I’ve always been a bit of a seeker, and have re-examined and overturned many of my previous convictions as I gain more perspective. Beginning as a scientist agnostic, I explored many subcultures, and then did a stint in Charismatic Christianity. I then left it and explored yoga and Buddhism for a time, then returned to a Reformed Post-Charismatic Evangelicalism.
I never wandered into the Emergent camp, but I was not always comfortable with Evangelicalism either. So, as I am wont to do, I began reading, and I began to take issue with certain doctrines of Evangelicalism. And then I took a big step. I enrolled in the M. Div. program at center-left Fuller Seminary.
Fuller is infamous among evangelicals for abandoning the traditional view of scriptural inerrancy, though it still holds scripture in high esteem as “the written word of God, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.”
In my first class at Fuller, Christian Ethics, my big aha moment was discovering the Christian Center, which essentially incorporates the best priorities of both Evangelical right and Left, and is well represented in the NEA’s For the Health of the Nation, as well as David Gushee’s The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.
Now in my second class, New Testament 2 (Romans to Revelation), I have had my second aha moment (it seems to happen about midway through the 10 week class). I have discovered, albeit late to the party, the view known as the The New Perspective on Paul. And it is not trivial.
I intend to do a series of posts on it, but here’s the real comment I want to make.
I decided not to enroll in a traditional Reformed seminary in order to broaden my perspectives. I chose Fuller because, among other things, I too had decided that plenary inerrancy was illogical, and not taught in Scripture.
So this is the risk of attending a more ‘liberal’ (but not liberal) seminary – my perspective is being seriously challenged again! And it is irritating. But hey, I am getting exactly what I had hoped for. So there you go.
One of the more informative podcasts I listen to regularly is Issues Etc. Recently, they interviewed Joel Heck, who’s written a very inexpensive book entitled In the Beginning, God: Creation from God’s Perspective, which examines the questions surrounding the historicity and interpretation of Genesis.
I was impressed with his answers, and learned some new reasons why Genesis should be interpreted as history, not metaphor, and that Chapter 2 should be seen, not as a recapitulation, but as a detailed examination of the 6th day (the creation of man). His explanation of why the verbs in Chapter 2 should be interpreted as past tense (God “had planted”, not God “planted”) easily clears up the ‘problems’ with chronologies. Download the mp3 here.
Rob Bell’s new book Love Wins is a modern reformulation of Christian Universalism, that is, the idea that all are saved from judgement by the works of Christ. Not a new idea, but controversial coming from a supposed evangelical.
One of the questions the problem of eternal hell brings up is, “is eternal (infinite) punishment a just recompense for temporal (finite) sins?”
To my knowledge, there are three orthodox answers. I suspect these may all have names and have been discussed by famous theologians, but alas, I have not found them yet. Let me know if you know of good representatives of each view.
Recently, I was accused of choosing a stance on an issue because I was favoring my own situation. Specifically, since I have married a formerly illegal immigrant Mexican, my moderate stance on immigration (which is different from my more conservative positions on most issues) was questioned, and I was accused of making my stance based on convenience, not conservative conviction.
Such an accusation, if taken seriously and without being defensive, forces one to examine the reasons WHY they take stances, and how those stances compare to one’s current habits, as well as one’s history. And how our stances, compared to our history and current practices determines whether we are hypocrites, virgins, or sinners.
Many evangelicals have joined the chorus in support of reducing greenhouse emissions, but I am still on the fence about global warming. Like Bill O’Reilly, think we should get off of fossil fuels for both environmental and economic/political reasons, but I have not bought into the Global Warming Panic (GWP).
As Aaron recently noted, this past year’s hurricane season failed to meet the dire predictions of the GWP lobby – and while that may be too small a sample to be conclusive, it does show the speculative nature of the whole apocalyptic approach of the GWPers.
We’ve argued whether or not GW is a threat, or a hoax perpetrated by misinformed environmentalists. But there’s one more unusual perspective – that global warming, whether man-made or not, will be the worldwide catastrophe that unites the world in one cause, and under one world leader – the antichrist.
Many evangelicals and fundamentalists are tea-totalers, and a good number of them also look down upon Christians who do use alcohol. And while such judgmental Christians are disobeying the command of Romans 14:3 to “not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him,” this does not mean that they are wrong to abstain.
But the question arises, is the biblical perspective on alcohol entirely or mostly negative, or the opposite?
NOTE: You can hear my sermon on this subject at The Biblical Perspective on Drinking and Alcohol.
