Here is an excellent article that presents a very big difficulty to Christians in their dialogues with non-Christians on the same-sex marriage debate. Peter writes in an eloquent style and I'll be looking to highlight his articles in the future.
"I came away from a debate on gay marriage between Douglas Wilson and Andrew Sullivan deeply impressed with the difficulties that Christians have, and will continue to have, defending a biblical view of marriage to the American public. It will take nothing short of a cultural revolution for biblical arguments to be heard, much less to become persuasive.
Sullivan clearly has all the hurrah words on his side – love, happiness, equality. How can anyone stand in the way of true love that seeks lifelong commitment in marriage? Sullivan also has liberal order on his side. When Wilson answered a question by citing the Bible, Sullivan pounced. Wilson’s was a fundamentalist, theocratic argument. Sullivan defined democracy as a system that excludes appeals to religious authority from the foundations of public life. He was quick to add that he is a resolute foe of political correctness, but one wouldn’t have known it from his mercurial move from Wilson’s citation of the Bible to theocracy to the Taliban to warnings about violent suppression of dissent. Sullivan demanded that Wilson defend his position with secular, civil arguments, not theocratic ones, and in this demand Sullivan has the support of liberal polity.
Sullivan’s is a rigid standard for public discourse that leaves biblically-grounded Christians with little to say. The claim that legalizing gay marriage will make the legalization of polygamy easier, as Wilson repeatedly argued, is coherent, but doesn’t have much purchase. Nobody seems to be much worried about a polygamous future for America, and making polygamy the centerpiece of opposition to gay marriage looks too much like fear-mongering.
That leaves Christians with the option of making theologically rich, biblically founded arguments against gay marriage. But do we have the vocabulary ready to hand? And even if we do, does the vocabulary we have make any sense to the public at large?
"The New Testament is clear about the nature of saving faith. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Romans 3:28). “A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus . . . since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).
According to Scripture, salvation is by faith in Christ alone through God’s grace alone. When you put your trust in Jesus Christ He declares you righteous—not because you are, but because He imputes His righteousness to you, and because He paid the penalty for your sin. Christ bears our sin and we receive His righteousness. That is the indescribable glory of the doctrine of justification (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The teaching of the Roman Catholic Church stands in stark opposition to that biblical understanding. Rather than salvation by grace through faith, they preach a false gospel of works.
"Take the proposed amendments to anti-discrimination legislation that define discrimination as anything which "offends, insults or humiliates". Thankfully after a public backlash, the Government conceded it would review the Bill.
Something is wrong when an article on paedophile priests can lead to a complaint that the article vilifies all Catholics, or an article about an assault leads to a complaint that it vilifies the ethnic group the alleged assaulter comes from.
The danger of legislation so broad and flawed is that individuals and groups could use it to silence debate on genuine issues by forcing media outlets into prolonged, and expensive, defences. It is possible, for example, that the reporting of child sex abuse which led to a royal commission could have been greatly curbed in that way."
Recent news in technology reveals that Intel will stop producing their own motherboard. Sparking further concerns is the speculation that Intel may well stop producing desktop processors. As Intel is far and away the biggest producers of desktop processors this may well result in the extinction of the conventional computer as it is overtaken in popularity by the iPad for general browsing and the Xbox and Playstation for game play. As a computer enthusiast I am concerned in no small way. The desktop may be dropping in popularity but no other method of consumer technology comes close to the power provided by a specced-out PC. For much of the work I do (photo and video manipulation) my powerful desktop is the only viable option (at the moment).
Yet with this news from Intel there are fears that the standard desktop computer may well stop being produced by this time next year. The desktop PC is not the only thing in danger of extinction. The hi-definition television screen is facing almost certain relegation to the antique collection. With the creation and availability of consumer ultra hi-definition televisions (UHDTV) already on the market it is only a matter of time before prices drop significantly enough for the lay-household to purchase at least one. The price range of $20,000+ will not remain forever. Just to give you an idea of the difference in screen resolution here is UHDTV vs HD vs SD:
There are many strings attached with the surpassing of hi-definition. One was the short shelf life of Blu-ray DVDs. While not as embraced as standard DVDs the Blu-ray offered an extensive jump forward in video quality. However, the change from Blu-ray to whatever format supersedes it is indicative of just how short the technology lifespan is running at. Likely the Blu-ray may not be replaced by anything physical. Instead streaming and Cloud etc.... may be the way of the future.
In this radically consumerist society we are the instigators of the tempo of technology change-over. It is our increasing need and drive to have the newest toys that powers this continuous cycle of depreciation. In much the same way that our culture is embracing a post-PC movement and post-HD entertainment there are those who argue within the church that our current understanding of truth and doctrine has been superseded. This group is known collectively as the “post-modern” movement.
