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Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

A large number of scholars and leaders in the Church of the Nazarene are exploring how evolution may be compatible with Christian faith. This may represent a turning point in a long history of wrestling with important issues in science and theology.

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Jan

29

Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

A large number of scholars and leaders in the Church of the Nazarene are exploring how evolution may be compatible with Christian faith. This may represent a turning point in a long history of wrestling with important issues in science and theology.

Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

Recent polling shows that the majority of scientists believe in evolution. More than 9 of 10 professional scientists believe the evidence for evolution is compelling.(i) While the theory of evolution comes in a variety of forms, virtually all forms say that gradual changes occurred to produce new species over long periods of time.

Not only do the majority of scientists affirm evolution, the general features of evolutionary theory – including an old earth and natural selection – are widely accepted in culture today. Most public television and scientifically-oriented programs simply assume the general truth of evolutionary theory.

Recent polling also shows, however, that more than half of American Evangelicals believe humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.[ii] Those who hold this view typically believe the world is relatively young. And they interpret Genesis (and other books of the Bible) in a particular way to support their young earth view.

This difference between 1) the majority of Evangelicals and 2) the majority of scientists seems true of the Church of the Nazarene. Many denominational scholars in various disciplines – scientific, biblical, and theological – believe the general theory of evolution is compatible with Wesleyan-holiness theology. Yet, many non-specialists in the Church of the Nazarene reject evolution. In fact, a 2007 Pew poll said only 21% of Nazarenes mostly agree or completely agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of life on earth.[iii] Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, sums it up: “the bulk of our Christian scholars/scientists are in a camp different from the bulk of our laity [on issues of evolution].”[iv]

I and about eight other scholars and leaders have begun a project called, "Nazarenes Exploring Evolution." The project and its participants work to foster greater understanding among members of the Church of the Nazarene about the potential fruitful relation between Wesleyan-holiness theology and evolution. It does so by exploring scripture, science, theology, and other realms of knowledge. It seeks not to ridicule those who hold non-evolutionary views of creation, such as Young Earth Creationism, Progressive Creationism, or Intelligent Design. Instead, it offers Theistic Evolution (or similar views) to members of the denomination as a viable alternative among accounts of how God creates the universe.

Nazarene Scientists on God Creating through Evolution

In a 2009 Pew research study, 97% of scientists said humans and other living things have evolved over time by natural processes, guided by God, or evolved in some other way.[v] To date, no one has taken a poll of scientists in Church of the Nazarene colleges and universities to determine how they think about evolution. But some scientists in the denomination have published their views on the subject.

Fred Cawthorne, of Trevecca Nazarene University, says that “evolution by no means contradicts the fact that God is the Maker of heaven and earth and that he has been actively guiding and sustaining the universe for all time. If we say God cannot create through a gradual, progressive process such as evolution, then we limit God’s transcendence and immanence.”[vi]

Karl Giberson, long-time professor at Eastern Nazarene College, affirms evolution: “I think evolution is true. The process, as I reflect on it, is an expression of God’s creativity, although in a way that is not captured by the scientific view of the world… God’s creative activity must not be confined to a six-day period - ‘in the beginning’ - or the occasional intervention along the evolutionary path. God’s role in creation must be more universal – so universal it cannot be circumscribed by the contours of individual phenomena or events.”[vii]

Darrel Falk, of Point Loma Nazarene University, says that “for the past century and a half, thousands of scientists from disciplines as diverse as physics, geology, astronomy, and biology have amassed a tremendous mass of data, and the answer is absolutely clear and equally certain. The earth is not young, and the life forms did not appear in six twenty-four-hour days. God created gradually.”[viii]

Rick Colling, a long time scientist at Olivet Nazarene University, says that “some people, on religious grounds, choose to aggressively ignore or deny many scientific concepts and principles, especially in the domain of evolution… The problem, as I see it, is that we tend to squeeze God into small rigid boxes… Unfortunately, this approach to religious faith is fraught with liability because it prevents God from truly being God – a creator capable of using any means He chooses for His creation.”[ix]

Without polling, it is difficult to know if these views represent the majority of Nazarene scientists. But it is true that the voices quoted above are not alone among Nazarene scientists who believe the evidence for evolution is strong and evolution does not necessarily conflict with the belief God is Creator.

