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The human memory is an amazing thing. It is essentially unlimited in capacity, yet, the storing and retrieval system is exceptionally buggy, unless carefully trained and disciplined.

One of the hardest lessons I have to keep learning as an educator, and then need to pass on to my teaching assistants is to document every significant conversation with a student, especially if you are making an exception to the syllabus or other policy. Either you or the student (or both) will misremember (accidentally or deliberately) key details of what is agreed upon. As soon as possible after the conversation, I try to send to the student an email laying out the terms of the discussion and ask them to reply to it confirming their agreement to the terms…if I don’t forget because of the next ten things that intrude upon my attentions before getting back to my computer.


I started this blog in late September 2010 in my role as facilitator of the UT Christian Faculty Network as a way of building community and resources for faculty who were unable to come to our weekly gatherings, and realized quickly that being an online asynchronous resource meant that it could reach faculty (and others!) around the world, and that has both borne out and borne fruit, a very exciting development.

After about four and a half years or so of leading the UT group, I have stepped down from that position, effective with the end of this semester. A main reason for doing so is simply to take a break. Another reason is to allow and encourage others to step up and try new ideas. This is something I’ve been planning to do for about a year, so it is neither sudden nor due to a sudden problem in the group.

I will continue to be very active in CFN, and of course, this change will have no impact on the Scholar Redeemer. I just felt it appropriate to communicate to you, the readers, of the change in my role in the group, as evidenced by the updated profile to the right.

I am looking forward to having additional time to focus on other things, including forming and implementing new ideas into my teaching duties, some of which may find their way here.

Please continue to lift our faculty ministry, those at other institutions, and faculty in general up in prayer. We all need it desperately.


ADVENTures Before Christmas, Week 1

Much of the information came from the web, where it has been reposted many times, so I’m not sure of the original author, but the site used is

Advent means ‘coming,’ so it is the time of preparing for the coming of Christ. While it is most closely associated with Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth, for many Christians it is a reminder to anticipate and prepare for His second coming.

Interestingly, the original purpose of Advent was merely a countdown to Christmas, and that’s all. However, just as no modern evangelical pastor can conceive of a sermon that isn’t three points starting with the same letter, people expect everything in a ritual to be full of meaning to bursting, so meanings began to be assigned to various parts of the celebration. As a result of this ad hoc approach to liturgy, there is actually a lot of variation in both symbols and meanings, as you will see.


Today was the first Sunday in Advent, which is the period defined by the four Sundays before Christmas. While the Advent season itself is not prescribed by Scripture, the concept is very much so. Advent is a time for preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Christ’s birth and all it represents.

Throughout Scripture and life there are times of preparation dictated for momentous events. In Scripture, there are only two days in the week that are given names, the Sabbath, and the Day of Preparation, which is the day before the Sabbath where the people were to make all necessary preparations for food and chores that would not be done on the Sabbath.


“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD, “Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”
Proverbs 19:21
“The LORD foils the plans of the nations;
                He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever,
                the purposes of his heart through all generations.
Psalm 33:10-11

In our family, the joke is that “plan” is a four-letter word. I say “plan” the way Fonzie would say “wrong”—like a car trying to start with a bad battery. The word is stuck, firmly, hooked on the epiglottis, with severe tissue damage when it at lasts rips free.

Caring Too Much

This evening, Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend, I received a text message from one of my Teaching Assistants. “Hi, Dr. Wilson. Can you call me when u get a chance? We are having issues in [class]”

I was in the middle of something, away from my computer, and wanted to check email before calling him, to see if there was more information there, as I like to have all of the information possible before discussing it with those involved.

It wasn’t meant to be. About five minutes later, the phone rang. I jokingly reproved him, “I thought you wanted me to call you when I had the chance?”

A Samaritan Family

There was a restaurateur in San Antonio for many years, named Raul Jimenez. He loved his city, and in 1979, started fixing a free Thanksgiving turkey dinner in the downtown convention center initially for senior citizens who were alone and/or unable to cook for themselves. Since then it has expanded to anyone needy in town, and currently serves over 24,000 each Thanksgiving, requiring over 4000 volunteers. Señor Jimenez died in 1998. The tradition has continued, and is a major community event.

