Ken Ham, not content on sending humans to hell, now looks to the stars for the godless

War of the Worlds

Do you know our lord and savior, Zenu-nu-nu the Bloody Conquerer? (Photo credit: jurvetson)

A few weeks ago, Ken Ham posted something decrying the United Methodist Church and our internal troubles. Several of the more conservative people on the forums ate it up as they do with most things non-Wesleyan. I suggested it would be easier to tolerate the basest of changes to “traditional marriage” than it is to swallow anything by Ken Ham.

Ham’s latest spewing is why. A few weeks ago, NASA (not a UK news site) suggested we may find proof of alien life within 2 decades. Ken Ham has, by far, the most expected response:

And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel. You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin—the Savior of mankind.

via “We’ll find a new earth within 20 years” | Around the World with Ken Ham.

He goes on to say “Jesus did not become the “GodKlingon” or the “GodMartian”!  Only descendants of Adam can be saved.” Beyond this idiotic statement is the underlying misunderstanding anthropos. I can do nothing but laugh at how silly his reasoning is. But, I note it is in line with fundamentalist views of God. God is limited to our words and to our expectations. Further, our notion of atonement is limited to those with the correct knowledge. Ham’s philosophy is no more evolved than the small-pox soaked blankets given to Native Americans or the enslavement of Africans, both actions taken (in part) because those people were somehow less worthy of humanity (and salvation) than the rest of us.

So, beyond the inane stupidity this represents, let me offer you some correct approaches.

  • The end of the world as pictured in the New Testament seems to be more in line with Stoic conflagration. Regardless, it is not a physical destruction but a symbolic change of order. We find this idea in Genesis but especially in Isaiah with its talk of “new creation.” We need to learn biblical cosmology and how to apply it to soteriology and eschatology. We need to understand words like creation and universe before we make sweeping proclamations about the state of the universe beyond our blue jewel.
  • If Jesus repairs the sin of Adam, and if Jesus’s death is only for humanity, then only humanity under the curse. Then, by necessity, the xenozoic would not fall under the Fall and would not need the death of Christ. This does not mean they “go to hell.” This simply means our religious expectations as Christians do not apply to them. On the other hand, if all of “creation” is under the “curse,” then likewise all of creation is under the death of Christ.
  • If alien life is discovered, we are going to be a world of hurt theologically. I am not sure Christianity, or rather, Protestant Christianity, can survive. Judaism will. Islam may. Some of the eastern religions as well. Catholic Christianity may find it difficult, but we will see. Fundamentalism will retreat even further into intellectual darkness.

What happens if when we discover alien life? Our theology either gets really small, really big, or dies.

Also, I have a real issue in how Ken Ham describes the atonement.

Cardinal Ratzinger on Discipleship of Jesus v. Discipleship of Christ.

Jesus will return!

)Photo credit: Bazstyle | Photography)

I am going to help lead a new class in the fall (if it all works out) on covenant discipleship, from the Wesleyan perspective. I am looking for various quotes and thoughts at the moment. This one…

Well, he was pope for a reason:

This linguistic change reveals a spiritual process with wide implications, namely, the attempt to get behind the Church’s confession of faith and reach the purely historical figure of Jesus. He is no longer to be understood through this confession, but, as it were, in and through himself alone; and thus his achievement and his challenge are to be reinterpreted from scratch. Consequently people no longer speak of following Christ but of following Jesus: for “discipleship of Christ” implies the Church’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, and hence it involves a basic acknowledgment of the Church as the primary form of discipleship. “Discipleship of Jesus”, however, concentrates on the man Jesus who opposes all forms of authority; one of its features is a basically critical attitude to the Church, seen as a sign of its faithfulness to Jesus. This in turn goes beyond Christology and affects soteriology, which must necessarily undergo a similar transformation. Instead of “salvation” we find “liberation” taking pride of place, and the question, “How is the liberating act of Jesus to be mediated?” automatically adopts a critical stance over against the classical doctrine of how man becomes a partaker of grace.

