Good Friday Creation & Re-Thinking “The Fall”


Bosch-Garden-Earthly-Delights-Outer-Wings-Creation-WorldEach year during Lent, I press all the more deeply into a motif that appears throughout the Bible: that in some mysterious way, the God of the Universe has had a “slain” and “suffering” aspect to his nature for all eternity–even before the world came into being.

When this world did come into being, the Bible says that it came to exist “through” this suffering and slain Jesus. Therefore the rhythms of Christ’s own nature and life are written into the very DNA of the world. All of our history is an echo of Jesus’ life, both from eternity past and while on earth.

I’ve written before about what this means for the world and what this means for us, but what might this mean for the entire history of God’s work in this world?
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A post on God, Evil, & Nature that has something for everyone [LINK]


I was reminded of this post yesterday:

Christianity: paradox & Paradise; fall & Fall

It’s got something for everyone: Atheists, Theologians, Mystics, Romantics, Intellectuals, Naturalists–even both Urban and Rural dwellers–you ALL get some attention. Enjoy.

On Darwinism vs. Design (a response to the Richmond Center for Christian Study) {pt.2}


Yesterday, I posted the first part of a reply to Chris Daniel, Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study, who wrote an article titled The Origin of Life: Darwinism vs. Design. Here is part 2.

Chris, you are right to attack Darwinism as a philosophy or worldview; just like it is also appropriate to attack humanism, hedonism, racism, sexism, bibliolatry, and “systematic theology-ism”. Any system that builds its existence and definition around a created thing rather than the Person of God Himself ought to be attacked and shown to be the inadequate system it is.

But just because those “isms” above shouldn’t define our worldviews, it does’t mean that there isn’t truth and goodness even in the the things they are tempted to define themselves by: humanity has worth, pleasure is good, races are beautiful, genders are different, the Bible is the primary revelation of God (we are not a people of the Book, but a people of the Word that is testified to by the Book), and systematic theology can be helpful as we interpret and apply the Scriptures.

And Darwinism as a philosophy is an improper elevation of a seemingly true process.

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On Darwinism vs. Design (a response to the Richmond Center for Christian Study) {pt.1}


[Update: Part 2 has been posted]

Chris Daniel, Executive Director of the Richmond Center for Christian Study posted this article titled The Origin of Life: Darwinism vs. Design. In it, he unpacks why he thinks agreement with evolution is an incorrect posture for Christians and how “Intelligent Design” is the superior and clearer stance to take.

I consider Chris a friend. He led the Reformed University Fellowship at VCU when I went there and our campus ministries worked together on several occasions. He is a great man of God, a brilliant teacher, and an articulate apologist for the Christian faith.

Nevertheless, my feelings on this topic are no secret, and my heart has broken frequently over these discussion (and has become angered some times). As I started writing out a little comment on the post on their site, it turned into a full-fledged response, which I’ll break up into two posts today and tomorrow. Please refer to his article for any references I make that seem to have no context. Here’s part 1 of my response. Part 2 is here: Continue reading

“BP, Obama, the Environment, and All That Other Stuff You’re Already Sick of Talking About”-Patrol


hayward

I have my newest article up on Patrol Magazine.  It is joining in on a discussion happening between a couple of the writers at the magazine concerning ways to approach this oil crisis.  My opinion?  Stop trying to destroy BP.  Why?  Read on to find out.  And please, give comments; I’d love to know what you all think.  Here it is:

“BP, Obama, the Environment, and All That Other Stuff You’re Already Sick of Talking About”–Patrol Magazine

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“If You Believe in Jesus, the Resurrection, & Evolution, You Are A Heretic” – Patrol Mag


photo from Wired Science

Well, my article for last week on Patrol took a little longer for me to submit it than usual so it only just got posted.  The article has to do with the recent situation involving Bruce Waltke, formerly of Reformed Theological Seminary.  The article is in response to a recent post by Rick Phillips of the site Reformation21, whose mission is “Encouraging biblical thinking, living, worship, ministry, and constructive cultural engagement.”  I believe the articles written by Phillips (and others) reacting to Waltke’s situation do not fall into any of those parameters set by that mission statement.  Here’s the link:

“If You Believe in Jesus, the Resurrection, & Evolution, You Are A Heretic”

Also, something that might be of interest to some, the article contains a very surprising and substantial list of names (and links to sources) of Christians throughout history whose view of Genesis either explicitly or implicitly allows for, encourages, or would have allowed for theistic creation by means of Darwinian evolution.  Check it.

