Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Gotta Wonder if I'm Gonna Make It

It's sad when I'd rather almost do anything than do the thing I'm supposed to do. I need to finish my thesis and write a 10-page paper on marriage counseling. Instead I'm here writing, but I will not be long. I just wanted to make an observance about my own behavior.

And to make a note of the fact that my procrastination might have caught up with me. I seriously question the quality of my work right now. Did I just provide arguments for and against sociobiology? Or did I present through the writings of others my own point of view? Perhaps my editor will be able to tell me, but it concerns me still.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can Divorce Be Faithful?

Growing up, my parents have always been together. There was never a time of separation except when it was planned: my dad goes off to a meeting, my mom goes to a retreat, etc. Have they always gotten along? No. But, they have worked things out with each other. However, in modern times for various reasons, divorce has become more a norm with around 50% of married couples getting divorced. Like I said, this is for multiple reasons. Some of it has to do with the lack of trust in the institution, lack of understanding of what love really is, etc. Sometimes, it's for real honest reasons.

In the Gospel of Matthew, it is commonly quoted of Jesus that the only grounds for divorce is adultery and neglect or abandonment. Indeed these are very worthy reasons for divorce. Though they do not necessitate divorce; forgiveness is always an option for those involved. But, Jesus said that divorce can be faithful in this manner. And for many Christians that is understood to be the limit. However, I do not think that it is. David Instone-Brewer argues that Jesus was actually answering a specific question of no-fault divorce. In this case, a Jewish man could potentially leave his wife for whatever reason and not have to meet with the court about the divorce. Jesus was saying that in this manner adultery and neglect could be seen in this light to be a no-fault divorce. Certainly when the marriage has become a shamble of what God has called the convenant relationship of marriage to be, we cannot keep it together for ill.

If the marriage, which reveals God through covenantal relationship and is supposed to be a testimony to God and His love as well as a relationship in which God uses to work in the world for the betterment of the world, is not as it should be then it should not be continued. It cannot be a faithful way of living for God. This means in the case of mutual or even one-sided hatred of spouses, adultery, neglect, threats, abuse (verbal and/or physical), and in some few cases debilitating illness when it is no longer feasible for the two to live together (i.e. insurance), that divorce can be a faithful Christian thing to do. It should be counseled only with care though. There must be little in the chance of reconciliation or even no chance at all. And it would be circumstance by circumstance. Adultery can be forgiven if a person so chooses. If the couple can survive financially when one has a serious illness, then there is no reason for them to part. And even hatred or neglect with proper counseling and therapy POSSIBLY could lead to reconciliation. The last two are unlikely.

And just because it is the faithful thing to do in some circumstances does not mean it would be easy. I personally have no idea what it is like for a couple and family to have to split up because of divorce. Like I said, my family is still relatively intact (occasional division but never so severe as divorce; all families have their dysfunctionality). A couple of really good friends have gone through the pain of their parents' divorces. But, personally and thank God, I have not. For a moment let us consider a divorced individual. This person lives with a stigma of failure. It is not necessarily their fault, or at least it is hardly ever all one's fault. But, one must not look at it as failure, particularly in the case of abuse, neglect or adultery. If one leaves in those circumstances, it is the failure of the other spouse, not of the individual. Not to mention we should not label all divorce as sin. This puts a further stigma upon them. Divorce for nothing more than "falling out of love" when really it's just that the "romance" is over, or for just losing interest in each other, or for when one "finds someone else that fulfills them," is sin through divorce. But, in any case the congregation should help those involved to come through it. And even if it is sinful divorce, sin can be forgiven. Should we condone sinful divorce? No. But, we forgive those who do if they are repentent. And we should not label all divorcees as a product of sinful divorce or even like they are carrying a disease. They already have a burden on their mind. They already have to deal with altered relationships with friends, families, and children. I like the suggestion mentioned in my Mystery of Marriage course in which I am currently enrolled, that there should be counseling offered to those who have suffered it. There should also be a singles group ministry. However, I understand the difficulty of the latter: it can become like a mixer, a way to get dates, instead of learning how to live for God as a single person.

Our culture and indeed the Church has put a great emphasis on marriage and in some ways this has led to poor marriages and greater divorce rates with greater hurt and animosity amongst us. However, when we learn to love as Christ has called us to do, we can understand what it really is to serve God in whatever station we are in: single, married, divorced, widowed, etc. And we can help those who are going through the difficulties of whatever life throws at them, sometimes because we have gone through it ourselves. And we can learn to forgive. None of this is easy, but since when does God call us to the "easy life?"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Reward for Fashionable Thinking?

In Consilience, the decade-old work by reknown biologist and environmentalist as well as THE sociobiology expert, Edward O. Wilson, Wilson states that "a loving personal God, if He is paying attention, will not abandon those who reject the literal interpretation of the biblical cosmology." (Wilson, 6) I agree with him on this point. To take everything literal in Scripture, or to even selectively take certain passages as literal whenever it suits your theology, is actually dangerous. However, he continues, "It is only fair to award points for intellectual courage." (Wilson, 6) Wait a second. He goes on to say that the church he grew up in, the Baptists, made no provision for evolution.

