The Sweetest Thing

May 16, 2011

As I reflect on the year that passed while this blog sat silent, I realize that this past year has been one of the most momentous in several of our lives. Momentous enough that none of us has had the time to keep up with the blog and continue the discussions regarding our faith, science, religion, politics, or family. It has been a year filled with new ventures, new relationships, new challenges, and new accomplishments. In the coming years, as we continue living apart from one another, I can only hope that we can develop deeper sibling relationships still. In a time when our lives bring decisions, hard work, busy schedules, and tiring days, I hope that we can find the time to correspond with more discussions as we have in the past.

I expect that we all find ourselves at different points in the lifelong journey of a Christian and that as our lives diverge somewhat, I suppose that we are each excited by different promises from God. At the same time, as we each live out God’s purpose for our life, I imagine that we cross similar paths in the woods of Christianity and that we can each bring enlightenment to one another in what we’ve learned from those delightful, though sometimes challenging, paths.

As I think about what it will be like for us to live apart as we begin careers, start families, and settle in to the middle years of our lives I am reminded of my time spent in Montana, away from family.

Most of the time that you stay somewhere for only a short time, you feel as though you are in the place, a visitor of some sort. For me, my visit to Montana was very different than what I’d experienced traveling to other parts of the country. Obviously, Montana is beautiful – Big Sky Country, the Rockies looming in the background. But I have visited so many beautiful places – on the East and West Coast, the Great American West, the Appalachians – in fact, I have visited a good many of the scenic areas which make up the American wilderness. Beauty alone wasn’t what made Montana different. I did have some wonderful times underneath that wide, open sky. I made some very dear friends, I felt so free, and I spent most of my time outside taking pictures. It was a wonderful time in my life and saying goodbye was hard. But, I do realize that the danger of nostalgia is that you are remembering and longing for a past that didn’t really exist, remembering it as rosier than it really was. And I know it isn’t just the memories I made there that make it so different for me.

The thing about Montana that I have come to realize is that instead of me being in the place, the place got in to me. You see, I left Montana to come back “home” to family, but Montana never really left me. It’s still deep in me, waiting to be realized again. Sometimes, I hear it calling my name. The mountains, the big open sky …. I really can’t explain it any other way than that I feel like it stayed with me, changed me, and made its home there. Some days, it whispers to my heart and calls me home. Not the kinds of home that involves family and love. The kind of place that is your home because you belong there. It can’t help but remind me of the book (a favorite of mine), Till We Have Faces, “The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing – to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —.” – C.S. Lewis

As Christians, the greatest longing in our life is for our Savior – and I see my longing for “the mountains” as a great parallel to my longing for Christ. Being out in nature – the kind of nature devoid of human interference with God’s creation – puts me into a revere and worshipful state. To me, mountains are the grandest that God’s wilderness has to offer, and I feel God’s presence and power the most when I’m looking out over a vista, or up at snowy peaks. So every time I feel the mountains calling my name, it also means I feel God calling to me. He reminds me that if I get out of the “city” of life and back to the “mountaintops” of His glory, then I will feel the ultimate kind of rejuvenation. The kind that only He can bring. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the mountain – for that is when I feel God’s presence the most in my life.

As we continue to lay the foundation for our individual lives, I hope that despite our physical distance from one another, that we can still see the display of God’s grace in one another’s lives. I hope that we can still find ways to encourage one another, and to spur one another on in continuing to seek God through intellectual discussions.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.

Psalms 27:4

-Katie, the elder sister

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Response to Bursting the Science/Religion Bubble: Layer #1

June 15, 2010

In response to Matt’s post last week (Bursting the Science/Religion Bubble), I wanted to discuss a few of the points both he and Darrel Falk made. This point, in particular, hit home for me and reminded me of several discussions I’ve had with Christians about the gap between evangelical Christians and academia:

Perhaps it is time for us, even we evangelicals, to explore whether we are propping up the layers of a bubble that we, and not God, have put in place and thereby, have artificially isolated ourselves from the world of academics.

While I have had heard of experiences where people studying science came to believe in God as a result of their studies, I have heard more stories, including firsthand ones, that went the other way. The stories I have heard are much the same as the one Falk describes – people who were raised in a Christian home and grew up hearing and believing the gospel abandoned it after experiencing the world of academics and being unable to reconcile their upbringing with what they have learned. While I do think that in many of these cases, these people may have not been true believers – lacking a deep-rooted relationship with God – I don’t think that this is always the case. I do, however, believe that if more Christians raised their children using Falk’s suggestion (quoted below), that there would be fewer cases where people abandon their faith in the face of academia.

I am convinced that we can eliminate the barrier by simply admitting that there are many deeply committed Christians who believe that many elements of the story of Adam and Eve is not historical. I think we need to tell our children that at a young age and I think we need to show them why there are committed Christians on both sides. It also would be good to show them why the historicity of Adam and Eve is not foundational to faith.

