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Dissonance and Harmony

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January 30, 2013 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Lives of Faith
Dissonance and Harmony
Image credit: j__st/Flickr

Today's entry was written by Deborah Haarsma. You can read more about what we believe here.

As soon as my older brother began piano lessons, I begged to play the piano too. My parents decided to let me try, which led to cute pictures of a 4-year-old climbing up onto the piano bench at her first recital. Like all young students, I started with scales and simple pieces, but over the years, my love for music deepened and matured. My piano teachers showed me that a beautiful concluding chord was often preceded by a dissonant clash. Dissonances sound harsh by themselves, but without them, music would sound boring and trite. If I rushed past the dissonance, the final resolution was not as beautiful. Instead, I learned to pause on the dissonant notes, to carefully place them in the context of the surrounding harmonious chords. The dissonance and harmony together formed more beautiful music than either alone.

Conversations about science and faith can be like that. People hold clearly discordant points of view, and it would be dishonest to ignore the conflict. Yet some voices emphasize the dissonance without any note of harmony to put it in context. Too often, science and faith becomes a hostile battle of worldviews, sounding angry, dissonant chords even among fellow Christians. But civil, gracious dialogue is possible. On the BioLogos Forum, we invite authors from a range of positions, including some that don't agree with all our beliefs, but we strive to set these dialogues in a context of respect and civility. When authors are fellow Christians, we don’t shy away from disagreements, but remember the broader context of our unity as fellow believers, the harmony that binds us together.

My own story is more harmonious than dissonant. My interest in music was paralleled by my interest in math and science and my involvement in church. My family and teachers encouraged my interests in science, and I remember how fun it was to play math games with my dad and brother. And every week we were in church: twice on Sunday, plus Wednesday night club, youth group activities, and Bible quizzing. While my church accepted the young earth position, they didn’t emphasize it, and I was never told that a particular science view was essential to being a Christian. When I encountered the evidence for the age of the universe and the evolution of life, I also found Christian authors who showed me how this scientific evidence could fit with Christian beliefs.

But others have experienced more dissonance. Nearly four years ago, Dr. Francis Collins launched this website with the story of a young university student in the midst of a profound personal crisis, what Dr. Collins called “a wrenching crisis of worldviews shaking her deepest foundations.” Without a context of harmony, too many people – young and old – feel they have to choose between two incompatible positions, either Christian faith or the findings of science. BioLogos exists to show another way. We hold fast to the authority of the Bible and the core beliefs of Christianity, and at the same time, accept the rigorous conclusions of mainstream science.

It is with these chords of dissonance and resolution in mind that I come to this opportunity to lead BioLogos. I have long sensed God’s calling to serve the church as part of this dialogue. Some of you know of me from a book I wrote in 2007 with my husband Loren, called Origins. I’ve been speaking and writing on science and faith for many years, but I did this around the edges of my primary career of teaching and research in astronomy. While I thoroughly enjoy teaching students and doing research, over the last year I have recognized God’s hand in leading me to shift my fulltime work to the science and faith dialogue. Now I’m looking forward to using and developing my gifts in service of BioLogos.

Joining me as a new member of the leadership team is Dr. Jeff Schloss, who will serve as our Senior Scholar. Many of you are already familiar with his work, and know he brings not only a strong track record of scholarship in evolution and philosophy, but tremendous skill in communicating to lay audiences. Jeff and I share a deep commitment to the unity of the body of Christ and a desire to remove barriers for people to come to Christ. I am delighted to have him on board.

Jeff and I inherit a strong and vibrant organization from our outgoing President, Dr. Darrel Falk. Darrel brought his deep love and concern for the church, along with his considerable creativity and hard work, to this effort. We plan to continue and build on the excellent programs he established.

One of the pleasures of my first few weeks on the job has been getting to know the BioLogos staff. Kathryn, Lisa, Stephen, Mike, Laura J, and LeAnne each bring key skills to the organization, as well as energy and a passion for the mission of BioLogos. The team keeps BioLogos functioning behind the scenes, from finances to computer programming to event planning. Two team members, Mark Sprinkle and Tom Burnett, have decided to move on to other opportunities after a year of dedicated service to BioLogos. As web editors, Mark and Tom revamped the blog, making it a forum for rich scholarly dialogue and vibrant testimonies, and drawing in new authors to write on a great mix of topics. They also organized the archived material, so that the best of BioLogos is readily accessible. We wish them well in their new endeavors. Joining the BioLogos team is Emily Ruppel as Interim Web Editor. You may know Emily from her work to develop and edit the e-zine God & Nature for the American Scientific Affiliation; she will join us part time at BioLogos while she continues to work with ASA.

We believe God has great things in store for BioLogos. We will continue to focus on connecting with scholars, pastors, teachers, and lay people, but in the months ahead, we will also be sharpening our vision and engaging afresh in strategic planning. We’ll be considering new audiences, new programs, and new priorities. I invite your comments below on directions you’d like to see BioLogos take.

