Monday, 31 March 2014

Preaching in a post-Christian society without reflexively demonising evolution

Given the publication and granting of front-cover status to the embarrassingly bad YEC article by Nigel Bernard and Don Pearce, [1] a decision that did much to erode the credibility of The Christadelphian magazine, it was quite pleasing to read the January 2014 article on how to preach in a post-Christian world [2]. Not only did it recognise that our traditional approach of "trying to convince…Christians of our bible-based beliefs" is less likely to succeed given that "[y]oung Christians today seek sanctuary in broader definitions of Christianity and consequently are uncomfortable with narrow denominational differences", it pointed out the need to present a case for belief in God which did not automatically seek to criticise evolution.

How to really read Genesis 1 literally, and not as the fundamentalists do.

One of the main themes of this blog is pointing out how destructive YEC, fundamentalism, and Biblical literalism are to the future of the Christadelphian community. Such a perversion of biblical exegesis immediately sets up our community in conflict with modern science, as this form of literalism results in Christadelphians who in all seriousness believe the Earth was young, all animals were initially created vegetarians, and humans coexisted with dinosaurs. That this places us in collision with reality hardly needs stressing.

The irony is that those who claim to be reading the Bible literally are in fact doing nothing of the sort. What they are doing is reading an English language translation of the text as if it was a modern historical narrative. There is nothing wrong with literalism per se, provided one does not ignore the genre and context of the narrative. In other words, one needs to read the text as the ancient Hebrews would have done, not as a 21st century person thoroughly inculcated in modern standards of historiography and science.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Intelligent Design and Common Ancestry: Dennis Venema schools Casey Luskin

Evangelical Christian and geneticist Dennis Venema's 2010 paper outlining the evidence for common descent and against universal human descent from two people has caught the attention of the evolution denialists at the Discovery Institute. One can hardly blame them for trying to take on Venema's review paper as it is one of the best summaries of the evidence for common descent and against the untenable idea that every human being descends exclusively from two people living 6000-10000 years ago. Unfortunately, they have sent a lawyer, Casey Luskin, to try to take down the arguments. Bad move. Luskin, as I have shown before, fares poorly when trying to attack evolution. Dennis Venema has begun a takedown of Luskin's attempt to rebut the paper at BioLogos which you can find here. As Venema continues his destruction of Luskin's argument, I will add the links to this post.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Genesis and Genre - insights from a Catholic Priest

This post from Fr Robert Barron popped up in my Facebook feed today. Although I have commented on the need to recognise genre before even beginning to interpret Scripture, Barron's post is worth mentioning if only to show what I mean by how critically engaging with information irrespective of its source is essential if one is to grow as a Bible student. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Gordon Glover - Science and Christian Education

Gordon Glover is an evangelical Christian and evolutionary creationist who has been involved in working out how to read the creation narratives in the light of both their ancient Near Eastern context and the fact of evolution. Glover has an excellent sixteen part series which deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. The videos are below the fold.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Yet more evidence that YEC can destroy faith

I make no apology for regarding YEC as poor science and even worse theology. The scientific evidence for an ancient Earth and evolution is beyond rational dispute, while YEC is what you get when you impose a naive literal hermeneutic on a text which cannot be understood properly unless it is read against its ancient Near Eastern background. Anyone who persists with YEC is simply ignorant of these issues and is best ignored as a delusional crank. It's that simple.

Unfortunately, when YEC dogma not only infects a faith tradition, but is regarded as normative and even essential for salvation, the blunt fact is that when young people inculcated with these lies hit university and discover that they were lied to about the age of the Earth and the evidence for evolution, there is a high likelihood that these people will conclude that if their church - or ecclesia - was wrong on evolution, then they were wrong on the Bible, and leave Christianity.

