Stories | Domenic Marbaniang

Life is an interweaving of stories. We hear stories all the time and stories help us to experience the experiences of others, though vicariously, though in a personal way feeling together with the other. One of the greatest gifts given to humanity by God is the gift of imagination. It is saddening when this is used vilely and foolishly, but humans need imagination to transcend their own world-frame and enter another world-frame to experience learning and benefit from the experiences of others. Stories cannot be told or listened to without the use of imagination.

Stories can help to shed light on ideas. Jesus used stories to teach great truths in simple terms. The Bible is filled with stories to help us understand God, this world and ourselves better. Stories can be realistic or fantastical. Unrealistic fictions may not always be useful. Educators such as Plato tried to suggest state censorship on stories that could confuse citizens on issues of absolutes, truth, and values.

If it wasn’t for stories, we would just be limited to our own experiences. Stories help us to benefit from the experiences of others. A good story actually helps us feel with the characters portrayed in the story and identify with or learn from the tale being told.

There are good stories and there are evil stories. There are also evil-intentioned stories. Slandering, gossiping, and tale bearing are examples of evil-intentioned story-telling.

Stories are entertaining, which means that they can appeal to itchy ears. What one desires for reveals one’s nature. The kind of stories that one is amused with reveals the kind of heart that one has. The kind of stories one believes in and likes reveals the kind of faith that one has. Stories can communicate holiness or sin, virtue or vice, happiness or sorrow.

Stories also reveal our inner heart, whether it stands on the side of evil or on the side of good.

Stories can influence worldviews and the way we perceive things. Stories can instill fear or make us courageous.

The Bible instructs us:

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.” (1Tim.4:7)

Source: Stories | Domenic Marbaniang

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Should the Genesis Account of Creation Be Taken Literally Or Figuratively?

Ever since the dawn of Darwinism and the subsequent rise of Evolutionism, theologians have tried to wrestle with objections posed by science to the Creation account. The enormous amount of fossil records and proven accuracy of dating methods that try to figure out dates of each fossil along with other scientific researches are seen as a real issue that intellectual Christianity cannot be blind to. Many of the modern theologians and apologists have given in to some form of accommodation of evolutionary thinking, though trying to keep God in picture as the Prime Cause of all things. Most of them prefer a mythical or figurative interpretation of the Genesis account.

The Catholic Church doesn’t ignore the possibility of biological evolution; however, it makes it clear that the theory of biological evolution cannot explain the creation of the human spirit that distinguishes humans from beasts. In his Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Oct 22, 1996, Pope John Paul II said:

…the theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. They are therefore unable to serve as the basis for the dignity of the human person.

Catholic.com explains the position:

Concerning biological evolution, the Church does not have an official position on whether various life forms developed over the course of time. However, it says that, if they did develop, then they did so under the impetus and guidance of God, and their ultimate creation must be ascribed to him.

Concerning human evolution, the Church has a more definite teaching. It allows for the possibility that man’s body developed from previous biological forms, under God’s guidance, but it insists on the special creation of his soul.

British New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, has no interest in the literal interpretation of either Genesis 1-2 or a literal historical Adam. In his Surprise by Scripture (2014), he writes:

…just as God chose Israel from the rest of humankind for a special, strange, demanding vocation, so perhaps what Genesis is telling us is that God chose one pair from the rest of early hominids for a special, strange, demanding vocation. This pair (call them Adam and Eve if you like) were to be the representatives of the whole human race, the ones in whom God’s purpose to make the whole world a place of delight and joy and order, eventually colonizing the whole creation, was to be taken forward.

Notable apologist William Lane Craig opts for Progressive Creationism. In his words:

It seems to me that so-called progressive creationism would provide a nice model that would fit both the scientific evidence as well as the biblical data. Progressive creationism suggests that God intervenes periodically to bring about miraculously new forms of life and then allows evolutionary change to take place with respect to those life forms. As for grand evolutionary change, this would not take place by the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection if undirected by God. Rather, we would need miraculous creationist acts of God to intervene in the process of biological evolution to bring about grand evolutionary change. So we would have a kind of progressive creationism whereby God creates biological complexity over time.

…some sort of a progressive creationist view, I think, would explain the evidence quite well. It would allow you to affirm or deny if you wish the thesis of common ancestry and it would supplement the mechanisms of genetic mutation and natural selection with divine intervention. I find some sort of progressive creationism to be an attractive view.

However, Craig is not dogmatic on this stance which he qualifies by saying, “I want to reiterate that on these issues I am like many of you a scientific layperson…. So these opinions are held tentatively and lightly and are subject to revision.”

