Fear Of Whales

Archive for December, 2015

Genesis 2, Literally

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Sometimes a fun thing I like to do to expose a flaw in a argument is critique the right from the right, and critique the left from the left. Radicals on both side often hide gaps in logic behind appeals to ideals they themselves do not uphold. They critique everything to one side of them with that ideal, but leave themselves vulnerable to a flank. This is an old example of that from a saved file. Critiquing literalness to show that their standard of literal is unreachable.

I had mentioned in a previous article that while I normally am said to be interpreting Genesis “figuratively” that is not exactly correct.

I want to unpack what I mean by that a little more in this article.

You see, while it’s true that there are some parts, or some words in Genesis that I do understand primarily as symbols. I would argue that that is also true of even the most ardent biblical literalist. I really don’t interpret it any more or less “figuratively” I simply interpret it differently.

I’ll give you another example: Genesis 2:7 reads

7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

I have a picture of the way that it typically interpreted over there. I likeAdamDust_600x360.jpg to imagine that there was like a whirlwind that kicked up a lot of dust that then formed the relative shape of a man, and then that shape turned from all brown and bumpy to smooth and colored.

And that’s fine, God could do that, it would be kind of like Sandman from Spiderman 3. but that isn’t what the text literally says. what the text says is that God made Adam “from the dust” as in “out of the dust” which literally means that God took Silicon dioxide and used the material there to make a human.

Dust is composed primarily of Silicon Dioxide (SiO2), while humans are composed mostly of Water, and Sugars (H2O, and C2H12O6) which is problematic, because there’s no carbon or oxygen in dust.

Well that’s not a problem God is omnipotent. He can get Carbon from ash and hydrogen out of the air. All of that is probably present in the whirlwind anyway! So we make a sacrifice to literalism. We say “Okay so god made Adam with some dust and some other stuff” or maybe you’re a little more liberal and you think there was dust there, but god just made the hydrogen and the oxygen out of nothing (he made it in the first place after all)

Well that’s fine. But can I tell you what I believe.

I believe Adam was literally made from the dust.

See I’m a theistic evolutionist so I interpret the Bible literally and I think that the first life on earth was actually literally made out of stardust, from which all of the existing material on earth developed. That evolved into the first life forms and then other life forms and other life forms and eventually to us. God guided evolution to happen to make humans, literally out of dust. Or as Carl Sagan was fond of saying “We are made of star stuff”

So I interpret the “sixth day” part loosely and the other guys interpret the “Out of dust” part loosely. and the end of the day we are all working with the text as best we can, to get to an interpretation that makes sense to us.

P.S.: If You’re super duper nerdy like me. You’ll say “HEY WAIT A SECOND, if you can make life out of dust there must be some means you are invoking to turn one element into another.” Well it’s true, and I’ll discuss it in this Super Secret Extra For Experts Nerds Only Article

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December 30th, 2015 at 3:58 pm

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The Purpose of the Poem is to Read the Poem

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GlassesThere is a distinction from class which I think is important. It was apparently originally from Gadamer, who is a fancy pants hermeneutics expert. But who knows how well the idea as I have it relates to his,

The distinction between argument and poetry, and it’s a distinction of purpose.

In Philosophy the goal of an argument is to demonstrate the conclusion. The actual words of the argument are mostly interchangeable, provided they lead to the same place in as compelling a manner. In a great speech or a seminal treatise, The emphasis is not the speech itself, but something outside the speech, the ideas it gave you. You read it once and don’t need to read it again for as long as you remember the main point, you don’t need to remember how the author got there.

A Poem by contrast is all about particular turns of phrases and the ensuing reader experience. You read a poem over and over and read it better each time because when you know how it ends you have a better sense of how to read the beginning. The ideas it gives you help you to read it better and enjoy it more. A poem can be about something outrageous or nothing at all, it doesn’t matter because the conclusions it makes are not the purpose. The purpose of a poem is to read the poem.

Some people read the Bible as if it’s an argument; some, as if it’s a poem.

For most of my life I have been in the argument crowd. Paul’s letters for instance are each written to a church for a purpose and if I find that purpose I understand the book, To apply the book I apply the conclusion “Christ is fully human too” DONE, that’s enough of Colossians. The goal of Biblical Exegesis for a long time was to uncover the “main point” of a book, passage, or testament.

Recently I’ve become enamored with the poetry idea. What if the Bible were more about how people got there? What if I could read the books for fun to enjoy the unfolding narrative instead of trying to decode everything? Isn’t that almost the only choice for a lot of canonical books? I’ve long been disappointed in the Christian subculture’s tendency not to read the bible. That the default training is towards argument thinking offers a good explanation as to why not.

It also has something to say about why there are so many different theologies and how we all read the same book differently. For my money, I think there are advantages to both styles of reading, and I enjoy that it seems to function pretty well as both genres. And I think it’s silly to read every book of the Bible the same way.

