The Bible and Science Debate: How Shall We Interpret Genesis?

If I were to pick three highly skilled biblical scholars/exegetes, who also profoundly understand science (two of them – McGrath and Polkinghorne – have a PhD degree in hard science), to speak clearly about the way to properly read the Book of Genesis then I would pick these three theologians. I have met two of them and have read all three for decades now. Perhaps no debate has more unnecessarily divided the church than the raging debate over science and Bible. In particular, it comes down to this: “How do we understand Genesis?” My own thinking has changed about this question, in fact several times over the course of my lifetime. I would now line up well with what these three orthodox and confessional Christian ministers/teachers say in this outstanding video.

In some ways this is one of the most helpful and important videos that I have ever shared on my blog. I hope you will take the twelve minutes needed to watch it carefully. This video should not only disabuse you of the many numerous bad ideas about reading Genesis but it will also help you

The Climate Change Debate: Wrestling With the Creation Narrative

global-warming-before-after.jpg.644x0_q100_crop-smartA massive report on the impact of global warming is being completed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This report explains to the world what the representatives of approximately 100 governments concluded at their meeting in Japan in late March. AP reported: “The key message from leaked drafts and interviews with the authors and other scientists: The big risks and overall effects of global warming are far more immediate and local than scientists once thought. It’s not just about melting ice, threatened animals and plants. It’s about the human problems of hunger, disease, drought, flooding, refugees and war, worsening.”

I am always amazed at how people respond to these reports. Many are skeptical and some are fanatical. But both extremes are neither good science nor good public policy. The key, it seems to me, is to marry the two in some effective way. I hope this happens but I am not holding my breath about it. The effects of global warming, which are being accepted by a growing number of us, are still not seen as immediate

Rethinking a Christian Response to Suicide

I am continually amazed at the lack of sensitivity and pastoral grace that many Christians have regarding their response to a death by suicide. There was a time when Christians–Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant–generally considered suicide an “unpardonable sin.” For this reason when a person took their own life the family was left with the profound sense that their loved one was eternally condemned through this final act of (self) murder. Both officially, and unofficially, this view has been largely altered over the last fifty-plus years. (I still recall how I felt when I first came across this “historic” view through reading Pilgrim’s Progress, the popular classic written by the English minister John Bunyan.)

The advances we’ve made in understanding mental illness, and especially the issue of suicide, have been nothing short of a major paradigm shift in understanding both human behavior and moral accountability. While it is true that the “moral” issue remains the same in suicide (a person takes a life, which is morally wrong) it seems to me that the way Christians understand this moral issue has changed rather dramatically. This change, I submit, is

The Tragic Sense of Life

imagesI remember when I first heard the Spaniard’s name – Miguel de Unamuno. I was driving my car to speak in Iowa in the summer of about 1998 and the esteemed founding president of Regent College (Vancouver), James Houston, mentioned the importance of this Spanish philosopher for deeper insight into the faith. The course was one on spiritual formation. It seemed odd to me that Houston would mention a philosopher who more than dabbled in some ideologies that would trouble most American conservatives. (They trouble me too.) Little did I know what treasures awaited me in discovering the work of this early twentieth century thinker. But I am ahead of myself. Who was Miguel de Unamuno?

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864 – 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher. His best known, and most important,  philosophical essay was The Tragic Sense of Life (1913). His most famous novel was Abel Sanchez: The History of a Passion (1917), a modern exploration of the Cain and Abel story. For Unamuno, art was a way

Will the World End One Week from Today?

Will the world end on December 21st? An interpretation of an ancient Maya calendar has been used, for several years now, to suggest that the end of the world will take place on (or around) December 21, 2012. The film “2012,” starring John Cusack, made the idea popular with many movie goers. The warnings are  linked with the Mayan calendar turning over on that day. A Mayan inscription from a small ruin was,at least according to some experts, mistranslated to imply big events surrounding that date. These big doings then evolved into doomsday scenarios made popular through various forecasts. Add to this the popular movie “2012” and there you have the buzz about the end next week.

