Saturday, September 29, 2007

1-0 in C-USA on a big upset Sunday

Lot's of unhappy Texans today, with the Longhorns getting pummeled. At least OU lost too...

But UTEP wins again!

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Just what the Miners needed

UTEP needed a visit from a 1-AA; er, Playoff Division, opponent. 38-0 at the half. But I guess I should wait until the fat lady sings...

Friday, September 21, 2007

And still another great quote on "christian" art...

Madeleine L'Engle passed away September 6th. I remember the first time I read a quote from her in some Richard Foster work and thought she was some 14th century French saint. But lo and behold, she was a 20th century children's writer. And a very good one too. Here's a quote I found in Terry Mattingly's 9/12 column:

"I have been brought up to believe that the Gospel is to be spread, it is to be shared -- not kept for those who already have it," she said. "Well, 'Christian novels' reach Christians. They don't reach out. ... I am not a 'Christian writer.' I am a writer who is a Christian. I think that you have to be the best writer that you can be. Now, if I am truly a Christian, then that will show in my work."

Rich Mullins

It's been 10 years since Rich Mullins died in a car accident. The last couple of days there have been many tributes to him, here's my favorite...

Rich was a character who loved Jesus in all his realness, no doubt. And while his music was both good and bad, it was and is his life that inspires me. And his most important effect on my thinking is this: Jesus loves the church.

In the midst of my most cynical time about organized Christianity, I read "An Arrow Pointing to Heaven", a biography based on several of his songs. Lot's of things spoke to me in that book and the accompanying CD, but nothing like Rich's passion for the church, with all her faults. Jesus makes the bride whole, she's not whole on her own. I wanted her to be. I wanted the church to be everything that she could be. One day she will, but that day is not today. So I can be cynical and trash the church, or I can love her the way Jesus loves her.

I'm trying.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Down and Dirty on Christian Art...Again

The Whittenburg Door, one of my favorite online reads, this week pointed me to their previous interview with Rob Bell. Most people are shocked when I say I haven't read "Velvet Elvis" or any other of Rob's books. But why read something that you know you agree with? I don't know Rob, but I like him already. Here's my fave quote from the interview:

This idea that Church waits to see what the culture is doing then produces a D grade version with some sort of clever Jesus twist to me is utter blasphemy. The DaVinci Code, for example. You wait for a C grade movie with stars with bad haircuts and then gear your church teachings around a movie that many people aren't even going to see? That seems absolutely anemic.

Amen Rob Bell! May your tribe increase. If you want to read the whole interview, check it out here...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Does Science Disprove my View of the Bible?

We've talked in the past about how Evangelicals today tend to approach the Bible. Steve Martin, who commented on my last post and blogs over at, had a guest blogger recently who has an excellent post on how Modernity has infected the Evangelical reading of scripture...

Did the writers of the Bible follow the stories and worldviews and cultural values of their time? Did they write "inaccurate" scientific facts like those based on ancient cosmology, where the universe is basically a globe, the earth is flat, the stars are attached to the globe's dome, and above that dome is an ocean of water? Of course they did.

Gordon, the guest blogger, puts this idea out on a hypothetical conversation after Moses comes down off Mount Sinai...

“Hey guys, check this out. God just told me about creation and guess what? You’re never gonna believe this, but the earth is actually round! No kidding! And there is no solid firmament holding back an ocean of water above us either—can you believe those silly Egyptians? No wonder God kicked their butt! And the earth is actually whirling though space at incredible speeds with the other planets, and there are two more planets that we didn’t even know about! As soon as we get to the PromisedLand, we’re starting a university!”

This would have been nonsense to the Hebrews, just like the Copernican/Galilean view was nonsense to the Church's leaders in their day. It's the proverbial problem of trying to describe water to a fish. Worldviews are usually so entrenched that that must be changed gradually over time. And God had much more important things he was teaching this group of Hebrews under Moses than scientifically accurate cosmology.