I think there is a large disconnect between the evangelical church and the academic world as a whole, and many Christians, I fear, think that this disconnect is necessary. In my (limited) experience, many Christians believe (1)  that  a literal interpretation of the story of creation as found in Genesis is a foundational belief as a Christian, (2) that any other explanation for how the world could have come to be is out of the question, and (3) they seem to have a great lack of reasoning skills when it comes to listening to or even considering any other explanation, whether that comes from fellow believers or not.

Of all of these things I have encountered, the latter is the most frustrating, and I am a believer myself. That alone has led me to the conclusion that these evangelicals themselves are a huge part of the disconnect and, unfortunately for the academic community, they seem to have the loudest voices around. Until something is done about this, I feel that the gap is only likely to widen.

I have also had discussions with Christians who believe that it is their duty as a Christian to go out and try to convert the scientific community using outdated debates against evolution, with just enough ‘training’ in the matter to be very opinionated but without being at all educated about what the academic world actually believes and why. This, too, is quite unfortunate because it only leads to harden more hearts against the gospel message. I think that more hearts could be won with open-minded discussions rather than closed-minded lectures.

If more evangelicals were to read articles like Falk’s and to be ready to realize that some (possibly many) of the reasons for the barrier are likely man-made, I think that this could be a very good start to undoing a lot of the damage done by this particular layer of the barriers Falk discusses.

At the very least, I would like to see Christians who understand science well enough to admit that, scientifically, the best explanation for the world’s beginnings could very well be the theory of evolution. Obviously, a theory isn’t proven, it’s just the best current explanation given the evidence. I know just enough about science to understand that theories have to have evidence in their favor, and that they can’t just be taken on faith like religion is. But that doesn’t mean that to believe a theory, you have to abandon your faith. I think that we need to reach a greater understanding of how to balance the two, but in order to move in that direction, you have to be flexible to changing what you believe about science (and as Falk suggests, also how we interpret the Bible).

Although the historicity of the story was not an issue in Jesus’ day, Jesus called for people to look beyond literality—to seek out the message. Perhaps we, by focusing on the historicity of this story are a little like the Pharisees. We see the words in Scripture, but we miss that to which the words are pointing us.

However, I also think that we cannot discount that many true Christians do believe that the Genesis account is to be interpreted literally. As Christians, perhaps we need to learn better to respect each others’ opinions when it comes to interpreting the Bible and its meaning.

The take-home message:

Let’s do like Jesus did when he tried to get the Pharisees to move beyond the words of the law and to focus on its meaning. Just like the Pharisees who, in focusing on dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” had lost sight of what God really wanted to say, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

Let’s learn to figure out what God is saying to us with the message in the Bible, and how that pertains to how we live our lives here on earth; how we treat one another, how we reach out to one another, and how we remember every day how we live each day by the grace of God.


Bursting the Science/Religion Bubble

June 4, 2010

In this post, I pick back up where we left off a few months ago, discussing a set of scholarly essays posted on the Biologos website. Here I’ll be discussing Darrel Falk’s essay, “Barriers to Accepting the Possibility of Creation by Means of an Evolutionary Process: III. Concerns of the Typical Agnostic Scientist.” First off, I’d recommend this paper as a good read. Specifically, it is easy to read and makes some points that I feel are pretty important for the evangelical community to hear. If nothing else, read the introduction, which is only a page long and is a story that clearly illustrates the problem.

Falk’s main premise is that the evangelical world has unnecessarily surrounded itself with a ‘bubble’ that makes it difficult for any agnostic scientist to take Christianity seriously. The take away message is a reflective one:

Perhaps it is time for us, even we evangelicals, to explore whether we are propping up the layers of a bubble that we, and not God, have put in place and thereby, have artificially isolated ourselves from the world of academics.

It’s fair to say that certain beliefs that are common within the evangelical community are contradictory enough to science that many scientists are unwilling to take Christianity seriously.  The community must ask, “Are these barriers man-made or are they truly fundamental?”

Falk divides the bubble into 5 layers.  The first is “The story of Adam and Eve must be viewed as history.”  He begins by arguing that the story of Adam and Eve is truly foundational to Christianity.  It is central to the Christian understanding of man, his history, and his current condition.  However, he also points out that there is a large body of scientific evidence that contradicts aspects of this story (if they are taken literally).  How should this be resolved?

