monkey town read-along (week one)

“Monkeys make me nervous.”

I love the first line of this book (although the Zoo Expert in me feels compelled to point out that chimpanzees and gorillas are APES, not monkeys, but Ape Town doesn’t have the same ring, I guess).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in front of the bonobo exhibit at the Columbus Zoo and thought, “Dang it. If anyone wanted to make a case for evolution, they could start right here.” They act so much like humans, it’s ridiculous. And we share like 99% of our DNA with them. Squirm, squirm, squirm.

When I get to heaven, I am totally asking God why he made me SO STINKING SIMILAR TO A BONOBO.

Goodness, I’m already getting off track. Let me back up a little.

And breathe for a second.

You should know that I’m shaking. Literally. My heart is pounding, and my fingers are shaking, and I had to stop for a minute to pray. “God, help me know what to write.” I think I could fill a book with all the stuff I’ve been thinking/learning/questioning lately. But I have NO idea where I’d even start, and since Rachel has already put in the blood, sweat, and tears, I’m going to piggyback off her hard work.

In other words, there’s no way I can go into great detail about everything I’m thinking and feeling, but I don’t want to be vague either. I’ll be pretty upfront about where I agree with her, where I disagree with her, and where I just plain HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I THINK.

I ask just one thing of you: that you be kind and respectful of your fellow readers-along (and me and Rachel too). We’re all coming from different places, we’re on different paths, and arguing rudely or condescendingly isn’t Christ-like in any way, shape, or form.

No more stalling. Let’s dive in.

I remember the first time I heard someone (a Christian & member of my family) tell me they didn’t believe in a literal six-day creation. It rocked my world. In 30 years of life, I’d never questioned that. Like Rachel says, I thought that questioning it would inevitably lead to a crumbling of the entire Christian faith. Then I started hearing other Christians say things like, “Genesis 1 is written as Hebrew poetry. It’s not meant to be taken as scientific fact.” What the what?? Get out of town, people!! I don’t want to hear this stuff!

I’ll just tell you right now: I’ve developed ZERO definitive conclusions on this subject. I know one thing: I believe God created the world and everything in it. HOW he did it, WHEN he did it, HOW LONG it took him, how evolving species and such fit into the whole scheme of things, I don’t know.

And honestly, I’m too caught up in figuring out how to love the poor and do justice and show mercy right now to spend a ton of time worrying about the logistics of creation. It just doesn’t seem like it’s the most important thing in the world.

I do want to know what you think though (see question #1 below).

And I found it veeeery interesting that big-name Christian leaders like John Calvin “considered geocentricism so fundamentally true that he claimed that people who believed in a moving earth were possessed by the devil.” (19) How do we explain that one away??

Moving on.

I can totally and completely relate to the paragraph on p. 17 where Rachel says she used to be a fundamentalist. “…the kind who thinks that God is pretty much figured out already, that he’s done telling us anything new. I was a fundamentalist in the sense that I thought that salvation means having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith requires defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose was wrapped up in getting God right–in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him too. Good Christians, I believed, don’t succumb to the shifting sands of culture. Good Christians, I used to think, don’t change their minds.”

For most of my life, I thought I knew God pretty darn well. Then in the past 4 years or so, when I started discovering his huge, huge heart for the poor and for justice (a word I never even thought about for a second really), it shook me. HOW DID I MISS THIS?? And WHAT ELSE AM I MISSING?? And have I been putting non-essential things above the really important stuff??

And AM I LIKE THE PHARISEES Jesus is always knocking off their pedestals?? Holy cow. I AM. I’m completely wrapped up in FOLLOWING THE RULES and I’m TOTALLY IGNORING JESUS.

How many “false fundamentals” am I clinging to, I began to wonder?? If I had been a Southern Baptist in the 1800’s, would I have argued the case for slavery, claiming that the Bible said it was a-okay? (I recently re-read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and my heart ripped in two at the “God-fearing Christians” who thought it was perfectly acceptable to enslave their fellow human beings.)

Not too very long ago, I thought that people who started questioning long-held beliefs were straying from the faith, turning away from God, and all that. The same thing the Pharisees thought about the people who started following Jesus.

Was it possible that some of what I’d been taught wasn’t what God had in mind when he inspired men to write the Bible? What long-held beliefs am I making idols of??

I love this paragraph on page 22: “No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions. I questioned what I thought were fundamentals–the eternal damnation of all non-Christians, the scientific and historical accuracy of the Bible, the ability to know absolute truth, and the politicization of evangelicalism. I questioned God: his fairness, regarding salvation; his goodness, for allowing poverty and injustice in the world; and his intelligence, for entrusting Christians to fix things. I wrestled with passages of Scripture that seemed to condone genocide and oppression of women and struggled to make sense of the pride and hypocrisy within the church.”

Wow, so those four sentences could take WEEKS to unpack. And this post is already over 1000 words (and virtually nothing has been satisfactorily solved).

Sigh.

Enough of me. Your turn. Answer one, two, all the questions. Add some of your own. Whatever you’re feeling.

Let’s Chat:

1. What do you think about creation/evolution? What are you basing your beliefs on? Have they changed any over the years? (Go ahead. Rock my world.)

2. After reading the introduction, what is something you REALLY agree with Rachel about? How about really DISAGREE? (if every single thing about this book makes you deeply uncomfortable, that’s okay too)

3. What faith questions have you been asking recently?

4. Tell us a little more about your faith journey.

If you wrote your own post and want to link to it, I’ve created a space for it.

Let the discussion begin!

p.s. I forgot to give you the reading assignment for next week: Chapters 1 and 2.

111 thoughts on “monkey town read-along (week one)

  1. grace at {Gabbing with Grace}

    HI! I’m new here & I’ve never read the book so nothing to say about that…simply wanted to introduce myself…oh, and also to say that I thought monkeys, apes & chimps were all sort of part of the same family… see, what do I know??? lol. =)

  2. Pingback: Marla Taviano » monkey town read-along (week two)

  3. Pingback: Marla Taviano » perspective

  4. Andres Cabezas

    1. I think evolutionary theories about the origin and development of life fail to stand on their own scientific and logical merits (regardless of how they stand in relation to any given religion’s creation account). Mutation and natural selection are extremely unlikely to account for the variety and complexity of lifeforms we see today (even giving them billions of years to do their work). Because of this inadequacy, I no longer try to integrate evolution with my theology.

    Regarding creation, I consider Genesis to be a historical account. Maybe I haven’t studied it closely enough, but I don’t see a point where the book shifts from historical narrative to a different type of literature (such as parables, allegories, or prophetic literature) that calls for a different kind of interpretation. Of course, as a historical account, Genesis includes aspects that are hard for many people to accept as fact (such as long human lifespans and God’s direct intervention in human affairs). However, I think there are good reasons for considering these aspects to be factually feasible and likely, rather than mythical.

    My viewpoint on origins has changed over the years. As a child, I learned about the Bible in Sunday school and learned about evolution in science class at my private (non-Christian) school. I accepted both sources of knowledge as true, and synthesized the two into a form of theistic evolution. I thought the days in Genesis 1 might actually refer to long periods of time, during which God used evolution to create various lifeforms. This avoided contradictions between the Bible and evolution. (I wonder how many other Christians have likewise developed their own personal version of theistic evolution without learning it formally from a book or a class. Probably many.) Sometime in my teenage years, I came across some articles that questioned the scientific merits of evolution and its integration with the Christian faith. These arguments had merit, and my worldview went through a crisis. It was uncomfortable to discard my carefully-synthesized theory of theistic evolution, but that’s what I ended up doing. Since then, I’ve taken great interest in origins debates, and have read several books and many articles related to this. (A top favorite is “Darwin’s Black Box”. Michael Behe makes reasonable arguments against standard evolutionary theory on logical and scientific grounds, without appealing to the Bible. He apparently isn’t even a creationist himself.) I’ve also had a number of interesting conversations, including several with professors from the science department at the Christian university I attended. (Most of these professors were theistic evolutionists.)

    2. I’ll answer backwards and voice my disagreement first. Rachel wrote “Scientists have perfectly good evidence to support [evolution]”. I think the evidence for evolution is not “perfectly good” evidence; it leaves much to be desired. As far as agreement, the part I like the best is when Rachel says “No longer satisfied with easy answers, I started asking harder questions”. Here she refers to various Christian beliefs she’d formerly accepted. I think it’s generally good for Christians to examine their beliefs and make sure they are sound, rather than just accepting them unquestioningly. However, I wish Rachel would also question evolution, and not accept easy answers from the generally-atheistic-and-materialistic scientific establishment. Some time ago, I made a personal decision to give little weight to the origins-related opinions of Christians who haven’t wrestled with evolutionary theory as thoroughly as they’ve wrestled with the Bible. That holds not only for laymen, but also for professional theologians or professional scientists. (I don’t know to what degree Rachel has questioned evolution herself, but for now, given Christian intellectuals’ common tendencies, I’ll withhold the benefit of the doubt.)

