On Inerrancy and Literal Interpretation.

A while ago, I wrote a review on Five View on Biblical Inerrancy, which is a book I cannot recommend enough. It had been on my list for quite some time, and I just never got around to it. I really wish I had read it earlier, because the mainstream Evangelical framework for reading the Bible is shaped by Inerrancy far more than you may think. It isn’t even really just inerrancy, but instead, the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. The issue with this statement is that it isn’t as natural as it appears to be, and doesn’t just defend the Bible, it pushes a very specific hermeneutic framework and interpretation. Specifically, what some call ‘literalistic’ or ‘literalism’. This is the overly literal view of scripture, that is taking it ‘literally’ even when the text may not call for it. 

That was the defensive cry I heard most of my Christian life, ‘I take the Bible literally.’ It was supposed to be a short, definitive statement about your Biblical beliefs. I certainly took the statement seriously, but it wasn’t until I was probably 30 that a pastor asked me, ‘how do you take poetry literally?’. Depending on how you count it, between a quarter and a third (or even more) of the Bible is poetry. I had never really thought about that; and of course, most of the poetry is in the Old Testament, which is usually skimmed or skipped by Evangelicals. 

It seems that the fight over ‘literal’ mostly comes as a response to the overwhelming evidence of the fact that the universe is billions of years old and that evolution is true. Some defenders of the Chicago statement, which is Mohler in the book, point out that the statement says, ‘rightly interpreted,’ which gives room for different interpretations of chapters/verses such as Genesis 1. However, it goes on to say that science cannot overturn scripture. I can’t think of a clearer signal to say, you must interpret Gen 1 (please don’t ask about Gen 2, which doesn’t match creation order of Gen 1) as straight literal than that. Mohler can act like a politician and point to the statement, but when see a book/article/podcast/video with something like this in the title- ‘are science and the Bible in conflict?’, you know exactly what they are talking about. So, embedded in the statement is the interpretive framework. For good reason, Mohler’s article was criticized by all the other authors for arguing inerrancy of his interpretation. 

But he wasn’t really wrong, in a sense, as he is only conveying the message of the statement. The issue for us today, is how the statement was used and pushed and trickled down to all of us in the pews, because it tied a particular view to inerrancy, and inerrancy was view as protecting the Bible, and even more so, God himself. As Mohler points out, when the Bible speaks, God speaks. This is absolutely true, I believe this, as do most Christians, but you can see through the simple flow of thought, that if you don’t interpret passages a certain way, then you don’t believe in God. It looks something like this: a particular interpretation – that interpretation as implied by the Statement – inerrancy as a concept – the writers who were inspired by God – God Himself speaking – the goodness, omnipotence, etc of God; so that a particular interpretation equals belief in God. I don’t know if this was the original intent of the authors of the statement or just how it ended up being abused. 

The damage of literalism cannot be overstated. It is something I really wish people cared more about, unfortunately, it often seems that people have to leave the Evangelical work entirely, before they can say much about it. Or maybe they left because of it, and then write about it. The biggest problem, is it really is fear based. Fear is a pretty big motivator for most people, but it appears to be the easiest way to get Evangelicals to move on something. We’ve seen this in politics, with devastating effect, for decades, but rapidly accelerated over the past five or so years. We see it in the attack on public school and education in general. But our fear for the Bible and God is not necessary. We can’t protect them, nor need we to do so. When we try, we end up putting them in small boxes of protection that leads us to weak faith. 

Fighting for a particular view of inerrancy comes from the fear that if one thing is ‘wrong’ then the whole Bible is wrong, and we need to throw it out. To me, that is an incredible weak faith. There seems to be a fear that if you admit that ancient writers believed the world was covered in a dome, that we have to abandon the resurrection. As if we should only believe God if the Bible is written and read like a factual report coming in from the AP wire. To not admit the different (non-modern) views of the authors, or that scribes could err seems ridiculous. Especially, when we know there are essentially typos (actually, transcription) errors in our manuscripts. Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:7 for example, about half say infant, the other half says gentle; clearly one of them is an error (though it really doesn’t change much, see my study notes here). Other prominent examples included the longer ending of Mark or the extra few lines of the Lord’s Prayer, both of which have since been thrown out in most translations.

That brings us to the ‘autograph’ argument, which says the Bible is inerrant in the original documents. It is used in some ways as an argument against in perceived errors or contradictions. We can just wave them away and say that out there, in some unknown (and unfindable) document rest the fix to all that ails. It, again, is just a reach for the hope that God must have, at some point, given us a perfect (in our modern sense) document. We know that it is not perfect, and even if we were given something that was, you would still have to question why God would allow it to become ‘corrupted’. Right? This is another error in thought that comes from literalism, that the book was just handed to us and God isn’t really involved anymore and allowed issues to happen so that we, in some senses, most not really know what is happening now. Alternatively, isn’t it possible that God used imperfect people, who existed in a world different than our own, but then actually intervened in the millenia so that we have a Bible today that pretty well reflects the original writing?

