Primer on Creation

Michelangelo - Creation of Adam (cropped).jpg

Edit – My editor has recommend that I not post a 4,500+ word article, but instead make it 2-3 posts. However, as always, I will ignore this advice (despite it’s applicability; this is also the reminder that I write what I want, and believe you have no problem following along). I don’t write for acclaim or money (clearly). So, enjoy.

Biblical interpretation is obviously something that I have great interest in. Probably the two most difficult areas in the Bible are Genesis 1-11 and Revelation. That is, unless you grow up in a highly conservative or fundamentalist church, like I did. In that case, there is no room for discussion or thought, you either interpret them ‘literally’ or you are not a Christian.

Later, in my 20’s, I started to study the Bible for myself and my understanding and found the views I had been taught, despite their claims, are not the most common either today or historically (not the topic today, but quite the opposite of historical, Dispensationalism is one of the newest theological frameworks around). I have since read many books (especially in the Counter Point series) about Creation, Adam, Genesis 1-11 and commentaries (and hermneutic guides) on Genesis (as well as Romans).

While my view had been a literal 24-hour creation of the universe 6,000-10,000 year ago and that it was highly controversial or dangerous to think otherwise, my later study showed this to not be the case. This is not really the view outside of American Evangelical Christians (in fact JI Packer has stated that there may be political undertones to this belief, not Biblical study).

Yesterday, the church I attend started a year long Bible reading plan. Next Sunday’s sermon will be on Creation (always a good place to start), and due to the aforementioned concerns, I will be taking part in a panel that will discuss creation (titled incorrectly on our website as a panel on the age of the Earth), which I will post later.

All that to say, I have been reviewing my notes, research, and books on Creation, so good way to get my thoughts out is to write them down. What proceeds is a broad overview of what I consider to be the three views in Creation, their support and issues, and then a list of resources. Hopefully, you may find this helpful.

Young Earth Creationism (YEC)
This is what most people in America think about as ‘Creationism’. It is also what New Atheist and other people antithetical to Christianity refer to as a ‘Christian belief’. The view is very simple, God created the universe some 6,000 years ago based on the ‘simple’/’literal’ reading of Genesis, and the calculations of Ussher, a 15th century monk who used the genealogies in Genesis to work backwards to devise a timeline of creation. Adam was the result of special creation (as were all living things), the world was created in six, literal, 24-hour days. People lived for 100’s of years old before the Flood, Noah was a real person who survived a global flood that destroyed all humanity up to that point, I don’t hear/read much about the Tower of Babel, but I assume it should be taken literally and that there was only one language at the time.

All physics, biology, and geology (among others) and incorrect in their views of the age of the earth and evolution and should be rejected. Any views otherwise are an attempt to harmonize science and the Bible, which is incorrect, the Bible should lead. The reason that things appear older or different than this account are due to the affects of the flood or human/science error.  Common among people of his belief is that this is the main view of Christians today and most in history. Also, it is likely that your salvation is in question if you do not believe.

Pro’s – this is a very simple reading that I suppose many people could come away with if they just read the first few chapters of the Bible. No issue whatsoever with a ‘historical Adam’ and the idea of original sin. This is important because Paul calls Christ the second Adam and if we don’t come from two original people, then how did we inherit sin? I’m hesitant to also list, but, death before the fall. YEC’s see Paul as saying there was no literal death before the fall.

Issues – Many, first of all, everything about most (all?) science that exist. However, this is not a site that cares (to an extent) about science, but my focus is on theology. Though, I will say that YEC’s think that the Flood jacked up everything and gave it the appearance of old age to (possibly) test our faith. On objection I have to this is that it is unbiblical, the Bible never states that salvation hinges on a belief in ‘literal’ view of creation and that God tested our faith.

If anything, this goes to my main concern about this belief. Why would God give us a test, but not tell us he is testing us? Further more, it breaks the first rule of hermenuetics, what did this mean to the original hearers? The ancient Isrealites would not have thought about Genesis over and above physics/evolution. They would thought of it against the common(ish) world beliefs at the time – Gilgamesh and Enu Elish, among others – we were created from blood/sweat/beer/ and mud/dust/clay either out of violence or to serve our (many) gods. Instead, we were made, over and against chaos, by the one true God, for His good pleasure, in His image, to be His stewards over the earth.

Similarly, this is not necessarily the ‘historical view’ of Creation. Now, I will make a caveat here, the concept of Evolution did not exist until less than 200 years ago, but the ideas of how to interpret Genesis 1-11, and the age of the earth are ancient. Philo, not a Christian, but a Jew in the first century (as were Jesus, all the Disciples, and all the authors of the New Testament except Luke) took an ‘allegorical’ view of Genesis. Not just 1-11, but the whole thing. For early Christian, we have Irenaeus in the second century, writing in Against Heresies, that the early parts of Genesis should not be taken literally. Similarly, we have Origien and Alexandrian School, in the third, writing that Genesis was allegory. Augustine, whom coined the idea of original sin, similarly did not support a ‘literal’ reading.

We can jump ahead to Charles Hodge who support old earth (but unclear on evolution, however writing as a contemporary); B.B. Warfied, who wrote the book on the Biblical Inerrancy,  who supported both old age and evolution; to Grudem and Ericson, the most prolific Systematic theologians of the 20th century (yet, both still alive in the 21st) who did not reject old earth, to pastors or theologians like JI Packer, Keller, Longmen, Windham, and Kline accept evolution. There is also the fact that YEC is rejected by the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, all the so-called Mainline churches (I understand this maybe a point of support for), but also YEC only is not supported by either the SBC or PCA (or even the OPC); they all support all views. Also, looks at current (evangelical) seminary professors at Westminster (and WSCAL), all the RTS’s, all the SBC schools, Gorden-Conwell, and you will find little support for YEC. So, even if it is correct, it is incorrect to say that it is the orthodox and historical view.

Excurses – RC Sproul has a great lecture you can find online that discusses Luther and Calvin. Luther was clearly YEC, literal view of Genesis. Calvin was a little (uncharacteristically) squishy, seeming to believe something like literal unless proven otherwise. Sproul’s point is that they were both ardently anti-geocentricty. Yet it exist, it is unargued truth, today; and they were still both great theologians and reformers.

It is clear the science is against YEC and that their claim about historical understanding is incorrect. I’ll also just say again, you have to view the reading in the way it was originally hear, compared to other creation stories of the time, and the it’s ‘couplet’/’framework’ nature, and the lack of ‘this is the account of’ that tells hearers this is historical as 21st century westerners understand it. There are also issues with the genealogies used to calculate age, i.e. they don’t always match, not because they were wrong, but because this wasn’t a record keeping exercise, but a theological point.

Finally, if everything is ‘literal’ then everything is literal, this includes your reading of Genesis and Romans. Yet, again, the man that coined original sin did not see Adam as historical. So, clearly there is room for different views. If Adam was elect out of the others, for no reason, that is not different than most Old Testament Patriarchs or the New Testament view of election. Clearly, for many old and great theologians in church history, the ‘historical Adam’ is not an issue. To say so, is to believe that a view of Genesis that isn’t ‘literal’ is just a capitulation to science over and above the Bible, but as I have shown, there was much discussion long before Geological Age or Evolutionary Theory. So, the issue must exist in interpretation of the theology, not science. Ironically, I feel they are the ones reacting to modern science, not the other way around.