    3. One of my biggest faith questions right now is about sacrifice. To what degree does my life need to be characterized by sacrifice? To what degree can I just go and do what I most enjoy, instead of sacrificing it for seemingly more pressing needs? I’d rather serve others with my primary gifts and talents, but people seem to keep wanting me to help them through the use of my weaker, less-satisfying skills. Constant sacrifice is frustrating! (I know the average person in this world lacks or sacrifices much more than my pampered, privileged self does. Yet each person feels the weight of their own burdens, and my own burden of sacrifice feels too heavy. I question whether it really needs to be this heavy.)

    4. I grew up as a “good kid”, a Sunday-school child, a nominal Christian, baptized at 12. In my early teens I felt unsure about the certainty of my faith, whether I was really a Christian. I eventually make a firmer commitment and became a real disciple (though far from the best one). Near the end of high school, I discovered the intellectual side of Christianity, a world I became fascinated by and was very thankful to be exposed to. Ever since, I’ve been more of a “thinking Christian” than a “feeling Christian”. I have many of the same strengths, but also many of the same weaknesses as other Christian intellectuals. (Details about these will remain a matter for another time and/or place.) One of my most recent interests (since about three years ago) has been what’s often referred to as “spiritual formation”. Among other things, I’ve identified and chosen a few “rules of life”, daily routines which might help me become more Christ-like. (These are closely-related to my own personality and character, for the most part. Others would most likely be helped by different “rules”.)

  5. Rod

    In an earlier post I mentioned my science writer friend Fred Hereen who is a theistic evolutionist. To be more accurate he prefers the term “Christian evolutionist.” That, no doubt, would be an oxymoron for some young earthers, but there it is. Anyway, Fred sent me a quote for a paper my son Jordan was writing for school. “As a Christian who takes the Bible as God’s Word, I believe it’s critical that we exegete it, that is, that we read out from it what the original writers were intending to say – – not eisegete it, that is, we don’t want to read into it our own modern ideas about science or anything else. We don’t want to add to God’s Word. That’s just being a careful student of it. My studies of the opening chapters of Genesis lead me to conclude that these inspired authors weren’t trying to teach us about when or exactly how God created, but were instead answering our more timeless questions about who did the creating and why. The first chapter of Genesis also encourages us to be good stewards of God’s world and its creatures, and the rest of God’s Word encourages me to be honest, to examine everything carefully, and to seek knowledge. And so if my study of God’s world leads me to believe that God used evolution as part of His plan to create us, I have no problem reconciling what I’m learning about God’s world with what I’m learning about God’s Word.”

  6. Candy

    I grew up in a super conservative church, and it took 30 years to ask my first question. That has led to thousands…:)

    what I love about this book is that it isn’t trying to force you to choose a side – its saying that its okay to ask the question in the first place. Its okay that you and I don’t agree on every point, and my interpretation of something isn’t the same as yours and THAT.IS.O.K.!! I didn’t think it was before, but by the grace of God, I now know it is.

  7. Kim

    I like the book Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolution by Deborah and Loren Haarsma. It covers the spectrum and is very respectful.

  8. Rod

    Anyone wanting to do any additional research on various positions might want to Google a few Christians who are scientists and take old earth positions. Francis Collins headed the Human Genome Project that mapped the entire human gene sequence. One of the most respected men of modern science. He is a deeply committed Christian. Oh, and he’s a theist evolutionist. Yike! Hugh Ross is an astronomer who is an old earth progressive creationist. He has a terrific apologetics site at http://www.reasons.org. The site has a ton of excellent articles on science and faith. Fred Hereen, who wrote a GREAT apologetics book titled Show Me God and is widely published in science journals and major publications like The Wall Street Journal and others is a personal friend and a wonderful Christian. He has a powerful evangelistic ministry to atheists. He’s a biblicist through and through and…wait for it…he’s a theistic evolutionist! Here’s my point. I’ve read a lot of young earth materials and it bugs me that they often attempt to demonize old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists and paint them as scientific baffoons and doubters of God. That argument may be a convenient way of brushing aside the opposition, but it lacks integrity. The fact of the matter is there are smart, highly educated, lovers of God, followers of Christ, and believers of his Word in all of the various interpretive camps. That reality can be challenging to someone who holds white-knuckled to one interpretation of cosmological beginnings, but it happens to be the truth.

    1. Bethany Peters

      I think it’s important to know that there are godly “old earthers” who are also studying the world and their Bibles. I don’t think they are the enemy (as some young earthers might say).

      “I’ve read a lot of young earth materials and it bugs me that they often attempt to demonize old earth creationists and theistic evolutionists and paint them as scientific baffoons and doubters of God. That argument may be a convenient way of brushing aside the opposition, but it lacks integrity.”

      This bugs me as well. Why is it that it’s so hard to come to a conclusion about Scripture without becoming prideful and bashing the opposing side? It’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around the idea that God doesn’t want us to have it all figured out and that He can be pleased with all of us even though we’re so different. It can be scary when we first realize that things aren’t as black and white as we thought they were or want them to be. “You’re a Christian so why don’t you see things exactly the way I see them?” God doesn’t want uniformity–He desires unity and that’s a lot harder. That requires the power of the Holy Spirit and daily walking with the Lord.

      Thanks for your perspective Rod.

      1. Jen Hanson

        “God doesn’t want uniformity–He desires unity and that’s a lot harder.”

        It takes a lot of humility too and THAT is also harder. Great perspective Bethy.

  9. Denise Dilley

    Hey all! I’m really excited to be a part of this summer’s read-a-long. Looking forward to discussing Rachel’s book & getting to know some new friends! Now, on to those questions…

    1. My thoughts on evolution & creation have changed over the years. As a child & teen, I was a creationist. God created the Earth in 6 literal days. In my 20s I went through missionary training school and then on to college. My mom would say my education ruined me, but really it just opened my mind to different ideas. Some of which I embrace, others that I still question. Anyway, while studying creation as part of my Masters program, there was discussion about the age of creation & the development of creation. I won’t bore you with all the intellectual details, but I find myself agreeing most with the age-day theorists & progressive creationism. Basically, I think that perhaps God created Earth in 6 days but that 6 days doesn’t necessarily means 6 days as we know them. As for evolution, who’s to say that God didn’t create Earth & all it’s creatures, including humans, through evolution? It’s possible.

    2. There is nothing in the preface/introduction with which I necessarily disagree. I’m not sure that Christianity’s best feature is its ability to change. So I guess I disagree with that assessment. On the whole, I agree that there is something right about questioning one’s faith & growing from the answers that are found. Our faith should ever be growing & evolving, otherwise we become stinky & stagnant. Personally, when I started questioning the fundamentals of the faith (in particular, the idea of open theism), I grew in my faith. I had to trust God & know it was okay to ask questions, even if family & friends didn’t agree with the questioning.

    3. I think I will always, ALWAYS struggle with the idea of God being good but allowing (or causing, some might think) so much evil & injustice in the world. *sigh*

    4. I accepted Jesus into my heart at the age of 10 but really had no idea what that meant. As a teen, I began to understand that Jesus wanted a personal relationship with me & it was then that I really began to grow in my faith. At that same time, I felt God calling me to be a missionary, and at the age of 15 I began my journey in missions. For the past almost 20 years now I’ve been following Jesus & being a missionary wherever I find myself. My faith has had its ups & downs, but one thing has always remained – hope. Jesus IS my hope.

    1. Mandy

      In response to number 3, just wanted to recommend Randy Alcorn’s book If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Evil and Suffering. It has a great discussion of this topic.

      1. Denise Dilley

        Thanks, Mandy. I haven’t read that one. Evil & suffering is one of those things that I understand logically. It’s a consequence of the fall. It’s not Gods original intent. And there are many different influences & reasons for evil & suffering, albeit God, Satan, my choices, other choices, etc. But there’s SO MUCH of it & the emotional side of me will never understand why God allows so much of it. Even if it does bring more people to Him or more flory to His name. It still doesn’t make it easier to understand.

  10. TaraBeef

    1. I am a creationist and believe in the six day world creation thing. I do not know how it was done and I wouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to persuade someone otherwise. I could be wrong, but I’m just going to take the Bible at what it says and move on to bigger things. 
    2. I had a similar upbringing to Rachel and I thought I had ALL the answers. I was so focused on the to-do list and works that I totally ignored actually having a personal relationship with the creator of the universe. Really? Yeah, I was missing out on the best part. I wondered why I always felt obligated to do things and did them but my heart wasn’t really in it. The love was missing. It was a task. 
    3. The past several years have been full of really bad things but amazing growth in my faith. I literally went back to zero and started at “Is there a God?” (I came to the conclusion there was after taking a walk in the woods and just marveling that SOMETHING intelligently created it all) I then studied different religions, which I had never done, from Hindu, to Islam, etc. I came to conclude that Christianity and Jesus was the answer. Plus, all the people who had the most, best amazing, dynamic lives were sold out Christians. I didn’t say perfect Christians – the most imperfect ones, I love the best. 
    4. I was raised in a very conservative Christian home. My parents are amazing and great examples for me. I went to private Christian school my whole life, Word of Life Bible institute and then Liberty University. My first marriage, to a pastors son, ended in divorce. I literally felt like the scarlet letter was now on my forehead, and drifted away from God. Still going to church, but having no personal relationship. I remarried to a military man and have spent several years alone, while he was deployed overseas. We have no children. Several years ago, my beloved father died in a plane crash and really, I died that day too. I was a daddy’s girl my whole life and he was the love of my life (In a non-romantic way:) Thats the point where I started over and God is making beautiful things ” out of dust” 

    1. Mandy

      Thanks for sharing, Tara. Wow, you’ve been through some really tough experiences. Your last line reminds me of the song “Beautiful Things” by Gungor.

