Sunday, July 29, 2007

Genesis 1: the Bible’s authority, God’s sensibility of abundant life

Children and adults alike wonder at how things, good and bad, came to be. Why is the sky blue? Why do we fight wars? Why am I the way I am? While men grapple with these questions and put forth speculative answers, the Bible answers plainly and clearly: “In the beginning God…”

By this concise assertion, the Bible holds itself out as a primal authority on all things. The first assertions of the authority of the Bible did not come when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 (…all scripture is God-breathed…). The Bible first asserts its authority in the first sentence of its first page when it purports to speak of the beginning of our existence. When one says anything, one implicitly claims authority to say it and the validity of what is said – or else one speaks nonsense. And the nature and extent of the authority is also implicitly asserted by nature of the thing said. If you say a small thing like “take a right to get to the park,” you assert a small knowledge and authority. If a large thing is said, like “the greatest commandment is to love the Lord,” then one implicitly asserts large authority. Here, the Bible presumes to speak on the primary chronological fact, which can only be based on the knowledge of someone who was there – or at least someone who knows someone who was there. By presuming to tell us what happened “in the beginning” the Bible implicitly asserts great authority.

The first character in the story is God. How important of a truth is that? Yet how often do we forget it. This life, this religion, this Bible, is primarily God’s story. Anyone who attempts to take the starring role other than Him is a usurper, and the story will be full of those. Also, those who attempt to take on the role of God, whether it’s the ego-maniacal Satan or simply you or me, will find the role far more difficult than we imagined, and that we don’t have the strength to carry the burden. The role of God is for God alone, and it is both right for us and good for us to keep that straight. Yet, despite this, God seems willing and eager to share the stage. It is not too difficult to imagine a story about God in which nothing of consequence is ever done by anyone other than God. I bet God did interesting things before any of us came around. Yet we know that this Bible God is more than full of stories of other people, even other people doing God’s work as his co-laborers. And even at the very beginning of the story, we’re about to be introduced to our fore-parents.

Note both from the pages of Genesis and also from a glance out your window the type of things God creates. He has a distinct style, wouldn’t you agree? If anyone has a favorite artist, he knows that each work of art by the singer, painter, writer, or whoever always bears the distinct marks of the maker, whether it’s the subject matter, the tone, the sensibility, etc. So, with God’s creation, for example, God’s inanimate works have a tendency toward the beautiful, the majestic, the spectacular, the bountiful. God is also notable as a creator for His range. Many artists can do only one thing well – but God can do the ocean and the desert, the jungle and the meadow. Yet, despite the range and the contrast, there is coherence. Also, in wildlife, one again notes both consistency and contrast, from the tiger to the duck. All of this probably speaks of God’s personality as one of vast range as well, since it is difficult to imagine a creator who is morbid making a light-hearted comedy or someone who is extremely cheerful and kind making a work of sadism. God is probably as fierce as a bear, strong as a mountain, playful as a puppy, and gentle as a breeze. Of course, one can go only so far with this level of interpretation – but nevertheless it generally seems plausible that the vast range of creation suggests the vast range of God’s personality.

When I consider the wondrous creation with all of its liveliness and beauty, I can’t help but find the view of the universe held by a fatalist or a determinist to be absurd. This is just my intuition, but to imagine that blind fate drove the universe to possess sea creatures that create pearls, sunsets that steal one’s breath, and flowers that thrill the eyes and the nose – it just seems really hard to believe. If a universe is really a grim machine running on ‘cause and effect’ and ‘survival of the fittest,’ it just seems you’d have a grim, ugly universe – perhaps full of gray, beastly monsters, or robots like those from the Matrix. But a Golden Retriever? Yes, I’ve heard that if you gave a group of monkeys an infinite amount of time to bang on type-writers they’d eventually write Hamlet…but if that’s the analogy that encapsulates your view of the universe, doesn’t it seem your thinking has perhaps gone to the circus?

