Biologos’s Case for Evolution

According to Biologos.org, Christians should consider embracing evolution. Why?

Here’s what they say “In a Nutshell.”

English: Caricature of Charles Darwin from Van...
English: Caricature of Charles Darwin from Vanity Fair magazine. Caption read “Natural Selection”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

See if you can list the reasons it would benefit the Church to accept evolution.

Because evolution is a challenging subject, many Christians are tempted to simply ignore or reject it.  Yet considering evolutionary creation has important benefits for Christians both in our relationship with the Creator, and with our relationships with other people—believers and non-Christians alike.  First, Christians should study evolution because (like all the natural sciences) it is the study of God’s creation.  Creation itself is a complementary revelation to what is communicated in the Scriptures, and through it God shows how and when he brought about life, to his honor and glory.  Studying the creation is also an invitation into a deeper understanding of the attributes and character of Father, Son and Spirit. Second, considering evolutionary creation aids the Church in its gospel mission, supporting young Christians in their faith, helping answer critics, and equipping us to engage effectively in the wider culture.  An anti-evolution attitude can harm Christian young people by presenting them with a false choice between pursuing science OR holding to faith.  Similarly, a hostile attitude towards evolution can hinder evangelism when seekers hear that they must reject science to follow Christ.  On the other hand, studying evolution as a God-ordained process helps Christians refute arguments that science encourages an atheistic worldview.  Furthermore, as the church engages front-page issues raised by the rapid growth in science, medicine, and technology, a Christ-centered voice in such areas as bioethics will be stronger if based on a thorough understanding of the natural sciences, including evolution.

http://biologos.org/questions/why-should-Christians-consider-evolutionary-creation

 

Christ and Culture Update: Session #1

Thank You!

Thanks to all who came out to the class last night! I must say that nothing went like I thought it would. I actually had a specific game plan when I came in and then I discovered that what was needed was kind of a broad introductory discussion driving home the importance of what we will be doing this short semester.

I also noticed that many of you have checked out the blogs. This one went from 12 hits to over a hundred hits since class time. I hope you will read the articles and make comments in between class sessions.

My Take Away

I feel like we struck the right balance in our discussion. We talked a good bit about the onslaught of “gay Christianity” which was important to do for a couple of reasons. First, it happens to be the fastest moving breach of orthodoxy facing the believing Church today. Second, in principle, it represents all of the varied principles we will deal with in other issues as well. But, just to be clear, this class is not about homosexuality.

More importantly, we discussed the need for the believing Church to be full of power and to demonstrate genuine love to the people in our culture, remembering that people who are lost and struggling with sin and bondage are not our enemies. There are those in the culture who have made themselves enemies of the cross, but even they are being held captive under the sway of the real enemy which is Satan. The point was also well made that as we talk about these things, but more importantly as we pray, we must realize we move into the enemy’s camp and so we should be wise and stay in pray and in the Word.

Expectations

In the end, I hope that as a result of attending this class you become more informed about where we are in the Church and the culture and that you will take your place “on the wall” so to speak and discover how God wants to use you in these last hours.

For Next Week

Please read Intro to an Ethics of Christ and Culture, Heresy: What is it?, and Old Time Tolerance and Intolerance. They are not long. If you would like to share your thoughts on these subjects, make a comment!

See you next week!

 

 

Heresy: What is it? (Revised 4/24/13)

Filippino Lippi - Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas...
Filippino Lippi – Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas over the Heretics (detail) – WGA13118 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From a Christian standpoint, heresy is “any teaching rejected by the Christian community as contrary to Scripture and . . . to orthodox doctrine. The term heresy is generally reserved for any belief that claims to be Christian and scriptural but has been rejected by the church as sub-Christian or anti-scriptural.”1

When we talk about heresy, we are not referring to atheism because atheism does not make its claim from within Christianity. We are also not talking about schism, which refers to division or faction within Christian fellowship or the sowing of discord among the brethren (both of which can happen as a result of heresy), but does not in and of itself have false doctrine as its root. As for heresy, Origen, the early church father said: “Heretics all begin by believing, and afterwards depart from the road of faith and the truth of the church’s teaching.”2

What makes heresy such an evil is that it comes from within the body of true believers from someone who had been viewed as a true believer. According to Pelikan:

“The presupposition of those works [the writings of the Ancient Church orthodox theologians against heresies] was that the primitive deposit of Christian truth had been given by Christ to the apostles and by them in turn to the succession of orthodox bishops and teachers, while the heretics were those who forsook this succession and departed from this deposit.”3

For Irenaeus, heresy was a deviation from the standard of sound doctrine. Augustine ultimately defined “heretics as those who ‘in holding false opinions regarding God, do injury to the faith itself.’”4

A.W. Tozer wrote:

“Perverted notions about God soon rot the religion in which they appear. . . . So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

“Before the Christian Church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, ‘What is God like?’ and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her. In all her prayers and labors this should have first place. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.”5

NOTES

1 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki, Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 58.

2  Origen, Exposition of the Song of Solomon, 3.4, quoted by Jaroslav Pelikan in The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 1, ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971) page 69.

3 Pelikan, page 69. I think one of the things that makes heresy difficult to deal with is that it can seep into the Church so subtly and, since it comes from people within the body, it comes from people we likely esteem! As to the idea of the “succession of Bishops” etc., a case can be made that it was the onslaught of heresy that helped to hasten the Church’s catholicity, forcing it to solidify its continuity with Christ and the apostles thereby closing the door on heresy. So, apostolic succession becomes a byword and ultimately even a mechanism of control.

