Bishop Al Mohler Strikes Again

Panel Discussion: Revisiting Inerrancy from Southern Seminary on Vimeo.

Baptists don’t have bishops, right?

That’s what I thought, having been reared in the related denomination of Congregationalism. Growing up, I was taught that we — congregationalists and baptists and others whose polity is considered “congregational” — were vehemently anti-hierarchical. Our tradition started because Henry VIII and the Anglicans had not differentiated themselves enough from Rome. We were, from our founding, anti-papist, anti-bishop.

In congregational polity, nothing is more sacred than individual hermeneutical authority. That is, every believe has the freedom to interpret the Bible, the freedom to follow the dictates of her or his conscience, the freedom to worship with fellow believers.

So it always surprises me when congregationalists or baptists act like bishops. In my book, The New Christians, I wrote,

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Demons Aren’t Real, But People Believe in them Anyway [Questions That Haunt]

Before I dive in to this week’s response, I just want to say that this series — The Questions That Haunt Christianity — has gone even better than I’d hoped. Over 200 questions have come in, and they are extraordinarily challenging. But, even better, you, the readers of this blog, have been overwhelming in your responses in the comment section. This week, for instance, we’ve already got 90 comments, and most of them are brilliant. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I want to buy you each a beer and talk theology.

With that, I turn to the challenging question put to us by Lee Pendarvis. A recent convert from atheism to Christianity, Lee asks,

Why do Christians continue to believe in the demonic when as far as I have seen, even in today’s multimedia infested world, we have yet to garner any evidence at all other than perhaps some youtube videos or recordings that are not at all remarkable (someone shouting curses in a gruff voice etc.)?

Lee thinks that demon possession belongs in the realm of UFOs and Big Foot, and I have to say that I agree with him.

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Why I Haven’t Given Up on the Bible

Jacob Wrestles with the Angel, by Rembrandt

When conversation on this blog turn to issues of sexuality, as it did this week with Brian McLaren’s View on Homosexuality, there are always some commenters who admit that their Christian faith has broken free of the Bible. For example, R. Jay comments,

I’m a Christian for whom the Bible is not my foundation, not my law code, not my ladder, not my pedestal. I love it dearly, but I don’t need it to know God, and I don’t need it to understand how to love my neighbor fully.

In the absence of the Bible, there is still God. And to know God does not require the Bible. Devotion to it has become the most insidious of all barriers.

Honestly, I understand how some people come to this conclusion. The Bible is a primitive book, coming out of a primitive time. Even the most staunch conservatives should be able to admit that. It is reflective of a different world than the world in which we live. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not applicable to our lives and our time, but that much hermeneutical work needs to be done to understand what it means for us today.

In Brian’s own evolution of how he understand human sexuality, he has not abandoned the Bible,

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What Is Genesis?

This sponsored post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book, an interview with the author, and for responses from other bloggers and columnists.

Christians continue to talk about Genesis, to debate Genesis, and to write books about Genesis. Fellow Patheos blogger Peter Enns, for instance, got some evangelical undies in a bunch with his 2012 book, The Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins.

The latest book on the scene is by fellow evangelical, Karl Giberson. Giberson is a scientist, not a biblical scholar, and this book is more poetic than prosaic. In Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Story, Giberson uses the seven-day creation account in Genesis 1 to retell the scientific origins of the cosmos. In other words, he uses Genesis as the framework for a scientific narrative.

In general, I think we need a lot more of this. That is, creative retellings of biblical accounts. It’s related to what people in my field call “theo-poetics.” It’s not about literalism, but about inspiration. It allows the Bible to do what it was meant to do: inspire our imaginations, stoke our passion, and, as Giberson writes in his chapter on the Seventh Day, communicate the Creator’s love for us.

We are, as Giberson nearly sings at the end, more than simply meat puppets, a collections of flesh and bones with nerves and a brain stem. We are creatures uniquely (at least as far as we can tell) capable of love:

“If the Spirit of God is everywhere at work in our open-grained universe, that means that every event since the beginning of has occurred in the presence of God. The history of life on our planet has unfloded with the real option of divine interaction. Events, as they occurred, may have been drawn by God toward fulfillment of divine purposes.

“Such possibilities open the door to a different kind of world — one with a real direction to unfolding patterns like the big bang and evolution — and not just in the sense of more complexity or more diversity. If life unfolds in the presence of the Spirit of God, that trajectory may reveal a purpose — a reason why the world is as it is.”

Yes, just imagine.