Barriers to Understanding the Truths of Creation


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Why do so many God-fearing people reject new interpretations of scriptures relating to how the universe, the world and mankind were created by God? How does one define – what is true? What is truth? For each person – early in life, truths are based on what they have been taught to believe by parents and other authoritative persons. Later, what one views as truth – on important matters – this may change based on new information (data) and/or personal experiences.

Sometimes individuals resist believing changes in matters they hold very dear. They often allow their emotions rather than their intellect to control what they believe. Their truths are the same truths their families have held for generations and they will be defended at all costs. They may not be open to new information and will avoid addressing unfamiliar and complex ideas because their educational background limits what they are prepared to evaluate and attempt to believe.

The beautiful stories of beginnings given to us in the early chapters of the book of Genesis express broad and general information that people of the Old Testament could understand.  The powerful and central message was that “God created the Heavens and the Earth.” This landmark statement establishes the foundation and source of beginnings through the power and creative nature of our heavenly Father. Somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit gave to Moses and other early biblical writers, the next level of detail, seven sequential events that broadly describes how God created the universe, the earth and then all living creatures. These allegorical writings set the stage for later understandings of God’s creation processes. The detailed knowledge of how the world came into being could not possibly be understood by the first generations of ancient people. At this point in pre-history, science did not even exist as a known discipline. Over three thousand years of evolutionary history would be required by scientists to discover and understand the mechanics of how God put together the complete story of creation. To reach our current level of understanding, God would allow and help create multiple scientific fields of study such as: biology, physics, chemistry, geology and paleontology (to name a few) to evolve and identify the detailed pieces of God’s creation plan.

It has taken the International Scientific community over the last several hundred years to recognize and agree that: the Universe is 13 billion or more years in age, the earth is 3 to 4 billion years old and mankind struggled through several million years of evolution to become fully human. To be fully human, God’s upright, bipedal creatures had to slowly acquire brain sizes that finally attained the knowledge to discern the difference between right and wrong, the power to love and care and thus gain a human conscience. Most Christians believe the Holy Spirit was involved in this first awakening  of fully human beings. This broad and general description of God’s evolutionary process is recognized as fact – not just theory – by the overwhelming majority of informed scientists in every country in the world. Wow, what a marvelous beginning!

So today, turning a page to national statistics, we learn (in 2014) that only about 27% of our adult population have a bachelor’s degree or higher in some discipline. This means that about two-thirds (or more) of all students have not had any chance (maybe a little in high school) to be exposed to the details of this evolutionary process. In some rural areas, this percentage is even larger.

If these statistics are true, there is good reason to understand why so many fine Christian people reject or simply avoid scientific reports of God’s creation that seem to negate their traditional understandings and the literal words of the Bible. Many would conclude that accepting modern scientific creation explanations is a vote against the Biblical story. In reality, this is not true – one must learn to understand that God’s Word in the bible and later scientific interpretations are very compatible.

It may be helpful to reflect on the Christian values received from the Bible. While many of God’s important messages are wrapped in ancient historical stories, one must remember that God’s Word in the bible is about: purpose, meaning and God’s struggle to evolve a primitive civilization to believe in one God. The Bible was never meant to be a science book. To attempt to interpret scripture as a scientific explanation of creation is a mistake practiced by many good folks expecting the writers of the bible to literally explain the details of God’s complex creation process. It is only through intelligent and prayerful thinking that God’s people may begin to understand how the broad and beautiful report of beginnings, recorded in the book of Genesis, may be reconciled with the abundance of new and detailed facts which the scientific community has accumulated over the last millennium.

In the middle of intense debates about creation, some well-meaning Christians rationalize that understanding the truths of God’s creative processes are of little importance.  They suggest that the center of our Christian faith is given to us in the New Testament through the life, teachings and sacrifices of Jesus, and thus, the details of Creation do not seriously impact our Christian faith. I disagree with this conclusion.. If the Christian faith is about anything meaningful, it is about seeking to understand truths. The real creation story discovered by the full world scientific community is absolutely true – even if some of the details are not yet fully understood. It is the most exciting, logical and inspiring story anyone could ever imagine.

John Wesley, gave us the Wesleyan Quadrangle containing the proper elements for making serious decisions:  Reason, Tradition, Experience and Scripture. Surely, the more knowledgeable all Christians become regarding the real truths of God’s evolutionary creation, the more attractive the Christian faith should become for all intelligent and educated people. Think about this:  Why would a young college educated Christian want to be associated with a traditional church that hangs on to the literal words of the bible suggesting that the universe and mankind were created in seven, twenty-four hour days? And we wonder why many young adults are leaving or avoiding the churches of their parents.

