The World’s Biggest Waste of Time

Posted: January 22, 2014 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

charlie-bit-my-finger-imageI would argue that, if you’re giving out the award for the biggest waste of time over the last five years or so, the award would have to go to the “Charlie Bit My Finger” video.  Charlie is in the running due to its distinction as the most viewed Youtube Video ever (as well as giving further proof that everything is funnier when said with a British accent).  It has been watched over 640 million times, and considering that it is 56 seconds long, that equates to over one thousand years worth of time that’s been spent watching Charlie bite his brother’s finger.

Now granted, I don’t have any stats on the world’s time investment in playing Angry Birds, but I still think it’s a solid nomination.

This week, however, I may have found something that could give Charlie a run for his money.

Behold, I give you “Why I Reject Evolution (And Am Intellectually Satisfied in Doing So),” by Alan Cross.  It was reposted on someone else’s blog, “SBC Voices,” so add however much time that took to however long it took for people to leave 221 comments on the repost.  And while there are some paragraph long answers along the way, many of them are 9, 10, 11 point behemoths.  I had a yearning to leave comment 222 and ask someone to please tell me about a disciple that was made by all of that time and effort.  However, perhaps mercifully, the commenting function on that article has been closed.  Had it not, who knows how far out in front of Charlie the Evolution Rejector might have been?  Sadly, we’ll never know.  Or not sadly.

Don’t read the whole thing.  I confess–I tried reading it, but it was just too much.  I started to skim a little, and then a lot.  Finally, I decided to skip to the end, and discovered that someone had introduced a metaphor where God was cooking barbecue, and then there was some discussion of SEC football, but both of those interesting discussions had been drowned out by all of the people having a “fanciest seminary word” contest.  If I had a spare ten bucks I’d bet it all that much–if not, most–of the responses were written by people who were sitting in a seminary class on their laptop using the seminary’s WIFI and not paying attention to the education that their churches are going to help them pay off over the next 15-20 years.  But I don’t have a spare ten bucks… probably because of all the times I watched Charlie biting his brother’s finger instead of being more industrious with my time.  Curse you, Charlie.  Curse you…

When you are a part of a denomination that bears the burden of the “Five Fundamentals of Fundamentalism,” you have to invest 221 comments in a discussion over whether evolution or creation is the real method by which the human race stepped into existence, whether 6,000 or 80 billion years ago.  The first fundamental is that the Bible is “inerrant.”  It contains nothing but ironclad, literal fact.

John Wesley teaches a different way.  The first question for the Methodist student of the Scriptures is, “How does this text intend to form me as a disciple of Jesus Christ?”  The Bible is the inspired Word of God–people had encounters with God in the Old Testament, or encountered God in the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, and these encounters were so inspiring that they could not help but testify about what they had seen and heard and experienced, both verbally and in writing.  We receive these writings as a gift, because some of them have survived the centuries and are still available to us today.

While we receive them as a gift, it is important to remember that they were written by specific people to specific people–they were not written to people who would be alive 2000 years later.  They were not written to us.  So, the exegetical responsibility we have is to discern what might have been the author’s purpose in writing down this particular story.  That way, as we understand the relationship that existed between the author and recipient, we can then explore what we might glean from their communication for our own spiritual formation.

Fundamentalism misses out on that opportunity far too much.  In the race to argue about evolution and creation, not once in the (parts I didn’t skim or skip in the) article or comments did anybody stop to ask why it matters to me, as a person who is trying to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ, that there may have been evolution 80 billion years ago or creation 6,000 years ago.

221 commentsThe first chapters of the Book of Genesis contain the account of creation.  We easily dive in and look to read into these passages our own view on the debate long before we ever consider stepping back to just see what’s there.  The 221 comments are all spent trying to point out who’s right and who’s wrong.  It’s all about saving face and looking smart.

So you’re probably not shocked to discover that none of the 221 comments included anyone reading the words of another and saying, “Wow, you know?  I’ve never considered it that way before.  Okay, you sold me.  I’m won over.”  Everybody breaking out bigger and bigger seminary words, looking for the haymaker -ology that will vanquish the other side and expose their heresy.

Most agree that the writer of Genesis was probably Moses.  Moses’ story begins in the book of Exodus, which follows Genesis.  It tells the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of their 400 year stay in Egypt, and on a journey to return to the land promised to their ancestors so that they could become a great nation that would reflect the character of Yahweh in this world.

The recipients of Moses writing was the Israelites who were entering the promised land.  What did they need to become a nation?  How great could they become if they kept looking around at other nations for ways that they don’t measure up?  For starters, they needed a national story.