4 Pelikan, page 69, quoting Augustine in On Faith and the Creed and On Heresies.

5 A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy, (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), page 4.

 

Intro to an Ethics of Christ and Culture

Ethics, Christian Ethics, and an Ethics of Christ and Culture

Simply put, the study of ethics concerns itself with the human pursuit of “the good.”1 It deals with questions having to do with how people should behave and asks, “What is the good life for man?”2 The subject and study of Christ and culture is the study of ethics, though not simply Christian ethics, limited only to those who profess Christ, but rather an ethics that speaks of Christ intersecting with culture; a theory of ethics that envisions culture as Christ would order it.

Admittedly, some have expressed animosity towards the idea of Christian ethics for at least a couple of reasons. First, the many examples where atrocities have been committed in the name of Christianity such as “[the] crusades, the Inquisition, the conquest of the Americas, religious wars, the Galileo affair, defenses of slavery and patriarchy.”3 Second, because Christians are perceived as not caring about the natural world and the common interests of mankind. In fact, some would say “Jesus imperils culture.”4 An ethics of Christ and culture wants to decisively address the questions that arise in the human pursuit of “the good.” It wants to define what “the good life” is for humanity.

The “Enduring Problem”

Niebuhr referred to the problem of human culture as the “enduring problem.”5 And while the Church, as representatives of Christ, would like to lead the culture, there are several reasons according to Niebuhr why the culture is suspicious of an ethics of Christ and culture.

First, he reported that the culture perceives that “Christians are animated by a contempt for present existence and by confidence in immortality.”6

It is not an attitude which can be ascribed to defective discipleship while the Master is exculpated, since his statements about anxiety for food and drink . . . the unimportance of treasures on earth . . . the fear of those who can take away life [see Matthew 6; 10:28] . . . as well as his [Jesus’] rejection in life and death of temporal power [Matthew 4] all point to Jesus as the source of His followers’ convictions . . . . It is a baffling attitude, because it mates what seems like contempt for present existence with great concern for existing men, because it is not frightened by the prospect of doom on all man’s works, because it is not despairing but confident. Christianity seems to threaten culture at this point not because it prophecies that of all human achievements not one stone will be left on another but because Christ enables men to regard this disaster with a certain equanimity, directs their hopes toward another world, and so seems to deprive them of motivation to engage in the ceaseless labor of conserving a massive but insecure social heritage.

The second reason, according to Niebuhr, for cultural contempt towards an ethics of Christ and culture is the accusation that Jesus

induces men to rely on the grace of God instead of summoning them to human achievement. What would have happened to the Romans, asks Celsus in effect, if they had followed the command to trust in God alone? Would they not have been left like the Jews, without a patch of ground to call their own, and would they not have been hunted down as criminals, like the Christians?7

This approach to life flies in the face of an ethics that relies on human effort.

The third reason given by Niebuhr is that “Christ and his church . . . are intolerant.” Niebuhr prophetically describes this accusation as “the disapproval with which unbelief meets conviction.” The problem in Rome was not that Christians worshipped a new God in Jesus Christ, but that they claimed to possess an exclusive divine knowledge and would not bow to Caesar when it was required. Niebuhr wrote:

The Christ who will not worship Satan to gain the world’s kingdoms is followed by Christians who will worship only Christ in unity with the Lord whom he serves. And this is intolerable to all defenders of society who are content that many gods should be worshiped if only Democracy or America or Germany or the Empire receives its due, religious homage [today read: the Church yielding to the state in our present milieu of separation between Church and state].

Niebuhr mentions other aspects of Christianity that are abhorrent to the culture: Christ’s view of forgiveness, the requirements found in the Sermon on the Mount, the exaltation of the lowly, and the “unavailability of Christ’s wisdom to the wise and prudent, its attainability by the simple and by babes.”

In the end, the problem is between the two authoritative poles of Christ and culture and that Christians appeal to and follow Christ’s authority and want others to as well. Indeed, Jesus imperils culture.

Notes

1 Dr. Stephen Long, Christian Ethics: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010).

2 Popkin, Stroll, Philosophy Made Simple (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1993).

3 Long, page 1.

4 H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture, (New York: Harper & Row, 1951) 4.

5 Ibid., page 1ff.

6 Ibid., Niebuhr quoting Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 5. The following quotes come from this same source: Niebuhr Chapter One The Enduring Problem.

7 Niebuhr is quoting Origen here: Contra Celsus, VIII, lxix (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. IV, p 666).

The Christ and Culture Initiative

ccithink

By Scott Fowler

Christ and Culture

Last year I read H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic text, Christ and Culture. For years I had been meaning to read it but, truthfully, it is not the easiest read. But last year, it came alive! Not so much because of Niebuhr’s insights1 but because it so eloquently raises the question: What is to be done about the problem of Christ and culture?2 The question is profoundly important and constantly addressed—either consciously or subconsciously—by Christians and non-Christians alike; by religious and non-religious persons alike; by pop stars and prominent atheists, by actors and professors, by scientists and, of course, preachers of every ilk. My concern for the believing Church and an American culture increasingly hostile towards it,3 prompts my entry into this fray.

And so, for some time now, my question has been, Who do we look to for…

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