Pete Enns https://www.peteenns.com The Bible For Normal People Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:47:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 The Expression of Faith is Its Best Defense https://www.peteenns.com/expression-faith-best-defense/ https://www.peteenns.com/expression-faith-best-defense/#comments Fri, 21 Jul 2017 11:46:44 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12655 The true expression of faith is its best defense, because it transforms broken lives.

The post The Expression of Faith is Its Best Defense appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
Each day, I try to pray from this Book of Common Prayer app (Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove; there’s also a book.) The key word is “try,” but I will not have you people judging me.

Anyway, this morning’s liturgy includes the following quote from Jean Vanier, Templeton Prize winner and founder of L’Arche communities. The liturgy doesn’t provide the source, and I’m both too lazy and too wounded (broken finger) to bother to find it, so, again, no judgment please.

This quote struck me as very Jesusy. I really like every bit if this, and so I am sharing it with you, as you might like it too.

Vanier also says well what I was trying to say in my recent post about apologetics. The true expression of faith is its best defense, because it transforms broken lives.

My experience has shown that when we welcome people from this world of anguish, brokenness and depression, and when they gradually discover that they are wanted and loved as they are and that they have a place, then we witness a real transformation — I would even say ‘resurrection.’ Their tense, angry, fearful, depressed body gradually becomes relaxed, peaceful and trusting. This shows through the expression on the face and through all their flesh. As they discover a sense of belonging, that they are part of a ‘family,’ then the will to live begins to emerge. I do not believe it is of any value to push people into doing things unless this desire to live and to grow has begun to emerge.

The post The Expression of Faith is Its Best Defense appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/expression-faith-best-defense/feed/ 4
Historical Criticism and the “Inner Impulse towards Truth” in Christian Faith https://www.peteenns.com/historical-criticism-inner-impulse-towards-truth-christian-faith/ https://www.peteenns.com/historical-criticism-inner-impulse-towards-truth-christian-faith/#comments Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:27:48 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12649 The issue is not so much about "balancing" theology with history or vice-verse, but acknowledging the tension and letting that tension inform and fuel our spiritual engagement of the Bible.

The post Historical Criticism and the “Inner Impulse towards Truth” in Christian Faith appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
The quote below is from an article by German Old Testament scholar Konrad Schmid, “What Is the Difference Between Historical and Theological Exegesis?” pp. 2-3 (my paragraph formatting; available here).

The article looks at a crucial and perennial issue in Christian theology: the always complex and often tense relationship between the historical study of scripture and scripture as the source of Christian theology.

One can reasonably argue that the establishment of historical-critical biblical scholarship—despite individual statements to the contrary—is an incomparable success story within theology.

Protestant theological faculties and departments accord a relatively large percentage of professorships within the classic divisions of the faculties to biblical studies devoted to historical-critical methodologies. They are less prominent numerically in Catholic faculties, but since Vatican II at the latest they are—like their Protestant equivalents—required to carry out historical-critical investigation, which itself should not be absent from any Catholic faculty.

What are, then, the substantial reasons for the special place of the biblical-historical disciplines?

It would be deficient to interpret this development merely as the result of the Enlightenment, after which theology simply had no choice but to bow to modern scholarly standards—that is, historical-criticism—in its investigation of the Bible. This would be to conclude, in other words, that theology felt a certain pressure from the street to give into the spirit of the times.

In contrast, it is certainly better to say that the inner impulse towards truth in Christian faith compelled it to enter into dialogue with the academy and to find ways to understand the Bible with the help of rather than in opposition to modern scholarship.

Historical-critical approaches to biblical studies provide a visible index of theology’s commitment to reason and, at the same time, a bulwark against each new manifestation of docetism.

The relationship between the Bible understood historically and theologically is complex, and this is only one quote. Schmid’s thoughts here are also shaped by his European context (which need not be belabored), where the relationship between the academy and the church is very different than in the American experience.

Having said that, here’s what I like about this quote (and the article as a whole).

1. It is a reminder that the tension between history and theology is not simply felt by evangelicals or fundamentalists, but by mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics–though as I see it evangelicalism and fundamentalism exacerbate the tension by laboring to artificially minimize the distance between history and theology.

