Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Really Matters

Cliff and Erv,

Religion is a lot more complicated than it used to be when I was growing up
The earth was 6000 years old then and that was that
Dinosaur remains were just collections of mixed up animal bones
The geologic column wasn't discussed and no one at church or school or
In my neighborhood asked questions about who Cain married
And how Noah got all those animals in the ark not counting insects
Shells on mountaintops were evidence of a worldwide flood
That covered everything including Mr. Everest

But now there's Plate Tectonics and geophysics
And we know dinosaurs were real and maybe a comet crash
Or volcanic ash or a shift in the earth's crust did them in
And then there's the vegetation in the stomachs of mammoths
Quick-frozen in the Arctic that's so fresh it's edible
It's hard to believe that a pair of platypuses got to Australia from Ararat
And it sure looks like things died long before Adam sinned

Maybe that's why Jesus didn't get into long discussions
About how the world was created and where the Tower of Babel was located
And whether God killed the animals He made into clothes for Adam and Eve
And if it was really a snake and an apple that caused all the trouble

Maybe that's why Jesus talked about what really matters
What it means to be a citizen of Heaven and to love your neighbors
Maybe that's why He healed the sick and raised the dead
So we would know that God wasn't responsible for misery and death
Maybe that's why Jesus forgave the people that watched him die
So that all of us would understand that God is forgiveness personified
Maybe His death was not a sacrifice demanded by the laws of the universe
But an amazing demonstration that only truth and love can be used
To convince us to do what is right because it is right

: : :

Editor's note: Andy's poetic commentary is in response to a recently published debate about evolution on Adventist Today entitled "Debate: Can You Be an Adventist and an Evolutionist?" Two Adventist schools of thought are presented in the article: Cliff Goldstein, editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide for the Seventh-day Adventist Church (pictured at the top) presents the traditional view, and Erv Taylor, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of California, Riverside presents the progressive view.

You can view the original article
with an annual subscription to Adventist Today, which includes the
follow-up articles (parts II and III) available online. Information on subscribing can be found here.


  1. Maybe there wasn't a Garden...

    Maybe there wasn't a Human Creation, only ascension from apes...

    Maybe the story of Joseph was embellished... After all, where are his hieroglyphs?

    Maybe Moses just chiseled the 10 laws into the tablets to maintain control over the Hebrews...

    Maybe the tale of Jonah...C'mon! Swallowed by a fish? Bah!

    And don't get me started on Samson - sounds a lot like Hercules, if you ask me.

    And Job? Can anyone really have that much bad luck? Wouldn't want to serve his God...

    Maybe David didn't slay a giant with a stone - it was just allegory about defeating obstacles with positive thinking!

    Maybe Jesus really didn't raise himself from the dead. It could be a scam perpetrated by those meddlesome Galilean fishermen, if that is really what they were...

    Maybe the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation is a bunch of fairy tales.

    And Daniels visions? John the Revelator? Probably were high on something. Hallucinations...

    Maybe there is no God.

    Maybe there is really no hope...

    "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands." ~Psalm 8:3-6

  2. Wow, really nice, Andy! How many times have I felt this and thought this but never said it like this. Thank you!

  3. What really matters is that Jesus was a historical figure. He walked this earth and made such a difference that millions follow him, and would be prepared to die for him today. And what a motley crowd these followers of his are - from those who may be fundamentalists to those who may be liberal when it comes to scripture.

    His divinity? His resurrection? The inspiration of scripture? Jesus would not be the least offended if we believed in none of these. What is important is what we do with him when he confronts us with the demands of his kingdom.

    It is we who make religion complicated by the sillinesses of our so-called religious logic . . .

    To paraphrase Albert Schweitzer in his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus what have we made of the great imperious sayings of the Lord; how we have weakened down His imperative world-contemning demands upon individuals. We have often turned aside from those great demands and offered to mankind a self-centred religion which is more concerned with the ego than with his kingdom at large.

  4. Solid point, Andy.

    Until folks learn to break away from finding their personal existential meaning in propositional claims, they will not understand the power of Christian transformation.

  5. My point, if it was lost or muddled, was that some things have to be taken on faith. Believing that there was sin and death before Adam and Eve negates many important facts about God's character and the nature of God, of sin and of man - of salvation.

    My main thrust was that if you throw out one part of the Bible, who is to say that other things can be thrown out too? Do we throw out the divinity of Jesus because it is difficult to understand or prove?

