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Month: July 2016

Randy Stonehill: Social Insight from a Musical Jester

Randy Stonehill: Social Insight from a Musical Jester

In my last post, I wrote about the Christian singer-songwriter Bob Bennett, particularly his 1991 album, Songs from Bright Avenue, that dealt with the pain of divorce. In this post, I want to turn my attention to another Christian singer-songwriter, Randy Stonehill, who had a considerable influence on me as a teenager in the 80s. If you grew up in an Evangelical church in the 80s, chances are you heard the song “Shut-De-Do” by Randy Stonehill. If you were like me, and were attuned to the emerging “Christian rock” scene in the early eighties, I’m sure you’ll remember Randy Stonehill.

Randy_Stonehill_-_Equator“Shut-De-Do” was on Stonehill’s 1982 album, Equator. As catchy as that song was, though, it wasn’t my favorite—oh I liked it for sure, but there were other songs that caught my attention even more…the funny, satirical songs that, in their own comic way, were a pretty astute assessment of the absurdities of our modern American society. That’s the thing I loved about Stonehill: he could write extremely thoughtful songs like “Turning Thirty,” or “Even the Best of Friends,” and beautiful praise songs like “Light of the World,” and then turn around like a court jester and slap you in the face with “Big Ideas (In a Shrinking World),” “American Fast Food,” and “Cosmetic Fixation.”

Given my sense of humor and overall sensibilities, these songs made a profound impact on me. I’ve never really gotten into the standard Evangelical church “worship music” for basically two reasons: (A) it often involved a choir singing music my grandparents might enjoy, but teenage me just found irritating and rather boring, and (B) much of the worship songs just seemed tepid and vanilla to me—I mean, really: “Yes Lord, Yes Lord, YES YES Lord”? That means nothing!

That is why I consider myself so fortunate to have grown up when the contemporary Christian music scene was filled with so much creativity, from the likes of Keith Green, Phil Keaggy, Daniel Amos, Petra, Sweet Comfort Band, Bob Bennett, Amy Grant, and a host of others…and of course Randy Stonehill. They wrote about real things, and not every song had to be a “full worship experience.” Here were Christian artists writing not only praise songs, but also songs about divorce, losing a friend, getting older…you know, everyday stuff, but from a very creative and reflective place through which their Christian faith just shown through their music. It’s not enough to say I “appreciated” that—those artists and those songs shaped my life and my entire outlook on the world.

And when it came to Randy Stonehill, I realized that a Christian could be satirical and funny, and speak subversive, Kingdom of God humor to a backward world, and do it in such a creative, lyrical, and poetic way. I can still sing those songs from memory, a good thirty years later. With that, I want to share a few of Stonehill’s songs that provide a rather humorous but biting social commentary.

Big Ideas (In a Shrinking World)

Are you, like me, fed up with the empty promises that come from Washington? Are you sickened by the madness and stupidity that is our current political system? Well, “Big Ideas (In a Shrinking World)” might be for you. Simply put, “Big Ideas” chastises all those politicians who trot out their “big ideas” you hear at every party convention and every political campaign, but then who turn around and just continue to let things go to hell. Politicians try to paint themselves to be the saviors of our society, but they are actually the ones most responsible for our society’s demise. If this song isn’t directly applicable to the fiasco that is the presidential campaign of 2016, I don’t know what is.

Consider the very first lines of the song. If they don’t get your attention, nothing will:

The economy is shrinking; our money is a joke
We should go back to trading seashells and just admit that we’re broke
And our food supply is shrinking; but we continue happily
Building condos on farm land, and dumping sewage in the sea

Stonehill doesn’t just address a crumbling economy and food shortages, though. He also mentions dirty water and air:

Our water is shrinking, all the pipes are in decay
But don’t think of it as water; it’s more like “soup of the day”
And our air supply is shrinking; the sky is turning brown
We’re getting cancer of the cancer, just from walking around

And then, at the end of the song, after talking about the saber-rattling some politicians often engage in, and the threat of nuclear war, Stonehill drops these lines:

And our compassion is shrinking; it’s the ultimate crime
’cause we could save the starving millions, but we can’t seem to find the time

Ouch…after a number of funny and clever lines that actually address serious problems, Stonehill then just hits us between the eyes: people are starving in the world, and we’re too busy with the incessant banalities that make up so much of American pop culture. Incidentally, Stonehill practices what he preaches. He’s worked with and for Compassion International for decades, working hard to “save the starving millions.”

In any case, interspersed throughout these stanzas are recurring refrains that talk about how people are always speaking about a “higher vision,” pointing to another “savior of the ages,” or a supposed “light in the darkness.” I take this to mean how we often virtually deify our political leaders and candidates—at least the ones we like (we obviously then demonize the opposing candidate!). Just consider the recent conventions: pep rally, political theater, and secular worship service for possibly the two worst candidates in history, both spouting off their “big ideas,” while nothing ever really changes.

Even as a teenager, what I took from this song was simple: don’t deify your political leaders. Hold them accountable if they’re not actually addressing the needs of society and the world.

American Fast Food


I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I loved this song so much as a kid was that there is a giant belch in the middle of it. But hey, it’s about American Fast Food—what do you expect? Do you want to guess what Stonehill’s opinion of American fast food is? If you guessed, “It’s crap!” you’d be right! The first line says it all: American fast food, what a stupid way to die…and it gets even better as the song goes on:

American fast food, what a stupid way to die
American fast food, order me the jumbo fries
It’s so easy and it’s trouble free
It’s quick and disposable, just like me
If I don’t stop eating this greasy American fast food

Well we’re undernourished, but we’re overfed
And we’re munching on the burger with the white bread
And we’re sucking up the sugar in a milkshake
Till we slip into depression with a big headache
And our arteries are crying out, “Give us a break!”

When Morgan Spurlock came out with his movie, Supersize Me, I thought this song would have been perfect for it. In any case, as you listen to the entire song, you have to laugh at how spot on truthful the song is: we Americans shove crap down our throats, even though we know full well that eventually what’s waiting for us is corroded arteries, heart attacks, and diabetes! Who cares? It’s a Happy Meal!

Now, I’m guilty as anybody in this regard. One of the things that got me to seriously cut down on my fast food intake was back in my late twenties, when I realized that numerous and painful canker sores I would continually get were due to whatever chemical is in MacDonald’s french fries. And the pounding headaches? Maybe having two venti mochas a day had something to do with it. In short, I eventually realized it wasn’t worth it. I still have the occasional Wendy’s cheeseburger, and I’ve traded my specialty coffees for just one cup of regular coffee per day.

In any case, I have to say it was Stonehill’s American Fast Food that planted that thought in my brain, “Joel, eventually you’re going to get to the point where you cut out all of that junk! Yes, it will happen…just you wait. It really is a stupid way to die…and since you’re going to die someday, at least be smart about it!” If nothing else, it’s a funny song…remember it next time you pull into the drive-thru.

Cosmetic Fixation


And finally, there’s “Cosmetic Fixation”: a veritable prophecy of the sex-saturated, image-obsessed, Hollywood/Entertainment Tonight culture we’re living in today—and I thought it was bad back in the eighties!

Each stanza in the song paints another aspect of the “cosmetic fixation” of our society: the objectification of women, and seeing them as nothing more than conquests and trophies; how we put our entire sense of value into things like our cars and vanity plates; and the whole “lifestyles of the rich and famous” mentality—Stonehill reminds us quite bluntly: in the end, it doesn’t mean a thing.

But in the midst of this song (as you listen, you realize Stonehill is couching the entire song in an aura of silliness), there is this cutting lyric that gets to the real problem of each one of us and society as a whole:

We’re so concerned about keeping up appearances
And all the while we ravage our humanity
We’re so annoyed with the Truth’s interferences
And real values get sacrificed to vanity

Did you catch that? The more we try to maintain a certain “image,” and “keep up appearances,” the more we allow our very humanity to be ravaged and raped by the worldly idols of Mammon and Babylon. We don’t want the truth—it’s annoying; and in the end, real values are sacrificed for some form of “health and wealth gospel”—it doesn’t really matter if it is served by the likes of Joel Osteen and Kenneth Copeland, or in yet another show of “Entertainment Tonight.”

Conclusion
In the Middle Ages, the court jester wasn’t some buffoon. He often was highly insightful and smart. His “job description,” if you will, was to play the fool, and revel in absurdity—and by doing so, actually make cutting critiques and potent political and social commentary that served as a challenge to his audience.

I’ve always seen Randy Stonehill as sort of a court jester in that regard. He put out seemingly silly and absurd songs like these to get you to laugh, but then at some point, you’d actually listen to some of the lyrics, and end up going, “Oh…ouch…point taken!”

foto_stonehillRandy Stonehill’s early music still has a place in my heart. It was simply phenomenal. And yes, he has plenty of heart-felt serious songs about life and about following Christ. But for me, these satirical songs loom large. As funny as they are, they also hit on a number of social concerns and issues that I just assumed all Christians shared. Given our current political climate, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people’s reaction to a song like “Big Ideas,” is, “That Stonehill sounds too liberal!”

Now, I don’t know his political views, but I find it sad that caring about things like clean air and water, concern for growing violence, and caring for the poor is somehow deemed “liberal.” All Christians should be concerned about these things and should want to address those needs and concerns. How one thinks they should be addressed might determine if you are a “conservative” or “liberal,” but if you’re a Christian, I think it goes without saying that you should want to see such social concerns addressed and resolved.

