Archive for October, 2009

God Spoke, And All Of Creation Began Its Existence

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

I’m often asked what I think of creationism, Genesis, evolution, and other hot-button topics involving science and theology as they relate to the origins of life. I’ve said before that if the Word of God is true, and scientific discoveries are true, and yet in my understanding they seem to contradict each other, the weak link of this chain is not the Bible nor science, but me — my own fallible, human intellect.

What I know from reading the first two chapters of Genesis is that God spoke, and when he spoke, all of creation leapt into existence. What I don’t know is if Genesis illustrates this in folklore, science, or in some combination of the both. By “folklore,” I mean an absolute truth taught in metaphor, poetry, or parable. The truth those represent is undeniable, whereas the methodology used in explaining that truth may be in story form. This makes sense to me. The first hearers and, later, the first readers of Genesis were an unsophisticated, subliterate, non-scientific people group whose existence and sustenance were largely land- and water-based. They had no understanding at all of physics, biology, geology or chemistry; the story God offered them of the origin of creation would have to be tailored to his first audience, even as it continues to be told throughout the generations and among many different people groups.

The story of creation, then, is much more likely to be like a parable than a treatise on biology, geology, and climatology. We read and come to apprehend the parables of Jesus with an understanding that it isn’t required that a real woman, one existing in time and personally acquainted with Jesus, actually lost a coin, swept the house until she found it, and rejoiced then with her neighbors. The truth the parable illustrates is literal; the story itself needn’t be.

With that in mind, here’s a wonderful quote from Christian geologist Keith B. Miller, explaining his and other evangelicals’ views on God’s creation and superintendency of everything that’s ever existed or will exist. I found it to be a refreshing change from the volatile argument existing between young-earth creationists and their brethren who understand Genesis less literally.

“The doctrine of creation really says nothing about ‘How’ God creates. It does not provide a basis for a testable theory of the mechanism of change. If it does not address this issue, then it does not contribute anything to a specifically scientific description of the history of life. I believe that all of creation is designed by God and has its being in God, but that does not give me any insights into the processes by which God brought that creation into existence . . .”

Dr. Keith B. Miller, “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation,” Eerdmans, 2003

Later, Miller speaks of the “concordist” view of evolution that he says depends on an understanding that “. . . the book of Scripture and the book of nature cannot conflict, since both have the same author . . .” (Miller, ibid.)

That view seems correct to me. We are all weak links in the chain of understanding just exactly how God created the universe and all that’s in it, especially when science demonstrates something that appears to be different from the Biblical narrative. But I’m not at all uncomfortable in that position. I worship the God of Scripture, revere his Word, and welcome open and robust scientific analysis of the world around me because all true things, no matter who the discoverer of that truth is, point to the One who is Truth in his very being.

His work in this world is not at all hampered by my inability to fully grasp it.

Of Course He Wants Me To Make A Big Deal About This

Thursday, October 29th, 2009

Now, I’m aware that as one of Wilson’s “Intoleristas,” I am expected to shout and holler about his response to the criticism levied against him this week by the Southern Poverty Law Center. I’m happy to oblige, really. Because the insensitivity to charges of being a racist — his insistence on acting like a drunken frat boy who says things just to piss people off — is most un-pastoral.

I don’t know if “Tar Baby” is still all that offensive these days, although, as a pejorative term used against Blacks for generations, and used by good Christians who thought nothing of dehumanizing Blacks, it was quite ugly. But what’s instructive here is Wilson’s gleeful taunting that because a civil rights organization MIGHT see the word as racist, and others reading his blog MIGHT agree, it’s incumbent upon him to toss it out again — just because. Just because it’ll further annoy them, just because it’s his own blog, just because he’s Douglas Wilson and he gets to.

That I find as despicable as the racism held by many of his followers — an insouciance toward tone and tenor when discussing race, and a marked tendency to mock other believers when they suggest that he speak with more sensitivity. If he’s not, himself, a racist, he is at the very least a comfortable, affluent, privileged white man who is so wrapped in privilege that the plight of others concerns him not much at all, and the concern of others offended by his attitude really just more evidence for the plight of evangelicalism.

But he’ll have to answer one day to the Judge who will ask for an account of every careless word we utter. In the meantime, ask yourself if this is a terrific example of pastoral behavior.

Blog and Mablog, October 29, 2009
Tarbaby Twice
Topic: Moscow Diversity Cleansing

The Southern Poverty Law Center, the world’s richest civil rights organization, has devoted a recent Hatewatch article to humble moi. The logo for Hatewatch is, appropriately, what looks like an eyeball peeping through somebody’s keyhole. It is probably the keyhole to your bedroom, and they are just making sure the government stays out of it. Very reassuring, don’t you think?

