On Retrospect: The Beginning

That’s my first header. Why? Well, that came with the theme and I didn’t know I could change it – let alone how!

I can’t remember the answer to this question: Did I start blogging on Blogger or The Sporting News (TSN)? Blogger was my multi-year journey about three friends who rated hamburgers throughout the city. The Cincinnati Burger Guys (past post here) had success in and out of blogging, but various aspects of life caused the team to fade away.

I played various fantasy sports games at The Sporting News (TSN) for multiple years. The games were free and fun. In order to build a community, TSN provided a blogging opportunity for its members. Most of those I list/link as Pioneers in the sidebar are from my TSN days. Unfortunately, TSN stopped their fantasy games and blog hosting – so participants dispersed.

In 2008, Tim (a frequent commenter here) and I would meet for breakfast or lunch. Most of the conversations focused on investments, sports, and politics. Keep in mind, 2008 was an election year in the US (Obama-McCain). I was itching to write again, plus Tim always appreciated by thoughts – even occasionally agreeing. Research took me to WordPress – and in a few months I forged ahead. A Frank Angle was formed – a way of using my name and promoting what I wanted to do – an honest opinion.

The burger blog was for a local audience, and the TSN blog was for a limited community. Beyond posting and hoping for readers, I didn’t know what to expect on WordPress. It didn’t take long to learn that the blogging experience is much more than I anticipated.

My first post was short as I introduced myself and a small bit of blogging philosophy. Although I didn’t mention it, but sports and politics was my primary focus. Not knowing much about building a blogging community, I got followers, visitors, and commenters the old fashion way – hard work. I replied to every comment, visited all visitors (even commenting on their site), and visiting links on other blogrolls.

Reconnecting with some TSN people helped in the early days. Cheers to Tim (Beeze), Mo, Chris, Lester the Legend, and Dave. Even to this day, they surprise me with a pop-in visit. Special thanks to Dave who told me that if someone takes the time to comment, they deserve a thought reply from me. Give them more than a mere thanks for visiting or commenting. That is not only true, but priceless advice.

Slowly (but surely) my blogging community developed. By Dec 2008, I was still interested in sports and politics, but I wanted to post more often to keep my readers engaged and keep building. Branching into other topics widened my readership. Looking at the wide range of topics listed in the Categories, that was a great decision for me.

PS: This is a milestone post: #2300.

Next: The Golden Age

On Beginnings

Embed from Getty Images

In the beginning … a start, launch, dawn … a genesis

In the beginning … a void, an empty space, nothing … or maybe something

In the beginning … exposed soil in a field, an empty stadium, a vacant lot … a place

In the beginning … a concrete footer, steel frame, fountainhead, foundation, … an emerging spring

In the beginning … a whistle, kickoff, scrum, opening tip, first pitch … a waving flag

In the beginning … a crying red face, a nervous child, a smiling bride, a happy graduate … a seed

In the beginning … a ceremony, baptism, bar mitzvah, wedding, commencement, ribbon cutting … an inaugural

In the beginning .. a preface, introduction, forward, prelude, preamble … a start

In the beginning … a new moon, sunrise, nova, … a new tide … a new day

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. (Seneca, philosopher)

Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if they were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness and understanding you can muster, and do it with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again. (Og Mandino, author)

Let us always meet each other with smile, for the smile is the beginning of love. (Mother Teresa, humanitarian)

Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will. (George Bernard Shaw, playwright)

On a Coin Analogy

Image from Microsoft Office

Image from Microsoft Office

A coin is an interesting analogy. On one side is a group of Christians who say one cannot believe in evolution and God. In their own mind, this group believes they speak for all Christians.

On the coin’s other side are some agnostics and atheists who profess that all Christians obviously believe in the literal interpretation of the Genesis creation. Others even proclaim science and Christianity as incompatible, thus Christians must reject science.

Interestingly, these two sides of the coin are the polar opposites who publicly launch diatribes at the other while dominating the news on this topic. However, both sides also fail to realize or accept that there is much more to the coin than opposing surfaces – therefore, more to this story.

As the conservative Christians embrace a literal Genesis, I continuously wonder why they give God so little credit. Besides, they are in the minority of Christian thought and don’t realize it. On the other hand, the agnostics and atheists who pigeon-hole all Christians as disciples of a literal Genesis are failing to realize how many (and yes, the majority) Christians appreciate and embrace the role of science in our world, including evolution – therefore missing the connection to our common opponent.