Old Earth Creationism (Progressive Creationism, Day-Age Creationism) (OEC)
Old Earth Creationism essentially says that we don’t need to take the first few chapters of Genesis ‘literally’ and that there is clearly some literary framework happening. Science says that the universe/earth is billions of years old, and as that is indisputable, we should take it for it’s word. However, though science is clear on evolution, we should not accept that aspect. One of the subsets of this view is the specific ‘day-age’, that is the world was created in six ‘days’, but those days are not 24 hour days as we know them. So, it allows for an old earth, yet the creation story is still there and that is the order of creation and evolution cannot exist.

In the above YEC, I hit most of the major issues, so the remainder will be a little shorter.

Pros – This is actually the view of most of the history of the church, and likely, at least the plurality of views today, in the Evangelical world. I won’t review them again, or list even more, but if you were to go through even more pastors/theologians, this view would likely have the most support.

Issues – still the basic issue of science, which is clear on evolution. To hold this view, there is disconcordance in picking and choosing which sciences you believe – you would hold to correct physics and geology (and I would argue, correct hermeneutics), but dismiss archaeology and biology (and chemistry to a lesser extent, among others). I’ve often been accused of having an ‘all or nothing’ problem, but I do take issue with picking and choosing which science to believe. Similarly, there is the simplicity issue, why would some science seem correct, but others not? What would God being doing here? Also, still, if holding to full special individual creation, no issue with Adam.

I already mentioned the early Christians and others who hold a non-literal view of Genesis (at least 1-11), so for a historical argument, if you take these passages as allegorical (as has been the actual history), then you’d have no issue with all the science. I guess my biggest critique of this view (which, I should, was my view for quite some time, but ultimately, I fond it untenable) is that you are trying to have it both ways. Which, I think uncritically, people find reassuring, it sounds nice to pick a ‘high’ view of the Bible, while still accepting some science, but in reality, I think you are missing both and sell both a little short.

Evolutionary Creationism (EC)
Evolutionary creationism accepts both the Bible (though not as some) and science. There is the very common ‘framework theory’ of Genesis, as far as Biblical interpretation goes, as well as the acceptance of all (not just some) science.

Pros – I believe this would be the view of the early church, based on readings of both the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, as well as early (AD) Jewish writers and Midrash. They would have no problem with the later (to them) science of both old earth and evolution, because they didn’t see any of that as the point. They don’t (and neither do quite a few modern others, as I listed above) view the first few chapters of Genesis as a science or history (as modern westerner’s view it) book, but just as theology. God created the world (universe) and all that is in it; this over and above any other religions or non-religious view of how the universe and life came to be.

Issues – None with science (other than those adamant that there is not God, but that is not our focus here, very few people actually doubt a god/higher power of some sort). From theological perspective, as mentioned above, occasionally, you run into Christians who are militant about the YEC view. However, as I’ve shown, this was at most ever, the plurality view (but was always close enough that theologians for 1900 years have had to discuss). The early church (I believe) over allegoricalized all of Genesis (a mistake, I believe, as we have indicators such as ‘this is the account’ and the various view of the NT writers), when just the ‘primordial’ or ‘pre-history’ of 1-11 is truly in dispute.

The issue of Adam. I’ll admit this is the stickiest point. Though, maybe that is due to my individual upbringing. Again, the early church say most of Genesis as allegory (again, again, not my view, I support ‘theological history’), yet, as with Augustine (but to be fair, his mentor Ambrose, did no share his view), did not have an issue with original sin. These early fathers, as well as our non-Protestant brothers today, do not see an issue of whether Adam was real or not (but not ‘non-existent’, more of whether he was ‘chosen’ or archetypal [representative]’). As a broad theological concept (my personal views below), we need to remember that we don’t sin because Adam sinned. I didn’t inherit, from Adam, some deformed gene, that caused me to sin. I sinned (and continue to sin) because I am a sinner, and because humans are flawed individuals who fail to keep God’s standards. This isn’t genetic, this is a component of what it is to be created and not the Creator.

I think this view is hard for people. I get it, I really do; I’ve been there. It appears that you are synthesizing the Bible with science. Hopefully, I’ve shown that to not be the case, that the issue of interpretation is actually quite old. Honestly, though, the hard part is learning. It is studying, and thinking about ancient cosmology, early and modern hermeneutics. It is thinking about what Moses (who I believe gave us the first five books of the Bible) and Paul (I accept every book attributed to him) thought about history and cosmology, and how those may differ from the modern concepts, yet our theology is the same (God is the creator and sustainer of all that ever existed, exists, ever will exist). It is hard because we read in modern English (though so did Warfield and Hodge, among even more modern theologians), while Luther read German and Greek/Hebrew, Calvin new French, wrote in Latin, read Greek/Hebrew, Augustine only Latin, Paul had Greek and Hebrew, Moses only Hebrew.

As Modern American Evangelical Individualist, we want to believe that we can open our Bibles and simple walk away with the clear/plain/simple meaning, but that belies the history/language/genres/complexity of the Bible. I believe in the perspicuity of Scripture for salvation, but let’s remember in Peter (in the Bible) says that Paul’s writing are hard to understand. That is why I believe that careful study of the Bible is essential for modern Evangelicals (more below).

Other Views(ish)
I feel (hope), I’ve given a faithful overview of the different perspectives on Creation. There are a few more, which I figured I’d shortly address, though they lack (or are incorporated in) the depth of the views above.

Theistic/Deistic Evolution – This is more or less consistent with Evolutionary Creationism, but without the God of the Bible/Christianity aspect. I’d add Jewish people and (most) Muslims (though some would fall more into an ‘Old Earth’ but no evolution view) in this view as their interpretation is Genesis 1-3 would be viewed the same, but we don’t view God (Trinity, Resurrection of Christ, etc) the same. Also, I did read about agnostic evolution, which essentially accepts all science and says whether or not a deity exists or was involved is irrelevant.

Intelligent Design – I didn’t include this as separate view above, as some books have, because it actually incorporates all views above (except for Agnostic). Their guiding principle is that science can’t tell us everything, and that God was active in creation and evolution (if the person support evolution). I feel like the term is often just used for ‘creationist’ but it is actually a distinct and diverse group/movement.

Creation Doesn’t Exist – God doesn’t exist/isn’t involved. The universe was created by the Big Bang (though we don’t know how that happened) and then evolution created all life (though we don’t know how it moved from inorganic to organic life).

My View
As you have likely deciphered, I am neither YEC or OEC. I am more sensitive to OEC, because in all honestly I can’t rule out the specific special creation of Adam and Eve, thought I doubt that is the most likely. I struggle with YEC. I try to accomodate and be faithful to their beliefs, but they often (there are certainly exceptions as the video I will link in a week or so will show) antagonist and militant. Likewise, they make claims (forget science for the moment) that are demonstrability false. There is clearly a broad arrange of views, all of which (if supported with thought) should carry some weight. I’m given to understand that roughly half of the Elders of my church of YEC. While I personally disagree, I have no doubts in these men having the ability to study the Scripture for themselves, while being magnanimous towards other view.

So, all that to say, I support old Earth (clearly) and generally support Evolution. The science is there for it all, but I can’t full rule out (though again, not my main view) the idea of a special creation for Adam and Eve. I view Genesis 1-11 as historical theology. It is real but it is not historicity, as we know it as modern westerners. I know that God created the Universe (we are not an unexplained accident) and through His laws, with His providence, we became humans as we know it. As for Adam and Eve, I think they were specifically chosen, representative people (likely neo-lithic) that God separated as the first of those He would call and would be our history (we have Father Abraham without being his literal, genetic descendants).