  11. Deborah

    Just a note (short, I promise!) on this…

    Aristotle (in no way presenting himself as a Christian) was the big (historical) proponent of the flat-earth theory. A portion of the church of the time (several hundred years later) was holding to pagan conclusions, not vice versa. Scientists of previous days who also saw the Bible as truth believed Scripture to support the observations they found in science, including men such as Copernicus, Keplar, Bacon, Galileo, Boyle, Newton and more.

    You’re right, Marla…studying and understanding the Bible is essential…I think that’s one of the reasons why I love John 21:25 where it says, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.”

    We *don’t* know everything…but we have been given what we need to know in what God had recorded…and studying to know God and to know truth is ALWAYS going to be critical to how we view anything. Jesus said as much where He told believers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    1. Mandy

      I totally agree about abiding in God’s Word! The more I read it, the better off I am – the stronger my faith, the more renewed my mind, the more faithful my heart.

  12. Jen Hanson

    Any time I question anything that I’ve “always” believed about God or the Bible, I get really, really uncomfortable – like “I’m about to realize I’m not actually going to heaven” uncomfortable. I have verses like James 1:6 flying around in my head (“he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”) and sometimes I even feel like I’m just changing my beliefs because that’s were a changing culture is moving and my beliefs are getting changed and justified right along with it.

    ‘Bout the only thing I know is this – I will never and can never have God figured out. There are really “small” things I KNOW I believe (even though I don’t fully understand them). Like that the intricacies of the world’s design point to a Designer. But most everything else? It takes faith and working through doubts and search for answers, but knowing I may never find them, and accepting that I am NOT God and therefore I can never fully (or even a tiny bit) understand everything He has said, done, made or put into motion. I just can’t. I’d be God if I could, right? That reality – that I’ll never understand and that faith takes a lot of, well, FAITH, is hard to live sometimes, and even harder to explain to a sceptic. That’s probably the hardest part for me. I can (usually) live/work through my own doubts, but knowing my own doubts and lack of answers could cause someone else to doubt God? That is a miserable thought for me.

    1. Rod

      Been there. The irony is that faith often flourishes in an atmosphere of *honest* doubt. There is a certain liberty in freely admitting to yourself, others, and God that there’s a ton you don’t “get.” That is antithetical to the fundy background I came from where the favorite mantra was “I know, that I know, that I know.” There is great pride in thinking you have it all figured out. And what is it they say about pride? It comes before a fall. I think that’s why a lot of hardliners have fallen. It takes a slaying of pride to admit you don’t have all your poop in a group. And I think that that level of humility is perhaps the most fertile soil for faith to grow in.

  13. Ruth

    1. I have grown up thinking of it as a literal 6 day creation & thinking if you believe otherwise, you’re completely wrong. Now? I don’t know what I believe, although I tend to still believe in literal, but I am with you, Marla. Why does it matter?

    2. Hmmm. I really agree with what she mentions us being like the Pharisees – “oh we’d do it right if we were them” and then doing something even worse. I don’t necessarily disagree with anything yet… I am having an open mind & have been questioning a lot myself & don’t want to be the legalistic jerk I was even a year or so ago. God is bigger than we can ever imagine & he can totally handle this & anything we throw at him.

    3. I have been asking – is there really that much of a difference between Calvinism & Armenianism? Why do Christians have to get so hung up on minor issues instead of simply taking Jesus at his word & doing what he commands? Am I supposed to give up everything I have, feel guilty about my good life, & how can that even help people who are in poverty anyway? Why don’t Christians show grace? Why do we say our relationship with God is not based on works, yet every single action seems to show otherwise? Why are we made to feel guilty about every little thing in our Christian walk, instead of doing what we know God has told us to do, and that he is the Savior & will do his part?

    4. I was raised in a Pentecostal church, and apparently what I learned from there was to do good always & if you’re struggling with something, do not be real because real Christians don’t struggle. I went to a Christian college where some of my beliefs were challenged but I brushed it aside because I was gonna be a “strong Christian”. I was very legalistic and work-based. In just the past couple of years I have realized how wrong I have been. I am totally understanding where Rachel is coming from when she is taking about her faith evolving. I was grasping my convictions so tightly. Now I know that isn’t necessary & I’m not always right. I think this is the perfect timing for me to read this book. So thank you.

  14. jolie

    1. I was raised in a Baptist school that taught 7-day creation, to my agnostic father’s chagrin. I took that without question for most of my life (and so spot-on relate to Rachel’s journey) until about 2 years ago. I believe in evolution and an “old earth” but I am still a little murky on what that means in regards to the Bible. I believe God created the earth and us in his image, but I believe he did it through evolution. Actually – I have an astronomer from my church in Toledo (whose job is to go around asking Christians to consider an “old earth”) completing an interview on my blog for this very topic!

    2. I agree that our faith has to evolve. I don’t think this means that our faith has to be COMPROMISED, really, I think we just have to weigh our culture and our knowledge with the Bible and understand that we worship GOD, not the literally-interpreted Bible (i.e. slaves obey your masters, women say nothing in church) we have to weigh what we take literally from the Bible.

    3. What parts of the Bible are we supposed to take literally? Is OT history literal or poetic? Is it “biblical” for women to lead in the church, and if not, WHY NOT?

    4. Again – I was raised very conservatively and fundamentally. But my father, who is an agnostic, has raised some very nerve-wracking questions for me that I thank God he has asked. I know it is making my faith stronger and more valid for me as an adult woman.

  15. Bethany Peters

    What bothers me about questioning the literal six days of creation is not about whether God could or would’ve done it that way, but why are we questioning it? Are we afraid of man and modern “science”? (Evolution and creation aren’t science anyway because they can’t be tested.) No one is ever going to be able to prove it (unlike proving the earth is round even though early believers thought it was flat). I feel many people are trying to make God fit with man’s understanding and experience and that’s why it bothers me so much. To me the issue is not about creation–it’s about whether we are going to believe what God said in His Word or if we are going to twist it to make it say more than it’s saying. Once we do that, where are we left? To follow people’s blogs and do what they say?

    Why did God say in the 10 commandments that we rest on the seventh day because He took 6 days to create it? (Exodus 20:11)

    Did Jesus really DIE? Did He really rise again? Were His miracles fake? I think that was just figurative. Science shows that…

    1. Bethany Peters

      But I think the key here (that I’m hoping Rachel is trying to make–I don’t have the book) is that we shouldn’t spend all our time debating this stuff instead of doing what God cares about most–sharing Christ and His hope with others!

      I can believe firmly in a literal 6 day creation and not fight about it. I will listen to explanations of why someone doesn’t believe it–to a point. I don’t want to talk about it all day. But I don’t agree on everything with any believer soooo…..we are still called to unity with one another and making disciples. I always say–What are the chances that when I get to heaven I will have been right about everything? God doesn’t want me to be “right”. He wants me to follow Him.

    2. Bethany Peters

      Great. I wasn’t going to comment because I didn’t want to spend all day debating this when I have a family and home to take care of.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Just got home from taking care of my family at the pool 🙂 and I’m in the middle of making tacos, but I want to answer as best I can in under a minute.

        I’m not saying God can’t or didn’t create the world in 6 literal days (in fact, that makes much more practical sense to me than dragging it all out). I’m saying that IF the creation passage really is written as Hebrew poetry (or whatever some theologians say) or IF science someday proves that earth HAS to be a lot older than 6,000 years, that my whole faith won’t crumble.

        For so long, I’ve claimed to take the Bible 100% literally, but I haven’t really been. I don’t have long hair and I don’t wear a head covering, and I’ve taught men, and I’m not silent in church and I haven’t sold all my possessions and given them to the poor.

        And I’m getting off track and running out of time. Love you.

    3. brooke

      you hit on a point i failed to make in my blog – the lack of proof. carbon dating does not equal proof to me because you can’t show it to be an absolute certainty. 1) no one was around a million years ago to verify 1 thing. without that one absolute certain million year old thing how can we know anything is. 2) there are instances (i think they say volcanic eruptions) to create a “false positive” of sorts for really old dating, so how do we know that are the really old rocks weren’t false positives.

      but the heart of the issue – why we’re talking about it. well first off because Marla asked us to 😛 seriously though, i agree that the key to it all is to be flexible (and comfortable) enough with our beliefs that we aren’t neglecting our mission in life. (like that family & home you mentioned :P) being able to have a respectful, logical discussions amongst ourselves so that when the topic comes up with someone who needs Christ we have an answer for them. (kinda 1 Peter 3:15)

    4. Deborah

      Thank you, Bethany. EXACTLY as you said…”are we going to believe what God said in His Word or are we going to twist it to make it say more than it’s saying.”

