Review of Christopher Watkin. Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique.

Christophewatkinr Watkin. Thinking Through Creation: Genesis 1 and 2 as Tools of Cultural Critique. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2017.

As vitally important are the questions of origins and creation in Gen 1-2, often we do not explore their equally valuable theological and cultural implications and applications. With frequent reference to philosophers, theologians, and cultural critics, Christopher Watkin walks us through the labyrinth of philosophical dualisms, that for many people are working models used to understand the universe, while at the same time he deftly dismantles their edifices through exposition of the foundational truths that the triune, personal, loving God created the universe. The dualisms that govern modern perspectives on the world, theories through which the meaning of everything is processed, include the following: impersonal structure/unstructured person; transcendence/immanence; the one/many; function/beauty; facts/values; nature/culture; intellectual/manual work; secular/sacred; nature/culture. Watkin proposes that the biblical creation narrative, rooted in the Creator/creation distinction, tells a very different story, and the only one that can fully address and resolve these dualistic (and totalitarian) theories. I add that they are totalitarian, in that these theories play out in various forms such as Marxism, psychoanalysis, Feminism, eco-theory, and Deconstruction, all of which become ways to think through everything, not just ways to think about everything. Since such theories are all encompassing, and subsume all other theories as well, Watkin proposes that we must articulate the biblical narrative in such a way that we demonstrate that it is the whole story, being true, that explains all other stories. We must not just argue against, we must out-narrate the dualistic alternatives by telling the one true story that encompasses them all. The biblical story is not just a story within a story; it is the story of reality. So, we must stop apologizing for this fact and get to the work of telling the whole story, and particularly why and how all things – everything in life, culture, the universe – have their place only truly within that story. This sounds much like a proposal for biblical theology to me, and a welcome one, to redress the fragmentation of reading the biblical narrative so widespread today in the moralistic, exemploristic, spiritualizing ways people are taught the Bible.

Stressing the fact that a personal God, who is also absolute, created the world, the biblical narrative is one in which love is fundamental and primary. Love and relationships are the bedrock of our universe, since they are rooted in the Triune God. That is, “the universe is not structured simply according to relationships in the abstract, but according to relationships of mutual love modeled on the Trinity” (p. 63).


“Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There!”

bored with books

On boredom, creativity, and the not-so-necessary

There have been a number of articles and books in recent years with this same title. I suppose copy-write laws do not apply to titles. So here is another, though much briefer (for those who get bored).

I have been known to tell my children (three marvelously curious boys) that “boredom is a sin” for those of us who live in God’s endlessly extraordinary universe of people, places, creatures, and things of every size, shape, and color imaginable.  Yet, I have learned a qualification to this sentiment from some of these recent publications, that boredom can actually be a good, since “downtime” with nothing to do is a necessary counter-balance to the frenetic-(fanatical)-fever-pitch over-scheduling of our lives and our childrens’, many of whom have never had the delicious languidity of a summer day laying in the hay or along a brook with a good book, day-dreaming in leisure of very little that may be deemed “matters of consequence” by those  mostly concerned with what-is-necessary. Deprived of the gift of boredom, and tethered to the ever-present-absent, and virtual (not-real), in-iverse of the NET, we lose the moment of imagination and creativity. As Richard Simon quotes Paul Persal, that in worshipping “Nowism” we have “an addiction to technology and the instantaneous response, the disconnection from the natural world, the final triumph of consumerism and the desperate longing for more and more and more.”[1] And as Richard Winter quotes Mary Pipher,

“Most real life is rather quiet and routine. Most pleasures – a hot shower, a sunset, a bowl of good soup or a good book. Television suggests that life is high drama, love, and sex. TV families are radically different from real families. Things happen much faster to them. On television things that are not visually interesting, such as thinking, reading, and talking, are ignored. Activities such as housework, fund-raising and teaching children to read are vastly underreported. Instead of ennobling ordinary experiences, television suggests that they are not of sufficient interest to document.”[2]

Boredom, all the same, can be related to Sloth in its “refusal to delight, a loss of wonder and a worship of numbness.”[3] This is the side of boredom that we parents fear, that it can become a “Slough of Despond” (a swamp of despair). So, we compel them anxiously: “Don’t Just Sit There, Do something!” Yet, we must admit, at that moment we may have killed off their innate ability to imagine in their quietude and solitude, and to begin to create out of their boredom something beautiful and lasting in their God-given drive to respond in wonder and worship of our awesome Creator, in awe at all that is, and at what can and could be . . . at what is still possible.

