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Navigating the Crises

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September 21, 2011 Tags: Christian Unity

Today's video features Brian McLaren. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Today's video is courtesy of filmmaker Ryan Pettey, director/editor of Satellite Pictures.

In this video, author and pastor Brian McLaren discusses the idea of surrogate arguments, in which a debate over one thing is really a means for arguing something completely different. According to McClaren, the argument over the age of the earth is one such example, in which an apparent scientific debate is actually a discussion over the nature of religious authority and how previous generations have understood how we should interpret the Bible. Such debates can lead to two crises: one of confidence and one of ethics. While some have the confidence to differ with the views of the generation that raised them in the faith, McLaren points out that some are not able to overcome the ethical challenge of differing with grace and love. When this happens, he notes, the end result is damage to the Church and a retrenching of the views of the older generation. Managing the crises well requires courage of convictions while also respecting tradition and maintaining a gracious spirit. Anything less, is not only unwise, it is also unfaithful.

Commentary written by the BioLogos editorial team.

Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders. He graduated from the University of Maryland with his degrees in English (Bachelor of Arts and Masters). In 2004, he was awarded a Doctor of Divinity Degree from Carey Theological Seminary in Vancouver, BC, Canada, and in 2010, he received a second honorary doctorate from Virginia Theological Seminary. Brian has been active in networking and mentoring church planters and pastors. He is a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest lecturer for denominational and ecumenical leadership gatherings around the world. He is also an accomplished writer and has authored books such as A New Kind of Christianity, The Secret Message of Jesus, and Finding Our Way Again.

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Arni Zachariassen - #64910

September 22nd 2011

I wish these videos were more easy to spread around and share. I’ve got nothing against linking to this website, of course, but I’d really like to embed the video directly on my blog or post it directly on my Facebook or Twitter. It would improve the exposure of Biologos a lot I think.

Cal - #64938

September 23rd 2011

As I see it, Brian McLaren is the antithesis to the religious fundamentalism that has popped up. Both sides are wrong, one points to tradition (and this is prevalent among, *gasp*, protestants) and the other to Novelty. But the promise is to be lead and taught by the Spirit of the LORD.

And when I say tradition, I don’t mean the “tradition of the Apostles” (ie. Scripture) but so-and-so’s lead, be it Calvin, or Luther, or John Paul II.

One who demands YEC is saying so because, and this is in many cases but I will not/ can not say all, the Bible has inadvertently been turned into a mill to find out information. How do we even get an abstract number like 6000 years old? Its from the process of distilling generations from genealogies in a modern, linear mode.

And yet the charges get stuck that those who support evolution are the ones who’ve been seduced by modernism!

Roger A. Sawtelle - #64962

September 24th 2011


You are clearly right.  “Conservatives” who interpret the Biblical text scientifically criticize those who understand the Bible theologically as bowing to human science, when the opposite is true.

Dancing From Genesis - #65026

September 26th 2011

Please tell us when you think actual history begins to be recorded in Genesis.

If the flood account is not legitimate, then at what point in the Bible can we place confidence in the accuracy of the written Word? 

Cal - #65059

September 26th 2011

We’re not talking about the flood and even that has different avenues of understanding.

You’re setting up a false dichotomy over the issue. I think the Scriptures are completely accurate, I just think our understanding may be broken at times and it is over non-essential things. I would argue that Genesis 1-2 is not a direct newspaper account of how creation was made, I would argue there are extra nuances in the flood story and I would argue genealogies work differently in ANE than what we expect of them.

The closest thing to “actual history” is starting with Abraham. I would look up the Wiseman hypothesis in regards to Genesis. It has an interesting twist of perspective; it may not all be right, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

S. Scott Mapes - #65468

October 12th 2011

I have been reviewing this debate, and I appreciate your approach and perspective, Cal.  “Actual history” indeed should be in quotes, because the historical approach that we today (except for thoroughgoing post-moderns) embrace as accurate and factual did not exist until the Enlightenment.  Biblical history serves a theological purpose, and it is from this salvific perspective that the story is told.  There was no concern then, I believe, to meet our scientific appetite for accurate numbers and verifiable data.

G8torBrent - #65115

September 27th 2011

Some of the cool observations from science show that the stories told in the early chapters of Genesis are based in historically verifiable events.

For instance, there is evidence of a regionally widespread flood. Of course that had to happen and people had to have known about it. The Noah story gives context for how God was working through it, why sin is serious business, how God will ultimately not tolerate sin and how living right in the eyes of God means salvation.

Also, recent findings in genome research shows an interbreeding between neanderthal and hominids. Does that remind anyone else of the Genesis stores of the “sons of God” who saw women and intermarried with them?
Dancing From Genesis - #65061

September 26th 2011

Funny that you play fast and loose with early Genesis, but not later Genesis, very instructive, clearly accomodation for specious darwinism and totally unfounded uniformitarian geology when there’s no good reason to do so.

Oh well, tell the kiddies that it means what it says from Abraham on, then watch their eyes glaze over, not a great soul winning strategy, but maybe that’s not your game anyway. 

Do catholics teach that you must be born again as Jesus said?  If so, please cite something for me, I wonder what the pope says about that?

Cal - #65068

September 26th 2011

Where did I say I was catholic? Why do you say I play “fast and loose” with early Genesis? Why do you assume I accept, wholly and unabashedly, tenants of ‘darwininism’, a word that is not synonymous with evolution?