I have encountered literal Christian and the agnostics and atheists who pigeon-hole all Christians. My personal and independent journey of studying the science-theology interchange not only deepened my Christian believes, I also developed a greater understanding and appreciation of the thoughts from agnostics and atheists. For the sake of this post, I categorize this group into three subgroups: the atheists, the worshipping agnostics, and the uninvolved agnostics.

The atheists can be a difficult bunch. Two prominent science writers, Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne, use scientific reasoning to justify their anti-Christian crusade. While both these passionate scientists are strong voices for evolution, their rational regarding the non-existence of God lies outside of the boundaries of science. (Past post about boundaries) Besides, religion is about faith – a love relationship that involves trust – thus not a belief system grounded in the scientific method. (Past post about faith)

I admit having a difficult time giving these anti-religion crusaders any credence on this issue, which is partially due to their tone of choice. However, I realize not all atheists are as dogmatic as these two scientists are because not all nonbelievers are antagonist to Christians – thus, I find it easier to accept and respect the nonantagonistic atheists and agnostics.

The agnostics are a broad group. Some have never been exposed to theology, thus do not know. Others do not care to know. Others encountered events involving human behaviors as acts of evil and injustice causing them to move away from their prior belief system. Yet, in many cases (if not most) these agnostics are not antagonist to those who are religious.

Carl Sagan is a wonderful example. Although there were times in his life when he challenged religion, he gave religion space during most of his life. There is no question that Sagan marveled the universe. However created, Sagan proudly stood in awe of the universe. Although he did not worship it, he understood the majestic nature of the universe and the role of our Pale Blue Dot. Simply put, his words are an inspiration to anyone with wonder!

Agnostics as Ursula Goodenough and Paul Davies have a different belief system from Sagan. Although not believing in a heavenly god, they see the glories in nature as indicators of the presence of a god in nature – thus the term religious naturalism. Their awe and inspiration are similar to Sagan’s, but they differ from Sagan in their application of god – not a god as a creator, not the God of Abraham, but a god who is present within the complexity, patterns, and mysteries of nature. Like Sagan, their words also inspire.

Prominent writers Michael Ruse and the late Stephen J Gould are examples of another group of agnostics – nonbelievers acknowledging space for theological thought as long as theology does not conflict with the way science works. In his NOMA model, Gould (a self-proclaimed no believer and agnostic) explains religion and science as non-interfering subjects – a similar approach proclaimed by Christians as Augustine, Galileo, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, and many more.

In the end, because of writers as Sagan, Gould, Goodenough, Davies, and others, I have a greater understanding, appreciation, and respect for agnostics and atheists, along with their view of the natural world. Yet, in the end, I hope those on the opposite side of the fence as I not only become more tolerant to the theological who embrace science, but also understand we share a common view against Biblical literalists. After all, the science-theology conflict is between religions – not one between science and theology.

On a Reblog Oops

Today, I was planned my first reblog – but I messed it up – thus plan B – a link.

It’s been some time since I’ve written about the interchange between science and religion, but when I read Nancy’s post in late January, I knew this was reblog worthy. That’s where the mistake occurred because I was thinking I could save the reblog as a draft, then post. Wrong! It reblogged when I didn’t want it to causing me to delete the reblog that I didn’t want to do – so as far as WordPress is concerned, I’ve already reblogged her post.

When it comes to the interchange between science and religion, I am a self-taught observer on the subject, which is a story in itself that I’ve written about here somewhere in these pages. Like me, Nancy is a layperson interested in the topic, but I respectfully recognize Nancy as being higher up the knowledge ladder than I.

I encourage everyone to follow this link to read Nancy’s post. Feel free to comment there as well because Nancy replies to comments. Enjoy – and hopefully I will be successful in my next attempt at reblogging.

On a Lost World

In my continuing quest to study the interface between science and theology, my need to learn more about the interpretation of the Book of Genesis led me to another series of books. Thanks to the booklist at Biologos, I started with The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by Dr. John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College (the school from which Billy Graham graduated).

The paperback book is short (192 pages includes notes and an index), and organized into 18 propositions – the individual themes that organizes the content. The book is easy to read and understand, thus a good read for anyone generally interested in the topic or those struggling with the science-theology conflict centering around Genesis , including pastors, science teachers, and laypeople. It serves to stimulate thinking while serving as a starting point for further study of Genesis regarding origins.