      I’ve failed to understand the logic of people who are all for following Jesus as Healer and as Water-to-Wine Turner and as Pharisee Condemner, but who for never-clearly-(or logically, to me)-defined reasons find it difficult-to-impossible for Him to have Created in six literal days.

      Can I fellowship with someone who doesn’t believe Genesis 1-3, but believes the rest of the Bible to be true, including the need for sinners to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone? Absolutely. But if asked, I have to wonder how it makes sense for one part of the Word to be true, but other parts aren’t.

      I am *perfectly* okay, even *thrilled* with people asking genuine questions and earnestly seeking truth–that is in no way a problem. God can certainly handle our questions, and it is true that all Christians haven’t always been okay with people who either a.) don’t believe or b.) don’t know what they believe, asking questions and seeking truth.

      However, I expect people to strive to be as consistently honest as possible about the whole picture, as well as the individual areas that seem most important to them, as they seek to understand that which challenges them, just as they would expect to do in understanding the study of areas of mathematics, foreign language, philosophy, literature, science or history.

      I also have to wonder wherein a person will question creation, but has no question on Jesus’ commands to love their neighbor as themselves, to do to others as you would have them do to you and to care for the poor and needy; with Jesus, Himself, quoting Genesis in His teachings on numerous occasions, including from Genesis 1 and 2, I have to wonder why this *particular* subject is being brought up as such a ‘critical’ question that is difficult to answer or go with what the Bible says. Is it possible that the subject of the veracity of Genesis 1-3 *is* critical to the whole of the Bible?

      Is it true that groups of people have focused on the importance of Genesis 1-3 to the exclusion of following some of Jesus’ many commands? Absolutely. But the condemnation of that *wrong* exclusion should not bring about an equally wrong exclusion of Genesis 1-3 in the obedience of Jesus’ many commands. This is not a ‘one or the other’ situation; it is AND. Jesus created the world AND we are to love God and love people, treating them, our neighbors (and everyone is our neighbor), as we would want to be treated, taking the whole council of God.

      If I want to think of ‘challenging’ passages in the Bible that cause me to say, “I just don’t have God figured out at ALL”, Genesis 1-3 is not that to which I go. I do NOT have all the answers, and the further I study, in many ways, the more questions I have.

      However, that has, perhaps ironically, become quite comforting in the fact that a.) God, Himself addresses this in Isaiah 40 and 55 amongst many other places that HE is God, HE is sovereign and I am not, therefore I will not (nor would I want to) fully understand or be able to explain Him and b.) many of His mysteries, and the ways in which I was wrong in my understanding of Him will one Day no longer be seen through a glass, darkly, but will become clear when I get to see His face and see Him as He is, praise His Name! 🙂

      In the meantime, when I run into things that don’t make sense, or that I question, I needn’t be afraid of the questions, but I need to trust the character of God as He has revealed Himself through His Word. He created the sparrows; He knows when each one falls; He has counted me as more valuable than many sparrows; He knows the number of hairs on my head; He has written the names of those in His Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world; He knows His sheep and no one can take them out of His hand.

      If I am trusting Him as Savior of my soul, Forgiver of my sins, as the One Who has paid the price of my eternal judgement with the life of His own Son, then I can trust Him with every lesser thing, even the ones that I don’t have a thousand and ten details on…or even as many details as are included in the construction of the tabernacle! 🙂

      Again, Bethany, as you mentioned, “I can believe firmly in a literal 6 day creation and not fight about it.” And I can absolutely pray for someone as they seek truth and pursue it. And I can accept that we won’t always come to the same conclusions in those pursuits.

      It just stands out in my mind that a.) if this wasn’t such a big deal, it would have been dismissed as such ages ago…or perhaps the inerrancy of Scripture really is a key part of this question; and b.) on the whole ‘not understanding everything about God’ spectrum, this, at least in my mind and experience, is a small thing; there are many things that puzzle me more greatly than God’s ability to create the world in six days.

      And I am enjoying listening in to yourall’s thinking. 🙂 Thank you, much, for your willingness to share your thoughts! It is definitely worth discussing!

      1. Marla Taviano

        Thanks for this, Deborah. I can’t address everything you said at the moment but just wanted to make one thing clear. I don’t question for one single second that God COULD create the earth in 6 days. I’m asking if it’s possible that he DIDN’T. I believe he could’ve created it in a millisecond (or some time frame even smaller than that).

        It’s just that it wasn’t until recently that I even considered the remote possibility that the writer of the Creation account could have been writing poetry/allegory/whatever, thereby explaining how so many things that seem so much older than 6000 years (like light-years-away stars) might really be.

        I think we explain away more than we realize in other books of the Bible (slaves, obey your masters–and other cultural stuff) and think we know more than we do about who wrote it/why they wrote it/who they wrote it to.

        I think of the book of Revelation and how even if you take it 100% literally, you probably won’t come to the same conclusions as someone else who thinks she’s taking it 100% literally too.

        I just don’t want to have a faith that regurgitates what I’ve heard my whole life and is afraid of questions.

        I really like what you said about how there are many things that puzzle your more greatly than creation. Yes! Me too!

        1. Deborah

          I definitely agree that MANY of us are very quick to ‘cherry pick’ our way through the Bible…a problematic practice no matter what ‘side’ or ‘issue’ anyone chooses…I think I’ve more recently run into a lot of people who select what they think the Bible says based on popular issues and what current people with a platform are saying, rather than really getting serious about using the amazingly accessible tools that we are blessed to have in this day and age to do the nitty gritty of Bible study on their own.

          I *certainly* know that I need to be MUCH more diligent in my study, as (I think it was) Ruth, (earlier? Sorry if I have the wrong name!) mentioned I Peter 3:15–always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have, with gentleness and respect.

          You’re right–we should *absolutely* not just take something at face value, but really, carefully, clearly study it out. But like the Bereans, (who, I’m assuming, weren’t ALL Ivy League Scholars 🙂 ) I a.) don’t want to be negligent in studying what I’ve been given and b.) don’t think that God’s Word is *largely* a mystery.

          And aren’t these the best words? I love them…and am so challenged at my own lack of due diligence…

          Acts 17:10-12
          Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

          Thank you for continuing the discussion, Marla. I do think this is so important to consider and I am definitely praying (both for youall and the discussion)! <3

    5. jolie

      Bethany,

      I think there is a LOT of definable, measurable evidence that demonstrates the age of the earth. one of those things is the age of stars and how they reflect that the earth has to be millions of years old or we would not be able to see their light.

      For so long I feel I was told that if I question the Bible, I was questioning God. I don’t feel that using intellect or scientific knowledge to question the bible (like, questioning a 6 day creation) means that i am undermining God. For me, it means that I am using the resources he has given me to better understand something that wasn’t originally written for my language or my culture (or even my gender). I think there is so SO SO much that we lose in translation of the Bible that has not been accounted for.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Funny you should mention stars, because i was stirring my taco meat, thinking about Bethany’s comment, and yelled, “STARS! Light years! I knew I forgot something! How do we explain that if the earth is so young?” 🙂

      2. Bethany Peters

        “For me, it means that I am using the resources he has given me to better understand something that wasn’t originally written for my language or my culture (or even my gender).”

        Jolie,
        This is what I consider a good reason to believe the old earth theory. I think as long as we are seeking God and His truth and wanting to make sure we aren’t believing things just because it’s what we’ve been taught or it makes God more manageable or serves our purposes better, then God is pleased. I am more concerned with people who believe the old earth theory because they doubt what God can do (i.e. How could He create the whole universe in just six days???) or they feel threatened by modern scientists and doubt the accuracy of the Bible.

    6. Marla Taviano

      Hey, sis. I’m back. 🙂 And I TOTALLY get not wanting to spend hours debating this. It’s just super-important to me that you know where I’m coming from (we can talk more next week) and it’s so hard to explain it in a comment.

      You mentioned that people try to fit God into man’s understanding, and that’s the same vibe I get from some people who are insistent that the earth is just 6,000 years old. Anytime something in science suggests otherwise, they have to explain it away (and I’ve read some Creation Institute stuff that just sounds fishy and contrived to me). Fossils, animals that have adapted and “evolved,” stars that are millions of light years away, dinosaurs.

      I just don’t want to be like the people of old who said, “God talks about the four corners of the earth, so it HAS to be flat. And he talks about the foundations of the earth, so it CAN’T move. The sun has to be revolving around the earth.” Evidently there’s another way to interpret those Scriptures. Even with a “literal” interpretation of the Bible, people still come up with a ton of different interpretations.

      Sigh.

      1. Deborah

        Okay, so that short reply was to be here…I’m not sure how it went on its own little spot, and I can’t seem to delete it to place it where it was intended. My apologies! Feel free to do so, if you wish! 🙂

      2. Bethany Peters

        Hey Marsy. 🙂 I just got back from a fun campfire in my backyard. I agree that it’s good to not be so adamant about certain things in the Bible that are not “clear”. Christians over the centuries have all read the same Bible and have the same Holy Spirit guiding them and we have come to so many different conclusions. I think it’s good to ask questions and I think it’s important to know why we believe and to have Scripture to back it up.

