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Friday, November 30, 2007

The Baddeley Award

Mark Baddeley, recently a commenter on this blog, has posted a number of long pieces on his own blog (Reflections in Exile) in critique of what he terms 'creation scientists'.

I think he means 'biblical creationists' but let's not quibble.

He's put a fair amount of work into his posts, which is very encouraging to see. Something to actually engage with! For this he receives the inaugural Baddeley Award. No other of our interlocutors gets an award, regrettably, as they've not bothered to address issues, no matter how obvious the discussion is.

Now, to much of what Mark says, we would take alternative views, and reason to those views. We would like to take up the discussion on his blog, but as internal commenting may be the way to go, we'll do it on this blog instead. Hope you don't mind, Mark.

Eric, and the rest of the team here at SAH.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The boy asked!

Last night, my wife was talking to our son (not quite 4) about being a friend of God. She asked if he wanted to be a friend of God, and he said 'yes'. So my wife prayed with him on that basis.
The ensuing conversation went like this:
S: where is God?
W: God is everywhere.
S: who is God?
W: God made us, he made everything
S: even me?
W: yes, even you.
S: and my mummy and my daddy?
W: yes, daddy and I too.

That's the heart of it for here.

Interesting that the chief credential (as I put it) is that God is our creator. This recurrs throughout the OT as well; as does God being the one who brought Israel to the promised land: both, it would appear, anchored in the same historical continuity of events in time.

So on the one hand my son is convinced that God is our creator and can be our friend. He even talk about being 'at God' and having 'new life'; then on the other, he's going to hear at school (probably) that the story of the world is nothing like the story of the world in the Bible; the world-story, and the accompanying ontological framework he will be taught will not be about God as creator, or our dependence upon him, or that reality is finally personal (and here's the evidence: God was there first, spoke and the material creation occured); but that material was there first, and that over untold aeons, random material action produced the world.

If we don't deal with this, and he learns that the Bible is just 'stories' that do not have a real space-time reference, and that the 'real' stories with space-time reference are about a non-creation, then where is God's self-representation as 'creator'. Up the creek, I'd say.

The distinction God makes, taking his word at its direct meaning, is that his action in creation, by his word, and not out of other things, is very different from what appears being made from what is visible (Heb 11:3).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Over here in the real world ...

All this talk about origins is fine: the back and forth of discussion is great, but what is the connection with our work for the gospel?

We read of the die-hard Sydney Diocese boosters downplaying the significance, and indeed, the evangelical efficacy of anything to do, really to do, with origins.

So, in this context, the morning tea discussion at church today.

I joined the conversation of an elderly Christian man and a younger fellow (a professional engineer). They were chatting about atheists and their reliance on 'random evolution' to produce language, disdaining the atheist assertion that language arose from apes by a few mutations.

My minor contribution was that it wasn't just a few mutations, but a huge number of coordinated mutations across a number of systems. They agreed but waived the comment aside as being so obvious as to not warrant further discussion, and got on with the conversation about atheists pushing God aside by their reliance on evolution.

This was endorsed by the elderly fellow who related his journey from atheism to repentance, referring to the older belief, his materialism, being displaced by knowledge of the Creator-God.

Evolution drives atheism. Might not in the etheral world of Anglican theologising, but just like the Howard government's 'Workchoices' was really good for all of us, we just didn't know it , so in the real world, no atheists thinks that evolution can be neatly explained as God's way of working.

Simply put, the difference in the real world between 'evolution' as dogmatised by the atheist, and 'evolution as the method God used' is absent. There is no difference, in the real world, between the two. But Paul tells us that the real world is different.

In Romans 1:20ff:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

Professing to be wise, they became fools,

and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

But, I guess the SAHs know better.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Quote on time (just in time)

Reading the comments on my post on the Finnish shoot up, it seems that the notion of Genesis 1 as being about time is a point of some issue. One commenter (Geoff) was indicating that one could attest the words of Genesis 1 while denying their truth status! I don't know how, and I wonder if the author has really thought out the implications of this bifurcation of meaning.