On the local news this evening, a diner was interviewed. She was a heavyset Hispanic woman with several facial piercings who, along with her family, had lost their home, and living in some sort of temporary housing. She told the reporter how important it was to spend Thanksgiving together as a family. Her gaze swept around the convention center as she said with deep conviction, “and all of these people are now family.”

The First Proclamation of a United States Thanksgiving

The story of the first Thanksgiving in what would become the United States has become rather political. Regardless, there are important reasons for keeping the story before us. Therefore, in this spirit, I share with you the full and original text of the first Thanksgiving proclamation after the United States was fully an independent nation, written by our first President, George Washington on October 14, 1789, as published in The Massachusetts Centinel, courtesy of

The Importance of the Practice of Thanksgiving

Continuing this week’s theme of thanksgiving, I am beginning to realize why it is so important. According to this article, thanksgiving has an awful lot of papyrus spent on it in the Bible. God thinks it is important.

Yesterday, I said that thanksgiving was a kind of gateway to being able to know and praise God. This is true, but it is more than that.

We humans are created in God’s image. That’s pretty special. We are the ‘teacher’s pet’ of Creation. That easily can and does lead to us thinking rather more highly of ourselves than we ought, much like many teachers’ pets tend to do. This pride was born in Genesis 3, and like a spoiled brat, has made life miserable for the entire family.

Praise and Thanksgiving

I am nearing the end of the month of publishing a daily praise, and it is Thanksgiving week, which works out nicely. But praise and thanksgiving are not the same thing. To praise God is to acknowledge who He is—His attributes, His character, and so on. Thanksgiving is specifically showing gratitude for His actions, in particular those that have been of benefit to me, directly or indirectly.

It is usually easier to first offer thanksgiving than praise. We can see more easily good things He’s done for us even before we really know Him. He often draws us to Himself through blessings, and we recognize and thank Him for that, and it begins to get our attention to He, Himself. As we move from the gift to the Giver, our eyes are opened to the very nature, glory and grandeur of the King, and we become in awe of Him, not just what He’s done for us. And we then begin to praise.

We are One Body

Tonight, I came across the following article, “Muslim Persecutions of Christians: October.” While the source site is a politically based magazine and the article focuses on persecution from followers of Islam, persecutions come from many sides and take many forms. It is imperative that we lift up all of our brothers and sisters in the faith in prayer.

If we really believe that prayer moves the hand of God, and we really believe that the Church universal is one body under Christ, then how can we not? If we will lift up Aunt Bertha’s bunion in our church services, how much more must we lift up those who fear for their safety, their livelihoods and their lives because they confess the name of Christ?


When watching the news, it is increasingly easy to conclude that things are getting worse and doing so faster. This gives rise to a correlated increase in polarization in pretty much any area of life (politics, religion, education, the economy, sports, etc.) as people take sides on issues.

It becomes exceedingly easy therefore to develop an ‘us versus them’ mentality in each of these areas. We can even become so carried away that we start judging the status of someone’s salvation by their position, and concluding someone is lost because of decisions they have made.

Isaac and Ishmael, Together Again

A stray thought popped into my head tonight—apart from the fact that the West has been historically primarily Christian, why have the militant atheists appeared to focus almost exclusively on attacking Christianity? Why not Islam? So, I went to every blogger’s first resource, Google, and did a search for “books atheism Islam,” and was a little surprised to see 8.9 million hits. Apparently, there is no love lost between the militant ‘new’ atheists and Mohammed.

The Selfishness of God

One of the objections people sometimes have to becoming Christians is the arrogance and selfishness of God. He seems to think “it’s all about Him.” Throughout the Bible, He is always talking about His glory, increasing and magnifying it, not sharing it with others and demanding that others surrender theirs to Him. Even Jesus gets in the act at the beginning of His prayer in John 17, shortly before His crucifixion:

“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

It’s as if He’s telling God the Father that it is time for Him to be rewarded for all the humiliation He’s lived with for 33 years. “Come on, Father, I put aside all the perks I’ve had for eternity and made myself comparatively lower than an ant, living with these hard headed rebellious folks. I’m ready to show them who’s Boss, sling some fire and brimstone. That’ll get their attention, the miserable louts.”

The 3:16’s

We all know John 3:16, and many know II Timothy 3:16, but what about the other 3:16’s?

The divisions of the Biblical books into chapters and verses was not handed down by God to the original scribes and authors, but was divided by several groups or individuals during the Middle Ages. (You can read more about it in this article from Probe Ministries, friends of mine.) And while in many cases, the divisions seem to ignore logic and context, it would be interesting to get God’s take on them.