2. As the article continues, it is clear that the author seeks to allow that tension to remain—both sides need to be reminded of the other and the dominance of one over the other is not the end game. That point can be lost on both sides, and routinely so among inerrantists, where theological needs transparently dictate exegesis. From the conclusion of the article (pp. 18-19):

Historical-critical exegesis becomes implausible historically when it misjudges the theological gravity of the biblical texts; theological interpretation of the Bible degenerates structurally into docetism when it relegates the historical X of textual interpretation to a place after a theological Y coefficient. 

. . . [H]istorical exegesis is only then truly and responsibly historical when carried out with theological sensibility. At the same time, theological exegesis cannot be something completely different than historical exegesis and it is best informed when incorporating appropriately the insights of a seriously performed historical exegesis.

As soon as theological exegesis threatens to cut its ties with historical criticism, then suspicion of gnosticizing, docetic tendencies in its interpretation of the Bible are no longer unfounded. The convenient location of biblical studies as part of theological studies remains well supported, yet its potential has yet to be fully developed.

The issue is not so much about “balancing” theology with history or vice-verse, but acknowledging the tension and letting that tension inform and fuel our spiritual engagement of the Bible.

3. It critiques the simplistic but common evangelical and fundamentalist assertion that the negative influence of Enlightenment philosophy is to blame for the likewise negative methodology of historical-criticism, which then coerced theology to keep up.

4. A theological reading of the Bible that is not historical-critically conversant—that does not take seriously the cultural-historical setting of scripture—is a kind of “docetism,” an early Christian heresy that deemed that Christ was fully divine but only appeared to be human. (The pervasive problem of scriptural docetism within evangelicalism is a central focus of my Inspiration and Incarnation).

The bottom line for me is and has always been: the truly historical study of scripture, one that is not dictated by and asked to “serve” theology, will inevitably be in tension with that theology.

That inevitable tension must be respected rather than cut off or neutralized.

Historically speaking, the Bible we have presents us with some very serious challenges. Good theology will accept the challenge and understand that simple answers are often wrong and that sometimes, whether we are comfortable with it or not, final theological resolutions will not be forthcoming.

[Comments are moderated and may take as long as 24 hours. In the meantime, the world will keep spinning and President Trump will surely have done something to distract you while you wait.]

 

The post Historical Criticism and the “Inner Impulse towards Truth” in Christian Faith appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/historical-criticism-inner-impulse-towards-truth-christian-faith/feed/ 2
A Brief but Deep Thought on Defending the Christian Faith (or not) https://www.peteenns.com/brief-deep-thought-defending-christian-faith-not/ https://www.peteenns.com/brief-deep-thought-defending-christian-faith-not/#comments Tue, 18 Jul 2017 12:07:29 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12608 A burden of (at least western) Christian apologetics isn't so much in failing to show the wider world how well Christianity works intellectually, but in presuming that the intellect is how Christianity works.

The post A Brief but Deep Thought on Defending the Christian Faith (or not) appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
I’m not a big fan of Christian apologetics. Nothing personal, and I know some smart people who do it. It’s just not for me.

I’m not against the engagement of intellect and faith. Not at all. I do that all the time. But I’ve never seen an argument for why Christianity is true that can’t be met by some alternative argument.

I am not interested in trying to establish whether Christianity is “reasonable”—a lot of things are reasonable and I don’t center my life around them.

Nor am I interested in whether Christianity is probable or possible—a lot of things are probable and/or possible but I don’t dwell on them.

The notion of “Christian apologetics” presumes that the intellect—weighing evidence, sifting through pros and cons, rigorous analysis—is the primary arena for engaging the truth of Christianity.

I don’t think it is. At least it hasn’t worked very well. If it works, it works among those already convinced. At its worst, it simply props up the apologist’s insecurities.

A burden of (at least western) Christian apologetics isn’t so much in failing to show the wider world how well Christianity works intellectually, but in presuming that the intellect is how Christianity works.

But our arguments are constructed after the fact, after we believe, not in order to believe. Belief is first. Intellect follows. The problem I have with apologetics is that that order is reversed.

The best apologetic isn’t proving we have a better intellectual system. Nor do we persuade others with fear of divine retribution if they don’t agree and the promise of an afterlife if they do.

