Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Language of God

I recently read Francis Collins' "The Language of God", and I'm going to spend a few posts trying to sort out loud (okay not really, but on paper. Okay, not really paper either, but digitally) my own evolution of thought on evolution.
First, some background on Collins. My first introduction to him was at the National Prayer Breakfast this past February, where he was the keynote speaker. Collins is the head of the Human Genome Project, which just a year or two ago announced the complete mapping of the billions of codes within human DNA. I'm not going to even pretend to understand much about this at all, but I do find it totally fascinating and--much like Collins--awesome. Collins saw himself for many years as a skeptic and agnostic, eventually as an atheist. But the beauty of molecular biology drew him back, along with what he calls the universal sense of a Moral Law. He read C. S. Lewis voraciously in his late 20s, and eventually became an evangelical Christian.
And therein lies the rub for most people who call themselves evangelical Christians. Collins is a confirmed evolutionist. And in most evangelical circles that's just a no-no. You can rant about Christian morals and then be outed as having homosexual sex and still get Christians to support you, or you can have a very public divorce and still pastor and make millions, but you better not say you believe in the theory of evolution, cause that's "straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200" kind of stuff.
Last week I was in El Paso, and drove through my old campus stomping grounds at UTEP. As I drove by the student union, I remembered that day 20+ years ago when I stood there with a microphone and speaker and debated students on various topics. I made several (stupid and/or ignorant) comments about evolution and those who supported it.
I was wrong.
Tune in to the next post to see how wrong I was.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Finally, WHITE...

I got to read the 3rd book in the Dekker trilogy last week. WHITE was the conclusion to the overlapping worlds story of Thomas Hunter. It was worth the read.

I am impressed with Dekker's work. He is a good writer, but his best skill is the creativity at making allusion. So many authors these days who are trying to allude to truth in their work end up banging you over the head with that truth. Dekker is softer, gentler and, in my opinion, more interested in you getting the story than in you getting his truth. He knows that if you get the story, the truth will work its way into your psyche. Maybe even at a better, deeper level than intellectual understanding of truth...

The novel brings to a close (an open-ended close however) the story of the Circle, a group of Scabs who have been bathed in the pool of Justin's redemption. In WHITE, the Circle debates their own relationship with those who are still the diseased Scabs. There are those who would return to fighting and killing the Scabs as Elyon's enemy. There are those that believe the Circle should make peace with the Scabs and maybe even lower their standards so that Scabs are more welcomed in the Circle. Then there are those willing to risk it all for the love of Scabs, even willing to die for one of them.

I recommend the books. And looking at it seems that he's about to release the trilogy as a set of graphic novels later this fall. That should be worth looking into...

Monday, August 20, 2007

The New Faces of Christianity

Over the weekend I finished Philip Jenkins' 2006 book THE NEW FACES OF CHRISTIANITY. While not as world-changing as his earlier work, THE NEXT CHRISTENDOM (which is a must read, so get it if you haven't read it!), there are some interesting insights. The main thrust of the book is how the Global South--Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America--interpret the Bible.
Chapter 4, titled "Poor and Rich" was the best of the book for me. Jenkins outlines the various ways in which Global South Christians resonate with the Scriptures--in particular the Old Testament--precisely BECAUSE of their life context being so close to biblical culture. How can an American understand the parables that discuss farming in the pre-modern world, or stories about a man selling himself into slavery to pay off a debt? We need 14 commentaries to tell us about mustard seeds! The Global South cultures are still there, and are much more able to grasp the original intent of the writer.
This is true virtually across the board: issues of politics, health, economics, theology, and so much more make the Global South a completely different place for interpreting the Bible. And while I don't want to romanticize it too much, it would do me and most other USAmerican Christians well to exegete the emerging Global South Christian world for a better understanding of the Bible. Not to mention an understanding of the people who are on pace (if not already there) to outrun us in pursuing the Way of Jesus.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Ooze

Awhile back I discovered great site for current discussion about all things Jesus. It's one of those sites I try to read at least each month, sometimes every week.

Lo and behold, this week one of my college buddies wrote an article there. Keith Giles is from El Paso and even back in college was a great thinker about what it meant to really follow Jesus. Now he pastors a house church in Orange, CA.

His article is called "Reformation or Revolution" and discusses whether Jesus was a reformer or a revolutionary. Keith likes reformer better; I have always preferred revolutionary. Maybe that's because he was the artsy guy with a rock band who wore berets, and I was the football player. :) just kidding, Keith!

What do you think? Read Keith's article and let me know why you think Jesus was a reformer, a revolutionary, or something else altogether.

Monday, August 13, 2007

I read "Red"...

Someone still has "White", the finale of Dekker's trilogy, but last weekend I read "Red", the 2nd book. I liked it much better than the first book, mostly because Dekker didn't have to spend all the time on character development that he did in "Black".
I love the concept of a place where evil and good are tangibles. They can be seen and smelled and touched. Dekker paints a wonderful picture of a pre-sin world in "Black", then elaborates on how that sin becomes very real in "Red". And true to the color, redemption comes in the 2nd book. The way is made through betrayal for the leprous disease eating through the sons of Elyon to be removed. Forever. The world around them is still leprous, but they become whole through the sacrifice of Justin of the Southern Forest.
It's interesting: Justin is at first nothing more than a bit character, someone from a faraway place who used to be a great warrior. He fought side by side with our hero Thomas the Hunter, and Thomas even offered for him to become his number 2 man in the battles with the evil desert people. But Justin drifted away from war, and began to even talk about peace. He spoke of the need to make peace with the evil desert dwellers, and the forest people--who are revealed to be just as consumed with evil as the desert folk, only hidden in their rules--kill him for it.
The analogies are too much for me to keep recording. But here's one of my favorites: whether in the overt evil of the Desert Horde or the unreasonable facsimile of the Great Romance turned into the rules of the Forest People, grace and peace are required. Rules will never help us understand the Great Romance of Elyon. We have to be cleansed, made whole, and then we will remember! Remember the pursuit of the pursuing God, the chase, the love, the completeness.
Again, great book. Now if the person who has the final book from the Great Northwest Library in San Antonio will return it, I'll read "White" and see it all come together.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Christian Philanthropy

One of the real challenges for Jesus followers who raise money for ministry efforts is to understand how Jesus approached giving. As this article says, he thought of giving as investment in the kingdom. Are our values for kingdom investment challenged by today's philanthopic work?

Read this for more...