As for Paul, in Roman, who call Jesus the second Adam, I do believe there is a categorical issue here. Supposedly, some atheist/agnostics struggle with the fact that Jesus calls Jonah’s captor a fish, while the OT calls it a whale. My question is, what did you expect Jesus to do? Was He supposed to have a side note lesson on taxonomy? Was He supposed to point out to fishermen that though they called everything in water fish (we still refer to lobsters, crab, etc. as ‘shell’ fish, though they aren’t fish) some weren’t? That some were actually mammals? You are really missing the point, if you are looking for pure science here (again, as modern westerners know it, who’s to say that all animals that live in water aren’t one category, while all those on land are another?).

While I believe Adam and Eve were real, I don’t expect that, if they weren’t, it would have been Paul’s job to fix our understanding. Again, the issue here is Theology, specially, the theology of the Cross, the Atonement, the Propitiation of our sins; none of these really have much to say about ancient cosmology. Maybe you are thinking, well, then, it doesn’t matter, but see below.

The overall point, from my perspective, is that the ancients, the early church, the Reformation church, and the church in our modern times all have different views of science and history and what the world means. We have words for which some do not even have concepts, and I think that matters when we consider these issues. However, we are all in agreement that God (the Father) created (with the Son and Holy Spirit) the world, He gave us the Law, he intervened in history (likely to a great and much older extent than we know), He sent His Son, who lived a perfect life, died for us, we were accounted his righteousness, He rose again and was ascended to the right hand of the Father, whom sent the Holy Spirit. That’s where we are today. We know that Christ is only way, and we shouldn’t attack other Christian with whom we share this belief. I know that some are happy to point out that even ‘evolutionist’ question some aspects of evolution. First, that is how science works. Second, none of them reject evolution. Surely, we, who believe in Christ, can find unity to answers those who say that there is no god, instead of eating our own, bones and all.

What it Matters
This is a Biblical Interpretation issue, not a salvation one. I believe that a Christian can hold any of these views and be a faithful believer. This is not what people call a ‘primary issue’, most pastors/theologians would say it is tertiary, though I would actually say it is secondary. I don’t want people fighting or splitting churches over it, but I do think people should care. I polled (informally) about 10 people to get their views, and all but one said tried to hold both young-earth and science in tension together. They essentially said that they believed in science, but also read the Bible ‘simply’, but (and this is the worst part), didn’t really think much of it, because it doesn’t matter all that much.

Just from an intellectual stand-point, that is some serious cognitive dissonance. From Biblical view it is certainly far from ‘mediate on your laws day and night’, ‘give a defense of what you believe’, and the accounts of Paul and the Apostles ‘reasoning with’ non-believers.

Again, I get it, it is not a salvation issue, but honestly, sit and think, can you claim to take the Bible seriously, can you claim you want to study the Word and really know it, if you don’t even understand/try to understand/or form opinions on the opening chapters? I’d say no. There is no excuse for lack of Bible study if you consider yourself a Christian who is serious about the Bible. I’ll preface this with the fact that in is really intended for people like me, middle and upper middle class families, whom are educated and have no material needs unmet: you have no material needs and are educated. There is no reason not to pick up a commentary or at least an ‘expensive’ study Bible.

People don’t like this, but it is honestly insulting to those that came before us that we have so much information and study materials at hand, and neglect them all. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a Bible from my great-granddad, who was a Pentecostal preacher. He bought it 100 years ago (1920), and I have the original receipt. According to the BLS inflation calculator, it cost him about $130 in his time, and he was a dirt farmer/preacher who never had indoor plumbing until later in life when he retire (50’s, I believe), and never owned a TV. Forget study Bible notes, his Bible didn’t even have cross references, let alone footnotes. Let us not forget the people who were literally killed for printing the Bible in the common language. We have more access now than ever before, and honestly, we seem to just not care. End rant; but you really should know your Bible, and what you believe about it (to some extent) and why.

I’ll start with a few website/thinktanks/groups:
Though I can’t really recommend Ken Ham (due to his like of charity or understanding), here is the preeminent YEC group –
For the middle view (OEC) –
For Evolutionary Creationist –
For the Intelligent Design movement –

For commentaries*, I pretty much only use those recommended by Piper and Sproul (or the Gospel Coalition), they are typically written by professors at conservative Evangelical seminaries (as listed above). I’ll note that none support YEC, and they are maybe 60/40 on support of Evolution:
New Bible Commentary (I have a special affinity of this commentary as I have the the ’21ist Century Version’, but I inherited the original [circa 1970’s] from my Granddaddy, who use it for teaching his Sunday School class of 40 years. Coincidentally, it is edited by big Evangelical names like Carson and Piper calls it the best over one-volume commentary that exist).
Expositors Bible Commentary
Word Biblical Commentary (one of the more technical ones, but fully Evangelical).
Tyndall Commentary
Commentary on Genesis by Wendham and Zondervan (also technical, but Evangelical).
Broadmen Bible Commentary (official Commentary of the SBC)

Systematic Theologies* that are helpful in the ‘Anthropology’ and ‘Sin’ Categories (again, could not find any support for YEC; either predated or mixed on Evolution):
Systematic Theology by Hodge
Systematic Theology by Grudem
Christian Theology by Erickson

Books that review reading/hermeneutics or issues in Genesis (either 1-11 or more broadly), again, these are only conservative Apostles Creed supporting protestants (I’m unclear if Enns still considers himself Evangelical due to the determinant of the current political climate, though he was a professor at Westminster, the premier modern Reformed Evangelical Seminary):
Collins – The Language of God (written by the guy that headed the Human Genome Project, also a born-again, Evangelical Christian).
Enns – Evolution of Adam and Inspiration and Incarnation
Longmen – How to Read Genesis and Controversies in the Old Testament (my review)
Couner Point Series – Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (my review) and Four Views on the Historical Adam (my review).

Study Bibles (again, no clear YEC*):
Reformation Study Bible (GE Sproul)
ESV Study Bible (GE Grudem)
Biblical Theological Study Bible (GE DA Carson)
The New Oxford Annotated Study Bible (to be fair, moderate to liberal, but it is the study Bible of people who care in Anglican and Catholic views).
I read no moderate/progressive ‘study Bibles’, and ‘liberal’ study Bible do not exist as liberals do not study the Bible as such (personal growth).

* I want to make it clear, none of these view are completely inline, nor do they reflect my specific view of everything. My point is that YEC is fairly unattested to in the academic literate (again, only considering the conservative, Evangelical, mostly reformed professors, think all the SBC’s, all the RTS’s, and Westminster/WSCAL). These are works that should make you consider what you believe, in light of the scholarship of true believers, outside of ‘scientific literature’. This is more important than science, this is our understanding of the Bible.

Covid Thoughts: Masks

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, what Sundays and at home worship looked like, and about spending time with my daughter (there is also a follow up if you want to hear her playlist). Today, I have a few quick thoughts about wearing masks. This wasn’t originally going to be its own post, but just a bullet point in the miscellaneous posts I’ve had ongoing to be published at the (hopefully near) end. I’m writing this May 22, which is the end of Week 9 of quarantine (as I count it). A few weeks ago, the idea of wearing a mask was fairly common place, but now, almost certainly fomented by Russian bots, it is a divisive issue. As unfortunately often happens, Fox News conspiracies spill over into ‘opinion’ within the church, so that, now, masks have become an point of contention in churches returning to in person service. I’ll come back to that, but first my original masks thoughts, why there is(was) legitimate confusion, why I decided to write more (a terrible article I read), and how I think churches should respond.