Nazarene Biblical and Theological Scholars on God Creating through Evolution

There is little doubt some people reject evolution based on their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible says little to nothing about evolution. And the first chapters of Genesis, when read literally, do not easily fit the theory of evolution.

Many biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers in the Church of the Nazarene, however, believe the Bible should not be interpreted as a straightforward science or history book. For instance, many believe Genesis 1 reads like a hymn of praise. Others believe it draws from Jewish Temple literature, which is religious and not scientific. Most Nazarene Bible, theology, and philosophy scholars believe the main point of Genesis and other creation texts is theological: God is Creator. Genesis and other books of the Bible need not mention the specific ways God creates for this main point to be true.

Robert Branson, a long-time professor at Olivet Nazarene University, says that “it is one thing to say we believe that God is the Creator. It is quite another to say that in Scripture God described with scientific accuracy “when” and “how” he created.”[x]

Dennis Bratcher, a long time Bible scholar in the Church of the Nazarene, says that “sometimes it is hard for us to realize that the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, is an Oriental book… The thought world of Oriental culture is radically different from the thought world of Western culture, particularly when we recall that there is a period of three thousand years between us and that culture… That’s why they are not writing about evolution in Genesis 1; that’s 3,000 years in their future.”[xi]

Alex Varughese, of Mount Vernon Nazarene University, and his Nazarene co-writers of Discovering the Bible say that a “careful reading of Genesis 1:1-2:4a shows that the focus of the text is on the Creator and what He made. Our usual questions of why, how, and when are not answered in this account."[xii]

Michael Lodahl, of Point Loma Nazarene University, says that “a Wesleyan reading of Genesis – and of the world – need not and should not shy away from the dominant ideas of the contemporary natural sciences. It is obvious that if the evolutionary story of the universe (including our own planet and all of its living inhabitants) is generally accurate, then the opening chapters of Genesis cannot be assumed to be giving a straightforwardly literal account of the creation of the world.”[xiii]

I like to say it this way: “The Bible tells us how to live abundant life. It does not tell us scientific details about how life became abundant. The Bible also tells us how to go to heaven. It does not provide the science to tell us how the heavens go.”[xiv]

Without polling biblical scholars, theologians, and philosophers in the denomination, it is difficult to know if the quotations above represent the majority. But the available literature suggests that these views do represent most scholars in these disciplines. Most scholars in Bible, theology, and philosophy seem at least open to the possibility that Wesleyan-holiness theology is compatible with evolution. And many are convinced the two are compatible.

Does It Matter?

Even those mildly interested in questions of theology and evolution know the science-and-religion discussion has a history of conflict. Any progress toward insight or reconciliation comes slowly, if at all. Veterans of the discussion are prone to weariness, and denominational leaders might wonder if the “fight” is worth the trouble. Does addressing the issues of evolution really matter?

Christians have long believed that truth matters. Although Christians may not ever know all truth because we “see through a dark glass” (1 Cor. 13), we are called to search for truth in our attempts to love God with our minds. Because the natural and social sciences are primary avenues for discovering truth about existence, these sciences can play a central role in helping Christians discern how to love God and others as oneself.

Al Truesdale, long-time professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary, summarizes the importance of seeking truth in the Church of the Nazarene: “Denominations that stand in the Wesleyan tradition [such as the Church of the Nazarene] are at their best when they advocate a vital faith that seeks understanding through a bold examination of the results of all human exploration, whether in technology, in the sciences, or through historical research.”[xv]

One reason this discussion matters, therefore, is that the search for more adequate understandings of God and the world God creates relies upon a variety of sources, not the least of which are the sciences. If evolution is widely accepted among those who have studied the natural world most intently – scientists – it matters how Christians engage the science of evolution in light of Christian Faith.

This brings us to a second reason why the discussion of evolution and theology matters. It matters because many (but not all) scientists in the Church of the Nazarene affirm the general theory of evolution. These scientists often feel ostracized, get labeled as ungodly, are marginalized, or considered deceived.

