Saturday, July 31, 2010

Fear & the Gospel

This is a powerful image from Spurgeon:

"Fear not is a plant which grows very plentifully in God's garden. If you look through the lily beds of Scripture you will continually find by the side of other flowers the sweet "Fear nots" peering out from among doctrines and precepts, even as violets look up from their hiding places of green leaves...As we observe the Scriptures we perceive that "Fear nots" are scattered throughout the Bible as the stars are sprinkled over the whole sky, but when we come to Isaiah we find constellations of them... Here are a few of his antidotes for the fever of fear: "Say to them that are fearful in heart, Be strong, fear not." Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God." "Fear not, I will help them." "Fear not, for thou worm Jacob." Fear not, I have redeemed thee." Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed; neither be thou confounded for thou shalt not be put to shame"; and so on I was going to say, "world without end." So abundant are these "Fear nots" that they grow like the king-cups and the daisies, and other sweet flowers of the meadows, among which the little children in the spring-time delight themselves. "As to gathering them all, no one would attempt the task. The bank that is fullest of these beautiful flowers is that which Isaiah has cast up; go there and pluck them for yourselves." Sermon "Fear Not" Rev. 1:17.

Spurgeon goes on to tell us we do not have to fear God's majesty in Christ.

To the sinner he says: "If you are the one man that is a little over the line of mercy, you are the very man that Jesus Christ chooses to bless, for he loves to save extraordinary sinners."

"When the Lord sends his mercy it never rains but it pours. He deluges the desert. He not only gives enough to moisten, but enough to drench the furrows. He makes the wilderness a standing pool of water, and the thirsty land springs of water. Do not, therefore, doubt the genuineness of his mercy because of its greatness." 

Friday, July 30, 2010

Passionless?

"Mature Christians can settle into a dull, passionless life, guided by routine and duty. We fit in, hang on, and drift along. The years pass like lazy clouds on a summer afternoon. Either we have no passions, or we have a misdirected passion for possessions, prestige, pleasure and power. Jesus bid us to nurture the right passion, the hunger for righteousness, and to satisfy it." --Daniel Doriani The Sermon on the Mount, pp28-29.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

More Union with Christ

John Flavel's second sermon in "The Method of Grace" Series continues with the theme of our union with Christ. The doctrine is that "there is a strict and dear union betwixt {between} Christ and all true believers.

"Now this communion of the saints with Christ is intirely (sic) and necessarily dependent upon their union with him, even as much as a branch's participation of the sap and juice depends upon its union and coalition with the stock: take away union, and there can be no communion or communications which is clear from 1 Cor. iii. 22, 23" (pp. 35-36).
This union is immediate and it excludes degrees (p.39). This means that each believer has an 'equal share'--if we might think of it as shares--in the person of Christ and the saving benefits of Christ communicated through that union. Our union is not merely mental, nor is it physical or essential. By essential, Flavel, and other reformed writers mean that our essence or being is not united to the divine nature. The union is more than just a federal or covenantal union and it is more than just a union of love. It is a "mystical union {which is} wholly supernatural wrought by the power of God alone" (p.39). It is fundamental to our sustenance as Christians for "all our fruit of obedience depend upon it" (40). 

"The mystical union is a most efficacious union, for through this union the divine power flows into our souls, both to quicken us with the life of Christ, and to conserve and secure that life in us after it is so infused" (40).
As an aside, this is why true believers in Christ can never be lost from that union.

A true union with Christ will always bring forth immediate fruit. 

Flavel then makes nine inferences from the doctrine of our union with Christ:

(1) If there be such a union between Christ and believers, Oh then what transcendent dignity hat God put upon believers.

(2) If there be such a strict and inseparable union between Christ and believers, the the grace of believers can never totally fail; Immortality is the privilege of grace, because sanctified persons are inscparably (sic) united to Christ the Fountain of life."

He adds this pastoral advice:
"True it is, the spiritual life of believers is encountered by many strong and fierce oppositions: It is also brought to a low ebb in some, but we are always to remember, that there are some things which pertain to the essence of life, in which the very being of it lies, and some things that pertain only to its well-being. All those things which belong to the well being of the new-creature, as manifestations, joys, spiritual comforts, &c. may, for a time, fail, yea, and grace itself may suffer great losses and remissions in its degrees, notwithstanding our union with Christ; but still the essence of it is immortal, which is not small relief to gracious souls. When the means of grace fail, as it is threatened in Amos 8:11. when temporary formal professors drop away from Christ like withered leaves from the trees in a windy day, 2 Tim. 2:18. and when the natural union of their souls and bodies is suffering a dissolution from each other by death, when that silver cord is loosed, this golden chain holds firm, 1 Cor. 3:23" (43).