In this connection, I read today in the latest issue of Creation (21(3)) p. 97 f. in Kay, M "On literary theorists' approach to Genesis 1: Part 2"

" "This belief that the concern of the Genesis' author is atemporal is one replete with irony. It is ironic because such a misunderstanding opens the door to nothing less than a full revisitation by a pagan world-view. As several authors have extensively indicated, the removal of real time or chronological history is a marker for paganism. It cannot be an outlook informed by Jewish concerns because a biblical, Hebraic mindset was deeply and inextricably attached to 'the march of time'. Indeed, God himself was 'in time', so the writer of Genesis could not but reflect this also. Meir Sternberg calls this the 'grand chronology' and says that this interest with orderly sequence pervades the Bible and is Jewish to the core: ".. .chronological sequence is the backbone of the bible's narrative books, their most salient and continuous organizing principle. It figures not as a time-line that we reconstruct from some entangled discourse to make sense of what happens . . .[but is] an unfolding of events from prior to posterior, from cause to effect. So for the Bible to communicate is to chronologize the surface itself, the narrative as well as the narrated sequence of events . . . the order of presentation in the biblical text follows the order of occurrence in the biblical world. In this the Bible contrasts with the entire tradition of large-scale temporal disordering, fathered by Homer's plunge in medias res and widely elevated ever since into the repository of artful arrangement . . . what could be more ab ovo than beginning with the very beginning of the world, hence of time, indeed with the word "beginning" (bereshit) itself? What could make (and herald) a more orderly sequence than the march of Creation from the first day to the climactic sixth, then to the seventh with its sense of rest and arrest, fulfillment and closure? Beginning, middle, end -- each finds its proper place and value in this paradigm of order. Indeed, the books from Genesis to Kings, all likewise conceiving of story as divine history, follow suit both individually and in canonical series." "

References in this passage are:
Eliade, M. Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, Jaki, S. Science and Creation, and Sternberg, M. Time and space in biblical history telling: the grand chronology.

Quote of the moment

I'm reading "The Leader's Handbook" by Peter Scholtes; note not 'leader' as in "we don't have ministers any more, but leaders" in the church (man, talk about lapping up the world and its ways), but 'leader' as in, I'm trying to do my day job better and better: a recommended read for anyone in business.

From page 18 a telling quote:

"a list of revolutionary thinkers that includes, among many others . . .Darwin (we are not specially created, only the most advanced of the life forms)"

I think he gets it. The direct implication of Darwin's legacy (and he is the beneficiary of the Epicurean's legacy) is that the specialness implied in Genesis is erroneous. He gets it, zillions of others get it, humanism relies upon it, Finnish teenagers act on it. Sydney Anglicans . . . but, but, but, they can only "but" along while they fail the test and keep the liberating truth from people! Makes one wish they were a Baptist!

By way of reference: Evolution and Epicureanism

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

So like a Buddhist

In the current issue of 'Go' the Interserve magazine (let's all support Interserve!!) there is a fabulous article about an Interserve worker discussing the Bible with a Buddhist monk.

In precis, the monk was confounded by God's care for the poor, the weak and the suffering. In Buddhist lore, people suffered because they had bad 'karma', and they prospered becuase they had good 'karma', thus the strong the powerful, the rich, represented 'god's' favour (I know, no 'god' in Buddhism).

So in Buddhism, as it appeared from the article, it is the strong who triump. In Christ, it is the poor in spirit; quite the contrary!

So, knowing that fruit of the Spirit ("But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness"), along with this ("Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth . . ."), it seems odd that one could entertain that 'evolution' which is right up there with, "kill the weak" would have any part of a non-fallen reality.

The internal contradiction of theistic evolution, and all similar forms of pagan syncretism, is that on the one hand, we've got God, declaring his characteristics (see above), presumably having made the creation consistently with these declared characteristics, but evolution working in opposition to God's declared characteristics! How amazing, God is like . . . love, evolution is like . . death and destruction, but (in the demented TE view) God somehow used evolution!!