The best apologetic is where there is payoff now. Embodying, “Your kingdom come”—how Christians live positively toward others, showing the difference our faith makes to those near us and our global community, living out the notion that we are here to serve and not to be served.

We are the apologetic, and that is much harder than crafting arguments.

Proverbs describes a life before God as a way, and path, a road—not a classroom or think tank. The best apologetic is one where our words provide the narrative for our path, not where words are left alone to construct that narrative.

. . . sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence. . .  (1 Peter 3:15)

Not, “Be ready to out-debate those who disagree with you about the nature of objective reality.”

But, “Give an gentle account for what drives you, for why you do what you do, why you stay in the game”—especially when the chips are down, as was the case with the suffering readers of 1 Peter.

A faith that acts fearlessly well toward the other, regardless of who that other is; following daily the Christian path for all to see; showing that this Jesus stuff works, that there’s payoff, now. That is the best apologetic.

All the rest we can talk about later . . . after we’ve earned the right to.

[Please remember that I moderate comments and that may take as long as a day. I’m not ignoring you. If your comment hasn’t been posted by then, assume Jesus told me personally not to.]

The post A Brief but Deep Thought on Defending the Christian Faith (or not) appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/brief-deep-thought-defending-christian-faith-not/feed/ 44
B4NP Podcast Episode 15: “Violence in the Bible and What to Do With It” with Brian Zahnd https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-15-violence-bible-brian-zahnd/ https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-15-violence-bible-brian-zahnd/#comments Mon, 17 Jul 2017 11:55:08 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12604 On this week’s episode, Pete and Jared speak with Brian Zahnd about violence in the Bible. Brian is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church (Saint Joseph, MO), and he writes, blogs, and Tweets regularly on the problem of violence in the Bible. His next book Sinners in the Hands of a Loving […]

The post B4NP Podcast Episode 15: “Violence in the Bible and What to Do With It” with Brian Zahnd appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
On this week’s episode, Pete and Jared speak with Brian Zahnd about violence in the Bible. Brian is the founder and lead pastor of Word of Life Church (Saint Joseph, MO), and he writes, blogs, and Tweets regularly on the problem of violence in the Bible. His next book Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God is set to be released August 2017.

The post B4NP Podcast Episode 15: “Violence in the Bible and What to Do With It” with Brian Zahnd appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-15-violence-bible-brian-zahnd/feed/ 7
Eugene Peterson and Professor Kirke’s Study https://www.peteenns.com/eugene-peterson-professor-kirkes-study/ https://www.peteenns.com/eugene-peterson-professor-kirkes-study/#comments Thu, 13 Jul 2017 12:47:29 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12592 “But do you really mean, sir, that Eugene is just fine, that he doesn’t need to be publicly scrutinized and judged? Is that even a possible conclusion to draw?"

The post Eugene Peterson and Professor Kirke’s Study appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
They were beginning to think that Eugene was out of his mind. They stood in the passage talking about it in whispers. The result was the next morning they decided to tell the whole thing to the Professor. “He’ll write something up if he thinks there is really something wrong with Eugene. It’s getting beyond us.”

So they met with the Professor, and he sat listening to them with the tips of his fingers pressed together and never interrupting, till they had finished the whole story. After that he said nothing for quite a long time.

Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:

“How do you know that Eugene is wrong?” Anyone could see that the old man was perfectly serious.

“But prominent leaders are denouncing him, saying he is wrong.”

“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance—if you will excuse me for asking—does your experience lead you to regard these leaders or Eugene as more reliable? I mean, who has been the more trustworthy guide?”

“That’s the funny thing about it, sir. Up till now, I’d have said Eugene every time. But this couldn’t be right—all this about performing marriages.”

“That’s more than I know,” said the Professor, “and a charge of untrustworthiness against someone you have always found reliable is a very serious thing indeed.”

“We were afraid it might be more than that . . . . We thought there might be something wrong with him. He is getting older and we’re afraid he’s not up to the task of discerning truth. His entire faith seems to be unravelling before our eyes.”

“Oh, you can make your minds easy about that,” said the Professor coolly. “One has only to listen to him speak and read what he writes to see that is not the case at all.”