The testimony of Nazarene biologist, Darrel Falk, is similar to the testimonies of many Nazarene scientists: “One of the biggest deterrents (to entering a Nazarene community) was my impression that I could never become part of an evangelical fellowship because of my belief in gradual creation…. Unless the church begins to downplay the significance of believing in some variety of sudden creation, there will continue to be thousands of individuals … who will be denied true fellowship in God’s kingdom.”[xvi]

Christian Witness Today

A third important reason why the evolution and Christian theology discussion matters is the nature of Christian witness. And the Christian witness pertaining to evolution is especially true for how young people think of God and Christian faith.

In a recent Pew study, more 18- to 29-year olds reported having a positive view of science than those in any other age category. More specifically, sixty-one percent of young people believe life evolved over time due to either natural process or divine guidance. Seventy percent of all college graduates – no matter their age – affirm some form of evolution. In sum, young people and those with degrees in higher education are more likely to trust scientists who argue for the validity of evolution.

Statistics also show, unfortunately, that young people leave the church and/or become atheists because they perceive the church to be opposed to science in general and evolution in specific. In his book, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith, David Kinnaman uses the data from Barna Group research to show why 18- to 29-year olds are leaving the Church. Nearly 3 in 10 say the church is out of step with science, and one quarter say Christianity is anti-science. About one quarter of young people are turned off by the creation vs. evolution debate, and about one-fifth say Christianity is anti-intellectual.[xvii] 

Kinnaman quotes one young person and why he left faith over the church’s failure to accept science: “To be honest, I think that learning about science was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says the young person. “I knew from church that I couldn’t believe in both science and God, so that was it. I didn’t believe in God anymore.”[xviii]

Stories from Nazarene parents, youth pastors, and university professors indicate that some young people are leaving the Church of the Nazarene for the reasons Kinnaman reports. These young people think they cannot affirm the idea that God creates through evolution and still feel welcome in the denomination.

Dan Boone, president of Trevecca Nazarene University, asks an important question of himself that also applies to the Church of the Nazarene, “Will I engage a young generation in an open-minded biblical conversation that welcomes scientific discovery, reasoned philosophy, and careful logic? Or will I ignore all of these in favor of an interpretation of creation that is barely one hundred years old and rooted in the fear of science?”[xix]

In the coming year, look for 60-70 essays by Nazarene scholars and leaders exploring evolution and faith. And look for a conference on the subject next January 23-25, 2014, at Point Loma Nazarene University.

In a loving, constructive, and humble endeavor, the Nazarenes Exploring Evolution project seeks to help the Church of the Nazarene consider how evolution can complement rather than contradict Wesleyan-holiness theology. 




Research Center for the People & the Press. http://www.pewforum.org/science-and-bioethics/public-opinion-on-religion-and-science-in-the-united-states.aspx   Accessed 1/18/13. See also, http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-5-evolution-climate-change-and-other-issues/  Accessed 1/22/13

[ii] Research Center for the People & the Press http://www.pewforum.org/science-and-bioethics/public-opinion-on-religion-and-science-in-the-united-states.aspx. Website accessed 1/18/13

[iii] Association of Religion Data Archives, http://thearda.com/Denoms/families/profilecompare.asp?d=1001&d=601&d. Accessed 1/23/13. Rich Housel, who alerted me to this website, notes that the sample of Nazarenes polled was very low: 103.

[iv] Dan Boone, A Charitable Discourse: Talking about the Things that Divide Us (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2010), 106.

[v] Research Center for the People & the Press. http://www.pewforum.org/science-and-bioethics/public-opinion-on-religion-and-science-in-the-united-states.aspx   Accessed 1/18/13. See also, http://www.people-press.org/2009/07/09/section-5-evolution-climate-change-and-other-issues/  Accessed 1/22/13

[vi] Fred Cawthorne, “The Harmony of Science and the Christian Faith,” in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 105.

[vii] Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (New York: HarperOne, 2008), 216.

