Kennedy at Seminary

Monday, October 31, 2005

Creation vs. Evolution

Before I post another class paper, a quick life update:
-I lost six ping-pong games against my friend Matt this evening, moving my career record aginst him to 0-21. I'm getting so close, even to game-point sometimes. One day, Matt, I will prevail.
-I ran a 5K (3.1 miles) Saturday. Finished in 31st place of 50-something men with a time of 24:13. It was the first time I'd run a race. It was 40 degrees when we ran Saturday morning. Rough.
-The intramural shirts are in. I can't wait to wear them.
-Our team won 27-0 in football last week, improving our record to 4-2. If things go well tomorrow, we're in the playoffs.
-Two weeks left in the quarter. Almost to the finish line.
-Went to a haunted house Saturday. Not very scary. Elaborate and gruesome, though. The best part was the end, where we had a find our way through a dark, foggy maze.
-Preached the funeral sermon in class today. It was 8 minutes and 44 seconds. Whoops. It was supposed to be 15. But hey, no one complains about a sermon being too short, only too long. We'll see what the prof has to say.
Ok, here's a paper on creation vs. evolution. I'm arguing against theistic evolution, a standpoint that tries to mesh the two. Hope it's enlightening.

Biblical faith and evolution cannot co-exist. The two ideas of how the world came into being do not fit together. A Christian cannot simultaneously believe that God created the world in six literal days and that the species emerged from an evolutionary process while God sat back and watched. Creation claims things that evolution says are not true. Likewise, evolution makes assertions that do not allow a place for Creation as the Bible records it. Therefore, a Christian must understand the logical inconsistencies between the two schools of thought and must make a decision between the two. Theistic evolution – the theory that God created by means of evolution – is not an acceptable option.
To define briefly, theistic evolution presents us with a front-loaded creation, as Cornelius G. Hunter explains it in Darwin’s Proof. According to the theory, God preprogrammed the history of evolution into the first living cell (143). God directly created the first life form and then stepped back and let the natural laws of evolution shape the world into what it is today.
First, we need to recognize our starting point when trying to reconcile the Bible and evolution. We need to take Scripture first and let everything else – including science – fall into place in line with what the Bible says. We take the wrong approach when we take science first and try to morph the Bible to fit what science says. The best way to approach the problem of evolution is to make sure we have the proper starting point: God’s Word. Scripture should shape our reasoning instead of allowing human reason to take priority over what God has revealed to us in the Bible.
To accept any theory of evolution, whether theistic or not, is to cast doubt on the Bible. The book of Genesis clearly states that God created the world in six days, known as the Hexaemeron. Evolutionists want to interpret the Hexaemeron as six periods of time, possibly millions of years. In Christian Dogmatics volume I, Francis Pieper advises us otherwise: “Scripture forbids us to interpret the days as periods, for it divides the days into evening and morning. That forces us to accept the days as days of 24 hours” (468). The Church historically has understood the days of Creation to be literal 24-hour periods, not indefinite lengths of time to accommodate a lengthy evolutionary process.
In addition to casting doubt on the six days of Creation, theistic evolution calls into question what the Bible says about the creation of man. Evolutionary theory states that man is merely an advanced version of a lower being. Humans are nifty monkeys. The Bible teaches otherwise. According to the Creation account, man is a special being, not an advanced animal. As Pieper writes, the Triune God had a special counsel before creating man. Instead of simply speaking as He did with the rest of creation, God formed man from the dirt. God breathed the breath of life into man and give him a soul. God created man in His own image. The Lord installed man as ruled over all creation. Man is special. Evolutionary theory gives a low view of mankind. The Bible says otherwise. Man is unique in God’s sight. God made a special effort when He created man. A Christian should not insult God’s creation of man by saying humans evolved from some inferior creature.
Another inconsistency between biblical creation and theistic evolution is death. According to the Bible, death is bad. Death is the result of sin. Death harms creation instead of advancing it. Evolution claims that death is good. Weaker life forms must die so that the strong may emerge. Natural selection presupposes that death is necessary to achieve a better world. In contrast, the Bible teaches that death is an unnatural, unfortunate consequence of man’s rebellion against God. “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Theistic evolution must, by definition, accept two contradictory truths. It must say that death is good because it is the vehicle of evolution and bad because it is a result of sin. This contradiction poses yet another roadblock for theistic evolution.
It would be unwise to abandon what the Bible clearly says to make room for evolution. We should not question whether the Bible is telling the truth. We should not abandon the six literal days of creation. We should not degrade the unique creation of man. We should not call death good when the Bible calls it bad. If we adapt what the Bible says on one of these points, we are opening the door for changing what Scripture says in other places. If we cannot say for sure that the Bible is telling the truth about Creation, how do we know it is truthful in other places? Can we trust that Jesus was really born of a virgin, or should we seek a more logical explanation? Should we believe that Jesus rose from the dead, or does science tell us that bodily resurrection after death would be impossible? Where do we draw the line? Endorsing theistic evolution as an acceptable Christian belief is a step in the wrong direction because it opens the rest of the Bible for questioning.
A common misunderstanding influences the willingness of Christians to reconcile Creation with evolution. Many people do not realize that evolution is as much of a religious belief as Christianity. For some, theistic evolution is appealing because it seems to combine an objective, empirical view with a religious view. In reality, evolution is a religious statement. Theistic evolution presents a God who is transcendent and completely uninvolved in His creation. As Christians, we believe that God is transcendent but at the same time completely involved in the world He created. Theistic evolution teaches that God created a world designed to be governed by secondary causes and then He stepped back permanently. The theory can sound reasonable. Hunter cites Thomas Burnet, a 17th century Anglican cleric, in saying that we would admire a clockmaker more who created a clock that is self-sufficient instead of a clock that need winding all the time. Likewise, according to Burnet, it makes more sense for God to create a world that operates by itself without needing constant intervention from its Creator (90). Evolution is that self-sustaining system. Burnet’s view is nothing more than a religious statement of how much God is involved in the world. Burnet’s logic might sound reasonable, but it is not the way Scripture defines reality. Jesus says in Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” The Bible presents us with a God who is involved in every detail of the world. Evolution says the opposite. Both are religious statements. Neither is compatible with the other.
Christians believe in a God who cares too much about His creation to just sit back and let the world run its course. Fist of all, we believe that the world would cease to exist if God were not holding it together. Second, God reveals His love for creation in His involvement. The Gospel is the story of a God who cared too much about His creation to let it rot away in sin. He sent His Son Jesus to restore creation. The God who created is the God who saves. Aside from logical incompatibility, Christian faith does not have room for theistic evolution because it does not present us with the loving God made known to us in Jesus.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Funeral sermon

