Hi, James --
[Jim wrote]Yes, I do know Shebly Spong's works. Of course I think he is wrong on almost evertything. In fact, I focused on him in a chapter of my book _Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda._ Chapter 4:
[Kent responded] But your Chapter 4 is almost exclusively about homosexuality, probably the least important of Spong's topics. The more important of his comments, regarding existential truth and reality, have to do with: the fact that the Bible as "God's word" describes a flat earth, the time frame for creation and man's time on earth is all wrong, that Noah's flood is preposterous (80% of species in Madagascar exist nowhere else), that the Babel story is inconsistent with linguistic history, that females are more central and fundamental to life than males, that the Bible presents women as chattel property, that plants are created before the sun, that the "traveling star" at Jesus' birth is astronomically absurd, that Jehovah as God butchers women and children for the sins of a relatively few male leaders, that the earth's rotation is absurdly stopped so that Joshua can keep fighting, that there was death for millions of years before Eve "brought death into the world," etc., etc., etc. Spong's point was that educated people no longer salute these absurd concepts. Even Churchill said, "All sensible men are of the same religion," and neither Jefferson nor Lincoln nor Hamilton, etc., believed in Christianity. _Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda._ Chapter 4:
[Jim wrote] . . . he avows a faith in Jesus Christ . . . touching . . . deep sincerety. . . elicits real empathy . . . ". . . look into your heart....life-altering knowledge of God in Christ
[Jim wrote]But please read the excerpts here from Spong: http://www.mazeministry.com/letters/spong.htm _Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda._ Chapter 4:
[Kent responded]Yes, that's feelings-based, emotional commentary. _Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda._ Chapter 4:
[Jim wrote]You will doubtless put me down as a hopeless Luddite when you see my views on Evolution--a tautological theory. I reference a few paragraphs from my book _Hard Case Witnessing:_
[Kent responded]I read your comments. Here's what I think, but first, let me qualify my opinion somewhat. I was by far the best student in my department at the Univ. of Illinois, Univ. of New Mexico, Brigham Young Univ., Univ. of Madrid, Middlebury Grad. School, Stanford Univ., Yale Univ. and Georgetown Univ. (where a letter from the dean confirms that I was the highest-ranked Ph.D. candidate across all departments). I taught at Stanford, Georgetown, the US Naval Academy, the State Univ. of New York, and chaired the US's largest Middle-Eastern & African languages dept. And during all of those years, I NEVER applied for any job. Every job I had was offered to me in advance by invitation. For decades, I've done research in paleontology, geology, archaeology, history, linguistics, psychology, sociology, theology, etc., For
decades, I've interviewed numerous theology scholars at most of the US's top
universities. Every single top theologian I've ever interviewed as expressed
an opinion very similar to that of Leonard Arrington. It's just that most of
them don't express their honest opinions publicly. I've also interviewed
people such a Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson (who used to call me, not I
[Jim wrote]"People do change their minds about Evolution, as evidenced in the interesting change of thinking which occurred within Dr. Colin Patterson, Senior Palaeontologist at the British Museum of Natural History. _Bleeding Hearts and Propaganda._ Chapter 4:
For every Patterson, awaking after a mid-nocturnal limbic reparadigming experience, there are hundreds or thousands of sensible evolutionists. Or do you really believe that the whale was created from scratch as a swimming mammal and that human embryos have temporary tails because they were intentionally created that way?
[Jim wrote, quoting Colin Patterson] "Can you tell me anything you know about evolution, any one thing, any one thing that is true?" I tried that question on the geology staff at the Field Museum of Natural History and the only answer I got was silence.
[Kent responded] That is incredibly preposterous. It is screamingly absurd. There are thousands of things known to be true, and I know what "known" means, and I know what "true" means.
[Jim wrote] my adoration for and communion with the Living Christ remains undeminished after many assaults.
[Kent responded]That's beneficial for you, but the history of how that concept has evolved is quite clear, and was even clear to Ramon Menendez Pidal back in 1961.
[Jim wrote]The Bible, someone has said, is an anvil which has worn out many hammers.
[Kent responded]And, as someone else has said, "The greatest miracle of the Bible is that anyone ever believed it." Please take a careful look at the Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy, or even Who Wrote the New Testament? For your own good, you really do need to read those two books. Another excellent classic is, Some Mistakes of Moses, by Robert Ingersoll.
