Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Bigger God, Or None At All

There is a lot of updating that any viable religious viewpoint must engage in if it is to seem plausible to present and future generations. As Carl Sagan wrote, “In fact a general problem with much of Western theology in my view is that the god portrayed is too small. It is a god of a tiny world and not a God of the galaxy, much less of a universe… I don’t propose that is a virtue to revel in our limitations. But it’s important to understand how much we do not know. There is an enormous amount we do not know; there is a tiny amount that we do. But what we do understand brings us face to face with an awesome Cosmos that is simply different from the Cosmos of our pious ancestors.”

Our cosmos is bigger than many ancients realized, and more rational and intelligible too, and less full of capricious spirits. And so the really interesting theological questions are not about the attempts of fundamentalists to maintain the same ideas of God today. Rather, the crucial debate is about whether our progress in understanding the world leads to a bigger God, or none at all.

via Torchwood: Small Worlds, Medium-Sized Gods | Exploring Our Matrix.

Someone define inerrancy for me, please! | Near Emmaus

[Q]uestions of infallibility and inerrancy do not matter, because even if we answer the questions to everyone’s satisfaction, we have only spoken about the text and not the people reading the text. Say whatever you want about the Bible–it will still be read, interpreted, handled and applied by decidedly imperfect people. We will bring our biases, ignorance, and finite capacity to something so much larger than ourselves.

Not because of any flaw in the scripture itself, the practical application of questions about infallibility and inerrancy end up meaning, “The Bible means what I say it mean, and you must agree with me!”

via Someone define inerrancy for me, please! | Near Emmaus.

Explains a Fair Amount of Data

My religious tradition views Adam and Eve as created with perfect human natures. After their first sin, their natures became “fallen” and prone to sin, and this fallen nature was passed along to all of their descendants, making all of us prone to sin as well. In Jesus’ sacrifice we are forgiven our sins and promised to be restored to a perfect, unfallen nature when this life is over.

In the post What Does Original Sin Mean in the Light of Modern Science? Jason Rosenhouse discusses how evolutionary theory gives a different explanation of our “fallen” natures: primates are species on a trajectory from “animal” to “rational” and we have a lot of dark impulses to overcome when our conscience and our instincts are in conflict. Concerning whether the idea of original sin should be reworked or discarded, he concludes:

In science, it is fairly common to face the following situation: A theory works pretty well and explains a fair amount of data. But then some anomalies arise. Do we need to discard the theory completely, or is it just a matter of fine-tuning a few details? That is not the case with original sin. It is not as though we used to have really good reasons for thinking it is a valid and useful notion, but then modern science came along to provide a few distressing anomalies. Actually all we ever had was an ancient, Biblical account that told a pretty clear story about human sinfulness and its affect on the world. There was never any particular reason to think that story was true, and science now shows it to be completely false. But instead of throwing the idea of original sin straight in the garbage where it belongs, a lot of really smart people tie themselves into knots summoning forth strained reinterpretations of the doctrine. It is beyond comprehension to me that anyone could think this is a valuable use of time, or that our knowledge or understanding of the human condition are advanced, in even the slightest way, by such investigations.

If original sin is discarded, it would still remain true that we are prone to sin and that Jesus lived a perfect life. The Christus Victor model of atonement could still apply.

Is God not Holy, Just, and Righteous?

From the article Love and Justice at Gungor Blog:

Perfect love casts out fear. This is because love is better than fear. Fear gets you to obey the speed limit if you suspect that there may be police around, but love for the passengers in your car makes you drive carefully. Fear can get you to obey rules, but it cannot transform your heart. Religion that is based in fear says things like “well, yes God is love, but….”

No. God is love. Period.

Overlooked But Really, Really Important

From the post The Bible’s Most Overlooked But Really, Really Important Guy « Cognitive Discopants

Jesus was the answer for fallen Israel, not fallen Adam.

This is the true metanarrative of the Bible. In fact, some have suggested (persuasively, I think) that the story of Eden/the Fall/the expulsion from Paradise is itself a metaphor for the overarching narrative of Promised Land/unfaithful Israel/exile. The gospel story is the story of God’s redemptive plan for a nation that had lost its way – a nation into which God would ultimately graft all of humanity.

If modern genetics casts doubt on the historicity of Adam (and it does), rather than undermine the gospel, this realization may actually help the church to recover the authentic gospel, properly conceived (as Scot McKnight has recently put it), “as the completion of the Story of Israel in the saving Story of Jesus.”