Masks are terrible. They are incredible annoying to wear, I have way more respect for the healthcare works and others who have to wear them all day. Around Week 2 of everything the CDC was still saying we didn’t need to wear masks. Their reasoning was based on flu research, and the fact that most people wear them incorrectly, and the concern that wearing a masks would cause you to touch your face more. I was actually discussing this with a neighbor the day before they changed their recommendation (she was thinking of wearing one to the grocery store). The few trips I had made to the store, I just wore gloves, as did most people (though a few wore masks), and we cleaned and wiped down everything we brought into the house.


However, the next week I followed the revised guidelines to go to the store. Interestingly, they have since stated not to wear gloves (not because they are ineffective, but due to the false sense of security and people are now not washing/cleaning their hands; and touching their face/adjusting their masks with the gloved hands). I was slightly early in adopting wearing one (not yet half the people at the store had them). I didn’t actually have a true masks. I had originally planned to wear the particle masks you might wear when painting or when cutting the grass (I don’t have allergies, but when we are in a drought it gets quite dusty), however we didn’t have any more in the garage and I was certain the hardware store would be out, so I wore the next best thing I had, a fishing buff. It is light and fairly comfortable, making it easy to wear. Here is a picture of me heading to get groceries new the end of Week 3 (I’m hold sanitation wipes and a grocery list).

A week or so later, masks became seemingly ubiquitous, almost everyone at the store had on (which made most people stop wearing gloves). Articles about how to wear them popped up on most news site; informing me that the buff wasn’t a good idea. Homemade masks proliferated, and my work even provided most of us with our own masks. Unfortunately, they were all mediums, which fit perfectly, in some sense, and looked kind of cool (gave me a Sub Zero/Mortal Kombat look), except it was so fitted, that I couldn’t talk. That is more or less fine for running to the store, but was problematic for work. Luckily, Mrs. MMT’s mom randomly decided to send us a few masks she made her self.


This is a picture of me wearing a masks at a public meeting (held virtually, but there were other people in our conference room). It was a formal meeting, so I’m wearing a jacket, but also the masks. It was incredibly annoying. The meeting last almost four hours, with no break, in which I had to interact, talk, and read out loud, all while wearing this thing. On top of that, I need glasses for distance (such as looking at a screen across the room) and talking fogged them, making them almost useless to wear. This was taken Week 7, in which it was normal to wear these. People had homemade one with fun colors, or that matched their clothes, or (of course) your football team.

That all changed some time last week. It started with an article I saw someone post. This was from a respected Christian site, from a good writer, but it really bothered me and I was frustrated by where this was posted. It started off well enough, as brothers/sisters in Christ, we are going to have some differences in going back to in person church. Is it too soon or too late, or about right? How man people to let in at a time? These are serious issues, not just for church but for life in general. It is a true problem of economics versus public health. For instance, my state was the first and most reckless to open. I thought it was a bad idea, and may well still be, but it has been three weeks now and our hospitalizations/deaths (which have at three to four week lag) have been flat.

But then the article goes on to make an idiotic use of false equivalency, whether or not to wear a mask at church. Unlike the balance of health/economy, there is no balance here. The CDC recommends you should (though the WHO doesn’t recommend universal wearing) and has advice on how to wear and even make them, experts think it is important to do what we can, some even think that if 60% of people did we could end this thing. There is obviously a lot of confusion, especially as recommendations change and new data/studies come out. Even what I linked is about a month old, even more recent studies have shown the importance of wearing a mask, though it might no do a whole lot for you, it is about protecting others. Yet, even that leads to the idea that I protect you, you protect me. In the end, it does do more for you, just not directly. So, sure in some sense, the efficacy could be debated, or how it protects is misunderstood.

That isn’t what wasn’t the reason stated though, there was a quick thought of ‘living in fear.’ As in some people would think those wearing masks are afraid (despite the fact that you would be loving that person by protecting them from you, while they disrespected you and your family by being careless). Then, Mrs. MMT was talking to an old friend, and while this friend is often a walking Fox News talking point, her husband works at a hospital and a close relative has gone in and out of remission with cancer for over a decade. Her friend dropped the ‘living in fear’ line on her. Despite her husband wear masks and protective clothing all day, coming home, undressing in the garage, putting the clothes straight to the wash, and showering. Or the fact that her relative, and occasionally those around her, wear masks after chemo treatments due to her being immune-compromised.

I hopped on the cesspool that is twitter (which I typically just use for book reviews and sports) and found this talking point everywhere, including protesters comparing masks to slavery, rape, and of course Nazi’s. Apparently it is tyranny to not potentially cause people to die. This is really a fascinating and disturbing trend. I don’t crush a six pack then drive 100 miles an hour without a seatbelt because I ‘live in fear’. I didn’t vaccinate my children (even the anti-vaxx people don’t use ‘fear’ nonsense, they just don’t understand/reject science) because I ‘live in fear’. People don’t go through chemo or take medicine or wash their hands because they ‘live in fear’. These are all just practical, common sense ways of living life and protecting yourself and others. Also known as loving your neighbor. Jesus says, go the extra mile if someone ask you to go on and to give someone your coat also if they ask for a shirt. Are we seriously now saying, as Christians, that we won’t wear a piece of cloth on our face for an hour to protect our brothers and sisters and their families?

I wish that were more rhetorical, but the answer is clearly ‘no’. An issue in America is that both liberal and conservative ideologies continually end up with the ‘self’ (the individual) as the most important thing. As Christians we don’t believe this. We should be serving others, thinking of ourselves last. But right now, on my end in the conservative Christian world, we are saying ‘no’, ‘no, my individual rights and freedom and comfort are far more important than your well-being or the care of others’. As always, I’m too long winded and this is longer than I thought, so I’ll wrap up now. I was happy to hear from a few Catholics that I work with that their churches will be requiring masks when they open (could be a diocese thing) and that even my parents’s conservative SBC is asking for masks. I’m still not sure what my church will do, but I know if these are not part of the guidelines, I will not attend.





Lying In Public

I’ve tended to avoid politics recently on this site, especially after Trump’s take over of the Republican Party and a huge portion of American Protestantism. The posts tend to be some of the least read, but take the most time from me. What feedback I do receive is typically negative, people sending me stupid emails like ‘let me rebuke you in love’ then go on to not mention a single thing about what I wrote, or the challenge I received to list one part of the Democratic party’s platform that fits a Christian worldview (despite this person refusing to do the same for the Republican platform). I’m sure I will hear some of those this time (though all feedback is welcome), but I feel compelled to say something about the recent words of a very prominent theologian.

Al Mohler’s recent statement about his decision to vote for Trump in the coming election caught a lot of people by surprise. I was certainly shocked. You can read/watch Mohler’s own thoughts on Trump from 2016, in a piece called Evangelical Support of Trump Destroys Moral Credibility.  In it, he states that Trump is far worse a person than Bill Clinton and that character matters, going as far as saying he would have to pen an apology to Clinton for supporting his impeachment in the 90’s. Well, apparently now something has changed. Many have pointed his son in law now being part of the Trump administration, that would be disheartening, but ‘reasonable’ in some senses, at least. Jonathan Merritt says this is just what Mohler does, follow trends to stay in power. I remain a little skeptical of this, because it doesn’t sound like much that I’ve heard about him. Again, that would at least make a little sense. Mohler goes through a typical list of political items that he says come from his Biblical Worldview, I want to go through each of these, but again the question, has his worldview changed in four years? He says no, it is the Democratic Party platform that changed.  John Fea has some quick thoughts and David French probably has the best articles out there (read it over the rest of this, if you only have time for one).