There is also a book I discovered while researching this post (incidentally, it was written by a computer science professor who is also a Christian). While I haven’t read it, it is cool to think that there are others who’ve asked the same question:  “What can I learn from Scripture by just reading a key verse from each book?” Of course, it makes sense to start with one of the most important and well known verses in the entire Bible, where the Gospel is summed up in a concise statement of faith, John 3:16. So, here for your meditation are the 49 “3:16’s.” I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure out why there are only 49 3:16’s if the Bible has 66 books.

While not every verse has immediate deep insightful meaning, it is a little surprising how many do, or how many are part of key events. What is kind of fun is how many of them seem to flow into each other and form a storyline of their own, sometimes with humorous results.

Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

From the “Good Timing” file.

Yesterday, I posted about the encroachment of emotional relativism into the church and its dangers. Today, a friend on facebook posted a link to an article on the condition of sacred music in the church today that sings a similar chorus.

The article, “With Hearts and Minds and Voices” by noted author and pastor John MacArthur bemoans the loss over the last one hundred years of didactic value in music sung and performed during worship services. He was very emphatic to distinguish the content of the songs versus the musical style.


Several weeks ago I posted a commentary about Mormonism and whether or not it might be a cult, which came up as a result of the furor over Mitt Romney as a Mormon presidential candidate. Since that whole episode, the Mormon PR team has covered the country with billboards and other ads promoting their faith. One online ad caught my eye in particular, but not in a favorable light. It had a picture of a very attractive young woman with the quote, “I feel God is proud of me for who I am.” (or something very close to that).

The problem with that ad is a cultural issue endemic in mainstream Christianity and the culture as a whole, and is not unique to the LDS church. Simply put, it is deriving truth from emotion.

God gave us emotions and intuition. In fact, I am a fairly intuitive person much of the time. However, I view our emotions primarily as spice, or seasoning in the decision making process. The “meat and potatoes” of clear thinking are truth, wisdom and logic, in that order.

The Age of Discovery

One of the greatest pleasures of Creation is exploring it. Whether it was the land exploration that occurred for much of human history, or the exploration of the seas during the colonial eras, we have sought out the mysteries of the natural world. Today we are exploring space and the bottoms of the deeps with ever more sophisticated tools and even direct human exploration. Our chemists, physicists, and engineers are exploring the atomic world and learning how to build a molecule an atom at a time.

The Cost of Joy

In Bible Study this week, we looked at John 16: 16-24:
“Jesus went on to say, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’”
“At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?’ They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.’”
“Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.’”

Here, and throughout Scripture, God seems to bind fast together sorrow, grief and suffering inextricably with joy. It seems to be a divine, spiritual version of “no pain, no gain.” This spiritual truth is particularly troubling for the affluent mind.

Joy is not an emotion; it is an attitude, as state of the mind and heart. It is a promised fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), just like another popular fruit of the Spirit:  patience. As most of us know, ‘it is a fearful thing to ask the living God for patience.’ That is one prayer He often joyfully answers…by giving us trials that test and stretch our patience. It is very much like a gym workout, and you know it’s working when you can ‘feel the burn.’ If that is what He does for one Spiritual fruit, it stands to reason that He will do similar for the others.

Vibrant Dance 2: Breakout Session 2: John Walton

On this Remembrance Day (Veterans Day), thank you to all who have said no to self and served this nation. May the Lord lift you up and sustain you for all your days, receiving you into His arms at journey’s end.

{RJW Note:  The final session of the conference was composed of breakout sessions by the various speakers to interact with attendees about the day’s panel discussions. I again attended Dr. John Walton’s session as a TA. It was primarily a Q&A format, so where necessary for context, the gist of the question is presented with the answer immediately following. As before, Genesis 1 and 2 are abbreviated as G1 and G2 respectively. Again, full audio and video of the conference (including the breakouts with the other speakers are available at}

In Revelation, when it declares there is no sea, it is a functionality argument—no more chaos, not no more water.

