New Look: The Center for Great Commission Studies

Southeastern’s Drummond Center for Great Commission Studies has a snazzy new website, full of content on upcoming SEBTS mission trips, prayer points for current missionaries and church planters, and other great resources. Check out the new look here. Visit regularly in order to keep up to date with the missions efforts of SEBTS faculty and students.

Adam’s Fall as a Transcendent Federal Event

Over the last several posts we surveyed the answers given by evangelicals to two questions: 1) did animal death exist before the fall of Adam and Eve?, and 2) what was the impact of Adam’s fall on the rest of Creation? My last post summarized the answers provided by young-earth creationists (YEC) and by old-earth creationists (OEC) for the second question. This blog looks at the argument that Adam’s fall was a transcendent federal event.40 questions creation evolution

In his The End of Christianity, William Dembski presents a view of Gen 3 that contains elements of both the young-earth and old-earth positions. On the one hand, like the YEC proponents, Dembski argues that the consequences of Adam’s fall were universal. Death and disease find their origin in the original sin of Gen 3. Other the other hand, Dembski also agrees with OEC proponents that geologists and astronomers are basically correct in their estimation of the age of the cosmos. The earth is over four billion years old while the universe has been around more than 13 billion years. In addition, paleontologists are right when they describe the ancient world as one of predation and suffering. He finds the typical YEC arguments as examples of special pleading. So Dembski simultaneously affirms a suffering ancient earth and a literal Adamic fall which occurred relatively recently. How does he reconcile the two affirmations?

First, Dembski contends that the Bible presents creation from two perspectives: the divine conception and the mundane realization. He uses the terms kairos and chronos to distinguish the two ways of perception. Gen 1 presents Creation as God’s perfect plan for the world (the kairos view). Gen 2-3 present how God’s plan unfolded in time, and how sin impacted what God had created (the chronos view).

Next, Dembski points to the federal relationship which Adam and Jesus respectively have over the human race. Adam, as the first head of the human race, plunged humanity to sin and ruin. Christ, as the last Adam, represents a new humanity saved by His atoning blood. Dembski argues that the impact of both men is cosmic and trans-historical. The saving effect of Christ’s death went both forward and backward in time. Old Testament saints were saved by the blood of Christ just like New Testament believers. Dembski argues that Adam’s rebellion had the same transcendent (and hence retroactive) effects. He explains,

By tacitly rejecting such backward causation, young-earth creationists insist that the corrupting effects of the Fall be understood proactively (in other words, the consequences of the Fall only act forward into the future). By contrast, I will argue that we should understand the corrupting effects of the Fall also retroactively (in other words, the consequences of the Fall can also act backward into the past). Accordingly, the Fall could take place after the natural evils for which it is responsible. (50)

Thus, argues Dembski, Adam’s sin retroactively produced the eons of natural evils evidenced in the fossil records. In the next post we’ll look at the position of evolutionary creationist Denis Lamoureaux. (Adapted from 40 Questions about Creation and Evolution.)

This blog was cross posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

A Few Thoughts on Selma (Part 2)

Last week, Walter Strickland gave his thoughts on the movie “Selma” and especially the historical and cultural impact of Christianity in the civil rights movement. This week, Nathan Finn gives his take, part 2 in our reflections on the movie.  

From the moment I watched the first trailer for “Selma,” I knew this was a movie I wanted to see as soon as possible. To have the opportunity to watch it with my colleague Walter Strickland and some other friends from Southeastern Seminary was a rare treat. We watched the movie together and then enjoyed dialoging about it over coffee afterwards. (To put aside this particular movie for a moment, I’d encourage readers to watch a good movie with a group of friends and then discuss the film’s implications from the perspective of a Christian worldview.)

I admit up front that I did not come to “Selma” as a casual moviegoer. First of all, I am a Gen-X American who was raised on “this side” of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. I was taught in school that Martin Luther King Jr. and his colleagues were right and that their vision for our nation was a good one. However, that does not mean I was “post-racial” or “colorblind” in my views. In recent years, God has increasingly shown me many ways that I have personally benefitted from structural racism and (often implicitly) embraced ethnocentric assumptions. I am a white southerner, and my world is still shaped by racial realities.

I am also a trained historian and an elder of an urban church. As a historian with expertise in twentieth-century American Christianity, I have read widely about the Civil Rights Movement; it is, in fact, a favorite topic of study. In my church, my fellow pastors and I regularly wrestle with how our predominantly white, educated, and affluent congregation can better reflect the diversity of God’s kingdom—and of our neighbors. This is especially important because the neighborhood in which we gather is predominantly African-American, less educated, and less affluent, though gentrification trends are gradually altering the demographics.