You can see all of my past articles for Patrol here.

Creation/Evolution articles at R&R


Hey, at the behest of a good friend (you know who you are), I am putting up the links to the two articles I recently wrote on my magazine site, Reform & Revive.  I am currently reading a book called Perspective on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith Miller.  It’s pretty phenomenal, and I’ve started blogging through the book.  I’m putting up articles concerning the better essays that could be the most helpful to everyone out there.  So, without further ado, here are those links:

Article #1: I’m Coming Out (Intro to an Evolving Creation)

Article #2: “An Evolving Creation: Oxymoron or Fruitful Insight?” by Keith Miller

Enjoy, and debate away!

Human Beauty{5} | (Anthropological Aesthetics)


Sandorfi - Ange-smallerOkay, I’ve realized that I’m only about half-way done with this series on Beauty, so after this week, I’m going to make this into a once-a-week series for the rest of its duration. After Wednesday, after we talk about art, the theoretical foundation will be laid and the rest of the series is merely application. So every Monday, I’ll post the next part. I want to do this so people don’t get tired of it, so I can talk about the many other things rolling around in my head, and lastly, I want to do this so that people will actually engage the material and have time to digest it.

With that being said, this is the next section in the series on the Beauty of humanity. You will not find the usual bold/regular font distinction I’ve had to make in the other parts of this series because pretty much all of this is new material I didn’t get to cover in the message. I know this is all very inadequate. If I ever turn this message into a book or something, I’ll be fleshing this out a whole lot more. A few nights after I gave the message this whole manuscript was based on, I ended up talking to my roommate for about an hour further unpacking these ideas about physical beauty to him. He pretty much received an hour long lecture full of material that was in neither the message nor the manuscript. All that to say: there’s far more application of our working definition of beauty that could be made concerning human beauty, and far more questions that can be answered. Maybe someday I’ll engage some of those, but for now, I’ll just put this up and answer any specific questions as they come. I hope this is helpful. You can find the whole series here. Once more, links to the full manuscript and audio of the message are below.

Humans are Beautiful.

Humans are the crown of God’s creation. In the opening chapters of Genesis you see that with each day of creation, what God creates grows increasingly complex and nearer to the heart of God, until you reach that final creative act, where God intimately makes humans in his very own image. We can’t lose this. All humans have dignity, worth, and beauty, no matter where they end up eternally. God loves all humanity, and so should we. Being image-bearers gives us all innate worth and innate objective beauty. But, as we are all very aware of, humans also have a very subjective sense of beauty as well. This is where we get to talk about physical beauty briefly. Though I can’t do full justice to this topic here, I’ll try to give you some tools to better think through these things on your own. I know there’s a lot of brokenness over this issue in this room. Lots of pain and baggage that I wish I could deal with more. People who’s beauty has been abused or insulted. People who have used their own beauty to fill that eternity in our hearts, but to know avail.

Though I can’t hit every issue involved in this, I do want to say two main things that I hope are helpful. First, remember our definition of Beauty? Beauty is complexity expressed simply. Everything about us is always expressing the almost infinite complexity that comes from being human. Physical unattractiveness, it seems to me then, is when this human complexity is not physically expressed very simply, orderly, or harmoniously. Does this make sense? Is it not true that the ideas of “ugliness”, “grotesqueness”, and similar descriptors carry with them a sense of “busyness”, “disarray”, and “too much going on”- the opposite of simplicity and order? I say this not only to give an understanding of physical unattractiveness, but to to remind us that our physicality expresses parts of our humanity. In the tapestry of being human, our physicality – how we carry, dress, make-up, and build-up ourselves – emphasizes and expresses different strands within that tapestry. What parts of the beautiful artwork you are are you trying to accentuate and emphasize with your physical beauty? Your own strength? Your ability to draw eyes to yourself? Or do you use your beauty to point others away from yourself to the one of whom your beauty is but a shadow of? There’s a difference between True Beauty and Seductive Beauty. True Beauty is whatever attracts us towards our ultimate fulfillment and happiness. It draws us towards higher, more complex joys, excellencies, and goods. Seductive Beauty on the other had is beauty that tries and draw us away from our highest good and draws us towards lower things- baser pleasures, compromises, and harms that will eventually be our ultimate unhappiness and destruction. If you are not trying to draw people to their greatest good, then you’re drawing them to destruction.

