Thursday, April 23, 2009

You gotta read it all...

I would add some commentary, but she kinda says it all. The last paragraph is absolutely beautiful...

Nicole Lamarche, Miss California 2003 and now an ordained minister at Cotuit Federated Church in Cotuit, Mass, is speaking out.

She says:

"As a pastor and a former Miss California, I am often asked to interpret what the Word of God has to say on a particular subject. I am quite confident that God prefers that we human beings stick to speaking for ourselves. And yet there are occasions when God’s Word is used as a weapon, and I feel compelled to speak.

In the past few days, much has been made of the words of Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean. She stated that marriage is between a man and a woman. I write not in response to her opinion, but rather about her comments that followed: that the Bible condones her words. She said, 'It's not about being politically correct, it's about being biblically correct.' While this sentiment is shared by many who seek to condemn gay people and gay marriage, citing pieces of the Bible to further one’s own prejudice fails to meet the Bible on its own terms.

Most people seeking to condemn gay people point to the Book of Leviticus, where we read that men lying with men is an abomination. However, we rarely hear of other verses found in the book of Leviticus that are equally challenging. For example, Leviticus also tells us that eating shrimp and lobster is an abomination. And that a person should not wear material woven of two kinds of material—an impossible mandate for a pageant contestant!

In Paul’s letter to the community in Corinth we read, ‘For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church….’ And yet these words have not prevented Christian denominations from ordaining women, such as myself. Sadly, the Bible has been used to further prejudice throughout history. We have used it to permit ourselves to enslave people; to conquer and kill; and to denigrate the earth.

The truth is that it is difficult to know for sure the intentions of the biblical authors, but we do know something about God. Those of us who know God through Jesus of Nazareth know that he went to great lengths to express God’s love to people who were labeled as outcasts. He spent time with children, prostitutes, and lepers, all of whom were labeled as outside of the grasp of the Holy. As we continue to seek God’s vision for us as a nation grounded in a love for justice, I pray that we might move closer to the cause of grace.”

(HT: Perez Hilton I know, I know. But its still a great article and I gotta give credit as to where I found it.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Go Barefoot.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

One Day Without Shoes April 16 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday...

"Some people today may find it compelling that some Great Cosmic Transaction took place on that day 1,980 years ago, that God’s wrath burned against his son instead of against me. I find that version of atonement theory neither intellectually compelling, spiritually compelling, nor in keeping with the biblical narrative.

Instead, Jesus' death offers life because in Christianity, and in Christianity alone, the God and Creator of the universe deigned to become human, to be tempted, to reach out to those who had been de-humanized and restore their humanity, and ultimately to die in solidarity with every one of us. Yes, he was a sacrifice. Yes, he was “sinless.” But thank God, Jesus was also human.

The hope he offers is that, by dying on that cross, the eternal Trinity became forever bound to my humanity. The God of the universe identified with me, and I have the opportunity to identify with him.

Today, and every day, I hang with him on that cross."

– Tony Jones from his blog at

(HT: Zach Lind)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lunch breaks.

God, I love sunny Spring afternoons...

The Problem of Evil (part 3)

Well, so far its been really interesting. I appreciate anyone who's still reading along at this point. High five.

So far I've laid out some basic ideas surrounding the idea that evil exists because God can't do anything about it because humans have free will/free choice and God doesn't know exactly what decisions we're going to make because God doesn't necessarily have foreknowledge. That's the summation of the past two posts, more or less.

I signed up a little while back on to be part of a blogger's book review of sorts. Basically, they send me books, I read them, then I blog about them. I have really procrastinated in writing about them, but have really enjoyed reading them. I got four books, all from Process and Faith--a group that centers their writings around process theology. Up until reading the receiving them, I was fairly ignorant as to the specifics of process theology. The first book ("Why Whitehead?" by John B Cobb, Jr.) is the script from a lecture given by Cobb about the importance of Alfred North Whitehead--a mathematician and philosopher who greatly influenced the genesis process theology. The next book, "Evolution Without Tears: A 3rd Way beyond Neo-Darwinism and Intelligent Design" by David Ray Griffin, was concise but informative. He basically lays out the 13 most important aspects of Neo-Darwinism, the critical aspects of intelligent design, and then the 13 most important parts of Whiteheadian Evolution (which seeks to reconcile the two). The third book, "What is Process Thought?" by Jay McDaniel, was particularly interesting. It lays out the history of process thought, its key ideas, what fallacies it tries to avoid, and the branches within it. The most helpful part was an appendix where he addresses the issues and controversies of process theology.

