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Forced Choices: The Historicity of Adam and Eve

Our last Forced Choice was a landslide. Apparently there’s not a lot of debate around here that philosophy is good for theology (85%). I really thought more people would be hesitant with that one, but I’m glad to see I was wrong.

This week’s choice will jump right into the middle of the debate surrounding the historicity of Adam and Eve. This has gotten a lot of attention lately with prominent books from Peter Enns (The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins) and John Collins (Did Adam and Eve Really Exist?: Who Were They and Why You Should Care), among others. If you’re interested, Brian LePort has been doing an series on both of these books (you can read the latest post here), and he also posted an excellent summary of views on the historicity of Adam and Eve.

But we’re not here to discuss the relative merits of the various positions. We’re just here to vote. So what do you think? Were Adam and Eve the historic individuals from whom all other humans descended?

But, since I think a simple yes/no vote is likely to mimic our earlier vote on evolution, I’d like to complicate things just a bit by offering some options about how long ago Adam and Eve were created (i.e. less/more than 10,000 years ago) and whether they were the ones from whom all other humans descended. The latter option covers the possibility that humans evolved like other creatures, and that at some point God selected two of them for special relationship with himself.

So, with that clarification in mind, use the poll in the sidebar to vote and let us know what you think.


A Prayer for Sunday (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

Yesterday was the feast day to commemorate the death great Syrian theologian, St. Ephrem (June 9, 373). He is best known for his tremendous literary output, writing many influential hymns, commentaries, and other works. That is particularly impressive given that he lived through the turbulent fourth century marked by the theological dissension that followed the Council of Nicea and the constant warfare between the Roman and Persian empires.

In his honor, today’s prayers come from him (or, at least, they are commonly attributed to him). The first a famous lenten prayer still used widely in Eastern Orthodox churches. And the second is just another prayer I found that I really liked.

Lord and Master of my life,
keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement,
lust of power and idle chatter.

Instead, grant to me,
Your servant,
the spirit of wholeness of being, humble-mindedness, patience, and love.

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This Week’s Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered this week’s book giveaway for a chance to win Journeys of Faith: Evangelicalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Anglicanism. Sadly, there can only be one winner. And this week’s winner is:

Daniel Edwards

Congratulations Daniel. Send me your contact info and I’ll get that shipped right over to you.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/8)

Good Reads

  • When Is the Gospel at Stake? I’m bouncing off a post that claims too many Christians are Chicken Littles because they run around claiming and worrying and showing their faithfulness by saying the sky is falling down all the time. That is, they think the gospel is at stake in every conversation.
  • Decentralized Preaching: In no way do I want to limit the ministry of the best and brightest men we have available for gospel ministry today. Please don’t hear me saying that. But I do think that in most “normal” churches and church plants, it is wise to have more than one regular preacher and deliberately to raise up cadres of preachers and teachers that can rightly handle the Word in all situations where it should be proclaimed.
  • If Only Our Leaders Had Mariam’s Guts: Once again, in Sudan there are starving children, tens of thousands of refugees, rapes and racial epithets, a spiraling death toll and passivity in the White House.
  • It’s Not True: American Evangelicals Do Not, in Fact, Behave as Badly as Everyone Else: Evangelicals–and here’s the key point: according to any definition that John Wesley or Billy Graham would recognize–do not, in fact, behave as badly as the American population at large. They do not, in fact, have extramarital sex as often or abort babies as often….They do not experience the same levels of marital unhappiness and divorce. They do not give to charity or volunteer at the same low levels as the population at large. And so on, and so on.

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John Wesley on How to Read Scripture

In the preface to his Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament, John Wesley laid out his principles for how to read scripture in such a way that you come “to understand the things of God” and to love him wholly and truly. His principles are well worth reflecting on today.

If you desire to read the scripture in such a manner as may most effectually answer this end, would it not be advisable,

1. To set apart a little time, if you can, every morning and evening for that purpose?

2. At each time if you have leisure, to read a chapter out of the Old, and one out of the New Testament: if you cannot do this, to take a single chapter, or a part of one?

