Friday, January 01, 2010

Pitiful Blogging in 2009

So after a record blog year at in 2008 with 105 posts, 2009 has been pathetic with only 9 posts. Perhaps it is clear that my life has become much more busy in the last year. I started grad school and changed jobs. We bought a house, and the necessities of home ownership have invaded my time as well. These are not excuses, just the way it is.

I think by and large these shifts have been positive. As fun as blogging is, there are certainly other areas of life that demand attention. I'm not shutting it down at this point, but know that I'm not super confident that the future will increase the frequency. I also assume that I have lost all of my readership I gained in 08.

So, Happy New Year!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Enjoying Precipice

It's always fun to find a new blog, e-magazine, website, whatever that really speaks your language and emphasizes what you emphasize. That has been my experience at Precipice Magazine.

It's thrust it toward a postmodern, Emergent view of faith and scripture. Some of the more interesting features of Precipice are as follows:

1. Inform: This is essentially a page of quotes that (they feel) encapsulate postmodern Christianity. I happen to love thoughtful quotes and enjoyed reading through these.

2. Perspectives: The writers at Precipice have developed a "Postmodern Canon," which they admit is a bit pretentious. Nonetheless, they have done their best to list the 40 books that they feel are central to understanding the movement. It works as a great reading list for interested learners.

3. The Current: This is essentially the blog portion of the site, where the authors interact with stuff from around the blogosphere and comment.

There are other features to check out, but those are my favorites. Check it out and let us know what you think.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brian McLaren on Postmodernity and Truth

Great Q&A here where Brian responds to a question about postmodernity. There is a perception around many conservative evangelical circles that suggests postmodernity is synonymous with denying truth (or absolute truth, or moral absolutes, all essentially saying the same thing). Of course that is untrue. Brian gives a great response.

...I won't try to speak for "postmodernism," but let me speak for myself.

Of course I believe that some things are morally good and others are morally evil. Of course!

But I do not believe that Christian fundamentalism (or Islamic fundamentalism, or secular fundamentalism, etc., etc.) has a superior record of identifying what is moral and what isn't moral in contested situations. For example, in my lifetime Christian fundamentalists have been among the last to release racism, sexism, a careless attitude toward the environment, a careless attitude toward the rights of Palestinians, a fear of science, and a fusion between the gospel and American nationalism.
Go back farther in history, and there were a majority of Bible-believing Christians in the South who were pro-slavery - and held that as an "absolute truth" or "absolute moral principle" that they could quote chapter and verse to defend. (I'll explore this in some detail in my upcoming book.)

Go back still farther, and our Christian ancestors refused to believe Copernicus and Galileo - again, based on their conception of moral absolutes based on their readings of the Bible. The same was true regarding the age of the earth, Darwin, etc.
So here's my concern: If a person or group pushes the "we've got moral absolutes absolutely figured out" button too fast or too often, they run an increased risk of behaving in immoral ways, and they are the last to know it because of their excessive self-confidence. If conservative Christians would acknowledge this pattern at work in their own history more openly, and if they would show how they have taken corrective action to avoid similar patterns of misjudgment in the future, a lot of us would feel more confident in their moral judgment.

He sums it uo thusly:

So - perhaps we can put this question to rest for good: the issue isn't morality - with some "fer it" and others "agin it." We're all for morality, as we understand it. The issue is two-fold. Postmodern-leaning folks are concerned whether this or that preacher's claims to have "absolute certainty" about this or that moral viewpoint of his are "absolutely justified," and whether his confidence will increase the chances of behaving immorally. Modern-leaning folks are concerned whether leaving the door open to the possibility that "we" have been or are wrong will lead to moral collapse. If you let an absolutist system go, there will be nothing left, they fear.

I'd say there are dangers on both sides - the danger of excessive moral confidence on the one side and the danger of insufficient moral confidence on the other. I'm seeking a proper confidence ... one that is aware of both dangers on both sides.
In my view, only God has absolute moral knowledge. Human beings have shown a remarkable propensity to misinterpret God, all the while claiming to speak for God on morality, which (sadly) often degenerates into speaking as if they were God... (emphasis mine)

Beautiful point.