(3) "Is the union so intimate between Christ and believers? How great and powerful a motive then is this, to make us open-handed and liberal in relieving the necessities and wants of every gracious person! For in relieving them, we relieve Christ himself."

The gospel is practical. Ironically some might show disdain against this today by labeling it "social gospel" or somehow in opposition to the spirituality of the church and her ministry. 

(4) "Do Christ and believers make but one mystical person? How unnatural and absurd then are all those acts of unkindness, whereby believers wound and grieve Jesus Christ! This is as if the hand should wound its own head, from which it life, sense, motion and strength."

(5) "Is there so strict and intimate a relation and union between Christ and the saints? Then sure they can never want what is good for their souls or bodies." 

(6) "If the saints are so nearly united to Christ, as the members to the head: O then, how great a sin, and full of danger is it for any to wrong and persecute the saints! For in so doing, they must needs persecute Christ himself." 

(7) "If there be such a union between Christ and the saints, as has been described, upon what comfortable terms then may believers part with their bodies at death?"

(8) "If there be such a union between Christ and believers, how does it concern every many to try and examine his state whether he is really united with Christ, or not, by the natural and proper effects which always flow from this union."

(9) "How much are believers engaged to walk as members of Christ, in the visible exercises of all those graces and duties, which the consideration of their near relation to him exacts from them." 

All out steps and behaviors should honor Christ because of the sweat and close union we have with Him. Soli Deo Gloria.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Church's Spiritual Decline

In their book Comeback Churches, on pages 12 and 13 Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson give 30 spiritual reasons a might be suffering from decline:

  1. Churches aren't concerned about God's glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11);
  2. Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Phil. 2:21);
  3. God withdraws Himself from the church because of sin. He hardens hearts and gives the people over to sin (Isa. 63:15-19; Heb. 3:12-13);
  4. People are unwilling to take hold of God (Isa. 64:70;
  5. People do works for their own honor and not the glory of God (Matt. 5:16);
  6. People think of prayer as being for themselves (Matt 6:5);
  7. People think of giving as being for their own honor (Matt. 6:2-4);
  8. People think of fasting as being for themselves (Matt. 6:16-18; Isa. 58:3ff);
  9. Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Mal. 1:6ff);
  10. People "do church," but do not teach the true gospel (Gal. 1:6-10);
  11. People grieve the Spirit, resulting in weakness in the church (Eph. 4:29-32);
  12. Sin is not dealt with, bringing weakness to the church (1 Cor. 5:5-7);
  13. A lack of love for Christ devastates the church (1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 2:4);
  14. A lack of unity brings division (John 17:23; Col. 3:12-15);
  15. A lack of love within the body creates strained relationships (John 13:35);
  16. Wrong or heretical teachings lead people astray (Rev. 2:14);
  17. Immorality in the church is condoned (Rev. 2:20);
  18. Lukewarmness in the church becomes prevalent (Rev. 3:16);
  19. Lack of biblical teaching in the church leaves people unequipped (2 Tim. 3:17; 4:2);
  20. Lack of true and earnest prayer in the church leaves people powerless (Matt. 6:9ff; 2 Thess. 3:1);
  21. Not teaching people what Christ commanded and how to do His commands causes them to be immature and unfocused (Matt. 28:18-20);
  22. People try to substitute self-made religion (Col 2:23);
  23. Saints no equipped in the body (Eph. 4:120; and 
  24. Saints not doing the work of service in the body (Eph. 4:12);
  25. People are not growing spiritually (Eph. 4:12-16);
  26. People must grow spiritually for their work and witness to grow (Mark 16:15);
  27. People must be careful not to deny God by their actions despite their profession (Titus 1:16);
  28. People must speak in a way that opponents of the gospel have nothing bad to say about them (Titus 2:8);
  29. People must live in accordance with sound teaching from God our Savior, not just give lip service to it (Titus 2:12); and
  30. Pride in a church will always bring it down (1 Peter 5:5; Prov. 6:17).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

God's Word in Our Tongue

Our church supports some missionaries who currently serve in Greece. For twenty years they served in Indonesia. One of the tribes they worked with just this year was able to get the New Testament in their language for the first time. In this video you can see the excitement of just having the Word of God for the Kimyal people in their own language. This is #2 in a series of four:

You can watch the others as well;



Does the church today have this kind of passion over the Word of God? We really do take for granted that we can read the Bible and hear God's Word.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Comeback Churches Post 1

Are elders try to regularly read and review something. Right now at the beginning of our elders' meetings we are working through Mark Dever's Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. Another thing one of my elders has done is review books for us. One of my elders has been reading John MacArthur's book of church leadership. He will take notes and circulate them to us. I've decided to do the same thing with Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson's book Comeback Churches. I read it about a year ago or more and I am going to back to it. I thought I'd also use of up some blog space and post the review here. I'm not going to offer much in way of critique but summarize and highlight.

