Sunday, February 19, 2012

Why I'm Bummed

Recently, I got my ears slapped back by the theist evolutionists because I attempted to bring discussions about the veracity or not of the account of Adam, Paul's understanding of Adam, etc. back to focus on Jesus and His kingdom. Since the theistic evolutionist accepts evolution as the means by which God created the biosphere, they are struggling with, among other issues, whether or not Adam was a discrete individual or a representation of Mankind, and what did Paul really understand about this. If evolution is correct, then Adam almost certainly wasn’t a single person, which threatens the inspiration of Paul because he pretty much spoke of both Adam and Eve as individuals. See the problem?

During this fracas, I quickly read the 2006 textbook of theist evolution, Language of God, by the premier scientist, Francis Collins. After this, I capitulated to the theist evolutionist for the sake of peace, and agreed that Collin’s DNA evidence is compelling. His analysis is based on the so-called junk DNA and how it has been distributed across the various genetic lines. Dr. Collins made the comment that he cannot see why God would purposely put in non-functioning or junk DNA, so it must be an artifact of the evolutionary process, and the manner it has been concentrated in genetic lines is most easily explainable by an evolution process. Therefore, in my response I added that just because the DNA patterns are predictable across the interrelated lines of organisms doesn’t rule out the possibility that God simply created each organism and its DNA would necessarily relate with other organisms in a predictable manner. In any event, I also cautioned whether we’re talking theology or science, it’s always dangerous to tell God he wouldn’t have done something because it would make no sense to us if He had.

All they heard was my finding Collin’s arguments compelling, and I was told with a virtual extended hand, "Congratulations, we wish you well in your journey as a theist evolutionist; here are some web-sites you might consider...." It’s this latter comment that is the focus of this posting, not a discussion of evolution. What troubles me is it is symptomatic of the disturbing trend of castle building--complete with moats—going on in Christianity, today.

Another example of this castle building is in the long standing debate between the Arminians and the Calvinists. Representative of the former is Dr. Roger Olson, who in his recent blog wrote on the proper criteria of Arminianism in support of what he calls the Arminian cause. Opposing him is the highly popular Dr. John Piper who has all but said outright that unless you hold to extreme 5-point Calvinism you aren’t a Christian; Piper will not allow the teaching of any theology except Calvinism in his church. To Dr. Olson’s credit, Olson doesn’t draw such a solid black judgmental line between those of the Arminian cause and those opposed to it; Dr. Olson has always been clear that his objection is with extreme Calvinism and not the people who hold to it. Nevertheless, Dr. Olson positions himself in terms of the Arminiam cause, and Piper the absolutism of 5-point Calvinism. And these distinctions, along with theist evolution and many others I haven’t mentioned end-up diverting us from the only important cause of Jesus the Christ.

Here’s how this is being played out. If I were a Calvinist (I'm not) who "saw the light" and came over to the Arminian cause, no doubt the Arminian would extend the same warm hand of acceptance that those theist evolutionists extended to me their dubious proselyte. Or as an Arminian who suddenly sees Calvinism as "the right way", I would be welcomed into that fold with equal enthusiasm. What is wrong with this picture? I’ll tell you: we are putting more value to adherence with our theological constructs than to all of us walking as true dwellers of Christ’s kingdom.

I will once again risk being accused of at best naiveté and at worst closed-mindedness, and provide the list of what I believe Jesus taught us to be critical to Him: 1) To acknowledge Jesus as King; 2) Love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength by obeying Him first and last, and this by 3) loving our neighbor as Christ has loved us, which is to ALWAYS act from a servant's heart characterized completely by the inextricable union of sacrifice and humility, so that 4) we tirelessly work to bring justice, which is righteousness, to an unjust world by extending the hand of mercy. In short, we are to be kingdom dwellers who trust Jesus completely for our good conscience, our needs, and our work--that is, by faith; all of which is what God created us for in first place. Everything else, the fine points of theology, forms of worship, music we play, dress, what we eat--all of it--is superfluous.

Jesus' death on the cross and subsequent resurrection has restored His kingdom, and this means breaking down the dividing walls: first those between Jew and Gentile, and then, sadly because they shouldn't have been constructed, the walls that have cropped up between those who confess His name, and finally and ultimately the wall that stands between God and us whom He created in His image for the purpose that His love could be shared in the unity of holiness as He dwells with us forever.

If we as brothers and sisters in Christ would stand on these points (above) and live them, it would go a long way in silencing all the bickering both within and outside the church because people would see in objective terms that God who is both love and holy is. No one will be able to explain it completely, and some will still scoff, but doggone it they will be hard pressed to argue with the data. It was this kind of faithfulness borne by the points (above) that brought so many pagans to Christ during the plagues and persecutions of the first three centuries AD. But in subsequent centuries we've seen this faithfulness hamstrung by the weight of sectarianism and endless arguments about theology, protocols, rituals, and on and on.

Is Jesus pleased with this? I don't think so. But maybe I’m naive. Someone recently argued that the 1600 plus years of infighting has been needed to keep the church strong and vital. Okay, but the whole thing smells of the same divisiveness St. Paul encountered in the church at Corinth. He described the situation this way:

So, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but instead as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready. In fact, you are still not ready, for you are still influenced by the flesh. For since there is still jealousy and dissension among you, are you not influenced by the flesh and behaving like unregenerate people? For whenever someone says, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” are you not merely human? [NET]

I don’t believe it would be too much of a stretch to replace the names of Paul and Apollos with the more contemporary names of Calvin and Arminius. In fact, they need not be names of people; we could easily insert science, theology, or any system we might choose in place of Christ. Paul suggests that one can truly stand on the foundation of Christ, and yet build on that foundation structures based on human traditions, philosophies, and personality cults. In the final judgment, all such monstrosities will burn up.

Wouldn’t it be better to build on the foundation of Christ structures designed by the above principles that please Christ? Shouldn’t this be our heart’s desire, rather than defending at all cost, however eloquently and persuasively, our pet theories, philosophies, or personalities?

Someone might rightfully say at this point that it is valuable to rethink what we understand of God’s revelation—especially in the light of new verifiable information--and discuss the nuances among ourselves, if for no other reason than to be better able to defend the faith. Absolutely! But we shouldn't allow such discussions to build walls between us. In the final analysis, the unbelieving world whom God is trying to reach through us will be persuaded more by a genuine love we share as we walk as a holy people in Christ’s kingdom.


Jeff said...

Awesome post Bruce! You are so right that kingdom dwellers don't treat each other so brutally over disagreements in theology.

Whenever I find myself getting stuck on a fine point I try to remember one of the people we know is in heaven - the thief on the cross (I can only think of 4 people the bible says are in heaven). What did the thief do? Live a good life? No! Follow all the logic of some deep theology? No. Read scripture? I don't think so.

All he did was 1) open his heart to the Holy Spirit, 2) see Jesus as God, 3) proclaim the innocence of Jesus, and 4) Ask Jesus to remember him! I don't know if there is a path to the kingdom through an argument about evolution - but the bible is very clear the kingdom is through an open heart, the Holy Spirit, knowing Jesus is Lord and asking God for forgiveness!