“But do you really mean, sir, that Eugene is just fine, that he doesn’t need to be publicly scrutinized and judged? Is that even a possible conclusion to draw?”

“Nothing is more probable. <I wonder what they do teach them in these schools.>”

“But then what are we to do?”

“My dears,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

What’s that?”

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

[Comments could take as long as 24 hours to moderate, so please be patient. Disagreement is welcome, but mean and nasty Edmunds among you will need to experience inner-transformation by the forgiveness of Aslan before being allowed to post.]

 

 

The post Eugene Peterson and Professor Kirke’s Study appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/eugene-peterson-professor-kirkes-study/feed/ 18
A Blog Post in which I Get Belligerent about Theological Belligerence https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-get-belligerent-theological-belligerence/ https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-get-belligerent-theological-belligerence/#comments Mon, 10 Jul 2017 13:12:53 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12578 One cannot use Jesus and Paul as a justification for pathology--and excuse to see a gospel-survival conflict at every point of disagreement.

The post A Blog Post in which I Get Belligerent about Theological Belligerence appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
Am I the only one, or have you also noticed that disagreements about God can get nasty very quickly? Amazingly, this even happens on the Internet!!

Here’s my point for today: Belligerence in theological discussions is a reaction to a deep fear—typically unperceived as such—that one’s narrative is under threat.

Before someone goes off in the wrong direction, I am not saying Christians can’t disagree or even get angry. I’m talking about a life of faith marked by a theme of belligerence—hostility and aggressiveness toward others who think differently.

You know who you are. And if you don’t, the people around you will let you know (if you listen).

People fight about their views of God because they are afraid of the consequences of being wrong. Being wrong about God is fearful because it destabilizes their way of looking at the universe and their place in it. People tend to fight when frightened this way.

Let me put that in Yoda-speak: Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.

Show me someone who expresses his/her faith in language peppered with anger, and I will show you someone who is deeply afraid of losing control of God. That anger can be a veiled as passive-aggressiveness or the appeal to an “honorable” principle: “It’s nothing personal, but since the gospel is at stake, well, we can’t take prisoners. You understand. We’ll be sure to tell your wife and children you love them.” But this is belligerence nonetheless.

  • A tendency to seek out theological conflict with others,
  • being quick to turn the temperature up at the slightest provocation,
  • presuming to be right at every turn and having an excessive need to display it—like satisfying a addiction.

Those are symptoms of deep fear—a fear so deep it may not even be named as such. It is given other names: zealous, bold, uncompromising. But it is still fear.

The defense of belligerence often goes something like this: “Look at Paul and Jesus. They went after people. They fought for the truth as warriors in a fierce battle. Don’t bother me with your Yoda-esque, soft-minded, Oprah-laced, psycho-babble. We are following biblical teaching whenever we fight and contend for the truth.”

OK, but . . . well . . . no.

Sometime in the mid-90s at a lecture at Westminster Theological Seminary, the evangelical leader John Stott spoke to us on Christians fighting over truth (and I don’t think that topic was coincidental given the setting). Stott made three points that have stayed with me (and I am faithfully representing the his words):

  • Yes, sometimes Christians have to fight.
  • But they should hate it.
  • An excessive attraction to fighting is pathological.

One cannot use Jesus and Paul as a justification for pathology—an excuse to see a gospel-survival conflict at every point of disagreement. Christians should hate to fight. They should seek to avoid it.

Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t disagree—publicly, privately, strongly. It doesn’t mean you can’t call other Christians to the carpet for what they think or do.

But there are those who love to fight and think they are serving God in doing so—that he is perhaps especially proud of them when they bludgeon others. There are those who cheer, with as bloodlust giddiness, that “doctrine divides.” And so they march out to divide, with tactical, military precision, between Christians who get it (them) and those who don’t (others).

“Doctrine divides,” but that may tell us more about the person than the nature of doctrine. Doctrine is divisive with those who harbor a contentious spirit, an excessive need to be right on theological matters—afraid of being wrong.

Yes, Jesus turned up the heat, to be sure—but against hypocrites, some of the religious leaders of his day, who were quick to pounce on others for not toeing the line of an arrow-straight traditional theological system.

