Friday, September 29, 2006

A Grey Friday

Despite the title of Monday’s post, I’m moving on from the creation stuff today (although be encouraged to respond to yesterday's post if you would like to contribute thoughts). Partly because I have found the soapbox to be less cozy than originally thought. But mostly because we have bigger things to attend to:

After sifting through the excessive usage of synonyms for “harlot” as well as the uncomfortably sexual tone of Grey’s A last night, here are my thoughts.

-It was touching to see Bailey reach out to Lizzy; however, I don’t remember Bailey doing anything that should cause her to take any blame for what happened to Denny.

-I expressed my opinions concerning Grey, McDreamy, and Chris O’Donnell last Friday – which makes this date-off stuff all the more ridiculous. If I was either one of those guys, I’d be peacing out in a hurry.

-Speaking of COD, I can’t take his character seriously. Every time I see him, all I think of is him in tights, playing Batman’s sidekick. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Let’s be honest, folks, Grey’s A doesn’t hold a candle to the Batman movies. But in fairness, what does?

-I still have positive feelings towards Addison, but my position is becoming more and more untenable. My reasons for liking her just don’t hold up, given what she’s done. Maybe I just like the actress. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

-Respond with a :) if you’ve ever danced alone in your room like George’s girlfriend did last night. And not to get a workout in but because it just felt so good.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Why I Think This Matters

The main problem I see with the millions of years argument is where to fit the millions of years into the Biblical account. Usually they are situated somewhere after Day 5 or halfway through “Day” 6 in order to account for the fossil record. The thinking goes that dinosaurs and other animals were created a good while before humans came onto the scene, thus explaining the dated fossils which we see.

This throws a major wrench into the Biblical idea that sin, and consequently death, entered the world through one man, Adam (Rom 5:14 “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam. . . “). According to millions of years, a lot of animals died to create the fossils long before Adam came onto the scene.

Herein lies the problem and consequently why I think this is such a big deal. If we have death before sin, this calls into question the foundation of the Gospel, that somehow death existed before we did. Thus, its initial blame cannot be placed on us. At the very least, something else must carry partial blame for death’s entrance into the world.

By extension, this has consequences for us as we view the rest of history, especially the passion of Jesus in which he brought justification and righteousness to all men. The parallels of Romans 5 seem to break if the one man did not bring sin into the world – not to mention its textual integrity.

Furthermore, millions of years would question the beauty and goodness of God’s creative work if the brokenness of death existed before we rebelled.

These issues are huge deals, so I am very wary of writing about this stuff here as I try to work out my own thoughts. Am I missing something? Is there a way to include the millions of years and respond to the previous issues? I’ve wracked my brain looking for something. Without finding it though, I cannot hold to an argument which seems to call into question the foundations of the Gospel. Is there an answer which satisfies millions of years and the Biblical description of God and salvation? Right now, I don’t see one, which is why I have to believe what I believe about creation.

This is why I think this discussion is a big deal. Maybe there are explanations out there which make it not matter as much. I’d love to hear any ideas ya’ll have.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Where Has This Been All My Life?

A reporter came to the campground in August, wanting to interview campers about their thoughts on summer's end. Not quite. Two questions into her first interview, she breached the subject of a deadly virus carried by mosquitos which had recently taken the lives of a couple locals. She knew the story she wanted before she arrived, and she got it.

As she set up to broadcast, our manager grasped the opportunity for free publicity, sending us bathroom cleaners to gather up every child we could find and hurry them to the playground (a pleasant reprieve from our usual duties, I might add). This made it appear as if we had all of Middleboro, MA, playing and laughing on our campground, even though it was Tuesday and the campground was all but empty. The good people of southern Massachusetts who watched Channel 7 News heard and saw exactly what the decision-makers wanted them to hear and see.

When watching the creation presentations, I felt a lot like these news watchers. The speaker presented many arguments which I had never before encountered. The odd thing was they seemed to make some sense. He made scientific arguments for a global flood creating the fossil record, for large scale seismic activity laying down millions of years of sedimentation a whole lot faster than millions of years, and even for the co-existence of humans and dinosaurs - which sounds absurd, but I wonder how absurd it would sound if I hadn't grown up being told how absurd this idea is. We do co-exist with some rather large, violent creatures even today.

Now, I am supremely ignorant when it comes to science, so I make no bold proclamations on these issues. All I have are humbled personal opinions. The incredible thing about this presentation was that it used science to make these arguements, but it also used the Bible. For me, that was a powerful, and more importantly, a new combination.