But that’s the extent of political discussion I’ll engage in here. Just listen to and enjoy Stonehill’s songs…and maybe let yourself be convicted along the way.

Reflections on Divorce…From Bright Avenue: The Songs of Bob Bennett

Reflections on Divorce…From Bright Avenue: The Songs of Bob Bennett

Welcome to the second year of resurrecting orthodoxy. One of the things I read last year as I was getting ready to launch this blog, was the bit of advice that said one should keep one’s blog focused—have Biblical Studies blog, or a Science blog, or a personal blog. Be very clear so that the readers will know what to expect when they visit your blog. Well, although in many ways that advice makes complete sense, it’s a piece of advice I don’t want to take. This past year, I suppose one could summarize the majority of my posts as falling into one of three categories: the New Atheist Movement, Young Earth Creationism, and Biblical Studies…with an occasional post about some personal experience.

I’m going to continue to be rather eclectic in my posts for the simple reason that I am more than just about Biblical Studies, and although I’ve written a lot about the New Atheist Movement and Young Earth Creationism this past year, in a lot of ways I wish I didn’t have to write about them. I was an English major in college, and I’ve always seen myself first and foremost as a poet, not an academic. And the reason for that is because I’ve always felt that what speaks most deeply to my soul comes in the form of poetry and songs—they are the creative expressions of the biblical truth and revelation that I discover in my academic study. In truth, they really can’t be separated.

In any case, as I look back and consider some of the most influential songwriters and songs in my life, particularly a number of Christian songwriters from the eighties, I am constantly amazed at how so many of the biblical themes that learned to articulate in my adult life were already there in the form of music during my teenage years and early 20s.

Bob-Bennett-Bright-AveOne of my favorite singer-songwriters of all time is Bob Bennett. His Matters of the Heart marked my late junior high/early high school years in ways I’m still realizing. I’ve already written on a few songs from that album here and here. In this post, though, I want to write on two particular songs from another album of his that came out (I think) in 1991: Songs From Bright Avenue. The backstory to that album was that he had recently gone through a divorce, and the album was essentially a look into his soul as he journeyed through that dark time in his life.

Now, when I listened to it as a twenty-something, I couldn’t relate to being divorced. But I’ve always had somewhat of a melancholy and brooding side, and the depth of many of those songs really spoke to me. A few years ago, when I was going through a divorce of my own, I found myself listening to Songs From Bright Avenue more than just a few times, and experiencing the heartache and pain of so many of those songs on a deeper level that I never knew existed. Here are my reflections on two songs from that album.

Here on Bright Avenue


The opening song, “Here on Bright Avenue,” introduces us to a man trying to piece his life back together after a painful divorce. I remember Bob Bennett had written in the CD jacket that the first place he moved into after his divorce was on a street named “Bright Avenue,” and he felt it was rather ironic and yet hopeful: at the darkest time of his life, he was living on Bright Avenue; yet at the same time, it pointed toward a hope of living on the other side.

As you listen to the song, the opening stanza is quite straightforward: the questioning of ever being able to be a part of a family again, the acknowledgement that you never wanted to be in this place, the feelings of loneliness and failure, and the realization that all one can do is keep breathing and focus on the present tense:

Living in this present tense is the best that I can do
It’s clear that I am supposed to be here…Here on Bright Avenue

The truth of those lines is not limited to someone trying to recover from divorce. They are applicable to anyone who has suffered loss, hurt, or disappointment. Too often I think we live our lives “in the future” without ever focusing on the present. We imagine what things will be like, the kind of person we will be, but we neglect focusing on what is and who we are. Why do we do that? I think sometimes it is because we don’t want to really look at our present situation and who we are because that would mean acknowledging our own fears and insecurities. Ironically, as painful as suffering is, oftentimes it forces us to look inside and acknowledge those dark places within our souls that need to be cleaned up.

Living in the present tense isn’t always exciting; and it is oftentimes hard—but it is essential if we are ever to become whole.

The second stanza begins with the lyrical beauty and deep honesty that I’ve long admired in Bob Bennett:

Hope that hides in darkness, healing under pain
Roses asleep in the winter, but the spring will come again

What can I possibly say in prose to further illuminate what these poetic lines so clearly express? It is one of the plain mysteries we experience at every facet of life, and see in the heart of the Gospel: life conquers death, but it doesn’t take the pain of suffering and death away—it is something one must go through in order to get to resurrection. And yes, in the middle of winter everything seems dead—at various times in our lives, we will experience the death of a relationship, a loved one, a career, or a dream—but once we come out the other side, once spring comes again and we experience a new life that we never knew existed before, we look back on those “winter” times in our lives and realize that things weren’t truly dead, they were “asleep” in death, and waiting to be transformed.

As beautiful as the entire song is, it is the third stanza that always gets to me, particularly these first lines:

If those who sow in tears will reap in joy somehow
Then surely I am watering my fields of future now

There were many, many times during my divorce in which all I did was cry. And when I wasn’t crying, I was on the phone, venting my anger and frustration into the listening ears of a handful of close family members and friends. I’ll say it now—I never knew I could swear so much as I did in so many of those conversations. There simply is no adequate way to describe the pain that one feels when one finds him/herself in that situation. As odd as this image might be, it feels as if a giant ice cream scoop that has been heated up in a furnace simply scoops out your entire chest cavity—not only are you hollowed out, but everything within you is burning.

Given that reality that divorce brings all too often, those lines are utterly astounding, not only in their brutal honesty, but also their incredible declaration of faith in God. Saying those lines when you are in the middle of so much pain is humbling, hopeful, and rather terrifying. For if God could take that kind of pain and bring about new life, He is more powerful than I can fathom; and that means I am more helpless that I can imagine, and therefore am completely dependent on His mercy. I never knew before how it was possible to be so confident and yet so terrified at the same time.

In any case, Bob Bennett ends the song with a tremendous declaration of confidence and hope. In the midst of going through the pain of divorce, he sings:

My feet will walk a golden street and when all is said and done
I will be found on holy ground as a good and faithful son
Walking toward a promise that frees this convict heart
The Lord will never lose me and He can finish what he starts
And when I least expect it, I believe these things are true
It’s as if to say I am on my way from here…Here on Bright Avenue

In all honesty, I don’t think I’m completely at that point yet. I guess you can say that there are parts of my heart that are freed, but there are still other parts that are “doing time” of that convict heart. I see a light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in the tunnel, and there still is a way to go. Hopefully the page will fully turn one day, “when I least expect it,” but until then, it’s just one foot in front of the other, living in this present tense.

If you have gone through a divorce, or perhaps more properly speaking, been the victim of divorce, I’m sure you can testify that it changes you. I’m still piecing things back together, and I’m well aware that the man I’m putting back together isn’t the same man who was broken apart. It’s hard to put into words.

Thankfully, Bob Bennett has written words that I can latch onto and take as my own.

I’m Still Alive Tonight
The final song on the album is called “I’m Still Alive Tonight.” It perfectly illustrates the loneliness many of us feel after a failed relationship, the frustration we often feel deep within our souls, and yet, in the midst of it all, that deep, brooding, mysterious sense that God will bring us through these uncharted waters. But instead of me saying too much, let me just share the lyrics and the song. I hope you enjoy it.

I’m still alive tonight, I can feel my heart beating
Emotions on the surface of my skin; I can hear my breathing
Wind upon those bedsheet sails, Spirit broods over the deep
I see an image of my Father, and he bids me: “Come and sleep”

No one is sleeping down the hallway; no one is here beside me now
And the loneliness, like a fever is hot upon my brow
I know life is more than just survival, but that’s all that I can see
I’m still alive tonight, and that’s good enough for me
I’m still alive tonight

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind (Part 3)—Odds and Ends

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind (Part 3)—Odds and Ends

In this final post about my visit to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, I want to just touch upon a few odds and ends (as the title of this post suggests). The things I’m about to say do not necessarily relate to each other, but I think they are worthy of comment nevertheless.

First: A Shameless Promotion!
FB_IMG_1469234928313One of the reasons I’ve written these posts (as well as many others that you can find on this blog) is to not only call attention to the very odd and rather dangerous teaching of young earth creationism. It is also to let you, the reader, know of my upcoming book, The Heresy of Ham, that lays out the case that young earth creationism is not only unscientific, but more importantly unbiblical and with no standing in the history of the Church. The Kindle version is already out, and the paperback edition will be out (hopefully) within a week. If you want to get a notice, just subscribe to this blog, and when I make the announcement, you will get an email (as you will every time I write a new post).

Truth and Lies About Evolution
Ken Ham acknowledges evolution happens. Yes, he really does. In the Ark Encounter there are displays in which clearly say that natural selection and genetic mutations have been the driving force that has produced the wide variety of life in the world. One display even says, “Observational processes show speciation within kinds.” That statement is 100% completely half true, and 100% completely fanciful.

IMG_20160711_101632804It is true in that it acknowledges natural selection and genetic mutations have given rise to new species. In fact, that is pretty much what Charles Darwin himself said. Remember, the name of his famous book is Origin of Species. That’s what Darwin argued; that’s what evolution is. Hence, Ken Ham acknowledges evolution is true.