Belligerent, self-assured “defenders of the gospel” today have more in common with what Jesus was against than with Jesus.

If you want a model from Jesus for how to talk to those with whom you differ, read the parables and follow Jesus’s lead there. Or read the story of Nicodemus, or the woman at the well. Just watch how Jesus interacts with people.

And yes, Paul got a bit snarky at times. He went after the church in Galatia, that’s for sure. He was angry and got down right prickly. Sarcasm may have been his love language, even to the point of telling the men who opposed him that they should cut their penises off (I’m not kidding).

But, however tempting Paul’s approach might be, Galatians isn’t a template for your life and ministry.

For one thing, the church in Galatia was one Paul had built and invested much time in. Internet enemies are not people you have invested in personally. As Aslan told Peter concerning Edmund, think of minding your own business.

Second, the gospel was truly at stake—namely whether Christian faith rests in anything other than the centrality of Christ. Not every theological disagreement we come across is a “Galatians moment” where the gospel is at stake.

Third, it just doesn’t work. People tend not to be convinced by hot rhetoric. If your aim is to build as small a Jesus movement as possible, I suppose this is a good strategy, though.

Other models exist in Paul’s letters for handling theological disagreements, such as the entire book of 1 Corinthians. Talk about a theological mess. These yahoos were each following their own pet cult personality, treated the Eucharist like an open bar at an Irish wedding, were engaged in all sorts of immoral activity, and even had doubts about the resurrection.

Paul speaks with urgency, but he doesn’t blast them or denounce them. He spends fifteen chapters going over ground they probably already should have known but couldn’t quite get right. And the whole tone is set in the very beginning of the book (verse 2),

To the church of God at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

With all that this church was doing, Paul’s tone is marked by the common faith they share, not by belligerence. To the church of God at Corinth . . . 

When engaged in potentially threatening theological dialogue, rather than caving in to fear we need to chose to trust—trust that God is bigger than our arguments, our intellects, our sacrosanct theological systems.

Listen, we all screw up here. We all give in to our darker side and get defensive. Rumor has it I’ve done it once or twice. No one reaches the ideal.

But there is a difference between screwing up by caving in to the dark side and camping out there, where belligerence becomes a preferred pattern of conduct, a badge of honor, defended as truly godly behavior. It isn’t.

[Comment are moderated for (wait for it) belligerent content. Please allow 24 hours for me to get to them. An earlier version of this post appeared in October 2011, and I have since developed some of these thoughts more fully in The Sin of Certainty (HarperOne 2016)]

The post A Blog Post in which I Get Belligerent about Theological Belligerence appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-get-belligerent-theological-belligerence/feed/ 20
A Blog Post, in which I ask myself 4 questions about Christianity and evolution https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-ask-4-questions-christianity-evolution/ https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-ask-4-questions-christianity-evolution/#comments Fri, 07 Jul 2017 11:33:48 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12568 To reject evolution on Christian grounds would be to claim some superhuman insight into scientific matters that can only be described as idiosyncratic bordering on delusional, to misunderstand the nature of Scripture they are trying to protect, and to sport a heretical Christology that doesn’t take seriously Jesus’s full humanity.

The post A Blog Post, in which I ask myself 4 questions about Christianity and evolution appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
I recently sat down with myself to ask myself some questions that keep coming up
every
single
time

I post anything on evolution.

Even though I’m really busy at the moment starting a new book and am nursing a broken finger (which involves a large log and a log splitter), I was able to convince myself to take a few minutes and answer some questions. (And if you want to see more detail, you can go here.)

Pete, why do you think evolution is true?

For the same reason I believe the earth is round and billions of years old, the universe is immense and billions of years older, that there are atoms and subatomic particles, that galaxies number in the billions with billions of stars in each, that it takes light from the sun 8.3 minutes to reach us . . . . I could go on.

I believe that evolution is one of the things that science has gotten right, along with many other things we take for granted every day, because this is the resounding conclusion of the scientific community, including Christians trained in the sciences.

Without actually being trained in the sciences, it would be rather stupid and arrogant of me to feel I have something to say that would sweep all that away.

But what about the Bible? Doesn’t Genesis have something to say about all this?