To have “consistent hermeneutics” is to be a competent reader of what the author writes and an ethical reader of his words (versus how in literary criticism the reader starts out with disbelief). Virtuous readers use their perlocution {how the information is received by the audience} to identify what the human author intended and this can be applied regardless of genre. He is concerned with the label ‘history’ as a genre, it may indicate the subject is real and true but that label doesn’t say how authors communicate their reality. For example, it is not an ethical hermeneutic to apply standards of photography to modern art. It is competent to read a document as intended by the author. We have to understand authors’ conventions, not impose our conventions, but theirs.

Vibrant Dance 2: Panel Discussion 4: Can Young-Earth and Old-Earth Christians Work Together to Build the Kingdom of Christ? What are the foundations for cooperation? What are the current impediments?

{RJW Note:  The fourth and last panel discussion was discussing the tensions among Christians that hold to different views of Genesis, again moderated by Craig Blaising (CB). The panel members were:  TB(eall), JD(uncan), WK(aiser), JR(eynolds), BW(altke), JW(alton). Also Genesis 1 and 2 are abbreviated as G1 and G2 respectively. Again, this post will be in the form of a pseudo-transcript. Due to some duties as a volunteer at the conference, I missed the first 20-25 minutes of this panel. My apologies, however, I think the gist is probably captured here.}

TB:  There are different levels of working together, and so many opportunities to cooperate, but we have need to be aware of and discuss those differences.

JR:  We need to get over worrying about wondering—if you are in love with someone, you are constantly in wonder of them. If you become skeptical or no longer filled with wonder, you no longer are in love {or love is decreasing}. We should always be in wonder about Christ and exploring and asking questions. We need to fight more and support those we agree with in their writing and research; ‘fight’ being a sincere non-acrimonious debate. Need to support young earth creationists with time and treasure to study actual scientific research to see what support exists there. We’re either nasty or wimpy. We need to disagree agreeably and agree disagreeably (i.e., keep things stirred up to keep up the wonder and keep exploring).

Vibrant Dance 2: Panel Discussion 3: Questions for Each Speaker About the Implications of Their Perspective

{RJW Note:  The third panel discussion was interaction based on the previous session, again moderated by Craig Blaising (CB). The panel members were:  TB(eall), JD(uncan), WK(aiser), JR(eynolds), BW(altke), JW(alton). Also Genesis 1 and 2 are abbreviated as G1 and G2 respectively. Again, this post will be in the form of a pseudo-transcript. It was also announced at the end of this session that there WILL be a Vibrant Dance 3 entitled, Created in the image of God: relationship between the brain and mind. No date has been set at this point.}

CB:  Do you see Adam & Eve as historical?

JR:  Yes. Both the Old and New Testaments say so. However, taking them as prototypes, while a bad move, would not kill Christianity, but it is not the way to go.

TB:  ABSOLUTELY. It is a grave problem for the faith if there is no historical Adam.

JW:  Adam’s presence in the genealogies present him as historical, yet the first couple are more importantly archetypal, but they can be simultaneously and without conflict archetypal and historical.

JD:  Yes, based on the New Testament and Genesis 1-3. We need to not find back ways around the text when run into scientific problems.

BW:  Yes. He sees Adam as the first human who had an awareness of God, and thus the need to worship, and an awareness of right and wrong, yet was not up to resisting the adversaries. He’s open to the idea there is more to the story about early humans than is explicitly given in the text. (e.g., Cain’s wife and those who wanted to kill him)

WK:  Yes. Genetics is the hardest challenge so far, but the interpretation of data is too early, and there will be interim problems, but it will shake out finally.

Vibrant Dance 2: The Implications of My Position on the Core Christian Doctrines

{RJW Note:  The second “panel” discussion was really each speaker taking 10 minutes to address the title issue. So this session was not a lot of back and forth but just a serial lecture by each panel member, again moderated by Craig Blaising (CB). The panel members were:  TB(eall), JD(uncan), WK(aiser), JR(eynolds), BW(altke), JW(alton). Also Genesis 1 and 2 are abbreviated as G1 and G2 respectively. Again, this post will be in the form of a pseudo-transcript. Not everyone took the full ten minutes, so some are shorter than others.}

CB:  Looking at the core Christian doctrines, is your view essential to the faith? In other words, if someone holds or does not hold your view, are they missing a core doctrine of faith?

