I was a bit excited back in November when I bought the tickets. And after living through a very long winter (which we hope is almost over), I’m more than a bit excited to be using the tickets this weekend.
I was a bit excited back in November when I bought the tickets. And after living through a very long winter (which we hope is almost over), I’m more than a bit excited to be using the tickets this weekend.
When it’s early March, there’s feet of snow on the ground, and more in the forecast for tonight, you have to try to find a bright side to look on. Maybe Eeyore had the right idea:
Maybe it’s just a reaction to still being in the tail end of 3 months of a cold winter back home, but give me a trip to Phoenix this week, a rental car with a sunroof, and a couple free afternoon hours, and I felt the road calling my name.
I’ve never been to Arizona before this week. It’s a far cry from the midwest that I’ve usually called home, but there’s a stark beauty to its dark, jagged mountains and sandy, scrubby terrain. The road lies out straight and flat for countless miles with little more than an occasional cactus breaking up the line to the peaks on the horizon.
So tonight, with two busy weeks of work travel almost behind me (home to Iowa tomorrow!) and a couple hours of sunlight, I turned the little SUV south, opened the windows and sunroof, and turned up the music. It took me a little while to get out of town and to roads less traveled, but eventually I turned off the main highway, crossed a cattle guard to turn onto a county road, and let my cares slowly filter out into the wind rushing past my window.
The music, both familiar (Bruce Hornsby) and new (Beck’s Morning Phase just came out today and is lovely) kept me company as the miles slipped behind. Prayers were spoken. Frustrations and hopes spilled out and were released to God. Little by little the beautiful broken emptiness of the desert reminded me of a greater hope, a hope that we all have for redemption.
Though 30 minutes of real traffic-free driving went by far too fast, there was also a certain cheerfulness to seeing the city lights signaling the return to civilization. Springtime is good for the soul, and my only regret from today is that I didn’t have the time to take a longer drive and see more. A friend advised that the two-hour drive through the hills up to Sedona is worthwhile. Next time I’ll have to see if I can get there.
Last week I finally got the chance to read The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton. Dr. Walton is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. His PhD is from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, which is, curiously enough (per Wikipedia), the primary seminary for training rabbis in Reform Judaism. All that to say the guy has a better-than-average understanding of the Old Testament, Jewish culture, and the Hebrew language.
Walton’s premise is one that, while previously unfamiliar to me, makes the most sense of how Genesis 1 – 2 should be understood as anything else I’ve read on the topic. The Lost World of Genesis One is structured around 20 premise statements, and in summary where he lands is this: we need to read and understand Genesis 1 in the same way the original audience read it. This turns out to be significantly different than we often hear it understood. As a very high-level summary, here’s what he says:
What does it mean for the universe to exist?, Walton asks. He proposes that people in the ancient world “believed that something existed not by virtue of its material properties, but by virtue of its having a function in an ordered system.” In such a view, he says, something could be manufactured physically but still not “exist” if it has not become functional.
Walton compares the creation stories of several different ancient cultures and notes that in each case, the creation story suggests not the creation of physical elements, but in the god ordering and purposing those elements into a functioning world. Certainly it’s not a stretch to think that the Israelites would’ve understood their creation story similarly.
What’s up with God resting? Day seven, says Walton, is the climax of the story. Key, he says is
the piece of information that everyone knew in the ancient world and to which most modern readers are totally oblivious: Deity rests in a temple, and only in a temple. This is what temples were built for. We might even say that this is what a temple is— a place for divine rest. Perhaps even more significant, in some texts the construction of a temple is associated with cosmic creation…
…in the ancient world rest is what results when a crisis has been resolved or when stability has been achieved , when things have “settled down.” Consequently normal routines can be established and enjoyed. For deity this means that the normal operations of the cosmos can be undertaken. This is more a matter of engagement without obstacles rather than disengagement without responsibilities.