The final book, "How Are God and Evil Related?" by David Ray Griffin, was far and away the most interesting to me. Since I was already studying the concept, the book was a great read. Griffin sets up the problem of evil, historical approaches to addressing the problem (and what those views' conclusions really are), and how process theology seeks to reconcile the view of a loving God and a world with ever-present evil, suffering and pain. A major part of this book is discussing the act of Creation.

Regardless of your view on HOW Creation happened (whether by God literally creating or by God jump-starting the evolutionary process), all Creation discussion must start with a look at the opening of the book of Genesis which says (in most English translations): "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty..." Which is interesting. See, when I took Hebrew 1, this was one of the first things we translated. I remember talking with Dr Veenker about the words used here, and the class agreed a better translation (though not as literal, but more appropriate to our vernacular) was probably: "When God began creating the heaven and earth, the earth was without form and empty..."

Back to the book-- Griffin echoes this point: that creation was out of chaos rather than out of nothing. It WAS a widely held view that God created/shaped/designed the universe out of pre-existing chaotic matter. (Most Jewish translations of Genesis still translate it "When God began creating..." When Genesis still existed only in Hebrew, the idea was fairly universal from what I've found.) Long story short, along comes this dude named Marcion, espousing the idea that evil exists because the things causing it (human or otherwise) were made from evil matter. In reaction to that, guys like Tertullian and Irenaeus supported a new idea of creation "ex nihilo," meaning creation "out of nothing." (Its easy to deny the world being made from evil matter if it was made from nothing.) But Hermogenes and others warned that this "ex nihilo" would leave Christians (as Griffin says) with a big hole in the argument: with this view, there is no explanation for evil. You see, if we were made from chaos, then there is still chaos in all of us. God did not put it there, it was simply already there. Since God gave humans free will, and they already had chaos within them, then they had the power to digress to that chaos at times. But if the universe and all that is in it was created out of nothing, then God is responsible for all matter. Good matter or bad matter, its all God's doing. Needless to say, Tertullian's views became the prevalent perspective and Hermogenes was labeled a heretic by his peers who stood in opposition to his views. (Funny how that happens.)

But what if we returned to the Genesis idea of "creation out of chaos?" What implications follow along with that viewpoint?

Griffin says there are four variables now: 1, the capacity to enjoy positive value; 2, the capacity to suffer evil; 3, the power of self-determination or freedom; 4, the power to influence others (for good or bad). Basically he says that there is a necessary positive correlation between the points--meaning that if one of the variables goes up, so do the others. Follow me here: compare a cat and a human using this chart. Think about the cat. It can enjoy positive value (good things) in life. It can suffer evil. It has freedom to make some of its own choices. It has the power to influence others. Now compare the cat to the human. The human can do all of these things as well, but to a MUCH greater level than the cat. While we (humans) have the capacity for far greater good than the cat, we also have the capacity to create far greater amounts of evil. Process theology holds this to be very important because it answers a critical question: "Why didn't God create a world with all the good but without the bad?" A process theologian's response would be: because he couldn't. In a world where there was a capacity for humans to experience great joy, love and happiness, there would also be the opportunity for hate, loss, and pain. For God to create beings with the freedom to choose good but no freedom to choose bad means there is no real freedom. The beings in that situation would have no choice--they would be robots who do good all the time. This is probably the biggest pro and con for the free will argument.

What does all this mean?

While God is still responsible for everything, she is not blameworthy. If God has created humans with the capacity for the best "good" experiences, then humans also have the capacity for the worst "bad" experiences. If humans have the freedom of choice and God has no foreknowledge of what those choices are (good or evil), then God cannot stop them. Therefore, God is not responsible for the pain, suffering, and evil that is ever-present on the Earth.