Simply put, no—not in the sense that Genesis is a competing “data set” to scientific models of cosmic and human origins.

The stories in Genesis were written somewhere between 2500 and 3000 years ago, and clearly reflect cultural categories older still. I happen to think Genesis is deep theology, but its focus is on asking and answering questions of interest for ancient Israelites.

I don’t expect Genesis or any other Bronze or Iron Age text to answer the kinds of questions we can answer today through calculus, optical and radio telescopes, genomics, biological and cultural anthropology.

But aren’t you forgetting that the Bible is the very word of God? Why are you assuming that science trumps the Bible?

I’m neither forgetting nor assuming anything, nor am I unconsciously enslaved to some deeply held anti-God presupposition.

Rather, I have come to conclusions about these matters.

Others can disagree with these conclusions, but to shift the focus to some deeply held bias or missing of bit of proper philosophical grounding is simply a transparent debate tactic meant to deflect rather than engage.

Yet even to ask the question as you do gets to the heart of the problem, as far as I see it—it suggests a discomfort with taking seriously the implications of words like “inspiration” and “revelation.”

However we define these terms, the Bible is clearly not something dropped out of the sky. Rather it is a collection of texts written in three ancient languages and that, again, unambiguously reflects the cultural moments of the writers. Any viable notion of an inspired and revealed Bible needs to address rather than skirt this fact.

The Bible speaks the “language” of ancient people grappling with things in ancient ways, and therefore what the Bible records about creation or the dawn of humanity needs to be understood against the cultural backdrop of the biblical writers, not the past 200 years of scientific investigation.

But doesn’t Jesus trump all of this? I mean, he refers to Adam and seems to take Genesis quite literally. Don’t you think you need to obey Jesus rather than science?

Thanks for not asking at all a leading question. . . .

What I just said about the Bible holds for Jesus, too.

When we expect the words of Jesus to quickly settle the evolution issue for us, it shows that we have not grappled sufficiently with the implications of the incarnation. Actually, it betrays how uncomfortable and “irreverent” (to borrow C. S. Lewis’s description) a doctrine the incarnation can be even for Christians.

Jesus was fully human—not abstractly so, but a human of a particular sort, fully participating in the Judaism of the 1st century. The doctrine of the incarnation leaves no room whatsoever for the idea that Jesus in any way kept his distance from participating in that particular humanity. That means, among other things, that Jesus was limited in knowledge along with everyone else at the time.

As irreverent as that may seem, it is an implication of the incarnation. Jesus wasn’t an omniscient being giving the final word on the size of mustard seeds, mental illness, or cosmic and biological evolution. He was a 1st century Jew and he therefore thought like one.

Was he more than a 1st century Jew? I believe he was—and working that out is the stuff of 2000 years of Christian theology. But however “more than human” Jesus may be, and whatever we might mean by that, he was certainly not one micro-millimeter less than fully human.

But that’s the deal with the incarnation, and that’s why citing a passage or two from the Gospels doesn’t trump the profound observations of science. And to think otherwise, ironically, is not respectful of Jesus or a declaration of a “high” or “orthodox” Christology. It is actually a quasi-biblical sub-Christian Christology that betrays a deep discomfort with the theological implications of the core element of the Christian faith—the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

So, to sum up, and since you asked, to reject evolution on Christian grounds would be to claim some superhuman insight into scientific matters that can only be described as idiosyncratic bordering on delusional, to misunderstand the nature of Scripture they are trying to protect, and to sport a heretical Christology that doesn’t take seriously Jesus’s full humanity.

Was that too harsh? You’re not posting this, are you?

[Please try to remember that comments are moderated and may take 24 hours to appear. I just started watching Twin Peaks, and, frankly, I can’t look away. And as always, feel free to speak your mind, but don’t pontificate or expect to draw me into a debate.]

 

 

 

 

The post A Blog Post, in which I ask myself 4 questions about Christianity and evolution appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/blog-post-ask-4-questions-christianity-evolution/feed/ 25
The Bible Demands that We Be Unbiblical (It’s Paradox Wednesday!) https://www.peteenns.com/bible-demands-unbiblical-paradox-wednesday/ https://www.peteenns.com/bible-demands-unbiblical-paradox-wednesday/#comments Wed, 05 Jul 2017 12:35:26 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12559 Simply put, seeing the need to move beyond biblical categories is biblical—and as such poses a wonderful model, even divine permission—shall I say “mandate”—to move beyond the Bible when the need arises and reason dictates.

