Re: [asa] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Tue Sep 22 2009 - 00:24:05 EDT
I think that the question, "Are you in, or are you out?" per se is representative of something that causes problems for many Christians who are seriously re-examining their foundations for belief. The implication of the question is that Christianity is a container or mold that we must conform to. The problem is that we human kinds come in so many configurations that "one size" DOES NOT fit all. Indeed, the teaching along this line displaces invitation to personally wrestle with issues that present themselves (in some cases idiosyncratically to us) and lead to a more personal encounter with God (which is the point, sometimes lost, in particular religious expressions).  The mere fact that there are so many distinctive and strongly held definitions of that that "one size" should bring something to our attention in this regard.

By and large, it appears that we fail to broadly teach our own history and diversity of thought, presumably because it threatens to draw newbies into doubt (the very concept being another issue, as Bill mentions), or something like susceptibility to heresy. That failure virtually automatically leads to disrespect of someone who comes to a different conclusion. That is the nature of adherence to a specific definition of even the very identifier, "Christian" [though that disrespect is not found in all Christian denominations]. One does not have to wander very far, even on this series of postings, to find adherents of a particular definition of Christian dismissing others who claim the same name, but offer different definitions. Yet both form up around the same central figure. I think this manifestation of mutual exclusivity weakens the kingdom at large. My guess is that God has no denominational affiliations, and wonders even why we create them and defend them so passionately when we understand so little. I have no disrespect for the idea of denominational grouping according to specific beliefs, but I do have a problem when those communities behave in such unseemly ways toward one another, and dissipate so much energy unproductively (in terms of this life).

Back on point, I would not in any way detract from this question as a very meaningful tipping point for your particular pilgrimage. It obviously was. But might it's impact have been more in the nature of a catalyst provoking immediate serious thought about the most prominent issues, rather than a decisive moment in itself?

JimA [Friend of ASA]

wjp wrote:

This is a beautiful story, but I just don't think faith looks this way.
Perhaps losing one's faith does.

It seems that you, as Bernie, believe that you have "lost your faith"
because of something you thought you understood, you find you don't.
In your case, it was because of the mind/body problem.  For Bernie,
it seems, it was the inability to concord Scripture with what he
believes about the natural world, leading him to doubt all of

It seems to me that you both believe that Doubt and Faith are contraries.
To shamelessly use your story, I think that Faith is more like the picture
you have of consciousness.  In ourselves we can dwell in Doubt, but the
Light that comes from above, nonetheless, reflects (creates) Faith.

Doubt is rational, whereas Faith is supra-rational.
By supra-rational I mean that it has a rational component, but it is
above rationality, and not dependent upon it, although it can be
supported, or, as in the case of Doubt, undermined by it.
But, nonetheless, Faith can live and breath in the presence of
extreme Doubt and Silence of God.

It is not difficult to find many famous examples of exactly what
I am speaking of, but it also ought to be clear in our own lives
as well.

It is when we demand understanding for Faith (witness the motivation
for multiuniveres), that Faith is diminished and, what is worse,
maintained, or at least thought to be maintained, by our own efforts.
We think that Faith is being Certain, while it is really absolute
dependence and weakness.  It is to be at Rest in utter weakness and
uncertainty because our Trust is not in ourselves, but in another.

It is for these reasons that I am still hopeful that Bernie is,
despite his inclinations, still a Christian.

I remember well a story one of my pastors told of himself.
It is while in Seminary that he was introduced to unfamiliar
ideas that caused him to doubt his faith.  For some time he
went on acting as if it was a phase that would surely pass.
At long last, he felt he could go on no further, took time
off from school, and went to visit his father.  Upon relating
to his father the gruesome details and the convoluted reasons
for his doubt, he paused to await his father's reply.
His father did not go into a lengthy defense or each point.
Instead, he had but one short question:
"Are you in, or are you out?"
With that, my pastor realized, not only that he was still
in, but that the walk of Faith was very different from what
he had imagined.

I think the same is true for all of us.
The very fact that Christine ached in her soul and Bernie,
at least for now, remains on this list, is evidence of that/


On Mon, 21 Sep 2009 15:54:26 -0700 (PDT), Christine Smith <> wrote:
Hi Bernie,

You wrote "No soul -> no afterlife -> no resurrection -> no work of Christ
on the cross."