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Flotsam and jetsam (6/6)

Transatlantic Steretypes

Good Reads

  • Christendom Isn’t Dead: Given the dominance of Christianity in the United States, we ought to rethink using the language of “post-Christendom” to describe our time and place.
  • Let’s Get Our Theological Priorities Straight: And so all theologians must prioritize. Certain doctrines have greater significance than others for the whole of Christian theology. The deity of Christ is more consequential for the Christian faith than the timing of the millennium. The latter is still important, but it is not “of first importance,” to borrow the apostle’s phrase. But how do we get our doctrinal priorities straight? How do we know when to place special priority on a particular doctrine and when to avoid overstating the significance of another?
  • The Gospel of Stephen King: “People tend to think that Stephen King is anti-religious because he is a horror writer, but that’s completely mistaken….Several of his books are parables of grace in action.”

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America’s Unchanging Views On Creationism

Americans’ views on evolution and creationism have remained relatively unchanged over the last 30 years. That’s the conclusion of a recent Gallop study. Granted, the number of people who believe in some form of atheistic evolution have been steadily, though slowly, increasing. But the overall number is still rather low (15%), with the rest holding to theistic evolution (32%) or creationism (46%). And creationism has been pretty steady at between 43% and 46% through the whole study, with one apparently anomalous year (2011).

I linked to the in yesterday’s Flotsam and Jetsam, but the charts were interesting enough that I thought I would go ahead and pass those along as well.

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The One Minute Gospel: Helpful Tool or Tragic Mistake? (part 1)

My latest post on the Transformed blog looks at “The One Minute Gospel.” Should we try to summarize the gospel in one minute? Does that have any value, or does it simply distort the very message we’re trying to communicate? In this post, I offer a few thoughts on why I think this can still be a helpful thing to do. In the next part, I’ll unleash my more critical self.

Here’s how the post begins. If you’re interested, go check out the rest.

I’ve been sitting on a plane next to some guy for a couple of hours. And I’ve sent all my usual “Don’t talk to me” signals: book, headphones, minimal eye contact. The usual tools of the traveling introvert. But this time it hasn’t worked. This guy really likes to talk.

Just as the plane is about to land, the conversation turns toward spiritual things. Now I feel a bit guilty for having tried to duck the conversation the whole trip. But still, I recognize the opportunity. A gospel opportunity. I only have about one minute before the plane touches down and everyone starts pulling their stuff together. One minute.

Almost every evangelism training I’ve ever been through has emphasized the importance of being able to share the gospel in one minute or less. The assumption seems to be that this is something every mature Christian should be able to do. And, to be honest, I agree. But with some significant reservations. From the right perspective, the One Minute Gospel can be very helpful. But far too often the One Minute Gospel leads us into a number of critical errors.

Read the rest here.

Flotsam and jetsam (6/4)

Good Reads

  • Christian Leaders Are Powerhouses on Twitter (NYT): Joyce MeyerMax Lucado and Andy Stanley were not well known inside Twitter’s offices. But they had all built loyal ranks of followers well beyond their social networks — they were evangelical Christian leaders whose inspirational messages of God’s love perform about 30 times as well as Twitter messages from pop culture powerhouses like Lady Gaga.
  • Ten Reasons to Attend Seminary: Let’s face it, to develop theologically as a minister you need time, and that’s what seminary does. In sociological terms, seminary can be a time of encapsulation: you are isolated from your work, your church, and you are holed up in a class with other students and a professor, and you wander into quiet libraries and you study — it is that dedicated time that seminaries can offer. Most pastors aren’t afforded the luxury to study in big chunks of time, so going to seminary, even if it is as a commuter, offers dedicated time. It probably won’t happen without dedicated time.
  • Faith, Science, and the Resurrection: Did the cosmos prior to the Fall also function entirely differently than the cosmos we now experience? Was the Fall, in keeping with our metaphor, the restructuring of the cosmos from a diamond into a lump of graphite? Do we inhabit the same universe created by God in the beginning, but now utterly transformed in quality and behavior?
  • 6 Myths of Success: I grew up in a performance-centered community. I was affirmed and valued at the level of my performance. The better I performed, the more others loved me. I worked hard at athletics to be of some value to someone—to anyone. I worked hard in ministry for the same reason. My parents are hard workers. My dad is 82 and still employed. I asked him why he didn’t just quit since he didn’t need the money. He said, in his gruff voice, “A man isn’t worth anything if he doesn’t work.” That illuminated a lot of my own proclivities for me.

Saturday Morning Fun…Why Pluto Is Not a Planet