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Posts Tagged ‘Genesis’

Flesh Fashion

May 24th, 2010 No comments

Step 1.  The Fashion Show.

This should help add some depth to your readings of the clothing/outer covering, clothed in type symbolism.

Click this image to go to a page with the rest of the meat fashion show.

Step 2.  The slaughterhouse.

Bring the sacrificial system to life in under two minutes.  If you haven’t already, see the completely morally innocent, non-violent creatures die because of our absurdity.  What does it mean to worship the lamb that was slaughtered?  When you think of the human face of the Lamb on the altar/cross does that make you want to go and create more victims and celebrate their victimhood?  Or does it humble you to have to face / image / imagine the the victim you created?

Is this beautiful to you?

Mataderos – Slaughterhouse | Investigación de Igualdad Animal – Animal Equality investigation from Igualdad Animal on Vimeo.

Adam Named the Animals

October 30th, 2009 No comments

A beautiful series of images from Peaceful Prairie asking the question

“What does it feel like to a sensitive, intelligent individual to be loved, to be safe, to be at peace, to be seen and treated as someone, the way Sanctuary animals are? And what must it feel like to the same individual to be treated as a mere something to be confined, mutilated and killed for someone’s whim?”

Maybe we should ask Jesus.

Darwin, Jesus, Nietzsche, and the Pope

August 1st, 2009 No comments

What does not kill me makes me stronger.  ~ Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.  ~ Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Nietzsche.   I can’t believe it took me so long to put my finger on what’s been bugging me but that’s it.   As someone who came to church with evolution already installed, I’m particularly interested in how Darwin and evolution get discussed in that context.  Before I go any further let me admit that I’m open to being totally wrong, I’m open to the fact that Genesis absolutely can be read in a way that precludes the evolutionary process completely.   I also admit that pre-Fall animal pain and suffering is a problem for theists.   On the other hand, post-Fall animal pain and suffering is also a problem for theists who bother to examine it closely.   When addressed fully, that’s a huge topic that I’m not yet comfortable tackling here.  This post, then, is about one aspect of the church meets evolution relationship, and basically it comes down to telos, or ultimate aim. Read more…

In the beginning was the Wordle

July 13th, 2009 No comments

Genesis 1-2

Evolution, Design, Killing, and Christianity

June 12th, 2009 No comments

My pastor recently did a multi-week series on the topic of the interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1.  His purpose was not to tell us how we should think but only to show that there are different faithful interpretations; broadly speaking they are metaphorical, 6 literal 24 hr. days, and something called the day age interpretation.  Shortly thereafter we had a guest speaker, the author of the book “Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Inspires Faith“.   Again, none of this was in order to standardize belief for our congregation but to allow room for discussion on a topic that is usually polarizing to the point of paralysis.

All supremely good and brave stuff.

Here’s my take.  My educational background is equal parts anthropology and psychology.  I’m all about evolution.  That’s not a problem.  My problem is highlighted by two of the comments/questions that were posed during the question and answer time after the author spoke.  They were something along these lines:

  1. “I heard that cooking meat is what made us have bigger brains and that’s essentially what made us the humans we are today.”  – maybe not the exact words but something about eating cooked meat makes us human.
  2. “We’re different from animals because animals don’t fear death, they will lay down and bare their throats to the blade.”  – that one’s more close to the actual wording, it was so disturbing it’s easier to remember.

Read more…

In Its Narrative Context

December 17th, 2008 No comments

Commentaries say it but just aren’t ready to say all of it yet.  All things in time.   I’m assuming that if you’re reading this blog you know that the other thing we know from the creation account is that whatever our dominion over animals is supposed to be it specifically did not include killing animals for food … we didn’t get that concession until after the flood.   We also know that in the 10 commandments there’s specifically a mention of Sabbath rest for domestic animals.  Are we really so sure that there’s nothing to be said about how we fill our bellies?    

But the Sinai covenant does not simply hark back to these promises to Abraham. It reflects God’s plan for mankind foreshadowed in Genesis 1–2. There God gave Adam the garden of Eden. He told him to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and provided him with a wife, walked with them in the garden, and gave them a law ‘not to eat of the tree’. It was transgression of this one law that led to Adam and Eve forfeiting the benefits of Eden. The story of the rest of Genesis is of God’s planning and working to bring to pass his original plan for the human race. The call of Abraham was a first step, the covenant at Sinai was another. Not only did the Lord come down. on Sinai but he guided them with the pillar of fire, and eventually ‘walked’ in the tabernacle as he once walked in Eden. Admittedly, it was only the high priest who could enter the divine presence, whereas in Eden the whole human race enjoyed such intimacy with God. But it was a step in the right direction.

