The Power of Story

creativity incRecently I read Creativity, Inc, the memoir of Ed Catmull. You might not recognize the name, but you are familiar with the company he runs: Pixar. Catmull is co-founder of the studio, and has been overseeing it since the early days as part of George Lucas’ empire.

In the book, Catmull describes the unwavering dedication to story as a fundamental belief of Pixar. Sure, they are also on the cutting edge of computer graphics—having the honor of releasing the first computer animated movie—but slick animation means nothing if the story is flawed. He notes several times when a movie’s development had to be paused or scrapped due to a weak story, costing the company millions. That is how important story is to Pixar.

Power of Stories

A story is a powerful thing. It can bring us to tears, have us cheer with joy, and move us to do mighty things. And some of the best stories are ones that are long-lasting: fairy tales we tell children, the works of Shakespeare, and classic movies of the 20th century. Box office sales and popularity don’t make something a great story; rather, it is the emotions you feel after you hear or read or watch the story.

Stories make us want to be better, to live better lives, and to do heroic things. They enable us to quit our job, to succeed in our career, and to pursue our dreams. They inspire us to love our families more, stand up for truth, and to seek justice.

Good stories are hard to come by today. Some stories rely too much on CGI effects, slick marketing, or celebrity endorsements. But the meat of the story is weak, convoluted, or redundant. And when a good story is discovered, it is milked for all its worth with sequels, movie rights, and merchandising.

inside outInside Out

Fortunately for us, Pixar remains dedicated to the power and impact of story. Sure, they still put out sequels and overdo the merchandising opportunities1 But Pixar is consistently creating original stories that move both the heart and the imagination.

Last night, my wife and I saw Inside Out. This movie will likely go down as one of the top Pixar stories ever, and by far the most emotional. Director Pete Docter—who also helmed 2009’s Up—has a true gift for making animation not only come alive, but to make the animation truly emotional. Who knew that you could come up with a compelling story, and then present that story, almost all of which takes place inside a tween’s mind?

And the Pixar short that came before the movie was just as good. Called Lava, it is a love song from one volcano to another. In just a few minutes, Pixar makes you care for and cheer for a dormant volcano to find love. I never thought I would ever write a sentence like that, but that is the power of story, and ultimately the gift that Pixar has with stories.

lava pixar


  1. After all, they are part of Disney. 

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failure of sons in the book of samuel

The Failure of Sons in the Book of Samuel

At the end of 1 Samuel 7 we see a summary of Samuel’s ministry (1 Samuel 7:13–17). He has judged Israel for years, he has subdued the Philistines, and he has even led the nation in a victory at Ebenezer.

Yet when we get to 1 Samuel 8, we see that his sons are duds. At the beginning of 1 Samuel 8, we are transported into the future: Samuel is advanced in age and he sets up his two sons to serve in his place. Yet these two sons prove to be clones of Eli’s sons:

But his [Samuel’s] sons did not follow his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice. (8:3 NIV)

Instead of following in the footsteps of their famous father, they follow the path of Eli’s sons. These men cannot provide leadership to Israel; you can’t have a judge who perverts justice!

This should not surprise the reader of the Old Testament—several times in the text the sons of great leaders follow a path of dishonesty and corruption. The failure of Eli’s sons lead to the emergence of Samuel. The grandson of Moses set up idols in Dan. Joshua and all the judges were all one-time leaders; there was never a passing of leadership by generations in a family.

In 1 Samuel 8, the people react to Samuel’s sons by crying out for a king. Much is made of them desiring a king to be like other nations, but there is probably an additional desire for stability in leadership. With a dynasty, Israel would always know who their leader would be, instead of waiting for one to arrive.

Yet these future dynasties found Samuel don’t fare much better. Saul and his sons die the same day on Mount Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). David’s lineage is a great mess in 2 Samuel, filled with incest (2 Samuel 13:1–22), infighting (2 Samuel 13:23–39), and an attempted military coup by the heir apparent (2 Samuel 15).

Summary

Family lineage does not fare well in the book of Samuel. Sons fail to live up to the reputation and faithfulness of their fathers. In the book of Samuel, we see several times in which the nation cannot put her trust in these sons.

But there is a glimmer of hope: in 2 Samuel 7, a son is promised to David. This son will be taught by God, will be like a son to God, and will reign forever. This son will succeed where all other sons have failed. He will be the true king and true son—the Lord’s chosen one (Messiah).

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How Gnosticism Shapes the Christian Story

This post is part of the 100 Events that Shape the Christian Story series.