Let's get started...

Comeback Churches Preface & Chapter 0

I want to walk us through the chapters in the book Comeback Churches by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson. This is a book I read about a year ago, I think it is has a lot of good theory with practical examples for implementation in the local church, like Pocono Mountain Bible Fellowship Church.

The book starts off on page x with this quote:

“Many churches that are stuck on a plateau or spiraling into decline can discover the joy of reaching the peak of revitalization. In many ways, the North American Church has forgotten the joy of climbing the mountain peaks of ministry. It has become overweight with modern techniques and methodologies and lost sight of its true mission and purpose to simply make more and better followers of Jesus Christ.”
The book is written both out of Biblical wisdom/instruction and practicle counsel collect from churches that have actually experienced comeback. They ask “What principles from Comeback Churches could guide pastors and churches down the path of revitalization” (x). This is precisely why I think makes this book helpful for our church.

The question is not just ‘does the church get bigger’ but are lives actually being transformed? Are people coming to Jesus?

Chapter 0 begins with the the essentials of a church. “Having a biblical, missional theology and view of the church is the underlying esssence of the book” (1). They outline six criteria for a Biblical church:
  1. Scriptural authority.
  2. Biblical leadership.
  3. Preaching and teaching. [notebaly here they write “Sadly, for many modern believers worship has come to mean the singing and responses that precede the sermon. True worship is more than that and in a church service it includes both praise and preaching” (3).
  4. Ordinances.
  5. Covenant Community.
  6. Mission. “Churches are called to the mission of propagting the gospel” (3).

Under the next section they begin to make the case that churhes should be missional. It is not enough to ask are you traditional or contemporary (4). That is the wrong debate. The question is are you biblically faithful? They expand this as “acting as the presence of Christ in the community at large, able to relate Christ to people in culture, and is on a mission” (4). That is essentially their definition of missional.

The church needs to do in America what missionaries do around the world. The church should function as a missionary to it’s community where it lives (4). This means meeting the needs both inside and outside the church (5).

Too much church growth can focus on reproducing what worked elsewhere. “God’s kingdom is not best represented by franchises of McChurch. If you focus your energies on copying someone else’ methodologies or programs, you will miss something crucially important...The Holy Spirit is empowering transformational leaders who demonstrate the kingdom of God in unique ways in each differing community” (quoting Slaughter and Bird, CC, 5). One of the things about this book, along with Ed Stetzer’s other works, and missional theology in general is that it avoids simply boiling things down to timeless reproducible techniques that you can cut and paste to anywhere, a sort of “10 Easy Steps to X”. Biblically faithful means there are non-negotiables that transcend cultures. But Biblical faithful also means the negotiables can be adapted.

Missional churhes are “incarnational”--e.g. ‘deeply entrenched in their communities.’ It is “not focused on their facilities, but on living, demonstrating, and offering biblical community to a lost word” (5-6).

Missional churches are “indigeneous.” They grow up in the local soil. They not how studies show that Christians often live like the world in our sins yet we love to come to church and in church look outwardly different from the world. Stetzer and Dodson argue the Bible teaches we are to contend for the faith (Jude 3) but contextualize to the culture (1 Cor. 9:22-23).

Missional churches are intentional. They do not comprimise Biblical commands and principles like biblical preaching, discipleship, baptism, and other vital functions. But there style, evangelistic methods, attire, service times, locations, and other matters are “determined by their effectiveness in a specific cultural context” (7). It means that churches may have to get out of their comfort zone as culture seperates from church sub-culture. “The most effective comeback churches will be those that intentionally think like misionaries in their context.

So can PMBFC become missional? If we are wiling to follow Jesus, it can be done. Are we willing to be more mission’s minded? Can we think like missionaries?

