We had some great comments and questions after my last post -- tonight I'll answer a couple of them directly. I just know I'm gonna be wordy on these, so it was too much to leave in the comments section!
Question 1 -- Did you lose/win the debate?
Thankfully it was just setup as a panel, and the minister/moderator introduced us and explicitly stated to the room that it was not a debate. I appreciated that from him. He had worked closely with the four panel members over the past few weeks to ensure that the mood was light and respectful, and before we began on Sunday morning he read the following excerpt from an email I sent to the panel last week:
"I like to believe that our church members are unified in spite of our differences, not in the absence of them."
So if it wasn't a debate, what was my purpose/goal in serving on the panel? It was simple -- to put a personal face on a different perspective. I didn't want to change the attendees' minds on the issue of evolution -- they aren't ready for that big of a shift. I merely wanted to cause a ripple in their very clear, black/white worldview.
On my post about evolution several months ago, I noted that for some people this is a "Level Two" issue -- something that is essential to their entire worldview and faith. In other words, for them, if the world is more than 6,000 years old then you can throw the whole bible away. If the big bang really happened then God doesn't exist. They hang everything together on that single point -- a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. It's all black or white, with no room for grey, no room for the bible having things like poetry, parable or metaphor. One panel member said exactly that -- "if we leave room in the bible for poetry, then where does it end? Maybe Jesus never really lived at all."
So you see, if I win the debate and somehow get them to accept that the earth might be older than 6,000 years, their entire faith comes crumbling down. That's not my intent. Paul speaks pretty clearly about this in his letter to the Romans. Here are a few different sections from The Message translation:
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with--even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
Forget about deciding what's right for each other. Here's what you need to be concerned about: that you don't get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I'm convinced--Jesus convinced me!-that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it.
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others. You're fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you're not sure, if you notice that you are acting in ways inconsistent with what you believe--some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them--then you know that you're out of line. If the way you live isn't consistent with what you believe, then it's wrong.
Good stuff, and it reminds me to get back to following the golden rule. I want people to give me space and grace for my own opinions, then I have to do the same for them. When I spend some time seriously thinking on this, I realized there are two things that really irked me about previous conversations with creationists:
1) They assumed their own belief was the only true choice, and anybody who didn't agree was dumb, evil or terribly misinformed
2) They got very emotionally involved in the issue, literally shaking with anger at the thought of other people's weak or nonexistent faith
My main goal on the panel was to avoid both of those mistakes, by:
1) Having an open mind and projecting a sense of genuine humility
2) Staying cool, calm and loving, with no anger to those who disagreed with me
That's how I want people to treat me, so it was "golden rule" time for me to do the same.
Question 2 -- "If you dont take Scripture in its entirety, how do you reconcile the parts that dont make any logical sense. Do you actually call yourself a "Christian"?
I'll sorta be coy and devious on this one, just for the sake of brevity. These questions start to get to the core of my entire faith, and the answers are more than I can post in a few paragraphs.
So to be coy and devious, I don't really understand what "take scripture in its entirety" means anymore. I used to think I knew what that meant, and I held that over people who didn't agree.
So is the whole bible true or not? Literal or not? Song of Songs is cleary poetry, but is it "true"? If so, what is it telling us, and is that truth any less important than historical facts?
Here are my two devious closing comments:
1) If I told Jesus I was a Christian, is it possible he would reply, "You're a what?"
2) In Paul's second letter to Timothy, when he wrote that "all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching", did he think he was writing scripture?