As Winter says further,

“In God’s creation we can find so much to take an interest in, but it takes effort and self-discipline for us to stop long enough to look and marvel at the structure of a flower or a leaf, to wonder how long it took a mountain to form, to see reflections in the smallest puddle, to watch the wind blowing seeds from a flower, to want to know what each snowflake looks like, to marvel that our nails and hair and skin are constantly growing, to learn the names of birds and trees or to learn to listen to bird songs. Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem, ‘Aurora, Seventh Book,’ expresses something of this:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes–
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.”[4]

And so, to do my part, I will be joining the Slow Food Movement, and, if they will have me, the Slow City Movement . . . to better learn the lessons of discipline in my boredoms, and the gift of leisure in God’s Sabbath design of things that ironically enables us to fulfill our vocations. The days of rest being made for us, and not us for them . . . as Jesus tried repeatedly to convince the Pharisees; always concerned with matters of great consequence they could see nothing good in Jesus feeding his disciples from the fields on a languid summer afternoon, nor with the opening of the eyes of the blind (and the bored) so that they can praise him in wonder at his glory and love.

In contrast to these sentiments, revivalist-mountain-top-experientialist-culture, ever tries to find more exciting and glamorous ways to get the bored, young people “pumped up” and thrilled that they are in the middle of something BIG that God is doing: the larger the crowd the better, the more hip and appealing the speaker the better, the more loud the music and moving the crescendo of noise the more certain God is REALLY present . . . the more exotic the mission . . . Yet, contrarily, “The work of ministry is not so much about finding new, tantalizing ways to make people excited about Jesus, but about the timeless rituals that shape their hearts.”[5]  It is in the seemingly insignificant liturgies of our daily life of loving and serving and praying and learning and working, in leisure and play, with regular folk, that we must walk the talk of faith in the valleys of the ordinary, where Christ is Lord of every (extraordinary) atom that sustains our oftentimes not-so-glamorous and boring lives.

[1] Richard Simon, “Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There,” Family therapy Networker 23, no 1 (1999): 36.

[2] Richard Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering Passion & Wonder, Downers Grove: IVP, 2002, p. 116.

[3] Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 120.

[4] Winter, Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment, p. 124.

[5] Daniel Darling, “Boring Church Services Changed My Life,” Christianity Today Pastors, February 2017, accessed on July 18, 2017 at .


An election week postscript on the credulity of the Progressive Mercedes-Marxists in our times who run our cities and control our Federal Government

In our time, in most places on the earth, the Marxist gospel has been spread with a subversive and ruthless sword, but in the constitutional republic of America, thus far, it has largely been advanced with a silver tongue that masks a spiteful heart (to get elected). This mission has been possible without any need for gulags or prison camps. 

In our time, the extraordinary Clinton/Obama/Sanders type credulity is the uncompromising creed that their Socialistic theocracy has relieved poverty, rather than created it. This delusionary belief may, or may not, be sincerely embraced by all who claim it, but its messianic propaganda has been widely received by those convinced that they will be beneficiaries of a benevolent dictatorship of government largesse. For the recipients who follow this doctrine, it is not necessary to understand that state ownership of the means of production, and its massive, forced redistribution of wealth, has in the past resulted in the totalitarian control of everything. Willing converts to this faith frequently discover too late that they have become the property of those engineering the Socialistic reconstruction of the economy, who in the process must create sufficient poverty for the masses to become dependents in a vicious cycle of votes given in order to assure basic needs of food, shelter, health-care, and education.

In our time, these zealous neo-Marxists have in reality created an enormous plantation right in our midst, in nearly every American city, enslaving faithful millions who willingly surrender their votes in hope. Their misplaced hope is of salvation from grinding poverty (even hunger) and social degradation: arguably, the very best products of Progressive ideology. It does not seem to occur to the devotees that their Rulers’ systems are perfectly designed to get the results they are getting, and that all such societies must inevitably perish along with the martyrs to their false economies.

The most bitter venom of these new Master-priests of societal and economic engineering is reserved for any who digress from their orthodoxy, maligning them as those who do not care about the plight of the Progressives’ impoverished and needy congregations. Indeed, they falsely characterize opponents of the socialist faith as enemies of their opiated, dependent millions.