Introduction

One of the earliest wayward teachings within Christian circles is the heresy now known as Gnosticism. From gnosis, which means “knowledge,” this term refers to a broad collection of teachings that lasted until the 4th century CE.

Gnosticism held to a dualistic view of the cosmos, with a negative—even evil—view of the physical and a positive view of the spiritual. God is impersonal and unknowable. The physical world was not made by God, but rather by a demiurge1 as part of the Fall. Mankind is viewed as a spiritual being—a divine spark—trapped in a physical body. Salvation from the physical world is attainable through secret knowledge (gnosis).

Importance

The Christian form of Gnosticism likely developed in the early 2nd century CE.2 Early Gnostic teachers include Basilides, Marcion, and Valentinus.3

To combat these false teachings, the early Church Fathers wrote extensively on the subject. Justin Martyr wrote a treatise—now lost to history—on early heretics, in which he condemns early Gnostic teachings. The historian Eusebius wrote about Gnosticism in Ecclesiastical History. Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen all wrote against Gnosticism.

False teachings like Gnosticism helped the Church Fathers think through what Christ & Scripture taught; these challenges helped the church determine what they believe and why they believe it.

Impact

While the Gnostic movement died out in the 4th century, the influence of Gnosticism can be felt in some strains of Christianity even today. The concepts of dualism, inner spark, and secret knowledge are found in popular self-help spirituality. Even the Matrix trilogy relied on Gnostic teachings.

More importantly, the writings of the Church Fathers to combat Gnosticism and other heresies helped strengthen the orthodox views on the nature of the Trinity, man, and salvation. By facing these false teachings, the Church reaffirmed what they believed and why they believe it.

For Further Reading:

[alert-note]This post is part of the 100 Events that Shape the Christian Story series. [/alert-note]


  1. A lesser spiritual being. 

  2. There is no direct New Testament teaching against Gnosticism, though some think certain NT passages contain anti-Gnostic teachings. They include Paul’s command to Timothy to “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.” (1 Timothy 6:20–21). 

  3. The early Church Fathers viewed Simon Magus—mentioned in Acts 8—as a Gnostic, but that is not supported in the New Testament. 

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battle between yahweh and dagon

The Spiritual Battle between Yahweh and Dagon

When we talk about Old Testament narratives, we often focus on the people and places found within the stories. Samson did this, David did that. Yet we cannot forget that within the Bible there is always a spiritual dimension to these stories. God is found working in each narrative; sometimes behind the scenes, and other times right out in the open.

In the conflicts between the Philistines and Israel—found in Judges and 1 Samuel—there is a greater spiritual battle taking place. On Israel’s side is Yahweh, who rescued them from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. On the side of the Philistines is Dagon, the mightiest of all the Philistine gods.1 In Judges and 1 Samuel, three conflicts between Israel and the Philistines can be seen as a struggle to find the stronger god.

Samson vs. Dagon

In Judges 16, the mighty Samson’s hair is cut, his strength leaves him, and he is captured by the Philistines. Samson’s eyes are gouged out and he is taken to the Philistine city of Gaza.

In Gaza, Samson is put on display in the temple of Dagon (Judges 16:23). The Philistine leaders gathered for a religious feast to Dagon, and the captured Samson served as proof of Dagon’s might and his faithfulness to the Philistines (v. 24).

While performing for the Philistine leaders, Samson calls to God one last time, asking for a final burst of strength (v. 28). Gripping the supporting pillars of Dagon’s temple, Samson collapses the temple, killing himself and all the Philistine leaders.

In the midst of a festival to Dagon, while also celebrating a conquered foe, Yahweh proves his power. Yahweh has an agent of his infiltrate the fortress of Dagon his enemy, so that he could bring it down from within. In the battle between Yahweh and Dagon, the score is 1–0.

Capture of the Ark

The next conflict between Dagon and Yahweh occurs at the start of 1 Samuel. The armies of Israel and the Philistines face off at Aphek, with the Philistines having the early upper hand (1 Samuel 4:2). Israel sought to turn the tide of the battle, so they called for Eli’s sons to bring the Ark of the Covenant. To them, the Ark was a talisman: a relic whose presence within the camp would bring them God’s favor.

But that’s not how God works. The resulting battle was a wipeout, with all Israel either laying dead on the battlefield or running all the way home (1 Samuel 4:10). Eli’s sons are killed, and the Ark is captured.

