Friday, April 24, 2015

Midsummer Celebration is coming to Chattanooga!

I'm really excited to announce that this year's Midsummer Celebration on June 20 in Chattanooga will feature guest speaker Paul Garner of Biblical Creation Ministries in the UK.  Since we launched Core Academy as a primarily online ministry, I've been eager to move our ministry to live events, and this will be our first big one.

The main attraction will be Paul Garner's presentation The New Creationism: Building a Creation Model at 7 pm.  This presentation is FREE to the public and will be an excellent introduction to Core Academy's approach to the creation/evolution debate.  Model building seeks to create new understandings of science in light of the scripture, and it has yielded some of the most exciting advances in creationism of the past 25 years.  Paul will give examples of exciting progress from his own research.  This will be a great presentation for anyone interested in science and faith.

For those who want to go deeper, we will offer a special workshop during the day before the evening presentation.  The theme is God's Created Kinds, presented by me, Paul, and Roger Sanders.  Most of you know that created kinds are a Core Academy specialty, and we're going to showcase that during this workshop.  It's an outstanding way to get up to speed on creationist perspectives on biology.  This will be a day-long workshop beginning at 9 am and going to 4:30 pm, with lunch included.  We are charging a $40 registration fee if you want to come to the workshop, and tickets are limited.  ACSI teachers are eligible to receive one CEU from this workshop.

Interested?  I hope so, and I hope you'll check out our website, where you can find more information about this event.  Keep following my blog, the Core Academy facebook page, or the Core Academy newsletter for more announcements about the Midsummer Celebration.  We still have some surprises left to announce!  You won't want to miss this!

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Don't be like Jonah - Darrel Falk responds

Last week, I wrote an article about my on-going conversations with Darrel Falk.  He suggested that he might write a follow-up, and I agreed to have a look at it.  It's well worth reading, so with his permission, here it is.

It was with considerable enjoyment that I read Todd’s recent blog in which he explores what a person should do when one’s “mortal enemy”—me, it turns out—asks for help.   I appreciate how as he sought an answer to the question—he turned to Scripture and Jesus instruction, which, it turns out, is that we are to love our enemy (Matthew 5:44) and that we are to bless those who curse us (Luke 6:28).

I also liked the fact that Todd suggested that talking with me was better than the alternative: he didn’t want to take any chances on being swallowed  by a great fish.  So Todd, using Jonah and Jesus as his models, agreed to a little “cross-cultural” ministry.  He began to help me understand how a very smart biologist could hold a view that seems so incongruent with the knowledge we both have as scientists.

The two-year-long process has been enlightening.  Never have I felt so loved by a person who thinks of me as their “mortal enemy” and by the same token, never have I come to care—I think a little like Jesus must—so deeply for the welfare of an ardent young age creationist.

I asked Todd if I could respond to his blog.  First of all, I want to say that after twenty plus years of interacting with those who hold the young earth view, I do not ever recall anyone questioning my relationship with God or my standing before God. I am, however, fully aware that my views on evolution are considered to be deeply harmful to the church.  Various leaders, including Todd, have been very frank about this.  We are all aware of the significance of a spirit of unity within the church.  Jesus final prayer in the 17th chapter of John is a call for oneness, and Scripture is full of statements about the centrality of love in the life of all believers.  However, the New Testament scriptures are also filled with references to the dangers of false teaching and there are some strongly worded statements about what to do about people who mislead others.  So Todd and I are on very precarious ground—he thinks my position is very wrong (i.e. false) and I think his is wrong (i.e. equally false).  He thinks that my teaching will harm young people and cause them to lose their faith.  I’m afraid I think the same about his.  So what in the world do we have to talk about?  I don’t think he’s going to change his mind in a significant fashion and he knows that the probability of my moving into the young age camp is pretty slim.  One of us is wrong: I think it is Todd; he thinks it is me. 

So why do we—“mortal enemies” that we are—get on Skype every Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. PDT to talk for an hour about various aspects of our work as science professionals and our views as Christians?  It is because each of us are responding to what we think is our Christian responsibility.  For the present, we think, we are called to grow in our understanding of the other: how can we, two persons each committed to evangelical Christianity and each quite knowledgeable about biology, end up with such disparate views?   That is an intriguing and an extremely important question.  Perhaps someday, this kind of conversation will become more public involving more and more people.  If so, our hope is that it would always be a conversation between “mortal enemies” who really love each other in a manner that seeks to parallel Christ’s self-sacrificing love for the church.   