I consider myself a postmodern person. I also feel like no ideology, worldview, belief system, whatever, should be swallowed wholly or uncritically. Modernity has some great elements and some ugly elements. Postmodernity has some great elements and some ugly elements. The same is true for Buddhism, Communism, Calvinism, the Emergent Church, Catholicism, whatever. Categorizing is helpful for some things, but often it divides and excludes. May we keep this in mind wherever we encounter ideas: look for the truth, that we might embrace it, and leave the rest.

PS I had knee surgery today and will be out of work for about 10 days. Since I won't be able to move much, I may actually blog quite a bit in these next weeks. Stay tuned! It would be fun to converse.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Piper and Boyd on the Tornado

You may already be aware that a number of tornados struck the Twin Cities area earlier this week. You may also be aware that John Piper attempted to explain the tornados as God's providence warning the ELCA (who was meeting about the issue of homosexuality) not to tolerate sin. It even made it on the evening news.

There is a lot I could say about this, and if you've read this blog with any regularity you know how much I think Piper's article is in poor taste. A resonate with Greg Boyd's sentiment when he says, "I feel I need to offer a public response, if only to remind non-Christians that not all Christians think like this."

Read his full response here.

UPDATE: Tony Jones and Scot McKnight (briefly) both comment on this as well.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Boyd on Dr. Gates

I'll keep this short, but Greg Boyd has posted a short but interesting article about Dr. Gates of Harvard University getting arrested in his own home, which Greg follows with some interesting questions. Check it out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Francis Collins on Evolution

Scot Mcknight had an interesting link to an interview with Francis Collins, a Christian who is an evolutionist. Funny, isn't it, how that statement isn't as out of place as it would have been ten years ago?

Anyway, the interviewer, Karl Gilbertson, does a great job in asking the right questions, the hard questions that many creationists would ask. He takes Collins to task with the questions like "Isn't evolution just a scientific conspiracy to mask the truth?" and others that you hear fundamentalists asking, but you never really hear dialogue about. Collins responds beautifully, in my opinion.

If you've read this blog at all in the past, you probably know that I am extremely interested in this discussion. And the word discussion is key, though I may want to call it dialogue instead. Until the last few years there was not much dialogue between creationists and evolutionists. They would just throw stones at each other which would ignite the fray, and sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly the Christians were often the ones who were the most immature in this battle. That is why this interview is such a breath of fresh air to me.

By the way, the number of scientists like Francis Collins who are Christians and evolutionists is growing. There are a number of books available that talk of the Bible and evolution going hand in hand (including the interviewer Gilbertson's book Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution). The ideas are no longer mutually exclusive. That is refreshing to me.

Here or some high points from the interview, but note: it is really best if you read the whole thing for yourself. Thanks for stopping by!

(Gilbertson is in bold, Collins in regular font).

Heliocentricity is so well-established that educated people simply can't oppose it any longer, of course. What about common ancestry and evolution in general? How compelling is the evidence at this point?

The evidence is overwhelming. And it is becoming more so almost by the day, especially because we can now use DNA as a digital record of the way Darwin's theory has played out over the course of time.

Darwin could hardly have imagined that there would turn out to be such strong proof of his theory—he didn't know about DNA. Evolution is now profoundly well-documented from multiple different perspectives, all of which give you a consistent view with enormous explanatory power that makes it the central core of biology. Trying to do biology without evolution would be like trying to do physics without mathematics.

Evolution is this gigantic, complicated tapestry of interwoven bits of explanatory power. But this big tapestry of evolution is filled with holes. It still hangs together, of course, but it does have holes. For example, evolution requires the invocation of common ancestors that we don't have any fossil record for; we don't really know anything about them, other than indirect dna inferences. A layperson is understandably skeptical when they are told that there's this tree of life going back to a common ancestor and all these life-forms are on the tree but we have no direct evidence for most of them and we have to infer them hypothetically. Doesn't it bother you that there are so many missing pieces in the puzzle?

Should people doubt the existence of electrons because they've never seen one? A lot of what we know to be true about physics is also inferred. I know it bothers people who are not really convinced yet about the consistency of evolutionary theory, but the much-emphasized gaps do not represent any real threat to the overall framework. And is the absence of a fossil representation of a specific organism all that troubling when you realize that fossilization is extremely unlikely to have happened?