If the seven days refer to the seven days of cosmic temple inauguration, days that concern origins of functions not material, then the seven days and Genesis 1 as a whole have nothing to contribute to the discussion of the age of the earth. This is not a conclusion designed to accommodate science —it was drawn from an analysis and interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis in its ancient environment. The point is not that the biblical text therefore supports an old earth, but simply that there is no biblical position on the age of the earth. If it were to turn out that the earth is young, so be it. But most people who seek to defend a young -earth view do so because they believe that the Bible obligates them to such a defense. I admire the fact that believers are willing to take unpopular positions and investigate all sorts of alternatives in an attempt to defend the reputation of the biblical text. But if the biblical text does not demand a young earth there would be little impetus or evidence to offer such a suggestion.
“If public education is committed to the idea that science courses should reflect only empirical science, neither design nor metaphysical naturalism is acceptable because they both import conclusions about purpose into the discussion,” says Walton.
For those concerned with the purity of science, the focus on descriptive mechanisms in an empirical discipline will be welcomed, and considering legitimate weaknesses in the reigning paradigm should pose no problem since science always accepts critiques— that is how it develops and improves. For those concerned about the Bible and the integrity of their theology, the descriptive mechanisms that compose the evolutionary model need not be any more problematic for theology than the descriptive disciplines of meteorology or embryology. [This hearkens back to a point he made earlier in the book.] … If all parties were willing to agree to similar teleological neutrality in the classrooms dedicated to instruction in empirical science, the present conflict could move more easily toward resolution.
This is a conclusion that I find very liberating. It suggests that we can simultaneously affirm that God is the creator and origin of everything, and at the same time not be afraid of following science wherever it’s currently leading. Science can’t prove or disprove purpose or fundamental origins, and theology (in this view) need not lead us to dispute the current scientific understanding of origins.
The Lost World of Genesis One is a straightforward read, and I highly recommend it for any casual student of theology who wants a different perspective on understanding the creation account. The Kindle edition is currently less than six bucks, which is a pretty good deal.
Last night my wife and I went to see Jim Brickman in concert at the Paramount here in Cedar Rapids. This is the second time we’ve seen this age-defying (the guy is over 50 and looks about 30!) pianist perform, and I have just a few observations:
OK, so I’m just a cranky pianist who shakes my head at the popular success of a guy like Brickman. It’s gotta be kinda weird to be able to say (as he did last night,) “this is the song that you’ll hear if you go to the kiosk at Target and push on my face”.
But hey, it was a nice night out, my wife was happy, and we both agreed at the end of the evening that we’ve probably heard enough of Jim Brickman for a while. I’ll call that a Valentine’s Eve win.
One of the beautiful things about being slow to respond to the internet topic du jour is that sometimes other people come along and say what you want to say, only better and more concisely. So it is with me on the creation debate topic this week.
Yesterday I had 1500 words written on the topic. Then today I found two posts that sum up my thoughts better than I was able to. (Brevity, Chris. Learn brevity.)
First up, let me point you to Richard Beck, writing today about Creation Wars in Church. After noting that he once was removed from consideration for a tenured post at a “flagship school” of evangelicalism because of his interest in evolutionary psychology, Beck says this: “I get it. This is still a big issue in many places. But here’s the thing I’ve been pondering: Is this an issue in the local church?”
I ask because creation vs. evolution just isn’t an issue in my church. I go to church with people who have PhDs in biology and people who teach creationism in their home-school curriculum. The people at my church are all over the map on this issue. Some were with Ken Ham Tuesday night. And some were with Bill Nye.
And we all go to the same church.
How’s that possible?
I’m not sure, but my best guess is this.
We just don’t think it matters. We just don’t talk about it. You are free to think however you want to think about this. We don’t make it a test of fellowship. We recognize the diversity in our midst and have sort of collectively agreed to not make it an issue.
This makes me happy, both for Dr. Beck and because I think the same is largely true in my own church body. We all have opinions, but we as a matter of practice don’t make it a divisive issue. There are bigger things to be concerned with.
