December 14, 2019

IM Book Review: Evolving in Monkey Town

By Chaplain Mike

If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that faith can survive just about anything, so long as it’s able to evolve.

Evolving in Monkey Town, p. 17

Rachel Held Evans is from the community of Dayton, Tennessee—”Monkey Town U.S.A.”—so named because it hosted the infamous 1925 Scopes trial, which debated the teaching of evolution in public schools, and which was dubbed “the trial of the century”.

Like most of the folks around her in Dayton, she was a self-described Christian fundamentalist. Her worldview taught her, “Good Christians. . . don’t change their minds.” However, as Rachel Evans grew up and began to think honestly about the world and life and faith, she found that worldview wanting. And so she embarked on a journey “from certainty, through doubt, to faith.”

She evolved.

Evolving in Monkey Town is a story told in three parts.

Part one describes the Southern fundamentalist culture in which Rachel Evans was reared—her “habitat”—and what she was like during childhood and adolescence. Life began in Birmingham, AL, where she attended a private Christian school and obsessed about winning awards at church and school so that she could impress God and her theologian/professor father. The family moved to Dayton, TN when she was thirteen. She writes that it was during her high school years when she felt closest to God and most certain of her faith.

Sometimes I long for the days when I was so certain, when faith was a sure a thing as thunder after a lightning flash or the scent of almond cherry at night. Things have changed a lot since then, but not necessarily for the worst. (p. 43)

Evans takes us to Dayton and shows us around, introducing us to such memorable true-life characters as June, the Ten Commandments Lady, and Greg the Apologist. She reviews the proceedings of the trial that put Dayton on the map, emphasizing the devastating line of questioning Clarence Darrow used to make William Jennings Bryan look like a backwoods philistine as he took the stand to defend the Bible. She describes her time at Dayton’s own Bryan College, and comments, “I’ve never in my life encountered an organization so consistently on message.”

What was that message? In three words: A Christian Worldview. A culture of Christian apologetics that sought to examine all of life from a Christian perspective was not only the ethos of Bryan College, but also a growing movement throughout evangelical churches and institutions in the last three decades of the twentieth century.

Born of the necessity to more effectively engage modernism and avoid embarrassments like the Scopes trial, the apologetics movement in America represented a significant evolution within the evangelical subculture, an evolution away from blind faith; anti-intellectualism, and cultural withdrawal toward hard rationalism, systematic theology, and political action. You might say it was the culmination of modern Enlightenment values applied specifically to religious dialogue. (p. 75)

As evangelicalism became more and more involved in the culture wars, apologetics became its primary weapon and “The Christian Worldview” became a set of glasses, through which everything came into focus, “sharpening the contrast between black and white, right and wrong, evil and good (p. 80).”

But even as she donned the glasses and wielded the sword, Rachel Evans began to have doubts.

The second part of the book describes the cracks and fissures that developed in Rachel Evans’ worldview. An experience of watching the execution of an Afghan woman began a prolonged process of deep questioning and reexamination of the foundations of her faith. In a key conversation with her father, she expressed the exasperation that was growing within her:

It’s like God runs some kind of universal sweepstakes with humanity in which all of our names get thrown into a big hat at the beginning of time….Some of us are randomly selected for famine, war, disease, and paganism, while others end up with fifteen-thousand-square-foot houses, expensive Christian educations, and Double Stuf Oreos. It’s a cosmic lottery, luck of the draw” (p. 99).

In the process of working through these challenges, Rachel Evans

  • reexamined what the Bible itself actually says about Jesus and his ministry, concluding that he did so much more than “die so we could go to heaven when we die,”
  • worked through implications of the fundamentalist conceptions of hell and who is condemned there,
  • reconsidered what the Bible says about the wideness of God’s mercy,
  • traveled to India where she began to grasp how Jesus and his Kingdom are touching the poor and disenfranchised and reversing the “cosmic lottery,” turning life’s losers into winners.
  • developed a friendship with a homosexual whose experience with the church caused her to question how Christlike the Christian community truly is,
  • began to realize that the Bible is much more complex, varied, and nuanced in its teaching than the concept of a single “Christian Worldview” might suggest.

In part three, Rachel Evans describes the changes that have come into her life, the renewed faith that is not afraid to question, to change, to allow that one might not have all the answers wrapped up neatly in a “Christian Worldview.”