In reality, for all who do care, recent history in the USSR (and China, North Korea, Vietnam, etc.) should remind us that the Marxists there have taught us well how to reduce the majority of the faithful population to abject misery and hopelessness by creating sufficient poverty and total dependency. It hardly needs mentioning that this scenario requires the social engineers of this failed experiment to retain their own great power and prosperity to manage it all. Yet, I am compelled this election week to make note that in America, the most prosperous and free land in history, that these elected Progressives have, right under our noses, created miseries unmatched even in the Communist nations. These sad tales include spiritual, moral, economic degradation, and violence on a scale that only Josef Stalin could fully appreciate. To deny this direct link between their ideology and its fruit is one of the worse kinds of their dissembling; it is not simply disingenuous. In regards to violence, there are hundreds of murders every year in every American, third-world inner-city plantation (the disastrous Progressives’ “Projects”); there has been genocidal violence against millions of their unborn, minority children, intentionally concentrated where the clinics of “termination” are mostly located. Adding further injury, countless families have been divided by the Socialist Welfare policies of cutting off payments when any sign of a male presence is discovered in the home of women with children, further impoverishing the family and destroying opportunity. To cope with their hopeless captivity, millions there have also become addicted to drugs in desperation. Baltimore alone estimates some 70,000 addicts. Is it then not a marvel that anchors on Chanel 11 still gush about a “Baltimore uprising,” romanticizing drug dealers and anarchists who took control of a few of our city blocks for a weekend back in 2015? The dealers strategically targeted and emptied many liquor stores and pharmacies, while the anarchists fomented violence and burned buildings in the name of Marxian theology, dramatically escalating the drug-war casualties since. Is this the best Progressives can offer us? This was no revolution, nor even a “race riot,” in any sense of the word. And those most hurt were the elderly and their neighborhood pharmacies which depend upon a free, market economy, the very front and center object of the attack. Those most enervated and energized were the Leftists-on-the-Street who are the unwitting, prophetic mouth-piece for the theocrats’ Progressive message. True to character, they have sought to revise the facts of reality to assure at the polls that they will retain, and gain more, power for very real oppressors who will continue this cyclic, downward Progress of economic and social impoverishment.

As we go to the polls,
this may sound rather alarmist,
because it is.

Allah, Yahweh, sexism, and racism at Wheaton?

YHWHThe inanity of professing Christians is oftentimes baffling. For example, Wheaton College recently dismissed (whether she chose to  resign is not clear) a professor for her interfaith displays of “solidarity” with Muslims, an act apparently in defiance of the code of doctrine and faith at Wheaton. Now, ethically speaking, it seems in the least surprising that a teacher would so blithely (perhaps ignorantly?) assume that her actions would not arouse trouble on campus, and that Muslims and Christians alike would not be offended that she seems to associate YHWH with Allah. Even more peculiar is the group of protestors who seem to object to a school being consistent with its faith-convictions (while its administrators were seen tripping over themselves to be gracious and kind, and even apologetic). These protestors have had an “unsanctioned rally” in front of the Wheaton chapel “to launch a 40-day fast encouraging evangelicals to ‘confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God'” (as reported in Christianity Today  by Morgan Lee and Jeremy Weber/ February 10, 2016). Now, the question is, are they repenting of their own sins of “racism, sexism, and Islamophobia,” or everyone else’s (presumably at Wheaton)? I am curious also to know what they might say to Jesus’ words that we should take our prayers and repentance into our closet, and not make a pompous show (with trumpets, fanfare, and sackcloth)? I am doubtful of getting answers to my questions, but I would also like to know why these repenting  people are so racist, and sexist, and fearful of Islam?