History Coming Alive

I really appreciated how “Selma” brought history to life. Yes, I know that some folks are exercised that the movie misrepresented Lyndon Johnson’s views on the March on Selma and the Voter Rights Act, ignored Malcolm X’s conversion to Islam, and made progressive white clergymen sound like evangelicals. I’m not really bothered by these historical errors. Movies—even those rooted in past events—are primarily works of art, as director Ava Duvernay has rightly pointed out in interviews. I expect inaccuracies in any historical movie, and in this case, they did not blunt the impact of the film for me.

Like probably many readers, I have watched lots of archival footage of Martin Luther King’s speeches. I have read many of his writings. I have watched numerous documentaries, including the award-winning PBS documentary “Eye on the Prize” (highly recommended). But none of that was quite like watching “Selma.” In a very real sense, I felt the impact of structural segregation, individual racism, civil disobedience, and faith-inspired activism in a way I never have before because of the power of the medium of film and the high quality of the product itself. The cast was outstanding, especially David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo, who play Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, respectively.

As a historian, I appreciate the sympathetic, but not hagiographical portrayal of King. “Selma” depicts King as a man driven by faith, but struggling with personal doubts. He is a man whose life was saturated with the biblical worldview, but was also marred by moral failure. In both of these respects, he was not unlike many biblical figures such as Moses, Abraham, David, and Paul. Furthermore, the movie helpfully shows that King was not a solitary prophet; others surrounded him and played crucial, if lesser-known roles in the movement. Coretta King, Ralph David Abernathy, and especially John Lewis receive well-deserved attention in this movie.

I also appreciate that the movie does not depict a uniform Civil Rights Movement. As Walter pointed out in his earlier review, there was tension and competition between groups like King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and other organizations not mentioned in the film. The Civil Rights Movement further fractured in the years following the March on Selma and especially King’s murder three years later, and not all of the fractures were as influenced by Christianity as the SCLC was during King’s lifetime.

This White Man’s Burden

Few films have moved me emotionally as much as “Selma.” The fact that I watched the movie in a theater that was predominantly filled with African-Americans moviegoers contributed to my emotions. They laughed during lighter moments. They wept when Jimmy Lee Jackson was murdered and when marchers were beaten unconscious by state troopers. They “talked back” to the movie. And they applauded when it was all over. I fought off tears throughout the whole film—and lost that particular battle several times.

I think white southern evangelicals should watch “Selma” for the same reasons I think they should watch “The Help,” another relatively recent movie that focuses on the theme of race in the mid-20th-century South: the struggle for racial equality is as much a part of our history as it is that of our African-American friends. Of course, society in general was segregated because of white supremacist assumptions. But we need to remember that white believers were complicit in that structural racism—even if implicitly. Too many of us have continued to embrace a thin view of the gospel that is blind to some of the ways that our black friends continue to struggle with racial equality. It’s easy to argue for a colorblind society when most of the blinders are painted white.

When we watch a movie like “Selma,” it reminds us why so many of our black neighbors respond the way they do to the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner. It reminds us why so many of them are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage and voted joyfully for Barack Obama. It reminds us why phrases like “reverse racism” and “Welfare Queen” are so profoundly offensive and why affirmative action is so appreciated. It reminds us why they think Fox News is anti-Christian propaganda. Neighbor-love demands that we hear people’s hearts, try to understand them, and meet them where they are—even when we may never reach total agreement on all of the issues that separate us.

To be crystal clear, the gospel is most definitely the solution to racial strife in America. But let’s not kid ourselves, my fellow white evangelicals. If we appeal piously to the gospel without committing ourselves to the hard work of authentic cross-cultural friendships and open dialogs, policy debates, social justice ministries, intentional outreach, and repentance, prayer and service to those in need, then our gospel is a slogan that deflects rather than a truth that transforms. There is no gospel when there is no change. “Selma” reminds me of how far we’ve come, and how far we still need to go—how far I still need to go.

I am thankful for the life and witness of Martin Luther King Jr. and those with whom he partnered, both famous and unknown. And I am thankful that “Selma” is in theaters at this particular moment in our nation’s history. Please, go and watch this movie and then wrestle with all the emotions it evokes—it will be good for your soul.