Joseph Ratzinger, Behold The Pierced One: An Approach to a Spiritual Christology (trans. Graham Harrison; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 14.

No.

United Methodist Church, in

United Methodist Church, in (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I consider Dr. David F. Watson one of the brightest minds, sincerest hearts, and better Christian scholar-theologians I know. Nothing here is to suggest any deficit in his person, character, or otherwise.

I am dismayed.

I am greatly disheartened.

I am saddened that the first three items were even suggested.

(1) Suspension of the Trust Clause (BOD ¶2501) for one quadrennium specifically and only for the purpose of allowing local churches who cannot in good conscience live within the parameters of our Social Principle on human sexuality to leave the denomination with full ownership of their properties.

(2) Addition of new paragraph to BOD ¶248 allowing local churches to use the Church Conference as a venue for voting to leave the denomination. New paragraph at the end of existing ¶248: “The church conference may be convened for purposes of withdrawing the local church from The United Methodist Church for reasons of conscience related specifically and exclusively to the Social Principle on human sexuality (¶161F) and the Qualifications for Ordination (¶304.3). Ordained clergy of said church conference may withdraw to unite with another denomination under the provisions of ¶361.1. The local church of said church conference shall be released from the requirement of the trust clause of ¶2501. The local church shall retain full rights to its properties. Debts upon such properties and any other debts payable by that local church are assumed by the local church.”

(3) Empowerment of the General Board of Pension & Health Benefits to allow clergy who cannot in good conscience abide by our Social Principle on human sexuality to leave with full benefits.

via Some Suggestions for a Unified UMC (or, The A&W Plan) | David F. Watson.

The other suggestions have been bandied about for a while. They are good and I believe should be passed.

However, these first three suggestions regulate the total of United Methodist Church and the whole of our vows and obligations in the Book of Discipline to the issue of homosexuality. There are many other ways to break the BoD and yet, the only reason you can leave (or, rather, go) is because of the sexuality issue. This brings the sole focus of the United Methodist Church and the Book of Discipline unto sex.

Further, for two who have rightly critiqued A Way Forward for the congregationalism backdoor that it is, I am surprised at a proposal ridding ourselves of that which administratively prevents congregationalism. In other words, their suggestion is congregationalism, if only for a quad. The local church exists as a community a part of the universal church. To suggest it can suddenly be independent is not our connexional system.

And, I suspect — and I do not want to believe this was intentional — but if the UMC ever did “go liberal,” then it would not be the conservatives staying, but leaving. I can see a scenario like this: This passes, but so does the end to exclusion. Guess who leaves then… This is, simply, a backdoor to congregationalism.

Specifically, let me address the points.

  1. This is a moral issue. If you are a conservative, then you are more than likely guided by the belief that homosexuality is a sin. Further, you may believe the Church is God’s, that souls are at stake, and to not address such matters lays the problem at your doorstep. For the left, LGBT inclusion is a justice issue. If you withdraw from injustice, then the problem is laid upon you. Further, the allowance to leave only for the left will likely be met with suggestions of discrimination and please from the increasingly evangelical right to leave as well. Suspending the Trust Clause to allow those who do not agree with the official stance (whatever it is at the time this may pass) would dissolve the union with congregations leaving left and right.
  2. While I am sure this would change, local churches are allowed to leave only to join another denomination. This is a schism. Left and right will leave, with only a few remaining in the middle. Not only this, but this does nothing for the congregational members who do not want to leave. I cannot believe I am about to do this, but as Mark Tooley pointed out today, hardly any congregation will swing completely one way. What happens to those who are left behind? What happens to them if their family has deep roots or perhaps wanted to lay down roots? What if the pastor wants to go one way and the congregation another? This will, as others would do, split congregations and communities. It will split them upon the issue of sex.
  3. While I am not as dead-set against this clause as I am the others, and indeed, it may actually help — my concern is awarding bad behavior. They want to leave, let them. I would rather none leave, all stayed, and all obeyed the Discipline.