Stetzer and Dodson outline a missional matrix that includes: Christology: who is Jesus and what has he sent us to do?; Ecclesiology: what expression of a NT church would be most appropriate in this context?; Missiology: What forms and strategies should we use to most effectively expand the kingdom where we are sent. This triangle of sorts forms and Scriptural/Theological foundation and is applied and must be empowered by the Spirit.

A church should not be afraid to ask: “what cultural containers--church, owrship style, small group ministry--will be most effective in this context?” Church is not then a one size-fits all approach (9). Of course, this can only be said, or asked, when it is underlined with a commitment to Biblical faithfulness. No negotiation on the commands, liberty where the Bible is silent. So we must have preaching of the Word, but what time, or in what order in the service, or for how long?

The last section of this chapter is “Churches should be spiritual.” They write “Too often, research-based books offer constructive insights and principles, leading some to conclude that church growth can be reduced to formulas, probabilities, and statistics. There’s value in research because it shows what God has blessed and used in other churches.

“One reason a church may experience decline is because Jesus is displeased with the way the church has handled past challenges. Another is that the church may have been disobedient at a crucial point. Repentance may be a spiritual issue, but it’s also a pressing need” (11).
They list 30 spiritual problems that may be effecting the church (pp.12-13). They conclude with an exortation to leaders: “Your leadership is absolutely essential in guiding your church to be a comeback church. Love for the church and a desire to bring people to Jesus will reinforce and renew your leadership (Matt. 28:18-20). It will not be easy, but “times of refreshing come from the Lord!” (14).

We need to be reminded that central to being a comeback church is prayer (15). We need to see our people and our community the way God sees them.
“One of the most important conclusions we’ve drawn from our study of comeback churches is that they first had a spiritual experience that redirected and reenergized their lives, beginning with their leaders” (15).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Christians Arrested in America for Sharing their Faith

I found this video over at Alpha and Omega Ministries in a blog post by James White.

I appreciate the ministry of Dr. James White. You should avail yourself to his resources, his debates, blog posts, articles and podcasts. He is committed to Reformed Theology, he's a Baptist, and a Van Tillian in His apologetics. He's also an expert on issues like textual criticism. --He pretty much has all the interests that I enjoy.--

He links to this youtube video of Christians arrested for sharing their faith in Deerborn Michigan:

I generally try to avoid sensationalism and make careful arguments, even when it comes to politics. This video however and the ramifications of what has been done is a cause for concern and for prayer. Praise God for these men willing to be arrested for sharing their faith. May we all have such courage but also such peaceableness, respect and love for those to whom we are seeking to share our faith with.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Christ and His Benefits

Important to Biblical doctrine and Reformed theology is union with Christ. When a believer trusts in Christ they are united to Him. When they are united to him they receive the benefits that Christ has won. Sometimes union with Christ is downplayed when the various aspects of the union are emphasized. We must think of the one without losing site of the others--we must see the overarching with paying attention to the particulars.

John Flavel says this:
"That Christ and his benefits go inseparably and undividedly together: it is Christ himself who is made all this unto us: we can have no saving benefit separate and apart from the person of Christ: many would willingly receive his privileges, who will not receive his person; but it cannot be; if we will have one, we must take the other too: Yea, we must accept his person first, and then his benefits: as it is in the marriage covenant, so it is here." (Works of John Flavel, Vol 2, p.17)
For Flavel--the Gospel itself entails the application of the gospel to the lives of the believers. God not only accomplishes the gospel but applies it to us by uniting Christ to our souls. So Christ's work is meritorious and the cause of our salvation but note: "neither the one [Christ's humiliation] or the other [Christ's suffering] can actually save any soul, with the Spirit's application of Christ to it;" (Flavel, Works, Vol 2, p.20).

The last application Flavel makes after expounding this doctrine:
"If Christ, with all his benefits, be made ours, by a special application; how contented, thankful, comfortable, and hopeful, should believers be, in every condition which God has cast them into this world!"
You can find the first sermon in Flavel's Work here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

God of History

I had the privilege of attending Westminster Theological Seminary, Pa. and while I was there I say under Dr. Peter Enns. I always appreciated Dr. Enns' classes and learned a lot from him. However, I find his recent essay in the Huffington Post somewhat lacking of the thoroughness and attention to detail that I was used to from Dr. Enns. Perhaps some of this is due to the medium and yet Enns seems reasonably in what he says. I also find the essay or blog post to be unhelpful in leaving out a major issue: God is a God of history.