I’m not yet thirty, but I feel as if over the past few years, my faith has experienced a lifetime of change. I’ve rethought some of my fundamental beliefs about the Bible, salvation, science, religion, the cosmic lottery, Jesus, and truth. The process has been ugly at times, but each day I feel a little closer to having the kind of faith that can survive the volatility of constant change, the kind of faith that can outlive my doubt and fear. I can’t always say that I feel closer to God—the doubts often return—but I think I’m finally beginning to understand that it’s me who’s moving, not him. Like salvation, evolution is an everyday process. I’m still changing, and I expect I always will be. (p. 212)

Conclusion

This is a delightful and challenging book. Rachel Evans is funny, insightful, and provocative. For me, it provided an important look into the mindset and faith issues of a generation younger than I. One helpful point Evans makes is that she and her peers have grown up in a world with unprecedented access to events around the world and people from other cultures. They have been exposed to ideas and discoveries previously unknown. No longer can we expect to escape the world in our sheltered fundamentalist enclaves. No longer can we accept that there is a simple theological template or grid called “The Christian Worldview” that can be placed over the complex world we experience every day, answering every question, tying up every loose end, and making perfect sense of it all.

To some, this is unacceptable. In my view, it is the way of courageous faith. I’d trade “churchianity” for Jesus any day. It is worth sacrificing false certainty for a faith that may not be able to explain every “what,” but trusts the right “Who” in the midst of questions, doubts, and imperfect understanding. To recognize that faith is a journey, to value questions as we do answers, to commit to love as the greatest expression of life with Jesus rather than theological precision—this is the kind of mature approach to life that this remarkable young woman, Rachel Evans, has challenged us to pursue.

Comments

  1. “No longer can we accept that there is a simple theological template or grid called “The Christian Worldview” that can be placed over the complex world we experience every day, answering every question, tying up every loose end, and making perfect sense of it all.”

    Amen, Mike. And true apologetics of Christian theology must always begin and end near the cross – something that always seems to get forgotten as we attempt to tie up those loose ends.

    Brad

  2. “No longer can we accept that there is a simple theological template or grid called “The Christian Worldview” that can be placed over the complex world we experience every day, answering every question, tying up every loose end, and making perfect sense of it all.”

    I’ve heard this before and used it before and had it shoved in my face before. We say that Christians can no longer have a template or grid, but rationally we do. We still apply the cross and Jesus as the grid to everything. If we really want a faith that evolves, we should be intellectually honest and say that our faith can evolve past Jesus and the cross into whatever we want, such as paganism, wiccan, satanism, Jim Jones, agnosticism, atheism or the Great Spaghetti God.

    Once we choose a point and stop, such as the cross and Jesus, we stop evolving and become fundamentalists, dogmatic in our lack of compromise. Anything else is just a feel-good blanket of intellectual dishonesty. In this case, the liberals like Sponge are right and that an evolving faith must be willing to leave behind EVERYTHING, even itself, for what might evolve in the future.

    “If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that faith can survive just about anything, so long as it’s able to evolve.” And be willing to deny itself, I might add.

    So, hot button topic: can our faith evolve to the point where we can publically deny Christ while privately worshipping Him? Can our faith be that strong?

    • Neither I nor Rachel Evans is suggesting that there are NO revealed truths to hang our hats on and help us understand our world. We are objecting to a theological construct that attempts to force everything under its dominion.

      • Maybe a flash word in your reply is ‘everything”. Let me put that into a question: can there be such a thing as a Christ honoring christian worldview ? Or maybe worldview(s) ? Isn’t having SOME kind of lens or paradigm unavoidable and a default setting ? Isn’t much of what we do at IMONK an attempt at fashioning just such a lens, trying to figure out what our faith means to our culture, politics, the arts, etx. ?

        I’m NOT pleading a case for the particular kind of worldview that Rachel left behind, but can the idea itself, a christian worldview, be redeemed from it’s reputation and political entanglements ??

        Greg R

        • Good questions, Greg!

          What I deconstruct in the book is the kind of Christian worldview that includes things like young earth creationism, conservative politics, religious exclusivism, and a heaven-or-hell-centered gospel as being fundamental. What I try to reconstruct is a Christian worldview in which we find our common ground in Christ’s call to love God and to love one another. (On a personal note, I would add that I think the creeds are also helpful for establishing a generous and broad “Christian worldview.”)