Do know that some scientists believe in thousands of years and not simply in a fundamentalist, Bible-thumping, unthoughtful manner. I had no clue people like that existed before this summer. If you want more, the Answers in Genesis website will provide material that will give academic and intellectual specifics - something which I have neither the space nor the ability to do. And as Alex commented yesterday, "Creation and Time" by Hugh Ross is a Bible-based source to get the other side on the debate.

I've rambled a lot the last couple days with very little relevance. I really do think this stuff has huge consequences for us though, and for the next two days, that's where I want to go.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Definition of Day

One of the fun aspects of words is that they can have different meanings in different contexts. For example, in the phrase "in my father's day," the word "day" refers to a generalized period of time and not an actual day. Similarly, in the sentence "I went to the store that day," the word "day" refers to a specific 24-hour period. This can make language rather confusing but also pretty exciting and a lot of fun.

Much discussion exists over the meaning of the word "day" in the creation story. The text says that God created everything in 6 days, so everything hinges on the meaning of "day." As in the previous example, we must go to the context. At the end of God's work on each day is the phrase "There was evening and there was morning, one (a second/a third/etc) day." This very clearly describes a literal day - dark, light, then back to dark to conclude a 24-hour cycle. Furthermore, every instance in the Old Testament where the word "day" is surrounded by the mention of "evening" and "morning," it unarguably means one literal day.

This discussion over meaning never exists anywhere else in the Old Testament either. No one thinks the flood last 40 million years or 40 months or 40 hours. Similarly, Joshua's march around Jericho is generally understood to have lasted the 7 days as the Bible indicates, not 7 million years or any other measurement of time.

So why are we willing to accept God's word literally everywhere except in the creation story?

Because science offers up evidence to the contrary. This evidence deserves our attention and should not be discarded. However, we must remember that it is merely evidence and not proof - as the world would so often have us believe. Through the glasses of the world, a strong argument exists for millions of years instead of 6 days - even though, at some point, troubling questions emerge as to where everything came from and why so many exceptions to standard scientific laws exist. Through Biblical glasses though, we see that God created everything in 6 literal days. Either way, we have no proof, no certainty of how everything was really created. Only evidence which requires interpretation from a perspective. The difficult thing is that no human was around in the beginning to verify what really happened.

But God was.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Creation in Five Days

I believe the universe was created in 6 literal days.

I believe that the earth's age is in the thousands of years and not in the millions.

And while not an issue of salvation, I believe that ideas on creation really matter.

While wasting away in a trailer by myself this summer, I watched a series of films on evolution and creation by a man named Ken Ham who founded a ministry called "Answers in Genesis." This ministry exists to defend the validity of the much-attacked first book of the Bible. He transformed this issue from something which seemed to be a mere externality into a crisis which threatens the integrity of the Bible and, by consequence, the Christian faith.

Opposing sides very clearly exist in this debate, but the disagreement does not come from the facts. Everyone has the same set of facts. It is the interpretation that causes the breach, and each interpretation is colored by perspective, the glasses through which one sees the evidence. When one approaches the evidence with worldly glasses, we are left with good theories punctured by a few key questions (ie, what came before the Big Bang; given sedimentation, why are some older rocks on top of younger ones, etc.). When one approaches the evidence with Biblical glasses, real science actually supports the Bible's claims.

On the ground level, it's simply a matter of either starting with the Truth of science and trying to squeeze it in between the verses of the Bible or starting with the Truth of the Bible and then seeing that science does not contradict it but actually provides evidence for it.

It's really quite exciting - even for an English major. More to come tomorrow.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Friday!

I'm going to keep it brief today, so ya'll can take a look at comments made on Tues and Thurs' posts if you would like. Folks have put some great stuff up there, so take a little time to look it over and hopefully contribute to the discussion.

A couple quick points:

-Golf's Ryder Cup is this weekend. The bi-annual event always provides some of the best drama in sports, partly because it always creates a poignant dynamic when athletes who compete as individuals their whole lives come together to play as a team (see also tennis players in the Davis Cup, tracksters in relays, and intellectuals in Quiz Bowl).

-Grey's A premiered last night. Reflections: George did well not to say, "I love you," if he isn't ready; to do so would only cheapen the word. Through the 9 months that I have been watching the show, Bailey has been the only consistently likeable character. Grey doesn't deserve McDreamy or Chris O'Donnell. And most troubling, why do I find myself liking Addison so much?

