Dragons, Fossils, and the Bible

First Fossil HunterseRecently, I have been exploring the fascinating world of natural history. The earth and its origins are something I have always wanted to learn more about, but haven’t had the time. I just came across a fascinating article by biology professor, Jeff Duff, that talks about how legendary tales of Leviathan or dragons might have developed. The Young Earth Creationist museum in Kentucky built by Ken Ham treats fire-breathing dragons as real. He and other YEC also believe the earth was created in six literal days and is only 6,000 years old. That means they are forced to conclude human beings and dinosaurs lived at the same time. This flies in the face of science. Dinosaurs lived long before human beings. So, where did some of the legendary stories of creatures come from? What about the Bible’s mention of Leviathan or lion type creatures with wings?

As Adrienne Mayor points out in her book The First Fossil Hunters: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, and Myth in Greek and Roman Times, a likely explanation is that people in antiquity encountered bones and fossils of dinosaurs and imagined creative scenarios of what the creatures might have been like. Read the article discussing Mayor’s book on the very cool blog Naturalis Historia for the whole scoop.

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Where Is God in a World of Suffering?

As some of you may know, in addition to teaching Bible, I also provide spiritual care as a spiritual director. One of the handouts I wrote addresses the struggle many of us have wondering where God is amid suffering. With all the turmoil these days, I hope this post will provide some helpful reflection.

If God loves us and has a purpose for our lives, why is there so much suffering? What does it mean that God doesn’t stop tragedy from happening? Is God truly good?

Trying to make sense of suffering is as old as Job. One common tendency is to suggest a person did something wrong to incur God’s disfavor or “discipline.” However, the author of Job rejects claims that bad things only happen because God is angry. Innocent people do, in fact, suffer. When asked why a man was born blind, Jesus denied the cause was sin (John 9:1-3). Instead he says God is actively working to bring good into painful situations. Similarly, the author of Acts describes God directly opposing the forces that cause suffering (10:38).

Anglican pastor and theologian, Rowan Williams, says when it comes to trusting God sometimes the first baby step is to look to people who “take responsibility for God”: Continue reading

Is the Nashville Statement Biblical?

Less than a week ago, on August 25th, 2017, several conservative evangelical leaders gathered to hammer out the Nashville Statement during the annual Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) Conference, which took place in Nashville, Tennessee this year. The Statement was a joint endeavor of the ERLC and the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Modeled after the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI), the manifesto expresses concern about homosexuality and “transgenderism,” stating: “Our true identity, as male and female persons, is given by God. It is not only foolish, but hopeless, to try to make ourselves what God did not create us to be.” In response, progressive Christians have offered various alternatives, including the Denver Statement and A Liturgists Statement.  I want to address the question of whether the Nashville Statement is biblical, as well as comment on progressive responses.  Continue reading

The Question of Celibacy for Gay and Lesbian People

This is the last post in a five part series on same-sex relationships. The series is intended to be read in order. Each essay is essential for understanding the full picture. Click here to see all posts.

When I contemplate life-long celibacy, I feel both joy and sorrow. Joy when I think of Mother Teresa or theologian John Stott, both self-sacrificial people whose celibacy enhanced their life’s work. Wesley Hill also comes to mind, a celibate gay professor of New Testament who has blessed the church with rich theology of friendship and community. But my heart is sorrowful when I think of Ryan Robertson, a young man who grew up in a loving evangelical family and didn’t have the strength to bear the burden. For years he earnestly prayed, received counseling, and worked the program. The inability to change his sexual orientation and face a life without a family of his own became too much. The pain led to self-destructive coping mechanisms and he died at the age of 20. There is no question in my mind that if Ryan had been heterosexual, he would still be alive today. More specifically, if Ryan had been extended mercy by the church, instead of forced to do something beyond his capability, he would still be with us.

Life-long celibacy is beautiful and meaningful for those who have the grace and call for it. But it can lead to death for those who do not. In the discussion on same-sex relationships, traditionalists have not adequately wrestled with the question of permanent sexual abstinence. Is life-long celibacy achievable for anyone who attempts it (including an entire demographic, comprising millions of people)?[2] Does requiring mandatory life-long celibacy for gay and lesbian people inflict undue suffering that warrants mercy?[1] Sidestepping these questions, two recent books by traditionalists focus their attention on sexual orientation change and mixed orientation marriages before giving cursory attention to life-long celibacy.[3] Yet, research has shown sexual orientation change is uncommon and mixed orientation marriages have higher rates of divorce. A transparent response to the ethical debate requires seriously grappling with the question of mandatory life-long celibacy.   Continue reading

How Should the Bible Be Used for Ethical Practice?

This is the fourth post in a five part series on same-sex relationships. The series is intended to be read in order. Each essay is essential for understanding the full picture. Click here to see all posts.

In the previous post, I summarized key arguments in the debate on homosexuality. Traditionalists believe the biblical authors’ rejection of same-sex relations is rooted in God’s design for creation and, therefore, not culturally relative. Progressives interpret the prohibition in its cultural context where homoeroticism was primarily exploitative and, therefore, believe the inspired authors do not address covenanted same-sex partnerships. This is where the debate tends to stalemate. Even traditionalists who might be empathetic to the plight of gay people feel their hands are tied. This is not because traditionalists don’t accept arguments based on cultural relativity. Most conservative churches do not require women to wear head coverings.[1] Sermons against sex with a menstruating woman are unheard of despite the prohibition appearing in the same Levitical list as homoeroticism. And egalitarian traditionalists readily support women in leadership in the face of 1 Timothy 2:12. In other words, traditionalists do understand there is a cultural context and that some directives can be set aside. So why not the prohibition against same-sex relations? Traditionalists believe a creation ordinance is an absolute and unchangeable ethic.[2] How God ordered the universe transcends culture. The question now is whether this conclusion is always warranted. In this post, I explore how we draw ethics from Scripture.  Continue reading