Which brings me to Michael Brendan Dougherty’s In Defense of Creationists. He manages to be both annoyingly condescending toward but lovingly appreciative of devoted Christian creationists all at once. It’s worth reading the whole piece, but let me quote a few of the good bits here in a way that can perhaps ameliorate the condescension:
In most times and most places, I have a load of sympathy and even admiration for six-day creationists, “young Earthers,” and fundamentalists. As the debate between Ham and Nye unfolded, I found myself more and more disgusted with some of the self-styled “sophisticated” Christians performing their giggles at Ham for all the world to see.
There was something just a little ugly about all these Christians rushing up to their platforms, drawing attention to the sweat on their brow, putting a concerned look upon their faces, and proclaiming that fundamentalism is a “modern” error. And then when they were sure everyone was listening, lifted up their eyes heavenward to pray, “God, I thank you that I am not like this mouth-breather Ken Ham.” With a great urgency, but very little understanding of cosmology or the various theories of evolution, they recited their absolute fidelity to these theories. These anxious-to-please Christians were telling important truths, but in the spirit of a lie.
Yep. This is exactly the attitude that my friend (and scientiest) Richard Okimoto decried to me on Twitter yesterday. (Richard: I hope this post doesn’t make you sad.)
To submit to the authority of science does not mean to place one’s personal and irrevocable imprimatur on today’s most supported theories. It simply means accepting the rational process of investigating claims about nature through rigorous observation and experimentation….
On the other hand, I’ve always found those Christians who hold to six-day accounts of man’s origin difficult to refute and even more difficult to despise. There is a certain strength and flexibility to their tautology. Further, even though they’re wrong on the science, they are right about the things that really matter to the human heart and to human civilization.
And then he brings it home:
So I do not think that Ken Ham-style creationists should get to rewrite biology textbooks according to their very peculiar reading of Scripture. But I admire their bullheadedness. They … [are] trying to protect the big truths of Christianity: that God created the world, that we are dependent on him, that we owe him everything, and that he loves us even though we are sinful. In the world most of us inhabit, day to day, the world of lovers, wriggling kids, disease, war, and death, the sureness of God’s love is relevant in a way that the details of early hominid fossils never will be, glorious as they are. Have some perspective, people.
In protecting that big truth of creation — that we are all made in God’s image and all endowed with supreme dignity — fundamentalists zealously guard things that follow logically from that. Things like the commandment “Thou shall not murder.” … If Ken Ham is getting rich telling things he knows to be false, he’s a shameless fraud. But the bulk of creation’s fundamentalists are deeply sincere. And, better than that, they are willing to be, in St. Paul’s words “fools for Christ’s sake.” They do not live for the world’s esteem. And so when the world next discovers a sophisticated ideology to get around “Thou shall not murder,” I’d rather have one cussed fundie next to me than the whole army of eye-rolling Christians lining up to denounce him.
Amen and amen.
Is this fair? Honest? Kind and not patronizing? I hope so. If you’re reading this as a young-earth creationist and you’re miffed at what I’ve quoted, please accept my apologies. I don’t want to swipe, or sneer, or condescend. The nut that I get from both these posts is that, as Christians, we can agree to disagree on the age of the universe, and that there is noble, earnest desire to serve God and to love the truth of Scripture on both sides of the debate.
I want to be as passionate for the truth and unconcerned about what everyone else thinks as the YECs are, even if we disagree about the age of the rocks.
I caught the Casting Crowns song “Jesus, Friend of Sinners” on the radio the other day, and it’s been an earworm ever since. It’s a catchy tune, and I have good memories of playing percussion on it once while friends sang it at church.
The song has always felt like a little bit of a rebuke to me and to Christians in general – the message being “why aren’t we loving sinners like Jesus did?”.
Jesus, friend of sinners, we have strayed so far away
We cut down people in your name but the sword was never ours to swing
Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours
When I woke early this morning, though, I had a different, far more encouraging thought to start my day.
Jesus was a friend of sinners.
I am a sinner.
I can have confidence that Jesus embraces, loves, and befriends me.
There was a well-publicized debate last night on this question: “is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era”? On the pro side was Ken Ham, the head of Answers in Genesis; on the con side was Bill Nye, popular TV ‘science guy’. Hosted at Ham’s Creation Museum in Kentucky, the two men debated for two-and-a-half hours in front of a large audience, with a CNN reporter serving as moderator.