In just a few years, this organization has impacted the lives of thousands of Christians and brought an important voice to discussions taking place within the church. Thanks to the strong support from The John Templeton Foundation and many other generous donors, the vision of Francis Collins is thriving. BioLogos is on the cusp of enormous opportunities and huge potential. While transitions are times of risk and vulnerability, they are also times of great opportunity. My prayer is that God will give us wisdom and guidance to be good stewards of this opportunity. May God continue to use BioLogos to bring harmony to a conversation that has emphasized dissonance for far too long.

Deborah Haarsma serves as the President of BioLogos, a position she has held since January 2013. Previously, she served as professor and chair in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Gifted in interpreting complex scientific topics for lay audiences, Dr. Haarsma often speaks to churches, colleges, and schools about the relationships between science and Christian faith. She is author (along with her husband Loren Haarsma) of Origins: Christian Perspectives on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design (2011, 2007), a book presenting the agreements and disagreements of Christians regarding the history of life and the universe. Haarsma is an experienced research scientist, with several publications in the Astrophysical Journal and the Astronomical Journal on extragalactic astronomy and cosmology.

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Bilbo - #76250

January 30th 2013

Hi Prof. Haarsma,

I share your desire to see more harmony among Christians regarding the origins debate.  I think it should be possible to hold dissonant views yet still achieve harmony.  I have a suggestion on how BioLogos can help achieve this:  When BioLogos presents theological or scientific arguments for their position, allow leading dissonant voices space for rebuttal.  In other words, BioLogos becomes both an advocate for their own position on Evolutionary Creationism, but also a forum, where other views are allowed to be heard.  I realize that this has been done to a limited extent, already.  But I would like to see it become the normal routine. 

What I hope would happen is that BioLogos would become a place where people can go and see dissonance and harmony work among Christians, and know that it is born out of a love for our Lord.

Karl A - #76265

January 31st 2013

I think that’s a great idea, Bilbo.  I imagine that one of the early needs here has been to develop a consistent and (hopefully) helpful BioLogos ‘voice’.  But once that is established, perhaps more flexibility can be applied in providing space here for other perspectives.  From my outsider’s perspective, it seems BioLogos is now mature enough to do that with more regularity. 

Will casual visitors to the site, if they read a post coming from a different perspective, come to think BioLogos is advocating Young Earth Creationism, or Intelligent Design, or Scientism?  Perhaps, but people quickly read things and misunderstand all the time.  I think there is already a model here for how to frame alternate perspectives, but along with you I think it could be better exploited.

Marv Falconburg - #76253

January 30th 2013

Welcome Dr. Haarsma!

One day I read the introduction to Francis Collins’ book about reconciling science and faith in the mall parking lot.  With my wife looking on, I wept uncontrollably.  This is the first time I had any hope that there would be a chance for harmony in my life.

That was 6 years ago.  I am a layman, not a scientist, and a worship leader in a non denominational midwestern church.  I am still in the “dissonance” part of reconciling these issues in my own head and in how it plays out in my life.  

My main goal for the future is coming to harmony with my church and family on this issue.  I am excited about the role of BioLogos in taking this message of hope to the churches and laymen of the world.  The scientist get it.  The academians get it.  I have read their books and they are very helpful.  My church and family will not ever read this material and the gulf between them and I is growing daily.

Practical articles, like the series recently by Mike Biedler are helpful to folks like me.

I applaude you and the efforts of your team and look forward to the change you can affect in this important endeavor.



Bilbo - #76254

January 30th 2013

Hi Marv,

I understand your family not being willing to read the same material that you read.  I think there is a fear that they will only get a one-sided distorted presentation of the issues.  If BioLogos takes my advice, and makes this an open forum, where leading dissonant voices in the Christian community can respond to BioLogos point of view, I would suspect that your family would feel safer reading all points of view, not just the ones that conform to their pre-existing doctrinal positions.

Eddie - #76256

January 30th 2013

Dear Dr. Haarsma:

I second Bilbo’s suggestion above.  While Dr. Dembski was (to BioLogos’s great credit) given a chance to discuss his theological views, he was not given space to rebut columns here written against his scientific views; and while Dr. Meyer (whose work has been heavily and frequently criticized here) was on one occasion allowed a rebuttal here (again to BioLogos’s credit), his rebuttal was published only reluctantly and with caveats; and to my knowledge, Dr. Behe, whose work has been attacked here more often than the work of any other ID proponent, has never been offered a column here to respond to the scientific criticisms made of his work.  Also, when a series was presented on the significance of the ENCODE project, Dr. Jonathan Wells, who has written an entire book on “junk DNA,” was not, to my knowledge, invited to give an alternative interpretation of the ENCODE results.  The interpretations of the scientific data presented here have thus often seemed very one-sided.  If furthering harmony between Christians through dialogue is the goal of BioLogos, then the disharmony of contrasting views is something that BioLogos should present, as a necessary tension en route to a (hopeful) final concord.

