Oh, so that’s why @AiGKenHam is so upset with @Pontifex…

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The Holy Father has once again amazed people by being Catholic. No one was more shocked by this revelation than Ken Ham and Al Mohler. So, why has Ham decided to take issue with this re-statement of long-standing Catholic dogma? I suspect it is because the Pope did a slight jab at Young Earth Creations by calling them Gnostic.

The original Italian:

Quando leggiamo nella Genesi il racconto della Creazione rischiamo di immaginare che Dio sia stato un mago, con tanto di bacchetta magica in grado di fare tutte le cose. Ma non è così. Egli ha creato gli esseri e li ha lasciati sviluppare secondo le leggi interne che Lui ha dato ad ognuno, perché si sviluppassero, perché arrivassero alla propria pienezza. Egli ha dato l’autonomia agli esseri dell’universo al tempo stesso in cui ha assicurato loro la sua presenza continua, dando l’essere ad ogni realtà. E così la creazione è andata avanti per secoli e secoli, millenni e millenni finché è diventata quella che conosciamo oggi, proprio perché Dio non è un demiurgo o un mago, ma il Creatore che dà l’essere a tutti gli enti. L’inizio del mondo non è opera del caos che deve a un altro la sua origine, ma deriva direttamente da un Principio supremo che crea per amore. Il Big-Bang, che oggi si pone all’origine del mondo, non contraddice l’intervento creatore divino ma lo esige. L’evoluzione nella natura non contrasta con la nozione di Creazione, perché l’evoluzione presuppone la creazione degli esseri che si evolvono.

The interpretation as translation:

When we read in Genesis the account of Creation, we risk imagining that God was a magician, with such a magic wand as to be able to do everything. However, it was not like that. He created beings and left them to develop according to the internal laws that He gave each one, so that they would develop, and reach their fullness. He gave autonomy to the beings of the universe at the same time that He assured them of his continual presence, giving being to every reality. And thus creation went forward for centuries and centuries, millennia and millennia until it became what we know today, in fact because God is not a demiurge or a magician, but the Creator who gives being to all entities. The beginning of the world was not the work of chaos, which owes its origin to another, but it derives directly from a Supreme Principle who creates out of love. The Big-Bang, that is placed today at the origin of the world, does not contradict the divine intervention but exacts it. The evolution in nature is not opposed to the notion of Creation, because evolution presupposes the creation of beings that evolve.

The demiurge is a Gnostic entity.

Young Earth Creationists of Ham’s caliber are often called Gnostics due to their insistence on a certain revelatory experience, the need for this knowledge as a precursor to salvation, and because of their particular cosmological view.

Here, the Pope — perhaps it is intentional? — goes further and calls the god of the YECers the demiurge.

Ken has yet to get past the notion Christians uphold the authority of Scripture and yet accept evolution as a valid theory (please understand the use of this word). As someone reminded me on Facebook, or rather put it better than I could: Evolution is a godless theory, not because it does away with God, but because it does not point to, or away from God. It simply stands (and the Christian would add, as a way to describe God’s creative act).

The Creation stories in Genesis 1-2.4a and 2.5b-3, not to mention the recreation story of Noah and the several other creation stories in the Tanakh, are not scientific. They are, simply, cosmological. They point us to God as a means to worship God, the Father Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth.

By the way, the Orthodox Church likewise affirms (theistic) evolution:

In short, then, Orthodoxy absolutely affirms that God is the Creator and Author of all things, that He is actively engaged with His creation, and that He desires to restore His creation to full communion with Himself through the saving death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. This, unlike Darwinism, is not a matter of ideology but, rather, a matter of theology.

Orthodoxy has no problem with evolution as a scientific theory, only with evolution—as some people may view it—eliminating the need for God as Creator of All.

Regardless of how we view the matter of evolution, we as believers must affirm the creedal point of God the Creator.

#Noah is unapologetically theological (first thoughts)

Noah is the first major, at least modern, representation of the tragedy, the horror, the genocide that is the Great Deluge enshrined in our biblical text. Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, and Emma Watson, Darren Aronofsky’s personal epic details the unknown, archaic past in such a way as to throw all of the bloody details about an adolescent god in your face.

In the lead up to this release, Ken Ham and other fundamentalists went on a bender, arguing and urging their followers to not see this movie. It was even banned in some countries. Yes, there are moments of real science-turned-myth, but I suspect the real reason Ham and his ilk wish to avoid this movie is not the nebula that becomes our sun, but the very real, and plain sense, portrayal of a God who creates a wonderful world, but after a series of misfortunes — actions he could have helped his creation to avoid — he simply abandons them to their own free will devices. After ten generations, he decides it is time to judge them. During the meantime, he has no contact with the line of Cain and only spotty, questionable contact with the line of Seth.