        So far I haven’t heard anything that convinces me to change my viewpoint about a young earth (Adam and Eve were created as adults so why couldn’t God create the stars’ light to already be reaching the earth?) But my faith won’t crumble if the earth is old, either. My faith will crumble if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead and give me hope of life after death (1 Corinthians 15).

        Both sides (creation and evolution) have contrived stuff because no one was there. Everyone is trying to take what evidence we have today and trying to make it make sense. I appreciate the Creation Museum because it gives possible alternative answers that are not given by secular scientists. Some people find it fascinating, some helpful, and others distracting, even damaging (divisions among believers). My prayer is that God will use it for the first 2 categories. 🙂

        So to clarify, I’m not saying the earth can’t be old. I’m just saying from the evidence shared and my knowledge of the Scripture, I don’t think it is. But I understand that is just my interpretation and I don’t want to be known as a six-day creationist. I want to be known as a woman who loves the Lord and served Him faithfully throughout my life, making disciples and leading others to Christ.

        I’m excited about having more discussions with you next week! Woot! I love you Marla!

        P.S. Why hasn’t anyone responded to my Exodus 20:11 quote?

        1. Jonna Watson

          Hi Bethany! It’s been too long! I don’t take everything in the Bible literally or at face value and when I read it, instead I always ask myself (and pray for discernment!) what is the main idea here? When I read the verse you referred to as part of the entire chapter, I find God is commanding us to rest and focus on him. Whether or not Moses was referring back to the creation story or making an informative statement matters alot less to me than the idea that God wants me to rest. It’s good to agree on the big ideas (unity!) Have a good day! 🙂

    7. Rod

      Bethany: Twisting scripture to make it say more than it’s saying isn’t exclusive to old earthers. I would argue that young earthers can do the twist just as well.

      1. Bethany Peters

        Absolutely Rod. I didn’t say they don’t either. I believe we all do to some extent. That’s why we need to pray and ask for the Holy Spirit to speak to us every time we open Scripture because it’s so easy to add our presuppositions and understandings and experiences to it without taking it at face value. We’re ready with our rebuttals before we even finish reading the passage. (Like when women are commanded to submit to their husbands or Jesus commands us to turn the other cheek)

        I wasn’t saying all old earth believers are twisting Scripture. I’m saying there are different motivations for believing it and not all are good, but I think some are and I’m sure yours has nothing to do with trying to make God fit into a man-made box.

  16. Rod

    Wow. Didn’t know I was rocking your world. But glad I did. When did I say that? Don’t remember the occasion. I really like your comment: “And honestly, I’m too caught up in figuring out how to love the poor and do justice and show mercy right now to spend a ton of time worrying about the logistics of creation. It just doesn’t seem like it’s the most important thing in the world.” I’ve said essentially the same thing. The older I get the more convinced I am that non-essentials of the faith are a DISTRACTION (dare I add “from the pit of Hell?”) to what we’re supposed to be doing as Christians. Regarding my position on the evolution/creation issue: I’m a hard-core DGAR. “Don’t give a rip” how God did it. I just know he did. Here’s a world-rocker for ya. A good friend of mine who wrote one of the best apologetics books I’ve ever read: Show Me God, has changed his postion to theistic evolutionist. Has it swayed him from be a biblicist? No. Does he still believe God inspired the Bible? Yes, firmly. Has he gone soft on evangelism? Heck no. He has one of the most powerful evangelistic ministries to atheists I”ve ever seen. This guy goes into the belly of beast where VERY few Christians would ever dare to tread. Yet…he’s an evolutionist. Stick that in your fundy pipe and smoke it.

  17. Cory

    1. What do you think about creation/evolution? What are you basing your beliefs on? Have they changed any over the years? (Go ahead. Rock my world.) Creationist all the way! I believe in the 6 day school of thought, I believe God is infinitely more in all aspects than we can conceive so why would I think he could not do the six day thing. I am a researcher (mostly in the field of biology). Those of us who are Christian and scientist (at least the ones I know) find it no harder to believe in the six day scenario than evolution, in this way, it takes faith either way (there are a lot of gaps in the evolution theories; where are all the in between species for instance). It is all in whom you believe God or man? If you believe the Bible is wholly inspired by God then having faith in Creationism is not a leap of faith but rather it is part of your faith. I don’t have all the answers but as we discover more of the mysteries of the world through science I am convinced by the evidence that it was created with a purpose and it was not just by happenstance.

    2. After reading the introduction, what is something you REALLY agree with Rachel about? How about really DISAGREE? (If every single thing about this book makes you deeply uncomfortable, that’s okay too). When Rachael talks about being a fundamentalist is that a legalistic fundamentalism or that you hold a conservative view of the Biblical account (wholly inspired Word of god for instance). Those two stances are very different. Legalism does lead to argument because it is close minded and unwilling to yield even in conversation concerning deeply held beliefs, there is a reason the call them the “fighting fundamentalists”. On the other hand you can hold very conservative view but being willing to discuss other schools of thought, just as Christ did with anyone He met. It is OK to agree to disagree, I am a Calvinist and a dear friend is Arminian in his belief, do I think he is incorrect you bet but I care for he and his family deeply therefore I am willing to agree to disagree. I think there needs to be grace demonstrated in these situations, we as finite created beings are unable to fathom God and His greatness let alone His plan for mankind.

    3. What faith questions have you been asking recently? When does this life of service and faith really start to feel like it is second nature (when will I feel like an unconscious competent?) There seems to be a constant tug at each of us to leave the new creation and its life behind to go and live a life of what we know is emptiness. John Eldredge has stated that we long for something more because we were created for something more, an unfallen world. That is what I struggle with; how do you not only survive but flourish in a world that is not what it should be and is less than what God had intended it to be.

    4. Tell us a little more about your faith journey. Raise in a Christian Church from a young age, went one to a Southern Baptist Church as a young adult and from there an independent Fundamental Baptist Church (rather legalistic at least this one). I continued my life of faith by attending a seminary after my undergraduate degree (it was a fundamental school). I returned to my “roots” so to speak and went back to the non denominational Christian Church where my family and I have flourished (my wife leading in women’s ministries and myself teaching and also serving as an elder of our church).

  18. Jud

    So I had the opposite problem from everyone else: I accidentally read the whole book last week. But enough about that:

    1. I’ve thought a lot about the creation/evolution issue, and my simple conclusion is that there are way smarter people than me on both sides, all of whom have reasonable, logical evidence. The only conclusion I can draw from that is that trying to draw a conclusion myself is foolhardy. I simply don’t know.

    2. Towards the end of the book, there’s a paragraph where Rachel rattles off a number of questions she has about the Christian faith. I found myself nodding along with every single one of them. It’s an odd mixture of freeing and deeply troubling to find out I know so much less than I used to know. That trend doesn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.

    3. There are two things that I’m often find myself wrestling with these days. The general one is “how should I interpret the Bible and apply it to my 21st century life?”, and the specific one is “what should be my view of homosexuality?” or more properly, what is God’s view of homosexuality, and how can I line myself up with it?”

    4. “Saved” at a young age in a vibrant but fairly traditional non-denominational church. Was taught a lot during my growing up years. Went to a Christian liberal arts college, where I was taught even more. Knew a whole ton of true things about the world at that point. Thanks to life experiences, I’ve been gradually unknowing them ever since.

  19. Marla Taviano

    I don’t know how many of you will have the time/energy to write a whole blog post to link up, but if you don’t, I hope you’ll take the time to read Brooke’s and Nina’s (the only 2 up there as I type). Good, good stuff.

  20. Jonna Watson

    I’m a terrible participant in these read-a-longs (even though I love them!). I’m moving this week and haven’t read the book (yet) but I wanted to respond anyway.

    1. My husband is a huge intellectual. We’ve had many talks about nuances of the Bible so this is an area I’ve thought alot about. Bottom line, I believe God created everything. Not sure how/when/etc. but I believe in a CREATOR. HOWEVER what I have not been able to understand is how God setting up a system that functions (e.g., micro-evolution) makes him somehow less sovereign. Or how if there is not a literal 6-day creation that makes him less sovereign. Or fill in the blank about any other gray area in the Bible. I don’t think the idea that HE set up such a complex system that functions so beautifully takes anything away…for me it makes it THAT much more amazing to not have all the answers.

    2. Ooops haven’t read it yet. But I will say, wrestling with these types of questions is uncomfortable because it’s so, so much easier to feel like you understand God and have all the answers.

    3. Many of my questions center around just how literal the Bible is about MANY topics and how culture gives context. heaven/hell/creation/genocide-yikes/etc. There are many things in the Bible (e.g., God asking Abraham to sacrifice his child) that are troubling. Child sacrifice? If someone tried to do this in modern day, they would be arrested. I have absolutely no answers, and I try to keep the main idea, the main idea (JESUS-apart from him we can do nothing). Sacrificial living (giving of yourself 100%) seems to be a major, major theme in the Bible.

    4. I’m supposed to be packing! I will come back to this one if I have time!

    1. Marla Taviano

      Ding ding ding! You’re the 50th read-along participant to admit to crappy participation/follow-through. 🙂 That’s just the world we live in, girl–busy and stuff. If I wasn’t hosting, NO WAY would I be so diligent. Not even close.