This applies not merely to scientific but also to theological discords.  I have found that over its span of existence, BioLogos has tended to overrepresent (in terms of the proportion of the American Christian population) the Wesleyan and Pietist forms of Christian theology and underrepresent the Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox theologies.  I hope that the new leaders of BioLogos will actively seek out non-Wesleyan, non-Pietist columnists.   The presentation of alternate theologies (with strongly differing views on providence, predestination and free will, and other matters) will of course produce some “discords” with the writings of other columnists.  But those discords are necessary if evangelical Christendom is to move toward ultimate concord.

sy - #76261

January 31st 2013

Welcome Dr. Haarsma. And the best of luck to you. May the Holy Spirit lift you up to this task, and may you inspire all of us with your efforts in this work of the Lord. Peace.

sy - #76262

January 31st 2013

I would just add, that in addition to being a Christian and a scientist, I share your love of music, which I have always thought of as God’s most beautiful way of communication with us, in both directions.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76266

February 1st 2013

Welcome Dr. Haarsma and Dr. Schloss,

God has called you to important roles in building the Kingdom in these challenging times.

If it needs to be said, I too love the LORD, love science, and love music.

Dissonance plays an important role in music.  Indeed I love to point out that if there were no death, we really could not have life, if there were no sin we would not need a Savior.  God cares enough to create a world that challenges our body, our minds, and our spirits. 

Life and Christianity are not created for persons who have no backbone.  That is reason enough to reject simplistic views of faith and life which require no deep thinking.

I think that BioLogos should be open to all views.  It seems to me that in the past it has been more against other views than expressing a viable positive view. 

It has been against Creationism, against ID, and against Scientism, but has failed to define the theological foundation for evolutionary creation.  The Two Books of God has been a slogan, but not a developed theological view.

God often uses dissonance and conflict as the basis for God’s creative work.  At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles.  Jesus Christ through Christainity was able to reconcile Jewish faith with Greek culture.

Today we are faced with a similar task, to reconcile monistic scientific materialism with cultural dualism. 

The biggest issue I have with BioLogos is the same one I have with many Christians, BioLogos often seems to put its evangelical identity ahead of its Christianity.  We must all put Jesus First and every thing else is secondary. 

It seems to me that the best role that BioLogos can play is to remind us and even insist that the Logos, Jesus Christ is First and Last, and even surpasses a “high view of the Bible” that overlooks John 1.  The Logos also judges Darwinism which claims that conflict is the center of evolutionary change, not cooperation and mutual goals.

This is my Father’s world, not the nasty world of Darwin and Creationism.            

beaglelady - #76273

February 1st 2013

Must we refer to Jews as  Jewish Barbarians? (Wachet auf, ye moderators)

Eddie - #76278

February 1st 2013

Good spotting!  And aside from the danger of giving unnecessary offense, Roger’s characterization is not even historically correct.  The world was not divided into “Jewish barbarians” and “Greek Gentiles” by anyone in the ancient world.  From a Jewish perspective, the division was between “Jews” and “Gentiles” (which included all the other peoples, not just the Greeks).  From a Roman point of view, the Jews spoke a “barbarian” tongue, but so did a good number of other peoples in their Empire (which Empire included more than “Greeks”).  And to the Greeks both the Jews and the Romans were “barbarian” as far as language goes (the term originally referred to language, not manners or culture), and of course the Greeks called themselves Hellenes, not “Gentiles”—“Gentiles” being a classification from the Jewish scriptures (the Hebrew original behind “Gentiles” is goyim), and alien to Greek thinking.  I do not think that Roger remembers  the proper meanings of the terms “barbarian” and “Gentile”; this is what has generated his confused account.

Probably what Roger was trying to say was that Christian theology united Greek and Hebraic conceptions (of God, nature, truth, etc.), and thus overcame the “disharmony” between those two ways of looking at the world.  He could have said that without mentioning barbarians or Gentiles.

beaglelady - #76281

February 1st 2013

Thank you. (But I fear a wonky conversation may be heading our way.)

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76284

February 1st 2013

Eddie and BL,

Thank you for your comments.

The fact is that there was a very serious division that my words were meant to highlight.  Most educated people in the time of Jesus were Greek, because they spoke Greek including the Romans. 

The only people in the Mediterranean civilized world who actively resisted Greek culture were the Jews, so they were often discriminated against as archBarbarians.  Do not believe the lie that Christians invented anti-Semitism. 

We see how traditional Jewish Christians discriminated against Greek speaking Jewish Christians in the early Church in Acts 6.   

On the other hand we also note that Jews considered Gentiles as unclean or untouchable.  Please read Acts 10. 