Of course, the other issue is that some ‘errors’ aren’t really errors, or conflicts.  Is the Bible in error or in conflict with science the world was created in a literal, 24 hour, six day sequence? No, because, that isn’t what the Bible is trying to say in Genesis 1. But that is really the problem with literalism, we’ve put ourselves into a tiny box that leads to odd interpretations or readings or understandings of part of the Bible. The sub-title of one Enns’ books points to the problem well: Our obsession with defending the Bible has left us unable to read it. I want to talk about a few specifics, then probably wrap up.

I was thinking about this yesterday while listening to a sermon on Proverbs at my church service. He points out what Proverbs is (are), that they are wisdom, not promises. That was probably a shock to some people, but as he rightly pointed out, how many children have been ‘raised as they should go’, but left the ‘path’? I know people in the fundamentalist world that have this transactional view of God, if I do X, God should do Y. However, if we read the Bible as a collection of different genres (still, all inspired by God, that is not something I doubt/reject) with different purposes, we might not need a preacher to explain that wisdom poetry is not a literal, transactional promise. However, this is the clear consequence of  ‘taking the Bible literally’. 

I’ve said/written much on Genesis and the age of the Earth/evolution question over the last few months, which I won’t repeat here, you can go watch this video and/or read the notes underneath. I will point out that the overly literal (again, in our modern western version) has had two negative impacts. One is that people will just leave the church altogether, they go to college or read a book and see the fact of evolution and then throughout the whole Bible, because that is the weak faith with which they’ve been conditioned. Second, they reject science in some whole disciplines. Of course, all of us believers reject some level of science, but we have a name for that – miracles. Science says you can’t be born of a virgin, yeah, we know, thank God for the Incarnation. Science says you can’t be resurrected, again, yeah, that is why it is a big deal that Christ did come back to life. That’s not what I’m talking about here, it is the rejection of whole disciplines (biology, geology, etc.). Unfortunately, it is another step in that line that causes so many issues, not just rejection, but conflict. Seeing the ‘other side’ as against you, or evil. Evolution is a lie and only told by atheistic scientist out to get you and even worse, your children. Which inexplicably leads us to reject other forms of science (or be susceptible to conspiracy theories related to them) such as climate change or (currently) pandemics/vaccines. 

Interestingly, one oddity from literalism, is that it actually reduces belief in the miraculous. This isn’t always the case, but it pops up now and then, where someone will want to defend a point by explaining how it can happen naturally, to show that it could be ‘literal’, but in a way that downplays God’s involvement. I’ll give two types of examples. One is Jonah and the what? Fish? Or was it a whale? It has to be a whale, right, because you couldn’t live inside a fish. I find this to be a strange line of thought. Of course you can’t live in a fish, but also, a plant can’t grow up in a few hours that is big enough to give a man shade, not can it shrivel enough to no longer provide shade from a worm ‘attack’ in a few hours. Jonah says all these things happened, I take it be actual events with God’s intervention. Another example is natural but literal ways that things like the 10 plagues could have happened (blood in the river caused all the frogs to leave then they died and had swarms of bugs) or the walls of Jericho falling (could it have been some sonic acoustic weapon from the horns?). 

We see instances like this in a way with Revelation, especially the ‘Left Behind’/Dispensational view. Remember, we have to take the Bible literally, so when it says hornets attacked, then they must have, it can’t be apocalyptic imagery, it must be literal, so clearly, those are fighter jets. Wait, what? Is it literal or no? Yes, it is literal, things are attacking, by John didn’t really know (erred?) what he was seeing, they are jets or attack helicopters. 

Some of those last few are amusing, but the worst is when we just straight up change the text. Two quick examples, the mustard seed and one wife. Jesus says the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. Well, it isn’t. If the Bible must be ‘without error’ in a modern literalist sense then we have a problem. The solution, well, learn to read the Bible in historical context, right? No, our translations will just add ‘of your’ to the text. Paul tells Timothy an elder should be a man of one wife, but we don’t want context and to ackwonwled that polygamy existed, so…let’s just change that to be ‘married’ or ‘faithful to his wife’, neither of which is what the text says. I said two, but also, go read Acts and Paul’s conversion stories, most translation change hear to understand in the last instance; again, despite the actual text. We are literally (in the actual sense) adding words to the Bible to protect the … Bible? We should probably take literally what Revelation says about adding or taking away from the book. 