I’ll give him credit for admitting that Trump is still a terrible person, he hasn’t changed. I do appreciate that honesty. I do find it somewhat ironic that he says he had no problem, no thought given to voting for Reagan in 1980. So, the guy that signed California’s no-fault divorce and legalized abortion. That guy, the first divorced president in U.S. history (Trump is only the second) was the ‘no-thought’ choice over a Sunday School teacher and member of Mohler’s own Southern Baptist Convention, so maybe this shouldn’t be surprising, but I digress. It is only surprising in so far as he was so staunchly against Trump four years ago and his stunning about face, with no real explanation. Except, again, vague notions against the DNC platform and then the infuriating statement that he doesn’t see how anyone with a Christian worldview wouldn’t vote for Trump. So, what are some of the issues.

I’ve written about this multiple times, so I won’t go much into it now, but for 40 years we’ve supposedly tried to overturn Roe, with no success, meanwhile abortions have fallen every year since the 80’s. While I do find it troubling when presidential candidates say that there is no place for pro-life in their party, or when a governor make a bizarre and painfully ironic declaration that elective abortions are ‘life-sustaining‘, I still do not believe Roe is going anywhere, nor do I believe overturning Roe is the most effective way to reduce abortions.

Transgender Revolution
This perhaps includes a few other LGBT issues, perhaps even a reference to gay marriage. I think the gay marriage issue is even more gone than abortion. Much like overturning Roe won’t end abortions, ending gay marriage won’t end, what, homosexual activity, I guess. As it is, less and less people are getting married and the divorce rate remains higher than other countries. I’d rather see us explain the importance and value of marriage than argue about who can or can’t. Lowering the cohabitation and divorce rates seem far more important. I haven’t written much about the Transgender issues, mostly because I struggle to understand them. Mohler talks about them somewhat frequently on his Podcast. I do think there are problems there, but I do not think this is as common or as supported as people seem to believe. I also think some of the ‘movement’ will collapse under the weight of their own logical inconsistency and/or fracture into other identity issues. Maybe, I’m too naive.

Religious Liberty
Granted, this one I do have some concern about, but I don’t actually believe it is split as nicely as ‘R’ for and ‘D’ against. Warren showed her ignorance of church membership make up and Beto took a last ditch effort as his campaign by supporting the end of tax benefits for Biblical based churches. Warren was quickly reminded that minorities, a huge constituency for Democrats, have higher church attendance or more Biblically based (conservative) views than whites. Even Buttigieg said Beto’s idea was dumb, and his campaign was over. It is essentially required that Democrats go to pander at black churches (just as Republicans are required to pander to white celebrity pastors). This alone makes me feel safe against any attacks on religious liberty (of actual religious institutions, I don’t care about bakeries).

Here’s the thing, even if I was scarred, is tying myself to Trump the answer? I don’t remember Paul or Peter ever giving money or using the pulpit to support the Roman emperor in hopes of ending persecution. To be clear, when you go all Karen on the kid at Target because he is required to say ‘Happy Holidays’ and no one supports you, it is because you are a dick, not because you are persecuted. Maybe I’ll write more on this later, but the Bible is filled verses about standing strong in the face of persecution, or rejoicing, or growing, but as far as I know, there is nothing about seeking political power through moral corruption to end your suffering. So, even if we end up with actual issues in my lifetime (which I do not believe will happen), our first call is to persevere, not worship the emperor.

Similarly to our focus on the importance of marriage, maybe if we were known for things like care for the sick, widowed, orphan, and those in prison, or maybe if we did a better job of loving our neighbor, our standing would be higher in society and we’d have the moral esteem to speak on issues. I’m not saying we should abandon the whole gospel for the truncated social gospel as the ‘mainline’ churches did 100 years ago, but it is important to remember that Roman emperors used to be annoyed because they wanted to get rid of us, but the people supported us due to our care for ‘even those not among them’.

Constitutional Interpretation 
He uses the seminary word, hermeneutics, but if you listen to his Podcast, you know he means ‘strict constructionist’ and is/was a big fan of Scalia. I would say this is an idiotic statement, but I believe Molher is quite intelligent, so he must just be disingenuous here. Strict interpretation is fine, tearing it up and starting again is fine, a more reasonable approach (say…amendments) is also fine. What none of them has is a singular Biblical basis. If anything, I’d say his view is the worst as it is dangerous for the president of the flagship seminary of America’s largest denomination to equate the Constitution with something that is perfect and immutable. It is almost blasphemous to me.


I think that is generally a summary of his main problems. I don’t really agree with him, as the past thousand words should show. I do think the DNC has a lot of problems, perhaps foremost is their staunch abortion support. It is unfortunate that this has become a litmus tests for their candidates and the main reason I’ll never be a Democrat. However, let’s not pretend the Republican platform is perfect.

I believe in fiscal discipline, something that has far more Biblical support than any of Mohler’s concerns for ‘liberty’ or constitutional issues. St. Ronnie gave us the first peacetime deficit, all so he could give the rich tax breaks (this also required new taxes on social security). Bush tried to tighten things and lost support because of it. Clinton gave us the only surplus in my lifetime. Bush pissed it away. Obama shrunk the deficit for seven years. Trump added a Trillion to it in just two years. (This was all before the very necessary spending to fight Covid that has added to the deficit). I’m alright with minor deficits, maybe 1% of GDP max, but that is outside the scope of this post. I think the reason for them matters as well. The reason for Trump’s Trillions was a tax cut for the rich, during a time of economic expansion, partly paid for through increases on families with children (don’t tell me you gave me a tax break by increasing the standard deduction, which I don’t use, by $12,000 and then removing $25,000 in personal exemptions). Unfortunately, most people struggle with math or are unaware of how taxes work. I tried not to be happy when lower middle and middle income Trump supporters ended up with a huge tax bill after the ‘cut’.

Likewise, the Republican platform just does not care about people or families. They oppose things like sick leave or maternity leave (we are one of about five countries depending on how you count it that does not have this), they have no interest in fixing the fact that we have the most expensive childcare, medical care, and education in the world. That is not a platform I support either. Senate leader McConnell recently fought for no oversight for 7/8 figure bonuses for CEOs of companies getting taxpayer money, but he is opposed to supporting states/cities getting money because some of that money may go to help retired firefighter, teachers, and nurses who worked their whole lives for it.

Finally, as a government employee, I am sick of the years and years I’ve seen Republicans attack, defund, undermine, and destroy public infrastructure, then turn around and say it doesn’t work. They are the proverbial kid on a bike that puts a stick through the spokes of the front wheel while riding, then complains the bike doesn’t work. That is also not a platform I support. I’m not even going to get started on Trump, the man who disbanded the Pandemic Response team, decided not to open enrollment in the ACA so that people who have lost their jobs can get healthcare, and who suggested maybe we could inject bleach (with our doctors) to fight Covid-19. Neither parties have platforms I can support, so I focus on people and if you were trying to make up someone, I’m not sure you could some up with someone as bad as Trump (who has also stated that he has never done anything wrong, so he’s never needed to ask God for forgiveness, and received 81% of the white Evangelical vote).

I could go on with his issues, but I won’t. I just want a competent president, one that understands basic math, science, history, or politics. I’d like one that was at least somewhat moral, a ‘decent’ person by society standards (as a Christian, I don’t believe anybody is ‘good’). We just could not be further than this with Trump. Mohler disagrees, I still don’t buy what he is saying. None of the issues have changed much recently. He is a smart man, so I do not believe he has been tricked, nor do I believe his views have changed. I fear he is more concerned with political power and to state that his view is the only Biblical worldview is him just lying in public.