The Bible reveals God's love to us. It is the story of his work of redemption. It is not an instruction manual on science, history, or even theology, per se. It is a revelation. It displays a loving God who works passionately to pursue and redeem a bunch of obstinate people that reject him over and over. The Writings ought to be treated with the highest respect because of what they reveal about God and about life. But just because the scientific facts of today don't correlate to the (misunderstood or mysterious) scientific facts of yesterday does NOT mean that the Bible is untrustworthy when it comes to revealing God's nature and redemptive power.

300 Spartans and Leonidas

I finally watched "300" last week. I absolutely love the story of Leonidas and the 300 Spartans who resist the Persians under Xerxes, and have used that story a bunch of times in teaching. So, I intially hated the previews I saw about "300". I mean, who really believes that Spartan soldiers wore only loin cloths, and all had 6-pack abs and Fabio hair?

But then a few months ago I heard on NPR an interview with the director talking about how his goal was to have a movie that visually showed the legendary telling of tales found in an oral society. Now I get it. It's like a campfire story. So Xerxes is 9 feet tall, the Persian army has Orcs from Lord of the Rings, and Leonidas wears only a leather jock strap.

But in a sense I respect it more now. We've lost the art of telling good stories in our culture because of the impact of television and movies. Our love affair with modernity has left us slightly (or sometimes not so slightly) jaded, and very few things take our breath away anymore. We've seen too much, experienced too much, for our souls to still be amazed. And while not necessarily historically accurate, "300" is definitely amazing.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Open to Evolution?

So when we left off a few days ago, I had journeyed from a 10,000 year old world to a 4,000,000,000 year old one (give or take a millenium or two), but still saw the need for God to have been involved in creating the world in a unique sort of way without the process of darwinian evolution. I still had a hang-up about God having to be directly involved for it to be "true" somehow.

Then I read Brian McLaren's book "A New Kind of Christian." At the same time I'm trying to reconcile emerging truths in the scientific world with my literalist biblical upbringing, I'm really discovering this emerging idea of postmodernity within me. I had read several Len Sweet books, studied a tiny bit of postmodern philosophy, and found that the music of postmodernity resonated in a unique harmony with my own soul. A friend recommended McLaren, and in his semi-fictional writing I found words to describe my world. I rediscovered for myself the mystery of God and the mystery that is Truth. Yes, Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life." But while that sounds simple, it is wonderfully and beautifully deep!

If you've not read the "New Kind of Christian" trilogy, I highly recommend them. They are somewhat fictional, although by McLaren's own admission he's not trying to write great fiction. He's trying to fictionally describe his own journey into deconstructing the many human additions to theological (and scientific, and other kinds of) truth. It explores how our own cultures and languages and assumptions and upbringings can blind us to the beauty of truth. Maybe the best example is the word trinity. I am a total Trinitarian--I have long believed and taught that relationship is the greatest thing humans experience because it is the essence of the nature of God himself. But the truth is that "trinity" is a word we made up to describe as close as possible something completely indescribable. We finite humans often do this with truth, and then we decide to draw lines in the sand and live or die by our defining of truth instead of the truth itself.

I have come to think that this is absolutely true of our beliefs on evolution. We drew the line in the sand as evangelicals that evolution cannot be true. We never considered that there are other possible viewpoints that reflect the beauty of Truth, don't compromise on the message of Scripture, and uphold the scientific understandings of our universe. The only thing evolution violates is our construct, our "line in the sand" understanding of the truth of God's creative acts in the world.

The church did this with Copernicus and Galileo centuries ago, with the construct (biblically based and justified) that the Earth was the center of the universe. We now know that church leaders were silly to fight the sun-centered solar system idea on the basis of their biblical understanding. Could we be in the same position with macro-evolution? Have we thrown out the potential for understanding "the language of God" as Francis Collins describes it, because it's in a different language than our evangelical constructs will allow?

I say that we have. And that I don't want to anymore.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

And this may even be funnier!

God 2.0

This is hysterical from The Door's website...


Door IT Guy Kevin Martin reports:

The American Council of Churches announced today the release of God 2.0, the first major release since God 1.5 – Human Edition appeared December 25, 0000.
According to ACC spokesperson Dr. Len Thorton, "This release has been under development for quite some time. Early beta versions were filled with heresies that caused several groups to split because of interminable arguments over which features were most important. We're hoping that with this release, we can put an end to support for God 1.0 – The Old Testament – once and for all."