[viii] Darrel R. Falk, Coming to Peace with Science: Bridging the Worlds Between Faith and Biology (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity, 2004), 214.

[ix] Richard G. Colling, Random Designer: Created from Chaos to Connect with the Creator (Bourbonnais, Ill.: Browning, 2004), 107.

[x] Robert Branson, “The Bible, Creation, and Science,” in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 105.

[xi] Dennis Bratcher, http://www.crivoice.org/biblestudy/bbgen1.html Accessed 1/18/13

[xii] Alex Varughese, ed. Discovering the Bible: Story and Faith of the Biblical Communities (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill, 2006), 65.

[xiii] Michael Lodahl, God of Nature and of Grace: Reading the World in a Wesleyan Way (Nashville, Tenn.: Kingswood, 2003), 63.

[xiv] Thomas Jay Oord and Robert Luhn, The Best News You Will Ever Hear (Boise, Id.: Russell Media, 2011), 25. See also Oord, Divine Grace and Emerging Creation: Wesleyan Forays in Science and Theology of Creation (Eugene, Or.: Pickwick, 2009) and Oord, Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific, and Theological Engagement (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos, 2010), ch. 4.

[xv] Al Truesdale, “Introduction,” in Square Peg: Why Wesleyans Aren’t Fundamentalists, Al Truesdale, ed. (Kansas City, Mo.: Beacon Hill Press, 2012), 10.

[xvi] Darrel R. Falk, Coming to Peace with Science, 230. For similar testimonies, see Richard G. Colling, Random Designer, and Karl W. Giberson, Saving Darwin.

[xvii] David Kinnaman, You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church and Rethinking Faith (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2011), 136.

[xviii] Ibid., 131.

[xix] Dan Boone, A Charitable Discourse, 102.

Posted in 2013 under Theology and Science

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Comments

Jeannine Howard

01.29.2013
10:47am

Thanks again for another great article.  Science really can prove nothing as any scientist knows. The famous Aristotelian model of spontaneous generation was “the” scientific “truth” for hundreds of years.  Aristotle also said a vacuum was impossible. The Church at the time forbade this teaching as it would limit God which lead to scientific research showing there is indeed “vacuun”. I find this whole conversation of trying to mesh Wesleyan thought and Evolution quite fascinating. In the end, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason.

 

CJ Pankey

01.29.2013
11:27am

Dr O,

How would you respond to those who believe you have to have a literal/actual first man in order to make Paul’s arguments in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 work?

 

Dennis Carter

01.29.2013
11:36am

On a personal level, your article reflects me. I like to “think”, just for the sake of thinking. I am an amateur scientist (a doctor), and an amateur theologian (a believer of many years, who loves to read and discuss, etc.). Both are disciplines that give many opportunities to ponder. I totally believe that ‘pure’ science and ‘true’ theology are fully compatible. They are simply different ways to try to understand truth.

Christians are ideally suited to seek truth in this fashion, and the question of evolution is a classic application. Our faith is sufficiently secure that we need not be ‘afraid’ of what we may discover. And we can be open to any honest pursuit of truth. Those who have a strong atheistic view, for example, have difficulty being open to a pursuit of truth that contradicts their atheistic world view. We have nothing to fear.

Thus, I encourage fellow Christians to “at least open to the possibility that Wesleyan-holiness theology is compatible with evolution.”

We do not know the truth. As Dr. Oord points out, there are potential weaknesses in a 7 day creationist viewpoint. However, the science is not clean either, depending almost entirely on inferences rather than hard data. For example, microevolution is well established, testable, and observable (e.g. adaption of a species, such as bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics). However, macroevolution has neither been observed or tested in any rigorous fashion. Even so, science has an incredibly dogmatic cultural regarding this issue, and also has difficulty having an open and honest discussion about the limitations of evolution as a theory.

Again, Christians are ideally suited to think about such things in a rigorous fashion, and we have nothing to fear.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, humility and grace go a very long ways in helping others find God. If we can approach discussions with others who have very different views than us with humility and grace, enough that we can listen more than we talk… we can be a more effective conduit in their search for God. Even if God created the Earth is a literal 7 days (I’m not personally smart enough to know), maybe it is a gift that we would be uncertain… opening up opportunities to authentically engage our literal and figurative neighbors.