    Sure, the fossil record is difficult to match up to what is in scripture. But so is the concept of the Shekinah resting on the Mercy Seat. Or some million Hebrews crossing through the Red Sea. Some things we must take on faith - that God means what He says, even if appearances point to the contrary.

    Personally, I believe in the account of a 6 day literal creation. Whether that happened 6000 years or 500,000 years ago makes no difference to me whether in fact it happened the way the Bible says. Gordon has a valid point - it is non-salvational.

    Regardless, it is a wildly fascinating study! With gaps in Biblical genealogies, and the recent evidence captured in Greenland ice cores put along side of dendrochronology, we can be confident of at minimum, 8000+ years and likely up to 120,000 years since the flood.

    But who cares! Jesus has risen and He saves!

  6. We often impose on others (and ourselves for that matter) a God who is foreign to reality. I am quite sure the ancient patriachs struggled as much as we do to make sense of the universe. Last month Scientific American had it that there are approximately 400 billion galaxies out there. How many stars does that make - and planets, by the way.

    It's reminds me very much of Lewis's trilemma - trying to put Jesus into a box with no more than three options regarding who he 'really' was. The most exciting quest for each of us is to discover the truth about God as the frontiers of knowledge recede before us.

  7. thanks so much, andy. that's beautiful! (i would be interested to know your thinking in the use of the word "heaven;" it was a fascinating choice.)

    "interfaith power and light," its good to have you on board. i'm connected to gipl here in the ATL.

    we don't have to treat our faith like a zero-sum game in which the lessons of science continually set us back. GOD can still be AUTHOR and FINISHER of our faith and CREATOR of all even if we have to re-evaluate constructs and ways of understanding that have become near and dear to us. the "inerrancy" of the bible (and the consequent need for everything within its pages to be literal) wasn't even a topic of conversation until the Enlightenment and doesn't have to be the fork in the road where we part ways now. the truth and beauty of this story in which we find ourselves supercedes such a petty debate, and i, for one, am glad it does (i might have had a break down if i had been roped into one more of the many bi-polar debates funded by either/or thinking).

    for those interested, one way forward that some of us have found formative is a narrative approach to theology.

  8. The idea that there is no hope outside of a particular set of beliefs does not play out in real life. There are many people who choose to live a life of hope without depending on a god to make that happen.

    I can certainly understand how the confrontation of one's beliefs with information that seems to negate those beliefs can be quite disturbing. Particularly if one has spent their whole life defending and teaching these beliefs. It might seem like one is being forced to admit that their life has been based on a hoax.

    The reason Christianity does not burn people at the stake for being a heretic or claim that people are witches is not because the Bible has provided a better way, but because Christianity has been forced to collide with scientific proof.

    The same has happened in regards to evil spirits as the cause of disease or that the earth is less than 10,000 years old or that there was an Exodus of 1 million people across the desert or that there was a world wide flood. There is simply a mountain of evidence that none of these are true.

    Does this negate the transcendent? Of course not. But it does cause us to shift our understanding of this process and ultimately I think it makes us less arrogant because we truly live faced with great mysteries. And because of this I think we will be far less sure that we are "right."

  9. Thanks Andy. I appreciate the tone and tenor of this poem in addition to its content.

  10. Andy,

    I enjoyed reading the discussion between Cliff and Erv on Adventist Today's website. The topic of creation/evolution holds endless fascination for me. And yet, I found myself descending into the bipolar thinking which almost derailed my own faith journey several years ago. Thanks for providing some needed perspective. Nicely said.

  11. Two Words: BEN STEIN

    One Word: EXPELLED


    I would be curious how his movie relates to what has been said in this particular blog. Will be an interesting movie night indeed!

    Charles (Armed2Win)

  12. as one who believes in a Creator God, i have no problem with the generally touted premise of ID. the problem is that ID is bad science. it's an unscientific answer to an unscientific question and continues to frame the conversation as if it is one of science vs. religion.

    one brief example of how problematic that is. early in the debate over evolution some posed the theory of the "God of the gaps," thus relegating God to only those places for which science had no answers. well that territory continues to get smaller and smaller, making God more and more useless, if we choose to frame the conversation thus. as ben stein readily admits in his interview with o'reilly, ID is just a 21st century version of that same tired argument.

    science is a field of study that is particularly well equipped to answer questions of what can be observed: what is, what was and, perhaps, what may be. it has never been equipped to probe questions of existence itself, why we exist and how best to exist. this is the purview of theology and philosophy. every time religion chooses to engage science as if theirs is a fight to the death for the same territory, it inadvertently extends sciences authority into the religious realm and undermines religion's own credibility by continually denying what we know to be empirically true.

    for a much more informed take on this, check out John Polkinghorne's conversation with Krista Tippet on SOF.