Irish theologian Alister McGrath also favors the non-literal interpretation, not just because of the scientific challenge but because he finds that the literal interpretation was not so popular in early church history. He finds, especially, Augustine’s view quite liberating:

What I noticed in the earlier period of the Christian church is that people didn’t read Genesis in that way. I think we have more freedom about how we interpret these passages than some might think. There is no doubt [the Scriptures] teach God made all things. I don’t think they necessarily teach that God made all things instantaneously at one moment in time so that what we now see is the way things always have been. I think it’s more complex than that. Augustine of Hippo gives us a useful theological framework, which means we can begin to engage questions of evolution. You can’t simply say, “It’s the Bible or evolution.” Certainly, I would challenge certain interpretations of evolution—above all, Richard Dawkins’ idea, which is atheistic. I think we need to understand both evolution and Scripture rightly. (An Interview With Alister McGrath, DTS, Dec 2012)

Unsurprisingly, Augustine approaches the text with the culturally prevalent presupposition of the fixity of species and finds nothing in it to challenge his thinking on this point. Yet the ways in which he critiques contemporary authorities and his own experience suggest that, on this point at least, he would be open to correction in light of prevailing scientific opinion. (“Augustine’s Origin of Species,” CT, May 2009)

My Responses

The literal view of Genesis 1 and 2 may look quite embarrassing to theologians who wish to be or appear intellectually honest in face of surmounting scientific evidences that seem to favor anything but the literal biblical account of creation in Genesis. Some would better prefer to look at the two accounts as more poetic or figurative rather than factual narratives. Of course, the way the narrative is given does not give any hint of it being just a clever poem or illustrative myth.

I think the message of the cross is more foolish and scientifically impossible to the secular intellectual mind than the literal take of Genesis 1 and 2. What scientific mind can find the message of a Man (God Incarnate) being crucified for religious and political reasons on the cross as being the Sacrificial Atonement for the sins of all mankind?

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1Co 1:18)
…we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (1Co 1:23)

But, the scientific understanding based on whatever dating technology (as accurate as these may be), and other discoveries, is not “necessarily” conclusive, given its inductive nature and the open possibilities of exceptions. We may laugh at Young Earth Creationists for trying to find evidences for a young earth, but do we know what we are actually doing by questioning the literal historicity of the Genesis account? You cannot sit on the outward end of a branch that you are actually sawing off.

We come to the question of Authority now. The enamor with intellectualism is somehow tied up with universities, professor quotes, appeal to authority fallacies, and various other forms of “authorities” that seem to stand against the authority of Scripture. It is not surprising that such enamor may lead to either seminaries becoming engulfed by universities (through affiliation or absorption) or becoming emptied by universities because they cannot any more retain students who they have educated to favor the universities. But, when it comes to intellectual honesty with faith, I do not think it is really honest to favor some parts of scripture as literal and others as probably figurative based on contemporary scientific understandings on the same theme. If you allow the camel to put his feet inside the tent, obviously, he is going to kick you out of the tent before dawn.

The literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 may look foolish and dumb to many. To many it does not. It makes better sense than the all the various theories of evolution put together. And the latter are certainly not unintelligent and dumb believers. They find it more consistent to believe in Scripture as inerrant and absolutely authoritative for all deductive interpretation and understanding of faith than allow the unstable darts of human wisdom to trouble them with ideas that are perpetually in a flux.

1. If Scriptural inerrancy is superfluous, then biblical faith has lost its basis. The same Scripture that gives an account of creation in six days states the event as the historical basis for the law of the sabbath or rest for the Israelites:

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it. (Exo 20:11)

2. If it is scientifically unacceptable that God created Adam out of the dust literally, it should also be scientifically unacceptable that God incarnated as Man in Jesus.

The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. (1Co 15:47)

3. If Genesis 1-2 is taken figuratively only, it would follow that most of the book, if not at least till Genesis 11, cannot be taken literally anymore.