I just finished writing a sermon for class. We had two funeral scenarios from which to choose. I picked a 17-year-old killed by a drunk driver. A funeral sermon is a different style than I'm used to. Humor is not a big part. Cute stories really don't fit. The prose needs to be captivating. The good news is you're working with a very interested audience.
Let me know if you have any suggestions. Thanks for reading.

Friends, we are gathered here today on a sad occasion. We have lost a son, brother, grandson, cousin, nephew, friend, and member of this congregation. Nathan Mueller is no longer with us.
It was tragic that he was struck by a drunk driver and killed. Things like this have no good explanation. We’re all asking ourselves: “Why did this happen?” But there is no good answer. Why did God allow this? I don’t know. I don’t know the mind of God. I have no idea why this happened.
And so, from this point forward, I want to talk about what I do know.
I do know that we’re here not just to mourn the death of Nathan but to celebrate his life – 17 years of Christian life. God gave Nathan a solid Christian upbringing. Nathan’s parents brought him to church faithfully week after week. As an infant, Nathan was baptized right here at St. John Lutheran Church. When he was baptized, he was buried with Christ and raised to new life. His life was forever joined to Christ.
I do know that Nathan was a good student. He always asked questions in confirmation class. He was very curious about spiritual matters. I remember he did a research project in high school on the impact of Christianity on society. He called me and interviewed me for his research paper. Nathan was not afraid to let his teachers and classmates know that he was a Christian.
I do know that Nathan was a kind person. He volunteered every summer with Vacation Bible School. He was quick to offer compliments and words of encouragement. And many of you have shared with me your experiences of how Nathan lived out his Christian faith by showing kindness to you.
Yes, we’re here to celebrate the life of Nathan Mueller. But I don’t just mean the life that he lived among us on this earth. Even more than that, we’re here to celebrate the eternal life God has given to Nathan.
Our sermon text is Matthew 22:31-32, where Jesus says: “Have you not read what God said to you: ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
God’s interactions with mankind are firmly grounded in history. God was present in the lives of historical people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, our fathers in the faith. And God was present in the life of Nathan.
In fact, God’s presence is the reason why we come to church for a funeral. God is with us as we cry. He’s with us as we sing hymns. He’s with us as we pray.
But let’s catch what Jesus is saying in these verses. He says God is not the God of the dead but of the living. While Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob may have died, God has given them life beyond the grave. Jesus says they are living.
Hebrews 11:13 talks about Old Testament people like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Scripture says there: “All these people were still living by faith when they died.”
We’re here to celebrate the life of Nathan Mueller – the life he continues to live by faith. Nathan was baptized. He was brought into God’s never-ending community of faith when his sins were washed away with water “in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Nathan never had reason to question his destiny after the grave because he belonged to God.
At the fount of Holy Baptism, God Himself declared: “I am the God of Nathan Mueller.
And don’t forget this part, straight from the lips of Jesus: “He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
These words come from Someone who knew all about life and death. As the second Person of the Triune God, Jesus was there with the Father and the Holy Spirit at the creation of the world. He breathed life into the first man, Adam. And every creature gets its life from Jesus.
Jesus knows death, too. He watched Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit that brought death into the world. He saw Cain murder his brother. Jesus has witnessed every death since the beginning of the world.
No one has life apart from the will of Jesus. No one dies apart from the will of Jesus.
Including Himself.
From John’s Gospel: “The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God.’
“When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and He went back inside the palace. ‘Where do you come from?’ he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. ‘Do you refuse to speak to me?’ Pilate said. ‘Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?’
“Jesus answered, ‘You would have no power over Me if it were not given to you from above.’”
And so Jesus – the One who came from above to save mankind – willingly died on a cross.
Death is painful. You know that. Why would Jesus put His family and His friends and His followers through such grief by His own death? He did it for you and me and Nathan. Jesus died to forgive us for everything wrong we’ve ever thought or done or said. All of our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus.
But Jesus’ story doesn’t end at His death.
From Matthew’s Gospel: “The angel said to the women: ‘Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said.’”
Later, Jesus appeared to His followers. Touch me, He said. Look at Me. Don’t be afraid. I was dead, but I’m alive again.
Because Jesus lives, Nathan lives. For Jesus is not the resurrected Lord of the dead but of the living.
Jesus’ gift of life comes to you and me, just as it came to Nathan. Jesus died for a very good reason: to save each of us. Without Christ in our lives, we have no hope for life beyond the grave. But by faith in Christ, God has in store for us life forever in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
He is not the God of the dead but of the living. He’s the God of Nathan. And the God of you.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Playing Catch-Up