Ironically, it is the Philistines who recognize the true power of Yahweh. When they hear that the Ark is in Israel’s camp, they pass along this warning:

Woe to us! Woe can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. (1 Samuel 4:8)

When the Philistines return from the battle, they place the Ark in the temple of Dagon in Ashdod (1 Samuel 5:1).2 In the ancient cultures, it was common for a victorious army to bring the image of a vanquished deity into their own gods temple.3 This proved tangible proof of the conquering god’s power over the fallen one, just as the conquering army was stronger than the defeated one. It was also seen as a way to commandeer the power of the conquered deity: in this case, the Philistines viewed that Dagon would absorb Yahweh’s power into his own.

But this symbolism of Dagon ruling over Yahweh’s Ark did not work out for the Philistines. The day after installing the Ark in Dagon’s temple, Dagon’s statue is found prostrate, as if it were worshipping Yahweh’s Ark. The priests quickly remedy this embarrassing situation, but the next day it gets worse: Dagon is broken and bowing before the Ark. Dagon is beheaded, and his head and hands are found almost out the door.4

The power of Yahweh is felt outside the doors of Dagon’s temple: both Ashdod and Gath would physically feel the power of Yahweh against them (1 Samuel 5:6, 9).5 By the time the Ark reaches Ekron, the Philistines want to get rid of this prize of war.

Eventually it is decided that the Ark must return to Israel. Yes, this means giving the enemy a prized possession, but the Philistines have learned firsthand that Yahweh cannot be contained or controlled. There is to be no god before Yahweh, and that includes Dagon—even inside his own temple! And if Dagon cannot protect them, who will? Dagon: 0, Yahweh: 2.

David vs. Goliath

The third battle between Dagon and Yahweh is the most famous: the battle between David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). The story is simple: the massive Philistine soldier Goliath is killed by the young Israelite shepherd boy David. But the underlaying spiritual battle between Yahweh and Dagon is the battle we are more concerned about.

For 40 days, Goliath challenged anyone from Israel to come and fight him. This was representative battle—common in the ancient world—in which one soldier from each side would fight to the death. The winner would prove that the gods were on his side, as well as on the side of his army. So the battle was not really between two soldiers, but between the two gods whom the soldiers represent.

When an Israelite finally accepts Goliath’s challenge, it is not Saul the Israelite giant and king, but rather a young shepherd boy named David. Goliath is offended at the choice, and he begins cursing David in the name of his god Dagon (1 Samuel 17:43). David, too, sees this battle as spiritual warfare: Goliath has committed blasphemy—a capital offense—and David will be the one to carry out the sentence (1 Samuel 17:26).

In a scene that echoes 1 Samuel 5, the representative of Dagon falls prostrate before and is beheaded by the representative of Yahweh. Yahweh is again proven greater than Dagon, winning this battle before the other could even make a move. Dagon: 0, Yahweh: 3.

Summary

When we discuss the Old Testament narratives, we must remember to pay attention to the action behind the scenes. These three stories point to the greater battle between Yahweh and the Philistine god Dagon. And in these stories, Yahweh vanquishes his foe handily.


  1. Not much is known about Dagon; he could have been the god over grain, or even a fish-god (think merman). He was the father of Baal, who is the most significant false god in the Old Testament. 

  2. Remember, they couldn’t use the temple of Dagon in Gaza, since it lay in ruins. 

  3. This is also seen in the Samson story, with Samson serving as a representative of Yahweh. 

  4. Keith Bodner provides a rich description of this account: “It is as though Dagon was attempting to flee (from his own house!), yet the torso is pulled back, but the hands remain—because the ’hand’ of the LORD is heavy on the hands of Dagon.” (Bodner, 1 Samuel, 52)  

  5. The identity of these physical afflictions is unknown: tumors, bubonic plague, and even hemorrhoids have been suggested. The final suggestion is captured in the most amazing way by the King James translators: “they had emerods in their secret parts.” 

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Living a new life in the midst of the old

Living a New Life in the Midst of the Old

The turning point of the New Testament—and the entire Bible—is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It completely changes things: fishermen turned into preachers and healers; men who once fled now stood up bravely; and Jews and Gentiles are willingly being arrested and killed for their faith. The resurrection of Jesus changes things.

N.T. Wright notes how this change looked for the first century Christians, who were living in the midst of the Roman Empire:

Jesus the Messiah is risen from the dead! A new world has come into being, and within that new world all kinds of new possibilities are now open.