The debate format included short opening statements, 30 minute presentations from each man, a series of short rebuttals, and then questions from the audience. For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch the whole thing, I’ll summarize the debate briefly and then share some thoughts.
Ham, of course, espouses the Young Earth Creation (YEC) view. He explained that, in his view, the earth was created in six 24-hour days, and that the Biblical book of Genesis presents a historical record from the diving being who was present at creation. Ham distinguishes between “observational science”, which he defines as conclusions that we can derive using the scientific method of experimentation, from “historical science”, which he defines as drawing “scientific” conclusions about the past without having been there to observe it.
Ham claims that secular scientists, by using the same word for both “observational” and “historical” science, are muddying the waters; that they arbitrarily outlaw the supernatural, and as such are imposing a “religion of naturalism/atheism” on students.
Ham went to great lengths to show that Christians can be (and have been) good scientists, but that their science relates only to the “observational”, not the “historical” science.
Nye framed the debate question a bit differently, making it about “Ken Ham’s creation model” rather than addressing the formal question. (Was it a carefully-calculated strategy? Maybe. More on that in my commentary later.)
Nye made several points about the scientific evidence he sees for evolution and for an old universe, and noted several places where a literal reading of the Genesis creation and flood accounts is, in his opinion, highly unreasonable based on what we have observed about the universe.
As one example, Nye noted that Ham asserts that there were only about 7000 “kinds” of creatures taken on the ark, but more than 15 million species identified today. If, per Ham’s model, those 7000 “kinds” developed (via micro-evolution, cross-breeding, etc) into the 15 million species over a period of only 4000 years, Nye said we’d expect to see 11 new species every day since then.
OK, so that was a long summary. Sorry. Now a few thoughts.
First on the debate itself: it was refreshing to see a debate that was even-handed and cordial. Compared to what we see most of the time in political debates today, this was a breath of fresh air.
Second: I wish they would’ve spent some time focusing on how they chose to define “science”. Ham’s view apparently refuses to make observations about the present and apply them to the past in ways that would contradict the YEC position. Nye pointed out in one rebuttal that Ham didn’t have an answer for polar ice that scientists interpret as being 680,000 years old, but Ham didn’t address the point at all.
Third: This debate would’ve been much more interesting and valuable for Christians if, instead of Mr. Nye, the Ham’s opponent had been, say, Francis Collins (head of the National Institutes of Health, a Christian who believes in an old earth and evolutionary processes). That would’ve framed the debate around young-earth vs. old-earth creation and the definition and use of science. By inviting Nye instead, Ham manages to frame the debate as a part of a greater Christianity vs. Atheism conflict, which I can only assume he hopes will rally the Christian troops and help bring more visitors to his financially-struggling Creation Museum.
Fourth: I doubt anybody really had their opinion changed by the debate. Your opinion of who “won” and “lost” is probably dependent on who you supported going in. Neither debater wanted to allow for any middle ground. As Jonathan Ryan pointed out over on Patheos, both of them were determined to parrot their own position regardless of any “debate”. Frustrating.
I have some thoughts on the creation/evolution topic more generally, but seeing as I’m already past 1100 words I think I’ll save that for another post.
Yesterday morning I was tweeting from the beginning of an industry committee meeting I’m attending this week in Florida. I was griping a little bit about a presenter who was reading every line from his slides. This inspired a response from a friend of mine:
@cjhubbs I've come up with the wording of your next business card Christopher J Hubbs Sr Systems Engineer Please don't follow me on Twitter— Jason Kamphaugh (@jjkamp) January 28, 2014
I understand what Jason’s getting at. Do I really want work people seeing my tweets about work, and for that matter connecting my work persona with my tweets about the rest of life?
Social media has changed things in the workplace, for sure. Back in the early days of Facebook and Twitter, employers’ general attitudes were typically “don’t waste your time during work hours”. Today, we have social media policies, are encouraged to “like” our employer on Facebook and to self-identify as an employee on Twitter. With all of those changes, though, many are still reticent to connect up in those ways.