We could, if we so choose, just hunker down and lob stones at each other’s views from within our walled fortresses.  However, as scientists and as Christians, we have no use for that approach.  As scientists, we seek to clarify the basis for the alternative models of creation.  We don’t think that can be done productively from behind the barricade of high walls and locked doors.  As Christians, we are called to love--even our enemies—and we don’t think that can meaningfully be done without communication.

The theme of Todd’s blog is the story of Jonah and his call to go into Assyria for some “cross-cultural” ministry—a calling Jonah initially rejects.  The consequences are dire as he finds himself deep in the underbelly of a great fish.  He repents and quite dramatically is given a second chance.  This time he proceeds to follow God’s call but does so in a self-centered, smug manner—not much of an improvement it turns out. The story of Jonah ends with him sitting outside in the desert just to the east of the Assyrian city waiting for its destruction only to find God at work in ways that didn’t fit with how he envisioned God would work.  This time, instead of being swallowed by a great fish Jonah is found to be wallowing in the mire of his own self-righteousness.   God is not pleased.  Jonah’s narcissistic pride and his determination to be right at all costs seems to swallow him alive.  From that, it seems as the book draws to a close, there is likely to be no rescue.

So Todd and I are talking, and hopefully in a humble fashion that is not characterized by self-righteousness.  We are both very firm in our convictions.  This includes, however, the greatest conviction of all: as followers of Christ, we must be known by our love, even when the object of that love is our “mortal enemy.”

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, April 13, 2015

I'd rather NOT be swallowed by a giant fish

What do you do when your mortal enemy asks for help?

I suppose we Christians could duck the question by pretending that we don't actually have any enemies.  I think that's a convenient and common excuse for why Christians hold grudges.  We just try to convince ourselves that it's not really a grudge or it's not really unloving.  That person I don't like isn't really my enemy.  I just don't like him.  I can love someone without liking them, right?  I think it's really interesting in the gospels that when Jesus says to love your neighbor, He's asked almost immediately to explain who my neighbor is, but when He says to love your enemies, no one has to ask who that is.  We all know who our enemies are.

Back to the uncomfortable question: What do you do when your mortal enemy asks for help?  Maybe not just the person you don't like, but maybe the person who is actively campaigning against the work you feel God has called you to do.  Maybe that person even runs an organization dedicated to opposing the work that you're doing.  It's no small rivalry over your Bible study curriculum or who gets to run Vacation Bible School.

So what do you do when your mortal enemy asks for help?

Today's culture makes it quite clear what you do:  You don't help them.  That's insane.  If your enemy needs help, they can get it somewhere else.  If they're in desperate need, this could be your opportunity to win and defeat them!  Or maybe it's more subtle than that.  Maybe your enemy is setting a trap, trying to prey on your sympathy so they can get some dirt on you to publicly shame you.  Or maybe they're just trying a more crafty method of spreading their poisonous doctrines.  Seriously, can you imagine the NAACP helping out the KKK?  Or PETA helping any hunting club of any kind?  It's ludicrous to even imagine it.

I can understand that.  If I was asked to help my enemy advance their own cause, I would refuse.  If I was asked to help my enemy do something immoral or against my core Christian beliefs, of course I wouldn't do it.  But what if they asked for a different kind of help?  What if your mortal enemy just asked you to help them understand you better?  What if they came to you with no agenda and just wanted to figure out what went wrong?  What if they just asked you why you're so opposed to them?  What if they just wanted to figure out why we became enemies in the first place?

The Bible has a lot to say about this, and most of it makes me very uncomfortable.  Love your enemies (Matt 5:44).  Bless those that curse you (Luke 6:28).  Jonah certainly learned the hard way, didn't he?  Talk about helping your enemies.  The Assyrians were a brutal and violent culture, and God had the nerve to tell Jonah to go preach to them.  After careful consideration, Jonah decided that wasn't a good idea, and he went the other direction.  When you think about it, Jonah had legitimate reasons for not going to Nineveh.  Let's face it, they could have killed him outright.  They certainly had that reputation.  He was wise to fear for his life.  But we all know how that turned out for him.  "Love for enemy" is not an opportunity for us to debate what love is or who my enemy is.  "Love your enemy" is an opportunity for obedience.

So what do you do when your enemy asks for help?

Some of you know that I've been chatting with Darrel Falk for almost two years now.  Darrel used to run BioLogos, which is the leading evangelical proponent of accepting evolution as God's mechanism of creation.  They like to use the term evolutionary creation, but most of us know this as theistic evolution.  I am a young-age creationist, and I don't think evolution is compatible with Christian theology.  Mortal enemies?  It would seem so.

