Wednesday, February 12, 2014

We are Missing the Point

Brothers and Sisters, I am sad, concerned and a little disappointed.  Not in you, mind you but in this swirling vortex of debate and "our" the Christian response to it.  Many of you have heard of the debate that occurred recently between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.  I watched a piece of it.  I intend to watch more in my spare time (which I have none of) but I will probably have my eight year old son watch it.  He's a burgeoning scientist and I want him to learn more about his favorite topic.

As I watched and saw the predictable facebook backlash I couldn't help but think that we are MISSING THE POINT of being a Christ follower.  I understand that there are people who know a lot about science.  There are people who know a lot about evolution and people who know a lot about creatonism.  I know very little about any of them.  Apparently the other day my son was accurately drawing dimetrodons (some kind of dinosaur type creature), while drafting a book about dinosaurs and life before them.  I only found out they were dimetrodons because I asked my science teacher friend for help in educating Rowan.  I thought he was just drawing pretend monsters, I'm glad I asked my friend for help.

But there is something I know a bit about.  I do know a bit about theology and doctrine, not enough to be a theologian, may the Lord save us all if that happens, but enough to know that within the Christian discussion over the last two thousand years people have disagreed wildly over how the world was created.  That's within the church, people who know Jesus Christ and have professed him as their Lord and Savior and then spent 10-20 years getting various degrees to learn more about him and his word, they don't agree, they have not come to an agreed upon conclusion.

I also know a bit about something else, something to me that is so much more essential than seven day creationism and that is what Christ has called us too.  It's pretty simple the charge that we are given at the end of the gospel of Matthew "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all these commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (NLT).

What are the commands he had given us?

"You must love the Lord your God, with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself" (NLT).

I point these out dear friends not to throw stones at you for defending your belief in creationism but to remind us that there is something much larger at stake here.  That is the hearts, souls and minds of people.  If you boil those two sets of instructions down you will end up with one word and that is the word LOVE.  I'm pretty sure that no where in there does Jesus, in the flesh, or God in the Old/New Testament ask us to staunchly defend the scientific probability of the Bible.  Here's where I take issue people.  By standing around with placards saying "If God didn't create the world, how do you explain the sunset."  I want to ask you gently, what do you think you're accomplishing?  Is it about being right?  Please explain it to me I don't understand.  Because I'm wondering:

What are you accomplishing that has anything to do with what Jesus has asked you to do? Does proving creationism convert more people to faith?  Does insisting that evolution is false somehow love your neighbor more?  How in debating this argument are you furthering the kingdom on this planet?  Because that is what I believe I am supposed to do.I think that's what I read as more of a priority in the Bible than anything else.  What do you believe you are supposed to do?

Of course Jesus has harsh words for Pharisees who question him and people who mock his ways.  You may think that because you follow Jesus you have a right to be the same way with these evolutionists.  But let me tell you something folks, the benefit of not being Jesus, is that we could be wrong.  Jesus is the only one who could have been right all the time.

Now, I'm not saying creationists are wrong and evolutionists are right.  Or that creationists are right and evolutionists are wrong.  The reason I'm not saying that is because I live in a place where I can hold the tension of not knowing everything. I believe that there is a lot of scientific evidence for the earth being really old.  I believe that dinosaurs existed.  I don't believe that a dinosaur ate Adam ;-)

I also believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible word of God.  But I don't believe (stay with me here folks) that the Bible is scientific literature.  It was one of the things I learned in my undergraduate Bible degree.  Now before you go witch hunting what institution I went to, let me share something with you.  Literature is written in certain ways, every type has a different style, prose, poetry, research, they're not all written the same.

And let me say something else, if Jesus appeared to me and said "Hey Shannon, you're wrong, the earth's not old and I did create it in 7 literal days about 4000 years ago."  My response would be "You know Jesus, that's really cool that you came here and told me that, but can you really tell me how to love people better? Because that's what I really need to know to be more like you."

Because that my friends is the point of being a Christ follower.  The point is to love God, love each other, point people to God and bring his Kingdom more into the earth here and now.  The point isn't to be right on some debate.  The point isn't who's scientific theory is right.  The point isn't even necessarily what the kids are taught in school.  The point is love.  It's always been the point and it's been the only point.

Now back to my kid.  He wants to be a scientist when he grows up.  He's already learning about all kinds of things I don't understand.  He's already learning about evolutionary concepts (although he doesn't call them that) and dinosaurs and fossils and such.  I sincerely hope that one day his knowledge far surpasses mine.  But the one thing I am not scared of?  That is his scientific knowledge killing his faith.  Because I have faith that he will be able to hold the tension of believing in God and learning about our world.

