Thoughts on NOVA’s special – The Bible’s Buried Secrets

Today during my five hour car drive up to Kansas, I listened to a WGBH Forum Network podcast on the NOVA documentary The Bible’s Buried Secrets which aired this past week. As with several other NOVA specials in the past, this documentary is available entirely online for viewing, along with extra features which did not make it into the two hour TV documentary. Since I was not able to see this on November 18th, I’m going to be glad to watch the special sometime on my own schedule with members of my family at home in upcoming weeks.

NOVA The Bible's Buried Secrets

One of the quotations which stood out most in the podcast for me was the following statement:

You can’t really inquire when you are dealing with fundamentalists.

This comment was made with respect to Christian fundamentalists, who the speaker (I think it was Dr. Lawrence E. Stager, professor, archaeology of Israel, Harvard) remembered from his childhood growing up in the midwestern United States. He was making a point that it is useless to try and suggest people should seek for the truth / inquire for more information and insight when those people are Christian “fundamentalists.”

I think it is VERY unfortunate when Christ-followers project the impression that they “know all the answers” and have all the mysteries of the world figured out. I am not a relativist or an adherent to postmodern philosophies, and I do believe in both the existence of Truth (what one of my college philosophy instructors used to call “Big T Truth”) and that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I certainly would NOT consider myself “a fundamentalist,” however, if that definition means someone who is not continuing to search for understanding and truth, and acknowledging the limits of human understanding of divine mysteries.

I’m looking forward to watching this NOVA special in its entirety and discussing the multitude of issues it raises. I think Christians should be “seekers” of truth their entire lives, no matter how old or young they are. Based on the conversations in this WGBH Forum podcast, I think our family will have a lot to discuss after seeing it.

My thinking during this podcast was highly colored by the fact I’ve almost finished reading “How to Watch TV News: Revised Edition” by Neil Postman and Steve Powers. Certainly the idea that documentary news like this program is created and designed primarily with the goal of attracting viewers rather than pursuing the truth (which is a point made by Postman and Powers) comes through in the podcast discussion. The sharp time limits imposed by production budgets as well as the producer’s perceptions of what “trailer park America” wants and can cognitively handle were also discussed by the panelists in this podcast.

Often I think people get into trouble when they portray a group of people as having monolithic beliefs and perceptions, when in reality there is actually a great deal of diversity in beliefs, perceptions, as well as customs among members of that group. While I consider myself “a believer” in God and and his Son, Jesus Christ, I also very much consider myself “a seeker” for truth and increased understanding of many topics and issues, including Biblical archeology. I don’t feel threatened in the slightest by the suggestion that as humans, we should inquire more deeply for truth and knowledge, in the context of Biblical history or any other subject. It seems almost unbelievable that Galileo faced persecution and the threat of death by the Catholic Church in the 1500’s when he challenged its heliocentric view of the universe. I do not view the advances of science as correlating to zero-sum losses in the realms of faith and religion. I think it is wonderful to have opportunities to be appropriately challenged to think critically about what I believe and why I believe those things, and I suspect this NOVA special will provide more opportunities to “grapple” with ideas of both faith and history.

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Reasons for Stories of Faith

Our Friday morning men’s group at church is continuing a study of Dallas Willard’s book “The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God.” Among other projects this fall, I have started a new project titled “Stories of Faith Podcasts” with our youth deacons. I’ve started a webpage (still hidden from direct linking from the main website because we’re not ready for the official project announcement to the congregation) for this initiative, as well as a WordPress.com blog where we’ll link episodes into an RSS feed. Right now we just have 1 episode, which we recorded Sunday night.

Stories of Faith Podcast

I still need to create the Feedburner feed and link it to the main page on the church’s website.

This morning I was continuing to read Willard’s book (along with Matthew Chapter 5) and came across this passage, which spoke to me as a justification for why initiatives like our “Stories of Faith Podcast” are so important and needed in today’s world. On page 64 Willard writes:

It is, frankly, hard today to think adequately of God– or perhaps to think of him at all. Our intellectual history works against it, and we certainly do not get much training for it. Frankly, our daily experience, under pressure from many quarters, constantly keeps us from thoughtful living and “dumbs us down,” in many ways– especially theologically. But the resulting lack of adequate ideas and terminology does great harm to our faith. It insulates our real life from what we say we believe. We cannot, even by a miracle, believe a blank or a blur, much less act on it. There is now “what” for our minds and lives to lay hold of in such a case– or it is the wrong “what.”

To trust in God, we need a rich and accurate way of thinking and speaking about him to guide and support our life vision and our will. Such is present in the biblical language, of couse, and it continued to be carefully crafted in the works of Christian writers well into the twentieth century.