      I loooooooove what you said about not being able to figure God out = that much more amazing. YES!! I wish people could grasp that concept. Our neat, narrow little theological boxes aren’t so much about “absolute truth” sometimes as a TOO-SMALL VIEW OF GOD.

      Your #3 is going to be a whole blog post (series of blog posts?) sometime during this read-along. I’ve been learning so much lately about reading the Bible as Story and that really helps bring out major themes, instead of petty details.

      Thanks for taking time out from packing to chime in!!

  21. Nina

    I started to write something here, but my answer turned into a book in itself, so I started a mini-blog (linked above) to better participate with this read-along. Marla, your questions definitely got me thinking (and writing)!

  22. Lesley

    Ok, to start this off I was a science major in college. I taught high school earth science, chemistry, and biology for 4 years. Three of those years were in Tulsa, OK and the entire creation vs. evolution debate was there. I grew up in a Christian home and we discussed dinosaurs and creationism but I don’t recall having a strong belief. I think natural selection occurs (Darwin) but don’t think humans evolved from apes. I have had a book on my shelf titled Genesis and the Big Bang for over 15 years and have never read it so it must not be that important to me. I guess I believe that God created the world and all of the technicalities don’t matter. I think if you could prove without a doubt everything in the Bible was true it would eliminate the need for faith.

    I have the book ordered but haven’t received it yet.

    I see so much poverty in the world and look around my town, neighborhood, church, and home and see so much wealth, it makes me wonder if it is right. I hear people from my church say “it isn’t wrong to have money” but I wonder how it can be right to spend money on a phone/tv/dsi/ipod…when that money could keep people from starving or freezing. It isn’t that we don’t give, just that we could give more. I don’t know how to find balance and maybe balance isn’t what I need anyway. Also, I just finished reading Leviticus and after some of the laws there is the statement “This is a permanent law for you and it must be observed from generation to generation, wherever you live” (example Lev 3:17 NLT). I realize he is speaking to the nation of Israel but aren’t we grafted into that nation as believers in Christ. I know Jesus changed things but surely God knew that would happen when he gave these laws.

    I’ve always gone to church but 7 years ago, when my son was born my husband and I really became more active in our faith. We felt it was important to raise our son knowing God and we took his baptismal promises seriously. 6 months ago we adopted a 4 year old boy from China. The process of adopting him has really opened our eyes to the needs all over the world.

    1. Marla Taviano

      “I think if you could prove without a doubt everything in the Bible was true it would eliminate the need for faith.” Love this, Lesley.

      And I’m so with you on the poverty/wealth conundrum. I think folks around here might be sick of hearing me talk about it.

      And we have a pic of those adorable 2 boys you’re talking about on our fridge. Love.

    2. Mandy

      I totally agree with this: “I think if you could prove without a doubt everything in the Bible was true it would eliminate the need for faith.” And with your thoughts about wealth. That’s so cool that you adopted. One of my dreams is to adopt someday.

    3. brooke

      re: balance
      just the other day I was praying for balance, then i got to thinking what’s the benefit of balance? where are we commanded by God for seeking it? Paul had such a zeal (for killing Christians) God sought him out. Not to give “balance” to his life, but so that zeal could be put to work for God!

      1. Lesley

        Brooke – you are so right. Balance isn’t the answer but zeal can be scary! I’m such a control freak and need to rest in the fact that God can do this better than I can and I need to turn EVERYTHING over to him. Thanks!

  23. Rachelle

    1. I am a creationist, basing my opinion on the Bible and good science. It doesn’t hurt that I married a science teacher. He is passionate about teaching that there is a God that created everything, making us accountable to him for his creation.

    I am jumping to question 4. I can relate to Rachel, in that, when I was about 19 I really began to wrestle out my faith. I was raised in a pew; church a minimum of 3 times a week. I went through several years of struggling to desire a relationship with Jesus because I had so many questions about denominational teachings alongside my real life. I am thankful that hard things happened in my life, it was through the struggles that God proved his faithfulness in my life. I’m also glad that I dont’ have it all figured out and that I am allowed to wrestle and question and change my mind!

  24. Danielle

    I’m too chicken to write blog posts for this read along, mostly because sometimes my momma remembers I have a blog and reads it. She already get’s her brain destroyed by the things I write (like “I can’t believe my baby would say that” kind of destroyed,) so I’m going to play it safe and just comment. 🙂 That being said, prepare for a long comment.

    1. I almost got myself kicked out of a Genesis Bible study at our church for saying that I don’t cling tightly to a literal 6 day creation. I said it in a way that was meant to say that I don’t know the answer, and I’ve taken enough college level science classes to be even less sure. I meant it in the sense that I was home schooled for a year and in that year my momma tried to undo all of the bad science teaching of the previous years of schooling, but I still have questions. I meant to say that creation is so complex that it provides evidence of a creator just by existing, and we have hints of what that Creator did, but his process summed up in a chapter of the Bible cannot give us the full complex beauty of his work. I meant it as a way to say that God is in heaven, he does what he pleases, and often I don’t understand it. Instead, there are still people in church who won’t say more than a semi-polite “hello” to me if they see me, and I’m pretty sure they think I’m a heretic. Oh well.

    2. I don’t have specific sentences to support my agreement/disagreement with Rachel, more of a general sense of where she is going and the uneasiness of my heart with it. Yes, I agree that faith in God has nuance of change to it. In my brain that’s sanctification. God takes our weak understand of his Word, and molds and shapes our brains and hearts to be more holy, look more like Christ, so that we can understand him more fully and see him more clearly in his revealed Word.

    I don’t think that the evolution of the Christian faith is necessary an adaptation to culture, but a progressively greater understanding of God passed from one generation (and culture) to the next. Because God is infinitely complex, it would take an infinite number of humans an infinite number of years to come close to understanding the hint of one facet of his glory. I do think God uses catalysts to help our brains grasp him more fully, often culture is one of the biggest, but I don’t think that means our faith is adapting to culture. I know it seems like a nuance disagreement, or maybe I just haven’t read far enough in to realize that I totally just agreed with Rachel, but it keeps rolling through my head as I’m reading.

    3. I talked with a friend last week about the journey God has taken on me over the last 5 years. 4 years of that I feel that God has been teaching me about his sovereignty. I questioned why God would make me desirous to be a mom, but not give me children. I questioned why God would put it on my heart to stay home when I had a great job that would have been long-term successful and we were in so much debt. I questioned why God would allow so many things to be wrong with my body, and why I felt guilty for having a broken body, as if it was evidence of a lack of faith. I questioned why God caused our hearts to love a church in which we were the outcast oddballs. It came to a place in my heart about a year ago where I was reminded of God’s merciful response to Job. I don’t fully understand God’s sovereignty, but I trust that his word is true when he says that he is. Now the questions of my heart have turned to the goodness of God. There is still a lot of “why?!” but less heart rebellion behind it. He has reminded me over again that his plans are for my good: that I would be conformed to the image of Christ, that I would bring glory to him, and that I would find ultimate joy and satisfaction in him. I’m so thankful that he is a good and patient father who doesn’t strike me down for asking why, but sometimes he says “because I said so” because the answer is too complex or I just need to trust his wisdom.

    4. Since the rest of this is so long I’ll give you the short version answer. I was born and raised in a Christian home, and grew up in a charismatic church. I went to Catholic school for 4 years where I gained a huge appreciation for liturgy. The year after HS I spent serving at a church that was pretty far out there on the charismatic scale. My world fell apart the next year when I went to a Christian college and saw more sin that I thought possible. It was like Sodom & Gomorrah with Bible skin on. For almost a decade after that I questioned everything I had been taught. I rebelled in every way I thought I needed to. I studied other major world religions searching for truth. I ran far and wide away from God. Sex, drugs, rock & roll, that was my theme. If you wondered, the prodigal son parable is very dear to my heart. God made my heart return to his house, and he welcomed me in as his child, he gave me a husband who so beautifully embodies Christ-likeness that it makes me cry sometimes, and he reminded me of the truth of his Word afresh. I totally get Ecclesiastes: it’s all worthless, but God is worth everything.

    1. Marla Taviano

      This is not the time nor the place to gush about how much I love you, so I’ll just respond to what you’ve written.

      I love how, in hindsight, you’re able to explain what you meant when you “questioned” creation. Wouldn’t it be lovely if everything we meant always came out of our mouths and into other people’s heads just as we intended them to??

      I love what you said in #2. God doesn’t change in response to culture–he’s still the same. Culture is just a catalyst to knowing him more fully.

      I’m so thankful to you for sharing your story (part of it anyway) in #3. It’s such a powerful way to share the gospel–and so what God (and Jesus) did throughout the Bible. Story, story, story. So important.

      Prodigal son (daughter) stories are my favorite. Love you!

      1. Danielle

        Sweet friend, I have to restrain myself from gushing about you every time I comment on your blog! Or when I talk about your books to people… 🙂

        It would be so wonderful if there was a way to go back and edit the words flying out of my mouth! Or at least some telepathy so that people know the heart behind my words.