          The goal of the book is to help young people like me who have struggled with some of these “false fundamentals” think critically about our beliefs without leaving the faith behind entirely. I hope it serves as a sort of traveling companion to others who are wrestling for the first time wrestling with tough questions what it really means to follow Jesus.

          • thanks for your quick reply….wow, TWO, count em’ TWO authors responded to me this week; I’m running home to tell the missus I’ze bow-nuh-fide. Really, I think your book sounds timely and well thought out. I love your phrase “false fundamentals” , I’m guessing that will resonate with many. We’ve drunk deep at the well of modernism and rationalism, and I think we’re reaching for a spiritual Zantax, much needed. Meanwhile the world is looking for some kind of transcendant and God-shaped answer, and bumping into smug certainty instead.

            Looking forward to your book(S) 🙂

            Greg R

          • Brandon Cockerham says

            Just bought it………….look forward to reading it…..God Bless!

    • And I argue that you have a theological construct under which you rest your spiritual explorations. It’s Michael’s Jesus-shaped spirituality, which is in and of itself another construct. The cross and Jesus become the dogmatic, non-negotiables and therefore are a construct.

      When it can be said that faith can evolve past the cross and Jesus into other religions or even no religion, you break away from theology because you’ve now entered into a more objective perspective.

      • Of course. We all have a construct. What Rachel Evans is suggesting is (1) that the dominant construct she was taught (IM might call it churchianity) was found wanting, (2) that when you start reading the Bible more carefully and growing up thoughtfully in the real world rather than just accepting the dominant construct others give you, the inadequacies of that template become clear, and (3) you see that that a better construct might involve recognizing that we won’t be able to force everything into its grid.

      • I understand what you’re saying. I still get the “vibe” that faith in Jesus is no longer about the truth, but rather something to be hold for comfort as a new construct based on the truth is developing in our world. Once the construct is in place, Jesus will be nice, but not ultimately needed.

        • Certainly did not mean to give off that vibe, and I am sure Evans would say the same.

        • Kenny Johnson says

          So leaving behind strict fundamentalism and ultra Biblical literalism means leaving behind truth?

          I have not read Rachel’s book, but I don’t think she (or iMonk or Chap Mike) are arguing for relativistic truth. Instead, they’re arguing that there is often a deeper understanding of our faith than some Evangelicalism and specifically Fundamentalism teaches. . . and often times even what the Bible teaches.

          It’s about not resting your entire faith on every single detail. It’s about not building a house of card out of your faith where if any piece is removed, your whole faith comes crumbling down. What Rachel, iMonk, and Chap are saying that Christ is the center of our faith. If he lived, died, and rose again, that’s the important thing. And that doesn’t mean you have to abandon everything else… only that they should not be on the same level that you hold that Christ is Lord and Christ Saved and Christ Lives.

          • Kenny Johnson says

            “and often times even what the Bible teaches.”

            That came out wrong. I meant to say that the Bible often teaches differently than what Fundamentalism teaches. Not that our deeper faith is in contradiction to the Bible, but that the Bible reveals a deeper faith than Fundamentalism sometimes allows.

          • “It’s about not resting your entire faith on every single detail. It’s about not building a house of card out of your faith where if any piece is removed, your whole faith comes crumbling down.”

            That’s exactly what the book is about!

            Or perhaps more accurately, it’s about how to survive when it all comes tumbling down. Having grown up in an environment where things like young earth creationism and conservative politics were considered fundamental elements of a “Christian worldview,” I experienced what you might call a crisis of faith when I began reexamining some of these assumptions on my own.

            As I said in response to Greg, the goal of the book is to help young people like me who have struggled with some of these ‘false fundamentals’ think critically about our beliefs without leaving the faith behind entirely. I hope it serves as a sort of traveling companion to others who are wrestling for the first time wrestling with tough questions what it really means to follow Jesus.

            As far as relativism, this is what I say in the book: “Occasionally people will ask me what I think about truth. They ask me if I believe in it, what I think it is, and if I think it’s relative or absolute. These are pretty sophisticated questions to ask someone who once lost her contact lens in her eye…for two days.”

            🙂

      • I’m going to have to read this book. Basically, I see that scripture and Jesus are not longer about a source of factual information. Rather, Christianity is about having a philosophy for life to handle factual information.