…but then he turns around and ruins it. He ruins it in basically two ways. First, he misrepresents what evolution is. In another display he claims that evolution claims that life sprang from non-living matter—that is not true: evolution only describes the observable processes of natural selection and genetic mutation that give rise to the varieties of life here on earth. Evolution does not even address the question, “How did life original begin?” Remember, Darwin’s famous book is Origin of Species, not Origin of Life.

Second, Ham claims that in verses like Genesis 1:24 (“God made the wild animals…cattle…and everything that creeps on the ground of every kind”), that that word “kind” is an actual scientific classification of animal, akin to the modern scientific classification of “family.” Well, no—Genesis 1:24 is not giving us a scientific classification of animal, pure and simple. A plain and simple reading of the text (the way I am willing to bet Christians throughout Christian history have read it) is simply this: “God made all kinds of animals,” meaning, “a lot of different ones, a bunch, a whole mess of them.”

It is from that extremely faulty claim that Ham then bases his whole argument that modern species didn’t descend from a common ancestor, but rather from about 1,000 different “kinds” of “common ancestors,” a mere 4,000 years ago. The problem with that argument isn’t necessarily even with the idea that there was more than one “ancestor” from which all live descended—I’ve often wondered that. But that is a detailed scientific issue that someone more learned in that area should address. The problem is the idea that all that variation could have happened in a mere 4,000 years. I’ve written about that before. Long story short, unless you believe two beagles could procreate so much that in 7 years you’d have Siberian huskies, and then another 7 years you’d have coyotes, etc.—Ken Ham’s claim of hyper-evolution on steroids is just totally unbelievable.

But it is evolution, nonetheless, even if Ham refuses to admit it. So it’s true: he does believe in evolution (natural selection and genetic mutation giving rise to new species); but his definition of evolution is false, as is his insistence that he doesn’t accept evolution—he does, but it’s an impossible form of hyper-evolution.

Oh the Wondrous, Imaginative Ingenuity (that Ham thinks Noah must have had)
IMG_20160711_102046394One of the things you’ll notice if you visit the Ark Encounter is the amazing technology that Ham claims Noah must have had. It is highly imaginative, to be sure. As I mentioned in my first post, there are the what I like to call “PetSmart water containers made of clay” that were attached to the countless wooden baskets and cages that supposedly held all the different kinds of small animals. These cages were also designed with rather a very clever waste removal system. Hey, if I ever decide to have enough gerbils as pets that would necessitate ten cages stacked on top of each other, I might try that waste removal system—but let’s face it, that’s not mentioned in the Bible, nor is there any evidence of that in the ancient world…anywhere.

And then there is the really cool waste removal system for the larger animals. I was so impressed that I took a video of it. As you can see, Shem carries a wheelbarrow full of excrement, and dumps it down a shoot, to where Jephthah spends the day shoveling the mountain of excrement into buckets on a pulley system…powered by an elephant…that then is able to dump the excrement into the sea.

All I can say to that is, wow…that really is imaginative, and yes, kind of cool! But also, I’m pretty sure I saw that on the Flintstones. Now, to present something like that as just a purely imaginative and creative way to make the story come alive would be fine; but to present that within an entire project that is attempting to “prove” that the Noah story was historical, and to then claim if you don’t believe it, that you’re a compromised Christian who is undermining the Bible…I’m sorry—what could be considered a really creative and artistic interpretation of the flood story becomes something that is silly and ludicrous.

Blurred Lines
IMG_20160711_103717931No, I’m not talking about the Robin Thicke song. I’m talking about claims like the picture shows. The irony is this sign is in a small little room on the Ark Encounter dedicated to attacking how Noah’s Ark is often portrayed in children’s books. Yes, the way it is portrayed (i.e. happy Noah, happy animals) is pretty weird, when you come to think what the actual story is about. But, Ken Ham thinks it’s wrong because makes kids think the flood story isn’t history. And for Ham, if “secularists” can convince your children that Noah’s flood isn’t historical, then the next step is to reject the belief in heaven and hell (and as he says elsewhere, the miracles and resurrection of Jesus).

Needless to say, that’s a really big leap to go from a legitimate question of genre (i.e. what kind of literature is the Noah story?) to denying the resurrection of Christ. In addition, the irony is this: in his attempt to “prove” the story of Noah’s flood is historical, Ken Ham has built the Ark Encounter that displays fictitious animal kinds—at least in children’s books you’ll see elephants, giraffes, tigers, and other animals that are actually real and historical. At the Ark Encounter, though, the animals aren’t real, and they aren’t historical. Isn’t it ironic? Don’tcha think?

What Have the Reactions Been?
Finally, I have to say something about the various reactions I’ve come across of people, both Christians and atheists alike, who have visited the Ark Encounter. To the point, the reactions were much like mine: surreal, just odd, rather disappointing, and overall pretty boring. One common observation has been that, despite Ham’s claims of thousands upon thousands just pouring into the Ark Encounter, the parking lot is often rather empty. Simply put, it just isn’t attracting too many people. My friend Joel Duff of Naturalis Historia recently visited and came away with the same impression as I did—he’ll be writing his own observations on his blog. In addition, Tracey Moody of The Friendly Atheist actually wrote a post entitled, “Ken Ham isn’t a Bad Ogre,” in which she admitted she felt sorry for Ken Ham. It’s a really thoughtful article actually.

But the point is this: there hasn’t been scores of people flocking to the Ark Encounter, and there hasn’t been (at least not that I’ve seen) unmitigated vitriol leveled against it, now that it has opened. The overall mood seems to be, “Meh, why bother? It’s just all pretty odd and silly.”

As I said in “Part 1,” I think that within a year or two the Ark Encounter is probably going to be regulated to “that odd attraction out in Kentucky that has dinosaurs on a boat.” In a way, the Ark Encounter might be the best thing for people like me who are alarmed at the growing influence of young earth creationism within Evangelicalism. When someone reads an article or blog post about by Answers in Genesis about young earth creationism, one might think, “Wow, that’s convincing!” especially if one doesn’t know much about science, history, or proper biblical interpretation.

IMG_20160711_114145114_HDRBut when one actually sees something like the Ark Encounter up close, chances are one is going to get an odd twinge in his/her brain that will say at various displays, “Wait…what? Really? That’s weird.”

With the Ark Encounter, Ken Ham has successfully brought young earth creationism into the full light of day. It will now be exposed for what it really is: something really odd, with no basis in science, history, or the Bible—and something that is ultimately just boring.

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind–People and Worldviews (Part 2)

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind–People and Worldviews (Part 2)

IMG_20160711_162854It has been a week since I visited Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, and even though I have written my initial post detailing my experience at the Ark Encounter, I have been somewhat of a loss as to know what to say next about it. It has been like one of those times (I’m sure we’ve all had experiences like this) when the thoughts are just mulling around in your head, but you can’t quite put words to them yet—like on a subconscious level, your impressions are still trying to make sense of something before actual clarity rises to the surface.

So before I go on to talk about more specific problems with Ken Ham’s understanding of Scripture and his presentation of his understanding of Scripture as seen at both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, I want to share some thoughts on the people I saw there. Most of them seemed to be very nice, sincere people. The people who worked there were wonderful. I’m sure that both the visitors and the employees all really believed that the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum were solid and convincing statements for the authority of the Bible and Christianity. There’s just one big problem: they don’t have a truly biblical worldview…but then again, they sort of do…but then, well…not really.

Let me explain.

Ham the Heretic
The reason my book about young earth creationism is entitled The Heresy of Ham (available now in Kindle, and soon to be released in paperback) isn’t just because I like alliteration, and isn’t because I just am looking to start a fight by calling something I don’t personally agree with “heretical.” It’s because, historically speaking, the heresies that were ultimately condemned at the Church councils were not 100% false. Whether it be Arianism, Pelagianism, Apollinarianism, or Nestorianism, the majority of what these men taught fell in line with Traditional Orthodox Christianity. The problem was that there was one specific part of what they taught that did conflict with the historical Christian faith, and it was that specific part that they ended up focusing on—and that was the problem.

Your personal beliefs might fall in line 99% of the time with historical Christianity, but if you end up obsessing over that other 1% to the point where you end up defining your very identity as a Christian on that 1%–then ultimately that means the cornerstone of your faith, in actuality, is that 1% that is not part of the historical Christian faith.

Now, in my opinion, it just so happens that Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis has, in reality, has done just that. Ken Ham may say that the Christian faith is rooted in faith in Christ and his work on the cross, but in reality, when you visit the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, it becomes abundantly clear that Ham has rooted his faith in the insistence that Genesis 1-11 is historically true and is confirmed by science. His whole purpose with both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum is to convince people of that.

And that’s why I think it is ultimately a heresy.

Michelangelo-pieta
Michelangelo’s Pieta

And Now the People Who Go There
I said in my last post that if Ken Ham made a life-sized Noah’s Ark as a creative and artistic way to illuminate the truth that Genesis 1-11 is conveying (much like a painter might make a painting of Noah’s Ark, or a sculptor like Michelangelo might sculpt the Pieta) that would be something I could really appreciate and applaud. The “artistic license” he uses in the Ark Encounter to give sort of a “back story” about Noah and his family, or to explain how one family could manage all the waste removal from all the animals, could be appreciated as such.

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I’m not sure what these are…but they’re on Ham’s Ark.