This ended up being a lot more about the problem of literalism than inerrancy, I should probably change my title. However, the two (in the modern, American, evangelical context) have become nearly synonymous. Unfortunately, the word inerrancy has become nearly meaningless. People use it to mean too many things, or too narrow a thing (literalism) that discussions have almost become worthless. Often this causes people to jump around, redefine it, or use other words like inspired or authoritative. Some treat those words as synonymous, and we go around the circle again. I had no idea this issue came pretty much all from the Chicago Statement. It has greatly influenced my life, in mostly negative ways, where I feel like after years of thinking I knew the Bible pretty well, I’m having to actually study and learn basics in my 30’s. Add all this up, and I don’t think I can call myself an inerrantist. The word inerrancy is too lied to a hermeneutic (let alone a political ideology) that I don’t fully support and often find problematic. Maybe that puts me on the outside of current evangelical thought, but I think I’ll stick with inspired. As Bird points out in the book, this is the word use both by the Westminster and London Baptist confessions. 

 

 

Thoughts on the attack at the US Capitol

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Like many people, I couldn’t sleep last night. I laid in bed, honestly just confused. It is surreal. I thought of all the things I wanted to say. Wrote this post in my mind, you know? Kind of lack reenacting an argument in your head after you’ve had some time. I felt like I had a few good things going. Of course, today, after not sleeping and then an odd day at work, I feel as confused as ever. 

This was wild (which, to be fair, is what the president called for), shameful and embarrassing. You can go here for a pretty good group of pictures. Mrs. MMT and I wondered last night, which ones will end up in the history textbooks. 

I’m not typically an emotional person, but it was hard not feel that way watching this. Our capitol was under siege, lawmakers were being escorted at by secret service members while wearing dollar store gas masks, non-American flags were raised, including the Confederate Battle Flag (something that never even happened during the Civil War) and, perhaps more frightening, flags with Trump’s name on them. 

Cult of Personality

It was a sight to behold. People, with no sense of irony (or, apparently, logic, grammar, history) stormed the capitol building, broke windows/doors to stop a ceremonial democratic process (the definition of sedition), carried a treasonous flag, all while chanting ‘USA’. It was truly bewildering for everyone watching at home, and around the world. We weren’t the only ones confused, it seems, the insurrectionist didn’t seem to know what to do next. Like a dog that finally catches a car, they seemed lost as to what to do with it. I was watching TV live (while on a Zoom call) and you could see people just, milling about. Walking around, taking pictures, stealing things and engaging in general jackassery. 

Their dear leader had held a rally earlier in the day, told them to march to the capital and inhibit democracy and overturn the election. The did just that. Then, well, not much for bit. Then their leader tells them they are special and he is proud of them, and to go home peacefully. They do just that. They actually just walked away. Nothing else happened that night. I guess they are awaiting orders, and again unironically, et. al, posting online that people who wear masks are sheep. 

To their credit, I suppose, if you can say that about sedition, there was no more violence last night or so far today. I honestly don’t expect there to be. Not until Trump gives the order to attack again. If you can stomach the cesspool of Twitter, go look at the comments under hardcore Turmpers such as Pence and Cruz, when they call this a terrorist attack, the ask why they are backing down, they are asking what about the storm, and they are accusing them of turning on America. If you want even more unhinged, look at the replies to Trump telling them to go home. You get some of the same questioning, but no attacks, and then the most loyal try to decipher of the other, less informed, by pointing out that ‘they’ must be regrouping and encourage everyone to go back and wait. 

I don’t know how to describe this as anything other than a cult. This is pure cult of personality. The live and, now actually, die on his every word. They are not America First (while misguided, is at least arguable) they are Trump First. Even worse, they are Trump only. 

Rewriting the Narrative

As they had no plan, there is no coherent narrative coming out of the attack. Once the Capital Building was clearing, the Senate and Congress came back in and finalized the election. Again, this is a ceremonial display. They only count the votes toward the electoral college. The states have already certified. The people voted long ago. People can object, which rarely happens (one person attempted in ’16, but was gaveled down by none other than Biden). Ted Cruz had recently finished his long, rambling speech which said nothing at all and continued the lie of ‘stolen election’, which has been heard in over 60 court cases, in which the Trump team has won one case (election observers were allowed to move from 10 feet away to six, kraken indeed). 

Then the attack happened. Interestingly some of the of the lawmakers changed their mind and decided not to object. They were never willing to stated that they bought of the lies they had been spewing and were only doing it for political theater. Of course, they never explained why they changed their minds. Either you believe, whith no basis in facts whatsoever, that the election was stolen, or you don’t. I doubt we will hear from any. Cruz continues his QAnonsense attacks on democracy during the counting, but today called the attacks terrorist actions. That is some fine tight rope walking.