That is precisely the line of logic I followed in my crisis of faith two
and a half years ago, and it almost made me an Atheist. Until, by God's
grace, He showed me that I WAS WRONG! Here's my story...

My faith collapsed on February 3, 2007 because I got on to some Atheist
websites where they made precisely this type of argument. They argued,
'how could their we anything like a soul when things like drugs and
medications and such could affect everything we might call "soulish"?'
What about brain damage they said? What's a "soul" mean in this context,
if there was such a thing? I had never considered these questions before,
and it rocked my faith to the core - because I had an extremely
simplistic, strictly dualistic notion of what a "soul" is. And I had no
idea how anything else besides this understanding could fit into any
theistic context, let alone Christianity. On February 4th, I remember I
went to the park to sit by a lake, and literally yelled at God,
challenging Him to strike me dead if He was real and He was listening
(Mercifully, He didn't). For two months, I flailed about somewhere between
Christianity and Atheism, obsessively reading
 anything and everything I could about them. I couldn't listen to
Christian music without crying, I could barely bring myself to still
attend church or to pray, I questioned what the word "soulmates" meant as
engaved on my wedding ring. And then, one afternoon on the way to a
restaurant, I heard a Christian song on the radio: "Resurrection", talking
about how their heart had grown so lifeless, so cold, so dead. The song
deeply resonnated with me, and I prayed, once more, that God would help me
understand, if He even really existed? And that's when it happened - the
closest thing ever I have felt to pure revelation...

Eating at the restaurant, I happened to glance down at the table, caught
by a glimmer of light. The table was made of polished granite, and a
mineral flek was reflecting the light. Instantaneously, I understood! I
went home and wrote it all down, praising God full of confidence once

Our physical brains and bodies are like a mineral. Minerals are entirely
material, the exact shape and alignment and construction of which
determines how precisely it interacts with the world, and what all of its
properties are. It determines how it reflects the light, at what angles,
and even whether or not it reflects light at all. The crystal structure
and its properties are 100% correlated - change one physical
characteristic of the crystal, and you can change everything else about
it. But the mineral itself, does not give off light, is not the source of
the light. The light is external. Likewise, our brains and our bodies are
entirely material, and how it is constructed, what it is made of, what we
put into it, etc. affects everything we experience, how we interact with
the world, and how well we physically capable we are to engage with all
that is around us. But just like a mineral is not the source of the light,
neither are we. Our consciousness,
 our rationality, our emotions, all of  the intangible qualities about us
(or any animal for that matter) that we call a "soul" are not intrinsic to
our material bodies. They "emerge" from this physical platform only when we
are in the presence of "light" - the "light" of God. In the presence of the
life-giving Holy Spirit, we are brought to life through the Spirit's
interaction with the material, and what we call a soul is the unique
reflection of the Spirit through our physical being. All people are
sustained by the Spirit, and thus when the Spirit withdraws, we die. Our
"souls" appear to leave our body but they are really "in Christ" - that is
to say, the unique pattern of that interaction of body and Spirit, is kept
safe within God Himself. At the resurrection, God will transform our
physical bodies and the Spirit will raise us to life again through that
renewed interaction. Thus, there is continuity from our current life, yet
we will be changed.

That is what I believe, and that's how I came through my crisis of faith.
In so far as I understand, it is consistent with science as well as
Scripture. And by my husband's account, I am a much stronger and more
deeply faithful Christian that I was when I started. I hope and pray this
will be the case for you as you continue on your journey.

I must be going, but as many here (including myself) have referred you to
the work of N. T. Wright, I thought I'd point you to his website so you
can explore it a bit if you're so inclined:

In Christ,

"For we walk by faith, not by sight" ~II Corinthians 5:7

Help save the life of a homeless animal--visit to find
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--- On Mon, 9/21/09, Dehler, Bernie <> wrote:

From: Dehler, Bernie <>
Subject: RE: [asa] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics
Cc: "asa" <>
Date: Monday, September 21, 2009, 11:48 AM

I think my
latest awareness came at the
last ASA conference with the discussions about the
problem.  I’ve come to see the
‘conscience’ as something
complex that emerges from the brain.  Christians would
call it a ‘soul’
by I see no reason to attach a spiritual entity to
it.  In Christian theology, the
idea of a soul introduces many unanswered questions-


What are
toddlers or senile people are
like in heaven (eternally toddler or eternally


If souls
given at conception: how are souls
given to identical twins  (one egg/sperm splits off
into two kids after some
time) and chimeras (two fertilized eggs grow then at some
point combine tomake
one person)  at birth?  Also, Siamese


Seeing the
conscious as just emergence
(and dissipation in old age) from the brain resolves all
these questions. 