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December 16th, 2015 at 5:53 pm

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Busyness

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Whooo! It’s a busy time of the year!

Is anybody else feeling Busy?

I’ve certainly been doing enough this semester, what with three jobs: Campus, Library, and Pulpit Supply; plus full time school, a serious relationship, and preparations to be made for job searches and ordination. On top of all of that I decided it would be good to have a compelling social media portfolio when the time comes So I’ve been working on a blog and such in my copious free time.

And yet, I felt busier in the summer, working one job as a Chaplain.

Here’s the thing: Everyone is always doing something. Even doing nothing is even doing something. Whether you are watching Netflix or meditating or doing paperwork or manual labor, you are doing that thing. Busyness is not a measure of the things you do in a day, it can’t be. That would make no sense.

13_HolidayStressBusyness is a statement about your anxiety level and your flexibility. It tells me how you feel about the things you do in a day. Your willingness to be interrupted.

In my experience, when I am feeling busy and stressed, like I can’t get everything done, doing less does not help. I’ve had busy times of my life with only one part time job and no school when I couldn’t find enough hours in the day. At camp however, amidst a plethora of activities, I feel relaxed and available.

So If you are drinking from the font of anxiety this holiday season, I want to urge you to chill out. Do the things you have to do, including rest. Don’t try to do more than 24 hours worth of activities in 24 hours. Let everything else drop.

You can feel good about your decision not to do the things you don’t have time for. It makes no sense to guilt yourself over your failure to dilate space-time itself in order to do more 1 second per second of actions.

I know it’s hard to do when external pressures force you to make priorities that don’t match your preferences. I know that emotions are not always responsive to reason. But choosing to feel unbusy really is the only way there ever has been to be unbusy. Busyness is a feeling

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December 9th, 2015 at 2:47 pm

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To Hell with Hell

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A long time ago in the history of this blog I intended that one consistent series would be on great theological debates. You can actually see the remnant of these pest laid plans in the WordPress “Category” which is a feature I no Longer use. The idea was to demonstrate that each of the major things Christians argue about contained a portion of the truth, or something to be learned, on both sides. Hence the controversy. I’ve given up on ever finishing that series.

Nevertheless, this is one of those kind of posts.

Of course at the time that I planned this, I saw controversies within a much narrower realm of Christianity. Things like “Pre Trib vs Post Trip” or “Egalitarianism vs Complemantarianism” This is a post about Universalism versus belief in a literal Hell.

Rob-Bell1That was a big topic not too long ago if you recall… But I never have been very good at picking up on viral trends in my writing.

Lest I make the mistake of my buddy to the left and get farewell tweets, I should clarify exactly where I stand before I begin to play with these ideologies. I am not a Christian Universalist, But I could see being one. I get the appeal. I believe that there is a hell and people go there, but at times I am uncomfortable with the cognitive dissonance created by belief in a loving god, and belief in a limitless punishment for a temporal mistake.

I may even go so far as other good conservative scholars such as Miroslav Vulf to say “I Hope for the truth of Christian Universalism” even though I don’t believe it. It would be nice if the bible said that. It doesn’t.

And yet it is more than the Bible and my interpretation of it, that keeps me out of that camp (I’ve been wrong before).

I am also compelled by the important, and grace filled Christian practice of considering things anathema.

It doesn’t feel loving to send people to hell, even in my mind. I feel judgmental when I thing “They are going to hell” even if it’s true. But at the very least there are THINGS to which I need to be able to say “To hell with that”.

I need a place for child molestation. I need a place slavery. I need a place for denial of the resurrection. and it is important that it not be a nice place.

If I remove hell from my theology, I lost my ability to strongly condemn actions and activities and situations as demonic and damnable. Oh I could maybe have it as a colorful analogy, but you know damn well that doesn’t count.

See what I did there?

To say that your sweet old grandmother who was abused in church and renounced God is in hell is uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable, I am uncomfortable, we all need to reassess our soteriology and theologies of conversion. But to say that her abuser and indeed her abuse deserves anything better than the flames of hell is… Well it’s anathema.

To hell with people who abuse people. To hell with them unless they repent. And to hell with a theology that would minimize the wrongness of those actions in the interest of nonjudgementalism and political correctness.

But then, To hell also with me. I take selfish actions. I participate in the continued oppression of the poor and downtrodden. I say hurtful things that emotionally scar the people around me. And to hell with a theology that would keep me in a constant state of fear and self loathing such that I cannot take action to rectify some of that.

To hell with…hell.

Hell sucks. I want it to go away.

And so in an ironic way the resistance to the theology of hell in myself, and the rejection of it by others is a strange kind of proof of concept for a theological wastebasket for all of the things and ideas we can no longer abide. Including the basket itself.

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December 2nd, 2015 at 12:34 am

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