Secondly, remember earlier, where I said that some people, because of culture, experiences, and such value different “strands” of that tapestry of the world differently? This is a complex way of saying that different people find different things beautiful, and that’s okay. That’s good. Humans were made to make value judgments. This is so that we who have been changed by God can look at him and rightfully and freely declare him as all Beauty. We were made this way so that we could assign true value to true things. But this good purpose of assigning value to things has become distorted because of sin and we often give the wrong value to wrong things. We long for Beauty, so we often (especially when we are not joined with God who is Beauty Itself) try to fill things with more meaning, more complexity, more “strands” in order to make them seem more beautiful, but it’s a false beauty that will never really deliver. It’s imposed on things and not recognized from within things. So, I think physical beauty is an outward reminder of the original goodness, order, and “complexity-expressed-simply” that people were made for, just like deformities are outward reminders of the fallenness of this world. We are supposed to be drawn to physical beauty. That’s okay. But sin takes that one strand of the tapestry of what makes someone completely beautiful as simply a human, and makes it more valuable than all the other strands. The problem is not when we recognize and enjoy physical beauty, it’s when we prioritize it above other things. So, feel free to pursue romance with someone you are physically attracted to (amen) and feel free to acknowledge when you see physical beauty. But, the encouragement I’ll give you is this: as you do so, make sure you are spending plenty of time enjoying and rightfully calling “beautiful” the God Who’s Beauty overshadows all others. Practicing right value judgments with the One of highest value helps us see ourselves and the rest of the world more properly.

Humanity is beautiful.

Art by Istvan Sandorfi.

Here are the links to the audio of the message, and the full manuscript.

Click for Manuscript Pdf

Manucscript

Click here for sermon audio

Audio

Nature, Science, and the Structure of Time |Beauty{4}


Van Gogh - Wheat Field with Cloud-smallerWe’ve been doing a little series here at the blog on Beauty. I recently gave a talk on it and I’m taking excerpts of the full manuscript, the fruit of several months of labor, and posting them online for all to enjoy and engage with. In this post, I break some of the order in the original manuscript to talk about both space and time. My point is simple: nature and history are beautiful. I’m applying a definition of beauty I discuss here, that says that Beauty is the attribute of something that expresses complexity, simply. To help explain that, I’ve been using the imagery of complexity represented as the strands that make up everything in the universe. Beauty is when these strands are woven together into a tapestry we can perceive with our senses (physical or spiritual). We’ve already discussed how God Himself is beautiful. Next week we’ll talk about the beauty of humans and then art. Should be good. The links to the full manuscript and the message audio are at the bottom. [Bold: things I had time to say in the talk// Regular: things I didn’t have time for]

God’s creation is beautiful.

