Ken Ham and the “Natural Reading of Scripture”

From my Colson Center article about Ken Ham’s Faulty Hermeneutics:

Ken Ham is part of a larger tradition (limited mainly to American fundamentalism) that finds it difficult to acknowledge that the young-earth way of interpreting Genesis is indeed an interpretation of Genesis. The underlying notion is that we can take the Bible at face value without needing to interpret it since the meaning of Scripture is clear, self-evident, and utterly beyond doubt to any honest layman who desires the truth. It is important to appreciate that this is not the historic Protestant position, but an offshoot of Protestantism that arose as the doctrine of Scripture’s perspicuity became mixed with the type of American individualism that Nathan Hatch has chronicled in The Democratization of American Christianity. The result is that evangelicals like Ham can have the best of both worlds: on the one hand, they can interpret Scripture however they like and claim that it is the clear meaning of the text; but, on the other hand, they are able to dismiss alternative readings as obscuration, subtlety, and man’s interpretation. That is why young-earth creationists do not see the need to do business with other potential readings of Genesis.

Read more here.

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Gnosticism Within the Evangelical Church

I used to teach history at a private Christian school. Like many schools in the classical education movement, we couldn’t afford our own building and had to rent from a church. One day as I was walking to my classroom, I stumbled over a piece of paper in the hallway. Stooping to pick it up, I saw that it was a hand-out from one of the church’s Sunday school classes, titled “Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible.”

I found myself intrigued. I knew that the church had Gnostic leanings, so I was curious to see how they would handle the doctrine of bodily resurrection. However, as I scanned the Ten Great Doctrines of the Bible I soon discovered that the doctrine had not made it onto the list.

Well, I thought, maybe resurrection is mentioned under something else, like salvation. Reading the section on salvation, I saw these words: “Salvation deals with the afterlife, heaven, hell, and whether or not it is safe to die.”

After that I decided to try the doctrine of “Future Things.” Maybe resurrection would make an appearance here. However, echoing the section on salvation, the paper said that the doctrine of future things dealt with “the end of the world, and eternity.”

I stood there in the hallway reflecting on the words, as students filed past me into their classes. How sad, I thought, that the entire Christian hope had been collapsed into fire assurance. How strange that salvation was being reduced to escaping to heaven for eternity and that the teachers of this class had not found it necessary to even mention the hope of bodily resurrection.

It would be nice to be able to say that the teachers at this church were an anomaly within the evangelical tradition. However, the truth is that this Sunday School class reflected a widespread move within the evangelical church towards a belief structure that is more Gnostic than Christian.

This realization was one of the factors that led me to start writing a series of articles for the Colson Center on Gnosticism within the evangelical church. In this series I have explored how the matter-spirit dualism of Gnosticism has infected everything from how many Christians view work to changing practices in funeral liturgies. Below are links to some of the articles in this series :

Immodesty and Sexual Desensitization

From Nudity and the Christian Worldview (Part 1):

In discussing modesty with young people, I often get a response that goes something like this: “Women who wear bikinis are not trying to be provocative. This is just what women wear for swimming suits these days, and you shouldn’t import sexual connotations onto it.” Although I think this is often naïve and wishful thinking, my response is to take the young people at their word and to assume, for the sake of argument, that there really is nothing sexual in the minds of those women who strip down to a bikini, or those men who defend the practice as “not having anything sexual about it.” I then point out that if the female body can be almost entirely revealed without the presence of erotic overtones than this only shows how desexualized we have become. Indeed, if a woman can strip down to a bikini in the presence of men without having any thought of the sexual overtones, then this only shows that she has let her body become demystified, that her God-given barriers have been lowered, and that her bare flesh has been evacuated of its inherent eroticism. And this is exactly what early advocates of nudism hoped would happen. (Incidentally, it is also what early advocates of sex education desire to occur, a topic I have explored in the latest edition of Salvo magazine.)

I suggest that we are drifting towards being neuter when the signals of our sexuality are treated as anything less. If we reach the point where attire which conceals less than underwear (e.g. contemporary beachwear) is anything short of utterly erotic, disarmingly sexual and totally provocative, then we have actually repressed an important part of our sexuality. Being in a condition of undress has been unnaturally disengaged from the sexual connotations that ought to accompany it. It follows that the line “there’s nothing sexual about this” is as much an indictment against immodesty as it is a defence of it.

Perhaps God never intended for the naked body to be demystified like this. Perhaps seeing someone of the opposite sex in a state of undress (whether on the beach or on television), was never meant to be disengaged from its sexual connotations and to become merely ‘ordinary’ so that we can say ‘Oh, that doesn’t affect me.’ Perhaps we were never meant to become so detached that seeing someone’s genitals becomes like looking at their elbow. Perhaps it is for this very reason that we are supposed to protect our eyes, to make responsible decisions about how we dress and what we watch on television. Perhaps it is for this very reason that the Bible places such a premium on modesty (see 1 Timothy 2:9–10 and 1 Peter 3:3 for starters), restricting nudity between the sexes to the marriage bed.