This was the mood in which the early Christians—despite the Roman Empire’s best effort to persecute them and stamp out the movement—began to live lives of generosity, caring for the poor, and tending the sick, including people with whom they had no connection either through family or through work. They realized, as they worshipped the God they saw in Jesus and celebrated his good news, that a new way of being human had been launched. They looked at impossibilities and prayed their way through them. They were mocked and vilified, attacked and driven out of communities. But the work went on. New things happened. People saw the difference. The resurrection of jesus launched a new, and newly integrated, way of life. (Wright, Simply Good News, p. 116, emphasis original).

The resurrection and exaltation of Jesus calls for a new way of living for his followers. There are to reflect new behaviors, living out the character traits of love, compassion, and forgiveness. They are also to put aside the character traits of the former way of living. As Write notes:

All that stood in the way of justice and peace—all the selfish concerns, petty jealousies, ambitions and rivalries and sheer human nastiness—belonged to the old world, to the old age that had been superseded by the new world of Easter. The power of evil that had lent its weight to injustice and oppression for so many centuries had been defeated on the cross. (Wright, 116).

Christ calls his followers to put away the old manner of living and to embrace a life filled with love and compassion. This is what Paul is presenting to his readers in Colossians 3, and it will be the focus of this Sunday’s sermon at North Baptist Church. I’d love for you to join us at 9 am as we look at The Identity & Mindset of a Christian from Colossians 3:1–4.

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Hannah's Prayer

Hannah’s Prayer: A Hymn of Cosmic Praise

In the opening chapters of 1 Samuel, the reader is immersed in a domestic dispute: the children of Elkanah’s one wife is making Hannah, his barren other wife, jealous. But the narrator does not describe Hannah’s mood in trite terms; the lack of a child is a painful void in Hannah’s life.

Barrenness in the Bible

Barrenness is a burden endured by several women in the Bible: Sarah (Genesis 16:1), Rachel (Genesis 30:1), Manoah (Judges 13:2), and the Shunammite (2 Kings 4) in the Old Testament, and Elizabeth (Luke 1:7) in the New Testament. In each story, God is shown to be the Giver of Life, providing a child when all hope seems lost. Like these other stories, Hannah’s son is an unexpected, but much appreciated, gift from God.

Hannah’s Prayer: God is Faithful

When Hannah brings little Samuel to Shiloh to serve God, she prays a joyous prayer to God. Recorded in 1 Samuel 2:1–10, this prayer is a testimony to the faith found in Hannah. Moreover, it highlights the faithfulness of God. Echoes of this prayer can be found in Psalm 113 and in the Magnificat (Mary’s prayer in Luke 1:46–53).

Several lines in this prayer serve as overarching themes in the book of Samuel. First, Hannah’s poetic prayer, describing how she exults in the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1), echoes the poetry and psalms of David. Second, Hannah describes the lowering of the proud (2:3–4) and the exalting of the anointed (v. 10). These actions are not done by people, but rather by God himself (v. 7). This theme plays out several times in Samuel:

  • Downfall of Eli & sons / Exalting of Samuel
  • Downfall of Samuel’s sons / Exalting of Saul
  • Downfall of Saul / Exalting of David
  • Downfall of Goliath / Exalting of David

Curiously, the word translated as “his anointed” (1 Samuel 2:10) appears in the Bible for the first time here. So Hannah’s prayer introduces the theme of the Lord’s anointed mere chapters before David is anointed.

The theme of God being the author of death and life is also introduced here (1 Samuel 1:6). God takes the life from several main characters in this book: Eli & sons, Saul, David’s unnamed son (2 Samuel 12), and David’s son Absalom (2 Samuel 18). Yet God also gives life: Hannah is given Samuel plus 5 additional children (1 Samuel 2:21)!

Hannah’s Prayer: God Has No Equal

The entire structure of Hannah’s prayer is a testimony to the faithfulness and incomparability of God. Hannah first gives personal reasons (1 Samuel 2:1–3) for God’s faithfulness: God has saved her! She moves on to historic accounts (2:4–8b) of God’s faithfulness: time and time again God has delivered his people! Finally, she moves to a cosmic view (2:8c–10) of God’s faithfulness: God rules the cosmos, and who can stand in his way?

Summary

Hannah’s prayer is a celebration of God’s faithfulness in her life by giving her a son. But, more importantly, it is a powerful psalm of praise to the cosmic God who is faithful to his people. This prayer properly sets the stage for the rest of the narrative in 1 Samuel.