As for all dedicated Christians who, for whatever reasons, do not have the fortune of advanced education, please study when you can, keep an open mind, and pray that God will help you to believe these scientists that have given us all so many beautiful, complex, and useful scientific inventions to enjoy. Although we trust but do not always understand their creation. God surely blessed us with many wonderful scientific discoveries long after the Bible was written.

Please know that all of this written presentation is meant to inform, wake up traditional thinkers, strengthen their Christian faith and hopefully help our traditional churches, in every denomination, to survive and grow. “O Lord, please help us all to accept these truths!”

Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

W.F. Peck, Jr.

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Modern Beliefs About Creation

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Modern day Christians need to adjust their theological understandings of the biblical story of beginnings as new scientific facts are uncovered. We have all been raised and “schooled” to accept the traditional and cultural interpretations of the early chapters of the book of Genesis – that is, God created the universe and the earth in a short period of time (one week).

Current scientific facts clearly disclose that the universe, and later, planet earth, to be billions of years old. Are these scientific facts reliable? Have they been proven beyond any doubt to be accurate? Yes they have! But rather than trying to understand a set of complex scientific proofs, most layman would opt to believe what a majority of competent scientists believe. International statistics consistently report that 95% of all informed scientists – across the entire world- believe in these evolutionary facts. Additionally, most educated adults accept these scientific facts as being true, even though they may not understand the technical details. Also, the vast majority of our most highly educated clergy (in all denominations) believe in the evolutionary process.

So do these new scientific discoveries undermine or discount the value of the Bible? Of course not! God has continued to reveal more and more about his beautiful creation every year through modern science. God’s biblical messages regarding creation are still true. Although modern knowledge of the processes have been refined- God is still at the center of Creation!

Even so, many traditional Christians still have trouble accepting new scientific information. Most layman do not understand the scientific processes – that appear to contradict the Bible. Well, can we agree that many of God’s best messages are often hidden behind the literal words of the Bible – in metaphorical or allegorical stories? Jesus used similar teaching methods through parables. If one cannot accept this premise, then surely one will find interpretations of certain scriptures to be troublesome. Please remember, St. Augustine of Hippo, one of the founding fathers of Christian theology – in about 300AD – stated: “When scientific facts appear to be in conflict with scripture, it is time to reinterpret scripture.” Traditional thinking has not been wrong, it simply requires intelligent updating.

Since some would suggest that none of this discussion impacts our central beliefs regarding the life and teachings of Jesus, why worry about it? I disagree. Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”. If Christianity is to remain viable in the lives of human kind, it must be about truth. Our young people are progressively exposed to more and more scientific information. They are smart, analytical and perceptive. Their school training is complex and comprehensive and includes studies of scientific creation. They are far ahead of most mature adults in their learning. It only takes a few years of college training or experience in the work place for them to discover many new truths about God and his creation. How can we expect them to remain loyal to their traditional family churches that tend to hide from or give lip service to scientific truths? This topic is crucial to keeping our traditional churches viable and growing for future generations.

As I view it, there are five (5) related reasons why scientific truths are ignored or suppressed by many Christian churches:

1). Many pastors cling tenaciously to the literal interpretation of all scriptures because it fits well with the educational level of the majority of their church members. Tis far easier to promote peace and harmony than intellectual analysis.

2). Many pastors, who intellectually believe in scientific evolution, will admit it privately, but stay away from it in their public pronouncements. Why is this? Pastors have to weigh carefully what they say from the pulpit – regarding nontraditional matters, for fear of confusing or losing many loyal church members. In my view, they are placating the older traditional members while risking the loss of their now grown children. Carefully planned and objectively presented educational programs are the answer.

3). Knowledge of Scientific Evolution is very complex and continuously changing. Even the scientific community cannot provide clear and simple answers to many creation questions. Most people do not have the educational background to grasp highly technical concepts. Our public libraries offer dozens of well written books on scientific creation, written by both theologians and scientists, that most layman can understand. Unfortunately, most senior citizens do not care or will not change their traditional beliefs regarding creation.

4). The fundamental movement across America attracts many people who prefer a simple, literal and traditional interpretation of all scriptures. It seems sad and wasteful for so much time and energy to be expended defending outdated and inaccurate interpretations of scripture.