So, what is the narrative? Claim victory? Not quite. As nothing could happen regarding the election, nothing did happen, other than the counting of certified votes. However, they claim blue lives matter and to be for law and order, so the whole violent sedition, death and destruction thing is a bit problematic. Pretty quickly, these were the lines:

  1. It was a non-violent protest. Well, no. Right now it looks like dozens of officers were injured, 15 of which were hospitalized, one of which is in critical condition (curiously, many of the blue light houses were dark this morning on my way to work, not sure if they are ashamed Trumpers or no longer support the police). This should also dispel the myth that the police opened the doors and let everyone in. Though, there were clearly some shaking hands and taking pictures, but they are easily identifiable, and should be fire and arrested. Even worse, four people are dead. One lady, in her 30s with two kids, was shot by secret service for getting too close to Pence. Which I suppose it what happens when Service and police barricade a door with furniture, point guns at the door and then say if you break the door, they will shoot. She apparently tweeted that she can’t be stopped, before being killed. This is a tragic loss of life for an unbelievably stupid reason. Over night, there are reports for three other deaths, all from ‘medical issues’. Not many details out yet, but it seems like a fellow Georgian, in her 30s, was trampled in the attack, and another person was testing his taser, which he apparently didn’t know how to use, tased himself and had a heart attack.  I am actually skeptical of this one, because it just can’t be real. No word on the fourth death. All tragic and entirely unnecessary and directly caused by Trump. 
  2. So, clearly there was violence, what does that mean? Wasn’t us. It was obviously Antifa (it is always worth noting that according to Trump’s FBI director, all law enforcement, facts, and reason, Antifa is not a group), or Black Lives Matter. It doesn’t matter, apparently, that many of these people are social media famous maga and Q-Anon people, most of which recorded themselves. It doesn’t matter that there are videos of people stating they are taking the people’s house back (I hadn’t heard this term before, I could be wrong, but I feel like that should be the white house), all of which are easily identifiable (from prior posts, years worth in some cases) on social media. Most people have probably heard of Elizabeth from Knoxville. She seems absolutely incredulous that she would be maced while breaking into a federal building to, in her words, start a revolution. 
  3.  Alright, obviously violent and obviously Trumpers, so now what? Kind of a mix of random things, but mostly conspiracy theories and false equivalencies (all at once, even the ones that contradict each other, and why not, especially if 1 & 2 above are both out there at the same time). The former is vast, so I won’t go into them (some include lizard people), other than my favorite – the police let this happen. I literally saw some of my Trumper friends calling for an investigation. Not because of the absence of support that was requested, but because, apparently the absence of police made people violent. Essentially, the police made us violent by not stopping our violence. Poe’s law, y’all. I’ll hit false equivalencies below, since the new, dumber, unwieldy version of wordpress doesn’t let me have a second paragraph with my number. 
  4. Actual honesty? We did it, we caused the deaths, we were seditious, but it is because we are starting a revolution, saving America, stopping the steal, etc. I don’t have much else to saw for that.

False Equivalency

There are two false narratives within this, once is people have objected/not conceded before or, once violence has been admitted, what about Antifa/BLM. The former line might be a little more popular where I am, but I’ll get to that shortly. There were objects to Ohio electors being counted in the 2000 election and some unclear objection in 2016 (mentioned above). No president has even not conceded. Should also be noted that none of the people making the political stunt of objecting  believed the election was stolen or advocate sedition. I might have heard the conceded line more, because Stacey Abrams never conceded. It is beyond me that she is a national media star, but here in Georgia, no one thought much of her. Same as Trump, she telegraphed her play from the beginning, and did what most people expected her to do, ignore the middle, lose, claim fraud, leave Georgia (she isn’t from here) and get a tv show/book deal. That is largely what happened. Quick excruses on Georgia. I do not know how elections are handled in other states, but Kemp was the Sec of State when the election happened. Now, that is a bad look, he should have resigned, but he cannot impact polling locations. Elections are held by local county boards of elections. For the record, I think he won legitimately, even if it had a bad look for democracy to oversee your own election. Back to Abrams, it is true she never conceded, but, I feel like this should be obvious, she never attempted an overthrow of democracy. 

*For an additional side note on Georgia, Gabriel Sterling (the COO of Sec of State for Georgia) has right pointed out that if Republicans had spent less time attack him, Kemp, and Raffensperger (current SoS) and more time getting out the vote, Republicans would have won. The seems to be right, as turnout was down, relative to the main election, in rural areas and by white voters. Also, if many of them were in DC yesterday, they might not have actually been here two days ago to vote in the election, which is a wild thought. For the record, I think even without election fraud nonsense, Warnock still would have won. Georgia has never elected a yankee (Leoffer bought an appointment from Kemp). On a sadder note, Sterling pointed on almost six weeks ago that if the dangerous conspiracy theories continued, someone would die.

Back to Antifa/BLM. People point to their violence and destruction. These actions were condemned by the right (not sure why it changed, if it is wrong, it is wrong) and most of the left. I’ve seen different numbers, but it appears well over 10,000 people were arrested. Not sure if it is the case, but I don’t think law enforcement was forced to kill any of them. No one was trampled. Maybe by those points, they are equal, maybe not, it is debatable. Here is what isn’t, none of them were looking to overthrow democracy. None of them were driven by the president and Q Anon to attack and take over the government. There is a big difference between breaking a window at Target and stealing TV and breaking a window in the Capitol Building to overturn democracy. I don’t feel like I should have to write this.