The post-modern movement is one that is built on relativism:
Relativism - “Does a statement really mean what it says?” Technologically the world is changing very quickly. Generations of televisions and media devices fly by and are redefined. Yet this redefinition is not affecting anything of substance. Unfortunately the post-modern mindset has destroyed foundationalism and certainty , which it views as modern constructs:
“As a philosophical standpoint, postmodernism is primarily a reinterpretation of what knowledge is and what counts as knowledge. More broadly, it represents a form of cultural relativism about such things as reality, truth, reason, value, linguistic meaning, the self, and other notions. On a postmodernist view, there is no such thing as objective reality, truth, value, reason, and so forth. All these are social constructions, creations of linguistic practices, and as such are relative not to individuals, but to social groups that share a narrative.”
Whatever Happened to Truth, J. P. Moreland, pg 79
This has serious implications for the Christian: “As humans, we live and ought to live our lives not merely by truth but by knowledge of truth. Knowledge of truth gives us confident trust and access to reality. Moreover, as those called to be teachers and scholars for the church and, indeed, for the unbelieving world, we are called not only to impart and defend truth, but to impact and defend knowledge of truth and, even more, to impart and defend knowledge of truth as knowledge of truth....The corrosive effects of postmodernism eat away at the fulfillment of these duties and responsibilities that constitute our calling from Almighty God.” Whatever Happened to Truth, J. P. Moreland, pg 91-92
Upon posting an article about a literal interpretation of Genesis I received several comments from friends and acquaintances that can be summed up like so:
“The creation story is not the important part of the Bible. What is important is the Gospel. Indeed the very arguing of a literal six days for creation can distract from the Gospel.”
I can't help but feel deeply disturbed by these opinions. Firstly, I am concerned about the criticism I have received for even broaching on the topic of creation. Indeed in my previous article I did not treat a literal creation as a primary doctrinal issue, nor did I even say that we should be divided on the issue. What I said was that it was completely plausible for Christians to hold to a literal 6-day creation.
Secondly, there will be times when I discuss theological topics outside of the Gospel. While the accounts of Jesus' ministry on earth is of the utmost importance we shouldn't downplay what other parts of the Bible can tell us. Indeed, there is a great power in the creation narrative. It is the magnificence of the very beginning that I originally wrote my article yesterday.
Thirdly, I feel like I am being asked to be non-controversial. Certainly I'd better have a good reason to encourage division (though division is occasionally necessary). Over this issue I do not encourage division. I encourage thoughtful dialogue and meditation on the Word.
Fourthly, there is a vast difference between what is termed “old-earth creationism” and “theistic evolution”. While I have concern about the former I believe the latter cannot hold under the weight of the creation story intertwining with the Gospel. Consider this, God makes Adam and Eve approximately 6,000 years ago (this can be verified via genealogies). If macro evolution had occurred previous to this creation we have a God who prescribes the term “good” on a process that improves a species only by generations and generations dying. Furthermore, the very essence of the Gospel, that is the depravity of man, is undermined by the lack of a historical Adam (the most compelling understanding of history from an evolutionary perspective). Also, Jesus is constantly referenced as the last Adam. If macro evolution were to be true this would have catastrophic implications upon the Gospel. This is not a meaningless quibble, it affects (and distorts) the very nature of man.
Finally, Jesus held the Old Testament in the highest regard. This is logically sensible because of his eternal involvement in God's people as part of the Trinity. Beyond this Jesus treats “Old Testament historical narratives as straightforward records of fact” (John Wenham, “Christ's View of Scripture inGeisler, Inerrancy, p. 6). Let us observe Jesus discussing divorce with the Pharisees:
“And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’”
Mark 10:2-6 (ESV)
Jesus not only references the very creation of man and woman but he places it within the context of discussing the law and in reference to the historical character of Moses. At the very least this seems to underpin the importance of a historical Adam but it potentially has implications much wider than this. You see Jesus places Adam and Eve at the very beginning of creation. Not billions of years down the track. Surely as He was with God at the creation of the cosmos (John 1:1) His commentary, short though it is, holds some weight.
Certainly the implications of the age of the universe should not be overstated. One can land on either side of the debate and be doctrinally sound in other, more important, areas. Nor should our theological discussions be fixated upon this topic (to the detriment of countless other topics). Yet we must not understate the importance of a solid biblical understanding of the creation of the universe. It does have ramifications upon other areas of Scripture and undermining it can lead people away from being convicted by the Gospel. It is for this reason that, on occasion, I may discuss the creation narrative in my articles.