Based on the DNA sequences of many mammals, we can now predict the genome sequence of the common mammalian ancestor. And it's breathtaking that you can actually look now at the dna sequence, which is a fossil record of its own, of an organism that is long since gone, but that we and all other mammals are descended from.

Evolution may seem from the outside to have a lot of complexities, and certainly there are lots of details we haven't worked out—and for anybody to say there are no arguments would be a total mistake. But nearly all scientists agree upon descent from a common ancestor, gradual change over a long period of time, and natural selection operating to produce the diversity of living species. There is no question that those are correct. Evolution is not a theory that is going to be discarded next week or next year or a hundred thousand years from now. It is true.

There is a remarkable claim being made today by anti-evolutionists that runs exactly counter to this. This is the claim that evolution is based on a big deception, that there isn't any solid basis at all for the theory, and that scientists are gradually abandoning evolution. Are there evolutionists jumping ship?

I haven't met any of these people. And I think I would hear about it, if it were true, as I have identified myself as a believer interested in studying biological evolution. No, I think those claims are completely without evidence.

Stating this is a convenient way to float the idea that evolution is a conspiracy that is about to be exposed. That's the idea behind the movie Expelled, which tries to make that same case—that there is a conspiracy to squash the truth. That viewpoint totally misunderstands the nature of science. Anybody who has lived within the scientific community would immediately—regardless of their worldview—rebel against the idea that science would be able to sustain such a conspiracy. Scientists are all about upsetting and overturning things. And if you're the one who's discovered how to overturn evolution, you're going to win the Nobel Prize!

The position that people on the outside of science—like the creationists and the people in the id camp—have adopted, that such a conspiracy could actually exist for more than thirty seconds, completely flies in the face of the realities of the sociology of the field of science. It's an insult.

We are all part of social groups, and people we trust tell us things. I believe in evolution because people like you that I trust have told me it's true. I've never done a genome sequence; I've never done a fossil dig. So what do I—Karl Giberson—really know about evolution? All I know is that people I trust say it's true and people that I have less confidence in say it is not. But how are people outside the scientific community supposed to navigate this complex web of social authority, to try and figure out which voices they should listen to, and which voices they shouldn't?

Consider credentials. On paper the credentials of the better creationists and id people are like yours and mine. Take you and Michael Behe. You both have PhDs. You have both done research and published articles. So if somebody wants to put Behe up against Collins and say, "Well, here's a guy and I like what he says. And here's another guy and I don't like what he says. And you're asking me to follow Collins over Behe? Well, why should I do that?"
Well, that is a fundamental problem we're facing in our culture, especially in the United States. It's why we have such a mismatch between what the scientific data would suggest and what many people believe about things like the age of the Earth and about whether evolution is true or not.

If you ask about data-driven questions, about what is true and what is the evidence to support it—you would want to go to the people who are the professionals who spend their lives trying to answer those questions and ask, "Is there a consensus view?" So you ask, "What is the age of the Earth?" Well, who does that work? It is the geologist and the cosmologists and the people who do radiocarbon dating. It is the fossil record people and so on. So you ask, "Is this an unanswered question?" And the answer you would get is that the issue is settled. The age of the earth is 4.55 billion years.

How have people in fundamentalist churches responded to you, when you have spoken there?

I've had people get up and walk out! And I've had people come to the microphone clearly very upset, and imply that I am under the influence of the devil. I also get some fairly unpleasant emails from the atheistic scientific community, but the nastiest ones come from believers who are infuriated that someone who claims to be a believer could say these things about the truth of the evolutionary process. To them, I am clearly a wolf in sheep's clothing, and I'm allied with the devil. I've even been excommunicated a couple of times, though I'm not Catholic!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Movie Update

So I'm rocking the longest time between posts that I ever have. Blogging has definitely been on the back burner. Let me do a movie update though.

1. The King of Kong: A documentary about a ring of nerdy guys who play classic video games (pac-man, Galaga, Defender, Donkey Kong). It really zooms in on the guy who set the record in Donkey Kong like 20 years ago and who is like the king of classic video games, and a teacher/coach who buys an arcade version and sets out to beat the record. It is very interesting, sad, revealing, and many other things in a sociological way. I would recommend it.