Believers are often faced with the questions we so avidly see displayed on screen. How could this wonderful creator, without cause — and indeed, he is more guilty than his creation — cause such destruction? In what little dialogue there is, it is not Noah that defends the murderous God, but the equally repugnant Tubalcain who maintains that he as a man was created in the image of God. It is only from the antagonist we hear the familiar refrain. Therefore, he will take what he wants and he will decide who lives and who dies. He is, after all, created in the image of the very Creator who is now deciding who lives and who dies. Noah, for his part, is pictured as a caring man, full of compassion for plants, animals, and his family. Noah, filled with compassion, defends God, even to the point of complete annihilation of the human race — by his hand.

In one stark image we are allowed to see the true horror of the story. Underneath the oceans of water there lies the whole of humankind, including women and children. We are reminded near the end of the movie that many who died were “good.” Yet, it was not these who were pulled to the surface and saved, but the animals. And Noah. The same Noah who spends many months plotting to kill the innocent in the name of his God.

It is not the actual science of our creation, overlayed with the myth of Genesis 1, that will startle the earnest believer. Rather, it is the poignant reminder that God forsook his Creation for 10 generations (according to Scripture) only to murder even the innocent.

The sources used in the movie does include Genesis, but so too the apocryphal along with some added Hollywood flair. There is a gritty feel to the movie, as needed. The dialogue is sparse; however, it is not so much the amount of dialogue in the movie that is important as the amount of dialogue from the movie that will remain.

But, even with all of this, there is a message we can grasp and it is just as powerfully deep as the other message is repugnant. It is that God will provide if we find the love hidden in us. Further, and something that warms my heart, the writers get eschatology correct.

There is no end, there is only a (new) beginning.

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Nothing, not even God

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Peter Enns has linked to and then offered some thoughts on this video.

The views expressed in the video about evolution and those who hold to some form of evolutionary life are simply poor caricatures. They offer diesem as my belief, but in reality, the only Deists are Young Earth Creationists, when God suddenly stopped creating. Their need for absolutes, as expressed by Ken Ham, shows a deep psychological issue that denies real faith, real morality, and a real God.

Further, prayer is not basic to Christianity. How he got that, I don’t know. Why he thinks those who allow evolution and belief in God do not pray, I don’t know.

Hear their words. They cannot imagine anything else but their own view. This is the theory of motivated reasoning in action. Hear the reasons why they believe. It is not based on the positive, but on the negative. What happens to them and their belief if they believe in evolution? Their fear, not their faith, shows. Then… at the end, they somehow confuse the mockery due their superstition with those who have died and who die because of their belief in Christ. I don’t even.

As discussed in my co-edited volume by various authors, evolution, science, and doubt all are allowed. Why? Because Christianity is not anti-science or anti-doubt. And our faith must include doubt.

In watching that video, I remember that stance and I realize just how faithless I really was.

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Cosmology or Biology? Did we miss something in the “Origins” Debate?

Miraikan: "Geo-Cosmos"
Miraikan: “Geo-Cosmos” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before you and I start with this post, read this one.

My favorite academic dean has written a post to which I left a comment and so forth:

Church Coffee: My Super-Strong Opinion About the Creation Debate.

He has raised an issue regarding the nature of the debate. The debate was about biological origins and not cosmological origins. In perfect timing, just a few days before the debate, Brian Greene spoke with Krista Tippett about cosmological origins. Neither Bill Nye nor Ken Ham (only one of these is actually a scientist) are physicists. Greene is actually one.

If you listen to Greene in this interview you will detect something uniquely spiritual, even if it is deism, in Greene’s words. But, in the end, he is a cosmologist. Ham thinks he is, by the way, because he is confusing biological origins on planet Earth with the creation of the cosmos. No doubt, without the cosmos, we couldn’t have biological origins; however, you can have the cosmos without the planet earth.

The cosmos, or rather, the deep mysteries of the creation of the cosmos was not discussed in Nye v. Ham 2014. Should it have been? Maybe, but at that point, the debate would have gotten far, far behind what either side could speak to.

Ham would simply point, again, to a man-made book (the bible).1 Nye could equally point to human-made computations. Both would have to start with a small view and it would get only worse.

But, the discussion of the cosmos is what fascinates me. This is why I like Brian Greene and Lee Smolin. When you read them, God (although they may object to that) becomes manifest. They cross the lines from cold science into warm philosophy. I would argue that the only reason either of them may claim atheism (Greene, I believe, claims to be agnostic) is that the definition of God presented to them is a rather small one. But listen to him and really listen to him.

Cosmological origins are the more interesting aspect because there we find God. Yet, we are stuck in the discussion of biological origins because there we think we find the Gospel. I believe the Gospel is not dependent upon what course life took to bring us to where we are now. Of course, this is theology, rather than science. The discussion of biological origins can only take us to a fixed point in time, some 4.5 billion years ago. It can draw a line from that time to this one. However, it does not answer what else God has been up to, even before the creation of this present universe.

Anyway, some continuing thoughts.

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  1. For those of you aghast at this phrase, I used the term “the bible” pointedly rather than calling it Scripture.