        For example, there is the idea of the resurrection, which is a philosophical response to the fact of death in nature. There is creation and God, which is a philosophical response to the fact of evolution through natural selection. It is simply a methodology to provide comfort in a world of pain. The classical theological construct of scripture as holding factual information (fundamentalist Christianity) is now passe and a Jesus-shaped spirituality is the new construct. At least there is the attempt accept the facts of pain and suffering instead of trying to make people “better.”

        So far, not all of the answers are available, but the search continues. There will come a day when humans will no longer need the philosophy of religions like Christianity, or even religion at all. There will come a day when it can be said that we no longer need Jesus.

        You are not there yet, and I respect that you still hold to your faith. As long you understand that in the overview of history, it is a temporary thing.

        • Kenny Johnson says

          Yeah, I think you’re totally misunderstanding intermonk.com. I am in general agreement with stuff I read on iMonk, but my faith is absolutely held on the factual, historical person of Jesus Christ and the factual, historical truth of His resurrection — not some philosophical construct. I believe the Bible is true and trustworthy. I believe that the Bible is the history of God and His people. I believe that the real God of the universe created everything.

          This isn’t feel goodism. I would die for these beliefs.

        • Kenny Johnson says

          Also your usage of the term fundamentalism is different than the one used by Rachel. Your terminology is more in line with the late 19th early 20th century definition. . . which was a reaction to liberal theology. Rachel’s term is speaking of a strict literalism and legalism.

          Considering that Rachel’s book is published by Zondervan — an Evangelical publisher, I’m pretty sure she considers herself within Evangelical/Conservative theology.

        • Please do!

          I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how central Jesus and the Bible are to the questions I ask and the conclusions I reach. I most certainly affirm the historical resurrection of Jesus…and am counting on it as the first-fruits for what is to come!

    • “So, hot button topic: can our faith evolve to the point where we can publically deny Christ while privately worshiping Him? Can our faith be that strong?”

      I believe it takes way more faith to stand up for Jesus in all situations. To publically make it known we believe in Jesus, we live for Jesus when it is not popular, not the norm, when it is contrary to the common belief system of the society we live in. Just stating we believe in Jesus Christ and all He did and stands for, in the face of known opposition, in the face of strong public ridicule, even to the point of death, takes an incredibly strong faith.

      Think of the Christians who faced the lions in the colloseum when they could have denied Jesus and lived. Granted, gathering in the catacombs to worship God and partake of the Lord’s supper required a great faith because they knew by doing it they were risking death. But, in the face of the public stand for Jesus meaning death by lions or public rejection of Jesus meaning life, they needed an incredibly strong faith to not deny Him.

    • Thanks to all who commented. I still have a problem with evolving faith, a faith of randomness and perpetual change, and the whole idea of breaking away from theological constructs, as if they are not needed (creeds, anyone?).

      It is my experience that faith grows and does not randomly, but by the deliberate will of God towards a specific goal. And the construct of a “Christian worldview” is actually needed or the days are spent wandering around aimlessly, just loving people with that feel good randomness. Grief, it sounds like the faith of a bunch of preteen girls who have no direction and nothing but the desire to feel good and have a good time.

      Evolving faith is to me such a blatant contradiction. Of course, we constantly shift our definitions with every use of the term, and do so in random ways, perhaps it would work.

  3. My “evolving” has been a 38-year plus walk that began in old-time holiness and finds me now sitting on a back pew elsewhere other than the assembly I committed myself to for three decades. Long story that includes that initial assembly “evolving” as much as I did, until we just parted company. What has remained the same for me, has kept me unable to dismiss and simply walk away from, is Christ “in” me, which, in my words, is an internal anchor-line that amounts to, sometimes, a “kick in the butt” and a lesson learned, but, just as often, a well revisited here and there, His promise renewed as I go. When “church” didn’t make sense, when “self” gets lost in the stagger, one way or another He has proven faithful. The book looks like a good one. Just got Michael’s through Barnes & Nobel here locally, am already four chapters into it, and finding it, just as I expected, a great read that is reflective of my own thoughts, my own journey. He is missed; but let me acknowledge, in so saying, that I am yet enjoying my visits here. I believe “the gauntlet passed” to be “God anointed” in its transition….

  4. Ekstasis says

    Many non-Evangelical churches cherish the concept of “Mystery”. When I first entered the world of Evangelicalism, there was an answer to practically every conceivable question. At first I was completely impressed. If I just learned the info, I could defeat every argument! I felt so powerful, and began putting those in other traditions in there place.