OK, I'm lagging behind on blog posting and returning e-mails. Sorry about that. I'll get caught up.
After our intramural games, I send out an e-mail to our team. Instead of re-writing a description of last game, I'll just post a paragraph from last week's e-mail:
"Wow. That was the most incredible game I’ve ever been a part of. 33-31 was the final score. We won against a very good team with big-time receivers like Scott Jensen and Tim Lawson. I’d love to recognize all the great plays throughout the game, but I can’t stop thinking about the end. We were down 31-27 with four plays left in a back-and-forth game. QB Justin Krupsky – who had a great game – threw a bomb downfield. Kevin Hintze turned to his left, realized the ball was headed to his right, turned the other way, and made an unbelievable catch in the right corner of the end zone to give us the lead. With three plays left, our defense kept the opposition from getting to the end zone, although they came close. Jake Scott had a spectacular knockdown on the last play to preserve the win. What a game."
Usually, I'm pretty stoic on the sidelines during the game. I try not to show too much emotion whether we're doing good or bad. But this game was different. It was such an exciting finish. The whole team went crazy after our touchdown and the knockdown on the last play.
We register for classes tonight. I hope to get into the classes I want for the winter quarter.
I had a super busy weekend. On Friday, I camped with Aunt Barbara and Uncle Jim, who drove up from Texas to go to Stephensville state park 40-50 miles southwest of St. Louis. The next day we went to Grant's Farm, a zoo-like place about 20 minutes south of campus. That night I went bowling with a group. My scores were 160 and 129. On Sunday, I did the children's message at two services and liturgy at one. I went to some friends' house after church. I had to study for a big test yesterday evening. I have translations and a sermon to write tonight and a ton of laundry.
That's enough for now. When I get some more time, I'd like to write a more reflective post instead of just listing what I've been doing. But this will have to work for now.
Have a great day.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Not much new going on today. I went and bought a couple long-sleeve shirts at Old Navy and some football cleats at Sports Authority. I'm having fun being an intramural captain this year. Fall is football season. My team won 30-13 last week. Our record is 1-1. We lost 14-7 in the first week.
Intramurals at seminary are a big deal. We have a draft at the beginning of the year. We keep the same group of guys throughout the year for every sport. Football, basketball, softball, and volleyball are the major sports. There are minor sports, too, like badminton, foosball, ping-pong, etc. We had to pick a team name from a list of biblical animals. We picked the Geckos. (I have no idea where Geckos appear in the Bible.) Jake, a guy on our team, jokingly suggested that we call Geico and see if they'd sponsor our team. So Landon, who had volunteered to coordinate team T-shirts, called Geico, and they're giving us Geico T-shirts for $3 apiece. We're going to have our names and numbers screen-printed on the back to make official uniforms.
I should read for class before dinner. I have done no homework today. I have 15 pages left in a 215-pager called The Domestication of Transcendence. Yeah.