As part of my hermeneutics class, we must read some of the works of John Owen (1616-1683), one of the greatest (and often least known) Protestant theologians of history, and by many accounts, the greatest that England has ever produced. In this week’s reading from Pneumatologia, we read Owen’s thoughts on illumination (the role of the Spirit of God in helping us understand scripture) and perspicuity (the understandableness of scripture and it’s message). One of the questions he answers is, if God wanted us to understand Him, why are the scriptures not written in a more didactic fashion?
In my discussions with fellow classmates on the subject of hermeneutics, I have upset some apple carts by saying that we can’t be cock sure of every doctrine, and as I explained in my previous post on hermeneutics, there are good reasons why we should question our convictions.
One classmate wrote that I was promoting a hopeless view, and that I was essentially saying that we can’t really know anything for sure. My response is below.
One of the problems with the descriptors “fundamentalist” and ”neofundamentalism” is that they carry different meanings among different groups. This causes confusion when such things are discussed. Below, I propose three different definitions of neo-fundamenalism, depending on who’s asking.
I am working hard at getting back into the regular habit of prayer and scripture meditation/study. With two young kids and two hours of commuting per day, I’d all but lost any meaningful time w/ God. However, my wife and I are both trying to support one another in getting time with God regularly.
My study tonight was 1John 1:5-10.
Because Christians are most often harping about immoral sex, and say little about the joys of sex within marriage, they are often viewed as “against sex.” David Wayne at jollyblogger makes a very good point when he writes
Somehow, those of us who want to preserve sex for marriage need to come up with a more compelling picture of marital sex than we are doing.
If a man asks you this question, beware! He is most likely just looking for an argument. In fact, a question like this is just begging for fruitless, heated discussion. Allow me, however, to presume to answer this question once and for all, and prepare you with the biblical answer. The answer is…man is BOTH good and evil. However, before we examine the biblical viewpoint, there is one more point to be made about this question, and that is – this is a bad question.
John Calvin coined the phrase Sensus Divinitatis (Sense of the Divine) to describe the innate sense and awareness of God that all humans possess, as well as the ‘organ’ of awakening acted on by the Holy Spirit in awakening us to salvation.
William Lane Craig, the eminent Christian philosopher and apologist refers to this in his arguments for the existence of God, calling it “the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit” – that is, that God can be “immediately known and experienced.”
Of course, such claims irritate anti-theists because such subjective experiences defy reasonable inspection or discussion, and the fact that the typical born-again process itself seems to lead with experience rather than intellect frustrates them even more. (See Are you a Christian because of your experiences, or because of logic?) Read more
Many great Christians in history, such as Andrew Murray and Watchman Nee, have emphasized that the bible teaches that man has a tripartite structure, made up of Spirit, Soul, and Body. The main proof text for this is 1 Thessalonians 5:23, which reads:
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
One of my favorite sites, Quodlibet (definition), with great content and a colorful look, has closed down - but their content is still up. Check it out. They even have a sense of humor, as seen in this tagline:
And Jesus said unto them, “And whom do you say that I am?” They replied, “You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.” And Jesus replied, “What?”
While the scriptures are clear on the morality of some issues, on the more mundane issues, it is largely silent, and it is up to us to apply principle to determine these issues. So to answer questions of the gray areas of personal morality, Romans 14 is very instructive.
The Apostle Paul taught that, while some matters are black and white, other matters, like whether it is a sin to eat meat offered to idols, are up to the individual. He gives the following guide to navigating such gray areas: Read more
Found a new great site from Australia called Faith Interface, and they have a really well thought out article on what I hope is a movement - Christians leaving behind the frailties of 19th and 20th century Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism for a more mature, balanced, intellectual, and powerful faith.
I highly recommend you read all of The Renaissance Christian, but you can also see my list of the main points below.
I was recently in a discussion at the skeptic site NW Ohio Skeptics, and got into a discussion about the differences between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, and one topic that came up is that of inerrancy. While I think all Fundamentalists hold to a plenary inerrancy, I don’t think that that position is the only one among evangelicals.
First check out Daniel Wallace’s great essay My Take on Inerrancy.
Then, check out the diagram I made comparing the different types of Christianity and their stands on different doctrines, including inerrancy – Neo-fundy Doctrines?
Now, you are ready to read my explanation of how I view inerrancy, and how I think many Evangelicals view it – but I bet there is a bit of diversity on this topic in Evangelicalism.