But perhaps I misunderstand altogether, and that they actually are rather pointing the guilty finger at others’ guilt. If that be the sad case, then I would recommend they go back to class (and not starve themselves to death), where we would hope that they would learn that racism is an unbiblical attempt to find one’s true identity in one’s ethnicity (a.k.a. “skin color”) while denigrating others’ efforts to find their identity in their own ethnicity (a.k.a. “skin color”). And, also let us hope that they would learn that believing the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, and sexuality in all its forms, is not sexism (I am not sure what sex is as an “ism” anyway). And, that it certainly is not fear, nor hatred, of Muslims that leads Christians (who read and believe the Bible) to conclude that Islam and its god Allah are not in any clear way synonymous with YHWH or biblical faith. And lastly, above all, they should learn in a Christian college that it is precisely why Christians believe that all people are made in the image of a holy God, and have intrinsic dignity, that they invite them to believe in the true and living God and to trust in Christ his Son for their salvation. This invitation includes the message that one can truly find one’s identity only in Christ (and in nothing finite, such as ethnicity or skin color). And, that immoral sexual behavior is only symptomatic of the deeper problem of this so-called sexism, that of the futile foolishness of seeking one’s identity in one’s sexuality. And also, we would hope they might learn that fear of Islam is a silly characterization of those many Christians, who do not believe that Allah and YHWH are synonymous, but who would willingly lay down their lives for the followers of Allah and his prophet Mohamed, in the hopes that they would come to faith in Jesus and receive his gift of loving and eternal grace.

Though befuddled by these questions, still praying that the light of reason prevails at this beautiful campus and college “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

Christianity, Culture, Literacy, and Biblically Prophetic Perspectives

Christianity, Culture, Literacy, and Biblically Prophetic Perspectives

Cultural-LiteracyIn recent decades, there has been a widely chronicled rise of Evangelical interest and participation in cultural pursuits. This has been seen as a return from the wilderness of isolationism (or cultural separatism), typically blamed on what many pejoratively have labeled “Fundamentalism.” There are many academic, political, philosophical, social, and aesthetic examples of this resurgence, and welcome to those of us who are advocates of cultural engagement. Therefore, these brief comments are not intended as an academic rehearsal  of these examples, but rather some personal reflections on Christianity and culture in relation to that engagement and our own cultural literacy.

The question is, do we have any moral responsibility to seek such literacy?
See essay here: Christianity, Culture, and Literacytelevision_67345
cartoon from

The true loss of true authority: historical-illiteracy and illiteracy in biblical proportions

This is a morsel by David Lyle Jeffry that is worth digesting:

“A sharply accentuated disdain for prior history, almost Virgilian in its firmness, and, in America especially, determination to make the frontier and future history supplant it, goes hand in hand with an inherent distrust of the authority of the more distant past – eventually perhaps a disregard for any authority that is not both contemporary and ‘popular’. It is small wonder that, to the chagrin of their grandparents, North American evangelical congregations of this generation possess little more of biblical knowledge – that is, biblical history in the plainest sense – than they do of the secular history which, more notoriously, they have also forgotten. But is the biblical scholarship of today, for all of our preoccupation with the questions of biblical history, doing very much to offset this nearly incalculable loss of biblical history in the shared memory of the church? Or is it the case that both in the guild and in the church biblical scholarship is serving merely to abet the fading from memory and imagination alike of the actual content of biblical narrative? For the erasure or fading away from present Christian consciousness of centering memory – in all its richness of texture and narrative detail – constitutes a loss of authority for the biblical past far more devastating in its implications than the obscure dubieties of academics about this or that textual correspondence or correlation” (David Lyle Jeffrey, “(Pre) Figuration,” Behind the Text: History and Biblical Interpretation, ed. C. Bartholomew, C.S. Evans, Mary Healy, Murray Ray, Scripture and Hermeneutics Series [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003], p. 373).

Vital Lessons in Economics [for Baltimore] from Ludwig Von Mises: # 5

MisesPoster“People may disagree on the question of whether everybody ought to study economics seriously. But one thing is certain. A man who publicly talks or writes about the opposition between capitalism and socialism without having fully familiarized himself with all that economics has to say about these issues is an irresponsible babbler.” Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, p. 34.

“It is not the fault of the capitalists that the Asiatics and Africans did not adopt those ideologies and policies which would have made the evolution of autochthonous capitalism possible. Neither is it the fault of the capitalists that the policies of these nations thwarted the attempts of foreign investors to give them ‘the benefits of more machine production.’ No one contests that what makes hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa destitute is that they cling to primitive methods of production and miss the benefits which the employment of better tools and up-to-date technological designs could bestow upon them. But there is only one means to relieve their distress—namely, the full adoption of laissez- faire capitalism. What they need is private enterprise and the accumulation of new capital, capitalists and entrepreneurs. It is nonsensical to blame capitalism and the capitalistic nations of the West for the plight the backward peoples have brought upon themselves. The remedy indicated is not ‘justice’ but the substitution of sound, i.e., laissez-faire, policies for unsound policies.” Ludwig von Mises, The Anti-capitalistic Mentality, p. 55