On several occasions, Dr. Walton openly challenges the meaning of “taking the Bible literally” when it comes to determining the meaning of ancient literature as Genesis. He challenges studying the text through the eyes of the modern age, including today’s knowledge of science, thus emphasizes that in order to gain a literal understanding, one must do the following:

  • Read the text in the context of the times
  • Translate words based on their use, grammar, syntax, and understanding of the times the author wrote the text
  • Determine the author’s intent and what the audience would be understand
  • Identify any significant events of the time for context

One of the key to Walton’s discussion is around the Hebrew word bara. Meaning create, Walton continually provides two meanings: to create something new (a material look), and to create order (a functional perspective). Walton also examines Hebrew words meaning day, earth, Sabbath, humanity, and a few others, and intertwines his propositions into an interesting collection.

Instead of providing specific details about Dr. Walton’s conclusions, I will simply recommend The Lost World of Genesis One for study and discussion as his perspective is interesting and engaging. Meanwhile, for me, it is on to Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns.

Text’s background at Biologos

Book at Amazon

On Storms over Genesis

Late last year I had the pleasure of leading an adult Sunday school class discussing the book Storms over Genesis. Written by Dr. William Jennings, Professor of Theology, Emeritus at Muhlenberg College (Allentown, PA), Storms over Genesis serves as an introduction into differences within our society that are rooted in the Bible’s first book.

Although a short book (176 pages), the opening chapter sets the stage by identifying two fundamental causes of the differences: the version of the Bible and a denomination’s preferred version – primarily the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) and the NIV (New International Version). Each of the remaining three chapters then focuses on a controversial topic from Genesis (feminism, environmentalism, and creationism) as it relates to the NRSV and the NIV.

By visiting a bookstore, it is easy to notice that Bibles come in many versions as the NIV, NRSV, Today’s NIV (TNIV), King James (KJV), New KJV, American Standard Bible (ASB), New ASB (NASB), Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version (ESV), New Living Translation (NLT), New Oxford Annotated Bible, and who knows how many more. However, don’t forget the Catholic Bibles as the Ignatius Catholic Bible, Catholic Revised Standard Version, New Catholic Answer Bible, Jerusalem Bible, and others.

Keep in mind that each version is subject to the writing team’s interpretation when translating. To top it off, many Bibles contain notes and study guides – again, guided by the writing team’s preferred slant and perspective.

I never thought much about the differences among Bibles, let alone the impact. The Copenhagen Climate Conference happened during the class, actually causing me to wonder about divisions based on Biblical references.

Given the topic, Storms over Genesis is easy reading and will at least cause one to think. Therefore, I recommend this book for anyone interested in the topic. Besides, if it is not at your library or available through an interlibrary loan program, it is inexpensive ($15) or you can also read it through Google books.

On Evolution and Church

Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday (this past February) sparked many interesting posts; and I read many. The event also served as the foundation for polls from both Gallup and the Pew Research Center – and I read both. Collectively, I initiated expansion of my own knowledge base by focusing on three books:

  • Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (Karl Giberson)
  • Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution (Kenneth Miller)
  • Storms over Genesis: Biblical Battleground in America’s Wars of Religion (William Jennings)

Angle Point 1
The primary sources of information for people are schools and churches. In terms of schools, my experiences lead me to believe that science teachers can be divided into groups regarding evolution: Those avoiding it, those teaching it poorly, and those teaching it well. My gut tells me that the latter group is the smallest.

Angle Point 2
I’m convinced that many don’t know how science works; most may even be most.

Angle Point 3
When it comes to churches, there’s no doubt that the congregations against evolution actively educate their members. Meanwhile, congregations who don’t have issues with evolution at the organizational level do NOT educate their flock about the relationship between religion and science, thus perpetuating misinformation held by the public. Christian denominations in this group include mainline Protestants, Anglicans, and Roman Catholics. Interestingly Jews, moderate Muslims, Unitarians, and Buddhists are also supportive of evolution, but I’m unfamiliar with how they address this issue with their members.

Angle Point 4
Yes, some evolutionists are atheists, but not all. Yes, some evolutionists use evolution to say God doesn’t exist, but that’s a small number. There is more support in the religious community that people realize and the fundamentalists don’t speak for all Christians, thus churches should educate their members.

My Goal & Action Plan
At this point, I am concentrating my efforts at the congregation level in the church I attend. I’ve already had Round 1 discussions with one of our pastors about the importance of teaching a course on science and religion because members need to know that evolution is ok and here’s why. I have been promised additional discussion with others. After all, if I can move one domino, maybe others will fall.

The Bottom Line
As science has learned so much since Darwin and Alfred Wallace announced their findings, religious scholars continue to study and learn about the theological perspective. Although the conservative and fundamental Christians selectively point to Genesis to justify their means, I’m still amazed that they give God so little credit.

Resources