Tag Archives: religion

Creation – Subject to Revision

I was given the opportunity on my favorite message board with my favorite Atheist and Agnostic friends to respond to a remark about what Christians believe about creation.  I enjoyed writing this response and I wanted to share it here as well.  I have modified it slightly to make it read more clearly in this format.

—-

Part 1 – regarding an article where a Giant Platypus fossil was recently discovered, my clever friend “A” quipped:

Do God-believing people think this stuff is a joke? E.g. the five-to-fifteen million year age estimate is admittedly vague.

Which I took as a direct question – because I’m a jerk like that – but my friends tolerate and entertain me pretty nicely.  Here’s what I responded:

This is a good opportunity for me to explain something important: Not every Christian is a “young earth creationist”.

Young Earth Creationism – God made the world 6,000 years ago, humans existed with dinosaurs OR dinosaurs are a big scam, everything in Genesis is translated 100% accurately to modern-day scientific terms and it should be taken 100% literally word for word.

I am not a Young Earth Creationist.

There are lots of theories about creation that are more compatible with Christianity – save base evolution which really isn’t. I’m not a fan of Darwinian evolution, but I have good scientific reasons for this opinion!

Here’s what I know for sure about creation: God created.

That’s it.

That’s the point of Genesis. “God created.” The rest, I’m just as open to working-out the details as you lot. I freaking love Science! 🙂

I’ve met as many Christians with opinions similar to mine as I have ardent young earth creationist. It’s such a hot topic for the YEC’s that I tend to avoid it like the plague when talking to another believer… mostly because I think it really doesn’t matter to your faith today. What matters today is just that God created.

—-

Part 2 – my clever friend “B” wrote:

I know a bunch of folks are also getting into the combined Creationist Theory of Evolution. Basically that God created some base units that then evolved naturally into what we have today. Which Science isn’t able to disprove yet so it is as equally likely that God started it as it is that pure random chance started life.

I will say though that Young Earth Creationists scare me, how can you possibly put so much faith in one collection of vaguely similar books and yet ignore the massive collection of information that clearly shows pure, empirical evidence of the age of the earth being greater than 6000 years.

To which I responded again – as though it was directed specifically at me (it wasn’t):

Some YECs scare me too. Many of them accept what people tell them as gospel truth and never investigate any other ideas that what someone said might be wrong. God says you should investigate and question things until you fully understand them (which in theory, should be never). That seems a pretty good definition of scientific investigation. Plus, it says in the Bible that God stands outside of time. Why would he be constrained by that? Why would you take an idea as powerful as the Christian God and put him in chains by saying he is required to follow the rules of time as we humans understand it? Also – the way that they understood time 6,000 years ago and wrote about it is NOT the same as the way that we understand it today. You just can’t read it that way.

“God caused evolution and then let it happen” theory – We call that general Deism. That’s not really what I believe either. Christians believe that we serve an active and currently involved personal God. We believe in current day Miracles, that prayer is real, and that Jesus is alive (in a way that doesn’t fit the physical humanist definition of life).

So what do I believe about creation and evolution? I don’t want to appear dodgy here, so to be as specific as possible: I believe that Evolution is a quality explanation of the evidence we’ve found here on earth – as we view our universe from a Human perspective. Just because that’s the direction our scientists have gone based on the evidence they have, doesn’t make it an accurate explanation. I believe that it’s possible that Evolution IS accurate and wholly compatible with an invested, tangible, live, and direct God. If I am to believe that he created life, then why wouldn’t he have a hand in Evolution at every step? It’s not philosophically exclusionary of God’s involvement – it doesn’t have to be. I’ve just chosen to think – as a thinking man – that it doesn’t make as much sense as some have believed.

What I don’t believe is that any amount of Scientifically obtained evidence disproves Faith. I find that to be remarkably arrogant and dangerous thinking. I also find it to be a significantly un-scientific attitude. If we are to accept that we are humans, living-in and experiencing a single dimension of what we call space/time from a single perspective – testing ideas and philosophies based on that perspective and on the tools we’ve made for ourselves… then certainly it seems reasonable to also accept that there are forces and factors far outside of our ability to comprehend or observe that may quite dramatically influence those things that we can observe and test.

Given this philosophy, you could find alien life and it wouldn’t threaten my view of God.

—-

I’ll wrap this post up with one final comment.  I’m perfectly willing to believe that I have this wrong.  Maybe the earth IS 6,000 years old. I think it’s far more likely, however, that we all have it quite wrong and the truth is far outside of anything we’ve imagined yet.

In this context, the essence of true Science is this:  I cannot wait to learn or discover more.

If I add in Faith, it only changes to this:  I cannot wait to learn or discover more about God’s creation.