No soul
-> no afterlife -> no
resurrection -> no work of Christ on the




 asa [mailto:
 asa] On Behalf Of  John

Sent: Sunday,
September 20, 2009
5:39 PM

To: Mark

Cc: asa

Subject: Re:
 asa ] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics




I contend that
the importance of the theological
component of your RTB to TE journey was directly
proportional to your
investment in it beforehand. It was the same with going
from YEC to RTB. The
more you were bought in to all the arguments for the age of
the earth, the more
you had to unlearn before you could go forward. Inerrancy
is the perfect
theological example. I was never totally sold on that for
lots of reasons but
maily because it just never seemed to make any sense to me
even though I tried
hard to believe it to be a good Christian but just never
really could.


Also, I had only
heard of the YEC party line but was never
really bought into it so it was much easier for me to let
it all go with no
serious emotional toll on me. Likewise the same with
theology. So I contend
there is an advantage to not making an irrevocable
commitment if you can't
really be sure about it. It just never was that important
to me or that
essential. This again was providential revelation at
least in my case.




From: Mark
Whorton <>

To:; John
Burgeson (ASA member) <>; John
 Walley <>; "Dehler,
Bernie" <>

Cc: asa
< asa>

Sent: Sunday,
September 20, 2009
7:51:42 PM

Subject: Re:
 asa ] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics

Pardon me for
inserting myself in mid stream, but I
completely agree with George.  In my evolution from
YEC to progressive
creation, I had to make the transition in the context of a
worldview.  I had to work out the relevant theological
systematically.  Likewise as I was forced into TE by
the strength of the
evidence and the insufferable insistence of John
 Walley ;-), I had to have another paradigm evolution based
systematic theology.  What I am saying is this -- a
Christian must
integrate what they believe about the world with what they
believe to be true
about God and His nature.  For me this meant that as a
Southern Baptist I
had to jettison the doctrine of inerrancy as taught in our
Sunday School
classes in light of a better understanding of what is meant
by the authority
and inspiration of Scripture.  Pure and simple, that
is theology.  It
did not mean that "theology is incorrect" by any
means.  It
meant that I had to integrate the science and my
understanding (slight but
hopefully growing) understanding of God's
self-revelation into an evolving
systematic theology.

Pardon me for being so focused on my story,  but I
think it illustrates
the evolution that must take place in a Christian who is
actively seeking to
learn and grow.  Hopefully by God's grace I am
making slow progress in
that direction.

Mark  Whorton



To: John
Burgeson (ASA member)
<>; John Walley
<>; "Dehler, Bernie"

Cc: asa
< asa>;

Sent: Sunday,
September 20, 2009
12:06:11 AM

Subject: Re:
 asa ] RE: (fall-away) TE and apologetics

Of course I meant dismissal of theology in general, not of
theologies.  & of course there are bad as well as
theologies.  But if theology is the practice of faith
in search of
understanding - or simply thinking about what one believes
& its
implications - then dismissal of theology in general is by

Since the Christian message involves claims about God's
relationship with the
real world, any theology that conflicts with what is known
to be true about the
world is defective, the seriousness of the conflict
determining the degree of
defect.  On that count any theology that insists that
the world is young
or that evolution hasn't occurred is defective. 

In fact, what you've been doing in trying to make sense
of your faith when you
take evolution seriously is precisely theology. 
It's important though to
have some guidance in such an enterprise, & the
theological tradition can
help with that (though it's not infallible). 
& part of the process is
separating the wheat from the chaff.

C.S. Lewis described a talk on theology he'd given to
some men in the RAF,
after which one man stood up and said that all that
armchair stuff was all very
well for intellectuals but that he'd known the presence
of God when he was out
in the desert at night without any of that formal
theology.  (It's been
awhile since I read this so I may not have the details
right but that's the
gist of it.)  Lewis replied that he had no doubt that
the man had had such
experiences.  But how far would they take a
person?  It's a bit like
what you need if you're going to sail the Atlantic from
Europe to
 America , he
said.  Of course nautical charts wouldn't give you
any sense of what it
would be like to be out on the ocean in a boat.  But
feelings wouldn't get
you from Portsmouth to
 New York and a nautical chart could.