WK:  Look at the Apostle’s Creed and as long as we stick to that, we’re fine. Yet a real implication of having an eternal God is a demand for non-eternal matter. Genesis IS important because it sets up the meta-narrative of the whole of Scripture. Atheists begin with a eternal universe, but the Bible begins with an eternal God, which offers meaning and gives the origin of universe. The universe cannot explain itself. Beliefs about age of earth and length of days are secondary to the fact that God created. By naming things, in ancient times, you claim authority and ownership of them. So therefore speaking things into existence, God claims ultimate authority and by creating us in His image, He imparts special status to us. Other (ancient near east) ANE creation accounts are very different and more materialistic, more like us, than the Bible. The God of the Bible is continuously active, not a Deist or Scientific God that winds things up and steps back to watch it unfold. The Bible makes enormous claims—Christ claims to have created the universe and now rules it. Creation was created for us—its pinnacle. Other ANE views are without purpose for the universe.

Vibrant Dance 2: Panel Discussion 1: Strengths and Tensions in Each of These Interpretations

{RJW Note: The second day of the conference was basically four panel discussions followed by another breakout session. The moderator for each panel was Dr. Craig Blaising (CB). I was able to get the gist of nearly all of the comments, and so will present them as a pseudo-transcript. The panel members were:  TB(eall), JD(uncan), WK(aiser), JR(eynolds), BW(altke), JW(alton). Also Genesis 1 and 2 are abbreviated as G1 and G2 respectively.}

CB:  Do you see G1/2 as one or two accounts? How do they interact?

BW: Agrees with WK on idea that G2 is a continuation and refocus of G1. He discussed the 12 waw’s {a letter in the Hebrew alphabet with a disproportionately large impact on verb tense and meaning with the corresponding controversy as to how it impacts our understanding of the text. It can imply ‘and’ indicating a continuation of activity or thought, or it can change an imperfect verb to perfect and vice versa, akin to making past tense future and vice versa.} as continuous narrative, that there is a creativity present in the narrative and in God’s actions. G1 and 2 are an account based on historical fact, not myth, using creativity to convey spiritual truth.

JD:  G1 gives the “big picture,” and G2 “drills down” to the unique relationship between God and Adam, and said that all of the components of a covenant relationship are there.

JW:  The two chapters are talking about function, order and sacred space. In G2 we don’t need to worry about days, as time is not communicated in the text. God is setting up His center of sacred space in the Garden and setting up the relationships between us and the ground, plants, animals and each other, and setting us up as priests in sacred space where in G1 we are made rulers.

Vibrant Dance 2: Breakout #1: John Walton

{RJW Note:  The last session Friday night was a breakout, with a separate room where each speaker led a Q&A about their plenary talk. I was a “teaching assistant” for Dr. Walton, which basically meant I made sure he got to the right room at the right time, and all needs were met. As his needs were few, I was able to take good notes. I do not have any info on the other breakout sessions, but CD’s, MP3’s and even DVD’s of the entire conference can be found at Since it was a Q&A session, the topics jump around a bit. I will try to make each bit clear either by giving the question then answer or making the topic obvious from the context.

As a reminder, Walton’s position was that the Genesis Creation account was viewed by the ancient Hebrews as the story of inaugurating or consecrating the temple of Creation from chaos to order, with Eden effectively being the Holy of Holies and how God’s Sabbath rest was an active concept that meant He was situated to reign over a Creation brought under His order and control, not a passive kick back and eat Nachos in front of an NFL game in His Lay-Z-Boy.}

The Cosmic Temple Inauguration view is trying to understand/explain how the ancient world actually thought, what their ‘scientific’ understanding was. It in no way says or implies that the Hebrews borrowed from pagan mythology. This is because what the Canaanites believed about deity was different than what the Jews did, but how the Hebrews viewed science was extremely different from us and closer to the Babylonians, much as a modern Hindu’s scientific understanding of the world is much closer to ours than it is to that of ancient Hindus. From ancient near east (ANE) mythology we get information about their understanding of reality. There was a common understanding of reality but different explanations, as given by the different mythologies.

WE believe in a material ontology, which goes back originally to the Greeks, and sees the world in a material sense. Essentially, we believe an object exists if it has mass and volume and/or energy. We are so immersed in this ontology we don’t realize another exists, just as a fish doesn’t realize it’s wet. Science is our culture’s understanding of reality, and naturalism is our culture’s mythology.