Why are you out looking for a fight, with a quiver full of assumptions to wind up and fire? You assume that I’m saying: “that [Genesis] means what it says from Abraham on’, my contention is that you, if you’re advocating YEC as exactly what is taught from this account [Genesis 1], are not reading the early part of Genesis correctly.

Even Augustine, not ‘accommodating for specious darwinism’, asked about the conundrum, if Genesis 1 is a newspaper account, how there was light if the sun didn’t exist until Day 4. My point is not to make Augustine the lens to read scripture through but that even the earliest brothers in the Church asked similar questions. Is BB Warfield a compromised hack for having accepted the possibility of a long creation order that was guided by the Spirit of God?

And really, I don’t care one way about a “great soul winning strategy”. The Truth alone shall suffice, the Gospel is what brings man to salvation. Speak of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ. All we can do is plant and water, we don’t do anything else. The LORD alone gives the growth

Dancing From Genesis - #65072

September 27th 2011

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and the Word (Jesus) spoke of the the literal Noah’s Flood, so in accomodating the darwinian timeline and uniformitarian geology with no global flood, you make Jesus out to be a liar; that’s the Good News you preach, that’s your soul winning strategy, Jesus, the Word, is a liar. 

Why would anyone want to follow a purported saviour who ‘though ostensibly has been proven a liar about the history of humankind?  Very strange, and according to you, there is no human kind (syngameon), but just evolutionary gradationis from monkey to man and beyond so your logic goes.

You say we evolved from ostensibly lower forms of life such as neanderthal, when but your own classification says he was homo, really right there, of the same syngameon, but because you have yet to acknowledge that Darwin’s term species is meaningless, you cling to darwinian classification as if it’s the Gospel.  Do you know that species is a meaningless term?

Cal - #65087

September 27th 2011

You’re trying to twist my words to fit into your argument. I’d argue there are more nuances to understanding Noah’s flood that should give us a richer picture of the purpose and intent. Jesus never lied, the Word never lies, it is us who fail to understand what the author wrote.

You just want to slam me over the head with assumptions and misrepresentations of views that I may or may not hold. Don’t expect to learn much with that attitude. Lord watch over you brother, and may He guide us both to a better grasp of His face.

Dancing From Genesis - #65090

September 27th 2011

Too nuanced for a child to read and understand?  That flies in the face of the Word.

G8torBrent - #65113

September 27th 2011

What about apocalyptic literature in the Bible? That requires some nuance to fully appreciate.

I think the same could be said for (story) traditions whose origins are 4,000+ years old and pre-date the sort of linear structure that becomes prevalent post-Greek philosophers. It’s unfamiliar to our eyes in that we won’t find a whole lot of similar literary pieces in our bookstores.
Cal - #65119

September 27th 2011

Then was Jesus wrong to speak in parables?

Dancing From Genesis - #65131

September 28th 2011

Surely you’re not serious with that question.

John - #65217

September 28th 2011

Why would you doubt Cal’s seriousness?

Dancing From Genesis - #65210

September 28th 2011

Where do you theistic darwinian evolutionists think was the Garden of Eden, and how long ago do you think Adam and Eve lived, and for how long do you think Adam lived?

John - #65218

September 28th 2011

You know, DFG, if we’re talking about tests of one’s seriousness, your incoherent use of “darwinian” is at the top of the list.

Can you name a non-darwinian evolutionary mechanism, for example?
Dancing From Genesis - #65220

September 29th 2011

All the “evolutionary mechanisms” are non-darwinian, that’s the point oh ye King of Incoherence John, or are you kidding?



Dancing From Genesis - #65225

September 29th 2011

John, where do you think was the Garden of Eden, and how long ago do you think Adam and Eve lived, and for how long do you think Adam lived? 

(Why do you not want to answer these? hahaha)

beaglelady - #65232

September 29th 2011


Perhaps the garden of Eden was in Atlantis.

Dancing From Genesis - #65234

September 29th 2011

Why do you say that?

Dancing From Genesis - #65235

September 29th 2011

Beaglelady, you say Atlantis is fictitious, then you surmise that the biblical Garden of Eden may have been Atlantis, so how can you claim to believe the Bible?  See how your nonsense cooks your goose?

beaglelady - #65248

September 29th 2011

Where is Atlantis? How big is it? How do you hide a continent? Why has there been no underwater archaeology on the place? Where are the artifacts?  If you could come up with any genuine artifacts from Atlantis you could have the attention you crave, not to mention money.

revparadigm - #65328

October 2nd 2011

[All theories here, nothing written in the proverbial stone]

Atlantis was a real city was probably right where Plato said it was, now submerged some 40 miles of the southwest coast of Spain. The kingdom of Atland extended in and out of the Mediterranean…all the way up around England, where writings of Oralinda mentioned.  “Poseidon” was “Sidon”...son of Canaan. The Atland Seafarers were probably the “Merchants of Tarshish” in the Bible…also known as the “Sea Peoples” who sailed eastward after the oceans rose consuming their coastal ports. Personally I do not subscribe to the new age thought line of glorifying Atlantis into some hi-tech super city built by aliens, rather advanced for it’s time…could have had some curricular design to it. But to sit and say you need “genuine artifacts” from Atlantis to even discuss it is quite disingenuous considering all the theories surrounding evolution of humanity without artifacts. Ahh then the old money insinuations.

 How low.

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