(One scientist, Richard Dawkins, who is very hostile to Christianity compares Christians’ belief in God to a belief in a Spaghetti Monster. I’m saying, however, that the view of monkeys writing Hamlet is much more Spaghetti Monster-esque, than believing in a God who created the incomparable universe we live in.)

Also, notice the bounty of creation, the fertility. “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems...God blessed them and said ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’…God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures…livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals…” Gen. 1:20-24.

Again, note God’s personality and consider it for application to your life. God creates abundant life. God could have been a minimalist, abstract painter. He could have left the earth formless and void. We often fear what God will do to our lives because we think he has something draconian and inhuman in mind. But look what God did at creation: His sensibility is abundant life.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Back at Duke....

Finished the bar exam...

just met Christian Laettner!

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Make a phone call, keep a friend. Neglect a phone call, lose a friend."

- Andree Seu, 'Normal Kingdom Business'.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Maybe I do believe in inerrancy.... least as articulated in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

This is a choice passage from the expository statement:

"So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth. Differences between literary conventions in Bible times and in ours must also be observed: since, for instance, non-chronological narration and imprecise citation were conventional and acceptable and violated no expectations in those days, we must not regard these things as faults when we find them in Bible writers. When total precision of a particular kind was not expected nor aimed at, it is no error not to have achieved it. Scripture is inerrant, not in the sense of being absolutely precise by modern standards, but in the sense of making good its claims and achieving that measure of focused truth at which its authors aimed."

However, there are some surprising claims here:

1 - Inerrancy can include incorrect citations.

2 - Inerrancy can include imprecise factual statements if such factual statements would not have been considered a big deal to the human author.

Some observations:

This is fine with me, but it's funny to call it inerrancy. Do we really believe God would misquote Scripture?

This clearly allows for not taking Genesis literally if a writer in that milieu would not have necessarily written literally.

This makes dubious many sermons and doctrines I've heard from Evangelicals basing doctrines out of fine points of grammar or word choice. For example, many cessasionists base their belief on the word "perfect" in 1 Cor. 13.

So, where this seems to leave the inerrantist saying that 'sure, there might be a mistake in the text (by our contemporary definition), but God chose a writer who he knew would make that mistake, and so it's still inerrant.'

So in this sense, I'm okay with inerrancy, but it's a silly doctrine as opposed to simply saying that the text is authoritative based on the validation of Christ and his appointed apostles.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


It seems like a major point of Anglicanism is the belief in localities possessing independent authority, one from another. So, for example, the Archbishop of Cantebury (sp?) is not the English Pope, the supreme head of the Anglican Church. Instead, he is considered "first among equals," along with other clergy.

So, if I've come to believe that God ordained authority (apostolic succession?) is primary, I don't think I want to buy into a church that seems to not practice this. The point of putting your faith in authority is to believe the ladder runs all the way to the top.

So, it begs the question, why not become Catholic?

Monday, July 09, 2007


Anglicanism turns out to be too hard to define. There's a lot of convolution about their church structures and so on. Anglicans were initially highly influenced by the 16th Century reformers, Calvins, Zwingli, and so on. Over time, there seems to have been a return to Catholic liturgical practices.

The stated reason for the existence of the Anglican church seems to be the belief that national churches should not be under the authority of the Pope.

Some distinctives: the "Crown" appoints Anglican clergy; The use of the Apocrypha.

Pros: wasn't C.S. Lewis an Anglican?

Primary half-baked critique: if I were to go looking for apostolic succession, the Catholic Church seems to have a significantly better claim to it than the Church of England.

An interesting quote: "For their part, those Evangelical (and some Broad Church) Anglicans who emphasise the more Protestant aspects of the Church stress the Reformation theme of salvation by grace through faith."

All this from wikipedia.

So far, I'm not too excited about Anglicanism.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today, a pastor told me that I might have to leave the Evangelical church.

A couple of days ago, a reformed presbyterian seminarian asked me 'are you going to become Catholic?'

My wife weighed in and said, "I don't want to become an Anglican."

And so begins a series on denominationalism...

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Bar Exam...

I am studying for it (between games of ping-pong and Tecmo Superbowl), and not finding time to blog.