Christian Response

Not that the basics are out of the way, what should any of this mean for Christians? It is one of the reasons I don’t care as much, am not as deeply hurt by, BLM (again, Antifa is not an organization) is not a Christian group. Other than calls for equality, which are based on general revelation, nothing about them is religious. Nothing, no one says you aren’t a real Christian if you don’t support BLM or that our only moral choice is BLM, most say quite the opposite, actually. Among other aspect of idolatry yesterday, there was a cross and gallows put up on the steps. Think about that. People with ‘Jesus Saves’ flags were violently opposing an election they lost. There were flags with stars and stripes crosses and ichthys overlaid with the American flag. This is the very definition of syncretism. The mob that attacked America yesterday, unfortunately, think they did it in God’s name. They certainly attempt to wrap the rhetoric in ‘Christian language’. There are myriad examples, most people are familiar by now. If you want to see some good reporting/responses, head over the Gospel Coalition. I’ve written about them before, and I’m tired. 

I’m tired, because we are part of this. We as conservative Christians follow these Court Evangelicals and celebrity pastors/political commentators, often uncritically. Albert Mohler, who was a never-Trumper, until his family members were hired by the administration, then he said Trump was the only moral choice for Christians. Then the terrorists attack of yesterday happens, and now he is opposed. Unsurprisingly, though he typically tweets all day, he only had one yesterday (none yet today, as I write this). As I’ve said, he is well known for lying in public, but he this actually shocked me, a report today (behind a paywall, unfortunately) he made the ridiculous claim no one could have seen this coming. As I mentioned above, Sterling predicted death, also there have been actual death threats to all the top Republican officials in Georgia. Even worse, Eric Metaxes held a rally and stated he was willing to give his last drop of blood to overturn the will of the American people.

Mohler will, of course, never repent and his rhetorical flourishes and debated skills are nearly unparalleled, no one will be able to hold him accountable. He should resign from Southern Seminary and if he is actually elected president of the SBC, it will be the end of them. I’m still waiting for CRT to place pipe bombs at both the RNC and DNC headquarters (something that has really been under reported). Which brings me to his buddy, fellow cower-er in fear, and Doctrine of the Trinity denier, Owen Strachan. He was also oddly quiet yesterday and today. He stated months ago that anyone who was ‘woke’, whatever that is, needed to be excommunicated. I wonder if he feels the same about QAnon or seditionist, terrorist or insurrectionist. My guess is no, but of course, I pray for these men, they are influential leaders and their repentance or admission of quilt would be incredible.

Speaking of denying orthodox Trinitarian beliefs, Wayne Grudem. What happened to this man? I’ve written much about him, because I am truly confounded. He has literally stated that he does not believe Trump has told a lie while in office. It is a good reminder that Trump once said he has never asked for forgiveness, because he has never done anything wrong. Technically, Trump said this while campaigning, so I guess Grudem gets to ignore it. Just like the ‘Christian Ethicist’ ignored the man that said you can grab women by the pussy (language!) if you are rich (so sexual assault, and different rules for the rich, if only there were a book that disagreed with this) or who paid off a pornstar to be quiet about their affair or the man who called sitting secretaries of state, threatened them, and told them ‘find votes’, a clear admission of disbelief in fraud (but Raffensperger is wrong for recording it), supported that man and said that morals/character don’t matter for the president (contra prior public statements, the Bible, common sense). 

Where do we go from here?

Am I hopeful for the future? No. Not really. Or, rather, only in the eschatological sense. We will have Trump apologist and enablers and Trump himself, for years to come. I fear the Christian language that goes with it may only get worse (there are Patriot Churches now, their trinity is Trump, guns, and dying from preventable diseases). One problem is that even non-Trumpers still support Trump Republicans. I was talking to a friend just yesterday, who state he had voted for a Trump supporting, election denying Republican in the runoff (one, but not the other). We didn’t get a chance to talk much, but I did find it curious. There are QAnon people at my church community. Who knows? Hopefully, I am wrong. Hopefully repentance comes to those in the church and we stop worshiping Trump. More likely, it will swept away. I full expect a lot of, ‘time to move on’, ‘heal’, ‘come together’, ‘stop the division’. Not talk about what brought us here. Ignore all the crazy conspiracy theories our brothers and sisters go into. No calls for change. If anything, we will go the other way, ignore the plank in our own eye, and spend much of the next four years attacking the nonsense left. 

Outside of the church, I do think there is a longshot hope in politics. Trumpers want to start their own party, to break away from conservatives in the Republican party. I say, let them keep it. The conservatives need to break away and take the middle. The need to reach across the aisle and get the moderate (often pro-life) Democrats, typically the middle of the country ones. If this group happened, I think it would dominate. Democrats don’t want the middle, they don’t want me, they’ve said so and I’m center right, at most. They think they need to keep going crazy, while the moderate Dems blame them for loses. Take the middle make a new party, be the most powerful influence in American politics. Both sides would need them to do anything, and the extremist would be cut off, because they wouldn’t have votes.  