    Years later I began to develop some serious doubts of this approach. Some things are simply not revealed to us. Rather than viewing the unknowns as a threat, I now embrace them, because it adds to the awesomeness and mystique of God. I don’t have to know everything, how liberating!! This is not to discourage knowledge or inquiry, quite the opposite. Now, like Socrates, we can ask questions and explore things. To me, that is the message of the first portion of Proverbs — God desires that we thirst for knowledge and wisdom.

    • “We don’t have to know everything, how liberating!”

      I couldn’t agree more! I thirst constantly for knowledge and wisdom, but it’s not that life-threatening type of thirst. I won’t die if I don’t find “THE answer”. A little mystery can lend itself handily to a more childlike faith that can free us from our jaded adult minds. Jesus told us it was this kind of faith that would inherit the Kingdom.

  5. Mike,

    Thanks so much for this post. I do believe our salvation is a life-long journey and I confess my journey has led me from a fundamentalist theology to a more moderate theological view. My dad died rather suddenly when I was a teen,and those from my church family would express their sincere grief to our family, but believed we had to accept it as God’s will. In other words, my faith community did not give me license to ask
    God “Why? Why did my dad have to die?”

    I struggled with this for years while trying to be a good Christian. Finally, many years later, my wife and children relocated due to a promotion with my job,and eventually we were invited to attend a mainline church- this was a turning point in my faith and would so prove to be for my family. Now, I understand that it is quite possible to have a vibrant faith without having to have “all the answers.”

  6. Maybe you should provide more detail, but these bullet points sound like a train going into a 30 mph curve at 90 mph…

    * reexamined what the Bible itself actually says about Jesus and his ministry, concluding that he did so much more than “die so we could go to heaven when we die,”

    Ok, how is this not a launchpoint for the false, social Gospel? (The Church needs to stop preaching and start feeding people)

    * worked through implications of the fundamentalist conceptions of hell and who is condemned there,

    Brace for denying a literal Hell!

    * reconsidered what the Bible says about the wideness of God’s mercy,

    Mmm, universalism, sweat and saccharine, just like lead. Just as poisonous.

    * traveled to India where she began to grasp how Jesus and his Kingdom are touching the poor and disenfranchised and reversing the “cosmic lottery,” turning life’s losers into winners.

    Social gospel, post-millennialism. “Enjoying this life is what matters most”. This cosmic lottery thing sounds really bad too.

    * developed a friendship with a homosexual whose experience with the church caused her to question how Christlike the Christian community truly is,

    Overturning Biblical ideas of sexuality.

    * began to realize that the Bible is much more complex, varied, and nuanced in its teaching than the concept of a single “Christian Worldview” might suggest.

    Discarding literal (grammatical-historical) interpretation, opening the door for reading whatever you want in the text.

    I’d like to believe it’s not a train wreck. Does she address these points? Does she have brakes?

    • Kenny Johnson says

      While I haven’t read the book, I think you’re reading too much into those bullet points. You can read her blog at:
      http://rachelheldevans.com/blog

      and excerpts are available from Zondervan’s website.

      • Perhaps, that is why I asked for more detail.

        Our culture today worships doubt and uncertainty. Anyone who claims to know the truth for certain is called arrogant and foolish. Close-minded.

        As Christians we should run counter to the culture. If our culture were certain of itself, then I could understand more questioning and appeals to doubt (doubt of the culture’s certainties, which are counter to God’s certainties).

        Encouraging doubt in Christians is not doing anyone any favors. People are perishing, they need bold proclamations of truth, not “challenges [for] readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context” (from Zondervan)

        • Nedbrek,

          I’ve been told to brace for the fact that people will draw conclusions from the book without having read it. Whew! They were right!

          I can assure you that NONE of the points you made are found in the book. Please take the time to read “Evolving in Monkey Town” before deciding what it is about.

          • It does get a bit rugby-like around here at times, Rachel.

          • My understanding is that authors have little say in the marketing of their books.

            Would you say that Zondervan has mischaracterized your book in the statement:
            “challenges readers to re-imagine Christianity in a postmodern context, where knowing all the answers isn’t as important as asking the questions”?

            Again, I’m not saying you present the points I made above – but I do think it’s a small step to “ask questions” like this, and then come to these conclusions.

        • Nedbrek, Is it possible that “bold proclamations of ‘truth'” have been the problem and not the solution?

          • I’m not sure I know what you mean.