Now, I don’t really think that most of the people I saw visiting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum that day really understood the supposedly scientific claims Ham was making in his exhibits. I have to think that many of the people were in actuality taking in the Ark Encounter as a means of creativity telling the story of Noah, and nothing more. I have to think that if I had stopped and said to many of the people, “You do realize that there is absolutely no evidence in the fossil record for the kinds of animals Ham has on the ark, right?” they would have responded with something like, “Oh really? Well, whatever animals were on the Ark, it’s all pretty amazing!”

What I mean to say is that whether they articulated it in this way or not, I think many of the people there really weren’t viewing the Ark Encounter as a scientific statement—deep down, they were viewing it as creative art. But the problem is that many of those same people have been effectively brainwashed (that might be too harsh a word, but it will have to do) into thinking, “If someone says Genesis 1-11 isn’t historically accurate and scientifically verifiable, then they’re saying the Bible isn’t true and their calling God a liar!” Cognitively, they would say Genesis 1-11 has to be scientific/historical to be true,” but deep down they are experiencing and enjoying the Ark Encounter as a creative expression of Genesis 1-11.

The trick is to draw a fine line between the two, and then to somehow convince people in that situation that one is laudable and fine, while the other is, quite frankly, unbiblical and false.

Here’s Where It Gets Tricky…We’re Talking About Worldviews Here, People
Modern glasses with reflection over white backgroundThroughout the Ark Encounter, one can see displays that try to contrast the “evolutionary worldview” with the “biblical worldview.” Answers in Genesis makes quite a big deal about “Worldviews.” In fact, I can say from personal experience that a fairly big movement in Evangelical Christian schools these days is teaching “Worldview.” I ought to know—I taught Worldview for eight years. Essentially, the concept behind teaching Worldview is to challenge students to think critically about the underlying philosophical assumptions and political issues throughout history. Everyone has a worldview—it’s the lens through which you look out at the world and try to bring it into focus. Think of someone’s worldview as the pair of glasses they wear. If there is something wrong with the prescription, everything will be out of focus, or at least not as in focus as they could be.

Most people, though, don’t really know they have a worldview—or at least, they’ve never thought about it; it’s just the way they’ve always looked at the world, because they pretty much inherited it from the culture in which they grew up. When you’re wearing glasses, for example, you don’t see the lenses; rather you are looking through the lenses—and often, you forget you’re wearing them in the first place.

Now the actual biblical worldview that puts history, and God’s work in history, into focus is, ironically, Genesis 1-11. It emphasizes (1) that there is one God, (2) that creation is good, (3) that mankind is made in God’s image, but (4) that mankind has nevertheless screwed things up; still (5) God has promised to redeem mankind and His creation. Those major themes that make up the biblical worldview then impact how the history of Israel in the Old Testament was interpreted and brought into focus, and how the coming of Christ in the New Testament was to be understood. That biblical worldview also should still impact how we view our world today.

But just as you look through your lenses to view the world around you, a worldview is something that you look through in order to interpret history—and here’s the key, the worldview laid out in Genesis 1-11 isn’t history; it’s the creative lens that enables us to interpret history correctly.

IMG_20160711_101739397Ken Ham, though, is claiming Genesis 1-11 is history, and he goes about trying to prove it scientifically. So if Genesis 1-11 is history, what “worldview lens” is Ken Ham using that causes him to interpret it as history and science? The answer is that of the Enlightenment, that assumes that the only things that are “true” are historical and scientific facts. I write about this more at length in my book, but for my present purposes here, my point is this: (1) Ken Ham’s real worldview—the real lens through which he views the world and determines what is true—is that of the Enlightenment; and (2) therefore what he calls “the biblical worldview” on the Ark Encounter isn’t the real biblical worldview—it’s the fictitious category of “historical science,” that is actually not scientific at all. And that leads him to make a host of claims in his Ark Encounter that are not only scientifically impossible, but are, quite literally unbiblical.

Simply put, most of the things you see in the Ark Encounter aren’t actually in the Bible. And that’s what makes the Ark Encounter so ludicrous yet so dangerous at the same time: it is a work of creativity that, in order to try to argue Genesis 1-11 is history and science, has ended up presenting fictitious claims and fictitious animals that are nowhere to be found in the Bible.

So What Can You Do?
So what do you do if you find yourself talking with someone who is enamored with Ken Ham and the Ark Encounter, and who believes what Ken Ham is saying? I think you have to “go Socrates” on that person—meaning, you have to just start asking questions:

  • “Yes, those animals were interesting. Where in Genesis 6-8 does it mention dinosaurs?”
  • “Yes, Ken Ham uses Genesis 4:22 (‘Tubal-cain was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron’) to argue that there was a pre-flood civilization that possessed technology that superseded our modern technology—do you really think that’s what Genesis 4:22 is saying?”
  • “Have you noticed that on virtually every display on the Ark Encounter you find the words, ‘could have been,’ ‘might have been,’ and ‘we don’t know for sure, but this is probably what happened’?”

The fact is, people don’t change their worldview overnight. It’s akin to a paradigm shift—it doesn’t happen immediately. Eventually, if you raise enough questions, and gently point out the host of inconsistencies, scientific inaccuracies, and unbiblical claims, eventually that person will wake up one morning, and then the paradigm shift will happen. It will be like when you’ve been wearing old glasses that don’t put things in focus anymore, but you don’t realize it at first and therefore don’t want to go back to the eye doctor; but then when you do, and you get those new glasses—it’s like BAM! All of a sudden you can see the leaves on the trees again, and things start to come into focus.

All that is to say, when it comes to the Ark Encounter, it could have been an incredibly creative and artistic rendition of Genesis 6-9 that helps people, through a creative means, to understand the story of the flood in a much more profound way. As it stands, though, by filling it with bad science, and unbiblical claims, and fictitious beasts that have never existed in history, all while claiming the Ark Encounter is scientific, biblical, and historical—Ken Ham is giving people a really bizarre worldview that causes everything to be dreadfully out of focus.

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind, Part 1 (Complete with Youtube Videos!)

Ken Ham’s Ark: My Close Encounter of the (un)Biblical Kind, Part 1 (Complete with Youtube Videos!)

IMG_20160711_093229280As many of you may know, especially those who followed my live streaming earlier this week, I recently made a visit to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter and his Creation Museum in Kentucky. Ken Ham is probably the most well-known young earth creationist in America today. Over the past year, I’ve written quite a lot about Ham and his organization, Answers in Genesis, in an attempt to make sense of what I consider to be a truly toxic movement within the Evangelical world. Just look around my blog, and you will find plenty of posts about Ham, AiG, and the Creation/Evolution debate as a whole.

In any case, since Ham officially opened his Ark Encounter on July 7th, and since I had a few free days, I couldn’t resist. I had to see it for myself. I have recently written a book about the young earth creationist movement entitled The Heresy of Ham, and so I owed it to myself to see in person the very thing I have been writing about this past year.

There ended up being so much to comment on, and so much that I found myself thinking as I toured both the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum, that it would be impossible for me to cram it all in only one post. Therefore, what I plan to do over the next week is to write three posts. This first one will simply be a narrative of my visit; and then the next two will focus on my observations and reflections of my visit. So, without further adieu…

And Then, I Entered the Ark…
On the morning of July 10th, my friend Ian and I drove up to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter that had just officially opened three days earlier. I’m sure that if we would have gotten there on opening day, we would have seen protesters from the Tri-State Freethinkers, and we might have even seen Bill Nye, who was given a personal tour with Ken Ham. But three days later, it was all pretty quiet.

In any case, we parked, went up to the ticket gate, and bought the $60 ticket that would admit us to both the Ark Encounter and to the Creation Museum that was about 45 minutes away. We then got on one of the shuttles and went to encounter Ham’s Ark. Now, it is true, as you drive up to the Ark, you are bound to say (or at least think) a catch phrase of Donald Trump, “It’s huuuge!” At the same time, the spectacle struck me as rather odd: I was looking at this huge boat in the middle of land-locked Kentucky. Nevertheless, I have to admit, it looked pretty cool.

After getting off the shuttle and taking some initial pictures of the Ark, we made our way into the Ark. As we got in line (which was pretty short at 10:00 am on Monday), we notice that there were numerous TV monitors that were playing a small reenactment from the life of Noah. Well, it wasn’t really from the life of Noah from the Bible. It was more a fictional speculation of what things might have been like for Noah as he was in the process of building the ark. The scene showed a middle-aged Noah pleaded with three rebellious teenagers to repent of their sins and come with him on the ark. The girl and both boys were tattooed, heavily make-upped, and generally looked kind of like what we might called “pre-flood goth kids.” Predictably, they sneered at Noah and made fun of him. When Noah expressed his frustration to his wife, she said, “There will always be some people who will just mock us!”

This struck me as odd in two ways. First, it seemed that the scene wasn’t so much a reenactment of Noah “back then and there,” as it was as a modern projection of the difficulties modern families have with modern children back on to story of Noah. Second, I found it odd that the very first thing you “encounter” at the Ark Encounter is being told, “Yeah, a lot of people are going to make fun of this!” Regardless of the issue of whether or not Genesis 1-11 is historical or not, I just don’t think it is wise, at the beginning of a speech, sales pitch, museum opening, or attraction, to say off the bat, “Yeah, this is going to seem really stupid to many of you!” It doesn’t really instill confidence, does it? Needless to say, it was an odd way to welcome people to the Ark.