In the end, this is a modest attempt at schism with a door open for future problems. It allows congregations to be identified by one issue alone — sex. Not scripture, not orthodoxy, not even polity, but that which occurs (or should) in the privacy of a closed room.

Kevin Carnahan has a response as well.

Review of @fortresspress’s “Reading Theologically (Foundations for Learning)”

After spending a considerable amount of time reading theology and thinking through some of the more serious matters in biblical scholarship, I went to seminary. I was joined by more than a few fellow students who had read little more than Scripture itself and considered it the total of theological evaluation. This reality disheartened me about the future clergy and how they are going to respond to the increasing barrage of questions from parishioners and others. To serve the Church in any way, you have to know how to read and think theologically. There are scarcely any tools focused solely on that missing element in our ministerial training.

The editor’s introduction to Reading Theologically does not state this fact in as dark of terms as I but instead focuses on the positive. Eric D. Barreto writes, “reading theologically is about the formation and cultivation of a particular posture toward texts…(r)eading theologically is not just about building your academic skills, but about your formation as a ministerial leader.” (11). To do this, Barreto has assembled “eight exemplary scholars” who are likewise teachers and theologians. Their essayed voices bring to light different goals and methods for reading while in seminary — goals that should be the intended result of each seminarian. I am more than pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of a variety of voices in this volume.

Educational Comic:  "Developing Understan...

Educational Comic: “Developing Understanding when Reading” (Photo credit: Ken Whytock)

The eight chapters cover everything one needs to read academically. Seminary is not a Jesus/summer camp (a fellow student believed this). It is an academic institution of higher learning, requiring reading that goes beyond understanding the words on the page. As Melissa Browning says in the first essay, reading is an enterprise whereby one engages with the person writing. She offers several helpful (even out of seminary) strategies to engaging the material — even the material the is uninteresting, or worse, challenging. Of interesting note is Jacob D. Myers’s chapter, “Reading Critically,” which begins with an acknowledgement that authors have ideologies. How often do we see books castoff because the author is “X?” Myers suggests otherwise – admit this, admit we have our own ideology, and then because to read the text. This stance is his ideological criticism (77) and it works well. He writes to encourage us to look at the author, understand their place and our own, and then read the book. The final essay I will call attention to is “Reading Spiritually,” by Shanell T. Smith. After all of the ways to read, after all of the things to read — after all of the confirmation and challenges — there is a need to read for spiritual formation. This method does not exclude the previous ones, but is “intentionally reflective” and “deepens your connection with God as you read.” (126). Her model, S.o. W.h.a.t?, is a very helpful paradigm for the seminary reader who may find they no longer know how to read for a connection with God. This capstone shows the editorial intent of providing a whole reader.

I’ll be blunter than the editor or the essayists. Americans are the poorest readers in the world. Maybe that is a bit much, so don’t read too much into it. However, we take things at face value and apply an “all/or nothing” approach what we intellectually digest. There is little to no engagement across the broad-swath of the reading public. It gets worse in seminary, I believe, because each person becomes protected to challenges, first, by the capitalistic system for paying for the degree and, second, due to the “call of God.” Because God called them into the ministry, and because the denominational requires seminary, they do not need to be challenged. The seminarian never becomes a student, but is always the customer. I believe this is detrimental to our Church(es) and is part of the reason we see a decrease in Christianity in the West today. It comes down to reading. Do you read to learn or to read simply?

If I could, I would commend and command to every seminarian this single-volume and a class on it. I would implore them to take it apart and to eat it up as John was commanded by the Angel in Revelation. The words on these pages should become the theological sojourner’s nutrients. This book, without exaggeration, is a godsend to seminarian students.

 

Mark Tooley of @theird has joined the middle #umcschism

: United Methodist Church

: United Methodist Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not because he wants too, of course,and maybe not officially — shoot, he may just be doing this to lull us into sleep and then pop one or two caps (schism resolutions) into the hind-end of the UMC… But, for now, he has something of a common sense approach, even if it seems awfully familiar to what others are saying.