Then I could be done with politics. I think Christians would find their home in this middle. More importantly, I want Christians to rediscover the Bible and read it with the intensity with which they read twitter. That is why, as I’ve said before, I’m dropping some of my current news/political writing to focus on another project. Hopefully, I’ll have more details soon. Unfortunately, a coup attempt warrants some thoughts. 

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I hope you enjoyed, please feel free to share any thoughts. 

Edit – One of the capital police officers has died; over 40 injured. Also, apparently, the taser thing is real; the guy gave himself a heart attack trying to use it. 

Looks like many are sticking with Antifa (see above, if you skimmed to the bottom). Of course, much talk of moving on, buzz words seem to be – ‘no need to re-litigate’ and ‘healing’. On twitter today, I saw both Russell Moore and Tim Keller attacked (virtually, sadly, I have to note that now) for speaking against the violence. Marxist and Globalist are some of the terms I left off my bingo card. I have even more respect for these guys, because, of course, the left/non-church people who have no idea who they are, are hitting them with ‘too late’ and you are just ‘jumping off a sinking ship’. Y’all, they were never on it, praise God. 

I’ve said it before, but I should note here. Clearly there is nothing wrong with voting Republican. I think the moral issues and problems with Trump makes voting for him questionable, but obviously not sinful. What I completely disagree with, is the all Christians must vote Trump or that he is somehow the Christian candidate  mentality and statement put out by so many Christian leaders. Of course the idolatry of him is sinful, as is QAnon (Gospel Coalition has a great primer on them here). 

Here is the best part, though, some of them will be back in our churches on Sunday. I know some of them have refused because masks wearing is the sign of the beast or government control or some nonsense, but I do believe some will be back, maybe not this Sunday but soon. They are waking up to the realization of what QAnon and Trump are. They are realizing the lies Trump told about the election, that he never cared for them, and that he used them for political gains. We need to welcome them back with open arms. We need to avoid saying anything political, as much as we may want to. They followed a false prophet, and now are coming back to the Truth, knowing that the only true power comes from the risen Christ. We must pray for them. 

Edit 3 – Leaving edit 2 below this one, because of the pictures. Also, this will be the final edit. Another police officer has died, apparently by suicide. No reason know yet. Other officers are still hospitalized, hopefully no more die. It is important to remember that the one who died was beaten to death. I want to link two good articles, one from David French called Only the Church can truly defeat a Christian insurrection, and one from Ed Stetzer about the Evangelical reckoning. Both of these say better than I, what many are feeling now and what needs to happen for use to move forward.

On a lighter note, this post brought me my first troll. In my 6+ years of meandering ramblings, I’ve not had one. It accused me of not thinking and being destroyed by the propaganda machine. No idea if it was a bot or a person, but I deleted and marked as spam, because back in my formative years of the early internet, there was one thing on which everyone agreed – don’t feed the trolls. 

Edit 2 –  A few of these collections are floating around online. I think they are interesting from a historical perspective, especially the photos used. Just thought I’d share. 

 

 

Critical Race Theory vs. Eternal Subordination of the Son

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been making the Christian Twitter rounds the past month or so, a few months after making the right-wing politics Twitter rounds. I don’t have a great deal to say about CRT, mostly because I don’t think it much matters. Some people in my world are quite panicked about it, and I’m honestly a little unsure where all their fear is coming from. CRT is an academic theory used by some academics, sometimes, in some subjects as a tool of criticism. You can find a good summation of CRT here, from John Fea, who is an Evangelical Christian that works as a Historian at a conservative Christian College. He explains it as used by academics and points out someone else’s definition, in which I believe most people would agree with at least one or two of the points. 

I personally think he is being too charitable to the theory, however, maybe that is the problem. Maybe he is exactly right. The problem comes from when an academic exercise becomes ‘popular’, but at that point it loses all meaning. I feel like at this point, CRT has become one of those things were you ask 10 people to define, you’ll get 10 different definitions. Even more problematic, the far side of the democrats/left have weaponized it in the ever escalating war of identity politics. Of course, predictably, the far side of the republican/right (and far too man Evangelicals) have then responded with their typical cowering and fearmongering. Somewhat famously now, all six presidents of the SBC seminaries have written a joint declaration condemning CRT. I find it odd to see so many serious academics (mostly theologians) fear a secular academic theory that has noting to say about theology, Biblical studies, Greek/Hebrew, etc. Surely they know better. The truth of the Gospel is eternal, while CRT will probably be replaced by a new more ‘interesting’ theory in, what?, 10 years at the most. 