Deck One
IMG_20160712_155749751Before we actually got into the Ark, we were told to stand in front of a green screen, so that we could get our pictures taken. At the end of the Ark Encounter, we were given the option of buying photo-shopped pictures of us in, and in front of the ark. As you can see in the picture here, there is a stegosaurus, pterodactyls, and velociraptors, alongside animals like monkeys, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, and tigers. The picture is someone misleading, though. You won’t see monkeys, elephants, giraffes, gorillas, or tigers on Ken Ham’s Ark; instead, you will see plenty of dinosaurs, along with some animals that have never existed.

The first part of deck one we encountered was a section that included a lot of cages. Although we couldn’t see anything in them, we heard a variety of animal sounds. The cages were interesting. They all had the kinds of feeders you would find at the gerbil cages at PetSmart, only these ones were made with clay.

IMG_20160711_094502781In the next section, we encountered our first models of animals in bigger wooden cages. There was a “bear” kind, something like a “wild boar” kind, a “deer” kind, and a “sloth” kind, along with pterodactyls. There was also another pair of some kind of animal that I simply had no idea what they were supposed to be. This was another problem I found on the Ark Encounter: nothing was labeled.

Ken Ham claims that the animals on the Ark weren’t modern animals, but were rather “original kinds”—i.e. common ancestors of the variety of species we have today. Some of the animals on the Ark (like the “bear” kind) are recognizable. Ham would have you believe that over the span of a few thousand years, polar bears, grizzly bears, black bears, brown bears—and every species associated with bears—descended from those two survivors of the “bear” kind on the Ark. But most of the animals on the Ark simply aren’t recognizable at all, and since there is nothing labeled, you don’t really know what you’re looking at.

IMG_20160711_103523816In any case, on the first deck, as throughout the Ark Encounter, there were lots and lots of written explanations on the walls, explaining how Ken Ham’s claims of the universe being 6,000 years old, a literal universal flood 4,000 years ago, etc. could have happened. That’s another thing that becomes evident if you take the time to read all of it: there are a lot (and I mean A LOT) of may haves, probablys, and could have beens throughout the displays. Simply put, most of what you find on the Ark Encounter is highly imaginative, fanciful speculation, without one shred of evidence.

Decks Two and Three
IMG_20160711_101433364Deck two was where most of the hypothetical animal kinds were stored: the number of dinosaurs were pretty much equal to the other fictitious beasts, most of which were undiscernible. Although I knew Ham was going to have dinosaurs on the Ark, I assumed he would have at least displayed them in a separate section from the other animals. But no—amazingly, we found flesh-eating dinosaurs in cages right next to animals that resembled chipmunks, giraffes, and ponies.

IMG_20160711_103321982The animals were in the middle of deck two. Up and down the sides were various displays depicting Noah and his sons working in the in-Ark blacksmith shop and library (with an animatronic Noah explaining how he is recording all the evil deeds that had been done before the flood; there was even a globe in the corner). There were other displays arguing that ancient civilization knew the earth was a spherical, that they had advanced technology, that there was only one ice age that happened immediately after the flood (that lasted for 200 years—approximately 4000 years ago—before Babel, and that was responsible for killing off the dinosaurs that Noah had saved on the ark). All of these displays were full of the same things Answers in Genesis puts out on their website and blogs, but with artwork, and a whole lot of may haves, probablys, and could have beens.

There was a walk through exhibit detailing what the pre-flood civilization was like. They hunted triceratops for their tusks, and performed child sacrifice to a golden snake-headed god.

IMG_20160711_104621151On the third deck we found the living quarters of Noah and his family, complete with explanations of who each one was: Ham (Noah’s son, not Ken) was an expert engineer who designed the waste removal and fresh water systems on the ark; his wife Kezia, was a medical expert who fell in love with Ham as she helped him recover from an animal attack. Shem was a scholar and astronomer; Japheth was the tallest of the sons, and was an excellent farmer.

The displays were well done, and needless to say, highly imaginative—but not in any way, shape, or form, actually biblical. Now, the Ark Encounter gets away with this by posting on the outside of many of these displays a small plaque that tells people that they are taking a certain amount of artistic license in their displays.

IMG_20160711_105147691Well, that’s all fine and good, if it wasn’t for the fact that the stated purpose of the Ark Encounter is to try to convince people that Noah’s ark and a worldwide flood is historically and scientifically provable and true. But make no mistake, there is no actual historical or scientific evidence anywhere in any of the displays in the Ark Encounter. There is just a lot of may haves, probablys, and could have beens, along with very colorful and artistic renderings of dinosaurs on the ark with human beings, pterodactyls being released out of the ark, along with the other birds, big dinosaurs perishing in the flood, evil pre-flood people killing triceratops for their husks, and a lot of fictitious “animal kinds” that leave you thinking, “Now, what is that supposed to be?”

Conclusion
There was a number of other specific displays and claims that I will probably comment on in the next few posts, but the overall Ark Encounter is what I have just described: a lot of scientific and historical claims with little or no scientific or historical evidence. Instead, there is a lot of baseless speculation, unrecognizable and fictitious animals, and highly imaginative examples of artistic license. I could well understand and even appreciate the liberal use of artistic license if the whole Ark Encounter project was an attempt to creatively display the stories in Genesis 1-11 in order to emphasize the theological and worldview themes and lessons of those chapters.

After all, those chapters are incredibly important stories that lay out the fundamental worldview regarding the nature of God, the goodness of creation, and the inherent dignity yet tragic sinfulness of mankind. Throughout Church history, these stories have been creatively and artistically interpreted in a variety of ways in order to bring the reader to those fundamental truths, and that is great.

But Ken Ham has decided it is his mission to “prove” Genesis 1-11 scientifically and historically. But as is obvious, especially as you walk through the Ark Encounter, as soon as you start going down that road, you are faced with a host of impossibilities and unresolvable problems. And since there is no scientific or historical proof for Ken Ham’s claims, he resorts to “artistic license” in his attempt to scientifically and historically “prove” his claims. That, though, is a boat that just doesn’t float.

IMG_20160711_103107520Not only that, but it also draws people’s attention away from the purpose and power of the stories in Genesis 1-11. Instead of challenging people to consider things like, “What does it mean we are made in God’s image?” “Why is it important that God address evil?” “What does it say about God that He attempts to redeem mankind, despite mankind’s propensity to destroy His creation?” –instead of asking these questions, Ken Ham has chosen to focus describing how the pre-flood civilization killed triceratops for their horns, and how Noah and his sons could have invented and used an imaginative waste disposal system while on the Ark.

Finally, even though it was only the fourth day it was open, I couldn’t help but notice how empty it was. I got the feeling I was walking around in a half-empty mall. It was clean, and looked nice, but there simply just wasn’t much there. True believers in Ham’s young earth creationism will no doubt visit the Ark, but I doubt anyone else will in the long run. In fact, I predict that within a year or two, the Ark Encounter is go by the way of the various sideshow attractions you occasionally come across from time to time, like the world’s largest ball of twine, in Cawker City, Kansas. It will be a curious oddity at best.

And for the record, I still have no idea what these are, yet Ken Ham wants you to believe that these animals uphold the truth of Scripture. What can you possibly say to that? I don’t know.

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Remember that time, when Ken Ham went ballistic over the Smithsonian Institute?

Remember that time, when Ken Ham went ballistic over the Smithsonian Institute?

I have not posted anything this past week because I am hammering out the final touches on the print edition of my book The Heresy of Ham. Now, in case you haven’t heard, as of July 7, Ken Ham has opened his Ark Encounter. I plan to write a number of posts on it in the upcoming week or so. That being said, I want to share something I wrote last summer about a particular post by Ken Ham in which he rails against the Smithsonian Institute. I believe it hits on all the predictable points of the Hamean Heresy…enjoy.

***

On May 21, 2015, Ken Ham wrote a long blog post entitled, “Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Propaganda Campaign for Atheism,” on a current traveling exhibit by the Smithsonian. To the point, Ham goes off on the Smithsonian with the ferocity of a wild dog. He doesn’t hold back. What is this exhibit really about? Please, tell us, Mr. Ham:

“This is nothing but a propaganda campaign attempting to indoctrinate people to believe they are nothing but animals evolved from ape-like ancestors! To the Smithsonian, that’s what it means to be human! And what they are doing in reality is trying to impose their religion of naturalism (atheism) on the culture. …Of course, the entire exhibit is religious—it is promoting the religion of atheism using evolutionary beliefs.”

“In this worldview, there really is only one answer to this question—humans are nothing more than highly evolved animals. It is nothing but an anti-God campaign.”

There it is, Ham thinks the exhibit is really just about trying to indoctrinate people into thinking they are just apes, and that evolution is nothing more than the religion of atheism. Between his attempt to portray Genesis 1-11 as “science,” and the scientific theory of evolution as “religion” it is quite clear that Ham does not know the difference between science and religion.

But here is another thing to think about, and another point on which Ken Ham is entirely wrong and misguided. He objects to the evolutionary claim that human beings share a common descent with other forms of life in the world—or more specifically, that modern human beings and modern apes both came from some primitive ancestor. Whether or not you are convinced of that evolutionary claim is beside the point that I want to make.

Ham considers a biological/genetic relationship with apes as a detestable idea that somehow devalues the dignity of human beings as being made in the image of God. My question is, “Why?” How is sharing genetic ancestry with apes any more or less devaluing than the idea that the depiction of the first man being made from dirt? Is it our biological makeup, or the manner in which we were made, the basis for our dignity and value as image-bearers of God? Does Genesis 1-2 make the claim that the reason why we are in God’s image is because He made us from dirt?