Behind the full throttle of his hyperbole are several key factors many of us in the middle have already known and acknowledged. They are,

  • GC cannot pass the necessary changes to create a formal schism. This is what I’ve said to Ritter about his plan (and others who are pushing an internal schism that would have a mini-denomination identified only by their stance on LGBT). When you need not only 2/3 of the GC and then annual conferences to pass something like this — not to mention then requiring congregations to pit themselves against each other, while members pit themselves against each other in these congregations…it will not happen.
  • An actual schism, internal and/or external, would destroy local congregations and the whole of the largest arm of the Methodist movement. As Tooley accurately notes, “Few congregations are purely liberal or conservative.” Well, yeah. I’ve said this before. So have others. Glad Mark is finally listening. 
  • Any split would cause the extremes to develop anti-Wesleyan orthodoxy. Granted, Tooley focuses on his vision of a liberal-led wing of the UMC, that with heterodoxy and little in regards to doctrinal standards. But, his silence for the conservative side should be addressed because I think I can sense some fear of a conservative heterodoxy — congregationalism, neo-Calvinism, and militant fundamentalism.

He goes on to warn against compromise because it would force evangelicals to abandon the United Methodist Church. But, that really falls into the final category above. Evangelicals who abandon the denomination will more than like look like a normal baptist-sect denomination in a few short years. They will simply become the pre-Mohler Southern Baptists (4-point Calvinists) with a polity structure in flux.

I am no fan of Tooley because I view the IRD much like I do Love Prevails and other outside groups — they are lobbyists with their own agendas; however, this is a nice breath of fresh air. Now, I just have to wait for the other shoe to drop.

in the mail from @hendricksonpub, “UBS5 Greek New Testament with Dictionary”

From Hendrickson (click through, as there is a sample chapter on the publisher’s site):

While the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece is designed for scholarly research, the Greek New Testament, 5th Revised Edition is designed for translators and students. Like NA28, this is the leading edition of the original text of the New Testament. It contains the same Greek text as NA28, differing only in some details of punctuation and paragraphing.

The critical apparatus includes exegetically significant variants (fewer than NA28) but adds extensive manuscript evidence (more than NA28) for each variant, thereby offering in-depth instruction for students on how variants and the evidence for them work together. An introduction in English is included and an optional Concise Greek- English Dictionary of the New Testament by Barclay Newman is available.

This user-friendly volume comes in three editions:
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) hardcover
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) with Greek-English Dictionary, hardcover
• The Greek New Testament (UBS5) with Greek-English Dictionary, Flexisoft Black Leather

Redemption of Life – The Price of Admission in Exodus, Job, and 2 Maccabees

JUDAEA, First Jewish War. 66-70 CE. AR Shekel ...

Your life ain’t worth 2 shekels (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found this interesting. I am currently researching substitution (hint, I don’t think Jesus was classically substituted in Galatians) for my dissertation. These passages all connect for me.

The translations are from the REB.

The Lord said to Moses: When you take a census of the Israelites, each man is to give a ransom for his life to the Lord,* to avert plague among them during the registration. As each man crosses over to those already counted he must give half a shekel by the sacred standard at the rate of twenty gerahs to the shekel, as a contribution levied for the Lord. Everyone aged twenty or more who has crossed over to those already counted will give a contribution for the Lord. The rich man will give no more than the half-shekel, and the poor man no less, when you give the contribution for the Lord to make expiation for your lives. The money received from the Israelites for expiation you are to apply to the service of the Tent of Meeting. The expiation for your lives is to be a reminder of the Israelites before the Lord. – Exodus 30.11-16.

