Latest Bible battle: Three evangelical experts carefully go revisionist on Noah's flood

Latest Bible battle: Three evangelical experts carefully go revisionist on Noah's flood

For Protestants who interpret the early chapters of the biblical Book of Genesis literally, Noah’s flood is a major test of faith.

Witness Kentucky’s Ark Encounter with its 170-yard-long watercraft on display. Witness Hollywood explorations of the topic that fold in bizarre non-biblical myths or multiplex-level humor. Such popular interest commends news coverage when something flood-wise erupts.

Something just has.

Journalists will find story potential in reactions to the eyebrow-raising book “The Lost World of the Flood: Mythology, Theology, and the Deluge Debate” (InterVarsity Press). The co-authors are evangelical Old Testament Professors Tremper Longman III of Westmont College and John H. Walton of Wheaton College (Illinois).

They contend that the narrative in Genesis: Chapters 6–9 is not a fable or “myth” but stems from some actual catastrophe during primeval human history. However, they dismantle the literal interpretation.

That's interesting, in terms of academics. Note that Wheaton faculty members affirm that all the Bible’s books “are verbally inspired by God and inerrant in the original writing.” Moody Bible Institute, where Walton previously taught for two decades, believes the biblical texts “were verbally inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Longman’s Westmont proclaims the Bible to be “God-breathed and true, without error in all that it teaches.”

In the book, Longman and Walton say “the Bible is indeed inerrant in all that it intends to teach,” but analysis of intent allows room for their flood revisionism.

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If major church leaders of Syria blast President Trump's missiles and tweets, is that news?

If major church leaders of Syria blast President Trump's missiles and tweets, is that news?

Please allow me just a moment here to speak as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, as well as a journalist and as, well, an American voter.

In the past several weeks, the crisis in Syria has jumped off the back burner of the mainstream press and into the headlines. There are lots of valid Google search terms linked to this, starting with "Donald Trump," "innocent civilians" and "Russia."

However, there is an angle to this story that means the world to me, yet it's one you rarely see covered in American media.

Believe it or not, religion does play a role in the Syria crisis. The most agonizing reality in all of this -- as I have mentioned before here at GetReligion -- is that several religious minorities in Syria, including the ancient Orthodox patriarchate in Damascus, depend on the current Syrian government for protection from radicalized forms of Islam.

Once again let me confess: My daily prayers include petitions for the protection of Christians, and all of those suffering, in Damascus, Aleppo and that region.

Do these religious believers recognize the evil that surrounds them, on both sides of the conflict? Of course they do. Please consider the message in a 2013 sermon by an Antiochian Orthodox leader here in America, Bishop Basil Essey of Wichita, Kan. He states the obvious:

Anyone who prays for peace in Syria must acknowledge, at the beginning, that "vicious wrongs" have been done on both sides and that "there's really no good armed force over there. No one we can trust. None," concluded Bishop Basil.
"So the choice is between the evil that we know and that we've had for 30-40 years in that part of the world, or another evil we don't know about except what they've shown us in this awful civil war."

This brings me to an important story that ran at Crux, focusing on how leaders of ancient religious communities in Syria reacted to the Trump administration's decision to attack Syria (during the festive week following Orthodox Easter, I might add). Oh yeah, that Pope Francis guy is involved in this, as well.

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'Dear Jesus, send some angels': More notes of faith and prayer inside Southwest Flight 1380

'Dear Jesus, send some angels': More notes of faith and prayer inside Southwest Flight 1380

Several years ago, I was flying home from a reporting trip when the pilot came on the loudspeaker and reported trouble with the controls that direct the plane.

He said we needed to make an emergency landing, and rescue vehicles would be waiting as a precaution. But he stressed that the flashing lights on the ground shouldn’t alarm anyone because he didn’t expect any problem landing the plane.

That statement would have provided more comfort if I hadn’t kept asking myself: If the plane were going to crash, would he be so candid as to say so?

“Attention, passengers, I fully expect that we are all about to die. Please buckle your seat belts and get your affairs in order.” 

For an anxious flyer such as myself, that experience was scary enough.

But I can't even imagine what the passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 endured this week. As you no doubt heard, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded Tuesday after an engine exploded. 

However, as I noted Wednesday, devout Christian pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her "nerves of steel" in calmly maneuvering the plane to the ground and avoiding a much worse catastrophe.

Since I wrote that post, I've come across more faith-filled news coverage that needs to be highlighted.

The New York Times' front-page narrative today on the "20 Minutes of Chaos and Terror" is especially compelling:

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Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

Devout hero: Might Southwest pilot Tammie Jo Shults' 'nerves of steel' be related to her strong faith?

If you follow the news, you know that a Southwest Airlines plane made an emergency landing Tuesday after an engine exploded.

Sadly, one passenger was killed and seven others wounded.

But pilot Tammie Jo Shults is being praised for her "nerves of steel" in calmly maneuvering the plane to the ground and avoiding a much worse catastrophe.

News reports also have noted that Shults is a pioneer who was among the U.S. Navy's first female pilots trained to fly fighter aircraft.

So, why does this story merit attention by GetReligion? I'm so glad you asked.

Enter reader David Yoder, who tipped us to be on the lookout for holy ghosts in the coverage of Shults.

"She's a committed Christian," Yoder told us.

That was news to me: I saw no mention of the faith angle in profiles of Shults by CNN, ABC News, the New York Times or The Associated Press.

But as I started Googling, I was pleased to see a number of news organizations did catch this angle.

The Washington Post offered these strong details:

Her mother-in-law also described her as a devout Christian, with a faith she thinks may have contributed to her calm state amid the emergency landing.
“I know God was with her, and I know she was talking to God,” Virginia Shults said.