Vibrant Dance 2: Duncan: Six 24-Hour Days, A Reformed View

{RJW Note: The final plenary position paper was given by J. Ligon Duncan, the Senior Minister at First Presbyterian Church, Jackson Mississippi, and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. For whatever reason, I didn’t ask him at the conference for his notes. I emailed him a couple of days ago, and have not yet heard back, so tonight’s summary will be exclusively from the notes I took during the talk. I apologize for not getting the something from him at the time. Starting tomorrow, coverage will be over the breakout sessions and panel discussions.}

All Christians must be committed to some form of realism—correspondence and coherence and revelation are all important. Inerrancy is also important. We do have different ways of knowing things, and it is important to be aware of them and their reliability. We need to recognize that ontology precedes epistemology. {The fact that we exist takes precedence over how we know it.} For example, “I know my wife knows me” but sometimes it is hard to explain why I know.

It is impossible not to admit the presence of supernaturalism in Genesis 1, but it doesn’t mean the functions of this world are not capable of study by human activity. In other words, just because I say God sent a thunderstorm, doesn’t mean it is wrong to study meteorology. The fact of God’s action in the world as either an ultimate cause or even a specific one doesn’t preclude the fact of the orderly laws of nature, which we are able to study and have a responsibility to study.

Vibrant Dance 2: Walton: The Cosmic Temple Inauguration View of Genesis One

{RJW Note:  The fifth plenary session was by Dr. john Walton, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College and Graduate School Wheaton, Illinois. Dr Walton handed out a one page summary, including a table laying out his outline of Genesis 1 to everyone, so I did not ask him for a copy of his talk text. Thus, today’s post is a merger of my notes and the handout, which is reproduced here in its entirety. }

The Handout:

Vibrant Dance 2: Waltke: Genesis 1: Science and Holy Scripture

{RJW Note:  The fourth plenary session was by Dr. Bruce Waltke, Reformed evangelical professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, currently at Knox Theological Seminary in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Dr Waltke handed out copies of his slides to everyone, so I did not ask him for a copy of his talk text. Thus, today’s post is a merger of my notes and the information from his slides, which were in two parts to meet the syposium request to share the epistemological and hermeneutical approach used in arriving at his position. Note:  errors in the Hebrew symbols are mine, not Dr. Waltke’s.}

{Note:  the highlighted “Hebrew” is the unedited result of scanning the notes. I will come back and edit it to something much closer in a few hours. I apologize for any inconvenience.}

Part 1:  Waltke’s Epistemology for Knowing Reality
I.                    There are 2 sources of knowing reality:  Revelation and Reason
A.      Reason (aka science) is used for knowing physical ontology by experiment—for example, how can I get to the moon?
I can believe what science says but not believe IN science
B.      Revelation (aka the Bible) is used to know metaphysical ontology (mystery) by faith and Spirit—for example, why is the moon there?
But I do believe IN Scripture

Vibrant Dance 2: Kaiser: Genesis 1 & 2: One or Two Narratives?

{RJW Note:  The third plenary session was by Walter Kaiser, the Colman M. Mockler distinguished Professor of Old Testament and President Emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Again, when I asked for a copy of his notes, he graciously and instantly handed me his copy, complete with handwritten edits, which I have incorporated into this text. The first section below is from my notes from his talk, as it was a last minute verbal addition to comply with a request to share the epistemological and hermeneutical approach used in arriving at the position.}

{Kaiser said there has been an evolution in writing from author intent to reader interpretation, and “Bible Study” suffers accordingly. For example, the act of “reading between the lines” is not reading what is actually written. II Tim 3:16 says that “All {written (the sense given in the Greek)} Scripture is inspired”…so reading between the lines is not inspired. He launched into a brief and justifiable bit of a diatribe against how modern Bible studies consist of everyone just launching into what they think the text “means to them.” It is critical to full understanding of a text to search out and understand the author’s perspective and intent.

Kaiser’s premise is to question the view that Genesis 2 is an alternative Creation account or a contradictory account (a priestly view versus a Yahwehic view). He does not explicitly offer an opinion on age or “literal-ness” of the Creation account, but takes a slightly different tack, and does offer a hint or two regarding his view on the central topic. So without further comment, here is the text of Dr. Kaiser’s talk (all emphases in original, and single numbers in parentheses refers to the verse in the passage containing the quote).}

It appears as if a new or second account of the creation is about to begin in Genesis 2:4b-3:24, for having just completed the creation narrative in chapter one of Genesis, it looks as if all of a sudden we are in a time when plants, animals, and people had not yet been created on the third day as recorded in Genesis 1:11-12. Is this an alternate creation account? Or is this a contradiction between two accounts? What is the solution to this apparent problem?