The claim evolution makes regarding the origin of human beings should not be seen as an attack on God, the dignity of man, or the authority of the Bible. The fact is, biologically we really do share commonality and possibly genetic descent with other life forms…but the Bible tells us that we are more than just biological creatures—THAT’S THE POINT. We shouldn’t deny our biological and genetic relationship with the rest of God’s creation. We should acknowledge it, embrace it, and yes, even celebrate it, because God has revealed in his Word that human beings, while being part of His creation, still have a special purpose in His creation. We are to be His image-bearers to the rest of His creation; we are to care for His creation as royal servant-priests. And it is a task that only human beings can do, precisely because we have that biological relationship with the rest of creation, and yet still are God’s image-bearers.

But Ham can’t seem to grasp the fundamental identity of human beings that God reveals in His Word, that of biological image-bearers. Ham seems to think it can’t be both. Ham has already decided that if there is an evolutionary biological relationship between human beings and the rest of the animal world, then there can’t be anything special about human beings:

“Yes, you are just an animal and just happen to be the lone survivor of this process of naturalistic evolution. You are nothing but an animal—there is no purpose and meaning in life except what you make of it while you live. Once you die, you won’t know you ever existed.”

First, let’s just all agree that Ham has injected a whole mess of philosophical assumptions into that quote that do not necessarily have anything to do with evolution. Second, Ham’s comments also betray a fundamental hatred of materiality and the natural world. Ham thinks any genetic relationship to the natural world is beneath the dignity of man, and beneath the dignity of God. And so, I must ask, “Why does Ham seem to devalue and hate God’s creation?” He seems intent on denying that human beings really have anything to do with it.

Another interesting quote from Ham in this post is this: “…it’s creation—not evolution—that is confirmed by the evidence and that gives human beings worth and dignity as beings created in God’s image.” Well, it’s clear that Ham does not know what he’s talking about. He is setting up a completely false dichotomy: creation or evolution. He fails to see that evolution is the means by which creation brings about new life and variety. What would we tell Ken Ham if he said, “It’s the painting—not the actual paint or the brush—that is confirmed by the evidence”? I hope we would tell him, “You can’t have the painting without paint and brushes.” The same applies here: creation is the “grand painting of nature,” and evolution is the paint and brushes, the mixing of colors and the artistry of the brushstrokes.

At the end of the post, Ham once again launches into an attack on both the Templeton Foundation and BioLogos, because they are “compromising Christian organizations” that lead people away from biblical authority. Unlike them, Ham boasts that he is going to stand firm on God’s Word and continue to proclaim the gospel of Christ….by building a life-sized Noah’s Ark. He boasts that “the life-size Ark project will show millions of people that God’s Word can be trusted and will graciously point them toward the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

I have to ask, though, “How?” How does building a life-sized ark show that the Bible can be trusted? How does building a life-sized ark point people to the gospel? For that matter, how is Ham building it? With modern technology, engines, cranes, etc.? If he really wants to show that the Bible can be trusted, perhaps he should build it in the same manner as we read in Genesis 6: with his wife, three daughters, and three son-in-laws! If he built his replica that way, then I would sign up with AiG in a heartbeat!

Ken Ham ends by reminding his followers that “the devil is surely active. It makes me more enthused than ever to ‘contend for the faith’ and proclaim the gospel.” So again, if you believe the universe is millions of years old, chances are you’re working for the devil, or at least have been deceived by him.

And one more thing, how exactly is Ken Ham proclaiming the gospel? His entire organization is called Answers in Genesis…not “in Christ,” but “in Genesis.” Whatever gospel Ham is proclaiming, it is not the gospel of Christ, that is for sure.

In any case, check back over the next week…I’ll have something special to share–so stay tuned!

The Kindle Version of “The Heresy of Ham” is Now Available…

The Kindle Version of “The Heresy of Ham” is Now Available…

Here is a short announcement. If you want to buy the Kindle version of The Heresy of Ham, here is the link. Please share this on any social media you have, and please, once you read it, be sure to go to The Heresy of Ham page on Amazon.com and write a review.

Announcement! “The Heresy of Ham” is Almost Here!

Announcement! “The Heresy of Ham” is Almost Here!

Heresy_Book_Image_No_01Mark your calendars and tell your friends…my book, The Heresy of Ham is due out soon…really soon! I’ve been fortunate enough to have Archdeacon Books agree to publish it for me, and the plan is to have the Kindle/E-book of The Heresy of Ham out within a few days. If Ken Ham can celebrate the opening of his “Ark Encounter” on July 7th, then why not celebrate the publication of my book on the same day as well?

To be clear, only the Kindle/E-book will be available in a few days. The official print edition will come out later this month. So, if you want to wait for a physical book to purchase, stay tuned, and I’ll announce when it is available. If you want to get a jump on things and read the Kindle/E-book, you have only a few days to wait.

By all means, please share this announcement on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site you can think of. Spread the word. I’d appreciate it if you wrote a book review and shared it on Amazon.com, or perhaps your Facebook page, or even if you have your own blog.

In any case, I thought I share a short section from early on in the book, where I introduce precisely why the young earth creationism of Answers in Genesis is so problematic.

***

Ever since Charles Darwin published Origin of the Species in 1859, there has been controversy over the issue of evolution and how it may or may not affect the Christian faith and the Bible. It is a debate that continues to spark both interest and vitriol in many segments of our modern society. The reason for such hostility is due in no small part to publications like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, as well as increasingly influential young earth creationist organizations like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis. There’s no better way than to keep the fires of fear and paranoia stoked than to convince people that “the other side” is out to get them.

Despite such fear-mongering, my personal experience has convinced me that in reality the majority of Evangelical Christians probably don’t spend all that much time thinking about the creation/evolution debate. They go on with their lives, and are content to hold to the simple idea that since God made the world, then evolution can’t true because evolution says there is no God and all this happened by chance. In practical terms, the creation/evolution debate itself doesn’t affect their lives all that much.

On one hand, this actually is a good thing. Christians know deep down that, despite what one thinks about the age of the earth or about precisely how God created the world, it simply is not a vital issue when it comes to following Christ. On the other hand, though, this is bad thing, because most Christians who don’t think too much about it end up being largely ignorant of it, and such ignorance has left them susceptible to being manipulated by certain people who are using the creation/evolution issue to promote their own agendas. And as I have learned, the young earth creationist movement has an agenda.

Ever since Henry Morris’ The Genesis Flood, was published in 1961, the young earth creationist movement has steadily gained a considerable amount of influence and power within certain segments of the American Evangelical church—the most well-known YEC organization being that of Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis. The reason why it has grown in influence is because it takes advantage of people’s ignorance of history, science, and the Bible, and has convinced a significant portion of Evangelicalism that evolution is the front-line issue in the battle between Christianity and atheism/secular humanism.

Therefore, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that recent polls[1] have shown that 46% of Americans, and 69% of people who regularly attend church weekly, believe God created human beings in their present form at one time in the last 10,000 years or so. Within the Evangelical world, 64% of white Evangelical Protestants reject the idea that humans evolved at all. I doubt that poll number is the result of people having actually investigated the issue. It is rather because Evangelicals simply assume evolution is the same thing as atheism. They assume that because it is what they have been told by the various young earth creationists groups for decades.

The problem, though, is that not only is that claim demonstrably wrong, it is purposely deceitful. No, it’s not because men like Ken Ham are trying to pull a fast one on well-meaning, but unsuspecting Christians in order to get rich. Ken Ham says what he says because he has an agenda, and that agenda is to win the culture war. He is so horrified at what he perceives to be the moral decline in our society, that he believes it is his duty to restore a sense of moral order. He is so convinced that the reason for American society’s moral decline is directly linked to the theory of evolution, that he believes that if he can discredit the theory of evolution and convince people that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically and historically accurate, then this will convince people that the Bible is true, and thus lead to the restoration of Christian morality in our society.

In his attempt to prove that Genesis 1-11 is scientifically and historically accurate, though, Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis have given some truly bizarre “answers” that, ironically, are not found in Genesis, or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter. Among other things, he has claimed:

  • Adam and Eve possessed a perfect genome,[2] stood anywhere from 12-16 feet tall, and had super-intelligence.[3]
  • There was no death of any kind before the fall, except for plants and insects; they didn’t have the “breath of life,” so therefore they weren’t technically “alive” in the first place.[4]
  • As soon as Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, their perfect genomes started to mutate, the second law of thermodynamics was ushered into existence,[5] and hurricanes, cancer, and untold diseases and natural disasters burst into God’s perfect creation.[6]
  • Even though the human genome was no longer perfect after Adam and Eve’s fall, the genetic mutations were still rare and so minor that it was okay for their children to marry each other and have incestuous relationships without it being detrimental to the normal functioning of human life. It was only thousands of years later, when Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, that the genome become so mutated that God declared incest to be a sin.[7]
  • The pre-flood civilization was highly intelligent and had access to advanced technology that dwarfed the modern technology we have today.[8] This is what made it possible for Noah to build the ark, for he hired people to help him build it. All of the pre-flood advanced technology, though, was entirely blotted out by the waters of the flood, and we thus have no evidence of it today.[9]
  • Dinosaurs were on the ark, but only the small newborns. That is how they were able to fit on the ark.[10]
  • Animals like the kangaroo were able to float to Australia on the pre-flood trees that had been ripped up by the flood.[11]
  • Even after the flood, though, Noah’s descendants became just as sinful as ever, and rebelled against God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply” by refusing to have a lot of sex.[12]

So much for providing answers that are in Genesis (or anywhere else in the Bible, for that matter). And believe me, that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Nevertheless, Ken Ham is so convinced that his “battle plan” will save our society, and he is so convinced that God has called him to this fight, he feels that anything or anyone who questions him or doubts his claims is the enemy, not only to him, but to God and the Bible as well. It doesn’t matter to him that 97% of the scientific community rejects his claims of a young earth—they are in rebellion against God. It doesn’t matter to him that the most preeminent Evangelical biblical scholars of our day disagree with his interpretation of Genesis 1-11—they are compromised Christians who are undermining biblical authority. The culture war must be won, and the proper moral order must be reestablished. There can be no compromise. If Adam and Eve didn’t possess perfect genomes, then Christ died for nothing.