5). Scholars (on both sides – scientific and religious) have for centuries had great difficulties blending our beautiful Christian beliefs with new and ever changing scientific knowledge. This must be done. Substantial progress has been made in the last few years toward understanding God’s real processes of creation. Fully understood, the scientific explanations for God’s processes of creation are exciting, rational and inspiring. The future of our wonderful, traditional churches may be dependent on this encouraging trend.

 

Written by W.F. Peck

Key Theological Messages from “Making Sense of the Bible” By Adam Hamilton

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Adam Hamilton is not only a great speaker and writer, but he is pastor of the largest Methodist church in the world in Leawood, Kansas, The UMC of the Resurrection. I am attracted to his theology because it makes great sense and answers many troublesome questions Christians face today in a world where understandings of the bible range from super conservative “fundamentalists” on one end to “progressive or liberal thinkers” on the other end. My theology has evolved through the years from lessons learned from a devoted Christian mother who was a traditional fundamentalist –  raised and taught in small Methodist churches in the South. Over time, study, prayer and counsel with theologians, I have developed a more liberal view of the Bible but still hold tightly to the messages of Jesus presented to us in the gospels and in many of Paul’s writings.

The most troublesome scriptures, for me, are found in the Old Testament. One must start by asking this question: Is the God of Old Testament the same God as the God of the New Testament? And the answer has to be – of course he is – God does not change, but perhaps people’s understandings of him change.Most of us were taught at an early age that: “The Bible is God’s Word”. Well, in a broad sense, this statement is okay – but it can cause problems if the reader interprets this to mean – every single word in the Bible comes from God. I do not support this position. In the Torah, the Mosaic Law says: “Thou shall not work on the Sabbath subject to the death penalty.” Jesus said: “The Sabbath was made for man – not man was made for the Sabbath”. It makes more sense to say: “The Bible contains God’s Word”. There are just too many passages written by priests, scribes, prophets and historians in the first century AD, that just do not ring true to the messages given to us by Jesus in the New Testament.

Adam Hamilton presents a strong case in explaining that “divine Inspiration” does not mean that God commanded or directed or even wrote any of the words of scripture. The word “inspiration” applied to scripture should be understood the same as “inspiration” received by pastors and Sunday school teachers in our modern world. They all pray for guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire their thoughts and biblical messages.

Some still think “inspiration” means that God composed the bible word for word. But the word “inspiration”, at least in English, is quite different in meaning from the words “composition or dictation”. “Inspiration”, at least in English, does not mean perfection.
Adam Hamilton said: “Just precisely how does inspiration work? We feel moved, provoked, aroused, stimulated, influenced, urged to do something. Paul may be saying: each biblical author was moved , provoked, roused, stimulated, influenced or urged to write. “

Here are further quotations from Adam Hamilton that have helped me understand “inspiration”: “Many Christians read the word “inspired” or “God breathed” in 2 Timothy 3:16 and immediately give a definition that Paul himself did not give. To them “God breathed” means something very close to “God dictated”. This doctrine is often referred to as verbal, plenary inspiration. Verbal, plenary inspiration is not taught in the Bible” ….. “Plenary” means – complete in every respect and absolute. “ It was a way of building a fence around the Bible and making it impossible to question it or any doctrine built around it” – says Hamilton.

Verbal, plenary inspiration and the doctrine of the inerrancy and infallibility of the bible go hand in hand” – Says Adam Hamilton. “This new foundation for the Christian faith, namely that Christianity is true because the Bible is infallible, inerrant, totally true and trust worthy, feels to me like a house of cards that can easily be brought down.” John Wesley gave us direction to make serious decisions or interpretations of scripture using a combination of; Tradition, Experience, Reason and Scripture.

The people who wrote the various books of the Bible shaped their views according to the times in which they lived and the limitations of their knowledge. To those of us who teach Bible, it involves reading, praying and interpreting scripture with the help of our faith, the experience of the Holy Spirit and the use of human reason. We are then able to view the bible, to hear God speaking through it, but to still understand that we may question certain things presented in scripture that may not represent God’s true character nor his will for our lives today. It seems fair to conclude that the words of the bible reflect in some places, the limitations, biases and interpretations of its human authors.

Hamilton tells us that God speaks to us in many ways other than the Bible:

  • Through the created world
  • The whisper in our hearts
  • Through human prophets, teachers, and preachers
  • Through friends and parents
  • Other written words – outside the Bible
  • Through music – both contemporary and classical
  • Through visions and dreams

Another outstanding quote from Hamilton’s book is:
“So the phrase “the Word of God” as it is used in the Bible is almost always a message from God, disclosed at times through angels, sometimes directly to the heart of the individual, sometimes through dreams and visions, often through preaching and teaching and at times through a whisper. The phrase is used to describe a message conveyed, most often, through human beings, but which is believed to express or reveal God and God’s will.”

