hermeneutics_Banner

It’s time to end “innocent Biblical literalism”

Commenting on two intersecting issues: Christian evangelical college education in America and the evolution-creation debate, Brian McLaren made some excellent points about the underlying cause of some of the biggest issues in evangelicalism right now: an innocent literalism in interpreting the Bible. I don’t offer any solutions in this blog post, but just a good analysis of the problem from my friend:

Faith and Science in Evangelical Colleges

by Brian McLaren

A recent Huffington Post article details the ongoing struggle of Evangelical colleges over the theory of evolution.

Beneath this struggle is biblical literalism, which was the conceptual womb of many Evangelical colleges. In the commentary to my most recent book We Make the Road by Walking, I call this the “innocent literal” approach. It is diametrically opposed to what I call “critical literal” approach. (I propose a different alternative altogether – a critical literary approach.)

Innocent (or naive) Biblical literalism lies behind several other struggles too, including:
- Inability or unwillingness to rethink sexual orientation in light of new biological, psychological, and sociological science, resulting in ongoing stigmatization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, including their own sons and daughters.
- Inability or unwillingness to address the science of global warming, which has staggering consequences for life on our planet.
- Inability or unwillingness to see beyond a facile good-guy/bad-guy typology of the Israel-Palestine situation, which results in a prolongation (even an apocalpyt-ization) of a conflict that needs to be resolved.
- Inability or unwillingness to grapple with full equality for women as well as men, nonChristians as well as Christians, people of all races and nationalities, etc.

Among Evangelicals, innocent literalism is typically called “a high view of Scripture.” It is time for Evangelicals to realize that this is actually an immature view of Scripture. A critical literary approach takes the text in all its granularity more seriously and seeks meaning and truth in all the facets of the text. It is unafraid to ask any question or face any evidence. It takes seriously all dimensions of the text, including the evidence for how the compositions of Scripture evolved over time. It is, in this sense, a much “higher view.”

It is time for Evangelical parents to realize that spending $50,000-100,000+ in lower forms of higher education for their daughters and sons is a bad investment. We need Christian colleges to defect from the innocent-literal approach and dare to actually educate….

Church leaders, college and university leaders, campus ministry leaders alike – higher education demands a higher view of Scripture than the innocent-literalism that currently holds the purse-strings and pulls the puppet-strings.

Source: Brian McLaren

church-technology-of-the-future

Churches in 2024: How Technology Will Enhance Mission, by Captera

Last week, I spoke on the impact that smartphones will have on churches. You can listen to my session and download my slides here.

One of the resources I discovered while doing my preparation was the Captera church management blog. Captera provides software for a number of different markets, including churches. Their blog includes some excellent insights into how technology will enhance churches and mission in the future. One of the entries I enjoyed most was “Churches in 2024: How Technology Will Enhance Mission”. You can read this here, or an extended extract below:

Continue reading

church-technology-of-the-future

Smartphones and the church of the future

Yesterday I spoke at the Gracepoint Fast Forward leaders conference. My topic was “Succeeding in a Changing World”, and I focused my attention on the impact of mobile smartphone technology on the way we might do church in the future.

You can listen to the 55 minute session on SoundCloud here or below, and follow along with the slides by downloading a PDF here.

For more information about our church, click here, and to get information about our Fast Forward conferences follow the Facebook page here.

101015-space-telescope-230p.grid-6x2

By their fruit you shall know them: Ken Ham, young earth creationism, aliens and compassion

In Matthew 7, Jesus told his disciples that they were to beware of false prophets – people who would teach untruths and lead people astray. Jesus then gave a very simple test: no bad tree can produce good fruit, so just look for the “fruits” of their teaching. Elsewhere in Scripture, we are told what spiritual fruits are: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Where we see a breakdown or lack of love, joy, kindness, etc, we need to be alert to potential false teaching.

I was interested, in this context, to see Ken Ham’s latest pronouncements. Ken Ham is one of the world’s foremost young earth creationists, basing his pseudo-scientific views on a literal interpretation of the Bible’s accounts of creation. Young earth creationism is scientifically indefensible, and in my opinion fits into the “false teaching” category. All truth is God’s truth, and when someone denies plain truths evident in nature, they’re being just as false in their teachings as those who teach false theology.

Last week NASA announced that they expect to find alien life within a few years. Ken Ham and his organisation, Answers in Genesis, released a statement calling on NASA to stop wasting money. There is no alien life, Ham claims, because all life descends from Adam, and Adams sin affected the whole universe. (Stick with me on this ‘logic’:) Since Jesus died on this earth, no aliens would be able to be saved. God wouldn’t do this. Therefore, ipso facto, there can’t be aliens, so NASA is wasting money.

Huffington Post reported on this issue by stating the obvious implication that if aliens exist they will go to hell. Ham denies he said this. But here is what he actually said:

Continue reading

homosexuality questions

Answers to Kevin DeYoung’s questions for Christians who support gay marriage

A few days ago, Kevin DeYoung, author and senior pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, wrote an excellent article for the Gospel Coalition website entitled, “Five Questions For Christians Who Believe The Bible Supports Gay Marriage” (read it here). It is exactly the type of contribution we should be having on this important issue: clear, calm, reasonable, rational and inviting engagement. This is typical of Kevin’s style and contribution.

His five questions are really important. And they are addressed to Christians precisely like me: God-fearing, Jesus-following, Bible-believing, evangelical Christians who have become convinced “that Scripture does not prohibit same-sex intercourse so long as it takes place in the context of a loving, monogamous, lifelong covenanted relationship.” This is a topic I have spent over a decade researching, discussing and praying through, and am convinced that the traditional view on homosexuality is incorrect.