In some sense, we’ve been here before. Luckily, we didn’t run in fear, but instead adopted it and found it wanting. That is what happened with ‘Higher Criticism’ (also called Biblical Criticism) of 150 years or so, ago. It was the trendy thing, also out of the Frankfurt school, to attack the Bible, partly based on Enlightenment ideas, Schleiermacher, and a mix of archaeology/geology. Most academic Christians (seminary professors) adopted many of the ideas, found some useful, and rejected/disproved the other aspects. However, we didn’t cower, and where would Biblical studies be today without it? We’ve grown so much in our knowledge and proof of the Biblical truth since then. 

I’ll quickly say something about two other things related to CRT before moving on. First, while CRT is overrated, I think we should pay attention to intersectionality. That is a theory that is a race to the bottom in the turtles all the way down sense that I believe will have a far wider impact than CRT. I couldn’t seem to find a good link, but Albert Mohler’s podcast interviewed a guy, maybe back in the summer (June-ish) that really dove deeply into the topic. He was a British guy, I believe, and while he leaned a little too heavily on the familiar boogeyman of Marx, his explanations and real life examples were wild and fascinating. Second, wokeness. Woke is a nonsense term that has no meaning. It is similar to CRT in a sense, except it has no background or standing in academia. It is just a lazy twitter meme that vaguely means you support every changing far left politics (or sometimes it just means you don’t think black people should be shot by the police). The ‘concept’ if you can call it that, is so devoid of meaning and substance that it seems unnecessary for theologians to even address.

Which brings me to Owen Strachan, who a few months back, had a bizarre sermon/chapel speech where he stated that anyone ‘woke’ must be excommunicated. Again, woke is too ill-defined to even sense of what he is saying. But this is my main issue and the reason I want to write this – Strachan believes in the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS). This is Semi-Arianism (at best) and does not comport with the Nicene Creed. ESS means that all persons of the Trinity are not equal, that the Son (and Holy Spirit?) are subordinate to the Father. Historical orthodox belief is that the Son gave up His equality in His condescension and incarnation, but now reigns again, co-equal with the Father. Full Arianism believes that the Father created the Son and Holy Spirit, meaning they were lesser beings. This was condemned as hearsay over 1,500 years ago (I do no believe Stachen et al supports Arianism). He isn’t alone the recently problematic Grudem also supports ESS. For a good article go here, Carl Trueman thinks that this may come from an odd defense of complementarianism (which is clearly Biblical without needing to rely on ESS), a timeline on the arguments with many links for a pretty deep dive, Michael Bird describe in a video the issue and then his thoughts

This was a few years ago, so why bring it up now? Because it made maybe a ripple in Christian Twitter to the tsunami of fears related to CRT. Maybe a tenth of the ink (pixels?) were spilled in defense of the orthodox view of the Trinity than was used for an opposition to the secular academic theory. Which matters more? Your doctrines of the Triune God or a social argument? My guess is most of those in your pews have never even heard of CRT, and if they have, it wasn’t in the true academic sense (see above). You know what else they don’t know – that God chooses those whom He saved before the foundation of the world (50% Evangelicals disagree), that God saves you, you don’t earn it (52% disagree), and most frighteningly about a third reject the Deity of Christ. Read these two surveys for stats and sadness. 

So, what is my point? I am deeply saddened and distressed that these leaders (some of home apparently don’t hold orthodox views) send so much time letter politics drive their message with their congregations don’t know Biblical basics or even the simple Gospel. 

*An addendum of sorts, I’ve been playing around with this article for about 10 days, unsure if I would even post anything (I actually stated on my last post that I likely wouldn’t post anything again). However, this has blown up even more on Christian Twitter/Bloggersphere, so I felt compelled to post, but with an edit here and a rework of my ending (which I guess I’ll just delete and end here). Many black pastors/professors have spoken out against the SBC statement on CRT. Many of them do not support CRT, and have written against it, but their arguments seem to fall into to camps. One right-wing political ideology is driving this, which seems pretty self evident, and two, that many fear that this blanket condemnation is a just a way to avoid any discussion of race, by then calling it CRT. This seems a bit hyperbolic, but then Twitter kind of proved it to be true. 

Edit – Like I said, I’m pretty done with politics. I don’t believe this post is about politics. I see it is a plea for our leaders not to fear the world and to do a better job pastoring their flock. Again, I can’t say this enough, who cares about the 10% or so that have even heard of CRT (and already rejected it), when half of your congregation doesn’t believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light and that no one comes to the Father except through him? Why do we spend so much time arguing about a secular, liberal, academic theory when orthodoxy regarding the Trinity is now longer settled?

Of course, many people who attack me for being political because I say things that doesn’t fit their political view. If I say transgenderism is incoherent and dangerous, people say ‘amen’, when I say Metexas claiming he will fight to his last drop of blood to defend a conspiracy theory and Trump is clearly Caesar worship, people say ‘I don’t like when you get political, stick to book reviews.’ You can tell what people truly worship by what you are not allowed to criticize. 