The basic point of the essay is to suggest that God does not have a problem with fiction. This is certainly hardly a point of contention even among conservative circles. While the article is winsome and points to the issue that immediately raises ones' hackles when issues of science and faith comes, it's basic point is to lump New Atheists and Conservative Christians in the same boat. Instead of thinking in terms of both parties as those on opposite sides of the debate, Enns' point is that both fail to respect Scripture for what it is. Both read the Bible demanding a scientific literalism and then one side rejects it while the other side affirms it. They both have a "shared naivete about the Bible." The point is to say essentially we should respect the Bible for what it is rather than force our modern summation of what it must be upon it.  

One the one hand, Enns is right but on the other hand he goes to far. So for example:
What if God likes telling stories? Why assume that fiction is a problem? Why assume that for God to be God he needs to speak in modern ways of knowing?
The Bible may not be of any value as a scientific conversation partner, but that has nothing -- nothing -- to do with the character of God or the Bible. And it certainly does not devalue the science/faith discussion as a whole. Most Christians I know are far beyond fundamentalism and have thought long and hard about all of this. The New Atheist response to "faith" is a caricature.
Conservative Christians might respond, "The Bible can't deal in ancient stories. It is the Word of God. It is different. It has to be at least consistent with science." Not so fast. However different the Bible may be, intersecting with modern science is not the reason why. Many Christians understand that the Bible speaks in an ancient idiom and that we need to learn to ask its questions, not ours. False assumptions about the Bible erect a barrier to honest scientific investigation.
And yet this is somewhat unfair to the conservative who holds to a Biblical doctrine of inerrancy. The issue isn't does God like stories but when is God telling a stories. Throughout the Biblical text we see examples of parable, story and poetry. We see literary license, hyperbole, irony, parody, and the list goes on. It is reasonable to understand certain things a phenomonological in its description--describing what we see but not with post-Enlightenment scientific 'accuracy' or detail. It gives us a theological view of the universe. It can use round numbers and even stylized figures. The genres do indeed often fit the genre styles of the ancient world. With these things we must take the text as it is and not force it into our mold. Indeed, as Enns notes, we must be careful not force it into our mold and ask our questions--if we bring the wrong questions to the text we can indeed find the wrong answers. We can assume it must address the issues in ways amenable to our culture rather than the ancient culture.

All this is not in disagreement.

The issue really is: when is God telling stories and when is he telling history. Granted the ancient telling of history is not quite the same as the way moderns tell it. And yet, at the core, both ancients and moderns believe in something called history.

Geerhardus Vos was quite fond of describing the God who acts in history. That God's redemption is tied to a line of history. So at some point it matters that things are not just stories. Enns, unfortunately does not tell us where to draw that line. As an expert he is more aware than I of the various scholarly views of ancient Israelite history and the relationship between the Biblical text and archeology. There is a continuum of views from conservative to liberal. Of course, nothing in this essay suggests that we should have any problem if "historical evidence" should somehow conclusively prove Israelites were never in Egypt and their never was a crossing of the Red Sea. 

But for the Israelite, these things cannot be mere story. There are tied to God--a God who acts in history. And if there is no history, then in essence there is no God--at least the God as the Bible portrays it. 

It is the classic definition and contention of the liberal, something we say as a historic label and category not as some sort of conservative expletive, to reglect history to a secondary role. Modern criteria--whether naturalism, scientism, Enlightenment philosophy, or a whole host of current fads can become the new arbiters.  The events described can be real in a non-historical sense in that they portray a sort of theological truth. But this theology is not Biblical theology which is always, to the chagrin of many, tied to history. The prime witness of course is the resurrection.

Perhaps, one would say to play the resurrection card we have gone too far. Of course we would not deny that event. Fair enough. But is one's methodology consistent enough to explain why one does not play the "story" card here at the crux of redemptive history? Genre? Again fair enough. I will grant there are clues to genre that should guide us. We may for example and the sake of argument suggest given Job's genre, or maybe even the story of Jonah--the portrayals a not strictly prose or historical. Again like we recognize poetry and parable in books like Judges or 1,2 Samuel, or the Gospel narratives themselves, we should not dismiss God's use of story. Neither should we dismiss God's use of the history.