There are four ways to deal with Intolerista slanders like this. The first is not to click on the link (that I have helpfully provided for you to not click on), and go your merry way. Second, for those who are concerned, you could always get out your snow shovel, and work through the archives of this blog, in which every related lie is answered three or four times. Third, if the SPLC decides to dedicate more of its massive wealth and financial holdings in pursuit of me and my hateful ways, I may just have to answer them point by point. But I would only do this if it appeared that I could teach them how to play a fun little game that I like to call Tarbaby. And fourth, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time on their feverish imagination, you could just read through the article, and every tenth word or so, just yell false! That is not an infallible method, but it should at least keep you in the ballpark.

It just now occurs to me that my use of Tarbaby above may have been insensitive in their eyes, especially coming from someone accused of racism by an august institution like Sanctimonious Pests Libeling Christians (SPLC), and so I would like to conclude this brief post by saying Tarbaby again.

Evidence Of Problems In Evangelicalism

Monday, October 26th, 2009

“Evangelicalism is not the solution to America’s problems; evangelicalism is America’s problem.”

Doug Wilson, October 21, 2009, Blog and Mablog.

“Evangelicalism is a day-old donut.” (ibid.)

And my take? Well, with Wilson and atheist Christopher Hitchens storming the airwaves and clogging bookstores with their debate on the good of Christianity, and with this summer’s mostly-favorable profile of Wilson in Christianity Today magazine, he has been elevated to statesmanlike status in U.S. conservative Christian circles.

That Wilson is considered a reasonable, articulate, informed spokesperson for evangelicalism is, I think, more than sufficient evidence of the mainstream evangelical movement’s impotent and irrelevant place in American society. And that’s a shame.

The Gospel message it preaches is timeless, as profound and absolutely necessary today as in centuries past, and that message is much better represented by scholars and preachers you’ve likely never heard of, but who understand and, just as important, live out the Gospel with greater passion and clarity than a man who, in private conversation and in public debate, I have not found to be particularly adept and informed. In fact, I think his Federal Vision theology is as misguided and lacking as his witness to his neighbors on the Palouse. With multitudinous evangelicals doing life-changing and Church-challenging work for Christ across the country, Wilson really, in my mind, ought not be held up as a powerhouse of either scholarship or ministry.

Sour grapes on my part? Nope. Of course Doug Wilson and his attendant organizations — I balk just a bit at “ministries” — will be more famous than I am. I don’t care that more people hear him than hear me. I do, however, care very much that his bigotry, his theological shortcomings, and his cringe-worthy approach to ministry and community have been glossed over so that he’s repackaged as a viable spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ. He’s not.

But a movement lead, in the media and in the eyes of the watching culture around it, primarily by affluent Anglo men will continue to run the race only at half-speed. Nonetheless, the Evangelical Movement that is so visible and so consumed with itself isn’t the same as the Christian work, ministry, life and culture of the millions and millions of Americans who, in anonymity and under-appreciation, get up every day to do the work Christ calls them to. You don’t hear of them, and you don’t hear of the countless scholars and preachers who speak with them or come from their ranks — none of whom, I imagine, would be willing to have a man who defends slavery in the American South as the spokesman for the faith they cherish and work for with all their hearts.

Moscow’s Smoking Ban

Monday, October 26th, 2009

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago what I thought of the Moscow City Council’s vote late this summer banning cigarette smoking in bars and clubs and within 20 feet of entryways.

I think it’s wrong.

If someone has a business, they and only they should be the ones deciding if they will permit or accommodate any legal behavior. Many bar owners want to cater to smokers, and that’s their right. Don’t smoke? Fine, and good for you — but find another bar, then, if you don’t want to breathe second-hand smoke. As for the argument that servers and bartenders in smoking-allowed bars are exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke, my thought is that these servers and bartenders really ought to ply their trade in bars more suitable to their liking.

Finally, I’ll say that Moscow Mayor Nancy Chaney, who has my vote in the upcoming election, missed a golden political opportunity when she chimed in with the other councilmembers in supporting a ban she wasn’t in a position to vote for. The lone liberal on the council, Tom Lamar, isn’t liked by the pro-business people in town anyway; the Greater Moscow Alliance candidates, all “pro-business” and terribly concerned about individual liberties and property rights, voted for the ban with the alacrity of a nicotine-craving guy locked overnight in the Big Smoke store. That upset their base, a demographic that tends to vote to make a point and that, to make that point, might well have cast retaliatory votes for Chaney. She’s not in their camp, but the pro-business crowd is easily angered and nurtures long-term grudges. Had she stayed quiet, she might have benefited from the punishment levied by them against the council conservatives.

