The Good, Bad and Ugly?

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The 1966 film ‘The Good. The Bad, and The Ugly had as its characters: the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ but the ‘good’ characters were a little more difficult to detect…

Most of us, at least those of us who call ourselves Christians, are fully aware that we are not ‘good’. We may be ‘nice people’ but ‘goodness’ as an actual [possible] state of affairs is another matter. Sure, we know that we, as professing followers of Christ,need to be ‘different’–indeed we are encouraged to:’Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace…’ ( 2 Corinthians 13:11). But we’re not really ‘good’, are we? (rhetorical). God is Good —‘the good’— the ultimate goodness.

Thankfully, we are not commissioned to carry out ‘research’ regarding the ‘goodness, badness or ugliness’ of others — but what of those who ‘trust’ in their own goodness—who believe in the ‘universal goodness of mankind’? Should we not be concerned by their introspective diagnosis? We are, rightfully concerned for the first category of people: ‘the good’—as we really are so glad that such people exist—it does help ‘restore’ ones confidence in humanity—so we may conclude that there is ‘a glimmer of hope’—and this ‘hope’ would based on a false premise—that ‘mankind is good’ and that his environment may be blamed for any inconsistencies in his behaviour.

What is the difference between ‘the ignorant good’ i.e. those who live good lives and who have not even considered the possibility of their not being ‘good enough’ [from God’s perspective] and the ‘dissident good’ i.e. those who are convinced they are good and will not allow a second opinion? To fully understand this we need firstly to realise that we [humans] have a bias against any possible ‘ruling’ that declares our species as being in need of judgement or of justification for ‘the way we are’.You be the ‘judge’ of this—though it is a mission you may not be able to acomplish.Believe it or not there are even Christians who think that justification is a ‘human right’ rather than a gift of God. The reasoning behind such thinking is that there are very few ‘bad’ people—that the majority of people are ‘good’. But this ‘reasoning’ has not taken into consideration the evidence against it—as history (recent and past) confirms; neither has it taken Scripture seriously—’taken God at his word.’

Jesus commissioned his disciples to go out and ‘compel them—’the good,bad and the ugly’ —to come in, ‘so that my house may be filled.’ (Luke 14:23). To compel is a strong verb; it shows urgency; it does not indicate a laissez-faire attitude toward making disciples, neither does it suggest that making disciples should be constrained by the latest missional ‘know how’ that [may] encourage journeying but not discipling.

Jesus said: ‘Go into all the world and make known the Gospel to the ‘good, ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’.

Derek White

‘Part2 Coming…’

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Asking the ‘Question’ of why it is that God makes it so difficult to believe in his existence is seen as the sine qua non of reason and of apologetics. The problem is though that we’re asking the question from the wrong perspective—as if somehow God has to persuade us that his dealings with us [in particular but not exclusively] seem to be unjust: Health,Happiness,Long-Life [the American Dream] etc.

Of course there is also the problem of Evil—including the problem of God’s [likely] use of an evolutionary process—a process that brings with it: predation,plague,parasitism—oh, and [natural] death. Of course, we don’t have the whole picture. We do though have a glimpse into the heart of God when/if we take a closer look at the incarnation of Jesus Christ—who (by the way) was not just ‘sent’ by a cosmic sadist  in order to provide a solution, but came on His own volition—as the second person of the Trinity . God, in Christ, was always destined to come to this vale of tears—to both deal with the problem of evil  and to make a way for creatures such as us—creatures who will always find fault in whatever God does. You will relate to this scenario, no doubt.

The facts are that YOU are not the centre of the universe and you do not have anywhere near the whole picture. This world—ever since its ‘genesis’ has been the place in which opposition to God has been most prevalent. However there is, what John Polkinhorne describes as, ‘part two’—a part that is yet to come—the eschaton. Are you prepared with your list of reasons for finding God GUILTY? Jesus came the first time to redeem that which was lost; He is coming again to reveal Part Two.

As it’s nearly December (2016) We’ll end this, short, blog article with the words of one of my favourite carols:

O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times did’st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

12 Century Latin; Author unknown.

Derek White November 26th 2016

Why We Need Disorder: A physicist’s perspective on the living world

Science and Belief

10248755515_7859b0be20_k Cropped from From Chaos to Order By Sebastien Wiertz. Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

The Genesis creation story may seem to be all about God getting rid of disorder and turning it into order, but that’s not how a physicist sees it. In her lecture at the Christians in Science conference in Oxford a few weeks ago, Dr Rhoda Hawkins explained why.

Hawkins studies how unpredictable events on a microscopic scale can produce something very predictable and useful on a larger scale. For example, zooming out from an image of white noise produces a fairly even grey colour, or the random movement of gas particles can produce an overall temperature. So while in everyday language the word ‘random’ often means ‘purposeless’, in science it just means that something is unpredictable – and that unpredictability can be put to good use.

26231002464_541adaf3fb_kCells keep their shape with actin filaments (red) and…

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Fallen or ‘failed’?:Excluded from ‘Life’

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Fallen or ‘failed’?: Excluded from ‘Life’

A.N.S Lane notes the contrasts between the views of Augustine and Irenaeus, and offers the following questions as a means of segregating the differences:

  • Was the world perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve perfect?
  • Were Adam and Eve immortal?