---- John Walley <> wrote:

Any dismissal of theology amounts to an
endorsement of an
anti-intellectual "spirituality."

George, my only response to this is that from my
laymen's perspective, I look
around and see that the theology that I have been exposed
to, at least in the
evangelical church, amounts to primarily YEC and maybe PC,
with a sprinkling of
ID thrown in, but all united in bashing evolution and
science. I don't have a
lot of confidence in the usefulness of of at least that
theology seeing what a
bang up job it did for them and the resulting stellar
influence they have on
intellectuals in our culture. I had to divorce myself from
all of it to find
truth on my own in TE through my own studies and here on
the ASA list, with
little help from theology. If that is
"spirituality" then I am guilty as charged.

But in contrast, my friend Richard Howe and his brother,
both PhD seminary
professors and one fluent in Hebrew, both well read and
educated in theology
and quite proud of their particular brand of it and at the
top of the heap in
evangelicalism, but militant YECs to the core, are they the
fruits of studying
theology and the exemplar representatives of it you are
referring to? I don't
think so.

I don't think theology is the secret formula to truth
or a pre or post
requisite, I think it is "spiritual" discernment
which is in turn the
result of revelation. That is what Peter had and all the
first century
Christians. Anti-intellectual, maybe, but I contend it has
served me better
than theology has compared to most of the people
I have met.


----- Original Message ----

From: "" <>

To: John Burgeson (ASA member) <>;
 John Walley <>;
"Dehler, Bernie" <>

Cc: asa <>

Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 10:20:59 PM

Subject: Re: [ asa ] RE: (fall-away)
TE and apologetics

Granted that our theologies are at best imperfect & may
even be
"impertinent."  But theology is essentilally
an attempt to
understand what we believe and its implications.  We
are, after all, to
love God with all our mind as well as heart, soul &
strength.  Any
dismissal of theology amounts to an endorsement of an



---- John Walley <> wrote:

Wow. I really like the SDG and JofA and quotes
below. I agree that is
what our faith has to be based on, our own personal
experiential revelation.
Everything else is sinking sand. That is the example Jesus
gave us in the NT as
well. When Jesus challenged Peter, he confirmed his
response by saying that
"flesh and blood has not revealed this to you".
So I contend it has
to be today as well. This is consistent with Burgy's
comment below. I am
intentionally and blissfully ignorant of most of the
infinite man-made
theologies referenced below, and I don't think I am
missing much. It is much
more important to be like Peter (and JofA) and recognize
God's revelation when
you experience it.

I also agree the secret is not to get hung up on #5.
----- Original Message ----
From: John Burgeson (ASA member) <>
To: "Dehler, Bernie" <>
Cc: asa <>
Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 4:25:41 PM
Subject: Re: [ asa ] RE:
(fall-away) TE and apologetics

If I understand you, Bernie, you went through these

1 The Bible is inerrant.
2  Some of the scientific atatements in the Bible
are incorrect.

3 Some of the biblical statements about history are

4 Therefore the Bible is not inerrant.
5 Therefore the theology (as you understand it) in the
Bible must also

be incorrect.
6 Therefore it is not possible(intellectually) to be a

Do I have it about right?
I went through points 1-4 myself, some years ago. I
did not hang up on

#5 because I had studied enough that I recognized that

are man-made, not God-made, and that there are almost
an infinite

number of theologies that one can construct from the

Theology, to me, is terribly interesting, but not
terribly important.

One of the most incisive comment I have encountered
about this issue

was penned by Nathanial Hawthorne. . "So long as
an unlettered soul

can attain
to saving grace there would seem to be no deadly error
in holding

theological libraries to be accumulations of, for the
most part,

stupendous impertinence. -- Hawthorne
(Preface to Twice-told Tales)

Another quotation:
I do not place my faith in writings, nor in creeds,
nor in the

statements of scholars and philosophers, but in the
living and present

Christ, infinitely beyond any human expression. Soli
Deo Gloria

(author unknown)
"God" is just our name for the devine
infinite. It does not
define Him.

Joan of Arc, when asked by the bishops "Do you
not believe that what

you call your voice from God is really nothing more
than your

imagination?" To this she replied, "Of
course it is my

How else does God speak to us?"
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