Taking the Bible Seriously

I’ve chosen to devote myself to the study of the Christian Scriptures. As I prepare to finish my undergraduate studies and move on to the graduate level, I’m trying to collate the lessons I’ve learned so far, to distill them into a few key principles, if only for my own personal benefit and clarity of thought.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned (or have begun to learn) involves the necessity of humility as we approach the biblical text. If we’re not careful, we’ll miss the rich complexities and beautiful truths of Scripture. At best, we’ll walk away with a shallow understanding of God and his world. At worst, we’ll do serious damage to others and ourselves.

To assume that the biblical text was written primarily for me, a 21st-century Caucasian middle-class American Christian, to immediately answer my questions, is both prideful and naive.

The Bible, like Jesus, is both divine and human. As God’s Word, it contains timeless truths and, I believe, the answers to life’s most important questions. As a compilation of human writings, it was directly written to a variety of audiences spanning both several years and cultures. We must hold both in tension. This can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but I believe it is worth the effort.
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Creation

This is the first post in a series. It’s very straightforward. I’ve simply quoted a doctrinal statement and then pasted the biblical text used to support the statements in italics beneath each statement.

The question behind each of these posts: Do these statements flow from the texts? Or are they imposed upon the texts? If you so desire, leave your answers in the comments.

We believe in the literal 6-day account of creation, that the creation of man lies in the special, immediate, and formative acts of God and not from previously existing forms of life. 

Genesis 1:26,27; 2:7-9,16,17; 3:1-19.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
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An Explanation

**If you haven’t read my previous two blog posts, “Cedarville, Let there be Light. (pt. 1 and pt. 2),” please go do so before reading this post.**

Summary: I’ve been blogging in order to raise awareness of Cedarville University’s recent dismissal of Dr. Michael Pahl from his teaching post. Using the University’s statement on Dr. Pahl, I’ve raised some uncomfortable questions that I believe need to be asked in this situation. For example:

  • Why were the five accolades attached to Dr. Pahl above (in the statement, orthodox, gospel, Scripture, scholar, teacher) not enough to keep him on the teaching faculty of Cedarville University?
  • Don’t we want promising scholars and dedicated teachers who are committed to the gospel, to Scripture, and to orthodoxy at Cedarville University? If not, why not?

I’m writing today because the responses I’ve gotten to those posts and questions have been mixed. Some think I’m doing something that is both righteous and necessary, respectfully raising awareness and asking uncomfortable-yet-necessary questions. Others think I’m being un-biblical and disrespectful in my approach, and that I should handle these matters privately (cf. Matt 18:15-22 and such).

Clearly, I’m a bit biased toward the first reaction. It’s always more pleasant to think of your actions as both righteous and necessary, after all. However, that doesn’t negate the careful line to walk in this situation. Several things must be held in Christ-honoring tension, such as boldness and respect, honesty and love, persistence and patience, a hunger for justice and an even stronger craving for God’s perfect shalom peace. Continue reading “An Explanation”

Cedarville, Let there be Light. (pt. 2)

Read Part One

Further Questions, All Relating to the University Statement on Dr. Pahl’s Dismissal:

  • If Dr. Pahl’s book, The Beginning and the End, was controversial enough to lead to his dismissal, why was the book allowed to be used as a textbook last school year?
    • Shouldn’t we trust the Bible professors’ judgment in their selection of the book as a text?
    • If we should, then was it worth firing Dr. Pahl over a book which other CU professors approved of enough to require as a text for their courses?
    • If not, why not? Why don’t we trust these highly-trained men and women as an institution? Shouldn’t they be a resource instead of a feared danger? Does this potential fear have anything to do with Dr. Pahl being dismissed?
  • Do all members of the Board of Trustees agree with “each and every position of Cedarville University’s Doctrinal Statement” in the way Dr. Pahl was expected to in order to still be allowed to teach?
    • If he was dismissed, despite the apparent alignment of his personal views and those expressed in his writing to the Doctrinal Statement, is there a possibility that some of the trustees should also be dismissed according to such strict standards?
  • Was Dr. Pahl dismissed for something that wrote which contradicts the Doctrinal Statement? If so, what was it exactly that he wrote? (I have been unable to find anything in The Beginning and the End)
  • If Dr. Pahl was not fired for something he wrote, was he fired for something that he didn’t write? Again, if so, what was it exactly that he didn’t affirm?
  • Furthermore, is firing someone for not affirming something fair? Are all professors required to affirm the Doctrinal Statement in its entirety in everything they write and/or publish?
  • What is the administration’s vision for the future of the Bible Department at Cedarville University?
  • How does firing an orthodox, promising scholar who is committed to Scripture and to the gospel help to achieve that vision?
  • Has Dr. Pahl been cared for by the University in any way during this process? As our brother in Christ, have we dismissed him in a way that is honoring to God and helpful to him and his family?
  • What explanation has been given to the students who have been affected by Dr. Pahl’s dismissal (i.e. the ones registered for his classes)? Has that explanation been accurate and forthright?
  • Are any other professors currently being considered for dismissal by the University for things they have written and published?

(CONTINUED: An Explanation)

Cedarville, Let there be Light. (pt. 1)

The Statement:

“Dr. Michael Pahl has been relieved of his teaching duties because he is unable to concur fully with each and every position of Cedarville University’s doctrinal statement.  This decision was made following a review by the University administration and trustees prompted by Dr. Pahl’s recent book, The Beginning and the End:  Rereading Genesis’s Stories and Revelation’s Visions.