Fairytales and Family Relations

I went on a men’s retreat this last weekend with my church.  We did “men things” in the mountains.  We were challenged to grow in our relationship with God and Jesus Christ.  We sang songs together.  We stood around a large fire in the dark and under the stars for no particular reason other than “fire!”.

At one point, I even took a nap.

It’s not as lame as it sounds, but it is as self-serving as it sounds.  Does that make it wrong?  No, I don’t think so.  I think we all need to take time sometimes to separate ourselves from the main streams of life and forge new relationships both with one-another and with our creator.  Over the years and the different church trips and retreats that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part-of, I’ve made life-long friendships with men who I otherwise probably would have never gotten to know.  These men, in turn, have become strength and spiritual guidance for me over and over again.  I am thankful for men’s retreats.

On this particular retreat, our guest speaker was quite gifted.  I enjoyed his skills and his ability to draw-in focus.  He had a style of vulnerability, authenticity, and clarity that few seem to really organize.  His speaking techniques were obviously honed with thousands of hours of practice and years of spiritual devotion.  I have nothing but great things to say about this guy.  My primary complaining point today is about one of the stories he told:

Preachers and Speakers – will you please quit telling me fairy tale stories about these holy family reconciliations – particularly with your fathers – where you somehow finally connect with your lost dad relationship at the end, just before he dies… and maybe your dad even accepts Christ at your hands right before the end?  I cannot tell you how humiliating and frustrating this is.

I don’t believe this is a reality for most of us.  I’ve heard so many stories from great speakers that seem to go the same way. They all go something like this:

‘I once was at enmity with my Father, a non-believer (probably).  A rough childhood (perhaps), maybe even abusive or neglectful or just broken?  Right before he died, we somehow worked everything out… and it was like holy magic… he was saved and my heart was healed.’

I can’t deal with this.  I want to hate you for this.  When you talk about this, it makes me feel inadequate.  Your stories used to give me hope, but all these years later as I hear them again and again, they just make me more angry and disappointed.

When I say “we” here I mean me… and you if you’re at all like me.

Do you have any idea how many years of crying, sleepless nights, and prayers of desperation we’ve been through?  Do you know?  Do you know how many times we’ve attempted this conversation with our father/mother/sister/brother – based on the model you gave us – only to fail miserable and receive even greater disappointment?

I guess – I mean – sure – it’s your testimony right… so go ahead and tell us your story.  But please also tell us that it doesn’t always work out like that… and tell us how it’s going to be ok somehow even when it doesn’t work out.  Tell us it’s going to somehow be ok when we don’t see our dad in Heaven or our heart never really fully heals from that LONG ago pain.  Tell us that.

—–

I believe that God can bring redemption to ANY relationship, no matter how broken.  I believe fully in his power to heal completely.

I believe he won’t always do this, and probably not even sometimes.

I believe there are probably good reasons why he wouldn’t do this but those are things I don’t comprehend.

I believe in the thorn in my side.

I believe in the Love of my Christ.


I don’t mind stealing bread

“I don’t mind stealing bread from the mouths of decadence

but I can’t feed on the powerless when my cup’s already overfilled”

-Hunger Strike, Temple of the Dog (1991)

I heard this song today.  I remembered identifying with the lyrics way back when I was a teenager and heard this song the first time and loved it.  I remembered thinking “yeah, that’s right.”

Then I thought about who I am today, particularly in light of my relationship with Jesus Christ.  What’s different?  Would I mind literally or figuratively stealing “from the mouths of decadence?” (unfortunately, I don’t think I’d mind too much) To feed myself or my family?  Would I feel badly about it?  What about stealing from the poor and powerless? (depending on the situation – I bet I could rationalize this to myself too)

I also thought – what if I’m the mouth of decadence?  Aren’t I?  Who am I to draw the line and say “you’re too wealthy, you’re poor. I’m somewhere between and am therefore, somehow ok”?

By driving around wealthy Boulder, Colorado today in my almost-new, bought on payments, little Honda Hybrid car… aren’t I contributing to the great feeding upon the powerless of the world through consumerism?

This inner dialogue formed a freshly regurgitated debate in my mind that has been continuously unsettled:  Where does (or would) Jesus stand today on western culture social justice issues?  Particularly the very popular humanist perspectives that I see strongly in our  youth and young adults on ideas like:  income equality, health care reform, elective life choices like marriage and birth (or abortion), universal religion, etc…

What about those Christians who would claim that being a good Christian means you work hard and earn what you deserve?  and by inverse implication – if you don’t have anything – you deserved it?  Is this the same as “an honest day’s work”?  Or “go to the ant, you sluggard…” (Prov 6:6)?