            I can’t imagine any problem whatsoever with boldly proclaiming the truth (as you understand it).

            Perhaps you are wrong – let someone else boldly proclaim you are wrong.

            Is the truth not worth fighting for? Contending with vigor?

            Perhaps someone will be offended. Do we fear men or God?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says

            I’m not sure I know what you mean.

            How about screaming The Party Line in our faces?
            doubleplusduckspeak doubleplusgoodthink?
            Denouncing us as Traitors and Thought-Criminals?
            With Neverending Room 101 held to our heads as an “Or Else”?

        • Respectfully Nedbrek I must disagree——–

          Having come from an upbringing much like the one Rachel describes, I have to proclaim—-
          I NEEDED a good dose of doubt in my life———
          Not doubt in God or His word—–
          but doubt in the abilities of myself, or any human to REALLY know what God is up to!

          God is so good at turning all of our human certainties on their ear—–always has been—-from time beginning.

          My greatest struggle has been to come to the place of uncertainty—–
          How can I possibly KNOW what God is trying to do in other’s hearts and lives when so often I can’t even know what He is trying to do in my own?
          My own heart will deceive me——the depths of it’s self-interest and protection are beyond scope—–I need Jesus to peel back those layers.
          and He does—kindly and gently—-as I allow, prompted by grace. (sigh even THIS is a work of God!)

          God has had to pry my hands away from my certainties ——about myself, others, the culture (“Christian culture”?) I grew up in, the work He is about for the Kingdom.
          It’s a fearful journey for me——I’d much rather KNOW—–than TRUST Him!

          I hope this makes sense—–because I “get” where you are coming from——a firm stance on God’s truth—-but I also understand the position that Rachel takes.
          So often I think I KNOW what God is doing——then He so surprises me, cause I find what He trying to do is usually nothing more then changing me!

    • “Ok, how is this not a launchpoint for the false, social Gospel? (The Church needs to stop preaching and start feeding people).”

      Jesus didn’t say “Threaten people with hell until they worship me.” He said “feed my sheep.”

      Justice is a false gospel? Treating the Least of These as we would treat Jesus is a false gospel? If you start subtracting the words of Christ from the gospel, the good news becomes bad news indeed.

      • Because Justice is a COMMAND, not a DECLARATION.

        The gospel(evangel) is GOOD NEWS, it is the declaration of what Christ has done FOR YOU, OUTSIDE OF YOU. It is not something that you do or something iniside of you. It is NEWS.

        The NEWS has power. It regenerates you, it produces faith and repentance inside of you, it justifies you, and sanctifies you. It grafts you into a tree, with Christ at the root, that will produce the fruit of good works.

        We are commanded to do good works, like helping the poor, but helping the poor is not the NEWS.

        That is why the social gospel is such a heinous distortion of the truth. We SHOULD do good works, but these are the commandments of Christ, not the GOOD NEWS of what he has done to justify us before God. If righteousness came through obedience (obeying Christ’s commands to feed the hungry) then Christ died for NO PURPOSE.

        MOD NOTE: Edited for length. Beon, you are free to make your points. Please make them succinctly.

        • Kenny Johnson says

          Interestingly enough, Mark the Evangelist seems to think the whole story of Jesus is the Good News:

          Mark 1:1

          I would agree. I think the cross is the good news, but so do I think that feeding the poor is good news for the poor.

          Jesus refers to His kingdom as the Gospel:

          Matthew 24:14

          Is the cross the Gospel? Yes. Is the Resurrection the Gospel? Yes. But so it the Kingdom.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        Jesus didn’t say “Threaten people with hell until they worship me.”

        “It is not enough for you to obey Big Brother, 6079 Smith W. You must LOVE Big Brother.”
        — Comrade O’Brian, Inner Party, Airstrip One, Oceania, 1984

    • I told you this would upset some people.

  7. I never thought of a Christian world view as a rigid system. That’s not what I learned from reading James Sire and other I.V. Press books back in college.

    I do agree that rigid is what it has become in recent years. It has become far to closed, polarized, and politicized.

    I recently did some reading regarding “digital” vs. “analog” thinking. Digital thinking forces answers into clean, discrete, distinguishable choices; analog thinking sees answers as more fluid and continuous, with less defined thresholds. Where digital thinking would place two options clearly in “right” or “wrong” buckets, analog thinking might find that both options could be true or false, or somewhere in the middle. To me, evangelical/fundamentalist conservative Christian thinking has obviously become digital: everything needs to be categorized as right or wrong, true or false, Christian or unChristian, right or left, us vs. them, friend or foe. There is no middle ground; moderates are obviously cowards or moral relativists. Digital thinking is the fuel which keeps the cultural war burning.