Similarly, the laws given at Sinai, particularly the penal laws and those formulated negatively, e.g. most of the Ten Commandments, should not be [675] regarded as God’s ideals for human behaviour. Rather they represent the floor below which no one should fall—if they do, society or God must step in to punish. God’s ideals are set out in the opening chapters of Genesis, where man is created in God’s image and therefore expected to imitate him. In the exhortations and motive clauses scattered throughout the collections, similar lofty goals emerge: ‘Be holy, for I am holy’, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’ Therefore the OT law fixes no ceiling on human ethical endeavour: it too encourages man to ‘be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48).

and … 

The fulfilment of the law for Paul (cf. also Jas. 2:8–12) also involves empowerment so that the moral norms of the law may be kept. …  Of course, Paul never conceived that the law could be fulfilled in one’s own strength. Fulfilling the law was due to the work of the Holy Spirit which enabled believers to obey God’s commandments.   ~New Bible Dictionary. 3rd ed., s.v. “Law: The law in it’s narrative context”, “Law: abrogation and fulfillment”.   

Soulful Savages

October 20th, 2008 No comments

Today I’d like to work through something that comes up a lot when I try to talk to my church friends about the concept of ethical vegetarianism.  I usually hear something about how Jesus fed fish to the masses and God killed an animal to clothe Adam and Eve in leather.   I guess the implication is that if you read these passages this way it’s somehow justification for the idea that God doesn’t care about animals, he kills them so we can … etc. the logic of which I disagreed with in the Slippery Fish post.  So, onto the miracles …

Jesus turned water into wine.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

Jesus multiplied bread to feed thousands.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

Jesus multiplied fish to feed thousands.  That was a miracle – he isn’t bound by the usual laws of time and matter.

So how then do the feeding/multiplication miracles have anything to do with whether or not we have a moral obligation to not cause suffering to sentient beings when we have the ability to do otherwise?   Did Jesus have to go through the usual processes to make wine?  Not that we know of.  Poof, it’s wine.  Did Jesus have to go through the usual processes to feed fish to thousands … no, poof there’s enough for everybody.  Even taking a literal reading of this miracle story, I don’t see how this supports a  rejection of the argument for ethical vegetarianism today.  At its most literal … Jesus multiplied dead fish … he personally didn’t do any killing in this story.  At another level it’s about him actually being concerned with (literally) hungry  people. If we’re concerned about feeding hungry people in the world we should know that given a limited amount of agricultural land we can feed more people with plants than we can with flesh.  At another level it’s a spiritual metaphor which isn’t about literal food but spiritual nourishment.  (Which brings up another point that I’ll talk about in a separate post … that when you mix the imagery of physical and spiritual nourishment … you still get more support for a less violent trajectory through Jesus.  Wow that’s pretty bad wording, huh.)

The other example of this kind of thinking comes up with Adam and Eve getting kicked out of the garden. Even if you take this to mean literal skins, as in animal skins, like leather … how is it that the Creator God who just got finished speaking the universe into existence is somehow not given credit for being able to “clothe them in skins” without going through the usual processes of killing an animal?  He created the entire universe with a word but he can’t create an outfit without slaughtering an animal?  If anything this looks to me like a commentary on our natures outside of our intended relationship with God.  In my opinion the writer is describing God giving us over to our lesser natures, describing us becoming like animals.   You don’t even have to read it as implying we weren’t corporeal before that. The point to me is that when we exist outside of what God wants for us we are clothed in our animal nature.

The point though isn’t about how I interpret this passage.  The point is that the passage itself doesn’t go any further than it does and is therefore open to interpretation. The passage simply does not say that God killed the first animal. Proponents of penal substitution interpret it this way because it fits with the idea that “something has to die” and God was the one who started / institutionalized animal killing for us.  I think much theological discourse has been approached from a position of assuming the right and/or necessity of killing animals and that has lead to concepts like penal substitution.  Once you get out of that paradigm, out from under the idea that killing animals is a necessity, then scripture looks very different, start to finish.

Breath of Life

September 13th, 2008 No comments

“But what about plants, you’re killing them too.”  Ah, the old “what about plants” question.  It’s surprising how often people who never before in their life considered a head of lettuce and a dog to be the same kind of life form will fall back to this question when presented with the concept of ethical vegetarianism.  It is, I suspect a defense mechanism brought forth to protect us from the cognitive dissonance that rightly occurs when we realize what ‘eating meat’ really means.  In an effort to relieve our conscience we consider that no matter what we eat it involves killing in some sense so therefore it doesn’t matter whether it’s animals or plants.   No matter what kinds of psychology or philosophy you might want to bring to it I suggest that for Christians the only definition that really matters is the biblical one.  Plants and animals are not the same.   All living creatures (human and non-human) have the same breath of life.  God set it up very clearly that creatures with the breath of life did not kill each other for food and we are told through the prophets that this is what we anticipate in the Kingdom of God.  Animate nature is not the same as inanimate nature, in Biblical terms plants and animals are not the same kind of life.  Furthermore, the only difference between human and non-human animals is that we are ‘made in the image of God’.