-My furniture comes tomorrow! I can't wait to rise from the shadowy depths of the air mattress to the glorious heights of mattress and box spring.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Shelving My Closed Mind

Borders started teaching me how to shelve books yesterday. Each subject has a different method of shelving, so I quickly became overwhelmed by how many subjects there are. Tons of ideas exist out there.

My initial, fleshy reaction to this is one of intimidation. How can God convey himself to anyone in this swirl of thoughts and ideas? I find myself wanting people to read nothing but Christian fiction and the Bible so as not to be swayed by the numerous other ideas, theories, and subjects in the book store and the world.

But then, God's character comes forth and rebukes these wayward thoughts and the lack of faith of which they are evidence.

If I am going to believe in a God who claims to be the creator and who claims to be all-powerful, surely he is not afraid of an honest discussion of ideas. If people honestly seek to find purpose in life, to find God, surely the God who calls himself Truth will not be hidden by theories and purposes which are not him. The world often stereotypes Christians as close-minded and intolerant, which becomes supremely frustrating in this light. If we are going to believe in a God that is big and powerful and true beyond our comprehension, surely we should not be afraid to give everyone a voice and an ear. God will prove himself because of who he is.

So here's to open-mindedness and diversity. May I not be afraid of hard questions and differences. May I have faith that the all-powerful God of Truth will protect his character and love his children. If we are honestly asking and looking, he will find us.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dodging the Slammer

Odd Encounter of the Week: Internet Marketing (Scam?) Recruiter

I was in Target late last week looking to buy a manual canopener for the apartment. They were all pushing $10.00, so I continued up and down the wall, hoping to find one closer to, say, $1.00. A balding, mid-50's gentleman standing next to me all of a sudden asks what exotic contraption I am looking for and not finding.

I tell him a $1.00 canopener.

Ed is looking for an ice crusher. He likes crushed ice.

Before long our conversation went from non-electric appliances to the Carolina Panthers to Ed's internet marketing business. He tells me what he does but doesn't really tell me what he does. I need to come to a "workshop" that night to find out more, but I have dinner plans. Alas! Opportunity missed.

The next day my cellie blows up with an unknown, Charlotte-area number. Maybe a callback on a job interview! Nope. Well, kinda. It's Ed. Wants to have coffee Tuesday afternoon to talk more about his "business concept". At this point, I have no job, no one to hang out with, and no gall to outright reject the offer. I accept.

So yesterday, I met Ed for coffee, and he walked me through his business concept, again without ever really telling me what it is he does. The company sells no prodcut, and the word "pyramid" came up once. I don't know much about business, but these seemed like red flags. In this context, usually the adjective "illegal" is placed in front of the noun "pyramid."

Ready to run, I told him that money really wouldn't motivate me enough to put in 5-15 more hours a week. He tells me that 10 out of 10 people want more money. I think this was his way of calling me a liar. Regardless, he eventually reads that he's barking up the wrong tree and ends our conversation.

It was fascinating listening to him though. "Get rich quick" people are a segment of the population about whom I know very little, as I'm too intimidated by their mind games to approach them. I did learn a lot about him and what his values were, and I did it while not entering into a business deal which potentially could have landed me in prison.

The biggest lesson I learned though: When trying to sell someone on your ideas, at least buy their coffee.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How Does One Know God is Really There?

One of the main differences between Christianity in the American South versus Christianity in the very un-"Bible Belt" city of Boston is that us Southerners do not have to confront the basic questions of faith. In Southern culture where it's chic to wake up a tad earlier on Sunday morning to put our time, as well as add the adjective "Christian" to our lives, we can get whatever it is we want out of faith by simply doing the aforementioned two things. Whether God is really there or not is irrelevant. We can avoid this foundational question because the culture around us never brings us to a point of question.

For me, God is logical. This is where it starts. Statistics tells us that the universe we observe is an impossibility, left to random chance. It takes no greater a leap of faith to believe that something or someone is behind all of this than it does to say that nothing or no one is behind all of this.

Thus, given a creating power, I follow Jesus because the worldview he describes is the worldview I encounter. This world is filled with brokeness. Both external (war, famine, disease, natural disasters) and internal (despair, hopelessness, insecurity, dissatisfaction, anger, selfishness). Every time humans try to conquer these things on their own, we fall hopelessly short. I know this in my own life, as I constantly stuggle with the internal brokeness. I see it in the world's history, as we seem no closer to destroying war, famine, disease, and natural disasters than we have been at any point previously.