Yet if an angel, one of a thousand, stands by him,
a mediator between him and God,
to expound God’s righteousness to man
and to secure mortal man his due;*
if he speaks on behalf of him and says,
‘Reprieve* him from going down to the pit;
I have the price of his release’:
then his body will grow sturdier* than it was in his youth;
he will return to the days of his prime. – Job 33.23-25

He levied a contribution from each man, and sent to Jerusalem the total of two thousand silver drachmas to provide a sin-offering*—a fit and proper act in which he took due account of the resurrection. Had he not been expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been superfluous and senseless to pray for the dead; but since he had in view the splendid reward reserved for those who die a godly death, his purpose was holy and devout. That was why he offered the atoning sacrifice, to free the dead from their sin. – 2 Macc 12.43-45.

This does not mean I believe we can buy our way into heaven; but at the very least we can two things.

  • a “biblical” model for pre-Reformation indulgences.
  • the hope of redemption by acts, even after death.

My 3rd painting on #canvas

I’d like to say that the room is dark so the painting doesn’t come out well on pictures, but to be honest, I wanted to quit halfway through. I had an image in my head of a very lonely, dark room with a very absent chair. Out the window is a nice scene. Across the table someone is sitting. I added a book later on.

20140714-093930-34770401.jpg

I started with the window because it was the easiest thing to do.

20140714-093932-34772030.jpg

There is too much brown.

20140714-093933-34773558.jpg

I really like this color blue.

20140714-093935-34775138.jpg

I start with the book. I mixed white with tan to give a yellowed looked to the pages.

20140714-093936-34776520.jpg

book is done. And I added twine to the window – perhaps it is a painting now. Which makes the room all that more depressing.

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and a very boring chair.

A few lessons from this. I don’t like brown. I don’t like visualizing something and painting it, although everything is visualized. But you know what I mean. I want to paint in oil, but I’m not good enough to waste that much money on something I won’t be good enough for.

In the end, I wonder if I should have just left it as the window frame….

It is nearly impossible for an atheist to exist… or science writers for that matter. #science

Atheism

Atheism (Photo credit: boynumber1)

So sayeth science. Well, actually, a “science writer.” I’ve scanned the article and could not find much in collaborative evidence. Don’t get me wrong. I want to believe that science says our metaphysical urges are hardwired and part of our evolutionary tract and thus suggest atheism is not tenable, or even human; however, to write as the author did with only bit quotes — no footnotes or the internet equivalent, links — is to seriously undermine his thesis:

Cognitive scientists are becoming increasingly aware that a metaphysical outlook may be so deeply ingrained in human thought processes that it cannot be expunged.

Scientists discover that atheists might not exist, and that’s not a joke.

For instance, when I google the quotes here,

This line of thought has led to some scientists claiming that “atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think,” says Graham Lawton, an avowed atheist himself, writing in the New Scientist. “They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.”

I get articles quoting the original piece. However, I suspect that the quote comes from this article. If it does, and it does, the “science writer” misquotes Lawton who is paraphrasing Boyer. The context is this:

Some scientists – notably Pascal Boyer at Washington University in St Louis – have even claimed that atheism is psychologically impossible because of the way humans think. They point to studies showing, for example, that even people who claim to be committed atheists tacitly hold religious beliefs, such as the existence of an immortal soul.

Atheism

Atheism (Photo credit: atheism) – because that is what you think, don’t you?

Indeed, the conclusions in Lawton’s original piece may in fact surprise the “science writer.” Basically, his assumptions go like this. Atheists can’t exist because humans are hardwired to express/desire the common elements found in religion. You should be able to see through that pretty easily.

But, I want to add another wrinkle, if I may. What if there are no believers or atheists? If free will is an illusion, then we are but what we are meant to be in some fashion. This doesn’t mean I am in favor of determinism, but if our “choices’” are shaped by external influences, then our choices are chained to that which surrounds us. Thus, if one is an atheist or a believer, then it has something to do with an outside influence and cannot be the individual’s choice. Thus, there is no conscious effort to believe in God (thus, no believers) and there is no free will analysis capable of producing an unbelief in God (thus, no atheists) because we follow the path laid out before us and can only work within those influences.

Whew.

Anyway, the article is slightly better than what Jim West writes regarding evolution.