Please do not try to whitewash history and minimize the power of the Gospel.    

I hope, BL, that you do not consider the Biblical account to be “wonky.”  


Eddie - #76288

February 1st 2013

Same old Roger!  Still unwilling to admit error, always glossing what he said previously so that it can be construed as still correct.

You wrote:

“At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles.”

Note that this statement is presented as a neutral historical summary.  Note also that you did not put “Barbarians” in “scare quotes”; the reader is therefore entitled to infer that you endorse the term “Barbarians.”  That’s what beaglelady reasonably inferred.  Now you are changing your story, and saying that the Jews were regarded as Barbarians.  An admission that you should have written more carefully would have been a good response to criticism here.

Note also your use of “the world.”  Yet your division completely omits the bulk of the world’s population at the time—the Indians, the Chinese, etc.  

I already explained why “Greek Gentiles” was wrong.  Your attempt to gloss it back to correctness is inadequate.  Your explanation shows that you have confused ethnicity with language.  You say:  “Most educated people in the time of Jesus were Greek, because they spoke Greek.”  So if I speak Russian, I’m suddenly Russian?  And if you speak Spanish, I can describe you as Spanish?  You’d accept the description of yourself as “Spanish” in that case?

Another inaccuracy in your gloss is this:  Greek was a very common language in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire.  Not the whole Roman Empire, and still less the whole ancient world.  Your original statement gave no geographic boundaries, and therefore was false as it stands.

The idea you were trying to convey in your original post could have been more accurately put as:  “At the time of Jesus, the Jewish world was experiencing tension between the traditional Jewish religion and the syncretistic religious notions of the largely Greek-speaking Eastern part of the Roman empire, religious notions which had influence upon many Jews.  Many Jewish traditionalists believed that Hellenism was corrupting Jewish faith and leading Jews away into pagan ways.  Christianity found a way to synthesize what was true in Jewish and Greek thought.”

Such a statement would not be “whitewashing” history.  It would be correcting a history that was littered with undergraduate errors.  You can take this advice from a university-level teacher of ancient history and religion, or you can ignore it.  It remains good advice nonetheless.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76293

February 2nd 2013


Yes, I am the same old Roger and you clearly are the same old Eddie, who is always right because he says he is right. 

Dis you ever think to address the three actual examples of division and discrimination found in the book of Acts.  I am not a Bible literalist who beleives the Bible is always right, but the Bible is a valuable way of understanding ancients the way they understood themselves, which helps us 1) to understand our own history and 2) to understand the impact of Christianity on history.   

You underestimate the power of culture.  There are millions of Westerners who have not lived in the West, but they speak English, they dress Western and as far as possible live a Western life style all the while living in the East.  So it was with most people living in the ancient world who had a classical Greek education.

 The NT divides the world between Jews and Greeks or Gentiles.  It does not call Jews Barabarians because the writers were ethnic Jews.  I am not an ethnic Jew and I feel that it is important accept responsibility for my ethnic Western heritage that labeled Jews and others as Barbarians.  

Paul wrote his letter to the Church in Rome in Greek, even though it was the common Greek of commerce and not the literary Greek of the educated classes.  He he had no problem communicating to Roman officials and others when he was a prisoner in Rome.

Greek language and culture were the dominant ethos in the ancient “civilized” world, just as Western language and culture is today.  The Jews stood out against this culture.  Christianity brought these two worldviews together.

Today the world is divided also between the modern absolutists and postmodern relativeists.  If Christianity cannot bring us together, as Jesus said, “A house divided cannot stand.”  

beaglelady - #76294

February 2nd 2013

To sum up Roger’s post:


“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”

Eddie - #76298

February 2nd 2013

I was not talking about the book of Acts.  You made a set of generalizations about the ancient world as it was in the time of Jesus, not about the book of Acts.  That set of generalizations contained some errors and distortions.  I corrected them.  Yet you ignore the corrections and continue to make the same or related errors in your reply above.  What can I say?  If you don’t want to avail yourself of the knowledge of someone with scholarly competence in the languages and history of the period you are venturing to speak about, there is nothing I can do about it.

It clarifies many things for me to hear you state that you don’t believe the Bible is always right.  Was that your belief back when you held a teaching role in your Methodist denomination?  How did it go over with your congregation?

beaglelady - #76306

February 2nd 2013


You know better than to get into this sort of “discussion.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76301

February 2nd 2013

My friends,

No amount of obfuscation, no amount of selfserving bluster, no amount of nasty pettiness can obscure the fact that your attack on my statement has failed. 

If you want to discuss, that is fine, everyone can learn.  If you want to attack and argue, then you lose.  