Dr. Pahl’s orthodoxy and commitment to the gospel are not in question, nor is his commitment to Scripture’s inspiration, authority and infallibility.  He is a promising scholar and a dedicated teacher, and he will be missed by his colleagues and students.  Nevertheless, the University has determined this decision to be in the best interests of its constituency at this time.”
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Creation and Doxology (pt. 3)

(Read Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 first!)

CREATION AND REDEMPTION: CHRIST AND NEW CREATION

            Throughout the New Testament, the main use of creation theology is to link creation with redemption, resulting in the praise of the Creator through the Creator-Redeemer, Jesus the Messiah. However, the linked concepts of creation and redemption have a rich OT history. For example, cited impetuses for keeping the Sabbath are Yahweh’s creative work (Exod 20:11) and his redemptive work (Deut 5:15), revealing a close connection between the two actions.[1] The logic behind this correlation is one of continued creation: Yahweh is personally invested in the success of his creative purposes, the functionality of his temple.[2] Sin and Death will not have the final word. The Creator will redeem by creating anew through his Son.
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Creation and Doxology (pt. 2)

(Read Pt. 1 First!)

CREATION, COMPLEXITY, AND CHAOS

Much of the chaos in the universe can be ascribed to the infiltration of Sin and Death as described in Genesis 3. However, an oft-overlooked facet of biblical creation theology is the appropriate place of complexity and chaos within God’s creation. Even when the effects of the Fall are ignored, God’s temple is by no means a tame environment, nor is humanity the sole venue through which Yahweh receives glory. This facet is a crucial one, for it reorients a proper view of worship in an untamed temple, necessitating humility in the worship of the Creator.
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Biblical Creation Theology

I’m writing a paper. The thesis is that the main goal of creation theology throughout Scripture is to bring about the praise of the Creator. To argue this thesis, I’m examining the motifs of creation as temple, creation and chaos, and creation and redemption.

Here’s a segment of my introduction:

In many conservative evangelical circles, biblical creation theology has been hijacked and eclipsed by the vitriolic debate between Young Earth Creationism and Neo-Darwinism. It is often difficult to see beyond this morass the beautiful tapestry of creation themes in biblical theology. Waltke summarizes the problem well: “Instead of metaphysical questions that shape culture, questions about dinosaurs, a young earth theory, and such dominate the evangelical landscape. This is unfortunate.”[1] Nevertheless, there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Scripture’s use of creation themes, whether the evangelical community gives them appropriate attention or not.


[1]Bruce Waltke and Charles Yu, “Chapter 7: The Gift of the Cosmos” In An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) 174.

Can I recommend three excellent resources which have helped me in my study of Biblical Creation Theology?

The first is The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton (Ph.D., Hebrew Union College), professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College.

In this astute mix of cultural critique and biblical studies, John H. Walton presents and defends twenty propositions supporting a literary and theological understanding of Genesis 1 within the context of the ancient Near Eastern world and unpacks its implications for our modern scientific understanding of origins. Ideal for students, professors, pastors and lay readers with an interest in the intelligent design controversy and creation-evolution debates, Walton’s thoughtful analysis unpacks seldom appreciated aspects of the biblical text and sets Bible-believing scientists free to investigate the question of origins.

Second and third are two works by Michael W. Pahl (Ph.D. Theology, Birmingham, UK), The Beginning and the End: Rereading Genesis’s Stories and Revelation’s Visions and From Resurrection to New Creation: A First Journey in Christian Theology.

First, The Beginning and The End

Have you ever wondered if there might be more to Genesis than fodder for anti-evolutionism? Or have you ever thought, ‘Revelation has to be more than simply a roadmap for the future of the Middle East’? You’re not alone.

In The Beginning and the End Michael Pahl surveys the opening chapters of Genesis and the concluding chapters of Revelation, taking seriously both their historical and literary features as ancient texts and their theological purposes as inspired Scripture. The result is a reading of the first and last books of the Bible that sketches out, from beginning to end, a story of God, humanity, and all creation–a grand narrative in which we are placed in the middle, and which calls us to live in a particular way as our identity and our values are shaped in light of our origins and our destiny.

In The Beginning and the End, Dr. Pahl does an amazing job of handling both origins and eschatology. I’m not quite sure how he does it, but he somehow avoids the vitriolic debates which have unfortunately characterized these areas of doctrine for far too long. I appreciate his handling of the creation accounts in Genesis because they can be read by both Young Earth Creationists and Theistic Evolutionists alike. Members of both groups will walk away from this work challenged, chastened, and instructed by the words of Scripture.

Secondly, From Resurrection to New Creation

This is the way to do theology, as rooted in Story, God’s own Story that emerges with yearning for resolution at the time of Jesus and which only Jesus Christ resolved. Theology has too often lost sight of this Story, but Michael Pahl’s book calls us back once again to the Bible and to the earliest theologians’ way of doing theology — let the gospel story be told and let that Story shape how we understand theology. ~ Scot McKnight.

Although I am mainly using only one chapter from this book (Chapter 7: Creation, to show the link between Creation and Redemption), it is a fantastic and well-written introduction to Christian theology.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m sick of sacrificing the words of Scripture on the altars of our own agendas. Hopefully these resources and others will help anyone interested in seeing past the Ken Hams and the Richard Dawkinses of this age to the timeless and beautiful themes of biblical creation theology.