What an adventure!

 

John Dally

01.29.2013
6:16pm

Dr. Oord
How many people today believe that the sun revolves around the earth? How many people today believe that above the heavens as a fast body of water?  How many people believe the Earth is flat and has four corners? How many people believe that there are gates in the heavens that release the rains? How many believe the moon puts out its own light just as the sun puts out its own light? The Church has always had to make accommodations to new scientific observations. I believe if we could get people in the Nazarene Church to realize just how often they have accommodated their faith positions due to scientific discovery the argument towards evolution might be much easier to accept.

It is my wish that I could play some role in this worthy objective.

 

Tim Gilleand

01.30.2013
2:13pm

Dr. Oord,

Please consider this project faithfully.  I believe accepting evolution causes a major problem theologically and even scientifically. 

Evolution teaches millions of years of death and suffering before man’s sin.  This is a BIG problem!  This makes God the inventor of death and suffering as a “very good” thing, and pretty much invalidates the need for a savior.  Why would God need to send a savior to save us from death, a concept he set-up and declared “very good”?

Scientifically, Christians who already accept the Bible as God’s word have no reason to accept evolution.  Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence (same bones, same rocks, same earth), but come to different conclusions due to different starting assumptions used to explain the evidence. 

Evolutionists have a starting assumption of uniformitarianism of geology and biology.  This basically means that the rates and processes we measure today have remained constant and unchanged for all of history.

Creationists have a starting assumption of catastrophism.  This basically means that if the Bible is true, then there are three very important events (a 6-day literal creation, a cursed world following original sin, and a worldwide flood) that intrude and disrupt the assumption of uniformitarianism.
Therefore, if the Bible is true – uniformitarianism fails, and so do all conclusions (macro-evolution, old-earth) that flow from that assumption.  There is no reason scientifically or theologically for Christians to embrace evolution.

 

Stephen Ogley

01.31.2013
12:15am

Outside America, nearly everyone believes evolution is compatible with Christianity. Only in America is there widespread belief in a young earth.

 

Alan

01.31.2013
9:01am

I don’t know that I would call the earth young, but to believe that God created something imperfect is quite absurd. Saying that we “evolved” from anything other than human form would be stating just that.  A little more clarity on what you mean by evolved would be a great addition to this blog.  I certainly believe in micro evolution but certainly can’t believe that we evolved from something else.

 

Tom Walker

01.31.2013
8:23pm

Dr. Oord,
To quote Romans 1:19-20 – “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  This directly implies that we can come to know the truth of creation, otherwise atheist scientists would have an excuse.

Unfortunately it appears you are not aware of the release of the findings of phase II of the ENCODE Project that has probably put one of the last nails in the coffin of Darwinian Evolution.  What was thought to be junk DNA – (evidence of historical mutations and non-functional) – is now looking like it is ALL functional.

Here is a link to an on-line presentation by a biochemist of the apologetic value of this landmark discovery.  http://www.reasons.org/videos/encoded-by-design

 

DinkyDauBilly

02.01.2013
8:24am

Good day to you, Doc. Interesting article you have here. For one thing, it’s fairly free of obfuscatory academia-ism, though your scribblings usually are. Free of that, I mean. But ... by training and experience I am an inveterate Cynic, and I see this statement: “In a loving, constructive, and humble endeavor ...” as a bit of an oxymoron when dealing with evangelicals, creationism in particular, and the bible in general. I could go on in tortured language and logic on that, but my other two favorite heretics, Enns and Evans, have written on that far better than can I:

http://tinyurl.com/a39rk24

http://tinyurl.com/askoky4

Have a great weekend. We’re going to be taking the kids out to the range to exercise our 2nd Amendment rights, and then engage in good ol’ fashioned all-American gluttony on Sunday whilst watching barely controlled violence on the telly. Will SF prevail? Quoth the Ravens ... “Nevermore!”

