. This is why books – like NT Wright’s series on Christian origins culminating in The Resurrection of the Son of God, a series I found life changing, or Mike Licona’s tomb on the resurrection (a book I have not read yet) are so important. The Bible may be inerrant, or may not be … at least not in the typical evangelical interpretation of the term. But our faith does not rest on arguments founded in inerrancy.

I also don’t think most pastors and church leaders realize the depth of the internal conflict that springs from many of these claims of what scripture “must” teach, and how it “must” be interpreted. Nor do those who simply take the path of least resistance, avoiding the issues as a matter of expediency, realize the depth of the internal conflict or the force behind the conflict.

Ken Ham (to pick a well known example) suggests that we need to hunker down on many of these issues and teach our youth (and adults) to stand firm on the Bible, in this way we will preserve the next generation in the church. I suggest that we need to teach our youth (and adults) how to approach these issues clearly and without fear – in this way we will help prepare them for the work of God and his Holy Spirit. The first, and most important thing we need to do is teach the whole bible and the whole gospel story. The second most important things we can teach is the ability to separate and consider the things written in blood, ink, and pencil.

I have not completely answered the writer’s questions and would like to pose a few questions to see what suggestions or insights arise.

Are reason and religion compatible? How?

How would you address the issues raised in this e-mail? Are they issues for people you know? For people in your church?

Is there anything that the church can, and should, be doing?

If you wish to you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net.

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • scotmcknight

    RJS,

    One way of dealing with doubts for the intellectual sorts is to sit down, ponder and write out What I Believe statements … getting back to basics can lead to a settled conviction about some truths and it can lead to clarity on what is not necessary. I really like this post — and the e-mail that spurred it — because it has led me to ponder a bit on the issues over time that I have just had to say “It may matter to some, but it doesn’t matter to me.”

  • Paul W

    I like Scot’s suggestion of taking the time and effort of writing out an “I believe . . .” statement. Especially if one can do so in a ‘self-discovery’ sort of way rather than a ‘self-aggrandizing’ sort of way.

    I feel sorry for Evangelical and fundamentalist types who struggle so severely with large swaths of their tradition but have had other Christian traditions (e.g., Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline) so demonized that they can’t even imagine being a part of them even if that other tradition is closer to what they actually believe. Apologies if that comes off as condescending.

  • http://inchristus.wordpress.com Paul D. Adams

    Thanks so very much for this clear and candid post. Many no doubt will resonate with the angst you here address. Certainly, pastors who fail to acknowledge and confront this angst do no service to themselves, their people, or God’s Church. We MUST reinforce critical thinking and allow everyone (believer and non-believer) the space and grace to think out loud. If indeed Christianity is true, then the scrutiny of reason will only serve to sharpen it. If not, then “we are of most men to be pitied.”

    Toward answering your questions posed at the end: see my series for starters.

  • http://jesus.scilla.org.uk/ Chris Jefferies

    Are reason and religion compatible? How?

    That’s a good question. But I choke on the word ‘religion’ because having a religious attitude is perhaps behind the notion that we must take everything in the Bible literally and at face value. Religion is much more than that, of course; it is doing, thinking and teaching according to traditions. But we need to approach everything with minds and hearts open to evaluate fresh information as and when it becomes available.

    I would therefore much prefer the question, ‘Are reason and faith compatible?’

    I think so. As part of the domain of reason, science uncovers information about the universe; as believers we should not be afraid of facts. That would be tantamount to accepting that our faith is mistaken and foolish. Science will surely take our understanding of emotions and feelings much further in the decades and centuries that lie ahead but in my opinion it will never be able to pin down the spiritual aspect of human life.

    There are two kinds of knowing. Reason is about understanding the physical realm by observing, making hypotheses and testing. Faith is about understanding the spiritual realm by hearing and obeying. The two are different and do not intersect, therefore they are independent and cannot be incompatible. It’s like saying that apples and oranges are incompatible. It’s a meaningless statement.

    So fundamental is the gulf between the physical and spiritual realms that I’m not even sure it’s possible to use reason as an investigative tool for spiritual truth. As they used to say decades ago, ‘It’s better felt than telled’.

  • http://davidbrush.com David Brush

    One of the things this post solidified for me, and it is related to the postings on Enns’s book and its review by Madueme as well:

    I don’t believe in a God that tricks us into faith.

    When we start to deny the findings of science with pseudo-scientific or shaky philosophical arguments about God testing our faith I roll my eyes a bit. I have come to find the construct of science vs. faith to be a false (and recent) dichotomy.