The Jewish community has long been committed to 1.0 – refusing even to upgrade to 1.5. "We've heard the upgrade rumors before and have decided to wait for at least the first service pack to 2.0 before we consider migrating," said Rabbi Moishe Dianne. "Our understanding is that G-d 2.0 still requires you to first install 1.5. Unfortunately, we feel there are too many incompatibilities with the Human Edition – incompatibilities that would require us to abandon the systems we've had in place for over 3,000 years."

Installation requirements, cost to upgrade, and on-going maintenance fees for God 2.0 have sparked a renewed interest in God–x, the open-source alternative to God 1.5. God–x, a favorite of the Unitarian movement, is compatible with the largest numbers of belief systems and even allows you to customize it to your specific needs.

Great article from Brian McLaren...

One of my favorite writers, Brian McLaren, had this post recently on the God's Politics blog. Where do we as followers of Jesus need to stand on the line of balance between self-protection and love for enemy?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Lucy and the Beginning of Humans

This morning's San Antonio Express-News announces that a museum in Houston will continue with their plans to display the remains of Lucy, the most famous member of the australopithicus aferensis species. Scientists for many years believed that hominids probably evolved a larger brain at least at the same time--if not before--as they developed a full bipedal mode of walking. But Lucy changed that thought. Discovered in the early 1970s, she stood about 3 feet 8 inches tall, clearly walked on two legs, but still had a small brain capacity. Her kind roamed parts of the earth 1.5 to 4 million years ago. The big controversy for most people is whether or not Lucy should be allowed to travel and be displayed, or should such a find as this be protected from the probably accidents such a trip would incur.

But if you're a typical young-earth creationist, as I was until probably only 10 years ago myself, there are so many things in that first paragraph that you disagree with you can't see straight anymore, and they don't have anything to do with whether or not Lucy is fit for a tour. Creationist viewpoints range from such hominids as Lucy didn't really exist (the totally anti-intellectual viewpoint found in extreme fundamentalism Christianity, where Satan has manipulated the fossil record to trick us) to such hominids existed but are now extinct, not surviving long after the Deluge of Genesis 6. The age of the earth is chalked up to that Deluge, when God told Noah to build an ark and then he destroyed the rest of the world, wanting to start again with Noah's family and the animals he rescued. I hope to spend several posts showing how my own understanding has evolved in understanding evolutionary process and scientific theory in general.

10 or so years ago I had begun to see what I thought were horribly anti-intellectual turns among conservative Christians here in the US. While a staunch conservative myself, I was beginning to be challenged with alternative points of view, mostly as a reaction to the extreme fundamentalism I saw in my own tradition. I will not be able to do justice in just a few paragraphs to my changes in thought, but one early important piece was reading Hugh Ross's book Creation and Time (published 1994 by NavPress). Ross is an astronomer by education, and for him the stars in the sky point to the fact that the universe cannot be only 10-25,000 years old, unless you really start to say theologically that God is trying to trick us.

If the speed of light is a constant, then it took an enormous amount of time for the light of particular stars to come to earth, much much more than 25,000 years. In fact, even most Christian astronomers, according to Ross, believe the earth to be the 4 billion or so years that other scientists believe. To see anything else is to manipulate the clear evidence. Ross is what is called an 0ld-earth Creationist, or progressive Creationist. He rejects the idea of evolution having answers for the variety of life and the intelligence of humans today, but he believes that the clear evidence points to a very old earth. Even this is villified by the fundamentalists as some sort of capitulation to science at the expense of biblical truth. I will deal specifically with this thought (scientific truth contradicts biblical facts) in a later post.

For now though, I had evolved myself to thinking that old-earth creation better represents the facts as I knew them, and did not contradict a reading of the Bible except for the forced pseudo-literal reading of extreme fundamentalism. Conservative evangelicals will at this point probably see me heading right down a slippery slope into liberal theology, just like those who condemn the thinking of Hugh Ross, and leave me for "dead" theologically. But if you're still with me, I will pick up at this point in my next post.