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two summaries of church history

Two Brief Summaries of 2,000 Years of Church History

Church history is important. Not only is it our family story, but today’s Christians continue a story that can be traced all the way back to the original disciples of Christ.

One obstacle in learning church history is the wealth of information. There is simply too much stuff going on in 2,000 years of history—including important events, people, and doctrinal disputes. Recently, two top church historians sought to provide a comprehensive yet brief summary of church history.

In 5 Minutes

First is Stephen Nichols, who is President of  Reformation Bible College. His podcast, Five Minutes in Church History, is a remarkable resource for anyone interested in the Christian story; he is always able to make the events and people in church history come alive.

In the 100th episode of his podcast, Nichols summarizes 2,000 years of church history in 5 minutes. You can take a listen to the episode or read a transcription.

In 1000 Words

Over on the Crossway blog, Gerald Bray attempts a similar feat as Nichols. Bray, who serves as research professor at Beeson Divinity School, is focused on the development of theology throughout church history. He notes how the church first focused on Christ, then on the relationship between the parts of the Trinity. Be sure to read this concise yet thorough post.

Conclusion

Although both summaries are brief and leave out names, dates, and places, both capture the essence of the Christian story as found in church history. Understanding the journey of the followers of Christ in the past helps us navigate our journey as Christ’s followers in the present. This is why I am grateful for men like Nichols and Bray, who provide helpful summaries of church history in accessible, yet rich, formats.

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failure of dan and grandson of moses

The Failures of Dan and the Grandson of Moses

 

At the end of the book of Judges, the story moves away from individual judges and, instead, turns to random sins throughout the tribes. In Judges 18, the narrator describes the sins of the tribe of Dan.

Failures of Dan

In Judges 18:1, the narrator reveals that Dan is looking for an inheritance among the tribes. This means land. They were looking for their spot to settle in the Promised Land. This is not because they were not given an inheritance, but that they never captured it.

In Joshua 19:40–46, Dan is assigned specific cities to be their possession. If you have read the book of Judges, some of these villages may sound familiar: they are all within Philistine territory. So Dan’s land possession is occupied by the Philistines!

We can assume that Dan tried to capture this territory and failed(( Joshua 19:47; Judges 1:34)), leaving Dan without land. It also leaves the Canaanites and, later, Philistines in their villages, within striking distance of the center of Israel—an issue that will continue to haunt Israel in 1 Samuel.

Returning to Judges 18, the narrator describes how the tribe strikes for the northern region of the Promised Land. There they find the town of Laish, which they conquer and rename Dan, claiming it as their new inheritance.

As the Danites establish their new city, the narrator describes their new system of worship:

And the people of Dan set up the carved images for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. (Judges 18:30)

Who is this man?

That’s right, Jonathan—a direct descendant of Moses—is installed as the Levite in charge of the idols in the city of Dan. This is how far the tribes have fallen since the glory days of the Exodus: the descendants of Moses have become the personal priests of a rogue tribe, and will offer sacrifices to these idols.

Later Jewish scribes were so horrified at this failure by a descendant of Moses that they intentionally inserted a N (nun) into the name, so it reads Manasseh. Modern English translations note this in the footnotes, but KJV retains the misspelling in the text.

Takeaway

The author of Judges is providing a compelling argument for not only faithful, centralized leadership; he is arguing for faithful leadership that can survive generations. Israel can’t survive a cycle of good and bad leaders; they need a succession of leaders who are faithful to God and will lead the people in the ways of the Lord. As we see in 1 Samuel, this does not happen with Eli or Saul, but it has a chance with David.

This story also places Dan as an early center of rebellion within Israel. Later in Israel’s history, Dan hosts one of the two golden calves created by Jeroboam to keep people from worshipping in Jerusalem.

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100 Events that Shape the Christian Story

How George Whitefield’s Preaching Shapes the Christian Story

This post is part of the 100 Events that Shape the Christian Story series.

Introduction

George Whitefield is considered by many to be one of the greatest evangelists in the church’s story. During his ministry, which spanned four decades and two continents, Whitefield spoke to hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people. Benjamin Franklin once calculated the size of a crowd listening to Whitefield in Philadelphia to be 30,000 people!

But it was one key day in 1739 that would forever change Whitefield’s ministry—as well as the role of evangelism in the Christian story.

By this time, Whitefield was already an acclaimed preacher in England. He also served as a missionary to Georgia, at that time a newly formed colony in the Americas. He returned to England in 1739 to finish his ordination in the Church of England and to raise money for an orphanage he started in Georgia.