So what should we make of this forecast regarding 2012? First, and I might surprise you by saying this first, it could be right. We do not know the day or the hour of the Lord’s return. In Matthew 24:30-31 we read:

Then a sign will appear in the sky. And there will be the Son of Man. All nations on

An ACT 3 Luncheon with Brendan Purcell

The last two days I have written blogs about science and creation. I published a review of Brendan Purcell’s new book, From Big Bang to Big Mystery, written by Irish scholar, Dr. Joe McCarroll. I also mentioned that I have invited Dr. Brendan Purcell to speak in the Chicago area on his book at an ACT 3 Luncheon. This event will begin at noon (ending by 1:45 p.m.) on Wednesday, September 12, at Alberto’s, the restaurant of the Holiday Inn located at 150 South Gary Avenue, Carol Stream IL 60188. You can register for this event at our web site. Everyone is invited who is interested in the topic and the event. The cost, which includes the meal, a beverage and the gratuity, is $25.00. Registration is required because of seating limitations. 

Dr. Brendan Purcell is a former professor of philosophy at University College Dublin (UCD), Ireland, from  where he retired in 2008. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in philosophy at Notre Dame  University, Sydney, Australia. He is also a Catholic priest, having been ordained in

By |August 17th, 2012|Categories: ACT 3, Biblical Theology, Books, Science|

From Big Bang to Big Mystery (A Review: Part 2)

Yesterday, I published the first part of Dr. Joe McCarroll’s review of Brendan Purcell’s important new book, From Big Bang to Big Mystery. Today I publish the second part of his review. I believe this portion of the review explains clearly why this is an important book for thinking, serious Christian readers who want to engage the question of origins in a biblically honest and insightful way while properly giving due to what we’ve learned from science over the last several centuries.

From Big Bang to Big Mystery

A Review, Part Two

Joe McCarroll

Apart from those engaged by the issues around evolution I’d say that From Big Bang to Big Mystery – Human Origins in the Light of Creation and Evolution has most to offer those working on the theme of creation.

The book is studded with stunning exclamatory and discursive statements on the contingency and sheer existence of aspects of the finite universe and ourselves, moving back and forth between the pneumatic and noetic dimensions of our experience of groundedness in a transfinite Origin so profoundly explored in Chapter 1, with remarkable quotations from Parmenides (41f.), Aristotle (47), Les Murray

By |August 16th, 2012|Categories: Biblical Theology, Books, Science, Scripture|

From Big Bang to Big Mystery: The Question of Human Origins

I grew up in an ecclesial context that had positively no regard for insights we might gain from evolution. During my student years at Wheaton College I learned to think of creation differently and began to open my mind to broader thought patterns on the questions of origins. Then I wandered into “strict (literal) creationism” for a sojourn of about ten years. This came about while I was preaching through Genesis in the late 1970s. I was always uncomfortable with creationists, for reasons that I will not elaborate at this point, but I felt Genesis plainly taught that creation was completed in six 24-hour days. Almost out of necessity I then agreed that this work of creation was likely finished only 12,000-15,000 years ago. (This was much harder to accept and I never fully embraced the idea!) These views continued to sit very uneasily within my mind. Later they deeply troubled my heart as well. The reason was that they required me to deny some things that I saw very clearly. But much more importantly, they forced me to interpret Scripture in a way that I

By |August 15th, 2012|Categories: Biblical Theology, Books, Science, Scripture|

Climate Science and Evangelicals

One of the true hot-button issues conservatives routinely debate  is climate science and global warming. I have listened to some of the strangest and most confusing debate over this issue. Some of the worst debate over this issue is routinely endorsed by evangelical Christians who laugh at climate science and demonize those who take it seriously. Some even produce impressive looking papers on what is wrong in the ciimate science debate. Much of this makes Christians look rather foolish to those who do rigid research on this problem.

Glaciated_grinnell_area-preview What must be understood in this debate is that there is no doubt that global warming actually exists. The question is not, “Is global warming real?” The question is what causes it and what can, or should, we do about it?

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry recently suggested that the flow of grants has led to a growing body of research arguing for human causes of global warming. In the September 26 issue of USA Today, Republican Bob Inglis, a two-time member of

Creation, Science and the Human Genome

Creation-Of-Adam Recent polls by Gallup and the Pew Research Center find that four out of 10 Americans believe that the creation accounts in Genesis 1-3 are to be read quite literally. In fact, it is safe to say that a literal reading of the opening chapters of Genesis is a central tenet for most conservative Christianity. This was the case in my experience but no one in my background taught me what St. Augustine said about reading such texts about creation or how theories of literature actually work in terms of certain kinds of texts and how we should read them. I thus went through several phases in my journey through the minefield of questions that touch on origins and the biblical narrative.

More recently a growing number of conservative both biblical and scientific scholars are saying publicly that they can no longer believe the Genesis account, at least not literally. When asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist

By |August 24th, 2011|Categories: Biblical Theology, Science|

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