Lane makes the observation that following Augustine, it became traditional to see Adam and Eve as inhabiting a perfect world and that there ‘was’ a tendency to think of them as immortal—‘sometimes seen as morally and intellectually all but perfect’—resulting in the belief that the Fall was akin to an angelic fall—falling from a perfect state of being. All this, Lane maintains, creates intolerable tensions with the modern scientific view. ‘The Garden of Eden becomes like the lost city of Atlantis, the scene of a primitive culture of great value.’ (Lane P.143). I hasten to add here that it is the interpretation of Scripture that is paramount here and not ideas of science, metaphysics or any other claims to absolutes that materialists might issue forth with. (please excuse the end preposition)

Lane asks whether or not Scripture teaches that Adam & Eve’s world was this ‘perfect state’—a place in which ‘nature red and tooth and claw’ could not possibly apply. Lane concludes ‘no’—a conclusion that, I believe, Scripture seems not to negate.

…before the Fall, Adam and Eve were not yet morally perfect and that they were on what he (Augustine) terms as ‘probation’. They had not yet sinned but neither had they learnt obedience. Their state was that of posse non peccare (they were able not to sin). They had not reached the state of non posse peccare (not being able to sin).  (Lane P.144)

Had they reached the state of non posse peccare ‘…the Fall would have been impossible.’ Lane concludes that it is incorrect to think of Adam and Eve as having fallen from ‘a great moral height.’ The couple’s first sin was that of declaration—they had declared moral independence from God. Lane describes it as ‘a wrong turning which took [us] forward in the wrong direction rather than a fall from a state of perfection already achieved [or, presumably, bestowed]’ (Lane P.145). At this point Lane suggests that Irenaeus seems more perceptive than Augustine.  Lane, I hasten to add, is not suggesting that Irenaeus denies the disaster of ‘primal sin’, with the resultant, devastating implications, but that Irenaeus does reject the notion that Adam and Eve had fallen from a ‘perfect state.

In addressing the question of human mortality/ immortality Lane asks whether or not the Bible states that mankind was immortal before the Fall, pointing out that Genesis 3 and Romans 5 both blame death[1] on the fall, and asking how these Scriptures could be reconciled with evolutionary accounts of the origins of life. Lane’s conclusion is that Adam and Eve were not immortal prior to their rebellion but that the picture is that of mortals being offered the possibility of immortality—the gift of eternal life. ‘The Fall caused the human race to lose the possibility of eternal life. Immortality is portrayed by Genesis as something that was held before [us], to which [we] never attained.’ (Lane P.146).In line with N.P.Williams (1927), Lane’s conclusion on the matter (P.148) is that the Genesis account supports the view of the first human sin as, a praevaricatio, a stepping-aside from the true line of upward progress’ rather than a lapsus or fall from a high level of moral and intellectual endowment. Whilst this supports a coalescing of the Genesis account with that of evolution it does not offer a defence for the existence of harms within the rest of the created order. Indeed, Lane (along with Irenaeus) renders the notion of the ‘Adamic Fall’ as a significant event but not an event that could be used as an argument for the beginnings of predation and death, and not an event that could be used as the initiating factor for God’s introduction of death or, indeed, predation into the created order.

[1] Genesis 3 does not, in my opinion, offer sufficient evidence (within the context of the passage) for the likelihood of there being  no death before the Adamic Fall—particularly because the text states that the original humans were cast out of the ‘garden’ and disallowed from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. Ergo, the tree was, in some way, the source of life. There was the ‘offer’ of life (living forever) but not the actual state of affairs.

The point here is not whether there is such a thing as ‘fallen-humanity’ but rather that there was never a state of perfection from which mankind fell. Indeed it is the case,as Scripture makes clear, that Mankind is ‘on the run’, in rebellion against God, in denial of the facts and in isolation from God. Mankind is but a poor reflection of the creature referred to in Scripture as the ‘Imago Dei (made in God’s own image). The creation is, indeed, ‘in bondage to corruption’ and ‘groans in eager expectation–waiting for the  children of God to be revealed.’ The apostle Paul highlights the problem when he says that, ‘there are [absolutely] no righteous people, and that, ‘all have [sinned] and fallen short of the glory of God.’ (Romans 3:21,22,23;8:21.22). ‘For this we have Jesus.’

By Derek J. White from ‘Beyond Eden: God,Evolution & the Problem of Evil’ [soon to be published under  the title of ‘Far Beyond Eden:The Problem of Evil’.

[1] Genesis 3 does not, in my opinion, offer sufficient evidence (within the context of the passage) for the likelihood of there being  no death before the Adamic Fall—particularly because the text states that the original humans were cast out of the ‘garden’ and disallowed from partaking of the fruit of the tree of life. Ergo, the tree was, in some way, the source of life. There was the ‘offer’ of life (living forever) but not the actual state of affairs.

Bibliography:

Lane, A.S. Irenaeus on the Fall and Original Sin.’ Darwin,Creation and the Fall. Eds. R.J Noble & T.A.Berry, Apollos 2009

 

What is the world for? Creation, purpose, and hope in difficult times

Science and Belief

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Why should we explore the world? According to Jonathan Moo, a Biblical scholar who is currently based at the Faraday Institute, creation is not just valuable for what we get from it. In today’s podcast (transcript below) he explains why he believes the living world is valuable in itself. He also shares why he does not lose hope in the face of environmental problems – including yesterday’s US election result.

Today I am at the Faraday Institute with one of our visiting scholars, Jonathan Moo. You’ve been here before when you were a Research Associate when you were doing your PhD?

That’s correct, yes. At the end of my PhD, and then for several years afterwards, I worked with Bob White and Hilary Marlow.

We’re glad you’re here again! What brought you back?

I have a sabbatical year from where I teach in Spokane, Washington, and my wife is working…

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Between Science and Theology: How science learns about unobservable entities

In 1800, someone took the temperature of a rainbow. This story isn’t as strange as it sounds because that ‘someone’ was not the sort of person to look for a pot of gold, but a scientist called Will…

Source: Between Science and Theology: How science learns about unobservable entities