        I’m convinced that we all can see ourselves in the prodigal parable, even if we’re the other brother in need of humility and appreciation of the Father’s love. And our place in the story can change over time. God is so good!

        Love you girl!

    2. Mandy

      I really like what you said on question 2 about culture and faith. I didn’t think I disagreed with anything much in the intro, but they way you put it reminded me to be careful about thinking of faith adapting to culture. We don’t want to be conformed to this world, after all. Instead we’re to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    3. Jud

      I too loved your way of describing faith and culture. I would go further and argue that not only does God use the church to shape culture, but he also uses culture to shape the church.

      Perhaps the mutual influence is exactly what God intends as he brings the church further into line with his heart.

    4. Danielle

      BTW: there was one thing I meant to add to #4 that I forgot. Our current church is very conservative, reformed theology, non-denom with Baptist roots. So I have the joy of seeing 3 very different perspectives on God and worship, all of which I think blend nicely together if you can look at the beauty in each. I’m so thankful God has blessed me with so much diversity in my faith walk so far.

  25. Kim

    oh boy! Here we go, honesty . . . I am a creationist — in that I believe God created all things. I am not a literal creationist — I don’t know how he did it; I don’t know when he did it; and you know what, I don’t worry too much about it anymore.

    Do I still have questions? You betcha! I would love to have a nice tidy little belief system. It would be so much easier. I know, because that was me in the past.

    Blog posts on my blog are completely unedited. They are always my first impressions and thoughts. I included a bit of my faith journey there. Not a great deal, but a bit.

    1. brooke

      i love that your beliefs pull from so many different sources. shows a living faith that is real, not just something that was spoon fed to you and regurgitated.

  26. Pingback: God spoke... | Living the Life of a Frugal Trophy Wife

  27. Liz

    I was 34 before I learned anyone believed in strict creationism. And by that I mean, anyone I considered reasonable and sane and a good Christian. Crazies, yes. People who picketed the funerals of gay men they didn’t know, who burned crosses and claimed authority, who treated others like dirt because they didn’t agree with them.

    My kid was little, in a local church VBS, and the papers that came home talked about creationism and I went WHOA.

    Now, let me say that not only was a raised Christian, but I also worked in Christian publishing since 1996. Yeah. So you think it might have come up, huh?

    Well, it didn’t, and my lovely and sane Presbyterian friend told me she believed in the literal Bible creation story. Presbyterian! How much more middle of the road can you get? 😉 That really opened my eyes.

    So, 1. I was never raised to believe in the literal creation story. I was raised with a lot of faith and a lot of the Trinity, and here goes…I am Catholic. And a East Coaster. I say this as revelation because I get told I’m not “really” Christian, for both my religion and my geopgraphical location. I get dismissed. But there it is. I was taught that God created the world and set it all in motion, gave us a soul above animals, and that we were His children and He loved us. The Catholic church doesn’t have a great track record on the whole science thing (Galileo) and there is an official Latin document that says, paraphrased, “we’re going to leave science to the scientist and we’ll worry about God”.

    I kind of answered the other questions – but here’s the overall thing. I’m Catholic. Having a big old church that might not always get it right is NORMAL for me. I’ve always gotten that I have to focus on Jesus and my relationship with Him and not be defined by what any church or man or woman says or does. And living with that dichotomy and the resulting questioning and acceptance is part of our culture. We Catholics don’t buy everything that is sold – we keep what resonates with us. My church at large gets a lot wrong but also a lot right – the sanctity of life and the mystery and glory of the Trinity come to mind. I don’t question a lot now, because I live comfortablly in that uncomfortable space between what I was taught, what I think, what I believe with my heart and soul.

    Disclaimer – I’m not speaking for Catholics, or East Coast Catholics, just for me!

    1. Marla Taviano

      I hate that you get dismissed for being an East Coast Catholic. HATE it. And sadly, awfully, not too long ago, I would have dismissed you myself. 🙁 I’m so, so sorry.

      I love, love, love what you’ve shared here, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have your voice among us.

      WELCOME with open arms!!

    2. Mandy

      I love you what you wrote here: “Having a big old church that might not always get it right is NORMAL for me. I’ve always gotten that I have to focus on Jesus and my relationship with Him and not be defined by what any church or man or woman says or does.” And what follows. I’m trying to learn to live in that “uncomfortable space” right now – especially the space between what my church teaches and what I believe to be true. I hated disagreeing with my church at first, thinking maybe it was time to switch churches, but now God is showing me that I can disagree and still be part of my current church. It’s a big deal for me to arrive there after being raised in churches were I was conditioned to believe that all the pastor’s words came straight from the mouth of God and that if anyone disagreed, they had to leave the church. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      And I, too, hate, hate, hate that you’ve been told you’re not really a Christian because you’re Catholic and an East Coaster.

    3. Beth in Baltimore

      Huh. I had no idea I wasn’t supposed to be Christian because I live on the East Coast! Well. Who knew??? I am, however, familiar with the Catholic/Protestant thing. I’m not supposed to be either – I’m supposed to be Anabaptist by my affiliation. But let me just tell you, I’ve been hanging out with some East Cost Catholics and Protestants who are just seriously all about Jesus who don’t know a whole heck of a lot abut me, the Anabaptist, and I’ve been loving it. My Christian world has grown. I’m glad to have “met” you.

      1. Liz

        Ladies, THANK you for the welcome! I am SO glad to be here and to learn more about all of you and what you believe.

        Brooke, Beth – I didn’t either. I had no idea that “Catholic East-Coaster” was going to be a slur…never occurred to me. I first heard that from the Christian publishing world when I was a book editor in NYC. My colleagues and I would get “tested”, asked specific questions to see if we knew our stuff…if we were “real” Christians, if we could be trusted in this bastion of liberalism and heathenism. It was first shocking, then funny. I get the need to protect the message or your book…I get distrust of people who seem very far from your perspective. I learned to even respect that. What I was shocked by was not being accepted in this kind of setting. I am SO happy to have been welcomed here!

  28. Mandy

    Wow, these questions are tough. Here are my imperfectly edited answers:

    1. I think God created everything that exists. I’ve heard convincing arguments in favor of a literal six-day creation. I’ve studied Biology and Biochemistry in a secular college. I believe in microevolution, but not macroevolution – I certainly don’t believe in the big bang and the whole primordial protein soup thing and that life sprang randomly out of a bunch of rocks and lightening. I do believe that species have evolved over time and adapted to their surroundings. I’m skeptical of carbon dating and fossil records. I have no doubt that the Earth has changed a ton in its history. I think the Genesis flood was a major, world-wide event that changed a lot of things. I believe dinosaurs and humans lived together on the Earth. I don’t find evolutionary theory to be particularly fact-based or particularly convincing, but I do find that evolutionists are pretty darn determined to defend their way of seeing things, even if it means falsifying scientific data. But the long and short of it is, I trust God to do things as he sees fit and I think he will always leave room for faith. In other words, I don’t believe that anyone will be able to scientifically prove once and for all how the Earth and life came into being. Faith will always be required in any stance one chooses to take on creation/evolution issues.

    2. I REALLY agree that each and every person should seek God by asking questions and looking for answers. And that we should never assume we have things all figured out – that it’s important for us to hold our beliefs with an open hand so God can continue to work in us and change our thinking to be more and more in line with his. God promised that we would find him if we seek him with all our hearts, and I hope to never give up the seeking process. I like this quote from the intro, “I’m an evolutionist because I believe that the best way to reclaim the gospel in times of change is not to cling more tightly to our convictions but to hold them with an open hand. I’m an evolutionist because I believe that sometimes God uses change in the environment to pry idols from our grip and teach us something new” (21-22). I don’t think I really DISAGREE with anything yet.

    3. Lately, I’ve been questioning human tradition (aka interpretation) more than faith, looking for “false fundamentals” I guess. Things like the tradition of tithing to one’s local church, the financial “wisdom” that is being spread around in Christian circles, and the pick-and-choose approach to Jesus’ teachings have been irking me lately. Also, I’ve been questioning the way our wealthy churches are run (particularly the church I’m a part of now). Looking at Acts reminds me that the church as it exists in the U.S. is pretty different from the early church. Where did those differences come from? Mostly from the traditions of men and the corruption of wealth, as far as I can tell.

    4. I was raised in a Christian home, started out in Christian school and moved to public when I was ten, experienced some pretty legalistic churches (long hair, skirts all the time for girls, etc.), stopped going to church for a while in my teens and early twenties, endured and pretty much bought into a very secular and liberal college and grad school education, and have pursued God like a crazy person (because I am a crazy person – I’m mentally ill, suffering from emetophobia) for the past six or seven years. I find that relationship with God is the only thing that keeps me close to sane and I plan to pursue him until I die. Whether or not I’m right about everything doesn’t really matter to me. What does matter to me is that my heart belongs to God, that my life brings him glory, and that my actions please him. Believe me, I have a long way to go.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Holy cow, Mandy. I LOVE ALL OF THIS. Your #1 is amazing, and I love that you’ve studied so extensively and are able to discern to some degree which things are fact, which are falsified.

      #3? Yes, yes, yes, yes!! That’s SO where I’m at right now.