Here then are some answers, hopefully offered in the same tone as the original questions. For reasons that will become apparent, I’ll answer them in reverse order:

Continue reading

833

We Make the Road by Walking

One of the most anticipated books of the year is released today. My friend, Brian McLaren, launches his latest book, “We Make the Road by Walking”. I know that this book has been almost a decade in the making in his mind, and a full year of focused writing. Early reviews have been brilliant, and I am looking forward to getting my copy.

Here’s why you should get a copy.

This book is designed to take us on a journey through the Bible and the Christian faith in a year. It’s 52 chapters are short reads with reflections and group study guides. Organized around the traditional church year, each chapter reflects on a different story from Scripture and invites contemplation, discussion, and action.

People who are committed Christians, but have lots of questions, doubts, and frustrations with the version of faith they’ve been given and would like a fresh start are really going to get a lot from this book.

As Brian says: “You are not finished yet. You are ‘in the making.’ You have the capacity to learn, mature, think, change, and grow. You also have the freedom to stagnate, regress, constrict, and lose your way. Which road will you take?”

Read more about the book here. You can read the first three chapters online here.

Buy it:
Amazon.co.uk Paperback
Amazon.co.uk Kindle
Kalahari – in South Africa

UPDATE: Here is a review by Tony Jones.

UPDATE:
May online resources are now springing up to help you work through the book with small groups, families, etc.

Here’s one for families.

827

Parenting in a world gone mad

I wrote this article a number of years ago for a Parenting Magazine. The concepts that had been birthed in me eventually turned into a book that I co-wrote with Nikki Bush, “Future-Proof Your Child” (Penguin, 2009 – see here for purchasing options).

It was the early morning of Thursday, 10 August 2006. We had just landed after a long haul flight, the overnight non-stop from Johannesburg to Heathrow airport in London. Even though we hadn’t slept very well, we were all excited – after all, it was the start of our two week family holiday in England. Imagine our dismay as we were told on landing that we had to wait on the runway as there was some kind of security alert. Having already spent a night trying to stop our three daughters, Amy (7), Hannah (5) and Rebecca (16 months) from dismantling the plane, each other and the other passengers, this seemed like an announcement from hell.

We soon discovered that it was the morning that British police had taken some terrorist suspects into custody. They were part of a plot to blow up airplanes leaving from UK airports. Heathrow had been shut down.

The inconvenience and extra security was a pain, but understandable, of course. You’d rather be delayed and safe, than have terrorists be able to do what they want to. But what really alarmed me that day was trying to explain to my daughters why bad men would want to blow up planes. “Daddy, why don’t the bad men just speak to someone about what made them so angry? Daddy, did they want to kill us?”

It’s a Mad, Mad World

Living in South Africa, and more particularly in Johannesburg, we should have been prepared for questions like this at some stage. My oldest daughter is increasingly taking in the information from half-hourly news bulletins. I fear that Hannah, outgoing and fun-loving as she is, is beginning to sense that there are many ways in which her idealistic world can be shattered. My youngest daughter is currently oblivious to the bigger issues in the world. But, as an orphaned Zulu girl adopted into our family, she is a daily reminder to us that the world is very much less than perfect.

We live in a world seemingly gone mad. At a macro level, there is an increase in the “clash of civilizations”: East vs West, Poor vs Rich, First vs Third world, Christian vs Muslim, Black vs White, and so many other conflicts at a global level. The news is filled with war, natural disasters, crime, death and destruction. It is the same at the local level, especially in South Africa, as our fledgling country continues to grapple with the consequences of 40 years of simmering struggle, deliberate under-education of an entire generation and rampant unemployment. All of these contribute to unacceptable crime levels. Our whole world is very fragile indeed.

Continue reading

819

It’s all about the Bible – and it’s important!

The major debates raging in Christian circles these days all actually distil down to one big issue: how we interpret the Bible.

Many people treat the Bible as a combination of scientific textbook and heavenly constitution. If we believe this, then we can use verses and phrases to prove key points of differentiation and detail. We still have to explain away any competing statements or interpretations, but our approach is to look to the Bible for proof in the sense that modern day scientists, jurors or lawmakers would understand. The extreme view – which is completely untenable, but is still the idealised view of many conservative Christians – is that all of the Bible is “literally” true.

Liberals might find themselves on the opposite extreme claiming that the Bible contains little more than myths, legends and poems, and that it can really mean anything we want it to.

But maybe there are other ways to look at the Bible, that find a middle way between these two extremes.

This is the conversation that has taken hold in our time.

Brian McLaren recently created the following list of up-to-date resources for those who want to pursue this journey. I certainly do, and have found these very helpful:

Watch Steve Chalke’s video here:

Restoring Confidence in the Bible from Oasis UK on Vimeo.

Join in. This will define the future of Christianty for the next few centuries.

10727063-large

VIDEO: Brian McLaren on the Courage to Differ Graciously

Brian McLaren’s last book was about interfaith dialogue and how we can learn to be both fervently Christian and also gracious to those of other faiths. In a recent event hosted by The Guibord Center, Brian spoke about his book (Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World). You can watch the whole video here.

During the Q&A session, Brian gave some fantastic advice on how we should deal with people from within our own faith traditions who attack us and fight against us. I was both impressed and challenged by his advice, and extracted it in a short video. His simple message, and one I am trying to learn, is to have the courage to differ graciously.

For further reading on this vital issue, have a look at Brian’s own blog for two examples. And then read Mark McIntyre’s superb blog post on “Selective Grace in the Church“.

Graeme Codrington's musings on a new kind of Christianity