My philosophy is a little bit different. When it comes to online life, I see two basic principles:
Let me flesh out a bit what I mean by these.
What I don’t mean here is that everything should automatically be posted to a global scope by default. When I post pictures of my kids to Facebook, I still limit their visibility to my friends.
But if there’s something that ought to stay private, or something that would be damaging to me or hurtful to others if it was made public, then it shouldn’t be posted online. At all. Regardless of the intended distribution.
I think it’s valuable (and frankly, it’s a lot easier) to not try to hide my personal life and non-work interests from my co-workers. This doesn’t mean that I friend every co-worker on Facebook. But I use the same criteria for adding co-workers on Facebook as I do adding anybody else on Facebook. And what I’ve found over the past several years is that being Facebook friends with these co-workers improves our working relationship as well as our personal friendship.
I think it’s beneficial for folks to see an honest, unvarnished me; that I am a whole person juggling work, family, faith, and other life just like anyone else. I’m Facebook friends with one previous boss and with my current boss (though we were FB friends as coworkers before he became my boss, which changes things a bit).
As time progresses and more and more of our workforce are active on social media, I expect these relational trends to continue. Social media usage will amplify your foolishness if you choose to behave that way. However, if it reflects a life that is wisely lived, presenting a holistic digital picture of life should serve to enhance relationships rather than hinder them.
It does make for occasional interesting moments, though.
At the beginning of a customer meeting with an Asian customer a few years back, when I exchanged business cards and introduced myself, there was a light of recognition in their eyes. “Oh, Chris Hubbs! We visited your website!” I guess this means they do their research, but I’m also sort of curious what they thought about what they found on my site, given that I rarely blog about work but often ramble on theology and music. (As far as I can tell none of them decided to follow me on Twitter after the fact.)
This one is a no-brainer. My employer has a good set of guidelines for use of social media, which essentially consist of “don’t let it interfere with work”, “don’t speak for the company”, and “remember you represent the company”, and “don’t be stupid”. It means that I have a general note on my blog about page saying that the website contains my views, not those of my employer. (If I blog about something industry-related I will reiterate that disclaimer within the individual post.)
Dave Eggers, in his recent novel The Circle, envisions a social-tech-saturated future where the happy benefits of social sharing serve only to mask a scary dystopian scenario where the social mob mandates total “clarity” – the broadcast of every bit of a person’s life for open viewing by anyone. While I understand what he’s getting at, I don’t think my current level of sharing and openness is too far down that path.
While I undoubtedly post a TMI tweet from time to time and end up sharing silly family anecdotes with co-workers who are FB friends, on the whole this model of openness is valuable for me. Not only does it enhance personal relationships, but by blatantly putting stuff online I think it leads the way for others who might not be as bold, and lets sympathetic readers know that they’re not alone in their opinions and experiences. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it worth it.
Tonight I went to the theater and saw Her, the recent movie from Spike Jonze. For those who might not be familiar with the film, here’s the trailer:
What an amazing film. So much to think about afterwards. How does our relationship with technology affect our relationships with people? Where do we find relational fulfillment? What is “real” in a relationship, anyway? Would a relationship that’s exclusively about my happiness really make me happy in the long run?
Joaquin Phoenix gives a fantastic lead performance; Amy Adams is great as his friend, and Scarlett Johanssen plays a prominent role with her voice even though you never see her on screen. It’s a beautiful film to look at, too – the use of colors, lights, and cityscapes is just lovely.
I came back to my hotel room tonight and turned on Lost in Translation, a 10- year-old movie also featuring Scarlett Johannsen and one that also leaves me with a raw inner yearning for relationship. The movies make a great pair.
My buddy Dan informed me tonight that the films are connected another way – Sofia Coppola, who wrote/directed Lost in Translation was married for a few years to Jonze, who wrote/directed Her. Maybe they’re both processing their breakup in similar ways?
I find myself thankful tonight for films that make me think, and even more, perhaps, for films that make me feel; not just the adrenaline rush of an action thriller or the sadness of a weepy drama, but the complicated ache of friendship, yearning, and love.