If we are Christians there is no ‘perhaps’ about it. The Bible makes clear that ever since the fall of man, nudity was meant to be associated with sexuality. After our innocence was lost, trying to regularize nudity can only happen through demystifying the human body and repressing our sexuality. And that is precisely what is occurring today. If we reach the point where nothing fazes us, where we can enjoy a beach party with virtually unclad men and women, or think that we can watch various stages of nudity in movies without it affecting us, then we are the losers. What have we lost? We have lost the ability to be naturally sexual as God originally designed. We have in effect let ourselves become functionally neutered in one crucially important area.

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Realism and Moral Communication

From ‘Gay Marriage and Creational Realism

For the nominalist, in order for God to be truly free and all-powerful, the categories by which our moral and material lives are ordered must be the result of God’s disposing will and not rooted in structures antecedent to His will (i.e., the fixities of God’s nature or the inherent patterns of creation). The nominalist will thus find it difficult to speak of things being “fitting” or “rightly ordered” in any sense more general than, or prior to, God’s pedestrian commands….

Unfortunately, the impasse of communication that persists in the “gay marriage” debate has left some Christian thinkers suspecting that genuine dialogue with unbelievers about the meaning of marriage is impossible. The thinking tends to run something like this: if someone doesn’t share our Christian worldview, there isn’t much we can appeal to when defending traditional marriage. Moreover, why would it even make sense for the other side to listen to us given that they don’t share the worldview that gives rise to our understanding of marriage in the first place?…

If the Christian understanding of marriage arises from the raw command of an omnipotent God arbitrarily constituting the world in a certain way that might just of easily have been otherwise, then I agree that there is little we can say about the moral constitution of the world to those who do not share our theocentric worldview. On the other hand, if we are realists then we believe that God’s commands about sexual ethics flow out of the teleological directedness intrinsic to creation itself. Under the realist scheme of things, it becomes possible to appeal to unbelievers on the basis of that ordering without needing to invoke explicitly Biblical arguments.

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Making the Boundary Markers of the Family Even More Porous

Dr Sophie Coulombeau suggests that women who adopt their husband's surname lose their identity in the process.

Academic and author, Dr Sophie Coulombeau, has brought the name-changing controversy into the limelight by suggesting that wives who adopt their husband’s surname lose their identity in the process.

In an article for BBC’s news magazine, Dr Sophie Coulombeau, raised the question of why a woman would want to take her husband’s surname when getting married. Her comments echoed Jill Filipovic who wrote in the Guardian last year that adopting a husband’s surname is equivalent to allowing one’s identity to be obliterated.

These ideas are achieving resonance with numerous women in the younger generation. In 2009, only 70% of women said they thought wives should adopt their husband’s surname. As increasingly amounts of married women retain their maiden names, their children are faced with the terrible burden of having to decide whether to adopt their mother’s surname or their father’s surname.
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Reading Material Online Goes into a Different Part of the Brain than Reading Physical Material

Studies have shown that reading printed material goes into a different part of your brain than the material we read online. Specifically, when we read online, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex in the left front of the brain is activated. This is the part of the brain involved in controlling decision making, complex reasoning, problem solving and vision. By contrast, when we read texts off-line, researchers found that the part of the brain associated with language, memory and visual processing is activated, not the part of the brain involved in problem-solving. And that is what you want. When reading material that you need to remember, it’s important that your executive memory not be taxed by being in problem-solving situations. We don’t realize that reading online puts us in problem-solving situations, because it happens just on the edge of conscious awareness.” From the article ‘Three Skills for Online Learning that no one is Teaching.’

School Deform

Salvo31I am delighted to announce that the Winter 2014 edition of Salvo is now hot off the press. My own contribution to the magazine comes in the form of a devastating critique of the Common Core curriculum. Condensing some of the observations I made in my earlier series of blog posts, I have tried to present a very succinct summary of the primary objections I have to the new curriculum.

Most of the articles for Salvo can only be accessed by people who purchase the physical magazine (click here to subscribe), but because we know that not everyone can afford a subscription (even at the phenomenal price of $25.99 for a whole year), we have made my article on Common Core available online for free.

My article, titled ‘School Deform: How 31phillipsCommon Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination’ argues that Common Core is essentially a neo-Skinnerist conspiracy to control the next generation through squeezing us into a pragmatic cast that kills the imagination in the process. To read my article, click on the link below:

School Deform: How Common Core Promotes Cultural Engineering by Killing the Imagination