If this post doesn’t convince you to buy and read John H. Walton’s ‘The Lost World of Adam and Eve,’ perhaps comments here will.
Anyone encountering Evangelical/Fundamentalists learns quickly that the appeal in each case stands or falls on the Authority question.
…any challenge to scriptural integrity had the potential to undermine Christianity as they understood and practiced it.
That paragraph from Walton’s book identifies several errors to avoid. We are not to…
Read modern ideas into the text.
Arrogate authority to ourselves and our ideas.
Interpret the text as if it references modern science.
Define the role/function of authority outside the author’s intention and audience’s understanding [which would alter the text’s meaning].
Walton’s book might leave fundamentalists flummoxed. At the very least, it would be an expected turn. Fundamentalists: lectured for disrespecting Scripture… for undermining its authority by making it speak to modern, scientific questions? That sounds suspiciously like one of Ken Ham’s complaints with Pope Francis.
‘What the pope and many other religious leaders are saying is that God—and His Word—is open to change as society’s opinions change.’
Ken Ham censures Francis saying:
Pope Francis has compromised biblical authority in favor of man’s ideas in the area of origins.
I think Walton’s point is good. So as I see it, Ham falls under the censure of his own pen. Not that Ken Ham’s pen is so impressive.
So convincing are Ken Ham’s answers in ‘Answers in Genesis’ that Ian W. Panth adopted an evolutionary view of the cosmos because of him. Yet rather than ‘compromising’ biblical authority, Panth makes it clear that he was led to his conclusions by a rigorous study of Scripture. It was not his intent to overturn but to understand. A scholar in training, Ian Panth studied Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. His scholarship surpasses many Evangelical/Fundamentalists. And of Ken Ham, Ian Panth says:
He is not open to genuine dialogue with those he judges to be ‘compromised Christians.’
Unless one accepts Fundamentalism’s premises, there is little reason to embrace its conclusions. So this is about authority. When people think for themselves, when they question or offer alternatives to fundamentalism’s premises, the isolating/vilifying begins. This is especially damaging when the questions are asked honestly and seeking a way to believe…
Panth reads Walton with appreciation and recommends him to us. Ditto here. Like many others, Panth embraces a non-literal reading of Genesis 1-3 NOT to jettison faith, but to hold it fast. Panth also says that wherever Ken Ham’s version of things arises, it needs to be challenged vigorously on exegetical and theological grounds.
HB2 made the headlines and already we are being so blessed by it.
For the uninitiated, Itzhak Perlman is among the most accomplished violin virtuosos living today. And thanks to House Bill 2, his appearance scheduled for the North Carolina Symphony Orchestra season finale was cancelled. This will cost the orchestra hundreds of thousands in potential revenue just as musician contracts are opening for renegotiation. While in no way responsible, the orchestra must now face irate patrons who already purchased tickets for the cancelled event.
Meanwhile protesters march through Target stores spouting rhetoric. A Flush Target project plans to visit Target stores in the North Star State. No doubt other repercussions unforeseen by politicians will accrue from the septic ecclesial/political operating system running the Tar Heel State.
How do you gut the right to challenge discriminatory actions based on race, religion, color, origin, gender or physical disability? Easy. You let companies deny employees birth control or refuse to serve gays. After that, what is to say they can’t fire people for being atheists, Chinese or Jewish? Posing as a religious liberty bill, HB 2 becomes its opposite.
Under a near total news blackout is this clause:
I didn’t hear of any HB2 local minimum wage ban on the news. Did you?
Given the birther/birth-certificate nonsense, perhaps we can be forgiven for asking if we must now produce a valid birth certificate to use the loo.
This bears all the marks of a well-planned and funded political operation designed to further confuse an already exhausted and disoriented public. As danger of world war mounts, poverty and inequality increases, society is militarized and states adopt dictatorial politics, House Bill 2 emerges disingenuously as the most critical issue of the day. This is political fraud.
A Political Operation
Did I say, ‘political operation?’ Yes. Consider these partners in crime: Matt Staver’s Liberty Council and Joseph Farah’s World Net Daily.
The Southern Poverty Law Center identifies the Liberty Council as a hate group known to encourage defiance of law and disobedience of court orders. Christian lawyer Anita Staver has legitimized gun violence against transgendered persons. Her husband, Liberty Council President Matthew Staver is also tied to some bizarre and extremist statements regarding gays and lesbians. According to Matt Staver:
The stridency of Mr. Staver’s remarks suggest that he himself might be willing to lead such an insurrection. Such words say more about Staver than gays. His words also speak volumes about those who retain relations with him, such as Liberty University and World Net Daily.
On a somewhat related theme, and writing for Political Theology Today is University of Mount Olive assistant professor of religion Hollis Phelps. He says that the bathroom ruckus doesn’t concern ‘common sense’ so much as religious identity.’ For him, it really is no surprise at all religious leaders turned out for this. Phelps’ analysis is worth the read.
Recognizing a political operation for what it is, we might envision a totally different outlook on HB2 issues. While not addressing issues, the rest of this post introduce some levity to this subject. A European practice might help us laugh at ourselves and become better for it. Laughter is a potent tool. When we laugh at something, it’s hold on us relaxes greatly.
Meet the Pissoir
For more than 150 years, pissoirs have facilitated half the elimination functions of half the people in Europe. Pissoirs are used in broad daylight. Design and technology varies over time; the function remains unchanged. Paris, London, Madrid, Lisbon, Ghent, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Vienna, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Montreal, Sydney and other great cities embrace the pissoir. [Don’t miss the mouse-over texts].
Meet US Transgendered Bathrooms
Will the Project Flush Target billboard truck generate consternation? Yes. This is, after all, the United States. But others will see our hysteria as folly whether or not it is recognized as a political operation.