Eddie - #76304

February 2nd 2013


You as usual misunderstand my intentions.  They are not to launch a personal attack against you, but to teach you.  By reacting against my corrections as if they are a personal attack, rather than instruction offered in good will, you are tightening up in self-defensiveness, when you could instead absorb the teaching and use it to get closer to the truth.  But I have always sensed in your replies to me—and to most others here—an unwillingless to be a learner.  I think that has been the main difficulty between us.  So if you wish me to cease offering corrections, I will.  But if I do, you will continue unaware of many historical, philological, and theological errors, and will repeat those errors and build further errors upon them.  Is that what you wish?  Say the word, and I will go away.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76309

February 3rd 2013


Thank you for your attempt to clarify your position.  I do not doubt that your intention is to “help” me by correcting my errors.  I do question your way of doing this.

First of all for those who are not aware, this is not the first time we have clashed over these issues.  This is at least the third time, although it seems like more.  You have made clear your distain for preachers and Methodist preachers in particular.

Second, you have some kind of tunnel vision whereby your point of view is the only right way.  You are absolutely right and all else is absolutely wrong.  It seems now that I think about it that you are an absolutist, just as YEC are absolutists, but on a different basis. 

I offered you evidence found in the Bible to substantiate my position, which you rejected out of hand.  If you really want to show me that I am wrong, explain how the evidence that I offer does not support my position. 

Let me start from the beginning.  This began when BL objected to my use of the phrase “Barbarians” which is how most Greeks viewed Jews.  In a sense she was right because all ethnic slurs are objectionable.  My point was to illustrate the reality of the discrimination and division between both Jews and Greeks.

Eddie, I am sure that you know as well as I that Greeks did call people who could not speak Greek “Barbarians” and considered them uncivilized.  You must also know that most Jews refused to adopt Greek culture and ways.  Some like Philo tried to adapt the Hebrew Bible to Greek thinking, but most including the Pharises and the Saducees rejected compromise.  Thus according to this popular mode of thinking, traditional Jews were Barbarians.

Jews for their part were proud of being God’s Chosen people.  They rejected others as Gentiles or pagans, which is also a kind of ethnic slur as often used.  Good Jews like Peter regarded Gentile Greeks as unclean as seen by the story of Peter and Cornelius.  Please try to expalin away this story. 

You want to try to explain away the differences between Jews and Gentiles as some kind of dry intellectual exercise.  It was much more than that as the Bible portrays.  You don’t have to accept the Biblical point of view, but we all have to deal with it.     

I know that you must find it degrading to have to stoop to dialogue with a lowly Methodist preacher, but we must all bear our crosses in this cold cruel world.                

Eddie - #76310

February 3rd 2013


I do not believe that “my point of view” is the only possible point of view or that “my way” is the only right way.  I  never said that you should agree with me on anything because I say so.  But you should agree with me (or with anyone else) when the evidence warrants it.

I’m not here to boost my own ego.  Why would I need to do that?  If I contradict you, it is not to gain victory over you; it is to make sure that readers here know that certain of your statements are incorrect and/or incomplete or one-sided.  It’s my duty as a trained academic to do this.  And you should be strong enough to take such constructive criticism without becoming prickly or defensive.  You should be willing to say, from time to time, “I misspoke” or “You’re right; I made an error there,” or “I didn’t know that; thanks for informing me,” or “I did not write clearly enough and I see where I could have misled people.”  But in all the time I have observed you on this site, I have never seen you make any statements of this kind.  You defend every word you have written, without retraction or modification, as if admitting error would be to show weakness or lose face.  But admitting error is the sign of an intelligent and humble person; it shows strength of mind and character, not weakness.

Let’s take the latest discussion as an example.  You have just produced another long justification of your original remarks, and many of your current statements I can agree with, but your justification misses the point.  You originally wrote:

“At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles.”
Note that you did not write:
”The New Testament writers divided the world between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles.”

If you had written the latter, you would have been reporting the view of the New Testament writers, not representing that view as the truth about how the world was divided in the age of Jesus.  And what you reported about the view of the New Testament writers might well be correct, i.e., that might indeed have been their view of the world.  They might indeed have divided the world between Jews and Greeks (though, I must add as an aside, they would never have called Jews “barbarians”).
To settle the question of the view of the New Testament writers would require Biblical exegesis.  But your statement was not offered as a piece of Biblical exegesis.  It was offered as a historical fact about how the world was actually divided in the time of Jesus.  Can you not see the difference?
If you can see the difference, then you will see that all my criticism was directed at your statement as given, and it was given as an absolute assertion of fact about the ancient world—an assertion I knew, as a scholar of antiquity, to be false.  So I objected.  There were in fact many more peoples in the ancient world in the time of Jesus than Jews and Greeks.  In fact, the world at that time was divided into hundreds of peoples, many of whom had never even heard of the Jews or Greeks.
So why do you not drop your appeals to what the Biblical writers said—a matter on which I didn’t initially comment—and simply acknowledge that your statement, if meant to be understood as a proposition in ancient history, was false, and that I was right to correct it?  And that if you did not mean it so, if you meant it only as a report on the view of New Testament writers, then you wrote unclearly, and I cannot be blamed for misreading your intentions and posting my corrections?
Step up to the plate, Roger, and show your best side:  give a non-defensive answer, and concede all that is reasonable in my comments here.  I would respect you more for it.  Best wishes.
Roger A. Sawtelle - #76316

February 4th 2013


Thamk you for clarifying your position.