4. The non-literal view challenges the New Testament Gospel of Christ as our Saviour:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. (1Co 15:22)

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:17-19)

5. If the authority of Scriptures is subjected to the authority of “science” or intellectual elitism, God becomes subject to the imagination and formulations of the human mind; in short, idolatry.
6. Jesus didn’t talk of the Genesis account as merely figurative but as historical and foundational to human values:

“But from the beginning of the creation, God`made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,and the two shall become one flesh’; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh.’ “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Mar 10:6-9)

See Also
Evolutionism & Living Reality
Problems of Evolutionism
A. E. Wildersmith – Media Library on Science & Bible
Australopithecus Deyiremeda: Strong Argument for Evolutionism?
Chesterton on Darwin’s Missing Link
On Church and On Evolution – G K Chesterton
Creation & Evolution
The Anthropic Principle and Epistemic Issuesk” rel=”noopener”>Mar 10:6-9)

The Original Division of Light From Darkness (Genesis 1:4)

And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (Gen 1:4)

The usual way has been to look at this along with the statement that “God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.” (Gen.1:5). So Barnes notes:

God then separates light and darkness, by assigning to each its relative position in time and space. This no doubt refers to the vicissitudes of day and night, as we learn from the following verse: Gen 1:5 Called to the light, day, … – After separating the light and the darkness, he gives them the new names of day and night, according to the limitations under which they were now placed.

But John Gill saw this division as original division of light and dark particles: “and God divided the light from the darkness: by which it should seem that they were mixed together, the particles of light and darkness”

Of course, the scientific views in the 17th century were quite different from the views now. Today, scientists hypothetically talk also of something called dark matter and dark energy. According to NASA,

We know how much dark energy there is because we know how it affects the universe’s expansion. Other than that, it is a complete mystery. But it is an important mystery. It turns out that roughly 68% of the universe is dark energy. Dark matter makes up about 27%. The rest – everything on Earth, everything ever observed with all of our instruments, all normal matter – adds up to less than 5% of the universe. Come to think of it, maybe it shouldn’t be called “normal” matter at all, since it is such a small fraction of the universe.
…..
By fitting a theoretical model of the composition of the universe to the combined set of cosmological observations, scientists have come up with the composition that we described above, ~68% dark energy, ~27% dark matter, ~5% normal matter. What is dark matter?

We are much more certain what dark matter is not than we are what it is. First, it is dark, meaning that it is not in the form of stars and planets that we see. Observations show that there is far too little visible matter in the universe to make up the 27% required by the observations. Second, it is not in the form of dark clouds of normal matter, matter made up of particles called baryons. We know this because we would be able to detect baryonic clouds by their absorption of radiation passing through them. Third, dark matter is not antimatter, because we do not see the unique gamma rays that are produced when antimatter annihilates with matter. Finally, we can rule out large galaxy-sized black holes on the basis of how many gravitational lenses we see. High concentrations of matter bend light passing near them from objects further away, but we do not see enough lensing events to suggest that such objects to make up the required 25% dark matter contribution.

Is Genesis 1:4 talking about the division of light and normal matter from dark matter and energy? I am not in a position to immediately draw any conclusions now. But, I find the very statement of God dividing light from darkness quite stunning.

I think it was Emil Brunner who emphatically noted that God not only created light but also created darkness, based on the Biblical declaration in Isaiah 45:7 – “I form the light, and create darkness.”

Obviously, if God didn’t create darkness, where would it come from?

The Augustinian view of darkness as the absence of light emphasizes the significance of light as the reality and darkness as mere absence of that reality. By definition, this dualism appears certain as it is. Where there is no light, darkness is; where there is light, darkness cannot be. But, this doesn’t explain how God could divide light from darkness.

Of course, we are not trying to depend on scientific hypotheses to help us understand this. But, isn’t it remarkable that scientists are talking of dark matter and dark energy in opposition to the phenomenon of light?

Interestingly, the Scripture tells us that in the new creation and in the City of God, there will not be night anymore:

And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Rev.22:5)

Source: The Original Division of Light From Darkness (Genesis 1:4)

Origin of the Poem “When God Wants To Drill A Man”

Source: Origin of the Poem “When God Wants To Drill A Man”

The poem as quoted in Oswald J. Sander’s (not to be confused with Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)) Spiritual Leadership (1967) credits it to an “Author Unknown”. The poem as he quotes it is as follows:

When God wants to drill a man
And thrill a man
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try His splendour out–
God knows what He’s about!
(Author Unknown)

Some have credited the poem under the title “Whom God Chooses” to Rev. Henry Francis Lyte (1793–1847), an Anglican hymnwriter and poet. But, I wasn’t able to find it in any major collection of hymns written by him (See HymntimeCyberhymnalHymnary). But, there should be a reason why someone first credited it to him before many others copied the information.

