A myth by any other name

We are here.  No one but a solipsist or Matrix devotee would dispute our existence on planet Earth.  But how we got here and where we are going is another matter entirely.

God and AdamThe precise cause of our existence is an issue of perpetual debate among scientists, philosophers, and theologians.  Since our varying positions in this debate are determined entirely by the origin myths we choose, we should start any serious discussion on the subject of origins with an honest look at those myths.

 

 

Whether we are aware of it or not, every Darwinist as well as every Creationist has chosen a myth to interpret all data continuously gathered by diligent scientists all around the world.   Unfortunately, the difference between the two opposing viewpoints is almost always characterized as the difference between what is science and what is not.  Darwin's tree of life As everyone knows, the Darwinist gets the label of “scientific” and the creationist is called “religious.”   In reality, neither Darwinism nor Creationism is science.  Both are myth-dependent beliefs about the world.  And if we all learn to clearly articulate our myths for each other, then we will all find it much easier to distinguish actual data from our interpretations of data.  

This simple exercise will not end our arguments over origins, but it certainly will clarify them for us.  We will have greater hope of resolving our conflicts if it becomes clear to everyone involved that we are not arguing about physical data discovered through the methodological naturalism of science.  We are arguing about which myth should be used to interpret the data.  We are engaged in a philosophical debate, not a scientific one.  And it is past time for everyone concerned to honestly acknowledge that one basic fact.

Before I continue, I must make it clear that the word myth is only convenient shorthand for me; it does not mean a fictional story.  Throughout this discussion, I define myth as “a grand narrative of existence that forms the foundation of a worldview.”   I considered using GINOAW for Grand Interpretive Narrative Of A Worldview, so if you can’t separate the word “myth” from the concept of fiction, just copy and paste into a Word document, find myth, and replace with GINOAW.   I simply prefer the single-syllabled myth over an unfamiliar and rather clumsy acronym.

Of course I’m convinced that my own myth is truth.  That’s why I chose it.  And by choosing, I have obviously judged all other myths to be false on some level.  In telling you how I made my choice, my goal is not to convince you that I am right.  My goal is to convince you that it is important for us all to fully understand our own myths and the myths of others.   Once that is done, then we can talk about which myth gives us the best explanation of reality.

Before we look at our myth options, I want to pay tribute to Leonard Read, the man who taught me that consistency requires a premise, because I’ve interpreted that principle to conclude that understanding the creation/evolution debate requires articulated myths.

My Tyndalian Quest

William TyndaleI have finally returned to my long neglected blog with a renewed sense of direction and purpose thanks to Reasons To Believe’s online class Creation versus Evolution.  I expected to learn from the class, but I was also surprised and inspired.

To make very long story exquisitely short: I entered the class believing that there is no compelling scientific evidence that humanity and chimpanzees have been evolving for millions of years from a common ancestor, and the class thoroughly confirmed that belief.  However, the surprise and the inspiration came in my discovery that many (if not most) proponents of Darwinian evolution seem to be blissfully ignorant of the lack of concrete evidence to support the descent of man.  I came to that conclusion while reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells, and I would now call the book a must-read for every creationist with children enrolled in public school.

I finished the RTB class with a clear mission patterned after William Tyndale’s famous response to the priest who called it heresy to offer the word of God in English instead of Latin.

“If God spare my life, before very long I shall cause a plough boy to know the scriptures better than you do!”

I state my goal with less flare, but hopefully with just as much desire to please the Lord. 

By God’s grace, I will do all that I can to help creationists in grade school have a better understanding of our origin than many of the celebrated Darwinists in academia.  

Secure in the knowledge that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong, I am about to begin Gramma’s Guide to Origins, which will eventually tell you two things:

  1. How I chose the myth that undergirds my belief about life,
  2. How I choose the prophets who interpret God’s word and God’s world for me

I hope that as you read, you will recognize your own myth and become curious about the myths of others.  I hope to convince you that you are obligated to be aware of the myths of those who write textbooks and teach in public schools because those myths are being impressed on young minds around the nation.