You still have a problem, because you consider only one point of view “right,” which makes it absolutist.  I understand that you prefer the academic philosophical point of view, but I do not think thatr it is absolute, nor do I think thart it is the most appropriate point of vview for the point I am making.

I have no reason to be defensive and insist that mine is the only legitimate point of view.  However this website is based on a Christian understanding of life and nature.  Therefore I have no problem in stating that the NT understanding of history is basically right. 

My point is very simple and as far as I know is widely accepted at least among Biblical scholars, and that is there was a sharp cultural and ideological conflict between the Jews and “Greeks” in the first century AD.  To ignore this is to misconstrue the history of Christianity during this time and the NT which depicts this history.  An obvious example of this was the Roman-Jewish War which resulted in the destruction of Herod’s Temple in 70.  Christians following the advice of Jesus did not take sides in this struggle.  

To a large extent I believe that we are now involved in a struggle between the Absolutists and the Relativists, perhaps mirroring the Absolutism of the Jews and the Relativism of many Greeks.  Again I find that neither has a viable answer, only the Relational view of Christianity really works.         

beaglelady - #76317

February 4th 2013

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

Eddie - #76331

February 4th 2013


“I have no problem in stating that the NT understanding of history is basically right.”

It is no part of “the NT understanding of history” to speak of “Jewish barbarians.”  So even granting your revisionist account of your own intentions, you still have an error to retract.  But you won’t.

I do not prefer “the academic philosophical point of view.”  I prefer the truth.  That is why I so often correct your historical statements regarding Christianity, Greek philosophy, etc.

As for your closing paragraph, I think beaglelady’s response just above is appropriate.

Best wishes to all.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76334

February 4th 2013

Jesus Christ is the Truth.

I hope you know Him.  I have yet to be convinced.


Eddie - #76335

February 4th 2013

Do you know Him?  I would have thought that knowing Jesus Christ would slay all forms of pride—including the intellectual pride that a causes a person to be unwilling to learn from a qualified teacher and unwilling to retract or modify a point in debate.  I suggest that before you question the spiritual state of others, you ask yourself why you have never acknowledged any error in two years of posting here.  It might be that you know Him less well than you think you do.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76340

February 5th 2013


I really do not think that you need to preach to me about intellectual pride.  It seems to me that you are still hung up on the fact that you have a PhD and I do not. 

You are mistaken.  I have modified points in debate, although maybe not recently.

Have you ever conceded a point to me?  Do you agree that Greeks labelled non-Greek-speaking people Barbarians? 

I did agree that you had a valid point of view, just that it is not the only valid point of view and that it did not particualarly apply to this issue. 

Why do you insist that there is only one valid, true point of view of history?  That is the problem that you refuse to address.

Why does your exclusive point of view fail to recognize the existence of social conflict and discrimination between Jews and Greeks in the ancient world? 



Eddie - #76349

February 5th 2013


Why don’t you pay attention to what people write before you respond?  You ask:

“Have you ever conceded a point to me?  Do you agree that Greeks labelled non-Greek-speaking people Barbarians?” 

Yet in the very first post I wrote on this thread, I had said:

“And to the Greeks both the Jews and the Romans were “barbarian” as far as language goes (the term originally referred to language, not manners or culture)”

So far from needing to “concede” the point to you, I made the point before you did!

Now, why have you not conceded that you were wrong to say that the world was divided between Jews and Greeks?  Why have you not conceded that there were many, many other peoples living at the time besides Jews and Greeks?  And that the Jews and Greeks were in fact both minorities amidst the sea of ancient peoples?

What I want to hear from you is:  “I misreported the number and distribution of peoples in the ancient world in the time of Jesus.  I grossly oversimplified the social/political reality.  I accept the correction and retract my previous statement.”

You also wrote:

“Why does your exclusive point of view fail to recognize the existence of social conflict and discrimination between Jews and Greeks in the ancient world?”

When did I ever deny this?  And what has it got to do with the point I was making?

I will ignore all such distractions.  I want you to stay on topic.  The topic is your original statement.  The fact is that you called the Jews “Barbarians.”  You did not qualify the label.  You did not put it in scare quotes to indicate that you weren’t endorsing it.  You did not add words, e.g., “who were thought of as barbarians by the Greeks.”  You simply called the Jews “Barbarians.”  You were wrong to do so.

Now, what I want to hear from you is:  “I was wrong to call the Jews ‘Barbarians’ in the way that I did.  I should have expressed my meaning differently.  You and beaglelady were right to correct me.”