While seeking more opportunities to preach in England, Whitefield heard of the ministry of Howell Harris. Harris, an unordained Welshman, spoke to large working-class crowds at fairs. Whitefield saw this as a model for reaching more people with the Gospel—people who might never hear the Gospel otherwise.

On February 21, Whitefield preached to a crowd of 2000 in a field at Kingswood, Bristol. He returned the next Sunday—after already preaching 3 times that day in Bristol—to preach to a crowd of 10,000 at Kingswood. Whitefield describes the day in beautiful terms:

The trees and hedges were full. All was hush when I began; the sun shone bright, and God enabled me to preach for an hour with great power, and so loudly that all, I was told, could hear. (Quoted in Dallimore, George Whitefield, Kindle loc. 638)

george whitefield preaching

Importance

What started at Kingswood in 1739 would come to define Whitefield’s method of operating the rest of his life. Whether in England or America, Whitefield would preach to the common man where they were: in the fields or streets. The benefits were great: he could reach more people, especially those who would never enter a church.

This method of preaching inspired thousands to give their life to Christ. Everywhere he went, Whitefield fanned the flames of revival. This revival, found in both England and America, is now referred to as the First Great Awakening.

Impact

Whitefield grasped the importance of open-air evangelism in reaching people who were not inside the church. Billy Sunday and Billy Graham are the most notable heirs to the role of Whitefield in the last 100 years.

More importantly, Whitefield focused his ministry on the common man. Working around the schedules of the coal miners at Kingswood, Whitefield accommodated to their schedule. And in his travels in America, Whitefield preached in large cities and small villages alike. This burden for the common man is shared today by ministries focused on rural America, cultural missionaries focused on small minority groups, and workplace chaplains ministering to factory workers.

Conclusion

George Whitefield’s first sermon to the workers in Kingswood changed the direction and method of his ministry forever. The impact can hardly be exaggerated, as Whitefield’s ministry impacted large numbers on an international level. Moreover, Whitefield’s preaching helped fan the flames of the First Great Revival, an important movement of God in his story in America.

Further Reading:

[alert-note]This post is part of the 100 Events that Shape the Christian Story series.[/alert-note]

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pastors and science conference

My Reflection on Pastors and Science Conference

This past week I attended a conference on science for pastors. Held at Gordon College, this small-scale conference featured tons of reading, even more lectures, and plenty of learning around the intersection of science and faith. We learned from professors and scientists who work for NASA, Oak Ridge Labs, and MIT. And we even got to try things out, using microscopes to look at shale and experimenting with DNA and bacteria.

 

After a few days of decompression—both for my body and my brain—here are a few big-picture ideas I took away from the pastors and science conference.

Science is not scary

In some Christian circles, there is this apprehension towards science, almost as if science is scary. But after I learned from several research scientists this week, that is far from the truth.

From the unfathomable scale of the universe to the utterly complex nature of DNA and genetics, science is big, bold, and incredibly intricate. The scientists making these discoveries are ordinary people: they work hard, think deep, and try to better understand their area of research. But boy are they passionate! One presenter has studied DNA, specifically of bacteria, for most of his career. To hear him talk about e coli you would think it was the most exciting topic ever! And as he explained the intricacies and capabilities of this small bacteria, I even started getting a little excited!

After spending a week learning from scientists sharing glimpses from their field, I left with an amazement at this magnificent creation we are a part of. Even more, I left with a greater wonder and awe of the Creator behind it all.

Science raises plenty of theological questions

One topic that I have been reflecting on after the conference is the limitations of science—specifically in answering theological or ethical questions. Research in genetics and bioengineering are presenting plenty of things that mankind can now do; it is the realm of theology and ethics that speaks to whether we should do them. These are important conversations that we should be having in the greater culture as well as within the church.

We need to become science-literate

Of course, we cannot have helpful conversations about science and its theological implications if we are ignorant of the science behind it. And as the scientific advances continue at a rapid pace, we need to stay as informed as we can. But we also need to retain what we learned in high school so many years ago.

There are two books that I have been relying on to increase my scientific literacy. The first one is Science Matters, which was assigned reading for this conference; it provides a clear and concise summary of core areas of science. Another book, called Physics for Future Presidents, translates the findings of science into popular political or cultural debates—like biological terrorism, nuclear weapons, and renewable energy. The goal of both books—and perhaps a greater goal for all of us—is to combat scientific ignorance within discussions.

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