Christianity's solution is God, not us (and this make sense, given our track record). Christianity is unique in that there is nothing required of us to be reunited with God. Quotas do not exist in the Bible. By dying on the cross for the sinful brokeness that we have never been able to fix, Jesus reunited us to God. All we have to do is believe that this is true and accept the reunion and the personal relationship with God which results. We cannot make ourselves righteous, but we can believe.

Given what I see in this world, only Jesus makes logical sense. This is how I know God is really there.

But that is just logic, and given the emotional beings that we are, logic often does not cut it. I know God is really there because I tried him. I believed. I took him up on his promises and dared him to show himself a liar. And the crazy thing is, he came through. He gave me companionship in times of loneliness. He gave me purposeful work when life seemed pointless. He gave me rest and freedom when life only offered anxiety and stress. He gave me confidence when I was drowned in insecurity. He is real and relevant, never failing to meet me when I need him. Through all of this, he never ceases to show his love for me.

So how do I know God is really there? As a friend once told me, once you've seen the ocean, no one can tell you it's not there.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gourmet Gerber

I like solid food. Steak. Potatoes. Cheesecake. (Ed.'s note: To my vegetarian friends, my food choices are simply personal preferences and are not meant as an absolute truth that demeans the solidity of vegetables.)

I also like spiritual solid food - talking about relationships, predestination, and ministry theories. While these things are good to talk about, they often distract me from the life-giving truth that God is eternally in my corner. Time and again, I need the infant's diet to remind me that God loves me and not just everyone around me, that I am a desired son of my Father and not simply a labor-ladened pack mule.

At church this weekend, the pastor put us on the baby food diet, answering the question, "Why should we believe in Christianity?". Whether for the first time or the 100th, know how much God desires you:

We all have a spiritual longing, a gnawing in our soul for something that we cannot quite fill with the things of this world. Alcohol. Friends. Sex. Football. Achievement. All temporary highs that never endure into the long nights when we stare at the ceiling, unable to sleep, wondering what our existence is all about. All of us have rejected God, whether by refusing to believe He exists or by refusing to obey His commands. Our open rebellion separates us from God, creating a spiritual longing while devastating our emotional well-being. Apart from a relationship with God, this spiritual gnawing is never filled. And the supremely frustrating thing is there is nothing we can do about it.

Christianity is unique in that it acknowledges this fact that there is nothing we can do about our spiritual pain. No morality, no rituals, and no efforts can ever make us right with a perfectly righteous God. Our task is to swim from California to Hawaii. On our own, we don't get close. But in our futile efforts, Jesus comes to pick us up and carry us the rest of the way. He died on the cross to take the punishment for our rebellion and then came back to life so that death may not be our end. Only by believing this truth, that Jesus is the only way to peace, purpose, fulfillment, Heaven, and Hawaii can we ever make it to peace, purpose, fulfillment, Heaven, and Hawaii. God desires to give us this if we will only believe Him and take what He's offering.

I was home alone this weekend, both roommates being out of town with important business - important business being wedding planning and dental school interviews. It's not efficient to cook for one, so my food consumption from Friday night to Sunday afternoon consisted primarily of Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, Dorrito's, and Easy Mac.

With a diet like that, Gerber mashed peas and carrots could do me a lot of good.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Separation Saturday

HUGE weekend in college football. Look for:

Michigan's running game over Notre Dame
LSU's defense over Auburn
Miami's tradition and talent over anything in the Big East short of WV, including Lousiville
Clemson over FSU's impotent running offense
USC big over Nebraska
Florida and Charlotte-native Chris Leak over Tennessee

Attempting to Redeem My Usage of Redemption

Wow, never thought Prufrock would generate such a response. Further proof that everyone wants to be an English major (chem major Katie H, we're looking at you :) ); it's just that only some of us are brave (or foolish) enough to actually pull the trigger.

One thing that bears a second look from Prufrock is this concept of redemption. This has become one of my favorite words over the last couple of months - which is odd given that I admittedly have a shallow understanding of it. My recent experience with it follows the basic definition, "Redemption is someone making good out of bad." However, I think there is more depth and power in the word than that.

On his blog, my friend Alex Kirk gives us a more thought out and theologically relevant definition. See Monday, August 28 (and everything else, for that matter; his blog is worth your time every day).