Still today the Old Testament book of Psalms gives great power for faith and life. This is simply because it preserves a conceptually rich language about God and our relationships to him. If you bury yourself in Psalms, you emerge knowing God and understanding life.

While the content, style and form of user-created content like that included (and to be included) in our Stories of Faith podcast series may be a far cry from the carefully chosen language of the Old and New Testament books of the Bible, I believe that God continues to speak through his people. I hope this podcasting initiative, and more specifically this COMMUNICATION, learning and evangelism project, will enable more people within our congregation and in other places and times to “think more adequately of God” and obtain more “rich and accurate ways of thinking and speaking” about Him.

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An amazing video from Casting Crowns

A friend showed me this video from a concert by Casting Crowns today. Wow.

This is a completely unique take on musical interpretation than I’ve seen previously in videos or live stage performances. Very creative, as well as moving. I love this song. I first learned of Casting Crowns several years ago, listening to Air1 Radio when we lived in Lubbock. (Here in Oklahoma, I listen to K-LOVE more than Air1 now, when I listen Christian radio.) I think the band started as a youth group praise team, and they continue to serve in that capacity as well as play concerts. Their music is definitely inspired by the Lord.

Their official website is www.castingcrowns.com. They have more YouTube videos linked from their website. I think it is great Casting Crowns has embraced the use of new media sites, like YouTube, to share their music and their gospel message with the world. Seeing this video adds a different dimension to the experience of listening to their music and allowing the message to penetrate my mind and spirit.

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FPC Edmond Sermons online

This past weekend I worked to format and publish about 15 sermons from mid-April through the present from our church in Edmond, Oklahoma, as podcast recordings in a new podcast channel submitted (and now approved) by iTunes. Anyone who is interested can either download sermon podcasts as mp3 files separately, or subscribe to the sermon podcast channel in iTunes.

Sermons from First Presbyterian Church in Edmond, Oklahoma

Many of these sermons are fantastic, and I commend them all to you. David Leard’s treatment of the often challenging verses from Ephesians 6 in his July 22nd message, “Everything in Its Place” was particularly good. (Those are very challenging verses to preach on and about.) I also really enjoyed John Gruel’s message on June 24th titled “Twelfth Man.” (Even though I’m not a big fan of Texas A&M!)

It is WONDERFUL, from a personal standpoint, to now have asynchronous access to audio recordings of these these inspired words from our pastors. This past weekend after I published these and our family was driving back from Lubbock to Edmond, my wife and I were able to listen to two of the sermons she had missed this summer because she had been taking care of children’s ministries needs and missed worship.

We are VERY blessed to have four gifted pastors at our church, and I’m thrilled their weekly messages are now available as a globally accessible podcast channel. Listening to a sermon at church (or somewhere else) is certainly just PART of the experiences and the community into which we are called as Christians to live each week, but it can be an important part– especially if it inspires us to change our thinking and our behavior in positive ways in the week that follows! 🙂

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Christians on the web

The movie short “What If God Had a MySpace” is a clever example of digital storytelling, but also raises some viable issues that are worth thinking about.

The scenes of the devil asking to be God’s friend, and having to be repeatedly denied, remind me of some of the friend requests I received on my own MySpace page before I wised up and changed my birth year to 1901. Based on my gender and age (when I was reporting my real birth year) I was getting friend requests that may not have been named “Satan” but were probably close in the thematic focus of their MySpace pages. 🙁

The scenes of people “asking for stuff” made me think about how many people view God, and how many people are missing a relationship with Him. Unfortunately I am too busy, quite often, and don’t spend the time with God that I need to and should be spending each day. Who do people think God is? That question seems to be raised by this video also.

The video also raises the issue of relevance to me– and exemplifies the need we have for more Christian voices on the web. What an amazingly exciting as well as shockingly horrible environment we live in today– in this flat world which can and does bring people together for common purposes, both good and evil.

iFilm (the site who owns the blog linked above) is quite an eye opener into the world of viral video. I first learned about iFilm a couple of summers ago, at the Digital Media Academy’s workshop on Digital Storytelling. Of course YouTube can be a bad place to explore as well– there is more there than any of us should go out and try to see and find. I have real mixed feelings about all of this. I guess in the online environment of the flat world, there are less “checks” and “boundaries” on individuals’ access to content of all types, good and bad. That is simultaneously exciting and horrifying. I wrote about some of this back in January 2005, in terms of the power of mere still images to powerfully affect the mind and the imagination.

Lots of thoughts raised here. We need more Christian voices on the web. Not because any of us have all “the answers” ourselves, but because we know where and to Whom we can and should turn for answers.

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