  • Michael

    Interesting post. good questions. And I like scot’s advice in #1.

    @David – #5. Say more on how “recent” this dichotomy is. I’d be interested in hearing more.

  • Stephen Weaver

    I concur with Chris. The scientific method can never tell us the “why.” It is useful for the “what,” and then mostly only in relation to mathematics. The phrase in the email that “God’s work in the world has already been shown to be ridiculous,” is incredible to me. Dallas Willard correctly asks, “when and by who? Citations please.” Most often what I have heard is that a professor has said this in a freshman history of western civilization class, or the like. But the claim has not been proven by the usual cast of characters, Dawkins, Wilson, Hitchens, etc., and certainly not by the greater scientific community. What has been shaken perhaps are popular religious understandings of things.

    The greater fault though lies with the believing community. We are thoroughly modern without realizing it. In the catechism classes that I teach, I bring in a manual of some kind – dishwasher, lawnmower; it doesn’t matter – and I ask the class to tell me the difference between the manual and Scripture. They can’t, and indeed make the erroneous assumption that one is for the appliance, the other is for the spiritual life. I then state that they couldn’t be more incorrect: to bring the same way of reading to Scripture that we utilize with the manual is at the root of a great deal of our problems. In fact, it may be that we do not know how to read Scripture anymore given our prevailing epistemology. This is why I believe the Ancient Commentary on Scripture (IVP), is such a helpful tool to get outside of our mindsets and attempt to understand Scripture as it was written. Scripture shares the format of a book, and that may be it. The way it works on us is beyond literature, research or art.

  • Matt

    It is the honest questioning and wrestling in posts like this that are a source of strength to me and, I’m sure, many others. This is one way that the Church is at its best. Thank you, Scot and RJS.

  • http://whatyouthinkmatters.org/blog Andrew Wilson

    RJS, that piece on pencil, ink and blood is beautiful, profound and very moving. Thanks so much for the link (and for your own piece, which is pretty good too :) ).

  • James Rednour

    RJS, you and I (and the emailer) are cut from the same cloth. There have been times, some recently, where have said to myself the my faith was nonsensical and ought to be jettisoned for my own mental health (I too suffer from the same cognitive dissonance as the emailer when I try to reconcile reason and faith). Then I hear the pastor in my church (a YRR guy) state that if you lose a literal Adam you lose the Gospel and I think to myself “Why am I even sitting here listening to this?”

    I have moved beyond a definition of faith as strong belief to a definition of faith as acting as if you believe something even when you don’t completely believe it. Maybe I’m fooling myself, but it has helped me to reconcile some of my mental anguish.

    When I read Barna surveys about why the young are leaving Christianity behind and one of the primary reasons is that Christianity is anti-science, I realize we have a serious problem on our hands. Most pastors seem content to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist or they just shout loader that the Bible demands that you reject these things that science is claiming hoping that will resolve the problem. It won’t. All I can say is thank God that men like Peter Enns, Kenton Sparks, Scot McKnight and RJS are tackling these issues head on instead of running and hiding.

  • Andrew

    Scot’s approach in #1 is key, I find. For people who think critically about harmonizing faith and science, when we worship in churches like the commenter’s church (as I do, as well), it can become our habit to define ourselves by what we *don’t* believe. I have found this to be toxic to my Christian walk.

    This, frankly, is why I am drawn specifically to Scot’s work. He’s helping me to recover something at once intellectually defensible and *proclamatory* — something I can (at least in principle) share with the unchurched unashamedly. (I’m getting there!)

    Taking a positive approach in affirming what I do believe, and then reading material like Dallas Willard’s that challenges my way of living without arousing my intellectual defense mechanisms, feeds my faith and not my doubt. If I can feed my faith more than I feed my doubt—through such reading, through sharing my faith, through spiritual formation, prayer and obedience—perhaps the doubt will over time grow dimmer.

  • Doug Hendricks

    Great post. I appreciate the openness and honesty. Somehow, somewhere, the church must provide “safe” places for discussions such as this to take place. On a previous post I heard the idea of a “theologian in residence” type of thing which I think might be helpful.

    Often we focus on the criticisms of Scripture. As I have considered the truth issues I have found it helpful to consider not only the “pros” for Christianity but also what the positive case for a naturalistic perspective is. Scripture has its puzzels but Naturalism has its own set of problems. It is easier to criticize than to communicate a positive worldview that takes everything into account.

