This is my personal blog. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the congregations I serve.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Why Global Warming Has Nothing to do with Genesis 8:22.

On Genesis 8:22.

I am told that some of those who deny global warming assert that it can’t be happening because of Genesis 8:22.  Apparently, they are reading Genesis 8:22 to mean that human beings do not have the power to alter the Earth’s climate at all.  They say it would be arrogance to make such a claim, because in Genesis 8:22 God says the climate can’t be changed.  Case closed.
So I read Genesis 8:22.  Here it is.

As long as the earth endures,
   seedtime and harvest, cold and heat,
summer and winter, day and night,
   shall not cease.

Genesis 8:22 appears at the end of the story of Noah and the Great Flood.  After that comprehensive disaster, God promises not to do it again.  Destroy virtually all life on the planet, that is.  
There is no scientific scenario associated with global warming that indicates that it will destroy the Earth or wipe out all life.  Genesis 8:22 says that seasons will continue.  Global warming does not threaten the seasons, which are a result of the angle of the Earth as it orbits around the sun.  Even if the temperature of the Earth reaches the maximum predicted by scientists, and the icecaps and glaciers all melted away to nothing, and sea level rose the predicted 64 meters or so, and so on, there would still be “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”  
Nothing in scientific global warming predictions contradicts Genesis 8:22.  Seedtime and harvest will be different in terms of timing and geography, cold and heat will be distributed differently, summer and winter will be changed, and of course the recurring pattern of day and night isn’t even in question.  But they will all still happen.  Genesis 8:22 doesn’t say these things shall not change.  It says they shall not cease.
The Bible makes the point that changes in weather and climate do continue to happen without violating Genesis 8:22.  There are droughts.  There are localized floods.  There are earthquakes and volcanoes.  There are famines and plagues.  Disasters still happen.
So the Genesis 8:22 thing is a red herring.  It is not relevant to global warming.


Why Freedom Means Justice for the Powerless.

Power Changes Everything.

“Freedom of speech” often assumes an equality that does not exist, both among the people and the ideas.  Sometimes the people who most loudly claim freedom of speech are the ones with the loudest most well-funded voices.  This is especially true in a country where the courts have arbitrarily and self-servingly declared that “money is speech.”  
Jesus makes a point of lifting up and privileging the powerless, marginalized, disenfranchised, and voiceless/silenced.  For his followers, freedom of speech can only mean doing the same in our cultural discourse.  In other words, we amplify the voices of weaker people and intentionally diminish the voices of the strong.  It means squashing calls for violence, repression, domination, and silencing of the marginalized, while at the same time giving new privilege and space to voices of arising from situations of oppression, exclusion, powerlessness, and victimization.  
Following the example of the Lord Jesus, his church goes to the places of weakness, disease, brokenness, exclusion, and pain, with messages and practices of healing and welcome.  It also disregards or even casts out the influence of powerful, established interests.  (See Matthew 23:1-36, Luke 1:47-55; 4:18-19; etc.; John 2:13-16 and parallels.) Indeed, beginning as the record of a band of escaped slaves, the whole Bible inherently and reflexively sides with the victims, the losers, and the marginalized. 
“Freedom of religion,” therefore, can never be used by followers of Jesus to victimize or impose their will on others who are weaker.  To use freedom this way is a categorical rejection of Jesus.  
The Scriptures realize that this kind of “freedom” only leads to a further congealing of power among the already powerful.  Hence the rules for life given by God to the people have the effect of preventing the accrual of power in the hands of a few.  That was the regime from which they were delivered in Egypt.  The Torah, especially in a chapter like Leviticus 25,  explicitly provides for the periodic redistribution of wealth — and therefore power — downward.
Freedom isn’t real unless everyone is free.  The only way for everyone to be free is for those who have too much power to lose it, and those who have too little to gain it.  


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Six Words Describing My Theology.