Should we try to convince all of the non-scientifically inclined evangelicals to cease believing that Adam and Eve are the first human beings? That would almost certainly be futile at this time—there is no point in trying. Besides it could harm their faith. What the church can, and in my opinion must do, however, is to make it clear that there are two ways in which evangelicals view this story. One is historical, the other, allegorical. To publicly acknowledge that and to make it clear that the latter view does not in any way disengage an evangelical from their faith would be of considerable significance. Let’s allow both views to co-exist in evangelicalism for now. I am convinced that we can eliminate the barrier by simply admitting that there are many deeply committed Christians who believe that many elements of the story of Adam and Eve is not historical. I think we need to tell our children that at a young age and I think we need to show them why there are committed Christians on both sides. It also would be good to show them why the historicity of Adam and Eve is not foundational to faith. Having admitted that, then let’s quickly move on to the message. Let’s do like Jesus did when he tried to get the Pharisees to move beyond the words of the law and to focus on its meaning. Just like the Pharisees who, in focusing on dotted “i’s” and crossed “t’s” had lost sight of what God really wanted to say, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to us.

Falk feels that the current focus on literal aspects of the story has directed the attention of Christians and non-Christians alike away from the most important aspects of story.

The agnostic misses the profundity and the beauty of the story of Adam and Eve, and it is our fault. Sometimes it almost seems we prefer to keep the richness of the story as our trade secret.

Layer #4 Falk calls “Augustine’s Warning,” inspired by the following quote from Augustine’s The Literal Meaning of Genesis

It is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, while presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense…If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintain his foolish opinions about scriptures how then are they going to believe those Scriptures in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven?

It is all too easy for the academic to dismiss Christianity as idiotic or simple-minded if Christians are constantly espousing scientific theories that are in blatant contradiction to the majority of the evidence.

Layer #5, “As it relates to science and faith, Christians are perceived as people who distort facts and lack integrity.”  As Falk points out, this layer has nothing to do with science and everything to do with how Christians live their lives.  Whether it is deserved or not, Falk claims that Christians have a growing reputation within academia of being willing to distort the truth to serve their agenda.  This can only be battled by living Christ-like lives of love and honesty.

Falk  leaves us with a final thought,

Jesus tells us that it is not easy to follow him. He spoke of it as being like a camel going through the eye of a needle. However, for some, because of our own human inadequacies, we, and we alone have plugged the eye of the needle. We have piled up huge roadblocks in the already narrow passageway. We have put so many non-transparent layers around the kingdom of God, that people are not even able to see glimpses of God’s glory anymore. The onus is on us to bring about the changes that will make the Christian life accessible to scientists and others whose way is blocked by matters that have little to do with the Kingdom of God and everything to do with our own human frailties.

As Christians, we have to be careful that not to add our own personal adornments to God’s truth.  I think that the time is coming for the evangelical church to re-examine what it holds as it’s core beliefs.  What have we added?  What must stay?  We must carve down until we reach the foundational core.


Happy Birthday, Sister!

May 13, 2010

Well, since all of my siblings have birthdays in this week, I’ve decided to be lazy and just post for Katie’s. But happy birthday to the rest of y’all, too!

Katie, here’s a video of the card I bought you and what life has been like at the farm for the past several weeks!

Happy Birthday!!!

-Lisa, the younger sister


The Great Anthony Ingram

May 9, 2010

For my theater lecture class, our final was writing and producing a play. I was the playwright for my group and I video taped the final performance. Here it is, I hope you enjoy it!

Part 2:

– Lisa, the younger sister


Happy Mother’s Day

May 9, 2010

Just yesterday my mom posted on her blog that it was my birthday.  Now it’s my turn, since my birthday doesn’t fall on Sunday (i.e. Mother’s Day) this year.  I’ve been reading a book of Bulgarian fairy-tales over the last two months, and I ran across one that reminded me of my mother, since it talks about what it’s like for a mom and a son to be far away from each.  So I decided to translate this fairytale for you as a Mother’s Day present.  It probably takes 20-30 minutes to read, since it’s 16 pages, but it’s a fun story.  I have to add a disclaimer, though, for anyone who reads this translation: I don’t intend for the mother and son to be exact representations of my mother and me, so don’t get offended if something seems a little off.  I’ve really enjoyed reading these fairy-tales, and I hope that you can enjoy this one in translation.

The Kingdom of the Nymphs

P. S. For anyone who reads this text, if you find typos or wording issues, feel free to comment and let me know.  Since I put in the time to translate this story, I want it to be good quality, and I’m always open to comments and critiques.

James, the younger son


Wait…Stop…is that not a UFO?

May 5, 2010

Did you see it? I didn’t until viewing my poorly-shot video. Really, I must have swam right past whatever that thing was without noticing. This last weekend Elizabeth and I drove down to Missouri for a large caver gathering. I took the opportunity to do some diving with another caver friend of mine.

I see that consanguineous chaos has certainly broken out while the elder brother was away. It took more than 2 weeks to even catch up on reading the old posts, much less actually post something. Now that the eldest brother is back, you can expect James and I to pick back up on our discussion of evolution and Christianity. Hopefully this will provide a little more brotherly balance for those of you who prefer the heavier reading…if you’re still out there and have survived all of the cute animal videos and girly books.

-Matt, the elder brother