Denis Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (6)

The final part of Denis Lamoureux's six part series on Biblical genealogies can be found here. If it can serve to expose the fundamentalist idiocy of reading the genealogies in Genesis in the same way as we would read our own family tree, and remind us of the importance of reading Genesis in its ancient Near Eastern background, then it will have served its purpose.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Why Fundamentalist Apologetics is a Contradiction in Terms

I was a fundamentalist until my literal interpretation of the Bible collided head-on with the real world in 1985 when I began tertiary education. The particular event which triggered my first crisis of faith was realising that Noah's flood could not have been global as a population of eight would rapidly be wiped out by all the obligate human pathogens they would have been carrying. My faith recovered, but it was no longer a fundamentalist one. Unlike too many other fundamentalists, I had enough intellectual honesty to recognise that evidence that refutes a worldview does not go away simply by ignoring it, or explaining it away. That event began my interest in apologetics, one that continues to the present day. 

Being spurred into apologetics after an adolescent crisis of faith is quite a common story among Christian apologists. I suspect that one of the main reasons is to ensure that other believers don't have to endure unsupported the emotional and intellectual crises that come when they are confronted with evidence that cannot be easily reconciled with what they believe. How the apologist resolved the cognitive dissonance they experienced when they had their crisis of faith is critical. Did they resolve the tension simply by constructing elaborate rationalisations for their fundamentalism, or did they accept that fundamentalism was untenable, rationally examine the evidence, and present a Christianity that was consistent with all the evidence? Unless one lives in a fundamentalist bubble and is Dunning Kruger incarnate, eventually, the stress of trying to rationalise away the evidence that refutes fundamentalism will be too much, and the fundamentalist apologist will lose faith, often in a protracted, painful way. Ironically, the fundamentalist apologist who entered the apologetics game after a crisis of faith in order to defend it ends up merely facilitating the reconversion of others by inculcating them with a flawed way of defending the faith. It's a reminder for every apologist to remember the importance of following the evidence, rather than explaining it away.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Fundamentalist Bible Study is Bad for your Faith

I've previously referred to the research carried out by the Barna Group, a Christian market research firm which showed that nearly 60% of young people leave church permanently or for extended periods of time after the age of 15. Of the six reasons identified by the Barna Group's research, two of them
  • the perceived antagonism of Christianity towards science 
  • its lack of sensitivity to those struggling with doubt 
are particularly relevant to any community which actively denigrates any scholarship outside of its own narrow sectarian base [1] and promotes as normative a flat, hyper-literal reading of the Bible. Believers raised in such an environment simply lack the intellectual base to withstand challenges to their faith such as how to reconcile a literal reading of the two creation narratives with the fact of an ancient earth and the fact of evolution, or why the conquest narratives in Joshua 9-12 refer to the complete annihilation of the Caananites, while the latter parts of Joshua refer to those same parts of Canaan as being very much populated with Caananites. People do lose their faith over these issues, and a large part of the blame can be sheeted home to the faith communities who let these people down by failing to give them the support, encouragement, and intellectual tools to properly face these genuine problems.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Critically engaging with resources is not cherry picking

In response to one of my recent posts linking to Denis Lamoureux's series of lectures on biblical genealogies, Mark Taunton, a fundamentalist Christadelphian has made the ludicrous assertion that by citing him positively on this subject, I am obliged to accept Lamoureux's trinitarian Christology. Furthermore, he has claimed that I am guilty of cherry picking for not doing this. Unfortunately, I am not making this up. 

Denis Lamoureux - The Meaning of Biblical Genealogies (5)

Part 5 of Denis Lamoureux's series on Biblical genealogies is out, and can be found here. While I do not share Lamoureux's view that Adam was not a historical figure, his coverage of the oral background of the patriarchs and the pre-scientific worldview of the ancient Hebrews needs to be seen, if only to remind the fundamentalists in our community of the background information their naive readings of Genesis are lacking, as well as serving as a reminder to avoid reading the texts as if they were literal, scientifically accurate accounts of creation.