Please friends, can we agree together to do something?  In so far as we are able, can we lay aside the great debates of our age and get down to the business of loving each other better.  I know, I just know how much delight our creator will take in that.


4 comments:

  1. I understand you, I do, and I talk regularly with people who think like you do - as well as the zealots out there who live and breathe this stuff. First – I agree that Christians OFTEN do a bad job of talking about this like a follower of Christ should. The evolutionists will try and drag creationists down with insults, and mockery, and creationists eventually plunge into insults and mockery as well – most times. People who think they have the truth – tend to rally around those who think like them, and then chastise, and demonize, anyone who thinks differently. It is human nature to do so. However – Christians need to embrace the new nature, regardless of which side they are on in any debate. They need to identify in Christ (not in being “right”) – so as to not get offended by mockery or insults. I honestly think Christians need some biblical/practical training in how to talk to people who they strongly disagree with.

    I love literature too, especially classic literature – and the Bible is the classic of classics. I agree, that there are different types of writing. For instance the Psalms are poetic and not to be always taken literally. I also know the Bible is not a science book. In this debate between creationism and evolution – there is more at stake than people realize. Behind the debate there are underlying issues. (and if I went into them – this would get a lot longer)

    I think good discussions between both sides is a must. I think both sides can learn from each other – when they give each other respect and talk with an open mind that one or both of them could be wrong. I have had maybe three conversations in my life that were like that where both sides of this argument respected the other. Usually I was the one being mocked and ridiculed – but sometimes – I confess – I got cocky when I had them “cornered”. What I learned over time was to be as humble and honest as you can be. Present the facts, and your sources (if possible). If and when you have them cornered – show grace. In fact surprise them with abundant grace.

    Being Christian does not mean rolling over when challenged. Scripture says to have an answer ready. BUT we need not use the truth as a weapon to destroy – but rather to cut through the darkness and allow the light to shine through it. I’ve learned to use these “talks” to share the gospel in powerful ways – to folks who are pretty shut off from Christianity. I want to allow Christ’s character to shine through adversity, while I’m being mocked. I go into these conversations expecting to be abused – but resist my desire to fight back with cutting remarks and repay evil ridicules with compliments and patience.

    Since I don’t know everything – I don’t ‘win’ every conversation – but that’s not the end goal for me. I want to leave them with their impression of a “Christ follower” being a bit higher than it was before. God is a big guy. He does not need me to defend Him, or His words. He just asks that I share my faith, in a manner that glorifies Him. My goal is to make them think and see things a bit differently than they are used to, and more importantly to make God bigger and more attractive to them.

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    1. Greg,
      I think you are wise and I appreciate your different perspective. I certainly don't think being a Christian means rolling over when challenged, that wasn't what I was attempting to convey. But more what I am saying is that we have a lot to learn from people who vehemently disagree with us and if perhaps we listen instead of argue and hold more loosely to some of the 'doctrinal' issues that don't affect the crux of our faith we can have an impact that would be astounding on the people that most want to argue with us.

      I think you are right these conversations are going to happen no matter what and perhaps I'm more comfortable being on the sidelines then in the middle of them. But what the majority of Christians are conveying to other people within these conversations is in direct opposition to what we are called to be in the Bible. That's sad for me. It's sad for the church. And it's sad for Christ. Sometimes how we communicate what we want to say is 90% of what matters and sometimes the higher road is simply to choose not to say it. I think you and I probably agree on that. :-)

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  2. Shannon,
    I agree with you mostly, and I appreciate your perspective too. I did not mean to imply you were saying Christians should role over - if I came across that way I apologies. Reading over what I wrote - I can see how someone might get that impression. (Oops)

    The issue is (and many theologians state this) - it does effect the crux of our faith. Now I TOTALLY agree that this topic is secondary to the gospel. One can be a believer in Christ AND believe evolution. (Though it pains me to say it) However - the doctrines of Creator and Creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The deeper one digs into the theology - the more one can see how much it matters. But then - I'm a detail kind of guy. I think and I dig, and think and dig some more. I submit that one can be a strong believer in Christ and still believe Evolution.

    People like me, need people like you to rein us in - if we get out of control. :)

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    1. And Greg, people like me need people like you, who see the details or else eventually things that should not be up for debate could become up for debate. Thankfully both of us and many others inhabit the planet. :-)

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