A Sudden Realization

As I started listening to the series of lectures Old Testament by Professor Amy-Jill Levine produced & published by The Great Courses, I had a sudden realization of the impact this and other lectures from The Great Courses have had on my understanding of the Bible. After listening to the lectures I’m able to get a much deeper understanding of the message being convey in specific scriptures.

They have helped me put the books of the Bible into context and understand the literary form of the books. Understanding whether it’s law, history, wisdom, etc. helps to understand how to interpret what the author is trying to portray. One does not treat non-fiction the same as fiction. Both can have a valuable message but we understand one is literal and one is an example.

Without the understanding of the genres, nuances, back stories, etc. I was frustrated for years. Now it’s a joy to appreciate the real genius of the Bible and to be able to absorb its wisdom. Someday I may even be wise, I’m a long, long way from it now, but I’m enjoying the process much more thanks to The Great Courses lectures.

The Language of God and Theistic Evolution

After reading the excellent book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by biologist Francis Collins, I had to view it as a solid challenge to Intelligent Design, especially with the author’s emphasis on Theistic Evolution—it may be a more rational and compatible with the evidence. Collins makes a solid case for Theistic Evolution, especially where he deals with the issue of Irreducible Complexity.

I knew when I read these sentences I’d need to pay attention:

“Intelligent Design” (with capital letters) has become a term of art carrying a very specific set of conclusions about nature, especially the concept of “irreducible complexity.” An observer unaware of this history might expect that anyone who believes in a God who cares about human beings (that is, a theist) would be someone who believes in Intelligent Design. But in the sense of current terminology, that would in most instances not be correct.

What Collins points out throughout this book is evolution does not exclude God; many dogmatic scientists have jumped to that conclusion without a scientific basis. Such a person brings atheistic faith into play rather than science or reason. On the other hand, as believers, we have to be intellectually honest as well. We cannot presuppose science is abusive to a belief in God and, therefore, settle for a concept such as Intelligent Design. Concerning Intelligent Design Collins says:

…if the logic truly had merit on scientific grounds, one would expect that the rank and file of working biologists would also show interest in pursuing these ideas, especially since a significant number of biologists are also believers. This has not happened, however, and Intelligent Design remains a fringe activity with little credibility within the mainstream scientific community.

His straightforward conclusion concerning the viability of Intelligent Design:

Intelligent Design fails in a fundamental way to qualify as a scientific theory. All scientific theories represent a framework for making sense of a body of experimental observations. But the primary utility of a theory is not just to look back but to look forward. A viable scientific theory predicts other findings and suggests approaches for further experimental verification. ID falls profoundly short in this regard. Despite its appeal to many believers, therefore, ID’s proposal of the intervention of supernatural forces to account for complex multicomponent biological entities is a scientific dead end. Outside of the development of a time machine, verification of the ID theory seems profoundly unlikely.

I like the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, and I like this book. Where this book, with its emphasis on Theistic Evolution, gets its upper hand is from its compatibility with science. Atheistic Evolution wants to throw out a creator—not because of the results of scientific method but from faith in the non-existence of God—and Intelligent Design which wants to put God’s hand in every event no matter the size. I am not completely hostile toward Intelligent Design; at least the two books agree on the Big Bang Theory.

Our Misplaced Dreams

Isaiah 9:6 (CEB)
A child is born to us, a son is given to us,
and authority will be on his shoulders.
He will be named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

Christmas from the Back Side, p.23
We humans have always dreamed of a world of such perfection. In truth, it’s the kind of dream that keeps our political systems going. Those of us in democracies keep thinking we’ll get it in the next election. In other political systems, there’s always a ferment, even if deeply submerged, of hopes for some sort of revolution, some overturning of the old order that will make a new world possible. Plato envisioned it in his Republic, the English nobles with their Magna Carta, the Pilgrims with their dream of a city set upon a hill. Every political convention, however flawed it may be, is still informed by something of this wondrous dream of a better political establishment, and, from it, a better world. But of course all these dreams are flawed, because those of us who implement them are sinners. We need the One described in Isaiah’s vision.

—J. Ellsworth Kalas, Christmas from the Backside