I’m pretty sure that a town like Moscow is beset with greater problems than customers smoking in bars, and the freedom of business owners to cater to whatever clientele they choose is not a freedom that the council, or anyone else, has a right to take away. The ordinance won’t last long, though — if the GMA’s Weber defeats Chaney, he’ll be in a penitent position, beholden to the demographic that ushered him and the Council majority in in the first place. Chaney is a better choice for Moscow, but if Weber wins, I predict he’ll reward his base with a repeal of a measure that concerns even this non-Libertarian liberal.

And Yet Another Feminist On Abortion

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

“When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Founder of the Womens Movement, Letter to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873

Another Feminist On Abortion

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

“When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society – so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.”
- Mattie Brinkerhoff, The Revolution, September 2, 1869

Speaking Of Women’s Suffrage . . .

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

We know that Wilson, et al, hold democracy in disdain. We know that they consider government to be an occupying force set over them in judgment by a holy God. We’ve seen that they believe women’s proper sphere of activity and influence is in the home, in obedient submission to their patriarchal head. And we know they are determined postmillennialists who believe that Christ will return to Earth only after the Church transforms all social, ecclesiastical, political, judicial and financial institutions, bringing them under the dominion of Christ through the Christian, male, property-owning heads of households he apparently favors.

I’m sure Kirk women do vote in local and national elections, just as I’m sure that they’re counseled to vote in accord with their husbands. This seems to be a concession, though, and not one that is likely to survive Kirk eschatology. Those of us in Moscow know that the Logos school board is, by design, only comprised of men. We’re aware that Kirk congregational meetings are open only to heads of households; the only women allowed to attend are the very few single women with young children. Clearly, Kirk and CREC women have very little, if any, influence now in the administration of their churches, and, just as clearly, they’re denied the opportunity to change that.

But the scenario above, gleaned from Wilson’s and other’s writings, cannot help but result in the denial of the franchise — the right to vote — to women, a final nailing shut of the door of service and influence in their churches and homes. So is the Church so numb, so complacent, so ignorant, that it fails to grasp that the dominionist view of these Reconstructionists, the remaking of society in the image of Scriptural imperative as they view it, is one that denies women the right to vote?

Let’s put it another way. Thousands of people, men and women, across the country follow Wilson’s teachings. Do they understand that, had he lived in the late 19th- and early 20th-century, he would have opposed, based on the theology he currently holds, the right of women to vote? Does it bother anyone within the CREC or outside it that their eschatological vision of ultimate harmony, peace, prosperity, and faithfulness to the Gospel denies women any participation in the institutions brought under dominion by Christian men?

It seems unreal to me, in light of the radically transformative nature of the Christian Gospel, that I live among people who applaud that its ultimate expression on Earth would strip Galatians 3:28 of all meaning and power. And yet even more unreal is the utter lack of concern on the part of Moscow’s all-male evangelical pastors — or anyone else who has even the most elementary understanding of Christ’s work among us.

And so mine is a pretty lonely voice in this wilderness of theological madness. I believe with all my heart, though, that it’s an obedient one, and one that won’t be silenced. I would have been, like my great- great-grandmother, an evangelical abolitionist and preacher, joining the thousands of like-minded, Spirit-filled women and men who took the Bible seriously enough to preach it in the face of near-overwhelming evil. Those voices continue today. How very sad, though, that they are shut out from and mocked by men who love the Gospel enough to ignore those of its teachings that would knock them from their pulpits of privilege — and call it “obedient.”

Victoria Woodhull On Abortion

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

“Every woman knows that if she were free, she would never bear an unwished-for child, nor think of murdering one before its birth.” Feminist Victoria Woodhull, 1875

Susan B. Anthony on Abortion

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

“Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them.”

Women’s suffragist and pro-life activist Susan B. Anthony, 1889

Bayly Knows Not His History Nor His Theology

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

As promised, I’m going to address a particularly despicable assertion by Tim Bayly in the conference literature for “Sexual Orthodoxy.” That frenzy of feminophobia, held in Moscow last weekend and sponsored by the men of Anselm House, featured a number of discussions of dubious academic or ecclesiastical value, all to develop Covenant integrity in the all-male pastorate and diaconate of “obedient churches.”

Based on the printed schedule of conference topics posted on the Christ Church website, it failed, as any conference on “sexual orthodoxy” with contributions from members of only one sex would have to. I would likely have picketed in front of the University Inn if I had been in town, just to provide a little gender balance in the midst of the same-sex bluster inside, but alas and alack — it wasn’t to be. On the other hand, Tim Bayly’s description of his discussion on abortion is one for the ages, the kind of arrogance that leaves a taste, and ought to be answered for, long after the carnival leaves town.

