Genesis

Encounter with an Ark

nate-note-dave-arkOn New Years Eve Eve, I dragged my family to see the Ark Encounter in Grant County, Kentucky, as part of a visit to my father in Lexington. The Ark Encounter opened to great fanfare and controversy in July 2016.

The organization behind this ark, Answers in Genesis, also created the Creation Museum, and their perspective on creation was a major theme of the Ark Encounter. While I believe God created the cosmos, I don’t share the views of the makers of this ark that creation took place over six literal days of 24 hours, but more on that topic below.

But let’s start with three positives things I saw.  

  1. The Ark itself is impressive.  It’s huge, based on the dimensions from Genesis 6 (we’re not exactly sure how long a cubit is, but it was roughly 18 inches).  It’s great to walk up next to it and experience the overwhelming size.  It’s hard to imagine how practically Noah would have been able to build it, but the organizers worked hard to explain how he might have done it.
  2. The experience is well-designed.  The organizers run a tight ship, so to speak.  They aren’t fully done developing the entire grounds, but it was very attractive overall. The Christmas lights were beautiful at night (we went at night because it was 1/2-price).
  3. The exhibits are engaging.  I was surprised that our 2 hours-plus wasn’t really enough time.   They worked hard to explain how feeding, watering, and waste may have been handled on the ark.  I’ll mention two exhibits that I particularly appreciated. The first: “Was the Bible Used to Promote Racism?” They acknowledge that the answer is “sadly” yes, which was really good to admit.  They go on to point out that humans are created by God, are made in God’s image (Gen. 1-2), are all loved by God (John 3:16), and are all descended from Noah, thus all member of the same human race.  Great points overall (see also my chapter on Racism in God Behaving Badly).  The second exhibit I’ll mention was “Help Me Understand” which speculated about some of the possible questions Noah’s daughter-in-law Rayneh, wife of Japheth, may have asked concerning the ethical problems associated with judgment, suffering, and death.  I didn’t love their answers, but the fact that they were asking these questions was really good.

Because of these positives, I’m really glad we visited it.  But now, I’ll share three negative things I saw.

  1. The scientific arguments presented in the exhibits were based on essentially anecdotal evidence proving that the earth was only about 6000 years old. They created straw man arguments that they could then easily shoot down. The reality is that the vast majority of reputable scientists around the world in a variety of fields (geologists, biologists, astrophysicists, etc.) believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old. To explain the fossil record, the Ark Encounter exhibits had to theorize that all those fossil layers were laid down after the flood, a view which doesn’t take seriously the amount of time, pressure and energy it takes to create a fossil.
  2. The biblical arguments presented in the exhibits don’t take the Bible seriously, despite their claims to the contrary.  Their interpretation of a “day” (yom in Hebrew) as literal 24 hour period of time from Genesis 1 doesn’t even make sense in Genesis 1-2.  In the context of creation the word yom is used as a 24 hour period (Gen. 1:5b), a 12 hour period (Gen. 1:5a), and a week long period (Gen. 2:4b).  The genre of Genesis 1 is not narrative, but poetic, formulaic prose which does not require a literal interpretation.
  3. The view presented in the exhibits of other Christians was not respectful or gracious. Believers who didn’t share the hyper-literal views of the organizers of the exhibit were made to appear either as ridiculous or not as genuine Christians.  While I strongly disagree with their interpretations, I respect how hard they are working to honor the biblical text.

ark-does-bible-promote-racismIn spite of the criticisms I have of it, I firmly believe that the designers, builders, and organizers of the Ark Encounter are my brothers- and sisters-in-Christ and therefore are worthy of my upmost respect.

Pastor Jimenez and Father Abraham

abraham-sodom-300x243Baptist pastor named Roger Jimenez in Sacramento has been making headlines for preaching that the 49 people who died at the gay club in Orlando deserved it.  Somehow a pastor in California has taken a horrific tragedy, the worst mass shooting in US history and made it worse.

I have many problems with his offensive message, but here I will only mention four points (keep reading after #1).  He apparently based part of his sermon on Romans, so I’ll focus my comments there before jumping to Genesis.