      #4? I love the journey you’re on. So blessed to have you reading along with us!! You’ve been such an encouragement to me!

    2. Lori

      I’m totally with Mandy on #1. And due to my current lack of time, I’m just going to copy her answer 🙂
      But, I did not really learn this until the past 2 years when I was introduced to a speaker at our church, deeply moved intellectually (I’m a scientific kinda nerd girl) and then went on to help him build his website here cecwisc.org

      Without lots of scholarly detail, that’s pretty much what he teaches. A visit to the Creation Museum in Cinci only reinforced those details, especially about the flood and what it did to the earth. It is so so so amazing what our God has done and my eyes are totally opened to seeing God, our earth and science in ways I never thought before.

      Maybe I’ll try to pick this book up and read some (current crazy schedule) but I’m loving your post Marla and all these comments. Truly great stuff and I pray lives can be transformed with new ways of thinking.

      Mandy, you are a blessing! Thank you for that beautiful comment!

    3. brooke

      my preacher hits hard on tradition (its rampant in our church) and how tradition becomes an idol when we worship the way things are done – especially when that directive can be found no where in the Bible.

  29. Donna P

    I was not a good participate of the Seven study (though I read and loved the book) so like Ali I was going to pass on this one but the book sounds like my secret thoughts! Okay, maybe not so secret. I’ve always felt like I wasn’t the best Christian out there because I can’t remember a time that I didn’t question the whole eternal damnation of non-Christian thing. I’m so thankful that I am a Christian and therefore feel like my “bases are covered” so to speak. And Christ provides so much comfort for me. That part came later in my faith walk though. I was arrogant in my youth and I think I secretly thought I didn’t really need the whole Trinity. I had a straight line to God. As I got older I realize how much He put up with concerning me. Thankfully He loves me and gave me time.

    Anyway, back on the subject, I’ve always felt it incredibly unfair for a person to have been raised in a religious and worshipping home yet go to hell simply because they were born in the wrong home. I don’t know the answers. But I feel that my God, the loving God that loves all of us knows so much more and He has a way.

    The more I’m reading of this book, the more thankful I am to realize I’m not the only one with doubts. And maybe those doubts aren’t insulting to God but will in the end bring me closer. That’s my hope and my story and I’m sticking to it!

    1. Marla Taviano

      The eternal damnation of non-Christians is a HUGE topic, and we’ll definitely get to it. It’s also one that I have a LOT of questions about.

      And you are in GOOD company with all the other read-along slackers here. 🙂 No condemnation, friend!

    2. brooke

      i’ll say this is one topic that terrifies me – such a huge one to get wrong (because one side has to be wrong, don’t they?)! i have a feeling i’m going to be doing a lot of observing and not a lot of commentary on that week!!

  30. Liz

    I read this book last year and I have to say that it made me very uncomfortable but I HAD to pick it back up and read through parts of it that I felt like “made a good point”. Of course my hubby was NOT happy that I would even question creation?? So I am reading along and wanting to hear what everyone else is thinking.

    I do know that I want to grow in Christ and do not want to be stuck in beliefs that for some reason I never questioned at all?? Not even sure why??

    1. Donna P

      I’m not sure that questioning the time line, exactness of the creation story is questioning the fact that there was a creation by God. At least that’s what I feel about it. The book was written in another time and place. The Jewish people had a great love for allegory so perhaps a day is a symbol. The number six symbolizes man and an incompleteness. But seven – the day God rested – signifies spiritual perfection and completeness.

      I don’t know the answers. I do know that God created everything. How, when, what time frame is not something we can know now.

      I also know that animals adapt to their surroundings. These adaptions evolve into new / different species but it doesn’t mean they weren’t created by God.

      1. Marla Taviano

        Good points, Donna. I agree. Going to all those zoos and learning about animals made me think a lot about how creatures adapt/evolve. But it also cemented my belief that GOD created them. (see my comment on giraffes to Megan below)

    2. brooke

      with a hubby who does nothing BUT question, i can’t sympathize, but i am definitely looking forward to your viewpoint on the matter! 🙂

  31. brooke

    people who don’t believe are looking for excuses. looking for a way to get them off the hook, allow them to deny what they know in their hearts to be true. they look for any ole excuse not to believe – from the sin of God’s people, to the counter-science “facts” of the Bible.

    I’m not saying we should change what we believe in order to facilitate them. Not in the least. What I am saying is that when we cling hard and fast to a “fact” that may or may not be factual (and has little to no impact on salvation) WE are the ones rejecting the good news and refusing to share it with our brothers and sisters in sin.

    fight for what’s worth fighting for. the rest is inconsequential. i’ve told jay before – my faith doesn’t demand that I know exact how God created the world. He did it, and that’s enough for me.

    more later. this is off the top of my head, because you know my husband’s salvation is top priority in my heart. i’m sick of the science argument being his excuse not to believe.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Oh, girl. I can only imagine your frustration. Praying that God gets to Jay’s heart (and that the mind stuff doesn’t get in the way). I realize that will take a huge miracle, and I’m believing God to get it done. Love you!

  32. Megan at SortaCrunchy

    Your words here:

    “I’ll just tell you right now: I’ve developed ZERO definitive conclusions on this subject. I know one thing: I believe God created the world and everything in it. HOW he did it, WHEN he did it, HOW LONG it took him, how evolving species and such fit into the whole scheme of things, I don’t know.

    And honestly, I’m too caught up in figuring out how to love the poor and do justice and show mercy right now to spend a ton of time worrying about the logistics of creation. It just doesn’t seem like it’s the most important thing in the world.”

    YES. To all of this. I had actually come to this conclusion long before I read EIMT, so I wasn’t all that shaken by some of the things she covers in the book. When I look at the wonders of creation, I have no doubt in my mind that God lovingly and CREATIVELY created every bit of it. The details aren’t important to me. However, I realize it’s a deal-breaker issue for some, so I try to tread lightly in those conversations.

    I’m so glad you are doing a read-along on this book. It’s one of my Top 10 All Time Favorites. Looking forward to future discussions!

      1. Donna P

        Marla, you are SO right! I’ve been able to feed them at our zoo. Made me cry.

        A Giraffe fact – Giraffes are the only animal born with horns. They are in fact folded over to protect the baby’s head. The only spot on a giraffe that is to vulnerable to attacks is their neck so they don’t let their necks near the ground if they can’t help it. They give birth standing up therefore the baby has to drop some 6 feet to the ground. The folded over horns protect the baby’s brain and they straighten up shortly after birth. Who but God could come up with that!?!

    1. HopefulLeigh

      I’m just going to say ditto to what you both have said. I have friends with beliefs all over the spectrum. I certainly have thoughts on the matter but, like many of the things up for debate in Christiandom, this is not my hill to die on. I believe God created the world and I respect His creative process enough to know He could have accomplished it in any number of ways. I struggle more with the fact that Christians castigate each other for different beliefs, instead of finding common ground and seeking to be known by our love.

      1. Marla Taviano

        What’s starting to really burn me is when Christians WASTE hours and hours and who knows how much mental/physical energy arguing about this stuff and then “don’t have time” to do what Christ really called us to do: be his hands and feet to a hurting world.

  33. Beth in Baltimore

    You know what I take comfort in? Knowing God created the earth one way. It happened a certain way, no matter how I think it happened or the next person thinks it happened. I wasn’t there, and I might not understand it yet. Just like the Jews waiting for their Messiah didn’t understand that it was Jesus when He arrived on the scene. Somehow this gives me the freedom to accept that another Christian believes differently than I do. This gives me the freedom to explore a little further in case I’m one of those people who is stuck believing the earth is flat when scientific evidence indicates that it is, indeed, very round. I’m not part of the read-along because I have a very poor track record for finishing non-fiction books. But I am SO, SO interested and am hoping I can gain a lot from reading your posts and other people’s comments.

    1. Marla Taviano

      Welcome to the Poor-Track-Record Club, friend! I love what you said about how God created the earth one way and we may never know what that was–and instead of getting bent out of shape about it, we can find freedom!!

    2. brooke

      what you stated about not being there when the world was created is how i feel about scientific stuff too. without someone 1 million years old to verify the age of a rock – who’s to say that when God created it He didn’t point to it and say “you – rock – you have the qualities of a 10 million year age”

      OR

      also the freedom to believe that the testing that “prove” the age of a rock is faulty. without someone who is 1 million years old saying “this has been around as long as me” how do we know that’s what the results of the testing means?

      God created it. Period.

  34. Ali

    God is great. I wasn’t going to join the read-along because I have a crap record with your read-alongs (joining and never participating) but then I read this post and thought, “Dang! I want to read that book.” But I don’t have the book and we are already over-budget on extra spending for the month so I thought, “Heck, I’ll give the library a shot.” Even though I’ve never reserved a book from the library before – EVER.

    But guess what? I now have my very own copy of Monkey Town waiting for me at the library! Apparently reserving books from the library is really easy that even a bonobo could do it.

    1. Beth in Baltimore

      Great idea! I didn’t want to purchase a book I knew I would have difficulty finishing – note my poor track record in my own comment – so I’m going to try the library!

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