Notwithstanding that the idea of evolution has a pagan history, a recent genesis on the assumption that their is no god, and no real evidence for it occuring (aside from question-begging and equivocation: that is confusing adaptation for transmutation of kinds of life forms with growing genetic information), TEs see some sort of consistency in reality between a cosmos grinding down the weak (and heading for dissolution) and God who is love.

Mad and madder.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

This boy knew his Darwin

The Finnish teenager who killed other children at his school (8 Nov 2008) was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying: "I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection".

Now there's someone who knows their Darwin.

I wonder what his view would have been if he'd been taught that he is in the image of the God who is love and who spoke the cosmos into existence, with us for eternal relationship with him? That he and his fellows are of great value and their lives, actions and beliefs are eternally significant.

Of course, if he'd been exposed to the Sydney Anglican mainstream he'd have been told none of the above, because the kick in the tail would have been: but God did all this by the mind numbing meanness and waste of evolution and its aeons of disease and death constituting the 'very good'. Great eh?

He, Geoffery Dahmer, Adolph Hitler and Stalin are great examples of 'sow evolution, reap death'.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Dear Dr Newman

This letter has just come into the office. I thought it expressed some great sentiments, so here 'tis, with slight edits (apologies to RG, the author).

Dear Dr Newman,

It was a great encouragement to hear you speak at Leura on Sunday. Unfortunately, I was not able to hear your subsequent talks, as prior business commitments prevented my attendance at them.

Today, so many Christians seem to be intimidated by science, or what is presented as science. But without coming to grips with what science is, and that much which is passed off as science is more philosophising in scientific language and terms than actual science.

Even further, there are those Christians who have been so overwhelmed by the prestige of science that they have gone beyond recognising it as a valid occupation of the mind, it being our work of coming to grips with the creation God has set us within. They have instead allowed the philosophising underlying all modern life, which is largely dressed up as science, to displace the word of God!

I am referring, of course, to the questions that cluster about origins, and the contest often and erroneously created between the words of holy writ and the current beliefs of scientists, popular apologists and public commentators; usually relayed by the press or television programs.

It quite distresses me that Christians have been swept up with the press of contemporary opinion, without due reflection, in my view, and adopted the idea of evolution as providing the means God used to create. It was therefore very pleasing to hear you clearly explain that science is about what is, not speculation on unique events such as our Lord’s miracles, or indeed his acts in creation; which must constitute his grand miracle.

The Holy Spirit, in the Bible, sets out our relationship to God between the two poles of creation and re-creation. To allow the speculative ideas of ‘evolution’ with their origin in pagan thinking, and mid 19th century ideas that sought to disconnect God and his creation, to intrude on the Biblical revelation as if to supplant it (which I must say, it has done in many minds) is grievous. It removes God and his loving brooding Spirit from the scene. After all, evolution is the doctrine of the universe making itself (Roms 1:25) and can only rely on myriads of errors and dead ends. It is riven with death and destruction. This is the very antithesis of the God who is love creating in love, to bring forth those in is image. After all, he said it is “very good” not “marred and troubled!”

The scriptures I reflect on in this connection are these.

I start of course with the creation account in Genesis and see no reason to depart from the straightforward reading of the text (also Ex 20:11), the tradition of the early church and the reformers, that God created in six days. The widespread view of the current church, that we can set aside the revelation with all sorts of strained interpretations shows more the influence of a world that starts its thinking without God than the church making a prophetic confrontation on the basis of God’s word with the deceiver. If there were a view apart from the direct meaning of the Scripture, the early interpreters would have relayed it, as even in their day there were pagan doctrines of a very old cosmos that had created itself.

Of course, Paul’s direct and indirect references to creation, and his reliance on this teaching in his instruction about the new creation always influlences my thinking, but the capstone is Hebrews 11:4, where we are told the means of God’s creation: his word, out of nothing and without intermediary processes (“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible”). Faith here is not what the world thinks of faith, as ‘wishful thinking’ but is reliance on God’s word for that information otherwise not available.

Once more, thank you for your work and your helpful sermon. I pray all the best for you.