    But life is not digital; our brains and (dare I say?) our souls are not digital. Christian religion which is forced into viewing everything in life as if it were an light switch ceases to be Christian.

    Christians need to rediscover that there is a difference between analog or analytical thinking an relativism.

    But many use Jesus to defend digital thinking: you’re either for me or against me; you’re neither hot nor cold, etc. I think we take such statements far out of context to defend indefensible views on life.

    • Ekstasis says

      So true. Throughout 2,000 years of Christianity, thousands of theologians that sincerely believe that Scripture is infallible and true have come to very widely different interpretations and conclusions. And yet have you noticed that so many of us, in a blink of an eye, have discovered that everyone that holds different views is completely wrong? And we are completely right?

      Perhaps it is something in the human psyche that desires to be one of the few that have discovered the truth. It makes us feel special. Of course, since we are required to practice humility, we would never openly entertain the idea that it is because we are smarter. Instead we view it as a special gift we have received. In other words, we have been specially selected to receive this amazing and abundant grace that others have foregone.

      “The unexamined life is not worth living”

    • Mr. Ox: I think you are well on your way to redeeming the phrase “chistian worldview”. Sadly, the stereotypes of christian worldviiew have often bled over into other areas: discipleship comes to mind, where the true disciple is seen as someone who is up to speed on all the best answers in

      creation\evolution
      sexuality and gender issues
      sometimes male/female leadership and ministry roles
      the U.S. in some kind of special status in God’s overall plan

      I could go on, you get the idea. It’s not so much a christian’s engagement wtih these issues as the certainty that a REALLY BIBLICAL worldview will answer these the same way that Focus On the Family would, or the same way Chuck Colson/Nancy Percey would.

      In it’s more extreme forms, you have Ken Hamm questioning the salvation of anyone who does not share his identical cosmology. This would be silly and fun if it weren’t so sad and tragic. We are fighting “battles for truth” over hills you couldn’t pitch off of, mere mole hills , and they aren’t even adult moles !!

      I like the reference to Sire, and Os Guiness “Fit Bodies, Fat Minds” is pretty good also: we need better thinking, and less smug, glib cliche ridden certainty.

      Sorry for the jagged post, I’m actually working and work today
      Greg R

    • “I never thought of a Christian world view as a rigid system.”

      Unfortunately, a “rigid system” is what it has become in many sectors. When I talk to people about this, they view a Christian world view as a discrete set of propositions that all “real” Christians should ascribe to. It becomes a more about what you think than how you think.

      Take the Incarnation for example. Jesus appearing in material flesh has implications for how I view the whole of creation, on how I approach spirituality, on the value of material(i.e. physical) things, etc. How do I go about thinking through those implications and then applying them? Its much more involved than just saying “no real Christian believes in evolution”.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        When I talk to people about this, they view a Christian world view as a discrete set of propositions that all “real” Christians should ascribe to. It becomes a more about what you think than how you think.

        AKA “Ees Party Line, Comrades.”

      • “It becomes a more about what you think than how you think.”

        Yeah. And what one thinks has nothing to do with thinking whatsoever – just merely nodding obediently to the ones with the ideological club. But it’s called a “world view” to give it the air of intellectual legitimacy.

      • Another good world view book is “The Transforming Vision”, by Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, which is still available on Amazon. C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” is also a good place to start. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” probably had the greatest influence on my personal world view. So, AFTER you read Rachel’s book…

    • Many things in scripture are black-and-white; however, many of the swords we’re being told to fall upon are not mentioned in scripture at all.

  8. Excellent comment. Well said.

  9. Chap Mike: you should know that a post that headlines MONKEYS and EVOLVING will mean a hotter time than lightning flashing over Sweet Buttery Jesus. And on a Friday , no less. I appreciate the push you give us every week, and featuring up and coming writers…..may these youngen’s find their way out of the ev. wilderness or the post-modern prairies.. good stuff.

    Greg R

  10. As an alumnus of the same institution, only several years earlier (let’s not count exactly HOW many), I can tell you that my time spent there equipped me to think critically. I was given tools to use and guidelines to follow to determine what was essential and what was cultural. The school was not a “fundamentalist” bastion but was rather regarded by fundies as liberal. Some of the local fundamental schools (well, really just one) sent teams to our campus to witness to us.