In the Torah, chaya in its various forms regularly denotes “life” in the physical sense of the term. People, as well as other creatures, live, survive, and are spared from impending destruction. In several instances, both the nominal and verbal forms are contrasted to mut, die, death. Life and death are clearly viewed as opposite states.

Of related interest are the rare but picturesque occurrences in which chaya modifies inanimate objects. “Living” water, unlike that which lies dormant in a cistern, flows and has a sense of freshness or purity to it. Similarly, “living” flesh, although diseased and therefore not fresh or pure, grows and multiplies. Apparently, at issue is the notion of activity and movement. That which is alive has the ability to function and perform. Death involves the loss of all such capabilities; it is to be “lifeless.”

But the Torah does more than acknowledge physical life, briefly describing also its inception. As a result of God’s creative activity, both animals and people are “living creatures.” In this sense, all of animate nature is on similar standing. While most translations imply that Gen 2:7 is in some way different from 1:20, 24, the Heb. is the same in each instance (chayya nephesh). What separates human beings from the animal world is not that they are living souls rather than living creatures, but that they have been created “in the image of God.” ~New International Dictionary Of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, “chayya”

Some people will still resort to the position that vegetarians are being cruel to plants by eating them.  Even without referring to the biblical standards of how plants and animals differ, this is still a nonsensical position. Plants do not have the anatomy for pain perception.  Who would honestly argue that there’s no difference between sticking a red-hot poker into a head of broccoli and sticking one into a dog?  (besides Descartes … that’s a topic for another day).  Furthermore, plants often require being eaten for reproduction (seed-bearing plants) which is clearly not the case with animals.

Christian Predation – Que Sera, Sera?

September 5th, 2008 No comments

I watched some of the RNC last night.  The “meet Sarah Palin” video was interesting.    She’s a go-getter, she’s devoted to her family, her church, and her country, she can slash budgets with a baby on her hip.  I love all that about her.  I really do.  However, the other thing I saw in the video was a repetition of the themes of Hunting, Oil, and Military – the holy trinity of earthly power.  I’d like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the idea of predation being sanctioned by Christian theology, focusing specifically on sport-hunting.

Christian predation is generally defended with arguments from nature.  The similarity between the ‘we can therefore it must be what God wants’ argument and the evolutionary concept of adaptation and ‘survival of the fittest’ is to me, bizarre, to say the least;  even more so considering the force with which creationism is currently being promoted in order to counter the so called heresy of evolution.   You can’t have it both ways.  Let me show you what I’m talking about.  This is typical of content in support of creationism, this specifically was offered as a defense against the idea of Progressive Creationism (Darwinian evolution as a tool of God):

If Christ, the Creator (John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:16, I Corinthians 8:6, Hebrews 1:2), used millions of years of suffering and death to make the animals, how can He be all-loving and all-good?

Under the Progressive Creation scenario, Christ designed the animals to devour each other, ripping with claws and teeth. He then further allowed these innocent creatures (with no connection whatsoever to man or sin) to die by the trillions for millions of years due to every catastrophe conceivable. God allowed (or possibly even sent) a multitude of afflictions down on these animals, including diseases of all sorts, plagues, volcanoes, earthquakes, bombardments from outer space, floods, etc. As a result, animals of many types were killed to extinction.

Thus, the Progressive Creation scenario involves a process of elimination, death by fang and claw—cold and unmerciful to the weak. Could even a sadist think of a more cruel and ugly way to produce the animals over which Adam was to rule?

What a horrible thing to accuse Jesus Christ of doing! It is shocking that Progressive Creationism defends this as the process that Jesus set up and ruled till the creation of man.

Our Creator’s true nature is incompatible with this plan. God is love! He sees even the sparrow fall. Animal death came because of man. He said, “Blessed are the meek”—not blessed are the strongest and most aggressive.1

This is typical of content in support of Christian hunting:

… not only do you love hunting, you also love the Lord.  You know God loves you and blesses you.  You are assured that if you can ‘hunt with Jesus, it doesn’t matter what anyone else says or believes’.  ‘I hunt with God as my companion,’ you say to yourself, ‘knowing he will direct me and keep me safe.’  As you get dressed, you spiritually prepare yourself.  Nothing can be done right, you think to yourself, ‘unless I include God in it and that applies to hunting too’.  … While as a Christian hunter you love hunting, you also admit to an element of ‘sadness’ in being responsible for the death of another creature.  You comfort yourself with the thought that death is not an ‘end’ for the animal but a ‘glorious beginning’. 2

Besides the fact that this excerpt could just as easily be written by any so called ‘terrorist’ in preparation for any killing in the name of his or her God, let’s step back and focus on an underlying assumption justifying the idea of ‘hunting with Jesus’.