    With David Brush #5 I think reason/faith is a false dichotomy. I suspect that there is more to how we come to know things- though I don’t think I could articulate what that “more” is at this point.

  • AHH

    For me, it has been helpful and perhaps faith-saving to be reminded that I am not alone.

    Over the years I have been tempted to buy into the message of the culture (including church culture) that being a Christian means being a culture warrior, a right-wing Republican, a follower of Ayn Rand in economic and social policy, a denier of science. That it means having certainty so that doubting and reflecting are signs of my weak faith. That it means viewing Scripture as some perfect document that it clearly isn’t, even if defending that doctrine requires leaps of illogic. All of which tempts me to chuck the whole thing.

    But I have found the ASA. I have found people on this blog. I have found a few people in my own church who seek to love God with their minds and are not afraid to wrestle with hard questions. I have found Daniel Taylor and Earl Palmer and NT Wright and Lesslie Newbigen and Peter Enns and Scot McKnight and George Murphy and John Polkinghorne and Stanley Hauerwas and Brian McLaren. And Christian friends scattered here and there whose names you would not recognize (thanks Carl, and Ann, and Carolyn, and Efton, etc.).
    God has brought enough people into my life, both in person and through books and the Internet, to show me that following Jesus need not look like Ken Ham or James Dobson or Al Mohler or David Barton. That and the grace of God (and a little of “where else shall I go”) have kept me in the Body of Christ.

    RJS asks, Is there anything that the church can, and should, be doing?
    I’d say, for those of us who are of this reflective bent who don’t just accept pat answers, two related things:
    1) Make churches safer places to wrestle with doubts and questions.
    2) Let people know that following Jesus is not a matter of becoming a clone of your pastor (or of Rick Warren, or whoever), but that following Jesus looks different for different people, and some followers take a more intellectual path.

  • D. Foster

    Sorry to jump on the soap box for a minute, but this is something I feel strongly about because I believe there is a way forward for individuals like this.

    The angst we feel over faith/reason is a failure to recognize the tentative nature of our culture’s philosophies woven into our psyche. We don’t realize that what seems “obvious” to us appears that way because we have become habituated into thinking within a particular model of reality during our formative years.

    I recently read a book by Owen Barfield, the man who convinced (and was a lifelong friend of) C.S. Lewis that Naturalism was erroneous. Barfield contends that consciousness has evolved from undifferentiation to differentiation, and he uses and example of the Greek word PNEUMA, which is translated into English as “wind,” “breath,” and “spirit.”

    In John 3:6-8, Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.  You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

    Barfield notes that the word for “spirit” and “wind” in this passage are the EXACT same word in Greek: PNEUMA. The reason for this is because at one time (before the Gospels) the wind and spirits were considered the same thing. But as our consciousness evolves into greater specificity, we separate experiences into constituent parts in order to identify them.

    To the original hearers of the passage above, PNEUMA had a latent inner meaning (“spirit”) and outer meaning (“wind”) that over time have become divided–sort of in the same way we use the word “heart” in English. But the important point to note is that we are at a particular stage in this evolution toward greater specificity where we have divided things into disparate parts that past generations once experienced as a whole.

    We are now at a stage where believe that sensory experiences gives concrete insight into the external world, but other kinds of conscious experiences give us insight only into ourselves. But in reality, the idea of a natural world is constructed out of our conscious impressions of reality. Our feelings aren’t merely subjective–they are impressions of an external reality upon our psyche. Our idea of reality has to take into account our full range of consciousness, which includes our feelings. Once we recognize this, we can begin to reintegrate disparate experiences which naturally belong together that we’ve severed apart. Once we learn to experience our feelings as legitimate insights into reality, as the ancients did to some degree or another, we will understand our life better–and Christianity makes a lot more sense.

    –Derek

  • Matt

    Well said, AHH.

  • Marshall

    Churches should read the article in 3QuarksDaily that Scot points to two posts downstream from here, and learn to speak Truth with civility, about engaging with the other’s reasons. Engagement isn’t agreement, isn’t surrender. (Likewise for strict Naturalists, but it’s pointless to tell your opponents that THEY have to change.)

  • http://davidbrush.com David Brush

    Hi Michael #6. By recent, I mean since the enlightenment age so roughly the last 4 to 500 years; which by historical standards is ‘recent’. If you believe that human history begins more than 6,000 BC it is indeed very recent.