Here’s what Bayly wrote in the conference schedule:

“Abortion: The Blood Sacrifice of Egalitarianism — If we are not trusting in the blood of Jesus Christ, there will be a need for blood from elsewhere.”

This little gem came on the heels of his take on patriarchalism, which features the witty observation that “just because it angers feminists does not make a practice biblical . . . ” That’s just snotty and deserves no real response; I include it here simply to show that the arrogance of his abortion talk isn’t an anomaly. (Remember his take on male “women ministers”?) By his own description of his contempt for egalitarianism, Bayly makes clear that he’s not just witty, not just sarcastic, but entirely mean-spirited and utterly unfit to address matters of gender, sex, community, or much of anything else.

“Egalitarianism” is the belief in the inherent equality of value and promise between people, leading egalitarians to work against social and political institutions that discriminate between people based on ontological preferences. In the gender debate in the Church, “egalitarianism” describes those who believe that the New Testament mandates equal opportunities to serve, based on giftedness, between men and women; we argue that the transformative message of the Gospel, as described in the Word and modeled by Jesus, prohibits the Church from barring women from its offices and practices. I’m in a charitable mood, so I’ll assume that when Bayly condemns “egalitarianism,” he’s speaking against the latter definition and is not really an opponent of racial, social, and class harmony between people groups, although he wouldn’t be the first Wilson associate to run in that direction. Nonetheless, I’m going to address Bayly’s remarks in the context of ecclesiastical egalitarianism, since keeping the ladies in their place and making men out of mice was the focus of last weekend’s conference.

Bayly suggests that egalitarian men and women in the Church don’t trust in the blood of Jesus, as other evangelicals do, and this has brought about the scourge of abortion in our nation. This is as absurd as it is offensive. It tells me Bayly knows nothing about true Biblical egalitarianism and the circumstances that make abortion seem reasonable to women in dire straits, and has a less-than-stellar grasp of New Testament theology. This makes me wonder why he’s a pastor and why he’s considered an important voice in the egalitarian-complementarian battles in our churches. I’ve known many complementarians — those who believe Scripture demands separate and unequal roles for women and men in home, church, and society — who aren’t obnoxious, aren’t such obvious male supremacists, and aren’t so blissfully ignorant of women’s legitimate concerns regarding the masculine hermeneutic that permeates the Church’s teachings on Scripture. On the other hand, I have never met an evangelical egalitarian, male or female, who is anything less than fully pro-life.

It’s because of the high value we egalitarians place on Scripture, combined with the high value we have for women’s giftedness and service, that we hate abortion. We follow in the footsteps of our evangelical feminist foremothers and forefathers who fought against abortion and other threats to life — child labor, slavery, domestic violence — with every Spirit-infused fibre of their being. We know that the early feminists, most of whom were committed Christians, hated abortion — and hated abortion because it destroyed life in and outside the womb. These women, and the men with whom they found respect and commonality, fought harder against abortion than I imagine Bayly has for anything in his pastorally-privileged, male-honoring life, and it’s beyond outrageous for him to suggest, and to suggest so viciously, that egalitarian women and men have, through their efforts to usher in a more just and equitable, God-honoring society, somehow ushered in the tide of abortion he and I both decry.

Secular feminists don’t like being reminded that the women they admired for their work for women’s suffrage and equality were almost entirely pro-life and at least nominally Christian in their theology. They’re wrong, but they haven’t flooded into my town to spread a noxious gospel of disdain and disinformation. That Bayly would find common ground with the secular feminists who reject the evangelical religious underpinnings of the 19th- and early 20th-century suffrage movement is ironic, to be sure. But these merry men — Wilson, Bayly, Wilkins, Merkle, and the scores of other CREC psalm-singers who follow them — would do well to examine both the Scriptures and the historical and contemporary egalitarian movements they hold in such contempt. They may continue to disagree with the Biblical egalitarian position; they may embrace even more robustly the complementarian view that favors them. If they’re honest, however, they will repent of their foolishness and disdain and apologize for smearing an entire group of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

But these guys aren’t honest in their theology. They’re not searching for common ground or trying to make peace. They have decided who the enemy is, and in doing so have swung wide the doors for the real Enemy of the Christian Gospel to prowl around their testosterone-infused ministries and their male-aggrandizing theologies. That women have suffered immensely because of it clearly doesn’t matter to them. It does, however, matter to Christ Jesus, himself human, who shed his blood for the lives of those left out of the clubhouses of power they’ve ensconced themselves in.

On the cou