Six Words Describing My Theology

These are not in order of importance, but stations in a circle of interaction and connection.  They balance each other and move together.  These are very brief sketches, to be filled out in future posts.
  1.  Celtic

I am inspired by the vision and practice of the Christians based in Ireland who worked mainly on the western fringe of Europe from the 5th through the 12th centuries.  The flavor of the mission was decidedly different from that of the Roman mission, which would eventually take precedence.  The Celtic movement was decentralized, centered on nature, rooted in spiritual practices, incarnational, communal, and inclusive.  In many ways the Celtic mission anticipated not only some themes of the Reformation, but now finds remarkable resonance among 21st century Christians.  It is a road-not-traveled by which we may not only reconnect with our Christian origins, but speak with integrity to our world.
“Celtic” today means more for me than a recovery of ancient history, but paying attention to the theologies emerging from the fringes, the edges, and outside of the mainstream, but which are also fed by roots driven deep into the biblical and Christian tradition.

(We Presbyterians also have a Celtic connection from our Scottish heritage; much of the energy in this Celtic revival emerges from places like Iona, Scotland.)   

   2.  Orthodox

I am grounded in the doctrines and outlook established by the Orthodox church as a continuation and articulation of the faith of the apostles, the New Testament, and Jesus Christ.  Discovering the theology and spirituality of the Eastern Church early in my education kept me Christian; I daily rely on the insights of the early fathers and mothers of the church.  Along with the affirmation of the Trinity and Christ’s two natures, I also have embraced the doctrine of “Theosis” which talks about how humans become by grace what Christ is by nature, and participate in God’s reality.  This mystical grounding feeds, informs, and orients my faith.    

(It also means that I move decidedly away from theories of the atonement which involve Jesus having to die to satisfy the honor or wrath of an angry Father.)  

   3.  Reformed

I believe the church requires constant reforming and reimagining according to the Word of God, who is Jesus Christ.  As he is attested in Scripture, Jesus Christ is the One Word of God to whom we belong and whom we must worship and serve in life and in death (Barmen).  The Scriptures are the unique and authoritative witness to him (C-67).  Constant self-critical vigilance is required for the church to resist wandering after the lure of wealth, privilege, and power, and remain faithful to the Lord Jesus and his life of humility, service, healing, justice, peace, and love.  Being Reformed is more a matter of faithfulness to this general approach of the Reformers than it is about trying to apply in our time their specific solutions to 16th century problems.    

   4.  Presbyterian

The church is organized according to two principles: a. responsibility rests with the elders, and b. elders bear that responsibility by gathering in councils.  Leadership is at once concentrated among those who have demonstrated a commitment to discipleship, and at the same time diffused in a group so that no individual becomes central.  The responsibility of elders gathered in councils is to discern and follow the will of Jesus Christ, who is the only Head of the Church.    

   5.  Progressive

Human beings are caught between the true world in which we are created by God as spiritual beings destined for eternal life, and the false world of delusion, sin, ego-centricity, and personality which we have invented.  Christ calls us to repentance: the process of awakening to a different way of seeing, thinking, and acting.  In repentance we resonate with Christ and increasingly perceive according to his perspective.  We come to see the reality of God’s love revealed in Jesus Christ in our hearts and souls, and the extend it into our social and ecological life.  Changed people change the world.  The more Christlike we become, the more we reshape our world according to Christ’s principles and values.  Nothing is more imperative for the future of humanity and creation than that people follow Jesus’ Way of non-violence, humility, equality, inclusion, simplicity, generosity, forgiveness, and walking lightly on the Earth.  That, by the way, is the urgency behind our evangelism. 

   6.  Contemplative

Contemplation is a centering, grounding awareness which we experience in prayer and meditation, and which we express in connection and compassion.  In contemplation we experience Presence, the fullness of time, immediacy, the eternal now.  Through the depth, silence, and sensation of contemplation we learn to see from ever higher, broader, and more inclusive perspectives.  By looking inward we become more open, identifying with others.  Because it gives us access to realities far larger than our minds or senses can comprehend, contemplation knows by means of ritual, symbol, story, metaphor, archetype, poetry, and imagery.  Contemplation connects us, however subtly, with the ultimate source of energy, light, and life.  It funds, energizes, and feeds our work of discipleship in doing justice, loving kindness, and walking in humility with the living God.