We can cite scholars on Evolution. But I disagree with you on this. Many good scientists are Creationists, and Evolution is a tautology. My belief system would survive even if Evolution were true--many believers are Evolutionists. However, your materialism cannot stand without it. I do not accept it as a good theory.
I know that is as silly to you as your position is to me. The Bible says "The fool has said in his heart there is no God." Materialism is, for me, an escape from the responsibility of submission to the Creator.
I wrote two chapters in my _Hard Case Witnessing_ book in which I cite (and footnote) dozens of scientists who are respected in their field and who disagree with Evolution. Even the Big Bang theory is showing signs of wear today. Even Steven Hawing has stated that the Red Shift in starlight theory--the initial starting point for Big Bang--does not support the theory (he believes in it however). He said, quite perceptively, that all we know is that all the heavenly bodies are moving away from _us_. And he wryly stated that we did not place ourselves at the center of the universe (which is what he said that information would tell us) "simply out of modesty."
I know my seeming intransigence is maddening to you (as your is to me). The only place I might suggest you lighten up is in your recitation of your credentials as proof of your position. I repeat that people like Robert Gange are certainly credentialed at least equally as well. In the end, Kent, one of us is right and one of us is wrong. But that probably will not be because one of is brighter and more educated than the other. I am only saying that offering your own accomplishments as proof of your arguments is probably not productive in this argument. I respect you for what you have accomplished, but we are both citing people brighter and more learned than ourselves.
Your assessment of the teachings of the Bible are equally imponderable to me. In my opinion, after preaching the Bible for more than twenty years, I see it as a bulwark _against_ chauvinism, and a check against materialism which reduces humanity to the product of bouncing dust. And that based on the lean propositions of Evolution, which is never observed and not scientifically repeatable.
I detect some irrationality in your defense of Spong when he agrees with you and your consignment of him to "emotionalism" when you don't.
I think we are coming to a place in this where we are not learning anything meaningful from each other. My job is _not_ to escalate your exasperation.
I find that in these conversations, we often wind up preaching to the choir. My audience really is not hardened materialists, but rather those who are struggling out of restrictive believe systems (Mormonism, Secularism, the Occult) who are looking for a Way. I offer the Way, the Truth, and the Life. You reject that. OK. So you are not my audience. I'm comfortable with that.
Kent, the bottom line for me is not so much which one of us is right. The bottom line is which system offers us the greatest peace and joy. I struggled with the Existence of God, and at age 21 I "believed." During the ensuing 40 years I have struggled to define what that conclusion implies. My study and reflection has led me to worship God in Christ as described in the Bible. I have come to believe that the Bible was given by God and that it was protected from corruption by the same God. I believe it is entirely trustworthy. I do not believe it ever taught a flat earth, or that women are chattel. On the contrary, I think Christianity is the strongest advocate of genuine love and humility (it is certainly the bane of totalitarian societies). Certainly corruptions of the Faith (like Mormonism and Middle Ages Romanism) have led to horrors, but those errors arise not out of Christianity but out of perversions the text of the Bible warns us about. Galatians 1:6 is enough to have protected early Mormonism from Smith, if his followers had been able to trust the Bible rather than his charismatic meanderings.
Certainly there are difficulties with some biblical concepts. I struggle with the story of Noah's Ark, but not near as much as I struggle with Evolution which fails to produce a single observation of special evolution, or even one transitional form, forcing Gould back to to Goldschmidt's hopeful monster.
I have thoroughly studied (honestly, Kent) alternatives to my position. I have rejected them. I'm comfortable with that. You have a different position and are comfortable with that. I hope that our differences are not the only thing that is important in our relationship. "Some of my best friends are materialists." Heck, I even have friends who are Democrats. They are wrong, but they are dear to me.
As much as I would like you to agree with me--I know you'd be better for it--I do not want your failure to be right to define our relationship. You are too precious a creation to consign to the ash heap of "assaulted and rejected." The fact is, it is as easy for me to love you as it is to love those who agree with me. And that is a direct result of experiencing the love that Jesus gives to me, his least appealing and often most rebellious disciple.