“The bible is not an autobiography. You can read God’s actual words in many places, but you can also hear the human author’s reflections upon God and their attempts to put into words the nature, character and will of God” – says Rev. Hamilton.

When Biblical authors wrote, they did not enter into a trance like state in which God dictated the scriptures word for word. Paul wrote what was on his heart and mind. He did not claim to be speaking directly from God. He assumed the responsibility for his own sermons and writings. Luke or John, in their writings, did not claim that God told them what to say.

Many fine Christians hold strongly to a doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. Adam Hamilton had the courage to state: “If by Biblical inerrancy we mean that “those truths that God wants humanity to know, are preserved without error in the Bible, I’m ready to sign on. But if by Biblical inerrancy we mean that the bible contains no errors, no logical inconsistencies, no facts that are not historically accurate, I’d have to say, no, the Bible is not inerrant.”

Some would argue: if there is an error anywhere in the Bible, how can we trust anything it says? The answer is simple – we are constantly trusting the words of people whom we have found to be trustworthy, even though none of them are inerrant or infallible.

He further said, “No pastor is infallible or inerrant. God knows this and chooses to use fallible people to do his work. God doesn’t make them infallible when they step into the pulpit, yet God works through them nonetheless. The divine inspiration of scripture was not God dictating the scriptures but God working in the hearts and minds of the biblical authors”.

It is important to remember that as we work to interpret scripture, we must not discount what is inconvenient or challenging simply because it is difficult. When we find something that is inconsistent with the way God reveals himself through Jesus Christ, we may legitimately ask questions. It is Jesus and his teachings that serve as the final Word by which other words are to be judged.
Adam Hamilton speaks eloquently about the story of beginnings. Genesis 1 is a majestic, beautiful and poetic. It is not a lesson in cosmology, it is a creed. It is not a science lecture – it is poetry. It makes a claim not about scientific knowledge but about truth and theology. As a creed, a hymn of praise to God, and a theological lesson about the ultimate nature of existence – yes – but as a scientific text – no. … It tells us what late Bronze and Iron Age people of the ancient Near East believed about the order of creation. When we treat this text as a scientific account, we miss the point, and we end up with bad science.

“I appreciate Darwin’s Theory of Evolution”, says Hamilton. “Evolution does not diminish God’s glory, as some Christians seem to believe. To me it magnifies God’s glory. Science teaches one kind of truth, and it is really important and wonderful. The Bible teaches another kind of truth – about the meaning of existence, the nature of God and what it means to be human.”

“Sometime, maybe as early as, 35,000 to 45,000 years ago, there was an upright, bi-pedal hominid that began to think in ways other hominids did not. The biblical language for what was taking place is that God breathed into these hominids the “breath of life”: and they became “living beings” – fully human and made in the image of God. The story of Adam and Eve, their temptations and mistakes, is the story of all of us. It is the story of the earliest modern humans and how God gave them a soul and of their initial choice of “free will” that lead them to act against the will of God.

And then we have the story of Noah and his ark. Did God destroy every animal and every human being on the earth –except Noah and his family on the ark about 4300 years ago? Hamilton says – “I don’t think so”. The story seems to be anchored in historical events that happened at the end of the last Ice Age when floods and volcanic eruptions were common. But is the story of Noah’s ark true? Well, literally – no – but in a theological sense – yes, it is absolutely true! Like the Creation story, this story teaches profound truths.

So in summary, from what we have learned, we can state without any doubt that:

  • The vast majority of scriptures reflect the timeless will of God for human beings.
  • There are other passages that reflect God’s will in a particular time but not for all time, including much of the ritual law of the Old Testament.
  • There are scriptural passages that reflect the culture and historical circumstances in which they were written but never reflected God’s timeless will, like those related to slavery.
  • The bible is not a theological textbook, a book of praise or an owner’s manual. It is a compilation of various types of literature, including short stories, poetry, wisdom sayings, prophetic warnings, gospels and letters written over the course of 1,400 years.
  • The words of Jesus are the words by which all other words should be interpreted and understood.
  • You are not dishonoring God by asking questions of scripture that seem inconsistent with modern scientific knowledge or geography or history.
  • You are not being unfaithful to God if you ask questions of a verse that seems inconsistent with the picture of God seen in life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus.
  • The Holy Spirit prompts and inspires you, but it does not dictate what you think, say or do.
  • You are not judging God by wrestling with the Bible, you are asking questions of the human authors of scripture.