Other nations had them.  They had stories, legends, immortals.  They had flood stories and “Pandora’s Box” stories and origin/creation stories.  The Philistines had one.  The Amorites, Hittites, Hivites… they all had an origin story; but Israel did not.  Coming out of 400 years of the polytheism of Egypt, had been neck deep in the stories of other gods for generations–so much so that one of the first orders of business was to begin to write down the fragments and oral versions of the stories of Israel, and he pulled them together into a narrative that would continue in them for years to come, and into a story that would become their national story.

Did it have to be perfect to become their story?  Did it have to contain every scientific detail?  No.  It had to explain where they came from, so that they could discern where they were going.  Did Moses intend to convey to us scientific data?  Of course not.  He intended to show Israel that no nation could look down on them, and that they lacked nothing they would need in order to do what God is calling them to do.  Did seven-day creation happen?  Did evolution happen?  I don’t know–I wasn’t there.  And neither were you.  And neither were any of the fully convinced authors of 221 comments on “Why I Reject Evolution (and Am Intellectually Satisfied in Doing So.)”  Yes, yes!  Please tell me about your intellectual satisfaction.  Please tell me how you have all the answers and understand everything and are totally at peace that you’ve got it all figured out.  God puts a great deal of value on making sure you’re intellectually satisfied, so tell us.  Tell us all about it.  That’ll be time well spent, right?  Or, is Charlie beginning to get nervous?

It seems that, if our goal is making and growing disciples of Jesus Christ who will transform the world, a reminder that God has given us all we need answer his call and have a Kingdom impact in this world would be a lot more helpful to me than 221 attempts to look the smartest in a debate over evolution vs. creation.

Move over Charlie.  There’s a new sheriff in town.

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Comments
  1. dmille3098 says:

    Is it safe to assume after this insulting and disrespectful post, that we can count on not seeing you at SBC Voices any more?

    Thank you for that.

    • Matt Horan says:

      Dave, whether someone gets insulted by something is up to them. You have a variety of responses to what you encounter available to you. I’m calling it how I see it, and I saw people that need to step away from their laptops, walk outside, and go meet people and invite them to church.

      The SBC blog is full of people who seem eager to be insulted so they can start a biggest brain competition, and I find it positively infuriating that there could be such a monumental waste of time by so many people with “pastor” in their username. So was I insulting? I guess that’s up to you to decide. I will own that I’m angry that this is the way that the leaders of the church of Jesus Christ spend their time when polls indicate that a majority of people outside the church would give it a try if someone just invited them. Please, please go outside and invite people to your church and stop this. Satan laughs at us for every second we waste on drawing our little theological lines in the sand. So go wipe that smile off his face and start building the kingdom! The world is counting on us–let’s not let them down!

  2. ryan85 says:

    Hey, Matt. Well, I’m going to offer some thoughts and hope to be antagonistic in perspective without antagonizing. Hope it works 🙂 I may be a bit all over the place.

    You said you weren’t there, etc in your post. But neither was Charles Darwin or Richard Dawkins, or anyone else. Frankly, I believe the debate must occur because review and debate are one of the pillars in the pursuit of truth. Why can’t we question Darwin? Why must we accept the theory of evolution as law?

    I don’t know what the intellectually satisfied said, but theologically speaking and humanitarian…ly speaking I’d like to share some ideas in no particular order.

    1) The idea of evolution is an, if not the, undercurrent pushing racism. To believe that the “negro” is closer to the ape than the white man is to reject human dignity and separate us on ill informed, scientifically ignorant grounds. Not to mention breeding pragmatically justified genocide. The Creation account refutes those ideas with the idea that we are ALL created in the image of God. I think that matters.

    2) Whether one wants to accept the Gap theory, or ‘yom’ referring to time periods, or any other theory to mesh an old Earth with Biblical history, one still must reconcile Genesis accounts that are in contradiction to evolutionary theory. If one does accept evolution they must then also believe Genesis is erroneous. And if Genesis is erroneous “in the beginning” what gives it credibility in the middle or end? And I believe that can be carried through to incorporate the whole Bible. My thinking, accepting none of us were there and likely all of us are at least a little wrong, is to doubt men before I doubt God, therefore I doubt the Origin of the Species before I doubt the Bible.

    3) Disciple making. Well, I’d point you to Mark Zook who is (maybe was) a missionary to Papua New Guinea. You can watch a video of his work here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htIexEnz4hQ) the whole thing is good, but start at the 7:00 mark to see how essential refuting evolution teaching creation was in helping these people comprehend Christ. (It’s one of the most remarkable reactions to the gospel I’ve ever seen and worth your 10 minute investment regardless of this conversation.)