The post The Bible Demands that We Be Unbiblical (It’s Paradox Wednesday!) appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
TEASpeaking of evolution and Christian faith . . .

A crucial question to ask ourselves is: what have we the right to expect from the biblical origins texts? I call “genre calibration” in The Evolution of Adam.

“Outside” information can “calibrate” the expectations we bring to the biblical texts in question.

This isn’t as odd a claim as you might think. Study Bibles are full of notes that do this very thing, as are seminary and college Bible classes. Whenever we read the Bible against its historical backdrop (i.e., reading it in historical context), we are using that backdrop to affect our understanding of the biblical text.

When it comes to creation texts, part of the backdrop involves (1) the context of the the biblical world itself (other ancient creation texts) and (2) various fields of science that deal with origins (biological, geological, cosmological). So things like genomic studies, the fossil record, and ancient Mesopotamian creation myths help us see that the genre of Genesis 1-3 is not what we call science or history but something else.

What that “something” can generate a lot of heat, but whether myth, legend, metaphor, symbol, story, or some other label, the point remains: seeking from the biblical creation stories scientific and historical information is to misidentify the genre of literature we are reading—to expect something from these stories they are not prepared to deliver.

Which brings me to a rather important point: the findings of science and biblical scholarship are not the enemies of Christian faith. They are opportunities to be truly “biblical” because they are invitations to reconsider what it means to read the creation stories well—and that means turning down a different path than most Christians before us have taken.

Though, this would not be the first time Christians have had to divert their path from the familiar to the unfamiliar.

We need only think of the ruckus caused by Copernicus and Galileo, telling us the earth whizzes around the sun, as do the other planets, when the Bible “clearly” says that the earth is fixed and stable (Ps 104:5) and the heavenly bodies do all the moving. Sometimes older views do give way to newer ones if the circumstances warrant.

In fact, shifts in thinking like this are a perfectly biblical notion. We find throughout the Bible older perspectives giving way to new ones.

The prophet Nahum rejoices at the destruction of the dreaded Assyrians and their capital Nineveh in 612 BCE, but the prophet Jonah, writing generations later after the return from exile, speaks of God’s desire that the Ninevites repent and be saved.

What happened? Travel broadens, and the experience of exile led the Judahites to think differently about who their God is and what this God is up to on the world stage.

In fact, Israel’s entire history is given a fresh coat of paint in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles, which differs remarkably, and often flatly contradicts, the earlier history of Israel in the books of Samuel and Kings.

Why? Because the journey to exile and back home again led the Judahites to see God differently.

I could go on and talk about how the theology of the New Testament positively depends on fresh twists and turns to Israel’s story, such as a crucified messiah and tabling the “eternal covenant” of circumcision as well as the presumably timeless dietary restrictions given by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai.

What happened? Jesus forced a new path for Israel’s story that went well beyond what the Bible “says.”

Simply put, seeing the need to move beyond biblical categories is biblical—and as such poses a wonderful model, even divine permission—shall I say “mandate”—to move beyond the Bible when the need arises and reason dictates.

Being a “biblical” Christian today means accepting that challenge: a theology that genuinely grows out of the Bible but that is not confined to the Bible.

And so I see the matter of Christian faith and evolution not as a “debate” but as a discussion, not defending familiar orthodoxies as if in a fortress but accepting the challenge of a journey of theological exploration and discovery.

For me, that approach is much more than an intellectual exercise—though it is that—but a spiritual responsibility.

[Please be patient as your comment is in moderation, which may take as long as 24 hours. Comments that aim at highjacking the conversation to boost your ego are deleted. The only ego that gets boosted here is my own.]