    The church has a cosmology; once science/reason began to challenge that cosmology the church has ever-since tried to maintain a theological premise for any/all physical phenomena. When science gives us information that paints a different picture than our existing cosmology and theological frameworks, we give into the false premise that one has to be right and the other wrong. That the story of Adam and Eve can be true in the meta-narrative sense and yet fail the historicity test makes many people uneasy, especially if they are fearful of the ‘slippery-slope’.

    Of course fundamentalism and its rejection of liberal Christian theory brings a whole other aspect to ‘recent’, but that isn’t what I mean above. What I am referring to is the church’s idolization of its own theology and hermeneutic gaze in the face of scientific advance.

  • RJS

    Derek (#14),

    The angst we feel over faith/reason is a failure to recognize the tentative nature of our culture’s philosophies woven into our psyche.

    This is an important insight. Our cultural philosophies are hard to fight, and will always cause some doubt.

    Of course, recognizing this doesn’t mean Ken Ham is right after all. The demand for a relentlessly literal interpretation is also the result of a cultural philosophy.

  • http://www.createdtobelikegod.com theophilus.dr

    Thank you, RJS.

    This is a big problem, and it is good to discuss it. The struggle talked about here is magnified because the institutionalized church today has lost perspective of priorities. We sabotage the next generation by teaching these misplaced priorities to our children.

    Basically, a majority of Christians today abuse the freedom provided by the grace of God to form idols out of their own opinions. Their opinions are idols because their interpretations of the scripture functionally become synonymous with the way to God. Of course they deny it; what else would one expect? That’s how it once worked for me.

    Let’s imagine a scenario in which some Christians were captured and placed in isolation similar to the situations described by POWs in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. There were creationists, preachers, Ken Ham, scientists, some of those who read this comment (sorry), YEC’s, YAK’s, ETC’s, fundamental inerrant literalists, more general message interpretationists — about one or two dozen people total. Everyone was tortured because they wouldn’t deny Jesus as Lord. Burned, waterboarding, all that. People had broken bones and whipped marks on their backs. They had no mirrors so they couldn’t see the dried blood on their faces. The life of every person was threatened; everyone knew it could end at any time, and wasn’t sure which would be better. The oppressors took away all Bibles, iPads, facebooks, smartphones, and everything else. Even though people were physically isolated, sometimes the voice of another could be heard through the wall reciting scriptures they had memorized. The oppressors thought that if they put the group together, everyone would build the feeling of fear and paranoia in each other and make individual torture even more effective. So, the only exception to this isolation was a 30 minute period once a day when the captors would put everyone in a common room to eat water and rice, and they would leave the captives alone to interact among themselves in their own group. Thirty minutes.

    What would the conversation be about during this brief period time before being returned to torture in isolation? What words would be so important to take up those valuable minutes? Would people be quoting scripture they had remembered from memorization to one another, or would they be arguing about a 24 hours day in Genesis 1? Would people be helping one another tend to wounds, or would they be inflicting new ones with a tongue lashing about whether there were mosquitoes on the ark? Would people be crying out together in prayer as a unified body to one Lord, or would they be arguing over whether creationism should be in textbooks? Would they try to select someone to offer as a token sacrifice to the oppressors based on who thought Adam and Eve might be allegorical, or would they be helping to support those who had trouble walking? Why would they change their behavior – don’t they still have freedom to choose? Why don’t they choose to argue and fight and judge like they used to do? Let’s get in one more whack on a brother or sister before we die.

    Catch the drift on this? Truth is truth, irrespective of the circumstances. Human values are relative; truth is not relative. What is up for compromise is human opinion. Paul’s message didn’t change – whether he was preaching to the proconsul and striking the sorcerer blind or writing from a Roman prison. But that is a test. Does the message and what is held up as sacrilized opinion change when the environment in which it is located changes? God will change our circumstances if necessary to reveal our abuse of the freedom of His grace to divide by idolizing our interpretations. What pattern has the institutionalized church of today established for itself – a path toward the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace or the uniformity of acknowledgement that my opinion is truth? This applies to science and theology, but it also applies to most CHD’s. (Closely Held Doctrines).

    Application. How much of the struggle that we as scientists have in reconciling data with scriptural interpretation comes from a genuine conflict and how much from the attitudes of “the brethren” in the church? That reflects a big problem in the church. That’s why this blog and comments are important. It raises good questions and helps each of us to get out of isolation and break bread with another believer who will encourage rather than condemn. (And like unto it, “How much of a problem is my attitude toward others?”)