The fact is, though, that the claims of Ken Ham and a number of other young earth creationists are not only unscientific, they are also unbiblical and have never been universally held in the history of the Church. Let me repeat that, for it is what lies at the heart of this book: the claims young earth creationism makes regarding Genesis 1-11 are provably unscientific, provably unbiblical, and provably without any basis in the history of the Church.

Most Evangelicals, though, don’t know this. Therefore they go along with the young earth creationists party line and simply assume that Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis organization is just another Christian ministry dedicated to spreading the Gospel and standing up against atheism.

Yet, as has happened countless times,  any Christian who ends up learning more about science, proper biblical interpretation, or the facts of Church history, and then starts to raise questions about some of the things that young earth creationism is claiming, will soon find that there is target on his back. His faith will be questioned, and, if that person happens to be either a teacher at an Evangelical high school or college, or a pastor of a church, chances are his career will be in jeopardy, not for questioning the Bible, but for questioning YEC dogma.

This book is an attempt to provide clarity for anyone confused by the creation/evolution debate, and reassurance and a comfort for those people who’ve been frustrated, hurt, and have had their faith shaken because of what can be characterized as nothing else than young earth creationist zealots. Trying to understand the whole creation/evolution debate and wrestling with how to properly interpret Genesis 1-11 is hard enough. It takes a great amount of courage and faith to ask the hard questions and to seek the truth in both tasks. It therefore is tremendously disheartening and devastating to find certain Christians calling your faith into question, simply because you don’t blindly parrot the party line of young earth creationism.

I believe that the paranoia, divisiveness, and frustration that the young earth creationist movement fosters wherever it goes should serve as an indication that there is something fundamentally wrong with it. This is not simply a case of Christians having a difference of opinion on a certain topic. This is a case of a movement willing to declare war on everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, who does not capitulate to what they have unilaterally declared to be true.

***

[1]“Public Views on Evolution.” Pew Research Center: Religion and Public Life. 30 Dec 2013. Web. June 12, 2015.

[2]Elizabeth Mitchell, “Evaluating Giberson’s Book Saving the Original Sinner with Scripture and Science.” Answers in Genesis, 11 Nov 2015. Web. 12 Nov 2015.

[3]Ken Ham and Tim Lovett, “Was there Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?” New Answers Book: Answers in Genesis, 15 Feb 2014. Web. 11 Dec 2015.

[4]Avery Foley, “Did Adam Step on an Ant Before the Fall?”  Answers in Genesis, 4 Dec 2015. Web. 11 Dec 2015.

[5]Danny Faulkner, “The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Curse.” Answers Research Journal, 13 Nov 2013. Web. 14 Dec 2015.

[6]Ken Ham, “Was There Death Before Adam Sinned?” New Answers Book 3, 25 April 2014. Web. 10 Oct 2015.

[7]“Who Was Cain’s Wife?” Answers in Genesis. Web. 15 Nov 2015.

[8]Ken Ham and Tim Lovett, “Was There Really a Noah’s Ark and Flood?” New Answers Book, 5 Feb 2014. Web. 22 Sept 2015.

[9]Ken Ham, “Answering Claims About the Ark Project.” Answers in Genesis, 5 June 2015. Web. 5 July 2015.

[10]Buddy Davis, “Dinosaurs on the Ark.” Answers Magazine, 24 Feb 2010. Web. 13 Oct 2015.

[11]Paul F. Taylor, “How did Animals Spread all Over the World from Where the Ark Landed? The New Answers Book, 17 Feb 2014. Web. 13 Oct 2015.

[12]Bodie Hodge, “Why Don’t We Find Human and Dinosaur Fossils Together?” New Answers Book, 1 Nov 2007. Web. 13 Oct 2015.

Joel’s Commentary on Revelation: Revelation 22–This is the End

Joel’s Commentary on Revelation: Revelation 22–This is the End

RevelationNow that John’s apocalyptic symphony is finished, he adds a few last things. In this last section of Revelation 22:7-21, a few things need to be mentioned.

“Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book”
What does this mean? I believe it is a call to live out the message of Revelation in our lives. It was a call John gave to the original audience, and it is a call that applies to us as well. Basically, when it comes down to it, there are fundamentally two messages in Revelation. The first is addressed to Christians facing persecution: stand firm, keep the faith; your suffering is the means by which Christ redeems the world. Now, let’s be honest, this message is not directly applicable to Christians in America today—we’re not going through persecution. But, this message directly speaks to Christians who’ve suffered under Communist regimes, or to the current Christians in the Middle East who are being slaughtered by ISIS. When news came last year about how ISIS beheaded those 20-30 Christians—and we saw pictures of those Christians in orange jumpsuits, being walked to their deaths on the beach—I immediately thought, of Revelation 6:9-11:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed.”

Let’s be honest, those verses don’t apply to Christians in America today. But that doesn’t mean Revelation doesn’t speak to Christians in America—this brings us to the second message of Revelation, found in 18:2-5:

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling place of demons, a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.” Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.”

To be clear, I’m not saying that America is exactly like ancient Rome. We don’t have a megalomaniac emperor who demands we worship him as a god, or else we get killed. Despite what some may claim, modern America is not an empire that is continually trying to take over other nations and enslave them. But America is probably the most materialistic, rich, and powerful country in the history of the world. There is plenty that is wrong and shameful—just turn on your TV, get on the internet, listen to modern pop music…look at our presidential candidates.

It is very easy to get caught up in all that stuff; it is very easy to take part in the sins of America. Yet here John is, issuing a clear challenge: “Come out of her.” No, that doesn’t mean literally leave America. It means to live as citizens of the New Jerusalem, not the Whore of Babylon. Don’t get in bed with her; don’t compromise your morals, just so you can indulge in her adulteries. It’s up to each one of us to “hear what the Spirit is saying” in regards to how this specifically applies to our daily lives.

“Do not seal up the words of this prophecy, for the time is near”
The unique thing about Revelation is that it is an apocalypse that commands it not to be sealed up until the end of days. It should be obvious why—we are in the last days. From the Christian perspective, from the time of Christ’s ascension until he comes again are the last days. So, are we living in the “end times”? Yes…but not the way modern dispensationalism (or Hal Lindsey, or Tim LaHaye, or John Hagee) claims. From the New Testament perspective, the past 2,000 years have been the “end times.”

The Warning of Revelation 22:18-19
The warning is not to add or subtract anything from the book of Revelation—this is not about the entire Bible. Having said that, it doesn’t mean we have license to change things in the Bible! The canon of the Bible is set in order to preserve the teachings of Christ and the apostles.  Anything that someone teaches must be viewed in light of the canon and the rule of faith. Yet, John’s specific command here is simple: “Don’t change what I wrote here in Revelation!”

So why did John add this warning to the end of Revelation? I think it should be obvious if we just look at how Revelation has been misinterpreted and distorted throughout Church history—it has caused a lot of paranoia and damage. In the Middle Ages, if you wanted to justify killing an enemy, or disgracing other Christians, you just call them the anti-Christ! Martin Luther and the Pope called each other the anti-Christ, and the result was one of the most tragic divisions in Church history.  Today, people are so caught up in speculating about “end time events” that they miss the fact that Christ himself commands us NOT to do such things, and that the whole point of Revelation is to get Christians to focus on living their lives for Christ TODAY.

At the same time, so many Christians don’t read Revelation because it is so confusing—and the Left Behind Series certainly doesn’t help things or bring clarity to it. But once you understand Revelation, you realize that it brings the whole Christian life into focus. It forces us to look at our lives today, in the light of our ultimate hope—the consummation of the Kingdom of God.

There simply are things in Revelation that makes us uncomfortable—who wants to suffer and die? Who wants to be persecuted? And who is really comfortable with the idea that to imitate Christ means to accept and expect suffering and death? There is a strong temptation to look over that part of Revelation and take those parts out. There’s a temptation to actually make Revelation mean the very opposite of what it means, and look forward to when God will take us away from tribulation—no…Revelation is clear: if you are a Christian, expect tribulation.

John warns us not to take those difficult parts out, because that is how the script has been written. Those difficult parts are the means by which Christ saves the world. To change the script is to reject Christ’s plan of salvation.

At the same time, there are other parts in Revelation that we would really like to play up and expand, namely the destruction of the Babylon and the Beast. Great! Let’s fight against leaders we don’t like! Never mind the fact that Christ calls us to accept suffering at the hands of unjust leaders. Let’s call the Soviet Union “the evil empire,” and let’s call ISIS “a great evil,” and lets close our eyes to the clear evil and injustice that is present in America as well. To be clear, the Soviet Union was incredibly evil, as is ISIS—but we can’t pretend that America is all pure and good.