The reality is that Enns' essay is, like it or not, a product of a modern era. We would be, I think, hard pressed to find an ancient Israelite who would make a fine distinction between mythic-origin story and something that did not happen. Or distinguishing true the actual events from connected to a higher truth. Indeed: if there was no Adam to transgress, no Israel to get across the Red Sea, the whole thing is a moot point. If it didn't happen it hardly explains the "who" who allegedly brought us to be in a certain way. But as a product of the modern era, we now challenge the reading and telling of the story which anchored the faith. We want to make room for faith--and here maybe Kant is to blame although he can't bear the whole force of it. Relying on "story" as a catch all fall back is too much of wanting to have our cake and eat it too.

Ironically Enns remarks: "Conservative Christians might respond, "The Bible can't deal in ancient stories. It is the Word of God. It is different. It has to be at least consistent with science." Not so fast. However different the Bible may be, intersecting with modern science is not the reason why." While we will not deal in whole with the scientific side of this, we could ask then what distinguishes the Bible from ancient stories? Well the Bible is true. Indeed it is: but how. Again without denying the ancient context of the Bible: what makes it true in a way the ancient stories are not--assuming one would argue the Bel and Tiamat are not the true originators. Perhaps we might recourse to the fact the people still believe in YHWH and not the others: but why? At some point we must drive back to history--that YHWH is real and irrupts in action into history in ways that Bel, Tiamat, Baal, ____(insert pagan god here)___ did not and do not. History is a buggabo.

Of course, for the essay the big issue then is the genre specifically of Genesis (although modern scholarship will question the whole Torah and the Histories--theological products of a post-exilic context--non-hisotical to varying degrees). Give that Enns is now associated with the BioLogos Foundation, the big issues seems to be Adam and special creation. We read:
The special creation of humans is found in both parts of the Christian Bible, the Old Testament (Genesis 1 and 2) and New (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15). That is why conservative Christians have a hard time yielding ground to evolution. In fact, many conservative Christians are warned to avoid the conversation altogether in order to keep (godless) science from damaging faith.
The problem is that God ties himself to history. If these things are relegated to "story" and "fiction" how do actually explain the "who" question. The whole point of the Genesis narrative is that the true God is one who set humanity up has his vice-regents. There was a representative of God--His image bearer to rule His creation. Stories can catch a lot of symbolism and they can instruct us in a whole lot of ways--God Himself does not have issues with stories. But if He is telling us 'who'--will a story suffice? If God didn't really start us off with inbreaking into history--how can we be so sure the climax of history, which Christians have always claimed the cross and resurrection is such, is really what it claims to be. Is not make something the climax really just creatively telling the story? Eschatology is more than just spinning the yarn of history different from everybody else. At this point, we are saying no more than theologians a generation ago when they argued, as Enns alludes, to Paul's usage of Adam and Christ in Romans 5 and 1 Cor. 15.

Returning a moment to Genesis, as much as the narrative is about the God who acts--it is equally about the vice regent who acts. Obviously then the problem that Christian have with evolution is that there is not only no God who acts (at least in the case of non-theistic view of evolution) there is not vice-regent who acts (at least in most varieties of theistic and non-theistic views of evolution). If there is no regent who acts: we may ask why and when did God act in curse things? Is death part of the process or an aberration?

These are no idle questions. We read:
Ancient peoples did not investigate how things came to be; they assumed that there was a "beginning" when the gods formed the earth, people, animals, trees, etc., as you see them now. You can hardly blame them for making this assumption. The "how" question of creation was settled. They were interested in the "who" question: which of the gods is responsible for all of this? Each society had its own answer to this question, which they told in story form. The biblical story cannot claim a scientific higher ground. It, too, works with ancient themes and categories to tell Israel's distinct story.
I agree with the last lines. We cannot dismiss the ancient world in interpreting Scripture. The whole story of Israel is predicated on the fact that she exists--she is being established as a new vice-regent. She is not a fantasy. It is more than just mythic because God is using her and the covenant He made in history with Abraham to rectify an ancient problem--a problem brought on by the original vice regent.

The issue is not merely that "both sides need to be clear on why it is a problem for God to tell stories." The issue is that today moderns have a problem with a God who irrupts into history. They have a problem with eschatology--redemptive history that climaxes. If you have a problem with eschatology, you will have a problem with typology--or at least connecting it to history. You will have a problem with the protological--the origins. But if eschatology is real as an apocalyptic inbreaking into real history--(redemptive history is real history... NT studies has long since largely settled that debate)--then the whole series of introductions have to equally be set up in real history.

The problem is not with stories. The problem is knowing when the stories are mere actors on a page or when the stories have been acted out in history.

Star Wars on the Subway

And they say Trekkies are obsessed?



UPDATE: Here's a fuller version from YouTube:
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...