    4) I believe there is plenty of “science” to support a belief in creation. That’s all.

    5) Just to point out some potential irony, I wonder how many disciples were created from writing or reading an article questioning the disciple making power of another article? 😉

    6) Profoundly important things like marriage are rooted in these same texts. If we discount Chapters 1-3 (and likely more) it also casts shadow on marriage and family. Furthermore, Jesus quotes from those chapters when offering a definitive rebuttal to folks in the NT, and I would struggle with the idea that he quoted a myth Moses invented in that context. He wasn’t offering a parable there.

    7) Many Gators accept the theory of evolution. (Not sure if that’s relevant.)

    • Matt Horan says:

      Hey Ryan, thanks for your spirit.

      If someone backs away from their blog and goes and invites people to their church, I’d say this article would help make disciples, yes.

      What would be ironic would be my responding to your points about evolution after saying in my article that it’s a waste of time. Maybe you’re right, but it just doesn’t matter. Nobody outside the church cares, and if we’d spend more time out there with them, we would’t either.

    • Matt Horan says:

      That said, #7 is compelling. 🙂

  3. ryan85 says:

    A couple more thoughts came to mind.

    First, I didn’t read the article in question or any of the comments so I’m not defending it or the author. I do think his premise is important to support though. There is a rising tide of mockery, led by Richard Dawkins, against anyone who believes in God or rejects evolution. His thought pattern being A) There is no God. B) Evolution is an undeniable fact C) Disagreeing with ‘A’ or ‘B’ proves you are stupid. He regularly uses language denigrating anyone who is a theist or questions evolution and if we don’t challenge his arrogance his myths begin to permeate culture (The already have). I think it important to offer evidences from the realms of science that present challenges for evolutionists and point to something transcendent because it validates the conversation and debunks the idea that considering God or creation is akin to considering “flying spaghetti monsters.”

    Second, while many find the conversation nauseating, others, myself included, find it spiritually invigorating. Granted, I doubt there are many converts who would point to a debate on carbon dating as their inception of faith in Christ, but that doesn’t make the conversation moot. Billy Graham would likely never discuss abortion at a crusade but that doesn’t mean the Christian should remain ignorant or neglect to engage culture on that level. I believe, at least in part, exploring Genesis and the questions of origin satisfy the admonition in 2 Peter 1 to add to our faith… knowledge (specifically knowledge of what we believe). It’s an exercise of our intellect and while comments sections may not lead many to faith, the exploration does, in fact, buttress mine and others.

    • Matt Horan says:

      Thanks for this comment. Not going to participate in the evolution thing though. Does more harm than good. Arguing with Richard Dawkins will accomplish nothing. Letting the fruit of the spirit show by the way that we love others and live together in an Acts 2 spirit will unleash revival.

  4. Chris White says:

    Hey Matt,
    I guess the thing that bothers me most about your post is the false dichotomy it sets up. You either blog, or you invite people to church, but you can’t do both apparently. I attend a SBC church, one of 43,000+ so I don’t pretend to think that my church experience is normative of churches throughout the convention. However, my church is intentional about making disciples, as am I (and I would argue that the best way to make a disciple is not necessarily inviting them to church, but that is a discussion for another time). I think there are many SBC churches that want to see the Kingdom impacted by disciple-making, so please don’t paint with too broad of a brush. I do think you can be a responsible blogger and be committed to making disciples. I see no reason why they are mutually exclusive.

    I didn’t read the blog post that you referenced. I often avoid the blogosphere for some of the reasons, you listed above that frustrate you. If I do read a blog, or a post, I almost never read the comments. A lot of that is due to time, and a lot of it is due to the enmity that exists in the blogosphere (on ALL “sides” of a given topic, denomination, social issue, etc…), represented specifically in the comments section of most blogs. But I find it interesting that in urging people to give up their blogs and make disciples you yourself have obviously read a blog post (not the whole thing as you mentioned) perused some of the comments, and then written a blog post ABOUT the blog post you don’t agree with. So would your time have been better spent out in your neighborhood, inviting folks to church, or meeting with individuals within your congregation for discipleship?