Edit – I spent the majority of my Christian life in SBC churches, taking classes at SBC seminaries, and even had hopes of one day attending Mohler’s own Southern Seminary for PhD work. I do not currently attend an SBC church, but when the topic of our church joining a denomination comes up, I push for SBC. I am subscribed to Mohler’s podcast and have read many of his articles. However, this is just too much, and if he somehow becomes president of the SBC next year, I think it will permanently damage them. I certainly could not support them the same way.


Covid Thoughts: Sundays and At Home Worship

Recently I started writing down thoughts and events that are happening during the Pandemic. Then I read a story at the NY Times about Why You Should Start a Coronavirus Diary. So, I’m breaking out a little of what I had written into categories and then expanding a bit. I usually write book reviews, or try to have solid content on Theology or Biblical Studies, or even occasionally wade into how I think a Biblical Worldview should influence political thought, but I had never really thought about just writing down in Journal format (with one exception). This is somewhat ironic, as the word blog is a portmanteau of Web and Log (diary).

I’m a putting it all into one word doc and saving maybe for my future grandkids or something, to understand the day to day, from our families view, of what life is like right now. I’m posting it here, in case anyone else finds it interesting or relates. We are also interviewing Sprout in video form, maybe for her grandkids, so she can say in her own words what life is like dealing with the ‘sickness’. I was fixing our neighbors fence about an hour ago and she told me the world is no fun right now. Obviously, I won’t post a video of her here, but I’d recommend if you haven’t heard of that idea yet, to record a few quick thoughts of your kids, or even yourself, you should give it a try.

I shared recently what it was like trying to find rhythm, which was excluded what Sundays and at home worship looked like, so I’ll do that today.

Before the quarantine, we typically left for church around 9:15 and returned home around noon, ate lunch, then had community group at 1:00, which usually lasted to 3-3:30 depending on how things went. We do a rotation of group, then just the girls, then group, then guys, with the fifth Sunday either being off or a party.

We were one Sunday into Meaning of Marriage, so when our church made the decision to go online for service on March 15, it worked out well, because it was going to be the girls meeting. So, we switched to a video call for the girls, figuring we’d do guys the next week, and then maybe we’d be meeting again in person. That obviously hasn’t happened, as I write this on April 25, tomorrow will be the seventh straight week of not meeting in person. Our new rhythm is rotating girl/guys video call, as I didn’t think we’d be able to really have a discussion as a group over video. This also means the ‘meetings’ have been shorter, usually only about an hour.

So now our days look something like this: sleep as late as the Nuggets will allow us (usually 6:30-7:00), have breakfast and hang out as a family: 9ish Nuggets go down for a nap (though tomorrow we’ll try to push them a little so they will sleep through service), Mrs. MMT and Sprout clean the house while I read or do some other chore; Service is at 10:00 more on that below; 11:00 Nuggets are usually up and service is over, go for a Bottle Walk (in which we’ve run into our pastor a few times, because he wishes he could live in this neighborhood) and then eat lunch before the call at 1:00; Glorious Quiet Time from 2:00 to 3:30, then another Bottle Walk, then just hang out before dinner, family devotional and bedtime.

We have much more time with our immediate family, but no time with our community group or church family (except those that live in this neighborhood).

At home worship has been…interesting. The first Sunday (March 15) did not go as planned. Our church decided to do a Zoom Webinar where the lead pastor would make announcements from his home, our adjunct preacher would give a short message from his home, the Chair of the Elder Board would give the (previously scheduled) update from his home, and then Mrs. MMT was tapped to sing a few songs and play the piano. As we had announcements and the service was only going to be an hour, she was going to sing two songs between announcements and the sermon, and then one at the end while people took communion at home.

We spent almost two hours the day before doing a run through, testing lighting and testing a microphone to see what would pick up the best, and how people could hear both her and the piano well. Then Sunday came. She starts the first song, and about a minute into it, Zoom drops us. We wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t had my phone also running as a participant. Our pastor comes back on to say we’ve been dropped and gets ready to move us to the sermon, but then we are back on. Obviously, just some glitch, so she starts the song again. Then, about a minute into it, Zoom drops us again. Both of our phones are blowing up with texts. Hers was from her friends with words of encouragement such as ‘so sorry, I know how hard you prepped’ or ‘sounded beautiful while it lasted.’ I just had texts from jackasses with things like ‘get it together’ or people who apparently thought we didn’t have internet. Guys versus girls, right?

Anyway, we were on the phone with our lead pastor while the sermon was going on and decided that we’d try again, but with no video, in case it was bandwidth. So, she was still able to sing during communion, and it worked out pretty well. A few people took video and sent it to us. The next week, they decided to stream from our church building, but it was all at once, and the bandwidth couldn’t hold and many people either had a lag or the video dropped. Finally, the follow week (March 29), they split it into to streams at different times and there were no issues.

We’ve not had Sprout in service yet, so our at home worship was the first time she has been with us to sing songs or listen to the sermon. She sings as much as she can, and actually knows some of the hymns. Even if she doesn’t know the song, she tries to sing along because she enjoys it and considers herself a good singer. I find it difficult to sing, one because her cuteness make me laugh, but also Mrs. MMT is a trained singer and can sing out like normal, but be able to lower her volume. I cannot do that, so it is either me singing loudly, over the two of them, or me trying to turn the volume down, but that devolves to something like quite talking (somewhat) in tune. She also likes to sing the harmony, but unfortunately, I often don’t know the melody.

Sprout can’t quite make it through the sermon, despite it being shorted to the 15-20 minute range. So, we’ve given in and allow to her play on a tablet during the sermon, before the last few songs. I actually wish the sermons would be longer, if not back to the full length, but I understand trying to keep the whole service to an hour, plus I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to preach to an empty room (or one with four or five people). We don’t even make it through a whole service before we have to get the Nuggets, so I’d miss it either way. We take communion before a final song and the benediction. I know the in home communion is controversial (or even not allowed in some denominations), but our church does it every Sunday, so I appreciate attempting to keep that rhythm. (It feels a little weird opening a bottle of wine before 10:00 A.M., but if the pastor says so…) That is not to say that it is the same. It isn’t, and I miss going to place to worship with other people. I’ve already about worship during separation, while lacking, it is our only option.

Our church has also posted some kids worship videos. It is really geared for just over Sprout’s age, so it doesn’t work very well for us, but I have heard great things from people who have kids that age, that know the songs and movements with most of them. We’ll try them anyway, especially on rainy days when we can’t walk after service. This usually ends up with us watching other songs, typically Wolves at the gate.


That is Sprout dancing to one of the songs, in the other picture, we can just barely make out her Ukelele, while she plays along with the song, and, yes, those are maracas she brought so that the Nuggets can also join in the fun.

Sadly, Easter was spent at home. We did have a successful Zoom call with Mrs. MMT’s sister and family, her parents, and grandma. We had a fairly diasterious video call with our community group, which includes 14 adults and seven kids (all under five, with four less than a year old). Then a nice video chat with my parents before watching that opera guy sing from a church in Italy and having a huge Easter lunch.

So, that is about it. Sundays feel empty, compared to how we used to spend them. Worship is falling into place, but also lacking and a reminder of our call to be together, but we continue on and remember the anticipation our coming reunion with our brothers and sisters, and our future hope of worship with all Christians together with Christ, forever.