 

Nathan Napier

02.01.2013
11:16am

You and your colleagues have your finger on the pulse of academy, church and culture in ways that are certainly needed in the age of mass information and dissemination in which we all live.  You have accurately portrayed how the majority of scholars stand on this issue…as well as people under the age of 30.
  I’d like to make a few very brief comments to hesitant remarks.  First, for those who have not read your work (places where you have already written extensively in response to some of these concerns and questions) I would recommend to any on this blog to pick up a copy of Tom’s two books, “Creation Made Free” and “Defining Love: A Philosophical, Scientific and Theological Engagement”.  In both of these texts, the dialogue of evolution and Wesleyan theology is already emerging.  In “Creation Made Free”, all the essays are an attempt to engage Bible and Christian theology philosophy with science via the mechanism of open theism.  The first two essays in the book will answer some of the questions already posed.  Karen Winslow’s essay, “The Earth is not a Planet” and Tom’s essay, “An Open Theology Doctrine of Creation and Solution to the Problem of Evil” are both good places to start for those looking for responses.  For those concerned about Darwinianism, chapter 4, “Love and the Biological Sciences” is the place where Tom gives a good view of Darwin, a theology of love and how we can think these concepts consecutively.  Tom did not ask me to plug for this texts; I am just passing along information that I have found helpful.
  As for those concerned about the goodness of creation.  Goodness and love are both biblical concepts that Wesleyan’s employ and affirm as both reside and are distributed through God via his act of creation.  For God to be truly good is not for God to impute goodness in edenic ways as much as it is to testify that God creates the world in freedom and the world is free to respond to the ground from which it has come.  Goodness, freedom and love are all handmaiden concepts…it is hard for God to create something that is good and loving, yet also not free.  As such, its goodness is defined as its genesis from within God and must not be limited to our “evaluation” of it as good relative to a modern non-theistic understanding of the good, or as Arminius would call, the sumom bonum.  So creation is simultaneously a good act and a free act imparted from God to creation so that creation is given the freedom to be in relation to the God who is creative in God’s self.  Creation, therefore, is not something that is created as good or bad…it just is created and given freedom to evolve in its relation to its creator…much like the relationships in our own lives.
  And I would also briefly remind folks of the time of the final redacted form of our Old Testament text…this should help alleviate thinking Genesis as the first linear text of our bible or constraining it to a foreign Enlightenment paradigm such as science.  Walter Brueggemann writes in his OT Theology, “It is now increasingly agreed that the Old Testament in its final form is the product of and a response to the Babylonian Exile.”  What this means is that the these texts were not finally edited and canonized in their current form and content until the exile, a time of great dislocation in which ties to land, monarchy, etc, could no longer be those axis upon which to hinge their future.  These texts, and the very intentional formation of the Pentateuch, serve as placement markers for a generation lost in captivity, doubting the promises of YHWH and looking for old metanarratives, stories, that could provide a view of their future because of the promise of their past.  Thus, the text, its books and its shaping, are very intentional with the purpose of shaping a people not conforming to the world that would emerge in the 21st century.  These texts evoke faithful response and proper theological affirmations: God is creator and God will come good on God’s promises…and these stories were told for thousands of years from parents to children, etc…much like our kids ask us, “where are the stars?” “What does it mean to die?” “How did we get here?”  The Pentateuch is the communities answer to these questions…and the final shaping of the text took place when the people where in dire need of seeing the world as a movement of God in history toward them.  For as Brueggemann summarizes this material, “In such a world as the present one (exile), it is of enormous importance to have a theological literature that is candid about exile, that is insistent on homecoming, and that believes relentlessly in dimensions of moral accountability and aspect of holy presence that are inalienably germane to the human situation and human prospect.”  It is under this rubric that Genesis makes “sense” and provides meaning…not expect the past to conform to our present through our perceived doctrinal needs.

 

DinkyDauBilly

02.02.2013
11:12pm

In the previously posted link to the blog article by Evans, we see that she includes a link to yet another article, this one by Richard Beck addressing a phenomenon he calls “orthodox alexithymia.” Here is an excerpt:

“What I’m describing here might be captured by the tag “orthodox alexithymia.” By “orthodox” I mean the intellectual pursuit of right belief. And by “alexithymia” I mean someone who is, theologically speaking, emotionally and socially deaf and dumb. Even theologically sociopathic.”