This writing does not do full justice to this marvelous book: “Making Sense of the Bible” by Adam Hamilton. It has been a blessing in my life and I’m sure it would be the same for any open minded Christian.
W. F. (Bill) Peck

To Become Fully Human- Prehistoric Man Must Choose to Disobey God

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Interpreting Scripture

The true meaning of the eating of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil presented to us in Genesis, chapter three, has troubled God’s people since the beginning of modern history. Prior to this act of disobedience, only partially human, upright bipedal hominids existed. The bible symbolically identifies these first pre-humans as Adam and Eve. Hominids, God’s very early human creatures, were innocent of sin because they were not yet fully human with a conscience and an understanding of the difference between right and wrong.

There were metaphorically two important trees at the center of the mythical Garden of Eden – the Tree of  Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life (immortality). Although in the third chapter of Genesis, God instructs Adam and Eve not to partake fruit from the tree of good and evil, they disobeyed God for the first time and ate the forbidden fruit. While God clearly objected to this act of disobedience, this  symbolic act is the key to mankind reaching full maturity. Scriptures tell us – their eyes were opened and they realized who they were – and they were ashamed of their nakedness. God then said: “Man is now like God” – with intellect, a conscience and the ability to discern the difference between right and wrong. 

Based on a traditional interpretation of scripture, God objected to Adam and Eve’s act of disobedience and  “slapped their wrists” with several metaphorical penalties. They were ordered to leave the Garden of Eden – (it was time for mankind to move out into the real world) and also work and sweat at their labor (normal conditions for all responsible humans). Worries about birth pains seem superfluous since near humans had for thousands of years experienced birth pains.

If one reflects carefully on the Genesis story, it is obvious that any act of disobedience must be initiated by man for surely God would not initiate such an act. Throughout the history of mankind, imperfection, disobedience and rebellion against God have been the “Human Condition”. A positive interpretation of this historic event, outlined in detail in the third chapter of Genesis, represents mankind’s first act of adult thinking and choosing for the first time to exercise a free will.

To be made in the full image of God means (in part): Man became aware of his intellect, powers of reasoning and a sensitive conscience.

The early scriptures do not tell us if it was God’s plan to allow his pre-human creatures to become fully human. The scriptural wording seems to suggest that God temporarily resisted this evolutionary process. A more positive interpretation of Genesis three expresses a beautiful story of how humanity came into being. Man’s initial act of disobedience inaugurated and emancipated the human race.

Genesis three also reports that God chose to block mankind from partaking of fruit from the Tree of Life – that is to immediately allow man to gain eternal life – immortality. God, in his infinite wisdom, knew that the goal of attaining immortality must be a slow and life long struggle for humanity – not something man should gain instantaneously. The entire Old Testament presents mankind with a continuing struggle to gain eternal life which culminates with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Christian theology of the western culture was to a large extent developed and presented to us through the writings of Bishop Augustine of Hippo. This great theologian gave us the terminology  of: “Original Sin” and the “Genesis Fall of Mankind”. Neither of these ideas is mentioned in the Bible. Most modern biblical scholars discount the Augustine theory that every generation has biologically inherited the initial sin of Adam and Eve – their act of disobedience. They also object to Augustine’s conclusion that all unbaptized babies are doomed to hell!

It is true that fully human beings possessing a free will, can choose to act in accordance with God’s will or can select to perform ungodly acts. The existence of evil in the world is part of the “Human Condition”, but each person has the choice , every day, to choose to do good or evil. To agree with Augustine’s theory of “original Sin” tends to absolve mankind of the responsibility to exercise its God given right of free will.

Interpreting Scientific Information

This positive interpretation of the meaning of the events presented in Genesis, chapter three, matches well with our current scientific knowledge regarding the slow and gradual evolution of God’s primordial creatures. For at least the last four hundred years, anthropologists, archeologists, geologists and paleontologists, all over the world, have unearthed, dated and classified bones, skulls and fossils of pre-human (hominids). Several million years ago, hominid brain sizes were only 400cc according to scientific measurements of ancient skulls. Over long periods of time brain sizes developed and grew to 1000cc and finally at the dawn of humanity, Homo sapiens brains were 1450cc – about the same size as modern humans.

At this point in pre-history, evidence abounds that these nearly human upright, bi-pedal creatures were:

  • Creating stone weapons and tools
  • Cooking over fires
  • Caring for their families
  • Organizing into groups (tribes)
  • Presenting creative art and pictures on walls
  • Burying their dead with preparations for an after life

At some point in time, most experts believe between 6000BC and 10,000BC, God breathed his Holy Spirit into these evolved hominids and they became fully human. In Hebrew theology this marvelous act of God is identified as the “Neshama”. Man is fully whole – with a free will, a conscience and the capacity to discern the difference between right and wrong for the first time.