We began our discussions in response to a request by a third party looking to carve out a place for ministry in the midst of the creation/evolution debate.  Colleagues warned me that they're just looking to push a pro-evolution agenda.  This is a common tactic, I was told.  First you start talking and being nice to them, and the next thing you know, the Christian culture accepts their heresy.  I was personally taken aside by another creationist concerned about my "compromise."  My compromise?  This relationship with Darrel Falk, of course.  I was told that my reputation would be ruined, and that my discernment and theology are already corrupted.  Another creationist was more blunt: There's no point in trying to reach evolutionists, because they'll never listen.  They're a waste of time.  The message I've gotten has been quite clear: We don't talk to those people.

But Darrel still wants to talk.  My mortal enemy has asked for my help.  He wants me to help him understand me and young-age creationism and the evolution debate.  Well, what else can I do?  He doesn't ask me to endorse his position, and I don't.  So I'm not compromising, and on top of that, I have the ear of a very influential evangelical.  I don't have to pull any punches, either.  I get to ask him all the hard questions I want.  I get to stand up for what I believe to be truth, but more importantly, I get to do it to a person who is actually listening and trying to understand.  Why would I squander this opportunity?  So we talk.

You know what I've learned?  Sometimes things that bother me about theistic evolution bother him too.  Not always, of course.  It's not like he's secretly worrying about fitting evolution and Christianity together.  Quite the opposite actually, he's maddeningly comfortable with his position, but there are theological compromises that he won't make.  So when I try to hit him with my zingers ("Evolution requires X.  X is incompatible with Christian theology; therefore, evolution must be rejected"), sometimes he agrees that X cannot be sacrificed.  He just disputes that evolution requires it.  He's a lot smarter than a straw man, and he's forced me to think more carefully about why young-age creationism is so important.

Another thing I've learned is that he doesn't know what I think he knows.  Just recently I heard someone say that there was no point in making arguments to theistic evolutionists "because they already know them all."  I don't think that's true.  He doesn't understand my position, just like I don't understand his.  Some of my arguments he's heard, and some are totally alien to him.  Just like some of his ideas seem new and outrageous to me.  I guess that's what happens when you do cross-cultural ministry: You find out that "those people" don't really think like that at all.

As I'm learning these things, I continue to hold up what I consider to be essential parts of the debate.  I maintain that you cannot carve out Genesis 1 or even Genesis 1-11 from the rest of the Bible, as if the history of Genesis doesn't matter.  I maintain that this debate is a much bigger hermeneutical and epistemological problem than just the science of evolution.  Start picking at the threads of Genesis history, and the whole tapestry of Christian theology begins to unravel.  Maybe not today, but it will happen.  It's already happened in many denominations and organizations that have chosen to "re-imagine" Christian theology to make room for evolution.

Darrel still doesn't agree with me, but he's listening.  That's got to count for something.  So we talk, and I will keep talking as long as he keeps listening.  I'll continue to listen as long as he wants to explain his own thinking.  I am not a compromiser, and this is not a waste of time.  God's Word is powerful.  It will accomplish what it was sent to do, even if you have to bring it to your enemy.  Because Jesus made it clear that when your enemy is in need, you have to help.  If you'd rather not help your enemy, Jonah's example should speak volumes.

After all, I'd rather NOT be swallowed by a giant fish.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Abstracts DUE for Origins 2015

This might be a little bit late for a reminder, but abstracts for Origins 2015 are due tomorrow.  See the call for abstracts for more information.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Smoky Mountain Creation Retreat 2015

I'm just back from Core Academy's Smoky Mountain Creation Retreat in Beech Mountain, NC.  Pictures from the weekend can be seen on our Facebook page.  The biggest surprise of the weekend was the four inches of snow that fell the night we got there.  Everyone got in and out safely, so the snow was just fun to watch.

I would love to tell you exactly what we talked about, but most of it was pre-published work in progress.  I talked a bit about Ian Barbour's religion/science taxonomy, and I got a lot of good feedback on my ideas.  That was very helpful.  Jud Davis talked about Hebrew cosmology and the "firmament," which was really exciting and frankly a little shocking.  I'm hoping to see more of this work in the very near future.  Marcus Ross reviewed a pair of contributions he's written for a new book project, and I was pleased to see how much work he had done to make his arguments as good and as modern as possible.  Finally, Lee Spencer was a good sport and reviewed Adventist beliefs about creation.  There was plenty of extra time to chat and catch up with those in attendance, and I think everyone had a really good time.

Next year, we plan to have another Smoky Mountain Creation Retreat on April 1-3, 2016.  Mark your calendars now if you plan to be there.  In the mean time, abstracts for Origins 2015 are due this weekend, April 4.  See the call for abstracts at the Creation Biology Society website.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.