The Bible clearly tells us in several places that nature proclaims God’s Glory, and that many of God’s invisible attributes are made plain to us by Creation. Thomas Aquinas, in his book Divine Names, in the section on God being called “Beauty” says that divine beauty is the motive for God creating all of this. God loves his own divine beauty so much that he wants to share it as much as possible. So, he creates creatures and mysteriously communicates this likeness of Beauty to them. God intends everything in creation to become beautiful in the fullness of His divine Beauty so, just like he has placed a deposit of eternity into our hearts, He has placed a deposit of that beauty in creation. Modern science was birthed out of an awe for this beauty. People looked out on the earth and saw that it worked on ordered processes, and these people determined to find out what those laws and processes were. Science and medicine is humanity accomplishing what theologians call the “Dominion Mandate” – when God commands the first humans to “subdue the earth”. Science is the process of looking deeply into the tapestry of the created world and seeing what strands comprise it. They get to stare into the inner workings of the beauty of God in this world. It’s sad that the Church has so divorced itself from this endeavor of worship. The comedian Steve Martin is also a novelist and playwright. He wrote one of my favorite plays called “Picasso at the Lapin Agile“. The premise is pretty simple: what would happen if Pablo Picasso, five years before he painted his definitive painting Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon met a young scientist named Albert Einstein in a small cafe a year before he published a little book called “The Theory of Relativity”? It’s one of the smartest and funniest plays I’ve ever seen. There’s a scene about halfway through where Picasso lays out his creative process and then looks at Einstein and says, “But what do you know about it anyway? You’re just a scientist. You just want theories”. Einstein replies with, “Yes, but like you, the theories must be beautiful. Do you know why the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth? Because the idea is not beautiful!” He further explains this and then Picasso says, “So you bring a beautiful idea into being.” God’s creation, and the laws that run it, are beautiful.

History is beautiful.

As our text says, History is the context in which all things are being made beautiful. This is where the Beauty of God, His creation, humans, and their creations all collide and interact in order to bring about this beauty and peace in the world. It is the ultimate tapestry in which all these strands are being woven together. One of the best understandings of history I’ve ever heard came from Harold Best, dean of Wheaton College’s Conservatory of Music and author of the incredible book that everyone should read before they die “Unceasing Worship” in a message he gave called “Continuous Worship: Is “Worship” the Only Word for Worship?” In it, he points out that the Eastern mind sees time as circular. Life repeats itself and moves in consistent cycles. The Western mind, on the other hand, sees time as linear, with a definite beginning and a definite ending. Now most of us have heard this before and then were told the various reasons why the Western idea was right.

Best, in the message, and our text tonight, both point out how our modern Western bias is misguided. Our text tells us some of the ingredients God uses to make all things beautiful in their time. And God employs these same list of things over and over and over again through time. In fact, one of the consistent themes of the book of Ecclesiastes is the vain repetitions and cycles that seem to make up life. In Best’s message, he points out that time is in fact neither linear nor circular. It’s helical – in the shape of helix. That shape, so essential to the creation and sustenance of life is actually woven into time. Life moves in circularly as it linearly moves through time. Assuming that’s true, let’s apply our definition of Beauty and see what happens. History is the story of God liberating all of creation from its bondage to decay and ugliness into participation in the glory and Beauty of God. If this is true, then every moment that goes by means the further Beautifying of the world. Imagine, then, time as moving in this circular fashion towards the glory and Beauty of God, the earlier parts being made of less woven strands and slowly, over the years, through time, God employs people, situations, art, Jesus, and the Cross to weave these strands ever and ever more securely together into the Image of Heaven.

What this means then is that time isn’t merely moving forward toward some point in the future we call “Heaven” or “the end of time”, Heaven is actually invading the present as we speak, as we sit here, as art is made, as people are seen as beautiful – we are actually ushering in heaven on earth as those strands are pulled tighter and tighter together to form this epic tapestry of history. In Marilynne Robinson’s book Gilead, she writes from the perspective of an old Congregationalist preacher about to die. This man, reflecting on life and heaven says this as he thinks about this very topic we’re talking about: “I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know names for and then has to close his eyes again. I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that. There is human beauty in it. And I can’t believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us. In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets. Because I don’t imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety {and a love for God has done on this earth] forbids me to try.” Jonathan Edwards described history flowing into the Beauty and Glory of Heaven like this: As time moves forward now and on through eternity, God’s people are ever steadily rising higher and higher into the Glory of God, perhaps with an increasing velocity towards a height to which they will never attain. This history is beautiful. Don’t waste it on trivial, lower, ugly things.

Click for Manuscript Pdf

Manucscript

Click here for sermon audio

Audio