Understanding these scientific facts and believing in God’s messages expressed in metaphorical language through the stories of Adam and Eve, offers a giant leap in mans ability to blend scientific information with our holy scriptures.

There is no question that God created human – kind over eons of time using all of his laws of nature and bringing the culmination  of his final acts to us through the beautiful stories in the early chapters of the book of Genesis. It is the most logical and inspiring explanation of God’s evolutionary processes that any educated student of the Bible could ever imagine!

This wonderful reconciliation of our current scientific knowledge, with God’s messages hidden in the book of Genesis, will greatly enhance our chances of attracting and keeping younger, educated Christians loyal to our traditional churches. More open and totally honest dialogues are needed by church leaders if this reconciliation  is to be meaningful and supportive of God’s work through his churches.

Oh Lord, we pray, someday our church leaders will have the intellect, knowledge and courage to abandon misleading, traditional interpretations of Old Testament scriptures and thus strengthen the effectiveness of their Christian callings.

 By W.F.Peck

The Ancient Christian Church in a Modern World

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I love the Bible and its messages from God – such as the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians … and I love the poetry expressed by the King James Version – “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass or a tickling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing….” Modern versions of this scripture  change “charity” to “love” and that’s okay as well. 

I am sensitive to the possibility that my modern scientific knowledge may tend to over shadow the central and beautiful messages of the life, teachings, crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. However, I  envision this expression of my thoughts to be within the shadow of the Cross – the center of our Christian faith.

As a small boy, I regularly attended Sunday School and Church in a small Methodist church near Atlanta in rural south Fulton County. My Sunday School teachers were beautiful volunteers with little formal education and little or no training in Christian teachings. They worked hard to support their families and prepared their SS lessons the best they could on Saturday nights. I think it would be fair to say they were – for the most part- fundamentalists who believed in the literal interpretations of all scripture. They worked diligently for the building of God’s Kingdom with all the tools and knowledge they possessed. Sixty and seventy years later, I can still remember their faces and their names. I owe a great debt to these Christian servants for who I am today.

And then I grew up, graduated from Ga. Tech in Civil Engineering, served in the military, got married and established a professional career. Being around the fast moving construction boom of the fifties and sixties, I learned  quickly about science and God’s complex universe. I personally dug sharks teeth from construction excavations in south Georgia and studied Geology extensively. Geological evidence quickly proved that our prehistoric oceans covered all of Florida and South Georgia up to the “fall line” from Augusta to Macon to Columbus, Georgia. The Grand Canyon was far larger and deeper than any series of ancient floods could possibly create.

 So as a young engineer, I began to evaluate my Christian beliefs in light of the new scientific information I was accumulating. Questions like: How old is the Universe and the Earth and how could the Bible be accurate in the book of Genesis  to state that the earth was created in six – twenty four calendar days? How was first man and woman really created?

Archeological and Paleontological excavations by international scholars all over the world were consistently unearthing skeletons of prehistoric primates that eventually stood on two (bi-pedal) legs, grew in brain size and intelligence and approached being human several million years ago.  Within a few thousand years BC –  God saw fit to breathe his Holy Spirit into his developed creatures and fully human man emerged!  What an inspiring history!

Has my creative imagination gone awry? Are these just hopeful wishes of an old, retired, fanatic Civil Engineer/Geologist? Well, if you sincerely wish to seek out the truth – ask a thousand informed scientists in a hundred countries about this evolutionary process. Ninety plus percentage of them will surely support my conclusions. If that is not enough, read ten of fifty books written by scientists, theologians, biblical scholars and historians, that I can recommend (listed below). If that is not enough, interview professors of theology at any major schools of theology – like Candler School at Emory or visit privately with senior ministers with advanced degrees in philosophy and theology. Most of them will agree that evolution is real but they will not openly speak about it from the pulpit. Too many of their members are not prepared to accept the truths of evolution. They are still holding on to the sentimental, traditional beliefs of their parents and grand parents or they are not willing to investigate complex scientific concepts or they sanctimoniously believe they are “better Christians”by holding on to the literal interpretation of all scriptures.

