Thursday, July 14, 2011

When was the world created?

I have always been afraid to post about this topic on my blog, because I am afraid of getting in trouble with a lot of Christians I know for believing something different to them. It's not a major doctrinal point in my opinion. But recently I noticed a fellow blogger post on it, so I got some courage up. He's even quite a conservative evangelical (the kind I am afraid of getting in trouble with), so what the heck?

Here's what I had to post on his blog. I wonder if anyone will bother to respond to my thoughts, I'd love to start a discussion on it:

I am tired of people saying that they read Geneis "literally". It is not a literal text, it is in an oral text. As such it is full of oral devices and ancient oral world view. For us to force our literal world view upon an oral text is very bad analysis of a text indeed.
We can be guaranteed that when the stories of creation were composed the date of creation was not in the slightest bit part of the topic.

In our oral telling of these stories to some Sakha people here in Siberia, we actually started with the creation story of the garden, Adam and Eve. We then moved on to the next story in the garden, when they disobeyed and ate the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. Later we went back to the creation song in Genesis 1, where "everything God made was good." It was quite a surprise to our friends that everything was good, as the world we live in is not good at all. They found the second two stories easier to understand.

By the time we got round to the creation song about everything being good, they were ready to interact with this, as the other two stories had made sense to them. This is certainly what Genesis 1 is all about, contrasting the good and perfect Creator God from all the evil gods in the world around. (Not about when the universe was created.)
(Qualifier, "oral" still means true, just a different filter, a different part of the brain, a different way of viewing and describing the world.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna

My parents in law put this book in my hands a few years ago. It was a sample copy from their book selling business. It never made it on to their distribution line. Perhaps it has too controversial a sounding title?
I started to read it back then, but never continued with it. From my previous posts it is obvious that I have thought about topics of organic and home church for a long time.
More recently I bought Frank Viola's "Reimagining Church" on Amazon Kindle for the iPad. I began to read it, and felt really discouraged. Why? Because I so badly want what is written about in his books, in fact I have even had glimpses and tastes of "organic" or "open particapatory" or house church in my life in the past. But it just feels so impossible for this to happen where I live in Russia right now. I can't imagine any of the Christians I know being interested in organic church. So I put the book down. But I did sign up for Frank Viola's twitter feed. I did this, because he requested to follow me first.

Then Frank tweeted that his book was available on Kindle for $2.99 (it is now $9.99 again), I decided to get it. (I didn't bring many hard copy books here to Russia.) I seem to be a lot more frustrated with my church experience here in Russia, that I was again ready to read it. I also read Neil Cole's "Organic Church" while here in Russia.

One of Frank Viola's recent tweets was a quote: "Once your mind has been stretched it is impossible for it to go back to the shape it once was."  Over the years my mind keeps getting stretched further and further....

I will not give a full review of this book here. What I will do is implore you to read it. Frank Viola and George Barna have done extensive research in backing up their claims in this book. They have hundreds of references in their bibliography and hundreds of footnotes to substantiate their premise.

What is their premise?  That much of the practices we have in the modern institutional church are pagan in their roots and not biblical at all. The book calls us all to authentic worship and expression of the Body of Christ. They are very gracious in their approach towards the institutional church. They have some very important things to say. Everything they say is carefully researched and carefully lines up with scripture.

I know that I need to make a change in my life. I am completely and utterly stuck about how to do this.

I am now on to reading Viola's next book "Reimagining Church", which while full of hope will probably only make me sad about all that I am missing out on in my own Christian walk.

Help me Lord!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Mars Rover "Spirit" and Titan probe "Huygens"- both instruments of worship.

Over the last couple days we have watched a couple of space exploration documentaries. The first was called "Death of a Mars Rover", produced by National Geographic. The second was "Destination Titan", produced by the BBC.
I am always fascinated by space exploration. I have the greatest admiration for the scientists who are involved in these endeavours. Some may think that their activities are a waste of time and that they are of "no earthly good." Nothing could of course be further from the truth.
It is an easy temptation for humanity to be short sighted. Much like in Christianity, people get focused solely on the salvation of the individual and do not stop to realise that God's purposes go way beyond salvation. God's purposes are to establish his eternal kingdom. Salvation is just like getting the citizenship certificate, to say nothing of the civil responsibilities, as well as dreams and aspirations of the King and his citizens.
In a similar way many people do not realise the value of exploring the universe. But I can think of few things of greater value. Space exploration has intrinsic value in itself. We have a duty to understand the universe around us. We have a duty to explore it. In fact this can even be worship. To learn more about God's universe is to glorify him for creating it. For this reason I have the greatest admiration for the scientists who work to explore the solar system and the universe- even if they don't agree with my premise.
Of course there could be far more practical reasons for space exploration. There are undoubtedly many minerals available in our solar system that could be used on earth and to further our exploration. But until we discover minerals that are in low supply on earth (or even non-existent on earth), space mining is on indefinite delay. There can be no doubting that commercial incentives would push space exploration at a rapid pace. Sometimes I feel that this is needed, as on the whole space exploration is moving quite slowly. I still find it a shame that a base has not yet been established on the moon. Science just doesn't seem to be a big enough motivator for the general public, although it is a very worthy cause.

In the two documentaries, remarkable stories were told of success against improbable odds. The Mars rovers were supposed to only last 90 days. But one of them lasted seven years, and the other is still going. Even the stories of their survival, for me are a clue that God is in favour and support of these scientific missions. I can hear God saying, "sure, explore as much as you can, I know you are looking for life in the universe and I know you don't want to be alone on earth, so keep looking, the more you look and the more you search, the more likely you are to find ME." I can hear God cheering along the endeavours to explore Mars and Titan.
The probe that was sent to Titan (in 1997) nearly did not make it. And it even came down to the last three minutes of energy on the probe for it to collect that data that was planned. Success came down to the last second. Now scientists are hoping to send a "boat like probe" to sail the seas of liquid methane on Titan.

The Mars Rover "Spirit".

The Titan probe "Huygens".

An artists impression of Huygens landing on Titan.

I remember watching a documentary on what earth would be like 10 000 years after the last human was gone. It was speculated that perhaps Mt Rushmore would be the last remaining evidence of humans. All other structures would have disintegrated and disappeared. What would someone think if they found Mt Rushmore's presidential tribute? It would have the same unexplained aura as does Easter Island or Stone henge. What does it say about our world?  Perhaps it even says that America worships it's presidents.

But then it has been mentioned that the Mars Rovers will not decay as there is nothing to cause their decay, and that they will likely remain as they are for millions of years if no one goes to Mars. I think it is  a far better testament to humanity to see us exploring the universe, than leaving marks of worship to presidents carved in mountains.