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A Christian Educator’s Thoughts on Revelation and Integration

I have a lot of interest in faith-learning integration. A constant question as student in the sciences was, “What does this teach me about God?” It was a natural question and practice for me, as it never occurred to me that the studying creation to understand God was a bad thing. After all, the glory of God is revealed in the heavens seemed to mean that if I looked at the heavens (which was clearly a metonymy for all of creation) then I would understand a bit more about God and His thoughts about me, Himself, and the rest of Creation. It wasn’t until I ran into some of the Bible-only psychologists who completely discarded any source of knowledge about ministering to others that originated from outside of scripture that it occurred to me that other people think differently about the issue.

Until recently, I couldn’t resolve the problem of why some would reject faith/learning integration. Why is it that well-meaning Christians have such difficulty contemplating the conclusions of other fields? Many (most of them non-Christian) would argue that we’re a bunch of ignorant fools chasing after ancient myths and fairy tales in order to retain a sense of superiority and personal well-being. I don’t quite buy that notion.

My friend recently graduated with her PhD in Theological Studies, where she studied the topic of general revelation, and introduced me to one Herman Bavink, a Dutch Reformed theologian. A quote from Herman Bavinck’s The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

Although God is immanent in every part and sphere of creation with all his perfections and all his being, nevertheless, even in that most intimate union he remains transcendent. His being is of a different and higher kind than that of the world (23).

And a second quote from the same source.

One of the results of the trend of present-day science is that theology is just now largely occupied with…how revelation has come about, than in the question what the content of revelation is (23).

Can you see the issue? We forget that God is the source of all revelation and instead focus on what people are doing with it, rather than what it says. In the process, we’re robbing ourselves of precious perspectives and resources for understanding God. Simply put, if God reveals, then it bears his essential character (see Ash’s unpublished dissertation A Critical Examination of the Doctrine of Revelation in Evangelical Theology, p 152 for more details on this).

We need to study creation. We need to look at ants to learn about laziness and industriousness (Proverbs 6:6). We need to look at  plants to learn about God’s character (Luke 12:27). We need to study the origins of the earth to learn about God’s power (Job 38). We need to study the law to learn about God’s love (Psalm 119).

Why study creation? Because the Bible tells me so.

Bavinck, Herman. The philosophy of revelation; the Stone lectures for 1908-1909, Princeton Theological Seminary. Stone lectures ; 1908-09. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1953.

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April 23, 2013 · 11:46 pm

Voyerism and Tragedy

Go back to the worst day in your life.

Maybe it was the day you found out your dad died, or the day you discovered your mom had a car accident, or the time you found a lump. Remember the emotion, the pain, the grief, the fear that came with the news. Sit there for a moment.

Now imagine , in the midst of that pain, someone stuck a camera in your face.

When we hear about tragedies like Boston we typically rush to the television or internet and see the pictures of bloodstained concrete, tearful families hugging one another, and frantic rescue workers doing their duties. You don’t see the (wo)man with the camera, standing in the midst of the fray snapping photographs with all the subtlety of a rat scampering through the walls. Next time you’re on the internet looking at one of these tragedies, find a photo (well available at the time of this writing on any news site)  of someone holding a crying friend and loved one. Notice that, typically, one person has their back to the camera. They’re doing that because they’re putting their back to the camera.

In my experience, photographers on site usually employ pushing and intrusive methods to get those spectacular photographs that they then sell to newspapers. While the blood still stains the scene, they transmit their photographs, usually with dreams of winning a prestigious award for the inevitable photo essay that will go on to publication in a coffee table book, portfolio, or other medium that documents the strength of their work. Worst of all, we unknowingly participate and sanction this kind of work as we stare and devour any and all visual information available.

Admittedly, when I put fingers to keyboard to write this post, I intended to create a scathing indictment of the kind of person who stands with a camera and takes pictures while others around them suffer. I then intended to decry the voyeuristic nature of our consumer society which seems to feed on this kind of information like a tick on a deer. Three sentences in, I recognized both the futility and hypocrisy of those approaches.

I instead appeal to your humanity. The next time you see one of those photos, I urge you to do the following:

  1. Pray for the salvation, safety, and healing of the survivors; for justice; for the salvation of the perpetrators; for the wisdom and insight of the investigators.
  2. Talk to your family, and remind them that you love them.
  3. Reconcile any relationships that have gone astray, insofar as you can.
  4. Live your life as if this might happen to you (which means that you should consider your real priorities).

Let the pictures of these tragedies lead you—not into the distanced observation and curiosity of others’ pain—but into hope and a reminder of the things to come, in light of the things as they are. Let tragedy lead you into a response of faith.

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April 16, 2013 · 9:01 am