And the beautiful thing about mans slow evolvement over time is it is so real, so practical and so inspirational that one can hardly see how it has been rejected and maligned by so many fundamental Christian people! The Old Testament reports this same story of beginnings in the book of Genesis as a beautiful series of allegories and metaphors in language that God’s people of ancient times could understand.   Would God now expect people of the faith to update their understanding of evolutionary truths based on a wealth of current scientific knowledge?   St. Augustine of Hippo, one of our early theological scholars, said: “When serious conflicts arise between interpretations of scripture and new scientific facts, it is time to reinterpret scripture.”

And yet in certain places in the United States there are small communities of ultra conservative Christians, generally identified as Creationists, that fight diligently to refute the concepts of evolution. One group has attempted to confuse the geological time scale by presenting false evidence that dinosaurs and humans co-existed on the earth. What a joke! Tested scientific evidence quickly proved these allegations to be preposterous. The Creationist only missed their conclusion by 65 million years! Thank God, these misguided Christians are only a small minority of our citizens.

So in the future, where will the mainstream Christian churches go with the creation story described in ancient “code” so beautifully in the early chapters of the book of Genesis? When will our most learned clergy start openly teaching their church members how to reconcile the Biblical story of beginnings with current scientific knowledge? Must we wait until the older generations (including me), have passed on? And what about our youth – who are gaining extensive knowledge about creation in their science classes – five days a week and hear a different story (or no story) about God’s creation in their Sunday school classes? Why does this conflict have to be? Part of the problem lies with the Federal mandates that prohibit discussions of anything related to religion in public schools. Part of the problem appears to be churches and church leaders who are not trained or exposed to literature that clearly explains and proves evolution. Unfortunately, many church leaders, including lay bible teachers, either do not understand scientific creation or prefer not to understand it.

And national statistics consistently report that more and more younger Christians are leaving the traditional, stodgy old out dated churches of their youth. Why because their churches, while they were in high school, failed to help them understand how to reconcile their Christian teachings with what they later learned in college or in sororities or fraternities or bars or dances or sporting events where all sorts of opinions are exchanged, relished and believed. And about the time these young people gain their first jobs and get married – many are saying: why should I (we) attend a church that did not have the courage to tell me the whole truth about creation – some even held on to old interpretations of scripture like:  “the universe was created in six 24 hour calendar days?” Since Jesus said: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”– why didn’t the church of my family teach me the whole truth about creation?

Now to be fair, we all know that there are a number of reasons (or excuses) of why many people are or have abandoned our traditional churches. What ever the reasons are – the Christian church must begin its new mission with openly presenting truths. Truths about the imperfections of much of the Mosaic laws presented in the Torah as well as the proper understanding that many of God’s messages are hidden within allegorical stories that should not be taken literally. The Old Testament Bible contains God’s Word – but much of it seems to be mans word which God may have patently tolerated even when he did not direct or approve of some of mans laws or actions. Can we not learn to think intelligently about certain scriptures and build on a modern faith that still holds reverently to the central teachings of Jesus and figure out how to bring folks back into our blessed churches? 

We need to remember that the Christian church has historically made many serious mistakes:

  • Roman Pope Urban VI in the Dark Ages, condemned scientific discoveries that proved the Earth orbited about the Sun, saying this idea was contrary to Bibical scripture. It took the Catholic church several hundred years to agree that science was correct.
  • When the printing press was invented, in the Middle Ages, Bibles were available for the first time to most people. However, the church decreed that no one could own or read a bible  – subject to imprisonment or other punishment.
  • During the American Civil War, southern ministers preached and used scripture to justify slavery – why, because that was the only way they could keep the wealthy plantation owners support of the churches.
  • Our beautiful, democratic, Christian nation, from its beginning in 1776 to 1920 held women as second rate citizens who could not: vote, own property or hold a bank account. Thank God for Susan B. Anthony!
  • How long shall it take for all Christian churches in the second millennium to openly tell their congregations the whole truth about God’s creation?

Could the future of Christianity be out of balance because of a lack of courage or knowledge about God’s ancient truths among God’s best people?

By W.F.Peck

Recommended References

  1. “Thank God for Evolution”, Rev. Michael Dowd
  1. “The Language of God”, Francis S. Collins
  1. “The Science of God”, Gerald L. Schroeder
  1. “When Science Meets Religion”, Ian G. Barbour
  1. “Finding Darwin’s God”, Kenneth R. Miller
  1. “Making Sense of Evolution”, John F. Haught
  1. “The Stages of Human Evolution”, C. Loring Brace
  1. “Why Evolution Is True”, Jerry A. Coyne
  1. “Can A Darwinian Be A Christian”, Michael Ruse
  1. “ Science and Religion in Quest of Truth”, John Polkinghorne

Note: There are many other good reference books available in libraries, book stores and on the internet (Amazon).