2. Man on Wire: Another documentary about a man, Phelippe Petit, who learns when he is very young to walk on the tightrope, and then takes that passion to new levels, including spanning the towers of the Notre Dame (while mass is going on!) and culminating with walking across a rope between the World Trade Center towers. What is interesting is that as you can imagine, he can;t just stroll up to the top and toss a wire across. There is a ton of planning that has to be done. It is kind of like they are planning a bank robbery, but the goal is tightrope walking rather than stealing money. It is interesting, and the thing that captures you is the vision and determination of Philippe. He is dedicated to accomplish his mission or die trying, which is inspirational. Check it out. (Both this and King of Kong are available with the "Play Now" option on Netflix).

3. Primer: I can't believe I haven't blogged about this already. I saw this a few months ago...probably February. It is low budget with a lot of editing mistakes and all that, because Shane Carruth starred in, shot, cast, edited and everything else himself. I don;t want to exaggerate, because it seems like one of those movies that you either love or you hate, but everything about it is amazing in my humble opinion. From the music, to the character development, to the slow twisting of the plot and everything in between. It rocked my world. It is one of those movies where it is better to not know anything going in. It is also one where if you like it you will want to watch it over and over to pick up on small things you missed before. this is in my top 5 of all time.

4. Once: This is an interesting movie about a down and out musician who is struggling to survive in England. He meets an immigrant and they connect on a musical level and have a great week together, making music and sharing life. It is simple, but charming and well done. The details make the point hit home in this film.

So there it is! I welcome your comments on these as well as your own suggestions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

I'm Late into the game regarding Earth Day, but I thought this video was cool. I was it first at Brian's website.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Evolution Graph

After the post earlier linking to Ken's post about Darwin, I came across this graph reporting on those who accept evolution divided by religious affiliation. For some reason it doesn't surprise me that the three lowest groups are Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians.

The other thing that interested me is that no group went over 81%. I'm wondering what that tells us.

Nonetheless, I thought this was a very interesting graph. What are your thoughts?

Ken Wilson on Darwin

Why not break the blog drought, eh? I is no secret how busy I've been in the last 6 months with a new job requiring more time and mental energy and going grad school full time. However, I'm going to try to get back into "reference posts", a term I just made up 5 seconds ago for the kind of post where I simply link to another story I find interesting and give it some pub. Is there an actual name for that?

Nonetheless, this is a very interesting article looking at the life of Charles Darwin on his 200th birthday. Perhaps there is no other figure in history who has been more slandered and scoffed at for merely discovering and doing his job. Evangelicals have certainly been hard on CD. Ken Wilson defends him, and even points to a number of evangelicals in his day who were open to Darwin's ideas.

Darwin’s friend and colleague Asa Gray, a Harvard botanist and devout evangelical, saw no inherent conflict either between natural selection and a creating God. In fact, Asa Gray did more to promote Darwin’s writings in the United States than any other scientist. He was one of Darwin’s closest friends. An evangelical.

But these evangelicals took the time to understand Darwin’s idea and consider the evidence for it. They sought to understand the man before calling him dangerous or his ideas heretical. They could understand if the man was too busy with his beetles and barnacles to integrate these new scientific insights with Christian faith. That was a task for people more steeped in theology than he.

Give the article a full read, as it is worth it. It seems in the church today that a good number of people are lessening their opposition to Darwin's ideas. Have you noticed this too, and in your mind is it a good shift or a bad shift?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Donald Miller and Some Random Reflections

Donald Miller's writing is always entertaining. His most recent blog article is a collection of thoughts about his new puppy, how simple her life is, and how we could all learn something from the blissful simplicity of her example.

I’ve been watching Lucy (the aforementioned dog) and wondered why God made her. A pet. Just a dog (chocolate lab puppy) that runs and jumps and chews things and, even though we’ve only known each other for a couple weeks, wants nothing more than to please me. She puts on no airs, which is one of the things I think we find so comforting about pets and children. There is no false motive, only the desire to eat, reproduce and play.

I think of that scripture that tells us to not think more of ourselves than we should, and not less of ourselves either. I think if Lucy could understand a hearing of that passage, she’d probably tilt her head and say “what is an I?”….all she knows is her red ball and her weasel chew toy and the fact she can dig her nose into snow to make a tunnel.