Vibrant Dance 2: Reynolds: Reconciling the Cosmos: Orthodoxy and Beauty

{RJW Note:  The second position paper given was by Dr. John Mark Reynolds, Professor of Philosophy, Biola University, Los Angeles, California, and founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, a great books program, and fellow Celtophile. As a philosopher, he is a departure from the theologian-heavy lineup and his perspective helps also to define the discussions. Dr. Reynolds also comes from a young-earth perspective.

When I asked him for a copy of his notes as we walked down the hall, he stopped, pulled out a notepad and ripped out a single sheet of paper with a loose handwritten outline and handed it to me. Again, the generosity of these scholars in sharing their work for me to share here is humbling and I am very grateful. It is remarkable to see the different styles of preparation and presentation each uses. Today’s post will constitute a merging of his rough outline with my notes. Any inaccuracies in the substance and intent of his message are mine.}

Dr. Reynolds began by making it clear that even at this conference on faith and science, he was neither theologian nor scientist, and plays neither on TV or movies, as some might wonder given he’s in LA. To begin with offering his epistemological perspective, he defined and discussed the nature of science and then theology. He seemed largely unconcerned with the tensions between the two fields, and appears to be a NOMAist, one who adheres to the idea that they are non-overlapping magisteria (that science and faith answer fundamentally different questions and so do not overlap areas of expertise, so the tensions should be in mostly in appearance than reality). This is my assessment of his views, not an explicit statement by Reynolds.

What is science? It is a likely story of sensory experience that becomes rapidly complicated by philosophical assumptions. {See my 8-part series on “What is Science?”} To ask the question, ‘how to do science?’ is not a science question, but a philosophy question. To cloud it further, if you ask {most} scientists how they do science, their answer is {most likely} different than how they actually do it. Furthermore, scientists do not reject the ‘wrong’ model for the ‘right’ model, but make forward progress by getting rid of one wrong answer in favor of another wrong answer. {but maybe, hopefully, less wrong?} To muddy the waters further, it is possible to adopt the right idea at the wrong time and it could retard the advancement of science.

Vibrant Dance 2: Beall: Genesis 1-2: A Literal Reading

The first position paper presented at Vibrant Dance, Theology Edition, was by Dr. Todd Beall, Professor of Old Testament, Capital Bible Seminary, Lanham, Maryland. An apparent late request to each speaker was to start with a brief overview of their epistemology and hermeneutics in the presentation of their specific interpretation. Dr. Beall provided some notes to the audience to aid in his talk. Due to time constraints, he skimmed some sections. He supports the idea that the earth is a few thousand, rather than billions of years old, also known as “young-earth creationism.”

I have debated over whether to present the position papers with or without comment, and have concluded without. At the end of the series, I will offer commentary on the symposium as a whole, which you are welcome to bronze or tar and feather, at your pleasure.

First, there are some things Beall said in the talk that were outside his notes, so I share them here in the order he shared them, but not in the context of his notes. Beall began by affirming his subscription to the Chicago Statements presented by Blaising, primarily Articles 20-22. Also, he commented that he is less concerned with the age of the earth than with reading Scripture clearly, and that he believes that Origins is a subject area outside of the purview of science, so trying to reconcile science and Creation is pointless {my word not his}. Dr. Beall started off college as a pre-med, so has taken a large amount of science classes. He talked favorably about Darwin and Darwin’s passage on the mystery of the eye. He believes Christians can be of any of the three views (young earth, old earth and theistic evolution), and is willing to fellowship with them—we’ll get to heaven and then someone will have to apologize. (tongue-in-cheek tone)

(Incidentally, let me plug the ABBYY Fine Reader OCR software for its amazing job at converting the scanned image to text with very few corrections—it even got most of the Hebrew mostly correct in one pass!! There do seem to be some places where font and formatting have gotten corrupted. I apologize for any confusion.) Here begins Dr. Beall’s notes.

Does our view of Genesis 1 really matter? Yes, it does. Creation is a powerful witness to God (general revelation: Rom 1:18-21; Ps 19:1). That is why the first few chapters of Genesis are under such attack today.

1.            What does Genesis 1 (and subsequent chapters) actually say?