Or is this more like “Don’t judge (or condemn)…” (Mat 7:1 and many more)?  Did Jesus only mean – don’t judge another person’s salvation – when he said that?  Which judging or condemning is encouraged by Jesus?

What about “love thy neighbor” (Mark 12:31 and others)?  What about “the greatest of these is love” (1Cor13:13)?

Am I asking more questions than providing answers or opinions?  Welcome to my brain.  Now you know why the blog is called “Otter Confusion”.

So where does Jesus stand on social justice in the way that we think about it in America today?  Would he be friendlier with the lazy hippies or the hard-working republicans?  What would he stand for – today – when presented by a modern Pharisee with a social justice “gotcha” question?

More importantly, how should I personally respond to that?  What’s my responsibility as a Christian towards social justice?  Should I just exercise what I believe to be appropriate justice through my own life and choices – prayerfully considered – and faithfully executed (only on the best of days do I actually find myself doing this)?  Or should I stand up for more than that – take to the streets – join the “1% vs 99%” rally?  Or – depending on your perspective on the above questions – an American Republican “tea party” rally?

Or do I just look for more ways to Love others directly – and stay out of the fray?

(in retrospect, this last option seems to have been my unintentional life’s mission since becoming a Christian)

Where do I go from here – particularly on this day of government shutdown – on the brink of collapse of our beautiful nation founded on the principles of Love and Freedom?

Maybe another song, also currently playing on the repeat track in my brain…

“Stand up, We shall not be moved

Except by a child with no socks or shoes

If you’ve got more to give than you’ve got to prove

Put your hands up and I’ll copy you

Stand up, We shall not be moved

Except by a woman dying from the loss of food

If you’ve got more to give than you’ve got to prove

Put your hands up and I’ll copy you”

-Stand Up, Flobots

Or maybe not.

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Micah 6:8)


Salty Bread

As a child or an adult – try to remember what it felt like the last time you’d been away from someone you really love for any considerable amount of time. I don’t mean just a day or even just a couple days… but weeks… maybe even months or years. How does it feel? What’s going through your mind as the day draws closer that you would get to be in the company of that person again? Do you play over and over again in your mind how you will run to him/her? How you will embrace them and feel their warmth and strength? When the time finally comes, can you stand to wait at all?

embrace

The church I attend is not really a very conservative or liturgical assembly. If I had to find an incomplete labeling paradigm I might call us progressive and even perhaps moderate if not occasionally liberal non-denominational quasi-evangelical protestants. We have rock ‘n roll worship, we drink coffee in the sanctuary, we have stage lights, computers and projectors, and some of us (like me) wear t-shirts and shorts to church services.

One of the more unique things we do as a church is we take communion every week. At my last church (a similar style of church) we took communion once every 3 months… maybe… if it fit into the preaching schedule. You’ll find that latter kind of pattern to be the more common one in this style of church.

At first it seemed really weird that we did it weekly and it took some getting used to. Then after some time I started to really appreciate it. Taking symbolic communion every week gives me an opportunity to remember more often exactly what it all really means. I don’t take it for granted and I don’t get robotic about it. God allows every week to be a new experience and I consider that alone to be a gift of His Grace in itself.

So here’s the confession. I RUSH into communion. Sometimes we take it together as a congregation and sometimes we take it on our own time. In either case, if there was a race to get the bread into your mouth – I’d win it every time. Irreverent, right? I’ve been contemplating within myself for weeks now why it is I seem to do this. Sometimes I wonder if someone is watching me shove that salty grape-juice soggy bread into my mouth and quietly judging my haste.

I really do eat it like a gluttonous child getting a candy bar for the first time in a week.

It’s the funniest thing. I know that the bread isn’t magical. I don’t go for magic bread or magic water, that’s not in my personal book of theology. I know it’s just a reminder of what happened, who I really am and who my God really is…. but I just can’t wait to get there. I can’t wait to get back into that place where I feel like I belong, in my father’s house. Maybe it has something to do with this?

Romans 5:6-8 (ESV): 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

In my heart, I know that Christ RUSHED into forgiving me. He RUSHED to my rescue, while I still didn’t know or want him, while I was still a sinner, while I was still an Atheist, while I still HATED every idea of him… He came anyway, he RUSHED to my salvation. With divine Love and great urgency, God RUSHED to take me home.

So it is while I’m still quite sure of my unworthiness, while I’m still unsettled in my state of readiness – that I rush into worship through communion – that I rush into his arms. I want to be there before I’ve had a chance to convince myself that I’ve paid enough reverence or enough prayer or enough quiet to be there. I want to rush there while my mind is still scattered, while my heart is still dirty, and while my hands are still busy.

That’s when he loved me first. While I was still broken. So that’s how I want to come to him every week, while I know that I’m still broken…. RUSHING into his love.