Easter 2020

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Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

The Resurrection

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Good Friday 2020

It is Good Friday today, just as a reminder to anyone out there, like me, who is struggling to keep up with which day it is. It doesn’t feel like Good Friday, mostly because nothing feels the way it should right now. Hopefully, your church is finding a way to record or broadcast something. If not, feel free to check out mine – Roswell Church (a bonus is, you’ll get to hear Mrs. MMT sing). More specifically, nothing feels right because of the quarantine (I guess it is officially shelter in place), and the pain that comes from that is the separation; separation from friends, family, activities, some of us are even missing work. I’ve been thinking a good bit about separation as it relates to Good Friday, and wanted to offer a few thoughts. It is a sad, lonely, frustrating, and hard time, but with apologies to John Piper – don’t waste your separation.

Remember that the Son was separated from the Father. For all of eternity, before the creation of time, and before the universe as we know it existed, there was the Triune communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This was the perfect existence of God, lacking nothing. However, the Son would empty Himself (not of his Divinity, but of His willingness to exercise authority) and take the form of a man, the man Jesus. At the end of His ministry, He was crucified, which is what we remember on Good Friday. While on the cross, He took our sin on to Himself, and in the eyes of the Father replaced our sin with His righteousness. However, the Father could not look upon the Son with this sin, and the Son experienced separation from the Trinity and the wrath of God. Separation from God is the definition of Hell. So the Son, who had spent an infinite amount of time with the Father, gave that up to bear our sins, to take our punishment, to experience Hell, so that we would not. Think about that separation today.

Remember that we are now no longer separated from the presence God. There was even more that happened on the cross. We are told that the veil in the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. In the temple, which already had requirements to enter, that was a veil that separated an area called the Holy of Holies, that only the High Priest could enter, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement to office a sacrifice. But now, the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, was made. The veil (our separation from the presence) was taken away. We no longer need a High Priest, but through Christ, our Great High Priest, we can go directly to the Father. This is why we now have the opportunity to pray every day to God and ask forgiveness for our sins. We no longer need some intermediary, but can go directly to God. Think about the removal of that separation today.

Remember that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Thematically, you aren’t supposed to talk about the happy ending on Good Friday, that is supposed to wait until Easter (spoiler alert: Christ conquered death, rose again, that one day we shall do likewise), but I’m only pretend writer, so it is alright. But in remembering our current situation, our state of separation from society, it is important to remember that in some way it doesn’t matter. It is awful, but it is temporary. Thinking eternally,  we will be reunited with friends and family, and be in the perfect presence of God. For now, even as we wait, nothing can separate us from God’s love. Think about that today, and be reassured by these words from Romans 8:

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”


37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is Still Lent

Believe it or not, it is still Lent. Everything seems to have gone to the wayside, due to Pandemic, but it is important to remember. Not necessarily Lent, as most people know it, but Good Friday next Friday and, of course, Easter Sunday. I’ve written some thoughts on Lent before, because it has always been a little odd to me. Some people hate it and don’t do it because the Bible doesn’t say we have to, others do it, because their Church says they have to. I don’t always participate, because I feel as if I am not ‘doing it right’. But it should at least be a reflective time. I time to think about our own brokenness and remember of what Christ experienced our punishment for us.

This included being separated from God. Right now, while we are all separated from most everyone and everything, and we are all too aware of the brokenness of the world, it is just that much more important to focus on the Cross and especially the Resurrection. It should point us to our future hope, when there will be no more pain and suffering, no more death, and no more separation. This is a good Lenten practice anyway, but with so much going on right on, I pray everyone is remembering where we can find hope and that that can bring come level of comfort during this time.

Thoughts on Covid-19, Quarantine, and Community

I suppose it was inevitable that I would write something about all that is going on. I wanted to get back to posting my reviews and some other thoughts, but it seems impossible to get Covid-19 off your mind, especially after having remote church service again yesterday.

Providentially, perhaps, I was reading part of Psalm 42 yesterday. Psalm 42 & 43 were likely originally one but were broken up at some point for an unknown reason. The psalm is a pretty well-known one, it is where we get the song ‘as the deer pant(eth) for the water.’ It is not written by David, but by the Sons of Korah (or Korathites), yet it is often attributed to David as a prayer and during a when he is away from the temple, possibly when he was hiding from Absalom. Some modern critics, of course, give no attribution to David, but what is not in dispute is we have a man who is not in Jerusalem, and is longing to be back so that he can worship God.

Because of the work of Christ on the cross, we no longer need a temple or priest or anything else to worship God. We can go directly to God with our prayers, songs, praise and lemants. However, when we are seperated from our community of worship, as we have been the past few weeks, there is a sense of loss. The psalm is in three stanzas, each ending with –

Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

It struck me how I do long to praise him again, in community, with other believers and friends at our church home. Again, we can all sing and praise God on our own, in our homes, as we have been doing. But I think it is important to remember that it is still lacking, something is missing, it just isn’t the same. Pastors can ask their congregants to post pictures of their families singing and taking communion together, and that helps, but we must acknowledge the longing. We miss some aspects of God that He reveals to us in and through community and taking communion together. So, I feel that deeply right now, that as a deer longs for streams of water, I long to worship again in community.

This time of longing should also remind us of future hope. That one day in the new Earth we will have perfect communion, all believers worship together, before God himself. We need to remember, always, that one day perfection will come and all the feelings of missing and lacking will be no more.

While it isn’t as enjoyable, please remember we are all ‘social distancing’ for the good of others. This is loving your neighbor. It is important to remember that no matter how inconvenient it is to be stuck in your house, it is far less of a pain than being hospitalized or seeing a loved one on a ventilator. It is a sacrifice for us, but Christians should not be scared to love others in this way. Another thing to remember is that while you may be able to work from home (which, again, is quite inconvenient) others may have no work at all.

Ask your pastors or community group leaders if they know of someone in your community in need, someone who has not received a paycheck in a week or who may not receive one in the next few weeks. I’d challenge everyone to personally decide if the need all (or any) of the stimulus money they are receiving in a few weeks. Maybe you need to shore up your own emergency fund first, but if you are still receiving your regular paycheck, consider giving most or all of it to your Church to be distributed to those who really need it. This wouldn’t be the first time Christians did this (see Acts, Galatians, etc. in the New Testament) and is unlikely it will be the last.

Also, keep in touch with your community and your actual neighbors. Maybe some are old or immunocompromised and cannot go out to the grocery store or to the pharmacy. This should be a time of Christians being once again known for charity in the community.

Remember, too, that while it is annoying, staying at home will help. In a month or so when rates are (hopefully) dropping, let’s remember not to look back and see it was all for nothing, that not that many people were impacted. It will be because of the actions we took to slow the spread, that the rates will decline. As a population, it is hard to see counterfactuals, something that cannot be proven. It is easy to see rates drop and be flippant, but it is because they are actually effective measures that are taken. It is a good reminder that the original vaccine was for Cow Pox (vaccine roughly means ‘no cow’ in Latin) and it took only a single generation before we have the original anti-vaxxers, people who questions the use of vaccines (and this was over 300 years ago). Of course, we still have these problem today, such as the measles outbreak last fall, a disease that was eradicated in the US 20 years ago.

Finally, look for the good where you can. Sure, maybe your babies are crying during communion, but maybe you also have the opportunity to talk with your other children about the significance of communion or what it means to be baptised. Our daughter is too young to attend service at our church regularly, but now she watches it with us. And she loves to sing, whether she knows the words or not. If she doesn’t, sometimes we laugh as she pretends she does. Or yesterday, there was a song she did know – It is Well – which is quite significant to us and so she sings and you wish you had closed the windows because no the pollen is getting to you and making your eyes water. Maybe like us, you have tried to keep your community group going by video conference. It isn’t always the best, and soon all men will have only two hairstyle – buzz cut and hat – but it is good to see everyone and at least check in on each other.