Discussing politics is exhausting, though, and I’m done, even though I can predict what will be written over the next four years. After four years of only the government can protect us and Romans 13, Christians will write endless articles about when/why/how to defy the Government. Then when republicans when again in 2024 (which I think they will if they take back the center, which I think the far left will easily abandoned with their nonsense) and we’ll all be about Romans 13 again. We’ve got to stop putting politics first and letting it drive our theology. I’ve retweeted a few things from people about CRT and most (not all, you know who you are) of the criticisms are the ‘hurr durr why don’t you think the Bible is truth/reject the Bible, you are the real racist, DEMOCRAT (clever, I know)’. Most things I’ve seen are intellectually lazy or disingenuous, at best.  So, if you read this and you have some brilliant thoughts on the evils CRT or want to no read anything and just ignorantly ask why I support it, keep it to yourself. However, if you have thoughts on ESS (either for or against), I’d love to hear them. Also, also love hearing any studies or classes or anything your church is doing to help educate your congregation on the basics of Christianity. Feel free to let me know. 

Edit 2 – If you don’t think people are overreacting, check out this tweet from a few weeks ago when Jared Wilson (a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) said something about race as it related to Jonah and Peter/Paul, and the reactions he received.

Final Edit – Our sermon from this past Sunday (last Sunday of Advent) was from Isaiah 9 and our preacher discussed some of the current political issues (of sorts). I will post it when the audio is available, please listen if you have time because he rocked it, and I think it is a good reminder to all of us.

Covid Thoughts – Family Back to Church

Our church first opened back up to people, with limits, masks, no childcare back on Father’s Day this year, but as of November 1, we are back with childcare. Without childcare, we were unable to go together, as we can’t sit for an hour and half with a five year old and two 18 month olds. We still have limitations for service, and only a small number of kids in each classroom. I believe the toddler class is limited to five or seven, and I need two slots, so I’m usually pretty quick to sign up. I don’t think any of the classes have been full yet, neither has the service.

I think that is good, because I know people are being cautious, but I am also concerned that some people are just contented to stay home, or are being lazy. I know this is case for some, they have told me, however, there is more of the worrying trend of people sitting back and watching our service (or finding new, better services) while not meeting together as a body anymore.

It was significant for me the first day I went back on Father’s Day, and then again to finally sit with Mrs. MMT during the sermon, but not communion as she was leading worship that day. However, the two rows behind me were people from our community group. We often sit together or relatively close in normal times (the couple directly behind us typically sits with us, in the same row, back when that was a thing). So, there was an emotionally aspect two it, be able to be normalish and ‘together.’ Last week Mrs. MMT and I were able to take communion together for the first time since March.

This past Sunday, and this upcoming one, we were actually the people to do the scanning and checking in of kids. We take everyone’s temp (though this hasn’t been shown to be necessarily effective), which is pretty funny. In one case a friend of ours and her two daughters had the exact same temperature. It was more enjoyable than we thought, because we were able to talk with almost everyone who came in. Right now, we are not allowing people to linger and talk in the lobby, and ushers walk people back and forth to their seats.

So, we take temperatures, as people how they are doing, Sprout was actually the one handing out the stickers (for names/identifications). The nuggets were there, they didn’t help, but people thought they were cute and hadn’t seen them in months, so that was cool. We wore gloves, and of course all people wore masks, even kids from three and above.

It was just a sign of the times, I’d squat down to take a temperature and a three year old would move their hair back and they would be wearing little Disney or superhero masks. The masks didn’t seem to bother them, the only people that seem to struggle are 50-70 year old men. One of whom was told a few weeks ago he would have to wear one and hasn’t come back since. I hope he will repent and drop his idolatry soon and return.

What has also been fortunate is that they weather has been great, not particularly warm or cold since the beginning of October and very few days of rain (though when it has rained, it has poured, or worse such as when the tropical storm came through and schools were closed, which was the most 2020 thing of 2020), so they kids are able to play outside and when service is over everyone can stand outside (distanced) and talk/catch up.

I think it is important for kids to be able to see each other and have that social contact. Our church draws people from three or four counties, so the schools are doing different things. I think it is ridiculous that schools are closed but bars and restaurants are open. Where are our priorities? Even more idiotic is Nevada, apparently there, casinos are open but churches have to remain closed, a policy so dumbfounding that it actually make Fox News look credible.

Luckily where I am, school and churches are open (as is everything else) and it seems many people are taking precautions and doing the right thing. I feel very good about the way things are handled at our church. We intend to keep attending until either conditions (which are worsening every day) or executive order takes the childcare option away.

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.

Resources
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 – https://answersingenesis.org/
For the middle view (OEC) – https://reasons.org/
For Evolutionary Creationist – https://biologos.org/
For the Intelligent Design movement – https://www.discovery.org/

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.

20200409_090054

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.

meeting

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.

Abortion 
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.