Some others think it is a Christianized form of a poem originally written by an American poet Angela Morgan (1875-1957). Angela’s poem “When Nature Wants A Man” is found in pages 92-95 of her anthology >Forward, March (1918), published by John Lane Company, New York. The poem is as follows:

When Nature wants to drill a man
And thrill a man,
And skill a man,
When Nature wants to mould a man
To play the noblest part;
When she yearns with all her heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall praise
Watch her methods, watch her ways!
How she ruthlessly perfects
Whom she royally elects;
How she hammers him and hurts him
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay which only Nature understands
While his tortured heart is crying and he lifts beseeching hands!–
How she bends, but never breaks,
When his good she undertakes . . .
How she uses whom she chooses
And with every purpose fuses him,
By every art induces him
To try his splendour out–
Nature knows what she’s about.

When Nature wants to take a man
And shake a man
And wake a man;
When Nature wants to make a man
To do the Future’s will;
When she tries with all her skill
And she yearns with all her soul
To create him large and whole . . .
With what cunning she prepares him!
How she goads and never spares him,
How she whets him and she frets him
And in poverty begets him . . .
How she often disappoints
Whom she sacredly anoints,
With what wisdom she will hide him,
Never minding what betide him
Though his genius sob with slighting and his pride may not forget!
Bids him struggle harder yet.
Makes him lonely
So that only
God s high messages shall reach him,
So that she may surely teach him
What the Hierarchy planned.
Though he may not understand
Gives him passions to command–
How remorselessly she spurs him,
With terrific ardour stirs him
When she poignantly prefers him!

When Nature wants to name a man
And fame a man
And tame a man;
When Nature wants to shame a man
To do his heavenly best . . .
When she tries the highest test
That her reckoning may bring–
When she wants a god or king!–
How she reins him and restrains him
So his body scarce contains him
While she fires him
And inspires him!
Keeps him yearning, ever burning for a tantalising goal–
Lures and lacerates his soul.
Sets a challenge for his spirit,
Draws it higher when he s near it–
Makes a jungle, that he clear it;
Makes a desert, that he fear it
And subdue it if he can–
So doth Nature make a man.
Then, to test his spirit s wrath
Hurls a mountain in his path–
Puts the bitter choice before him
And relentlessly stands o er him.
“Climb, or perish!” so she says . . .
Watch her purpose, watch her ways!

Nature’s plan is wondrous kind
Could we understand her mind …
Fools are they who call her blind.
When his feet are torn and bleeding
Yet his spirit mounts unheeding,
All his higher powers speeding
Blazing newer paths and fine;
When the force that is divine
Leaps to challenge every failure and his ardour still is sweet
And love and hope are burning in the presence of defeat . . .
Lo, the crisis! Lo, the shout
That must call the leader out.
When the people need salvation
Doth he come to lead the nation . . .
Then doth Nature show her plan
When the world has found–a man!

The “Christianized” theory, obviously, seems more plausible.

The Shack (2017): Movie Review

Source: The Shack (2017): Movie Review

There are a number of Christian movies that have tried to tackle the issue of human suffering in the face of faith in an all-good and all-powerful God. The Shack, based on the 2007 novel by William P. Young, is a serious attempt towards the same. The movie shows Mack who is in deep shock from the sudden loss of his youngest daughter struggling with the issue of faith and forgiveness. By a turn of events, He meets the Trinity which manifests to him in a homely setting as Mother-Son-Sarayu (a young lady as the Spirit). The Trinity don’t look European (white) in this movie. The traditional image of the Father as someone aged (here, first shown as Mother (Papa) and later as Father-figure ) is kept intact. Of course, we may think the Ageless One need not be depicted as an old aged. But, the movie maker tried to not disturb the traditional imagery too much. The movie draws a very homely, friendly, and lively scenery of the conversations between Mack and the Trinity.

There are a number of theological and apologetic reasoning strewn into the conversations, most of which are familiar in Christian responses given to the problem of evil. Themes of freewill, divine sovereignty, moral choice, and the suffering of God feature well in the discussions. However, Mack cannot be helped by any of these until Wisdom shows him his daughter Missy happy in heaven. It is at this moment when hope, faith, and love combine in Mack and he is healed of the sting of suffering. Later on, of course, he also needs to learn to forgive the murderer of his daughter. He needs to forgive and say it out aloud that he has forgiven that man in order to be delivered.

The movie has made a great attempt at trying to make a sense of human suffering in light of the revelation of God in the Bible. In the final state, it is the vision of hope that he can meet his Missy again that has the greatest panacea for Mack’s suffering. Then, it is an act of love – to forgive – that finally emancipates him. Of course, it also involves his remorse, repentance, and love to Triune God.

Of course, underlying all is a deep religious experience of personal encounter and a remarkable vision.