So, keep connected, everyone, we will be together eventually. Admit that longing to be together again. Remember that we are in a fallen broken world, but will live on day perfectly, together. Hope in God.

Book Review: Faith for This Moment

Faith for This Moment

My Rating – Must read

Level – Quick, easy read

The premise of the book is that the US has changed, we are now a post-Christian nation, and so the question that we currently face is, what do we do about it? He points to a turning point (this moment) in his life, and one he thinks had a larger effect on the nation. To him, things changed after the Pulse nightclub shooting back in 2016. He specifically mentions an NPR interview with a local Orlando pastor, who has asked ‘how do Evangelicals respond to his crisis when it is clear politically that Evangelicals are anti-gay and pro-gun.’ Apparently the pastor had no answer. I suppose you could quibble with the anti-gay statement, but perception can become reality, a notion only made stronger with the 81% support of (self identified) Evangelicals for President Trump.

After the Intro, where he points out how proudly nonreligious Portland is, McKinley spends his first chapter discussing this moment as well as other broader trends in US culture. The following 12 chapters answer his question of what to do now. He compares modern Christians in America to ancient Jews in Babylon. That is to saw, we are exiles, which means that we will not fit nicely in to current norms of society. He challenges us to embrace this notion and spends a few chapters each on things like giving, Sabbath, vocation, and hospitality which on the one hand will will differentiate us even further, but on the other, are all commands from God for us to follow.

My Thoughts
I was originally going to rate this book a little lower, but as I wrote the summary, it made me realize how potentially important this book could be; if for nothing else than an intro into thinking about ourselves differently. In the age of political Christianity, where a large number of self described conservatives look solely to government for their source of comfort and strength, McKinley challenges the efficacy of these practices. On page 24 he states, ‘from gay marriage to gun control, these efforts have backfired.’ He goes on to point out the ways in which this is true as well as the lasting impact of the ‘Culture Wars.’ He comes back to this in a later chapter and discusses the fact that our efforts have gone here instead of teaching people the Bible and for this reason, ‘people have put down the Bible, and picked up self-help books.’ He doesn’t discuss this idea too much further but the sad fact is that this has had a double impact as self-help and inward, selfish focus have come back around and are now effecting the church more than the Bible.

A final thought I liked as he challenges political Christianity is in his chapter titled ‘Babylon.’ He discusses empires and the power of nations and reminds us that in the Bible the might nations (Babylon, Assyria, Egypt), where never the good guys. Instead, they were used, by God, to punish his people. This should make every Christian, especially those of us who pursue political power for the sake of Christ, to stop and think for a few moments. I think his challenge to Christian norms of political power might alone be worth reading the book, but if not (or if you are already there) the remainder of the book serves as a valuable intro practices that will help us live out our life in exile.

Many Christians haven’t even heard of some of the practices he touches (mentioned above), and certainly only a few really follow them well. Vocation might be the trickiest topic, especially for a generation who’s idea of career has become so converted. There are many other books to dive deeper into this topic if your interest was piqued. His strongest chapters were on hospitality, some Christians probably fail at most, and Sabbath. Really focusing in on Sabbath and rest and separation is cultural norms is an idea regaining prominence recently; I’ve seen few different books dive a little into it.

My only critique, really, is that the intro was too short. As someone born and raised in the South, I would’ve liked to hear a little more about the life of a Christian on the other end of the spectrum, the Pacific Northwest. Overall, I think it is an interesting, if short, book that hits on some big topics, from our interaction with our current moment, the concept of exile, and reforming some of the ancient practices of God’s people. The breadth of ideas and challenge of this book make it a must read.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Practicing the King’s Economy

Practicing the King’s Economy: Honoring Jesus in How We Work, Earn, Spend, Save, and Give

My Rating- Must Read

Level – Easy read, medium length

The book basically tries to answer the question of what would it look like if we worked, ran businesses, spent money/time, and gave money/time in a way that was entirely shaped by a Biblical World View. After the intro the book is broken into 12 chapters that are based on the six ‘keys’ to practicing ‘the King’s Economy’. One chapter will introduce the key and the next is a shorter chapter that gives examples of how that key works in the real life, with examples of people/organizations that the authors know.

The six keys are – Worship, this is about who we worship. Is it God or money and how does that look in the way that we give. Community, the focus here is about having a broad community of all types of people, particularly those from different economic classes. Work, why do we work and what is the point of work? Also, what does the Old Testament concept of ‘gleaning’ look like in a modern world? Equity, based on the command that their be no poor among us, this isn’t necessarily just about making sure everyone has money, but that every one has a job and kind provide for themselves (or help to give to others), even further, it is about making sure that those jobs are enough. Creation Care, this is about environmental stewardship. Finally, Rest, and this is a call to bring back the practice of Sabbath.

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed this book. It was probably the most thought provoking and in some way challenging book I’ve read in a long time. Sadly, it isn’t often you read a book targeted at a popular Christian audience that makes you think, even rarely does one challenge the way you should live.

I’ll get the two nit-picky things I didn’t like out of the way first. I didn’t really like the intro, and this was due to their misuse of stats that is a pet peeve of mine. In the intro, they are trying to show that we are richer now than ever, but more unhappy. Unfortunately, they use GDP per capita, which is a useless statistic, because it ignores income inequality and the fact that middle classes wages have been stagnant for decades. It also ignores cost like tuition and healthcare that have risen more rapidly than anything else. However, I don’t disagree with their premise, if nothing else, we are at least more materialistic than ever and constantly surround ourselves with distraction. Second, and I think this is more on the editors or publisher, they only ever refer to Jesus as King Jesus, and this is done to reiterate the title, and it is just awkward and I wish authors/editors wouldn’t do that.

No back to the good part, if you are modern American Christian, especially on the conservative or Republican side, this book will be a challenge. I’d suspect many hardcore Republican’s won’t finish this book as it challenge the assumption that making money is the most important thing in life. It also encourages people to pay living wages, which Republicans generally oppose vehemently. Of course, there are aspects that all sides of the political spectrum will like and dislike, which is a great reminder that neither political party works from a Biblical worldview and we ought not act like they do.

The first chapter, about putting God first and showing that by how we give should challenge the way we all handle money. American’s like to think of ourselves as generous, but in reality we give about 2.5% of income. The Community, Equity, and Rest were interesting chapters that should make you think, and if you take take it seriously, will affect your life. And of course, it should right? The Bible calls us to be different, and especially the chapters on Community and Rest are reminders of just how different we should look. The Creation Care chapter was good and I agree with all of it, I’m a big advocate of environmental stewardship. However, it was probably the weakest on a Biblical basis, and I’m not entirely sure it fit well with the rest of the book.

The best chapter, and worth the price of the book alone, is the Work chapter. For one, many of us, especially white-collar workers who have a lot of options, struggle with what work should look like in out lives, but the crazy part is gleaning. In the Old Testament, the Jews were not allowed to fully harvest their own fields. God required that they leave the edges unpicked so that the poor, widows, orphans, and foreigners would have something that they could eat. Obviously, we are not a majority subsistence agricultural community anymore. So the authors dive into what it could look like and the ideas are fascinating and in some ways pretty radical to the way we view life in America.

I don’t necessarily agree with some of their options, or at least the way that they would work out in most places, but they are thought provoking nonetheless. It is certainly something I’ve never thought about before, but it has been on my mind sense I finished the book a few weeks ago. If you really want to be challenged and forced to think and try to rethink the way we view the economy today, and how we should view it as as Christians, this is a book for you. It is probably my favorite so far of 2018, and is definitely a  must read book.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.