Tag Archives: faith and science

On Church Doctrinal Statements

Last week I posted on Creeds & the Local Church. I’ve been giving some thought to the importance, even necessity, of a church doctrinal statement.

I’ve also been thinking about the difference(s) between dogma, doctrine, and opinion. In the pursuit of planting a church, it must be examined and discussed with others who are joining together in community.

I concluded that…

“a healthy church will continue to wrestle with dogma, doctrine, and opinion in every age and culture.”

I wanted to share a few more thoughts I’ve had in light of a couple responses to my last post on the topic.

Why We Need Doctrinal Statements

I admit that a lengthy doctrinal statement can present obstacles for folks. I know that when I see a long doctrinal statement, I honestly anticipate something that’s gonna rub me the wrong way.

I even do this when looking at schools. I almost expect that the longer the statement, the more likely we’re going to clash.

I quickly move off church websites when I see that they believe in a “rapture” pre-millenial/pre-trib theology. That’s of course because I so strongly disagree with it, and I often don’t see why it needs to be stated.

I think… “Can’t we just agree that Christ is returning?”

I think it’s different when there is a statement included that allows for differing views on the matter. It should be clear that people are welcome (and treated that way) even if they disagree with the “official” doctrine of the church. There ought to be an atmosphere of freedom.

But I want to be clear that I don’t see anything wrong with a church saying, “Here’s where we are as a local fellowship.” I would rather they be upfront about it, because it’s there whether visible in a confession or not. This is good and can please the Lord, when it’s done in grace and love.

Contrary to those that think creeds and doctrinal statements are always and only divisive, I think they are helpful for a fellowship and for those who would visit them. We mustn’t jump to such extremes just because we’ve seen examples of churches who did not hold their doctrine with grace, humility, and love. It’s reckless to respond in such a way.

A doctrinal statement captures the heart of the people, and serves as a guide for further growth into Christ.

I think it’s beneficial for visiting Christians to know where a church is in its journey. A doctrinal statement can reveal that to a certain extent. I would like to know where most of the fellowship is at in their walk. Wouldn’t you?

In reality I think it’s unhealthy not to at least hold some distinctives as a local church seeking to express the Christ they know. Where are we theologically as a fellowship? How are we seeking to manifest Christ among our culture and context? How do we feel about issues that often divide the church and the world? These are important questions that should be answered, leaving room for exploration and growth moving forward.

I believe it’s possible to plant your church’s creed, mission, and vision in certain doctrinal ideas while at the same time welcoming everyone who agrees upon the foundation—the mysterious incarnation of Christ.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to enter into any fellowship where doctrine isn’t apart of the church’s life together. That fellowship may have good intentions, but they open themselves up to problems born in the opposite extreme of dogmatism. They imagine that doctrine is inevitably against knowing Christ. They’re wrong. And they’ll be proven wrong.

So, I would say folks will (and should) find union with saints based on their basic confession of something like the Apostles Creed. But I also believe it’s healthy—even necessary—for a church to be upfront and clear about their doctrinal positions, holding them in love, grace, and humility.

It can be done, even if we’re skeptical because of our bad experiences.

What do you think? How have you seen doctrine and church distinctives serve as a healthy guide to growing in Christ? How are you and your church handling doctrinal matters?

D.D. Flowers, 2013.


In Awe of the God of Science

220px-Contact_ver2The movie Contact (Robert Zemeckis, 1997), starring Jodie Foster & Matthew McConaughey, is definitely one of my all-time favorite Sci-Fi films.

The film is adapted from a Carl Sagan novel by the same name. Sagan (1934-1996), an astronomer, cosmologist, and astrophysicist, was a self-professed agnostic. He spent most of his career as a professor and director of planetary studies at Cornell University. And he was a major supporter of SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence).

Sagan was a brilliant scientist, but like a true naturalist he was doubtful of God’s existence. Which is what makes the movie Contact so interesting.

Jodie Foster plays Dr. Eleanor “Ellie” Arroway, a MIT grad and agnostic scientist working for SETI. She listens for radio transmissions in outerspace until she eventually receives a signal repeating a sequence of prime numbers. The signal is from the star Vega, 25 light years away.

After the initial contact is made, the world undergoes mass hysteria and fear. Some believe it’s the end of the world, others can’t contain their excitement. What does it all mean? What will happen next?

We meet some interesting characters along the way. There is the leader of the “Conservative” Coalition who wants to suppress the new discovery out of fear. There is a Christian fundamentalist who preaches that the devil is at work in science and that God will judge all scientists. He even resorts to violence in an attempt to stop NASA. But nothing can stop Ellie.