  • Jon G

    RJS,

    As has been usual for all your recent posts, I relate to this one and the emailer who started it. Thank you again for your words.

    One thing in particular that gives me serious reservations about my faith was encapsulated in this quote “When I go to a church and hear a sermon on Noah in which the pastor claims that there is more than enough evidence to accept the Genesis account as speaking to a universal flood and further claiming that prior to Noah it had never rained on earth and then ending the sermon by comparing the one door on Noah’s ship to the one way of salvation in Christ I cringe. I feel ridiculous for even being around such people.

    I have concluded that much of the leadership in the Church is just as mistaken and ridiculous as I was when believing such things (and still am, I’m sure!). I don’t really have a problem with that, but I do have a problem with what that says about God…not in the fact that he works with/through broken fallible people, but that his presence in the world and what I know of him comes to me through people that don’t actually know or understand what they’re talking about. This is one of the biggest reasons why I feel free to reconsider the weight that most people place on the Church’s teachings on the Trinity – I don’t have much faith anymore that they actually had some special insight. I give it some weight, because there is so much consensus and because I’m not given some special insight, but when I see how many “great” theologians mess things up I have to say that there is very little that I can be sure of in matters of faith…especially the Trinity.

    Anyway…seeing the leadership in a church (local) or in Christianity (at large) profess blatantly wrong beliefs gives me some of my greatest pause in my faith. I’m sure it has much to do with my propensity to appeal to experts and a subconcious desire to have somebody believe for me (see Peter Rollins’ work!). Regardless, this is the quandry I find myself in.

    Thanks again for this post.

    Jon G

  • RJS

    Jon G,

    Have you read Larry Hurtado’s Lord Jesus Christ? This won’t lead to a fullblown doctrine of the trinity, but Hurtado’s case for a very high Christology very early – in the earliest church – is pretty powerful. It is somewhat harder to make the case for the Holy Spirit as a person of the trinity.

  • Jon G

    btw,

    I just read the linked article (Pencil, Ink, and Blood) which sounds a lot like Driscoll’s open hand/closed hand illustration (sorry if that irks people here :-) ). It really is a great piece but I think it is still trying to contain our beliefs and isolates those of us who are stuggling with some of the things “written in blood”.

    Whatever God is, he’s not going to be fenced in. And the creeds, although I appreciate their purpose – to solidify a church struggling with an identity crisis, are still building a fence that, while it may be useful, should not be unreplaceable.

    I think Augustine said (paraphrased) “to be a Christian you have to believe that Jesus was God and he alone can save”. That’s where my fence is right now, but I don’t have a problem peering over it to see what’s on the other side…

  • Jon G

    RJS,

    No, I haven’t, but I’ll keep it in mind. I don’t deny that Jesus was God…I just think that Jesus was the Father’s spirit in a human temple.

    Thanks though!

  • John C. Gardner

    We have to look realistically at science and religion. Owen Gingerich’s God’s Universe is a good place to begin and so is John Polkinghorne’s The Faith of a Physicist. One could easily read any of the works of Alister McGrath. Both Polkinghorne and McGrath have doctorates in scientific fields as well as theological backgrounds. I myself always try to read N.T. Wright as well as Ben Witherington. These are difficult issues but one does not have to throwaway traditional beliefs to support Christian theism with a God guided evolutionary component. Thank you RJS(whoever you are) for an excellent post.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Yes, I identify with the commenter, and great post, RJS, along with great thoughts here.

    One has to go on and trust that the Lord will help us all to see where our unity lies.

  • Bev Mitchell

    These kinds of discussions are helpful far beyond what we can imagine. I wanted to add something, but couldn’t get beyond the following texts. First John 10 ; the whole thing, but especially,

    “…I came so that they could have life – yes, and have it full to overflowing.” 

    Then from John 14.

    “If you love me”, he went on, “you will keep my commands. And I will ask the father, and he will give you another helper, to be with you forever. This other helper is the spirit of truth. The world can’t receive him, because it doesn’t see him, or know him. But you know him, because he lives with you, and will be in you.”

    “I ‘m not going to leave you bereft. I am coming to you. Not long from now, the world won’t see me any more; but you will see me. Because I live, you will live too. On that day you will know that I am in my father, and you in me, and I in you.”

    “Anyone who has my commandments and keeps them – that’s the person who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my father, and I will love them and show myself to them.” 

    Quotes from the new NT translation by N.T. Wright


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