Redemption is the story of God's interaction with the world. He redeemed Adam's sin with Christ's work on the cross. He redeemed the murderous actions of Joseph's brothers which led to the beautiful articulation, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." He redeemed the event of crucifixion with the resurrection. It's everywhere if you look for it.

This is the story of God's interaction with me, as well. Over and over, he has redeemed my mistakes, my hesitations, and my efforts to create good where I have failed or harmed, intentionally or not. There is great hope in this so that, for example, when I gave a brash and obnoxious talk at chapel this summer, I prayed with hope that God would redeem my poor word choice and tone to impart His good news to people anyways. I could do a lot worse every morning than pray, "God, redeem my efforts today."

Our culture even recognizes that redemption is everywhere, even if only subconciously. We hear it in cliches all the time. "It'll work out in the end." "It'll take care of itself." "One day, we'll look back at this mess and laugh." Generally, we see good coming out of bad, even when we aren't looking for it. Redemption exists in those cliches; the credit just isn't given where it's due.

My usage of the word redemption in the context of Prufrock was flippant, as I used it to impart empathy and sympathy for him. That's cute and nice and cuddly. It makes me feel better. But it does not redeem because no good comes out of the inaction in his life. It is good and right to affirm his worldview, but we cannot let him off the hook for passively standing by. There is no redemption in that. Only fluff.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Dream Realized

For the past couple years of my life, I have always clung to the philosophy that humans were made to do that which they are passionate about. If you find life working with your hands, go build houses. If you find life in children, go teach. If you find life in sports, go coach. I figured we are wired the way we are wired for a reason, so these inherent passions of ours should guide us in our search for occupation. This molded my career trajectory thinking, as I jumped from business to high school teaching to ministry to the current "year off" which I am now taking.

Yesterday, a phone call from Borders Books ended my current unemployment stint. Monday morning, I will report to my first day of work as a member of their inventory team. In short, I will stock book shelves, talk to customers about books, and drink coffee all day. A month ago, this is exactly what I wanted. Working in a bookstore is Paradise for an English major. As a friend recently told me, "Books and coffee. What else could you want?" Well. . . .

I am continuously humbled when my well-thought-out, iron-tight theories on life deflate into mush when they actually are put to the test in real life. This is a job about which I could be passionate. It fits my afore-mentioned qualifications for a life-giving job. But it pays next to squat. And let's be honest, shelving books doesn't require a college degree, so on some level, I feel like I'm wasting ability and 4 years of education. Amazing how quickly paying bills and yearning for the approval of the world can destroy grand and eloquent theoretical thinking.

I am taking the job, not because I am staying true to my desire for a desirable job but because, frankly, there are no other options right now. I'm being forced to follow the theory I have always held. Maybe that's God getting me where He wants me to be. Maybe that's God teaching me a lesson in humility that I don't have life figured out, as much as I think I do. Regardless, I'm heading to a job Monday morning that I want and should enjoy. Here's hoping that when the theoretical rubber meets the practicality of the road, the tire doesn't shred.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

J. Alfred is My Homeboy

J. Alfred Prufrock gets a bad rap.

The narrator of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" consistently received a tongue-lashing from my English major classmates any time the poem came up in class. He lacks manhood. He chooses inaction. He thinks himself into passivity regardless of the subject - be it cosmos or fruit. I think he just finds it difficult to exist in a land where fruit consumption, hair care, and trouser rolling find more value than universe disruptions and resurrections. In this, there is a redeeming quality to the life lived by Prufrock.

That being said, Eliot portrays Prufrock as an overwhelmingly weak character, choosing to be an attendant lord rather than prince. He recognizes the ruins of the land in which he lives, the superficiality of those around him, and the brokeness in his own life. And he chooses to do nothing. In this, redeeming work is needed in the life of Prufrock.

The song of Prufrock is also my song - the Love Song of R. Bennett Humphries, if you will. I relate to him on many levels, good and bad. Like Prufrock, I often find it difficult to live in a broken world, a world marred by sin, a world that exists now as it was never meant to exist. But like Prufrock, I have had a life-long tendency to avoid action because of fear, faithlessness, feelings of inadequacy, the list could go on.

The purpose of this blog is to redeem Prufrock, both defending his worldview but also attempting to rage against the passivity which plagues him and me. Not every day will be an English major's rant on Eliotian poetry. I look forward to waxing eloquent about the universe but also chatting about the peaches. I never tire of hearing my own voice, but I do hope that ya'll will respond and turn my rants into actual discussions.

Let us go disturb the universe.