In time it becomes clear to Ellie (Foster) and her colleagues that the signal outlines plans to build a machine. What was thought to be some sort of space craft turns out to be a portal into another dimension which transports Ellie to Vega and back again. Ellie was gone for hours, but it was only seconds to everyone else. What she experienced will change her forever.

Throughout the film Ellie had been in conversation with Palmer Joss (McConaughey), a renowned Christian philosopher. Palmer challenged Ellie to consider that faith and science were not mutually exclusive.

While Palmer may not be the most straight-laced believer you’ll ever meet,  he deeply cares for Ellie and her unhealthy skepticism. He believes in her and wants her to accept a very real aspect of knowledge… that of faith.

But Ellie wants proof and evidence for everything. Knowing that Ellie lost her beloved father at an early age, Palmer asks, “Did you love your dad?” Ellie says, “Yes, very much.” Palmer replies, “Then prove it.”

The following video captures one of the final scenes from the film. Ellie (Foster) is being questioned by a congressional committee about what she experienced in the machine. She finds herself saying the same thing Palmer had told her about faith, only she had scoffed at it earlier in the film.

Palmer looks on as Ellie reveals her transformation.

Watch and ponder the relationship between faith and science. I find them both mysteriously intertwined, as I stand in awe of the God of science.

The church has often been guilty of setting the Scriptures (divine revelation) up against science (natural revelation). Let’s consider how we can hold both theology and science together. It’s time to move beyond the culture wars and allow science to reveal the glory of God.

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

Support ReKnew

As many of you know, I did a Q&A with Pastor Greg Boyd about his ministry and upcoming books back in November 2012. I have followed Greg for a few years now (2006?). His theology has influenced me on multiple levels. I have often found his work to confirm much of my own study.

If I’m being gleefully honest… Greg has brought about a paradigm shift in my understanding of the nature of God in Christ, the complexities of the universe, and the beauty of the Kingdom of God.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to Skype with Greg. We talked for an hour about our lives and how they have converged in pursuit of the Kingdom. I told him of my desire to plant a church in Texas that appreciates real theological inquiry and engenders creative mission.

The sort of thing he is leading at Woodland Hills in St. Paul.

BTW: In case you’re wondering, I’ve been in conversation with friends and in serious prayer about how to move forward. We’ve been in Houston for almost six years, but we have been considering the possibility of making a move and doing something new in Austin—where the culture and environment is much different than our own.

I appreciate your continued prayers as we seek the Lord.

As I told Greg, I feel that my place is in leading a church sometime in the near future. But not just another evangelical church. I’m not sure where that will be or what it will look like yet, but in the meantime I’m believing that… as I’ve said to my friends… God is doing stuff.

And I believe God is doing stuff through ReKnew. I’m excited about the work these guys are doing!

Here’s what Greg posted at his blog a couple weeks back:

We are living at a very important, and very exciting, juncture of history. The old religion of Christendom that has been identified with “Christianity” the last 1600 years is dying, and out of its ruins is arising a new tribe of kingdom revolutionaries. All around the globe people are getting the revelation that the kingdom is all about a God a looks like Jesus transforming a people to look like JesusReKnew was launched six months ago to serve as a catalyst for this revolution and to help mobilize this revolution. If you are among those who want to be part of this new movement that God is raising up, I ask you to please give me 9 minutes of your time to listen to the vision I cast in this talk and to prayerfully consider how God might call you to join us in this important endeavor.

I’m committed to Greg’s vision because I believe in his ministry and the tremendous resource that ReKnew will become in the days ahead. If you’re looking for something worthwhile to invest in this year, please consider supporting ReKnew in the coming Kingdom revolution.

Viva La Revolution!

D.D. Flowers, 2013.

John Walton on Genesis One

John H. Walton (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College Graduate School. He is the author or coauthor of several books, including Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament; Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context; Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan; The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament; and A Survey of the Old Testament.

He has also written Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (academic text) and the popular version, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP, 2009), which I highly recommend.

I have found Walton’s interpretation of the biblical creation account(s) not only to be in keeping with the ancient historical context and the genres of OT literature, but also refreshing in how his views are throwing open the door to the allowance of scientific discovery in pursuit of God.

I think Walton’s research can be a tremendous encouragement to those evangelicals who wish to bridge the modern gap between faith and science.

Do you think evangelicals are often guilty of ignoring the ancient context of the biblical writers? Do you think a “literal” reading of all Scripture is more spiritual? How are you reconciling Scripture with scientific claims and discoveries being made about the nature of the universe?

D.D. Flowers, 2012.

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