First, according to the apostle Paul, “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) so, biblically one could agree with Pastor Jimenez that the people killed in Orlando deserved to die.  But this is not Paul’s main point, or where his message ends.

Second, Paul also said “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23), so we should add Pastor Jimenez, and Dave Lamb to the list of people who deserve death (and all the readers of this blog).  His sermon went viral, but it would have been more biblical if he included himself and everyone in his congregation in his list of people who deserve death.

Third, when Paul talked about the wages of sin as resulting in death, he also spoke of the free gift of God through Jesus (Rom. 6:23).  I haven’t listened to all of Pastor Jimenez’s sermon, but at least as his message and his subsequent comments are being reported in the press, he doesn’t mention anything about God’s grace, which again would have made his message more biblical.  Preachers shouldn’t conclude by saying sinners, like us, deserve death, but they need to get to the good news about God’s grace.

Fourth, father Abraham* instead of condemning the wicked residents of Sodom to death, actually risked his life in prayer for them, asking God to show mercy to the Sodomites (Gen 18:16-33).  I discuss Abraham’s prayer, the Bible’s attitude toward homosexuality, and what really was the sin of Sodom in more depth in Prostitutes and Polygamists in my chapter on homosexuality (pages 161-183), so I won’t go into depth on those subjects here. Tragically, Christians are often perceived to be more like Pastor Jimenez, than Father Abraham.  But how cool would it be if Christians were known to be like Abraham, in this regard, interceding in costly ways for people associated with the sins of Sodom?  We have a long ways to go.

*Father Abraham actually had 8 sons: Ishmael, Isaac, Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah; Gen. 16:1521:2-325:2.

Prostitutes and Polygamists on Sale

There’s a sale on now of Prostitutes and Polygamists (the book, not the people).

The eBook version of Prostitutes and Polygamists is on sale for only $3.99 (a 60% discount).  The sale lasts until the end of May 7 (2016), so if you want to pay full-price for the book, you better wait until after May 7 to purchase it.

You may be asking, “Why should I buy this book?”  Here are five questions to help you decide.

1. Are you married? If so, this book is for you. I begin with a discussion of God’s ideal for marriage. Do you know what God’s first command to the humans was?  It was, essentially, “Have a lot of sex!” (my paraphrase of “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth”; Gen. 1:28).  I should add, this command was meant to be obeyed in the context of a lifelong committed relationship between a man and a woman.

2. Are you single? If so, this book is for you. I conclude with a discussion of “Sex and the Single Savor” (pages 185-196), and how the church can idolize marriage, making singles feel like second class citizens.  “When humans worship the gifts and not the God how gave them, the Bible calls it idolatry. Our culture makes sex into an idol, and the church makes marriage into an idol” (p. 186-187).  Theoretically, I think these first two questions should cover all the options, but you still may not be convinced, so let’s ask a few more questions.

3. Do you think Christians need to talk more about sex? If so, this book is for you. The Bible talks about sex a lot so people that value the Bible a lot should also talk about sex a lot.  “When the church whispers about sex and the culture yells about it, who’s voice is going to be heard?” (p. 19).  At this point the questions become far more serious.

4. Have you or someone you know been a victim or a perpetrator of rape or sexual abuse?  If so, this book is for you.  While I don’t claim expertise about how to help victims or perpetrators of rape or sexual abuse (seek professional help), part of the prescription for healing could involve reading about the stories of sexual abuse in Scripture.  You may be surprised to hear about sexual scandals involving Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Moses, and David.

5. Do you wonder about the biblical teaching on homosexuality? If so, this book is for you.  There are other books that go into more depth, but the Bible actually doesn’t go into much depth on this subject. I devote a chapter to the topic and to telling the surprising story of the city of Sodom as God repeatedly shows mercy to the residents of Sodom before the eventual judgment (pages 161-183).

If you think other people might be interested in this sale, please share this post.

If you answered “no” to all five questions, then you definitely should not buy the book.

Love, Old Testament Style: A Video

My seminary held an Alumni reunion in October 2015 and they asked me to speak on my most recent book, Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style.

I speak about
Abraham the pimping patriarch,
Tamar the pious prostitute, and
David the raping monarch.

I really like how the video turned out.  It’s about 35 minutes.  Check it out: