Open Letter to Young Earth Creationists

michelangelo-creation-of-adam  If you have welcomed Divine Love into your heart, Hallelujah! Please believe that I have no wish to get between you and Jesus. What you have experienced is yours, and no mere argument, no matter how logical or scientific, can diminish the transforming power of your experience in any way.

However, you have entombed the Living Word in a tower of pseudo scientific babble. Answers in Genesis, for example, displays admirable inventiveness, craftsmanship, and intelligence, but the entire effort is misguided, mocking the ancient wisdom of the Bible by transforming it into a collection of propositions that, though they sound scientific, are obviously false.

hs-2001-12-c-small_webMartin LutherThe observations of modern science show the earth to be billions of years old, and the universe to be billions of years older. There are raging debates in science, but the idea that the earth is a few thousand years old was discarded long ago.

Relying on Biblical authority, Martin Luther and others freed much of Europe from the corrupt, apostate church of Rome. In so doing, they opened the door to a world where ordinary people realized that they could learn the Truth, the universal Truth that applies to all places and all times. In many ways, this made the scientific revolution that followed possible. However, while science continued to develop, thinking in some parts of Christendom ossified. Scientists have discovered much more about so many things that adhering to the sixteenth and seventeenth century ideas about origins appears silly. I expect that in a few hundred years, people will see the ideas of present day scientists as rather quaint in some respects. But people will still read the Bible.

We may no longer think that the earth is flat, with heaven above and hell below, or that our little planet is at the center of everything, or that our species is quite so unique, but the essential human condition has not changed. It is here in our everyday lives that the ancient, divine wisdom of the Bible is invaluable. “Love one another, as I have loved you” is needed just as much now as ever.

In attempting to transform ancient wisdom into a fake science, Answers in Genesis undermines the authority of the Bible. This has devastating consequences. It makes it appear that Christ is opposed to Truth. It leads many to reject the Bible and indeed all religion, thinking that it has nothing to offer in our modern age. Worse, those who subscribe to Young Earth Creationism find themselves at war with modern science, casting scientists, who are simply searching for the truth, as villains, instruments of the devil. This imaginary war is poisoning the politics in America and making it nearly impossible for us to be good stewards of the earth or address any of the other challenges facing our nation.

Expulsion_from_EdenIt appears that the crux of the problem is the Fall of Man. Some Christians seem to think that if we acknowledge that the story of Adam and Eve is mythic, the human condition, which we have experienced directly all of our lives, would somehow be changed.

Let me describe my own version of the allegory of the Fall of Man. Before the Fall, we were like the beasts in the Garden of Eden, fully engaged in the present, without an awareness of our own mortality, and, though capable of doing harm to others, innocent of sinfulness, in the same sense that a lion asserting dominance over his pride is innocent. As our amazing brain developed, the complexity crossed a threshold. We woke up. We consumed the forbidden fruit of knowledge and awareness. We developed language. We planned for the future. Suddenly, mortality was not just a flight or fight reflex in a moment of danger, but a constant reality. Sin and selfishness entered into our experience. Into this world, Jesus Christ came, taught, and offered his precious sacrifice.

I do not assert that my understanding of the Fall is the correct one; my insight is limited, flawed. However, you don’t need to believe the particular details of the account in Genesis in order to find evidence of the Fall of Man. It is all around us, and throughout written history. (There is evidence of an essential goodness of man as well.)

BibleThe Bible is a wondrous gift. We need it today. Science is never going to adequately address the questions as to how to live in peace with one another. We need to open our hearts to the Divine. We need the teachings of Jesus. Do not undermine the authority of this wondrous gift by attempting to make it into a bad science text.

If the Bible has helped bring you to Christ, rejoice! Thank the Lord that your life has been so transformed! Believe the Truth of your experience. Do not turn this blessing into a curse by adhering to what is false. Cease this abominable war with modern science.

May we live together in the peace of God, which passes all understanding,

blessings,
jp lund

Silent Night at the Cincinnati Opera

2014-Silent-Night-Billboard

I heard the music of Kevin Puts for the first time in May at a concert of the Vocal Arts Ensemble. I liked what I heard, and was looking forward to more as the Cincinnati Opera presented his opera Silent Night. I was not disappointed.

The story is based on the amazing impromptu Christmas truce that occurred along the western front in 1914. The opera follows three groups of soldiers,  German, Scottish, and French. After a brief instrumental introduction, characters from each of the three groups are introduced, as they learn about the war. The main focus among the Germans is an opera star, who is onstage performing a duet that gets interrupted by an announcement from the Kaiser. A pair of brothers in Scotland hear about the war, and one dreams of glory. A young French couple is expecting their first child, and the expectant mother complains that her husband is going away at such an important time.

Couple   Being opera, there has to be a love story. The soprano singing in the duet manages to re-unite with her lover, bringing the German away from the front to sing with her in a concert for the prince, and then returning with him to the front. Musically, this is a wonderful device. The shallowness of the rich nobility is depicted by the chamber ensemble accompanying an imitation of music from the early nineteenth century, contrasting starkly with the dark reality from the front.  At the front, after the truce has taken hold, the soprano has a lovely, unaccompanied aria “Dona Nobis Pacem” just at the end of the first act. Erin Wall‘s lush soprano was a beautiful contrast to all of the male voices, though the aria gets a little showy toward the end for my taste. Later, the socialist ideology implicit all along takes hold of the couple: after a short, somewhat implausible speech about the greedy capitalists hiding behind a veneer of patriotism, they walk to the other side to surrender, escaping the fate that awaits many of those remaining. All in all, not very believable, but well within the operatic tradition.

Silent-Night-Cease-Fire-cred.-Opera-Philadelphia-Kelly-Massa The dramatic high point of the opera is the moment where peace breaks through. It begins with a solo bagpipe, imperfectly played, accompanying a Scottish baritone, safely in their bunker. Then, the German opera singer, stands up and sings a carol, while the French complain about both. The music and the libretto combine to give a sense of the danger as the German emerges from the safety of the trench, and though I knew how it was going to turn out, I was fully engaged at that moment.

ac_onstage_silent night _credit- philip groshong-cincinnati opera.widea   In the second act, the truce continues. There is a delightful trio among the three lieutenants, mostly in English, but with the German translating for the Frenchman whose English is weak. I generally find collections of so many male operatic voices thick and dull, but not this time. The setting felt quite natural, and the translation gave the composer a chance to imitate the previous line, sometimes sequentially, sometimes overlapping, all  quite inventive. Carrying it off as naturally as these performers did required both musicianship and acting ability; this was typical of the excellence displayed by the cast of soloists throughout the opera.

Kevin Puts’s Kevin Puts  musical style works with operatic voices. Sometimes, there is a sustained triad with an angular melodic line, though the harmony is usually much more complex. Except in the prologue, I seldom had trouble hearing the soloists over the orchestra, despite frequent thickness in the harmony. Under the able direction of David Charles Abell, the scoring worked.

“Better than the Carmen”, which is what my partner said after leaving Music Hall, would normally be impossibly high praise for a new opera; however, she was comparing it to a rather lame performance that we had seen to begin this summer season. In truth, she found some parts of this opera rather long. Silent Night is never going to be as beloved as Carmen, with its the sexy heroine, overwhelming passion, and abundance of catchy tunes,. However, I have no reservations about the Pulitzer Prize for classical music being granted to such a fine opera.  I am pleased to live in a city where such excellent new works are performed.