  13. Admittedly, I believe in a version of ID - the one chronicled in scripture, not the one Ben Stein is working with.

    I am also of the belief that science ultimately proves (to a point) the supreme majesty and reality of a living and loving God - an Intelligent Designer. The "to a point" refers to the fact that as "finite" beings, trying to prove OR disprove the "Infinite" is, ultimately, an impossible task. That is where faith comes in.

    One must remember that BOTH Creationism and Evolution or Darwinism (and their many offspring) are, in the end, just THEORIES. Nothing more or less. And both require FAITH. What I find interesting in reading up on Ben Stein's documentary, is that as scientists make greater and more astounding discoveries, many leave the realm of atheism (and ultimately, its child - Darwinism and Evolution) behind. These scientists are becoming God believers! Thats the beauty of Psalm 8:3-6!

    Personally, the more I discover in the physical realm, the more I believe in the reality of the Divine. And that is why I firmly believe that Faith and Science CAN coexist. Both were invented by an Intelligent Designer! They are the perfect "check and balance" pair - correctly addressing and hashing out such issues as mixed-up bones, 6000 years, life sparking lightening, or ape to human progression.

    You can't have one without the other, for ultimately, you will get fallacy with either alone.

  14. The idea that one can provide proof that God exists or created the universe is a misunderstanding of the nature of proof. Intelligent design calls on the idea of irreducible complexity as evidence for a God.

    "Intelligent design has been called an "argument from ignorance," as it relies upon a lack of knowledge for its conclusion: Lacking a natural explanation, we assume intelligent cause.

    Most scientists would reply that unexplained is not unexplainable, and that 'we don't know yet' is a more appropriate response than invoking a cause outside of science." This is why intelligent design has no basis in science.

    "ID and creation science share the belief that the mainstream scientific discipline of evolution is largely incorrect. Both involve an intervening deity, but ID is more vague about what happened and when.

    Indeed, ID proponents are tactically silent on an alternative to common descent. Teachers exhorted to teach ID, then, are left with little to teach other than 'evolution didn't happen.'"

  15. Richard,

    You stated the following: "The idea that one can provide proof that God exists or created the universe is a misunderstanding of the nature of proof." The same can be said about your's and other's attempt to disprove the existence of God. IT CAN'T BE DONE. Why? For each method used goes against the "tenets" of the scientific method. Neither is utterly falsifiable. You cannot prove against the existence of God just as much as I cannot prove for Him.

    Which brings me back to the concept of faith. I agree, ID does not have all the answers, and I don't support that line of reasoning, just as much as I don't support the logic behind "common descent". In fact, the whole hypothesis of a common ancestor has changed over time. Why? A consensus of intellectuals have abandoned the theory of a single common ancestor in favor of a least, or perhaps, no less than three, common ancestors. Perhaps three groupings better explains it. Regardless, the bias is still present, and these scientists find their hypotheses fall to observed irreducable complexity. Perhaps in another 50 years there will be 10 common ancestors?

    Which again brings me to faith. Since I cannot absolutely prove either, I choose to believe the Biblical account - a creation of multiple groups of adaptable organisms. Natural selection would play out perfectly fine in this scenario. Perhaps there is one Common Ancestor - God Himself. Since He created everything, everything is connected?

    Regardless, neither belief system can ultimately be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Hence the word THEORY found at every turn.

    I am OK with that. ~Charles

  16. There are several myths about what it means to be an atheist. You are an atheist when it comes to Zeus, Mythra, and an assortment of other gods. In fact the early Christians were called atheists by the Greeks because they did not believe in the gods.

    The other myth is that when it comes to atheists and their view of evolution, there is no admission of the THEORY of evolution. If that was not the case evolution would not continue to change with the discovery of new information. It is clearly seen as a theory and the in the absence of any other scientifically investigated system, it is the best description we have due it its ability to predict the nature of evolution and adaption with the greatest accuracy of any theory we have.

    I believe that it can be easily proven that the earth was not created in the manner described in the Bible. We may not know exactly how everything came into being, but we are reasonably certain that it was not created some 6000 to 10000 years ago, nor was there was a world wide flood.

    There are certainly atheists that declare that there is no god, but most atheists are atheist by default. There is simply not sufficient evidence of a God as described in the Bible or any other holy book.

    Technically agnostic or atheist lite may be closer to the default position. We simply do not know.