So, let's get this straight. He considers it intellectual courage to break with a literal interpretation of Scripture, which he seems to consider the norm in Christianity. He also equates the Baptists as the norm in Christianity and more specifically a certain fundamentalist group of Baptists as the norm. But, out of all this then, God will reward those who are intellectually courageous in that they break with this line of thinking? I would love to tell him that he has seriously misjudged the Christian faith.

First of all, the idea that literal interpretation of Scripture is the common thought of the Chrisitan religion is completely false. It is limited to a sect of ultra-conservative Christians that sometimes even limit Christianity to certain principles that it did not originally preach. As early as the Church Fathers we have authors stating that the Scriptures are not to be always taken literally and indeed meaning of the passages can be found on other levels. That is to say, Truth can be found on more than just the surface. Augustine and Origen, two widely separate Christian authors in thought, both agree that Scripture is to be interpreted not to just mean what it says literally, but to look deeper or even figuratively. They both argued for allegory in Scriptures. Augustine specifically addressed Genesis in that manner as well. Today, many Christians wrestle with the passages of Scriptures and do not take the Bible in all its verses literally. Does that mean that some should not be taken literally? Not at all. But, we must wrestle with the text and pray about it before we can make that judgment.

Second, there is significant room in the Baptist faith for evolution. Will you see a ton of Baptists siding on the view of evolutionary origins? No, probably not. However, Billy Graham is open to a theistic evolutionary interpretation. B. B. Warfield, though a Presbyterian, was a fundamentalist. However, he did not oppose evolution and actually endorsed a theistic evolution position. Plus, it has been my own experience that Baptist theology is fairly open. That does not mean that Baptists themselves are. But, an example of this openness is that the a liberal theology, the Social Gospel, which argues that we must rid the world of social evils before the second coming of Christ, was early on fathered by a Baptist minister in New York, Walter Rauschenbusch. And Martin Luther King, Jr. was most definitely along these lines as well as a Baptist.

And as a Baptist myself, and a person with degrees in both the biological sciences as well as religious studies, I find myself not needing to endorse a literal interpretation of Genesis to be a devout Christian, let alone a devout Baptist. I would not say I'm a full-blown proponent of evolution. I'm not a creationist either. I believe that the best explanation of the origin of biological life is through theistic evolutionary stance. Evolution was the process as we can see and observe natural history, but that as the Scriptures attest, God is control of and sustains all of Creation. Genesis was written to proclaim the works of God in the form of poetry. It also reveals to us that humanity is animal and in the image of God. We are spiritual and animal. And it provided followers of the True God, the Blessed Trinity, a way to order life in a manner of seven days. Seven also represents God's perfect number and thus showing Creation to be indeed, good.

So, perhaps Dr. Wilson should take a second look at the Christian faith. Don't believe that what you were raised with has to be the norm nor the thought of a devout Christian, even of the Baptist faith. And if you think that brothers and sisters of the Christian faith are mistaken, do not leave the faith because you believe they are. We are all together on the journey that is the Christian faith, we can dialogue and yet not agree. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the Head and we are His Body. We are in unity despite that we may not always agree.

Jesus Christ is the answer to salvation. Not, falsely-labeled intellectually courageous thinking. In fact, his thinking is quite fashionable. It is quite fashionable to label Christians as literalist, close-minded thinkers. It is quite fasionable to think that Christians are opposed to science. It is quite fashionable to think that God will reward us for doing what we think is right. It is inconvenient to think that God calls us to live as He desires us and not how we desire to live. It is inconvenient to think that perhaps the Church has the Truth and that this Truth makes a claim on our lives. It is inconvenient to think that the Church is perhaps more open-minded about some claims than one thinks. It is inconvenient to think that perhaps your rebellion against the Church is against a limited set of beliefs that a limited number hold in the Church. It is inconvenient to believe that there is a God directly involved in our lives and in Creation (because of that aforementioned claim on our lives). However, the inconvenient truth of the matter is that God does exist. He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, through His teaching, death by crucifixion for the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection for the hope of eternal life in Him. God has reconciled us to Himself and if we do join Him, we gain greater freedom even though we lose rights to self and what we think is right apart from Him. Better to be a servant in God's house than to be a slave to intellectual "freedom."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

My First

I haven't blogged in a while if you consider xanga a blog site (which I do). I feel encouraged to share my own thoughts on life as I feel the need to journal. A friend of mine has inspired me to start my own blog and to write of my own perceptions of life. I hope that I can provide insight to others lives and at the same time clarify my own thoughts on what I have pondered, thought, felt, seen, etc. Well, here I am. Let's begin...soon.