 

How Important is it for Modern Christians to Believe in Miracles?

 

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Miracles happened in Jesus’earthly life, and have continued to occur through out history. It is part of our Christian faith to pray for miracles for healing of our love ones. But is it possible we may (sometimes) be praying for the wrong things? Rather than praying for God to intervene against his natural laws, should we be praying for strength, courage and guidance for all parties? Do some people lose faith in God because he selects not to intervene and heal illnesses that are (normally) impossible to heal? Would you allow an unanswered prayer – for healing – to interfere with your Christian faith?

My Christian faith and belief in Jesus Christ are not centered or dependent on miracles. Jesus’ miracles were especially needed in the first century A.D. to convince his polytheistic followers that he was the true Son of the only God.

The center of my Christian faith is based on “the life and the  mind of the human Jesus.”His life models the way to live and demonstrates how imperfect humans may reach out and upward and make decisions to give of themselves with love and caring for the needs of others.

Miracles today, reveal the power and activity of God continuously in the world, but for me, they are secondary to the central message of Jesus Christ. The power of God is real but I am more moved by the love, compassion and forgiveness of God rather than a dependence on or fear of his power.

Finally, I am convinced that the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ is real. It is backed by multiple historical reports of the Gospels as well as other historical records. There is no doubt in my mind that the miracle of the resurrection occurred and it stands forever as the foundation of our Christian faith.

Original Sin – A Cultural History by Alan Jacob (Thoughts by Bill Peck)

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  • Genesis (chaps. 1 & 2) is an allegory describing Creation at a level the ancients could understand.
  • Before upright, bipedal primates (hominids) became fully human, they were mammals or animals.   Animals do not have the intelligence or conscience to avoid bad conduct.
  • When God, over millions of years, evolved hominids into full humans, they gained: a free will, a conscience and thus the intelligence to discern good and evil conduct.
  • The first symbolic humans, identified as Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, may have been perfect for a while (as gods or angels) – however, when God breathed the Holy Spirit into selected, evolved hominids for the first time, they symbolically ate the forbidden fruit from the symbolic tree of knowledge of good and evil and they became aware of who they really were. They covered their nakedness. 
  • When the Bible states that mankind was made in the image of God, they attained the intellectual powers of reasoning and  realized they could choose between good and evil. 
  • To be fully human, mankind became imperfect (sinners) either because God made them that way, or an evil power (Satan) .. already on our primordial earth, came along as the symbolic serpent and infected Adam and Eve.
  • It seems convenient to blame the evolutionary events in the lives of Adam and Eve as the cause of mankind’s propensity to choose decisions contrary to the will of God. God selected to have mankind with the freedom of choices.
  • The title: “Original Sin” came from St. Augustine in the 4th century AD. He developed this doctrine from his studies of Paul’s writings primarily from the book of Romans.
  • Did Paul say: “When man is born, he is already born with death because he contracts sin from Adam?” meaning he contracts it, as though it were a disease!! This seems strange!
  • Augustine believed even new born children were inclined to original sins, and would be condemned to hell if they died before being baptized. How could this great Christian theologian believe this? All baptized persons are still sinners!
  • Was evil in the world prior to Adam and Eve or did the development and awakening of humanity initiate the presence of evil? It’s hard to conclude either way – since evil does not exist, except as an act between living creatures, or God acting through his natural laws that impact living creatures. One could conclude that the only evil of any consequences came with the evolution of mankind.
  • As we define what it means to be human, how could humanity exist without the free will to be imperfect?
  • Original Sin seems to be a component of the description of the criteria God set in place as he evolved his up-right, bi-pedal primates into fully accountable human beings.
  • What are the practical problems of the doctrine of Original Sin for modern Christians? These are my thoughts:
  • Mankind, knowing that we all have a natural propensity to be imperfect, rationalizes that humans cannot help being sinful.
  • Christians know they can be forgiven for their sins, so why sweat it?
  • By definition, to be human is to be imperfect so being imperfect is not so bad.
  • No one, including infants, is condemned to hell, simply because they have never been baptized.  I believe Jesus would approve of this statement.
  • The Adam/Eve act of disobedience, expressed in allegorical language, sets the stage for humanity to begin the life long struggle to move from being self centered to being God centered. This is one of the main reasons why the Christian church exists.
  • Could it be that modern Christians need to focus more on their commitment to the teachings of Jesus Christ rather than worrying about the implications of the doctrine of Original Sin?