Will you swallow your pride and do this?  If you can’t, don’t bother making any further replies.  I won’t be responding to anything but admissions of error.

beaglelady - #76357

February 5th 2013

I’m really, really surprised that you’ve gone this far Eddie. What do you expect?  Do you really think that at this point you’re going to have something that even resembles a normal conversation? 

All I have to say is,

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Eddie - #76362

February 5th 2013

You’re right, beaglelady.  I shouldn’t have invested this much time.  I have this naive, old-fashioned expectation that a person with a college degree will read before reacting, digest before evaluating, and understand before criticizing.  And another naive, old-fashioned idea that people, if you reason patiently with them, will in the end put the truth above pride and give up assertions that have no rational or empirical foundation.  And a third naive, old-fashioned notion that every Protestant clergyman I meet will have a good Classical education, or will at least respect those who do.  Call me Polyanna.  But I’ve learned my lesson.

Anyhow, you were right about Roger’s Jewish Barbarian remark.  It probably wasn’t intentionally anti-Semitic, but it was clumsy and careless.  What’s stunning is that there has still been no retraction of it.

beaglelady - #76364

February 5th 2013

What is equally stunning is that the moderators haven’t done anything, even though I flagged it.  Oh well…

LONG ago BioLogos had a video up about Christian scientists. I emailed them in a panic and suggested that they might want to take it down since their lineup  included Wernher Von Braun, hardly a poster boy for Christianity.  They left it up anyway.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #76385

February 6th 2013


This is the paragraph that began the debate.

God often uses dissonance and conflict as the basis for God’s creative work. At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles. Jesus Christ through Christainity was able to reconcile Jewish faith with Greek culture.

Please note that I did not call all Jews Barbarians and I was tralking in a particular historical cultural/faith context.  Now you said that could have been clearer and I wouldn’t argue with that, but that is different from daying that I called Jews Barbarians. 

Beagle Lady objected using some German, suggesting that there was some Nazi overtones in what I was saying.  Far from it, but to deny that antisemitism has deep roots in Western culture is false and self defeating, which is what I pointed out.    

Later I wrote:

This began when BL objected to my use of the phrase “Barbarians” which is how most Greeks viewed Jews. In a sense she was right because all ethnic slurs are objectionable. My point was to illustrate the reality of the discrimination and division between both Jews and Greeks.

Now it seems that this clarification should have satisfied both of you according to what you say now. 

If you do not agree with my analysis of the cultural, intellectual, religious situation in the first century as when Greek Hellenistic culture and religion was the dominiant influence in the ancient civilized world, fine.  (It was only later that Latin became the dominant language in the Western Roman Empire.) But don’t put words in my mouth that I never said or intended to say. 

Eddie - #76414

February 7th 2013

No one has put any words into Roger’s mouth.  Roger admits to saying:

At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jewish Barbarians and Greek Gentiles.

Even allowing his desperate attempt to sublimate “Jewish Barbarians” into some acceptable sense, the sentence would then become:

At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jews and Greek Gentiles.

And that statement is FALSE.  Not merely awkwardly written, not merely less than perfectly clear, but FALSE.

If Roger cannot see why it is false, he is not competent to comment on ancient history. Alternatively, if he knows that it is false and is not willing to simply admit that he made a blatant historical error, then he is, for whatever reason, being stubborn.  He’s on the horns of a dilemma.  And there’s nothing more to say than that, and therefore I won’t revisit the subject again, though I fully expect Roger will put in one more word to try to justify himself.  And that would be his right—though exercising one’s right, and doing what is right, are often two different things.

beaglelady - #76420

February 7th 2013

So you are expecting a rational conversation?  Do you think your words are getting through?  Colorless green ideas, frogs, and dill pickles sleep furiously.

Eddie - #76431

February 7th 2013

No, I no longer expect a rational conversation.  Roger’s further defense below (which I anticipated) is jaw-droppingly uncomprehending of what I have been arguing.  Time for me to exit.

beaglelady - #76440

February 7th 2013

It’s quite deliberate, you know. 

Eddie - #76445

February 7th 2013

Since Roger seems to be a nice enough fellow, and one with noble intentions—wanting to save the ecology etc.—I’ve been giving him the benefit of the doubt, assuming goodwill on his part.  That has inclined me to initially interpret his recalcitrance to constructive criticism in terms of intellectual confusion, and to attempt to dispel the confusion through repeated clarifications of my point.  But the lack of movement, after repeated lucid explanations, convinces me that that there is more than mere confusion going on here; there is an unwillingness to listen carefully to exactly what is being said, and a determination to defend one’s statements at any cost.  So my diagnosis is that Roger’s will is clouding his intellect, and in that situation, no teacher or writer, no matter how gifted, can hope to prevail.  One can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make him drink.

