Monday, June 20, 2011

raping the divine

In my local paper recently, I learned that a young man who used to be my neighbor, was charged with the crime of rape. The story is complicated, because his ex-girlfriend is the accuser. When the romance was reciprocal, their intercourse was acceptable, but once that reciprocity was broken, the same act was heinous and terrible. There are many directions to go with this. Keeping sexual intercourse within marriage is a good start, however, rape can happen within marriages as well. But my mind drew a line between this incident and something I read on a blog, which I can no longer find, equating promiscuity with worship. We are all made to worship God and the sensation of those experiences are similar in their aspect of transcendence. I've written about transcendence before and those other near miss attempts at transcendence (sex, drugs) that only true worship satisfies (see this post on other religions and the transcendent).

But can rape be transcendent for the rapist? I wouldn't know. But there must be something so desperate in the rapist's mind that reciprocity is not needed, or maybe it's projected, like the man who hires a prostitute and seeks to believe the lie his money affords. All that remains for the violator from that act of violence is a surge of hormones that bear a faint resemblance to transcendence and some bodily fluid. But there is also the victim, robbed of privacy, dignity, security, safety, and, in some countries, family and the presumption of innocence.

But I'm not trying to write again about transcendence. This is a post about hell. At this point in out culture, we still revile rapists. Seven years incarceration still does not seem long enough to pay for the crime, in my opinion as a father of two girls. No time served can restore what was taken from victims. Opinions on rapists seem to elicit rage from people. "The death penalty is too good for them..let them be castrated." Justice for rape is hard to find. I believe that forgiveness for rapists is possible, that Jesus can forgive even the rapist, if the rapists repents and asks. I believe God can and does heal rapists and victims, but apart from God, on our horizontal level, there is so little that can be done to right such grievous wrong.

Where does hell fit into this? I think a life lived apart from the true worship of God, through Jesus Christ alone, is a violation of God's general love for us as humans. God forgives those who repent and seek to live in a reciprocal relationship with Him, who worship Him in spirit and truth. But for those who refuse that proper relationship, who live a life of rape towards God, how can God's just response to that, eternity in hell, apart from Him, be called unjust? We are all guilty of participating in the violation and execution of Jesus. Yet he offers to all forgiveness for that. How gracious is our God.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

book report: Did Adam and Eve REally Exist? by C. John Collins

This is not the first book I've attempted by C. John Collins, but at least I finished this one. It is not that his books are bad, it's that they are like pound cake, too rich. Pound cake has a pound of butter and a pound of sugar to go with a pound of eggs and a pound of flour. Too much of something that rich makes me sick. I need to eat it in small portions when its richness can be appreciated. Normally, I can digest in a night or two a book just over 150 pages. Collins's book did not let me do that. I had to put the book down and process after every few subsections in his chapters.

Part of the reason I chose to study for a degree in biology was that even as a boy, I was really concerned with the challenge Darwin presents to those who would take Genesis as a somewhat reliable guide to the earth's and life's origins. He writes partly in response to Francis Collins and the work of the group Biologos which seeks to harmonize origins science with Christianity. C. John is of the camp that one starts with the Bible as the reliable source which science can inform, but Francis is of the opposite persuasion. Hence, Francis and many others of that camp question the historicity of that first couple in a certain Garden called Eden. But C. John questions a scientific proposal for Christians that denies what Jesus and Paul affirm in the New Testament, a very real and very guilty Adam and Eve.

I'm very sympathetic to some of the weaknesses C. John points to in the other camp.

For example, consider how the Old Testament scholar Peter Enns defines "myth": It is an ancient, premodern, prescientific way of addressing question of ultimate origins and meaning in the form of stories: Who are we? Where do we come from? One difficulty in Enn's definition is its apparent triumphalism: it seems to imply that we in the modern scientific world are more sophisticated than the ancients. This overlooks the astounding achievements of ancient peoples in areas that we would call mathematics and engineering. p.29

The modern/ancient bias is hard to shake and comes up repeatedly as an assumption we all make. The more I read history, the more stupid I feel. I'm beginning to suffer from the opposite bias nowadays. I agree with Collins that we need to give ancient people as much respect as we have for ourselves. Regarding the double creation stories in the first 2 chapters of Genesis he writes,

The only text that have is the one that places these two passages together. Further, we have no reason to expect that whoever did put these passages together was a blockhead (or a committee of blockheads), who could not recognize contradictions every bit as well as we can. p.52

The answer to the title of C. John's book, in his argument, is "yes." My first year in college was at the only non-denominational Christian liberal arts college in New England, and in my class, that answer was not definitive. After that year, I realized I could get the same perspective on biology at a much less expensive state school, UConn, and was educated in one of the top ecology and evolutionary biology departments in the country. I love the debate. I love the science. I love the theology. I am glad C. John Collins has contributed a thoroughly researched and reasoned and level headed theological argument to the latest debates without being shrill or petty.

I'm glad Crossway published it and that they sent me a copy for review.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Poetry for my wife's birthday

I believe it is my duty to all husbands, as incompetent as myself at celebrating milestones for their wives, to share the small victories. I have one arrow in my quiver; Haiku. Rhyming is not expected, just a meter, and a brief one at that. So I offer to all of you men ( those of you desperately searching for a poem for your wife because you forgot to buy a present or order flowers or reserve a table at the nice restaurant she's always wanted to go to) the poetry I presented my wife on her birthday last month.

When you were twenty
And, still, when you were thirty
More, now you’re forty

Every birthday
And each anniversary
I love you e’en more

I am so grateful
To have you as companion
For this journey of life