Conclusion
It should be obvious that Revelation is an explosive and dangerous book. Adding or subtracting from it easily perverts the Gospel that Christ preached, and that Christians are called to live out. That is why it is so important to read Revelation in its historical and literary context. That is why it is so important to understand what it originally meant. Only after we understand the original and inspired meaning of Revelation can we begin to relate its message to our lives today.

The pictures I have included are the visual aids that I developed to help understand the literary flow of the two parts of Revelation: Chapters 4-11 and Chapters 12-22. If you compare the two flow charts, you should be able to see that each part of Revelation follows the same pattern. The final picture is just a little drawing I did that helps us understand that the way salvation is pictured in Revelation, particularly at the end, is by means of Exodus and Exile imagery. If you have any questions about them, by all means leave a comment and question.

IMG_20160702_221720151    IMG_20160702_221733251  IMG_20160702_221750230

Joel’s Commentary on Revelation: Revelation 21–The New Jerusalem

Joel’s Commentary on Revelation: Revelation 21–The New Jerusalem

We now come to the climax of not only Revelation, of not only the New Testament, but of the entire biblical story itself—it is the climax of God’s entire creation project, from beginning to end. And by the time we get through this final section, you will see just how much this last chapter brings the entire biblical story full circle, and how much it brings us back around to the first three chapters of Genesis.

The New Jerusalem
New_JerusalemUp to this point in Revelation, there really has been only one dominant city: Rome, the “Babylon” of the early Christians’ day. And more than that, Rome was see as “the Great Whore.” Not only was it viewed as “the great city of the world,” but it was also seen as the idolatrous prostitute who leads all the other nations astray into spiritual adultery.

All through the New Testament, Christians are urged to live as “strangers and aliens” in this world (I Peter 2:11-12), and to realize that as citizens of Heaven, they have a heavenly home to look forward to (Hebrews 12:22-24/13:13-14). In times of suffering, Christians can get down, focus on their troubles, and forget to keep an eye on their heavenly home. By the same token, in times of prosperity, Christians can also get so comfortable with their lives that they are tempted to forsake their hope of a heavenly home, and simply be content with their temporal riches. A clear reminder of that future home is needed in both cases. And here in Revelation 21, John gives that picture to remind both suffering and prosperous Christians, “Don’t forget where your true home lies.”

The first thing to notices is that with the new Heaven and new Earth, there is no longer any sea. By now, this should be obvious: it is symbolically saying that the chaos and evil of Satan will be no more. God has put an end to Satan’s power forever, and Satan’s chaotic sea is no more. The second thing to notice is that the New Jerusalem that comes out of Heaven is described as a bride. This picture of the heavenly city of the New Jerusalem as a pure bride is in complete contrast to the earthly city of Babylon, the great whore. The choice cannot be any clearer. The question it all comes down to is this: Where is your home? Ultimately, there are only two choices.

Verses 3-4 declare the realization of the hope that was begun ever since Genesis 3, when the man and woman were cast out of God’s presence: God will once again dwell with His people. This hope was realized in part with the tabernacle in the wilderness in the Exodus, and then later with the temple in Jerusalem—God was with the people of Israel, but He dwelled in the Holy of Holies, and that was allowed to be entered only once a year by the high priest.

Verses 6-8 also declare the realization of other Old Testament and New Testament hopes. First of all, we are offered the water of life. Jesus mentions this in John 4:7-15 in his conversation with the Samaritan woman, and again in 7:37-39, at the Feast of Tabernacles.

Secondly, we are told that anyone who overcomes will inherit the Heavenly Jerusalem. “Inheritance” is one of those essential things we have to understand if we are to comprehend God’s promise of salvation. Way back with Abraham, God promised that his descendants would receive the Promised Land as their inheritance. The Promised Land was to the Jews the visible, concrete expression of God’s salvation; it represented the ultimate inheritance of eternal life in God’s heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, the ultimate Promised Land.

Thirdly, those who overcome will be God’s son (or daughter). Christianity doesn’t simply teach that God sent His son Jesus Christ to die for our sins, and to lead us into this ultimate Promised Land. It teaches that through Christ we become co-heirs and children of God Himself. To be “born again” isn’t just a term that means you’ve accepted the truths of Christianity; it means that you have actually been born again by the Holy Spirit—God’s Spirit lives in you, and you share in His life through Christ.

This is a concept that is just as hard to fully understand as trying to understand how Jesus could be both human and divine. We can’t fully comprehend how this can be, but we trust God, and believe somehow this is possible. In fact, this is a point that separates Christianity from other religions. In Judaism and Islam, God is very much separated from His creation. We are His servants, but definitely not in any real way “connected” with Him. To even speak of God as “Father” is blasphemous to a Muslim. On the other hand, with Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), there is no idea of a real “personal” God to begin with. “God” is everything. Ultimately, everything blends together, as drops of water into an ocean—of course that’s the end of the drop. There really is no concept of ultimate individuality and personality. It is only in Christianity that there is a distinct, personal God, and distinct and personal creatures, and that somehow God is one with His creation, while at the same time retaining individuality and personality. Christianity is the only religion that teaches you can be “one in Christ,” and that Christ will be “all in all,” and yet you will retain your individuality…and God, His.

Verses 9-21 give us a picture of the outside of the Heavenly Jerusalem. The very city “shone with the glory of God”—God’s presence fills the city. All through the Old and New Testaments, there are passages that talk about this (Ex. 16:7-10; 24:16-17; 40:34-35; I Kings 8:10-11; Ezek. 10:4, 18; 11:23; 43:45; 44:4; Isaiah 35:2; 40:5; 51:8; 60:1; John 1:1-14; Hebrews 8:1-9:10). Also, we note that on the gates there are the names of the twelve tribes of Israel, and that on the foundation, there are the names of the twelve apostles. The connection between the twelve tribes and twelve apostles already has been seen in the discussion regarding the 144,000 in Revelation.

Is the New Jerusalem Home to the Borg?
The BorgVerses 15-17 further emphasize this association with the number twelve. But first, we see that the city is in the shape of a cube: 12,000 square stadia. So, why a cube? No, this is not a precursor to the Borg from Star Trek. The reason is that it calls to mind the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle in the wilderness, and Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem—it was laid out in a perfect cube. The point is that, whereas with the tabernacle and temple, God dwelled with His people, but there was still a distinct separation between mankind and God because of sin, now the very city of the Heavenly Jerusalem serves as the Holy of Holies. The separation will be gone, and God will fully dwell with His people—all will be holy.

Also, the 12,000 stadia (12 x 1,000), and the walls are 144 cubits thick (12 x 12). Ancient writers simply used numbers to symbolically get their messages across: the 12 tribes of Israel x the 12 apostles to the Gentiles = the full people of God.

The final thing to point out in chapter 21 is 21:22-27. First of all, the reason there is no longer any temple should be obvious—there is no need for one. The LORD God Almighty and the Lamb are the city’s temple. God now dwells with His people. Listen to what Paul says:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (I Cor. 3:16-17).

The “you” in these verses is not singular. Paul is not saying, “You, as an individual, are God’s temple.” He’s telling the Corinthians that they, as the body of believers, are God’s temple. Christians form the body of Christ; we are the temple of God. Sure, salvation is based on a one-on-one, personal relationship with Christ, but the Christian life is not an individualized thing. If you are a Christian, then you are a part of the Church. You are part of the body of Christ; you are part of God’s temple. That means that your relationship with other believers is just as important as your relationship with Christ.

One of my professors from Regent College, Gordon Fee, put it this way: “If you think that you can go through your life, only concerned with your one-on-one personal relationship with Christ, and have the attitude that the rest of the world can be damned, as long as you are okay with God, then you need to get saved.”

Secondly, 21:24 says that the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. This echoes a constant theme in the Old Testament, that when God restores the fortunes of His people, that His people will be a light to the nations, thus fulfilling God’s promise in the Abrahamic covenant that through the nation that comes from him, all nations will be blessed (Isaiah 2:2-4; 60: 3, 5, 11; Micah 4:1-3; Zechariah 8:20-23; 14:16).

Revelation 22:1-5
Whoever came up with the chapter divisions didn’t know what he was doing here, for Revelation 22:1-5 clearly go with Revelation 21. These five verses echo the first three chapters of Genesis, and serve to bring the entire biblical story to its consummation. The dilemma that was spelled out in Genesis 1-3 is now rectified in these last few chapters of Revelation.

  • The creation that was subject to decay is now renewed in the New Creation
  • The paradise that was lost is now restored
  • The original fall and curse is not reversed and overthrown–there is no longer any curse
  • The promise of redemption of a suffering people is now fulfilled
  • The promise that evil (i.e. the serpent’s offspring) will be defeated is now accomplished
  • The River of Life is made available to mankind once again
  • There is access to the Tree of Life for the healing for the nations

The point is that all that was broken and cursed will be healed and made new. The promise Genesis 3:14-16, that God will eventually bring an end to the serpent, and all the promises made to Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, and to us, will be fulfilled. In the end, God wins, and we will see His face. We will be brought home out of our exile. That is what we long for.

In my final post on Revelation, I will offer some final reflections, and I will give some visuals that I think will help one to understand Revelation as a whole.

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