The post The Bible Demands that We Be Unbiblical (It’s Paradox Wednesday!) appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/bible-demands-unbiblical-paradox-wednesday/feed/ 12
B4NP Podcast Episode 14: “The Bible and the Gay Christian” with Matthew Vines https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-14-bible-gay-christian-matthew-vines/ https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-14-bible-gay-christian-matthew-vines/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 11:44:06 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12554 In this week’s episode we talk with our guest Matthew Vines about some of the complexities of biblical interpretation concerning human sexuality. Vines is author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

The post B4NP Podcast Episode 14: “The Bible and the Gay Christian” with Matthew Vines appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
In this week’s episode we talk with our guest Matthew Vines about some of the complexities of biblical interpretation concerning human sexuality. Vines is author of God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

The post B4NP Podcast Episode 14: “The Bible and the Gay Christian” with Matthew Vines appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/b4np-podcast-episode-14-bible-gay-christian-matthew-vines/feed/ 20
An Announcement, in which My Inner German is on a Roll and I Arrive at a Profound Insight https://www.peteenns.com/announcement-inner-german-roll-arrive-profound-insight/ https://www.peteenns.com/announcement-inner-german-roll-arrive-profound-insight/#comments Wed, 28 Jun 2017 11:34:03 +0000 https://www.peteenns.com/?p=12546 All of which is to say, when I place my sorry self on the grand scale of things, I can’t help but feel a bit decentered.

The post An Announcement, in which My Inner German is on a Roll and I Arrive at a Profound Insight appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
After careful consideration, I now see that I am not the center of the universe. Many of you have expressed concern for me in that regard for some time, even to the point of being led to prayer, or at least writing longish comments on my blog posts. Just know that I have in fact come around.

What brought me to this insight? Basically two things.

First is the sheer size of the universe we live in.

If I left right now, before my coffee to get a head start and beat the traffic, and traveling at the speed of light, which is 671 million mph, it would take me just over 5 hours to reach Pluto, which isn’t even a planet anymore.

Maintaining that speed, I wouldn’t reach the nearest star until this fall’s crop of high school freshman were finishing up their first semester of college (4.25 years). If I had nothing else going on and kept up that pace, I would reach the outer rim of our galaxy in about 25,000 years.

And, as we all know, the universe contains billions of galaxies, and its size is incalculable because it keeps expanding on us. The universe we can see would take about 28 billion years to cover at the above mentioned 671 million miles per hour.

To comprehend all this, we need to deal with distances, and sizes, and measurements of time that leave me feeling not at all vital—except perhaps to my dogs and cats who really want to be fed right now.

The infinitesimally small makes me stop and think as well.

Ive been reading about cells lately. They are very small, on average about 2/100 of a millimeter, but they contain on average 20,000 different types of proteins, and what happens inside these tiny little calls is complex, largely unknown, and yet is responsible for everything I am—every function, feeling, and thought.

And I never even thank them. I don’t think about them at all, really, because I can’t see them.

All of which is to say, when I place my sorry self on the grand scale of things, I can’t help but feel a bit de-centered.

Second is the fact that other people exist, too, and I feel I have no right to think of myself as any more central than anyone else.

I was at Shake Shack the other night (because I have the eating habits of 14-year-old) and noticed all the people on line waiting to order their food—maybe 20 or so, with another 30 eating away. All the humanity. And they all have stories to tell and sufferings to endure.

I’ll never know most people, even just those alive at the very moment. I can easily test that theory at the Shake Shack, walking through the local mall, picking up some milk at grocery store, or—well anything that involves people—“Don’t know you, or you, or you, or any of you.”

I was watching a documentary on World War 1 recently and thought “Even those little kids are dead. Every single person in these clips is dead. And I never knew any of them.” The same holds for people who have lived hundreds, thousands, and tens of thousands of years ago, with their stories, their hopes and fears. They count, too.

Anyway, nothing really new in all of this. I think we all get it. As for me, I’m just going to try and keep my non-central role in the universe in mind a bit more today—after I feed my dogs and cats.

[Thanks for your patience as your comments await moderation—think of it as your chance to practice the non-centrality of your existence. Also, I wrote a similar post a couple of days ago that might interest you. Apparently my inner German is on a roll.]

 

The post An Announcement, in which My Inner German is on a Roll and I Arrive at a Profound Insight appeared first on Pete Enns.

]]>
https://www.peteenns.com/announcement-inner-german-roll-arrive-profound-insight/feed/ 23