    Matt, I’ve known you for a long time. We may have some deep disagreements on theology and contemporary issues of the day, but I will always value you, and your friendship. You were one of the key figures in my decision to follow Christ. If you had not endeavored to start a Bible study in the FIJI house in 1994 I might not be on the incredible journey I’m on right now, in seminary, called to cross-cultural missions. I don’t want to see you sucked into the tit-for-tat that characterizes so much of what passes for Christian “discourse” these days. A few weeks ago you posted on FB that you had been called “dogmatic”, and it seemed to me as if you wore that as a badge of honor. I guess there was another SBC blogger somewhere that posted something that bothered you, you responded, and were greeted with vitriol. You responded for a while, posting about it on FB, and then your FB friends, like-minded I suppose, whipped out labels like “fundamentalist” and “TULIP crowd”. Really, the whole display sickened me. And I know that others from that blog probably did the same, and all their friends used labels like “liberal”, or something else meant to demean.

    This comment has become longer than I intended it to become. I hope you and your family are doing well, and I hope your church is doing all it can to make disciples of Jesus Christ. I would urge you to not let anything distract you from that purpose.

    Whitey

    • Matt Horan says:

      Thanks Whitey. I value you as well, and value your opinion. You are probably right–my dichotomy is teetering close to false.

      I stand by my belief that our debates about evolution are not constructive, but you are correct that I’m apparently guilty of the crime I’m railing about as well.

      I was hoping to point more to the time we spend on the topic and less to writing a blog in itself. Obviously, I write one, so it would be pretty stupid to write negatively about blogging on my blog. However, I could have been more careful to make that distinction, as it seems that I have chosen words or phrases that made me look, well, that stupid. Thanks for sharpening me, as always!

  5. ryan85 says:

    I didn’t necessarily seek for you to respond to my thoughts on evolution. I was just trying to show that I don’t think the debate is a waste of time.

    Obviously, your statement about Acts 2 is accurate, but I’d like to offer that in the Bible study I lead we often host people who don’t believe and many who are very young in their faith. Many of them have been studying at FSU at high levels and struggled mightily with their faith because they were being outcast for being theists or doubting evolution. One lady in particular is a big deal in the world of geology but she felt compelled to refrain from expressing her faith because she had yet to finish her PHD. We would share books and ideas on these issues and it was a great resource and encouragement to her. Anecdotal, sure, but I think we’d be wise (maybe this is the marriage thinker in me) to refrain from “nobody” in our responses.

    Also, I spend a lot of time with people who aren’t believers. Not as much as I do with my family or as much as I do with believers, but I do intentionally invest time in those who don’t know Jesus. Maybe it’s my make up, but I find myself more intrigued by this stuff as I learn more about my friends. They have some of the best questions and it challenges me to help us both find answers, whether they be about creation or hope within heartache. Again, my experience is just anecdotal, but I share it because I think it’s unfair to state an individual wouldn’t care about these questions if they were spending time with unbelievers.The opposite is true with me.

    Just for clarification’s sake, because I may be missing the point. Are you opposed to Christians engaging in the sciences, performing research, writing papers, etc.? Or, are you more specifically addressing the tone and attitudes present in most comment sections? I, for one, believe comment sections are tough places to reach consensus because they tend toward arrogance and spite. I think we would likely agree on that one.

    Dude, did you watch the video??? It isn’t a big evolution vs. creation thing. It’s a documentary of a tribe’s response to the gospel and it’s really something. I shared it because they happen to value creation as a component in their approach and it was evidence of disciples being birthed as a byproduct of an approach that included creation. Granted, not a blog :). These missionaries were doing as you suggest, living with a people group, learning their customs and language, loving them in practical ways, etc. It’s just that when it came time, they challenged evolution by simply proclaiming God and his creation. In my mind, it’s an example of the perfect merger of loving people deeply while embracing the Bible literally.

    • Matt Horan says:

      I guess my points are this:
      1.) I’m not opposed to blogging. Obviously there are plenty of articles out there that are helpful to people in ministry, offering encouragement, comaraderie, and a helpful exchange of ideas. I am pro blog.
      2.) I don’t think there is a neutral voice involved in the creation/evolution debate that might actively explore the facts and come to some conclusions, albeit they would be premised with, “As best we can surmise…” or something. Everyone involved seems to have already decided what they think, so what’s the value in it? Defending our side? The effort spent by both sides defending their position feels to me something akin to getting a haircut on my receeding head with hedge clippers. It’s not really a high enough value project upon which to unleash our biggest tools.
      3.) In the end, I just don’t think it matters. It doesn’t change the fact that Jesus Christ came into this world, did miracles, changed lives, showed us how to love each other and live together and resist temptation, and did not resist even when falsely accused and sent to his execution. It doesn’t change the fact that he rose again on the third day. It doesn’t change the fact that he is the firstborn of the new creation, paving the way for us to not let death be the final word for us either. It doesn’t change the fact that the apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and could be heard by anyone regardless of their language. It doesn’t change the fact that the Holy Spirit inspired them to great courage in the face of certain martyrdom. It doesn’t change the fact that their life with Christ and the filling of the Holy Spirit inspired them to write to the churches about how to be one church despite living in many very different locations. And it doesn’t change the fact that those inspired writings are still inspiring people and changing lives 2000 years later. All of this happened whether we evolved over a billion years or whether we were created in one day from the dust of the earth.