Eventually, I plan to put this all in a single document that I can share easily.   So you could wait for my final edit, but God alone knows how long that will take.  Or you can just follow along, offering encouragement and/or critique, on my Tyndalian mission of translating the speech of creation into the language we all understand.

Blind spots and bias confirmation

For decades I have believed that Christ gives  each member of His body a unique portion.  For decades I have believed that if we separate ourselves from any true believers in Christ because of doctrinal differences on disputable matters, we will separate ourselves from the blessings of those portions meant to benefit Christ’s body as a whole.

In spite of my belief, I have systematically chosen Christian speakers and authors (and maybe even friends) in an obvious pattern of bias confirmation, avoiding believers who disagree with me on points that I consider non-negotiable.  Praise be to the God who used The Veritas Forum to demolish the wall I had unwittingly built around myself in more areas than just the age of the earth.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas my knowledge of the Lord was expanded by Ian Hutchinson (who uncritically accepts evolution), by Tim Keller (whose political views border on socialism), by Peter Kreeft (who converted from Reformed to Roman Catholic), and even by John Polkinghorne (who doesn’t know when a human zygote becomes a human person). However, the deepest impact on my life came through an Anglican bishop, N.T. Wright.  His books Simply Christian, Simply Jesus, and How God Became King have the aroma of heaven about them.  Often while reading his books or listening to him speak, I am reminded of the difference between one who  knows the Bible well and one who walks with the Living Word of God.  Tom Wright is definitely the latter.

Alas at every turn, whenever I have attempted to share the riches I found in N.T.Wright’s wonderful retelling of the old, old story of Jesus and His love, I am warned against him.  With few exceptions, the warning has come from one who has never read his books, but who has simply accepted another’s opinion of what Wright is teaching.

That is how our blind spots and our biases perpetuate the divisions in the body of Christ. Our personal understanding of doctrine (in this case the meaning of justification) becomes the basis of our fellowship rather our mutual relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Like the eye speaking to the hand in I Corinthians 12:21, members of Christ’s body say “because N.T. Wright questions the tradition of the reformation, we have no need of him.”

According to my personal understanding of doctrine, I disagree with Tom Wright in at least three significant areas: creation, gender roles, and purpose of government. However, his books and talks paint a portrait of the Lord, high and lifted up and rightfully adored.  I can only thank a teacher who expands my vision of Jesus, even if he challenges my personal biases. That is the only way my blind spots will be exposed, and I thank God for the sometimes painful but always enlightening process.

We are blessed to live in a century when a debate over justification does not result in the bloody wars that ravaged Europe during the Reformation. Yet the spiritual battle is just as real now as it was then, and our enemy is just as determined as ever to divide and conquer the body of Christ. We all need to understand How God Became King, how God is our King now, and how He rules and reigns through His people on Earth.

If we come together in the sure knowledge of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, (1 Corinthians 2:2) we can trust the Spirit to lead us in all truth. Whether or not you have been warned about N.T.Wright, I would recommend that you read him for yourself and, like the fair-minded Bereans, search the scriptures to discover whether or not what he says is so.

Praise God for our blind spots

If the whole body were an eye…

 

 

All my life I have despised my blind spots! I can’t tell you how often I’ve ranted and railed at the God of the universe telling Him blind spots are a very, very bad thing for Him to allow in His children. Why, O Lord, why do you show my blind spots to everyone in the world but me? What kind of a sense does it make?

This morning in the wee hours, God finally answered my decades-old question. I now see His purpose, His plan, and His providential provision in my blind spots.  I still hate them.  I want them all to be removed, but I finally understand their use in the kingdom of God.

My epiphany came as two seemingly unrelated events converged in my life. The first one is the ongoing debate between N.T. Wright and John Piper on Paul’s perspective of justification. The second is my initial attempt to serve as a Critique Partner for a fellow author.

