Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In The Beginning...

From terrorist attacks to more typical schoolyard bullying, we live in an age of ideological imperialism. In culture, we get messages left and right that in order to be cool, one must buy this or that, or listen to this or that. In politics, we've seen the rise of smaller groups planting their flag into the larger one to claim it, which recently caused several Republicans in particular to be dismissed as "RINO" (Republicans in Name Only) when they fail to agree on a specific remedy to perceived social ills. The American public has been told more than once (from both the right and the left) that opposition to a policy or military campaign is "unamerican". Sadly, Christianity is no different, as I've been informed more than once that I was not Christian (or somehow less of one) because I did not agree with a certain viewpoint.

This is nothing new in the history of religion; nearly every system of belief has been fractured into smaller ones that all claim to be more true than the others, and often this conflict boils into actual violence between religious sects. For my part, I consider diversity of thought to be a strength - but to foster this diversity there must be some level of freedom, of tolerance. I see no such freedom apparent in the age-old debate about the origins of the Earth. Let us consider this example: creatures described in the Bible are literally dinosaurs.

I've seen tests of this kind before, prevalent in private/home school scenarios. I'm not sure it's productive for a group that identifies with Christianity to encourage smarting off to parents (not to mention easily backfiring, for who can say there was ever an Eden: "...were you there?"). That aside, I have nothing against "New Earth Creationists", and while I disagree with some things associated with the label, I believe they have a right to their opinion. I've seen fairly harsh criticisms of NEC from the OEC camp as well, but where these may paint New Earthers as misguided, naive, or even willingly ignorant, I have yet to see any of them claim that their view is the only acceptable view of Scripture, or suggest that New Earthers are somehow less Christian.

The lead Conquistador in this NE endeavor to claim the whole of Christianity appears to be Ken Ham of group "Answers In Genesis". His language in defense of the exam did not escape me: "...we teach children the history of the universe from the Bible, with special emphasis on teaching dinosaurs from a biblical perspective..." and later, saying that parents should have known that children "would be taught biblical Christianity". Hear that, CS Lewis? Ken's perspective is the only true, biblical Christianity. Enjoy Hell.

Another apparent schoolyard bully is Mr. Ray Comfort. When someone asked him recently, "can someone be a Christian and believe in evolution?" he replied:
"A theistic evolutionist has to make up a false god to keep his belief in evolution. He is what the Bible calls an idolater. Jesus said, "In the beginning God made them male and female." A professing Christian who believes in evolution thinks Jesus was lying. He is like someone who says, "I'm an atheist, but I believe in God."
I would have responded to him myself, but I was beaten to the punch by a Mr. Tyler Francke, who runs his own blog more focused on this specific issue, God of Evolution. His witty reply surely deserves an award of some kind:
A theistic water cyclist has to make up a false god to keep his belief in the water cycle. He is what the Bible calls an idolater. Jesus said that God "sends rain on the just and unjust." A professing Christian who believes in the water cycle thinks that Jesus was lying....

...any Christian knows that the water cycle — atheistic scientists’ attempt to explain atmospheric conditions without God — is just as unbiblical as evolution. The Bible is clear and consistent: Precipitation comes from God alone, not some messy, unguided process of “evaporation” and “condensation.” See Deuteronomy 28:12, Job 38:22-30 and Psalm 147:8 if your faith needs a booster shot.

Yes, a tad snarky, but completely spot on. I know a number of Christians who have made comments like "God made us with a purpose", but I would like to think that they know, on a literal, physical level, that we owe our existence to the process of sexual reproduction. Have not glaciers created lakes and caves? If one can accept that "God made us" in a different sense and accept the science behind it, why is it that people insist everyone of faith must reject this on the macro level?

As stated in my orientation post "Declaration", it is not my intent to debate here, at least not NE v OE (or even evolution without divine intervention). What I will argue (apparently for eternity) is that belief in God, or in intelligent design, does not require that one buy into a specific interpretation. One might say my primary position is that I (and others) may have a position other than your sanctioned position. Is there really such consequence to the interpretation of the word "day" that one group must potentially turn away people otherwise interested in faith simply because they refuse to sign off on a superfluous addendum?

At the heart of these sorts of claims tends to be the concept of literal interpretation, that Scripture must mean exactly what it says. However, I can't help but point out that such means are not consistently applied. Women speak inside the walls of my church, although a literal interpretation of the New Testament would prohibit it. Jesus himself almost pulled a facepalm when he was asked, "How can I be born again, am I to enter my mother's womb?" I see nothing "unbiblical" about interpreting certain verses to allow for scientific knowledge. And of course, religious authorities have not had the greatest track record.

...and one must assume St. B believed the latter.

I've heard people use Romans 3:4 in situations where one's beliefs do not seem to match up with general consensus, which is, in my opinion, extremely pompous. *Right now, one reader in three is thinking, "Did Mike Brooks just say something else was pompous?"* The issue, from my perspective, is not a dichotomy. I do not believe that faith requires rejection of science, nor that a good scientist must be an atheist. The conflict seems to start when a human extrapolates information (from religion or science) beyond what is known to arrive at a desired conclusion. What if, St. Bellarmine, your religion is true, and science is true? Why are your explanations that science is wrong, or God - could it not be that you are the one in error?

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