Someday, when this confrontational situation is long past, Roger may look back at my criticism and say:  “Oh, is that all he meant?  I now see it clearly; I wrote incorrectly there.  I should have conceded his point immediately and rewritten my sentence to say better what I was trying to say.”  But that day is far ahead, and so for now I will simply have to let this go, and let time and emotional distance do what reason and verbal skill cannot.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76415

February 7th 2013

(1 Cor 1:22 NIV)  Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,

(1 Cor 1:23 NIV)  but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,

(1 Cor 1:24 NIV)  but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.


Eddie - #76441

February 7th 2013

The three statements above by Paul are unobjectionable, when understood in their context.  But the attempt to construe them as meaning At the time of Jesus the world was divided between Jews and Greek Gentiles reveals either interpretive ineptitude, or lack of comprehension of the meaning of the English words “the world was divided between.”

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76439

February 7th 2013

No, Eddie, the time is long past for you to exit.  In fact you never should have entered.

If you find the words of Paul “jaw-droppingly uncomprehending,” how do you expect to understand the world in which Paul lived?

You have some nerve to lecture me about the first century, while rejecting the views of those who actually lived in the first century: Paul, Luke, Peter, and Jesus. 

I am not defending my understanding of history.  I am defending their understanding of history.  This Protestant clergyman doesn’t know everthing, but I do know my Bible. 

Cling to your academic learning if you must, but do not reject the views of others out of hand. 

Also if you honor truth so much, why don’t you share with us your full name?    

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76461

February 8th 2013


What is your problem?

Do you deny that there was a conflict between the “Greeks and the Jews,” or do you fail to understand the conflict between them?

Whichever, you are raising a lot of sand over nothing to avoid the question of the different world views of “the Greeks and the Jews.”

Eddie - #76465

February 8th 2013

By the time I was in fifth grade, I could have understood the difference in meaning between:

The world was divided between Jews and Greeks.


The Jews and Greeks were divided over a number of religious questions. 

Yet one can graduate from Harvard Divinity School, and gain ordination from the Methodists, without being able to grasp this difference.  Astounding.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76476

February 8th 2013

Thank you.

Now are you ready to talk about these differences, or not? 

Eddie - #76481

February 9th 2013

A fun quiz for history and Bible buffs:

1. Which of the following statements is NOT found in the Bible? (5 marks)

a. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
b. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
c. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
d. I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man.
e. The world was divided between Jews and Greeks.

2. In the discussion above, which of the following statements did a Methodist clergyman assert on the authority of the Bible? (5 marks)

a. God created the world.
b. God and the Word are one.
c. The Savior was born in the city of David.
d. John saw a manlike figure among seven golden lampstands.
e. The world was divided between Jews and Greeks.

3. Which of the following statements about the world in the time of Jesus is historically FALSE? (5 marks)

a. The Romans controlled Jewish lands.
b. Greek ideas were influential in the culture of the eastern part of the Roman Empire.
c. There were many peoples in the ancient world other than the Jews and the Greeks.
d. There were many peoples even in Biblical lands other than the Jews and the Greeks.
e. The world was divided between Jews and Greeks.

Bonus Question (5 marks; answer in essay form):

When you put together the answers above, what can you say (a) about the clergyman’s knowledge of history; (b) about the clergyman’s method of reading the Bible?  Justify your answer.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #76484

February 9th 2013


Why do you persist in making a fool of yourself?

Get help, please.

Eddie - #76488

February 9th 2013

You are right.  I have been a fool, for staying in the conversation this long, when it is evident that you are not going to budge so much as a micron, no matter how badly you are destroyed in argument.  But I repent of my folly, which exceeds even the folly of the person who stubbornly defends the demonstrably false statement, The world was divided between Jews and Greeks.

beaglelady - #76496

February 10th 2013

What about cowboys and Indians?

Eddie - #76504

February 10th 2013

Yes, that would have been about as accurate an analysis of world affairs for the 19th century as Roger’s statement was for the 1st.

beaglelady - #76523

February 11th 2013


donhuizinga - #76518

February 11th 2013

Prof. Haarsma,

I am so glad you have accepted the position of president of Biologos. The scholars associated with Biologos have been the primary shapers of my views on origins.  I appreciate your book on ORIGINS, and your interest in incorporating respect for nature and science in worship.

I wish to echo sentiments you have expressed in your post and those of your first commenter, ‘Bilbo.’ We need ‘civil graciolus dialogue’ and need to emphasize our unity in Christ despite dissonace in our views on origins. 

My particular church has already benefited from a new organization, The Colossian Forum, hosting the kind of gracious conversation you envision; a representative of young earth creationism and a represenative of evolutionary creationism expressed their views without contentious debate. The common goal of the participants was to promote understanding, respect and emphasize unity in Christ. I sense Biologos is headed in a similar direction under your guidance. May God bless you, Dr. Schloss, and Biologos as you serve the church.

Don Huizinga

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