But before I describe the convergence of doctrinal debate with manuscript critique, I must step back to clarify the truth—or rather the lack thereof—in my repeated rant toward God. It is true that I have cried out “Why do you permit everyone but me to see my blind spots?” in the kind of Davidic hyperbole that fits so well in a lament.  However, it is not true that God shows my blind spots to everyone.  He does not show anyone’s blind spots to everyone.  If He did, we could have no false teaching in the church, no congregation would follow a leader who strays, and each of us would be corrected immediately whenever we step out of line.

Perhaps I should instead cry out, “Why, O Lord, why don’t you show everyone my blind spots so I never have to worry or wonder whether I’ve got something right?” Fortunately, this time I don’t have to spend decades waiting for the answer because it’s the same for both questions: Our blind spots are God’s tools to refine our relationships with each other and with Him.

I begin with the premise that all human beings (with the single exception of the Incarnate Lord Himself) have blind spots throughout our lives, and we must acknowledge that fact before they can be removed.  Our blind spots remind us that we are totally dependent members of His body. No one, not Peter, not Paul, not John the beloved had or has a corner on the Truth. Together we have the mind of Christ, but alone we are just neurons randomly firing across synapses.

1 Corinthians 12 tells us plainly how gross we become when we choose to live in isolation with our blind spots rather than seek the unity Christ provided through His intercession in John 17.  Imagine what it would be like if someday your foot suddenly says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of your body.” And then your ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of your body.”  Next your eye says to the hand, “I have no need of you”; and your head says to the feet, “I have no need of you.”

There is a reason we find disembodied body parts horrifying, and we should keep that image in mind whenever we feel inclined to distance ourselves from other members in the body of Christ.

That brings me back to the Wright/Piper debate on justification, but that is the subject of my next post.

Watching #shadowyconservativegroups trend is #myguiltypleasure

My philosophy of government has been libertarian since 1992 when I first read Leonard E. Read’s The Elements of Libertarian Leadership. So on May 30, when I saw #shadowyconservativegroups flash by in my Twitter home stream with libertarian sentiments attached, I was intrigued.  I typed the hashtag into TweetChat, and I watched it trend with guilty pleasure until only retweets filled the screen.

The pleasure comes because so many individuals seem to understand that personal responsibility and limited government are required elements of liberty. The guilt comes because I know that tweeting against the way President Obama and Congress are expanding socialism in our country is not the way to recover our lost liberties.

I wrote about why I think libertarian-atheist is an oxymoron during my short association with examiner.com. Sometime soon, I will post the gist of those articles here on Grammas’ Guide. But for now I will start with the a priori statement: Liberty—spiritual, emotional, political—is totally dependent on our Creator. We will have civil liberty only when Christians realize that our collective goal cannot be to reform the government. It must be to radically obey God.

Of course if we are obedient to our high calling in Jesus Christ, we can be sure that hearts will be transformed. And since everyone in government has a heart, we might even see our government transformed as well. But that’s just an agreeable consequence of our faithfulness. It is not a primary goal for the Christian.

For thirty-five years I’ve been convinced that the secret to seeing the Church triumphant is distilled for us in our Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17.

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

He made provision for our unity, and that unity is His means for displaying His glory. God wants our unity to be a witness to the world that the Father sent the Son and loves us as He loves His Son. How it must break the heart of God to see His children still caught in the same trap that divided the Corinthians into Paulites, Apolloites, and Cephasites. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) If we want to live in liberty, we must learn to come together by His Spirit. We must stop dividing His body and destroying our witness because of our political philosophies, pet doctrines, or worship styles.  

I will probably smile guiltily again whenever I see conservatives  playing hashtags games on Twitter.  But I will also pray with Christ that we will be one as He is one with His Father.  I will pray that Christian conservatives & Christian liberals, Christian independents & Christian party loyalists, Christian libertarians & Christian socialists will all join our Lord in His prayer that we will be made perfect in one.

When that happens we can be certain that, no matter what is going on in Washington, the Lord will keep us in perfect peace because our minds will be fixed on Him. (Isaiah 26:3)