And later

I wonder what it was like for humans before the fall of man, to not think too much or too little of themselves, to enjoy play, to enjoy work, to enjoy God. I think the difference between them and us would be startling. If they could come here today and have a conversation with us, my guess is they would sniff out all our motives and wonder why it is we care about so many things that don’t matter at all.

Interesting thoughts.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

An Advent Meditation by Rowan Williams

This video, which I found posted by Tony Jones, is an interesting reflection on the season of Advent.

As I continue in my faith, sacramental, liturgical presentations like this one that used to bore me, become rich and enjoyable. What are your thoughts?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Scott McKnight's Third Way

Scott McKnight is starting a series of posts regarding a Third Way:

There is a Third Way, and this post officially kicks off a series of occasional reflections about the Third Way. The Third Way approach to the orthodox Christian faith is one that gets

beyond the fighting and
between the fighters in order
to carve out a middle way.

The Third Way captures and sustains the good in both the conservative and the liberal. It is the Jesus Creed at work in the church's theology and praxis. It affirms the great traditions of the Church and seeks to embody those traditions in a new way for a new day. It is not afraid of change but has a deep desire to remain faithful.

He says later:

At the heart of our Third Way project is fashioning the gospel as robust enough to be both a "kingdom" gospel and a "salvation" gospel, a salvation that is both spiritual/personal and social. A salvation that means complete liberation. We're tired of the old-fashioned, thin gospels of both the conservatives and the liberals. It is hard to hold both sides of this debate together, but we will attempt to do so ... and I think many of you want to as well.

I'm looking forward to this series. I'm interested in a third way. What do you think?

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Boyd on the Unreconciled Church

Greg Boyd has some interesting points about some of the "white evangelical" response the day after Obama won.

Several people responded to my most recent blog by contrasting what I wrote with the “hostility” and “venom” they were reading on some white conservative Christian blogs the day following the election. While most other Americans — even most opponents of Obama’s politics — were celebrating what Obama’s election means for race relations in this country, these white Christians, I was told, were enraged.

And later, regarding a study he ran into at a conference:

One of the sad but unavoidable conclusions Emerson drew from this combination of studies was that participating in a homogenous church — as the vast majority of white evangelicals do — actually makes people more prone toward racism. Folks who are strongly bound to homogenous religous groups tend to embrace racial stereotypes and be more wary of people whose ethnicity and culture is different from their own than those who don’t. As a result, participating in homogenous religious groups tends to make people less interested in, and less adept at, making progress at bridging the racial divide.

In this light, it’s not surprising that some white evangelicals were enraged over Obama’s victory while so much of the rest of the country was celebrating it. Arguably, no group in America is at one and the same time more invested in political opinions that oppose Obama and less able to appreciate the significance of his racial achievement than this group.

He concludes by saying:

This would amount to nothing more than a curious sociological observation except for one thing: white evangelicals are among those who are supposed to be demonstrating to the world the beauty of racial reconciliation! One of the reasons Jesus gave his life was to form “one new humanity” in which all racial, cultural and class walls have been torn down (Eph. 2:14-15; Gal. 3:26-29). Racial reconciliation isn’t some sort of “politically correct” addendum to the Gospel: it’s part of its very essence! If Jesus died to create “one new humanity,” then manifesting a community in which people of different ethnicities are learning to love, understand and do life with one another is as mandatory for the church as is preaching the forgiveness of sins, which Jesus also died for.

An interesting commentary, I thought. What do you think?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Interesting Election Facts from Barna

Here is the link to The Barna Report (as referenced on The Jesus Creed)

As was true in the past two presidential elections, two-thirds of all evangelicals who were registered to vote (65%) were aligned with the Republican Party. One out of five (21%) was Democrats and just one out of ten (10%) was registered independent of a party. That puts evangelicals at odds with the national voter profile, which shows a plurality of Democrats (42%), one-third Republican (34%) and two out of ten (20%) independent of a party affiliation.

Most remarkably, however, was the overwhelming support registered among evangelicals for Republican candidate John McCain. In total, 88% voted for Sen. McCain, compared to just 11% for Sen. Obama. The 88% is statistically identical to the 85% of evangelicals who backed George W. Bush in 2004. Surveys conducted by Barna throughout the campaign season showed that evangelicals were not enthusiastic about either candidate, but on Election Day evangelicals came through in a big way for the most conservative major candidate on the ballot.