It is a well known fact that the ABC is decidedly anti-Christian. So for a Christian to willingly be part of a panel on Q & A is quite a feat of bravery. Into the lion's den,as it were. Unfortunately many so-called Christians who are brought on to this show don't accurately reflect Christianity as enunciated by the Gospel and Paul's letters. Now I've had some interactions with the works of last week's resident Christian John Dickson, the co-founder and director of the Centre for Public Christianity and writer of numerous books. Unfortunately I find myself polarized by his argumentation (despite his obvious intellectual advantage).
Now there is much that John writes that is good and endearing and challenging for the Christian believer. Yet on last weeks program John was very dismissive of the so-called “creationist” view. It is clear he doesn't read the first few chapters of Genesis as literal and historical. Here are a few of the excerpts:
“On the science I totally agree and you’ll find that most mainstream Christians are very comfortable with science and with all of the discoveries of science, including the 13.72 billion years ago there was a bang and evolution by natural selection.”
“When you go to theological college you are taught how to read Genesis 1 and it’s quite clear that Genesis 1 is written in a style that is most unlike the historical prose we know from other parts of the Bible. The style is not quite poetry but it’s more in the direction of poetry. It uses number symbolism in a way that would blow your mind. The artistry of it is clear.”
“I’ve got plenty of friends who are six day creationists and I’m going to get some love mail after this for sure. But, look, you know, I have great relationships with them, I just think they are wrong. Wrong on the science. Wrong on the Bible.”
These are some strong assertions. John Dickson completely offsides those who would believe in what is termed “a literal Genesis creation account”, of which I am one. Now certainly the creation account is not the be all and end all of theological differences, but it is certainly not insignificant. It does present an impasse, one where John and I believe each other wrong. No doubt most other Christians would align with either of these views.
I wish to discuss in more detail (such that a short article will allow) John's assertions. Firstly he said “you'll find that most mainstream Christians are very comfortable with science and with all of the discoveries of science, including the 13.72 billion years ago there was a bang and evolution by natural selection”. You see I'm not really sure what he means by mainstream? If he means the majority or what is the trend then perhaps he is right. Right in his assertion about what the majority of “Christians” believe. Yet this had no bearing on the truth. Indeed the majority of Christians in countries like Australia are nominal and so it makes complete sense that they would be more influenced by a secular view.
The next thing that concerns me is his assertion that “Genesis 1 is written in a style that is most unlike the historical prose we know from other parts of the Bible”. Really? Is it? Is this determined by theological colleges? Scholars? And are theological colleges or scholars the final authority on whether Genesis 1 should be read more symbolically, poetically or historically?
(1) Genesis 1-11 is basically myth, with little or no historicity; (2) Genesis 1-11 is not myth, but is largely figurative; (3) Genesis 1-11 is neither myth nor entirely literal, but partly figurative; and (4) Genesis 1-11 should be taken literally Coming to Grips with Genesis, pg 132
Now I don't suppose to place Dickson in to any of these categories but I would hazard a guess by his comments last Monday that he believes categories (2) and (3) have more merit that category (4), the literal translation. But this would suppose that Genesis 1-11 differs entirely from the rest of the book of Genesis that is clearly and ubiquitously presented in a historical, and not poetic, context.
What do the writers in the New Testament understand about Genesis 1-11? - Jesus affirmed a literal understanding of Adam and Eve (Matthew 19:4-6). There is no suggestion that this part of the Genesis account is allegorical or poetic. - In Hebrews 4 Paul speaks about the foundation of the world and the seventh day. Again Paul doesn't indicate that he believes this part of Scripture to be poetic or allegorical. - Jesus confirmed His belief in a literal, global flood in Matthew 24:37-38. - Jesus attributes a similar historicity to Noah and the flood as He does to the destruction of Sodom (Luke 17:26-32). The story of Sodom in Genesis 19 is not treated as poetic so why is the story of the global flood in Genesis 6-8? - The whole book of Hebrews is littered with historical assumptions.
Much more can be said upon this subject. While the views presented in the New Testament are compelling there are other reasons why we should shy away from someone who implicitly is given the banner of Christianity only to argue for a non-literal creation story. Suffice to say I am satisfied in conversing with a brother or sister who disagrees with me about the periods of time presented in the word “yom” in Genesis 1. However, I do not wish to downplay the implications of such an agreement either. Regardless it is a futher step to suggest that Genesis 1-11 should be read figuratively and poetically. Above all we must also be careful to avoid the leech that is macro evolution. It stifles and undermines the creation account and has no place in biblical theology. It is not science that makes me uncomfortable. It is the superseding of clear biblical truths by fallible scientists that makes me nervous. Regardless of whether most mainstream Christians adhere to their research or not I will not turn over to man what was preordained by God.