Despite assertions to the contrary, no cosmic consequences will befall civilization because it switched to transgendered bathrooms. Declaring otherwise is fundamentally dishonest. By arguing to the contrary, and by allowing itself to be targeted by and absorbed into reactionary political operations, evangelical/fundamentalist sects have revealed their own weaknesses, secularity and disability to be the presence of Christ.
Some of the actions surrounding North Carolina House Bill 2 are childish, some are sincere but misguided. HB2 itself is a political attack on working people. Rather than supporting it, Christians ought to be the first to stand by working people, their families and their communities. Too often, we have failed and refused to be good neighbors. This shames Jesus Christ.
This controversy has nothing to do with preserving civilization or Christian decency. Political attacks are not devices of God’s kingdom, and Christians who support them do Christ’s body no service. Church leaders would better protect their congregations from such narratives and attacks by exposing them. A church that adopts alternative, narrative fictions is no true church of Jesus Christ at all. The manual for kingdom politics is the Biblical canon. The text of HB2 can be accessed here. They differ markedly in both word and spirit.
Transgendered or not, some of us would just like to get on with our lives, to hear great music, to do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with our God…and occasionally, to take a leak.
Few things match Fundamentalism’s ability to produce a steady stream of caricatures for consumption by curiosity-hungry evangelicals. Back at the highly acclaimed [so says his Twitter account] Creation Museum, Ken Ham is a case in point as he flogs atheists with a deluge of tweets for planning an upcoming ‘Reason Rally’ at the Lincoln Memorial.
And that’s not all on Ken’s mind!
Ken is devoting considerable attention to his ark, with its spacious levels, teaching exhibits, quarters for Noah’s family and costumed mannequins. No seriously! Oh, and there’s the 1500 seat restaurant which, barring a flood or some other unforeseen incident, is to open July 7.
And the glorious rationale behind all this?
Ignoring how a replicated ark relates to militant atheism, one wonders how many atheists recognize their own thoughts in Ham’s depictions. After all, it isn’t as if Christians unanimously declare for a universal flood. But of course, they can be written off as closet atheists.
Not so easily dismissed are fiscal questions regarding Ham’s abusement park. Tracey Moody tracked this and the issues her sharp-eyed analysis raises may prove more than a little embarrassing to Mr. Ham.
Among the issues Ms. Moody raises are:
Heavy promotion of ark bonds [that URL is now up for sale].
Dubious projections about some 2 million visitors the first year, and those mainly un-churched people.
The small community of Williamstown may be left with bills it can’t afford after investing in preparations for a project that goes south.
The ark project was ‘busted’ by Americans United for accepting state tax incentives while violating hiring practices.
Tracey Moody names other financial/legal concerns relevant to ‘Ark Encounter’ and ‘Answers in Genesis’ [another outfit Ken Ham CEOs]. Interested persons ought to read her article here. Nor is she alone in criticizing Ken Ham’s operations. Mark Joseph Stern at Slate called Ham’s bonds ‘junk bonds‘ adding that they are ‘unrated, an indication that they’re extremely risky—and almost impossible to resell.’
Dan Arel’s article at ‘onFaith’ also makes points that merit hearing. One is his saying that while Ham’s other projects, ‘Answers in Genesis’ and his ‘Creation Museum’ are non-profits [I haven’t checked this], his Ark Encounter is a for-profit organization. It does seem clear however, that Ark Encounter regards itself as an evangelistic outreach.
Dan also makes this observation:
‘I suspect Ham knows that hateful opposition drives donations. If he can say that religion is under attack, he can drum up financial support from donors.’
One wishes that Christians would see through the hucksterism baptized with ecclesial language. But then many Christians won’t see Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter as the colossal misappropriation of resources that it is. Nor will they see it as an equally colossal distraction from mission.
Meanwhile, Ken will continue to keyboarding for his kingdom…
Your IFB church is a going concern. It has a foreign missions program, a bus ministry [local missions program], a little lambs ministry, a summer youth camp, a Sunday School program, and a discipleship program. It also supports a Fundamentalist Christian college. And there is house visitation with a tract ministry, plus other things.
But what if you missed something?
For their deeds, toil and perseverance, for their refusal to suffer evil people, and their faithfulness in testing teachings, for their stand for Jesus Name and their tirelessness in that stand [Re 2:2f.], the church at Ephesus faced possible extinction. Why? One thing was missing [Re 2:5].
Thankfully, that church [at least] had a clear word on this. Jesus said:
‘I have this against you, that you have left your first love’ [Re 2:4].
But what YOUR church DIDN’T have such a word? Many things could be that ‘one thing’ missing. That’s the problem.
What if they were lacking humility?
What if they were missing patience?
What if their generosity was lagging?
Or what if they were missing purity?
What if more submission was needed?
What if they were not fully honest?
What if they did not fully trust God?
Not all churches have the benefit of Jesus’ direct analysis on their local situation. Can you see that agreeing on the issue might be a problem? Who decides, how, and on what basis?
That ‘one more thing’ can become an impossible, crushing burden. Easily. Especially in a worldview where little details make huge differences, the ‘one more thing’ can be profoundly troubling for knowing where you or your church stands in relation with God.
Also, it is EASY to begin second guessing ourselves in our personal lives. Have I repented sufficiently? Or, have I repented with sufficient sincerity? There really is no way to know for sure. And that hands unscrupulous ‘pastors’ an inordinate and hence unhealthy measure of power to influence/damage congregant souls.
Jesus protested that the lawyers and Pharisees tied heavy burdens on others’ shoulders, while they themselves were unwilling to move so much as a finger. Could this be instructive for our time?