    I was there before the big “worldview” emphasis, but I supported its adoption. I think it’s important for the mind to develop a framework for seeing the world; one which can take into account the things God allows that are hard to explain. Otherwise we will have a generation of folks who don’t understand why “moralistic therapeutic deism” is a bad thing.

    I have “evolved”, I guess, since my graduation — I think rather that I’ve grown up and learned more and more what it means to follow Jesus. I hope that’s what I’ve done. Only He can judge for sure.

    I look forward to reading the book, and Rachel, I’d love to talk to you any time about Bryan and Daytonisms.

  11. Clay Knick says

    My copy arrived today and I’ve put it “on deck.”

  12. Haven’t read the book, don’t know if I will. I do know that this sort of approach has real problems with “brakes”, as Nedbrek said. I was raised in Lutheran churches (ALC, then ELCA). Our experience is that a moderate approach is inherently unstable. It tends to veer left in exactly the way Nedbrek described, in part because people tend to look to the world and the opinions of others for answers. I don’t question Evans’s orthodoxy or sincerity, but I think her overall philosophy lends itself easily to heterodoxy and syncretism, especially when folks include the very authority of Scripture in their questioning.

    • Where did you get that, Kozak? I don’t recall her questioning the authority of Scripture. If you haven’t read the book, you have no right to make specific charges like that.

      Your criticisms are completely based on impressions. How does that fit with your dogmatic approach?

      So what we have here is someone who says we must stand on the truth, yet who is basing his critical judgment of a stranger whose book he hasn’t read on his impressions of what a reviewer that he can’t be sure is accurate is saying. Hmm.

  13. Nedbrek,

    Since you are a judge on things Christian, let me ask you this.

    . Is it Christian for a church leader to tell an adult Sunday School teacher to lie to her director to make an excuse for not wanting to obey him (over what to teach on one particular Sunday)?

    Kozak, haven’t you heard yet. Heresies come in pairs, you go too far to one side to avoid one, only to fall into the ditch on the other side.

    • “Is it Christian for a church leader to tell an adult Sunday School teacher to lie to her director to make an excuse for not wanting to obey him”

      Interesting choice of words, “Is it Christian”. If you mean would I expect a Christian to do it, yea. Christians are sinners like everyone else. They do a lot of stupid, ungodly things.

      If you mean, “Is it Biblical” or “Is it Godly” (“Does it honor God”), no. I take a hard line on interpreting the commandments. “Thou shalt not lie (bear false witness)” is broken anytime you don’t tell the 100% unadulterated truth (God is truth, anything not the truth is ungodly). And it gets broken most all the time.

      As Christians, we are not meant to never break the Law (a burden which cannot be carried). We are forgiven.

  14. I wish I had this book 15 years ago, it has taken me a long time to get through my crisis of faith. One of the things that helped me was listening to a Christian radio program that had an apologist on it, and the host asked him what he believed about the age of the earth. He said that he believed 70% of the time in an ancient earth, and 30% of the time in a young earth. When I heard that, suddenly I felt so free. I realized that I could delay judgment and not hold conclusively to one view or the other.
    If a doctor does not feel the need to diagnose a patient in the first 5 minutes, but it is normal, sane, and expected that he not make up his mind until he has spent time looking at more evidence, then why can’t we as Christians stop stressing ourselves to death that we must always have some certain conclusion about everything before we think about it?
    Another problem was hearing all my life that the Spirit will lead you to all truth, so I thought all those “Spirit-filled” pastors that believed in a young earth could not possible be wrong. It helped me, while listening to the White Horse Inn, to have Rod say that verse was addressed to the Apostles. That was also an intellectually freeing moment in my life. Pastors could be wrong, so I could believe in an Old Earth without feeling guilty.
    I can’t believe there are so many pastors that act like you are a heretic if you don’t believe in literal 24 hour day creation events. I agree with 99% of what they have to say usually, is that still not enough for them!!!! They remind me of how the Pharisees would burden the common people more than they should have. If I were a pastor that believed in literal 24 hour days, I would say “I’m over 90% my belief is true, but there are other good Christians that hold to an ancient earth. If you feel strongly about an ancient earth, you are not a heretic and you don’t have to abandon Christianity.” Is that so hard? Really?