      No matter how smart Richard Dawkins thinks he is, he can’t be 100% sure about the origin of the universe; and no matter how smart any of us in Christendom think we are, we can’t be 100% sure about it either. Even if someone believes in seven-day creation because “the Bible says so,” they’re doing so not because of some sort of ironclad data someone collected, but because they decided to put faith in it, which is by definition NOT based on seeing, but trusting WITHOUT having all the facts–and that’s okay.

      So, if such debates are someone’s hobby–if it somehow recharges the battery and renews and refreshes them for the harvest, then go for it. But saying that building the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in heaven is somehow impeded because some believe in evolution and others believe in creation? That is just not true–I have seen people who love and study the scriptures, and who believe in evolution, bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit as they live out God’s call on their lives. There can be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control exhibited in the lives of God’s people by the power of the Holy Spirit at work within them even if they don’t have a solid theory on how or when the universe came to be.

      Many thanks to each of you for pointing out the inconsistencies in what I said, and for the opportunity to clarify. I’m pro blog, and anti-the Kingdom hinging on a belief in either evolution or creation.

      To go further, I often sense despair in the writing and voices of many of my friends from Campus Crusade and my time in Tallahassee, as if I’ve traveled over some theological cliff and now exist as wreckage in the valley below. I think, however, that this cliff thing is overstated. Of course after doing ministry in three different cities in three different churches, and after interning at another church and as a hospital chaplain, and after going to seminary and various other continuing education experiences after that, I would hope that all that effort would move me along somehow and give me access to new information and perspectives that would deepen my understanding. Most of all, I hope that, in all of those experiences God would reveal something of himself so that I might become and more and more intimate friend to him.

      I shudder to say it, because I think that no two words have done more damage to the church than the labels of “liberal” or “conservative” we like to foist on each other, but I guess the perception is that once I was conservative, now I’m liberal, and I’m really missing out on receiving all that God has in store for me because of it. I once was found but now am lost, could see but now am blind…

      I would welcome whatever questions anyone wants to ask about my theological position. I’m not opposed to hearing another view. I’m not even opposed to being convinced that there’s something better than what I’ve got. I do feel that the differences between me and anyone else who professes Christ from any season of my life are not nearly as great as the chasm that some seem to perceive.

      (And yes, Whitey, that “chasm” is for you. 🙂 I am glad that our geographic distance and years between meetings have not absconded with our friendship.)

  6. Matt Horan says:

    So a couple weeks ago I posted a status update making fun of a blog article discussion where someone called me “rigid and dogmatic.” I added a link to the blog so others could see it. I continued participating in the commentary on the blog, “SBC Voices,” but need to address the manner by which I went about it.

    Some good friends called me on the tone I was using–I wore the label as a “badge of honor,” and made sweeping generalizations about those who adhere to the “five fundamentals” and/or to the “T.U.L.I.P.” doctrines, and invited like-minded Facebook friends to join in and pile on.

    The voices quoted and priorities set forth by some of those adherents have really disappointed and angered me at times for a variety of reasons. However, I have to confess that, while Scripture asks “In your anger, do not sin,” I did indeed express my anger in such a way that it was sin. It was self-serving, belittling to others, and unfairly generalized about a group when in fact there is diversity of belief and practice among them.

    If I hope to be a credible voice in discussions of theology, Biblical exegesis, and church leadership, I need to participate in those discussions in a respectful and compassionate manner. Further, as an appointed leader of the church, I set a poor example about how to engage in such dialogue–especially hypocritical since just a few weeks ago I preached a sermon about Christians getting engaged in politics so that loving and peaceful voices might be heard and someday prevail against the angry and hurtful ones.

    James 3:13-18 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”

    My words fell far short of this standard for sure. I owe apologies to those who look to me for leadership, and to those which whom I spoke disrespectfully. And I owe thanks to those who love me enough to call me out when I go astray. “As iron sharpens iron, so one of us can sharpen another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

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