Now what does this have to do with the evangelical and/or fundamentalist view of the relationship of the bible and theology to science? Quite a bit, I think.

History is full of examples of ‘theological sociopaths,’ many of whom seem to me to have some serious pycho-sexual dysfunctions. Religion seems to exacerbate these. Sex is a major preoccupation with evangelicals and/or fundamentalists. One of Relevant magazine’s most tortured and most extensively commented upon articles - and a followup - dealt with masturbation and the sinfulness thereof. Would you not agree that the more active members of the various smitten-by-God cultures in the Old Testament exhibit what we could call ‘religico-psycho-sexual malignancies?’ The crowd(s) in Genesis 19 would make guys like John Wayne Gacy feel right at home. What of the Ammonites, and their child sacrifices? Mere heathens, wallowing in simple deviate debauchery (is there any other kind?) or something more deeply indicative of the demons that gnaw at the souls of men? And what of Kugel’s argument that the verses in Leviticus and Deuteronomy specifically addressing child sacrifice are an indication that this was at one time practiced among the Hebrews? Does this mean that many of the ancient leaders of the Hebrews were manipulative sociopaths? Detached emotionally from the masses, yet skilled in manipulating the emotions of those masses, working their social and cultural prejudices with a religious bent? The assassin in Angels and Demons (my favorite fictional psychopath) is a great example of this type of religiously-founded mental aberration, but not nearly so much as the church fathers willing to loose him upon the masses. The One True Church has for centuries harbored, even nurtured, these personalities. The Protestants of early colonial America, with their witchhunts and fascination with sexual ‘misconduct’ are a psychotherapist’s treasure trove. And, when we get the likes of Brother Pat, and our brethren and sistren in the Concerned Nazarenes going on about “God’s judgment” as the reason for almost incomprehensible suffering one immediately thinks “Aha! Orthodox alexithymia!”

But then we have this:

“When theology and doctrine become separated from emotion we end up with something dysfunctional and even monstrous. A theology or doctrinal system that has become decoupled from emotion is going to look emotionally stunted and even inhuman.”

I think he’s missing the main point here. There is no lack of emotion in the fire and brimstone version of God’s judgment. Quite the contrary; it is full of emotion. Preachers rely on emotion. It drives the reaction and the purse strings of the congregants. Was the mob in Genesis 19 lacking in emotion? Were the mobs of Moloch emotionally decoupled? Of course not; mobs are ruled by emotion.

Televangelists, prosperity preachers ... the Hagees, the Pat Robertsons, the Huckabees ... all of them ... depend on the emotional state of the mob - their congregations - to make a living. The last thing such people want is an income source that believes in reason, that is capable of reasoning. But are such preachers emotionally decoupled from their own actions? Is that the basis for the theological perversion? And the bottom line ... if such Leaders of the Church - and I use the term very loosely - allow the reason of science to prevail, how does this affect their power over the masses and their purses?

Or ... should I merely seek an increase in my medication?

 

Paul Willis

02.12.2013
9:19am

Anwering Tim Gilleand:

Tim, I would suggest that the curse we find in Genesis three was that Adam and Eve, not the rest of creation (plant/animals), should die for their disobedience.  Therefore, animal death before the Fall is compatible with Christian doctrine.  For humans, Genesis 3 and other Bible passages speak primarily of spiritual death, not physical death. Additionally, there may be very useful design purposes for natural death and decay in created order, without which, nature as we know if would not exist.

Paul

 

john parish

10.01.2013
11:12am

What if both science and religion were both partially right and partially wrong? Then, compatibility between the two would not be so much of an issue.

 

Lonnie Hill

08.29.2014
10:51am

the problem with the church of the Nazarene is, they; educators, “theologians”, and others, are simply ignor-ing the true Bible, which is, the KJB. For the KJB is God’s written Word, Jesus is the Living Word. Psalms 12:6 The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.

 

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Thomas Jay Oord is a professor, author, and theologian from the Northwest. Read more