All of this is dependent upon the rejection of the idea of creation "ex nihilo." I don't have the time or energy to write a defense of this, so feel free to spend time researching, reading and investigating the idea for yourself. I just don't find it to be a clear idea Biblically. So when you throw the assumption of creation "out of nothing" out the window, it raises lots of other questions. That's how I ended up here. That's how I can sleep at night. God is love. God didn't create evil. God didn't predestine evil. God created order out of chaos. We all have some of this chaos in us. We also have the freedom of self-determinism. In this freedom is the ability to choose really good and really bad things. While God knows about every choice we could make, he doesn't know what choice we will actually make. Therefore, if we choose really bad things, we are responsible for the outcome of those choices and not God.

Wow. That was a lot of writing. I hope this made some sense (as far as my perspective and argument goes). Up next is "The Problem of Evil (part 4)." In it, I wanna talk about God's nature and how it would be different if he has no foreknowledge.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Problem of Evil (part 2)

As I was saying last time: point #2 is: "God doesn't rid the world of evil because he can't."

You're probably thinking: "He thinks God can't do anything about evil because God is not all powerful." False. I still believe that God is all powerful. God can do anything she wants.

But I don't necessarily believe in foreknowledge anymore. Its not that God isn't all knowing--he is. But I don't think God knows all things about the future. I believe that God has given humanity free will; if that is true, then our choices haven't been made yet. Ergo, God doesn't know them. I think he knows the possibility of choices, but not the specific choice that will be made. I think he has a general plan for the universe and humanity and knows where its going and how’s its all going to end up. But I think the specifics thereof are still blank because those decisions have not been made by humanity. (This is a major tenant of open theism.)

(Let me take a moment to make an aside comment: this whole argument is thrown entirely out the window if you hold to a Reformed point of view. From a Reformed perspective, foreknowledge is necessary. God has to know everything about everything because God foreordains it all. How could God plan every minute detail of the universe out if he didn't have foreknowledge? He couldn't. So, from this perspective, my thoughts are crap. But if I may critique the Reformed perspective, I'll add a few thoughts here: if a Reformed thinker believes God plans everything out (God chose to create the world, chose to have humanity sin and "fall," chose/chooses to send humans to "hell," and chose the existence of evil/suffering/pain), then that person believes in a God who is not entirely good. I think they have a twisted view of God that relies heavily on texts, thoughts and ideas that are found nowhere in historical Christianity and the Bible. I totally reject this line of thought as having no intellectual backbone. Most people who believe this tend to rely on the "God's ways are bigger than ours" kinda thing. I don't mean to belittle anyone that follows this perspective. You feel free to hold on to it. I just can't even begin to understand it. But that's just my opinion on the matter.)

This lack of foreknowledge explains lots of things. It would explain why God would create a world with humans with free will. He didn't know they would sin. He knew they could--but he didn't know with certainty that's what would happen. It would also explain the apparent changes in God from the Old Testament to the New Testament. God didn't know for sure what would work. He tried to relate to humans, but his attempts weren't breaking through. It would also explain why it "took God so long" to send Jesus to intervene.

But, I could be totally wrong. I'll admit, this line of thought is slightly problematic and has its holes. I'm not saying I 100% believe that foreknowledge is nonexistent. I'm just saying that I don't think its a necessary attribute of God. Here's why:

If God doesn't know what choices we are to make, then how can he stop them? How can God rid the world of evil when he doesn't know how it will occur? Can God be held responsible for what he cannot do?

Once again, this is a fully "free will" perspective. If God gives humanity free will, then its humanity's job to take care of the world. The responsibility has been handed over to humans. How can we ask God to intervene when we demand our independence? Its a two edged sword, you know? I mean, I'll be the first to admit that God has intervened at times. I don't think that's necessarily compromised our free will, but he surely has stepped in to do something about the events of the world at times in history (Creation, the Incarnation of Jesus, etc...). But things like that don't seem to happen often, or even recently.

I heard Gary Haugen say a while back that he's "stopped asking, "Where is God?" and started asking, "Where are God's people?"" In other words, its our job to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, provide medicine for the sick, provide housing for the homeless, and take care of the widows and orphans of the world. Its not God's job. Its our job. So, in the end, if evil persists, its our fault. Not God's. (Jason echoed this thought in his comments on my last post.)

Still, I don't think this fully releases God of responsibility. (Why? Because God made us. He is the Creator of all things--so how did bad things come about if he made it all good?) I still don't think I've answered the question of why evil continues to exist--and that will involve a book review, a discussion of process theology, some talk about the nature of God, and another post. Part 3 will follow soon...