The primary fallacy is mistaking God’s love of people with approval of their actions.  This is like using the story of the Centurion’s Servant (Matt. 8:5:13, Luke 7:1-10) to show that Jesus loves warriors therefore he supports war, killing, etc.  God also loves prostitutes but nobody would argue that he therefore loves prostitution.  One of the first lessons we learn about God in the story of the flood is that he was so disappointed in humans and animals both for becoming violent that he decided to wipe us all out and start again. God was sorry he made us because we were violent  (Gen 6:6).  “God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence through them.” (Gen. 6:13)  Noah was considered righteous because he trusted God, not because God loved everything Noah did … “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth” Gen 8:21.   The fact that our relationship now with animals is described as one of ‘fear and dread’ isn’t something we should be proud of, it’s all a result of our sin.  Embracing,  and more specifically propagating conditions based on sin, especially ones which are so obviously optional, is to embrace sin itself.

In short, the gospel of ‘hunting with Jesus’ is a gospel of Predation.  Life eating life is not some unfortunate aspect of the natural world to be tolerated in the meantime between creation and consummation.  Rather, God actually wills and blesses a self-murdering system of survival.  God’s will is death. 3

Clearly Jesus the Predator4 is incompatible with Jesus of creationism, if not the entirety of the gospel we actually have.  Jesus the predator is however, fully compatible with the idea of a godless evolution.  It can, of course be said that the need to defend ourselves from deadly threats is a result of living in a fallen world, and sometimes that might justify deadly force against animals or humans.  There is much sincere, reasoned debate over what to do about that.  However, killing for sport and pleasure is not about need, it’s about greed.  Sport hunting, unnecessary meat eating, killing animals to wear or decorate with their skins – none of this has anything to do with the tragic necessities of living in a fallen world, it has everything to do with the tragedy of embracing it.

1 http://www.christiananswers.net/q-eden/edn-c026.html

2 “The Christian Hunter’s Survival Guide”, Pastor William H. Ammon as quoted in “Animal Theology”, p 114  See also http://www.sportsmenforchrist.com/.

3 Linzey, Andrew.  “Animal Theology”. 1994 p. 119

4 Ibid., p. 114

In the Image of God

August 23rd, 2008 No comments

an excerpt from “The New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis”

Humans in the Image of God

There is a long history of efforts to understand “the image of God” as an aspect or function in humans that sets them off from other creatures and in terms of which they are “like God.” Depending on philosophical and theological predispositions, the image was seen in such things as human “reason” or, by the Reformers, in “true righteousness and holiness” (cf. Barth, 192–206; Berkouwer). In the twentieth century, a consensus has gradually emerged concerning the image among OT scholars (Jonsson, Scharbert). Early in the century, some scholars considered the image to refer to the human body as physically resembling God (cf. Isa 6:1, 5; Ezek 1:26; Dan 7:9–10), a form of “theomorphism” (von Rad, 145–46). Such a view is too simple (see above). The image is properly understood as referring to the entire human, not a part or property. In recent research, Stendebach discerns two main lines of interpretation of the image. First, humankind is God’s representative upon earth, given the task of dominion over the nonhuman creation. The second model sees humankind as God’s counterpart (Gegenüber Gottes), so that a dialogical relation between God and humankind exists (Stendebach, 1051–52). Both models are valid, in that they express aspects of being “in the image of God.”

But in either interpretation, Genesis Gen 1:26b expresses the purpose or goal of creating humans in the image of God. Unlike the Mesopotamian myths, in which humans are created to serve the gods (e.g., Atrahasis I; Enuma Elish 6:8), in Gen the goal is dominion. The vocabulary, the ANE parallels, and the royal language of Ps 8 (which does not use the term “image of God” but clearly presupposes it) all confirm that this dominion is to be understood in terms of kingship, which has been “democratized” to refer to all humans. The meaning of the image, thus, does not lie in the mere terms used, but in Israel’s, or more precisely, the priestly tradition’s, understanding of representative kingship.

In this brief treatment only the essentials can be noted. For Israel, kingship (with its authority and power) is to be used for the good of those subject to the king according to the standards of justice and righteousness (Ps 72); kingly power exists to “serve” the well-being of the populace (1 Kgs 12:7). Moreover, kingly power is not absolute, it is limited to serving God’s purposes for kingship and to the tasks proper to kingship; when Saul or Uzziah transgress the limits and purposes of their office, they are judged (1 Sam 13; 15; 2 Chron 26:16–21). Thus, we are to assume that humans in the image of God exist to carry out God’s purposes on earth as his royal representatives. And their dominion (as male and female; cf. Bird) over the earth is connected with its fruitfulness and well-being, not with its destructive exploitation (Kaiser).