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Barbara Bush: Last old-school mainline Protestant to serve as America's first lady? (updated)

Barbara Bush: Last old-school mainline Protestant to serve as America's first lady? (updated)

At least once a month, I pop open a search engine and go fishing on the World Wide Web, looking for a quotation or some other reference that I remember from the distant past. Just because you remember something -- as an aging religion-beat scribe -- doesn't mean that you are going to be able to find a reference online (or in the boxes of notes and clippings that line a wall in your basement).

So let me share what I remember about a First Things article I read just before the birth of the Internet. It focused on the differences, in terms of faith and personal style, between President Bill Clinton and the recently ousted President George H.W. Bush.

The basic idea was that Clinton, as a Bible Belt Baptist, was much more comfortable talking about his faith than the more reserved Bush, a Yankee Episcopalian. At one point there was a footnote to a press-conference transcript from the Bush campaign.

As I recall, Bush was asked what he thought about during the hours in which he floated in shark-infested Pacific Ocean waters after his fighter plane was shot down during World War II.

The transcript indicated that Bush said that he thought about Barbara, this family and God -- then there was a strategic pause before he added -- and "the separation of church and state."

Now there's a man who is a mainline Protestant's mainline Protestant.

I thought about article (if anyone can find it online, I'd love a URL) this morning while reading lots of news and commentary about the death of the 92-year-old Barbara Bush, the Bush family's beloved "Silver Fox" who had become a quirky, candid grandmother figure for millions of Americans. Good luck trying to find insights into the family's faith -- which can be sensed in between the lines, but that's as far as journalists were willing to go.

My main question: Were Barbara and George H.W. Bush the last old-school mainline Protestants -- in terms of low-key style and quiet faith -- to occupy the White House?

I mean, George W. Bush was a United Methodist, but he adopted a more outspoken, evangelical style after the religious rebirth that helped him defeat alcohol.

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Jailed Evangelical Presybterian pastor in Turkey finally gets full-court press coverage

Jailed Evangelical Presybterian pastor in Turkey finally gets full-court press coverage

Quite a few mainstream news outlets are finally chronicling the drama of a Christian pastor, a Turkish prison and a tussle over religious freedom that’s pitting President Donald Trump against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At issue are the few Christian missionaries in Turkey (the only Muslim majority country I know that actually allows missionaries to operate there) who are pawns in a war of words between the two countries.

In the summer of 2016, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints pulled all of its missionaries out of Turkey, sensing things were going to get worse, not better, for believers there.

So here’s how the Wall Street Journal described a trial that happened this week:

An American pastor who has spent 18 months in Turkish custody appeared for the first time in court Monday, denying accusations of espionage and contacts with terrorists in a case that has exacerbated tense relations between Washington and Ankara.
Turkish prosecutors allege Andrew Brunson colluded with a group Turkey blames for the 2016 failed military coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well with Kurdish militants Turkey regards as terrorists. If convicted he faces up to 35 years in prison.

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Morgan Shepherd has started 1,000 NASCAR series races: What exactly inspires him?

Morgan Shepherd has started 1,000 NASCAR series races: What exactly inspires him?

"At 76, Morgan Shepherd is driven to inspire others."

That was the headline on a recent ESPN story on a driver making his 1,000th career NASCAR national series start.

Enter a faithful GetReligion reader — Father Geoff Horton of the Roman Catholic diocese of Peoria, Ill. — who shared the link with us.

"Another ESPN Holy Ghost story for you," Horton said in an email. "Morgan Shepherd keeps racing at age 76 to promote his mission to ... Gosh. The article never really quite says."

True enough.

Yes, ESPN hints at a faith angle:

"I don't keep count," Shepherd said. "I enjoy the race fans and the racing. God has blessed us being here this long."

And the story notes the cross on the hood of Shepherd's car:

"It's more or less an opportunity," Shepherd said. "We carry the cross on the hood of our car and we're ministry-minded. I try to encourage people to get up off the couch and do something with their life.
"That's what I do."
He said the ministry that drives him possibly keeps companies from sponsoring him, although he has had some support from Visone RV and race fans.
"It's hard to find people when you've got the cross on the hood," Shepherd said. "We do have race fans that help us. ... We don't do big deals, but we keep coming.
"We know we can't go but so many laps because you can't buy the tires and the engines with the money you're going to get."

Give ESPN credit for including those details. But I'm with the reader. I'd like to know more about the specific nature of Stewart's faith and ministry.

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Dear Orange County Register editors: Some Episcopal stories require a bit of research

Dear Orange County Register editors: Some Episcopal stories require a bit of research

If you have been a religion-beat reporter for a decade or two (or longer), then you probably have a large "box" (analog, digital or both) stashed somewhere with a label that says "Episcopal Church Sex Wars," or words to that effect.

It's hard to know precisely where to start the clock, when creating a timeline for Episcopal conflicts about doctrines defining marriage and sex. OutHistory.org has a helpful view from the left that starts in 1962. At GetReligion, we normally start with the 1979 General Convention in Denver, which affirmed traditional doctrines, but also saw the release of a protest document from 21 liberal bishops, including the names of several future leaders of the church.

 This brings me to a recent story in the Orange County Register: "St. James the Great congregants make joyous return to Newport Beach church." One Godbeat veteran wrote me to say that this story had "more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese." Here is the lede:

NEWPORT BEACH -- Meg Schuler teared up as she walked out of her church’s sanctuary and into the sunlight.
For her and about 100 other congregants, Sunday morning’s service at St. James the Great Episcopal Church, marked a homecoming of sorts.
For three years, this congregation, evicted from the church on Via Lido by their former bishop J. Jon Bruno, led a nomadic existence, but remained hopeful that they would return to their home church some day.

Pause for a moment to click this link and look at a few pictures of this impressive church building.

Now note the size of the congregation -- 100 worshipers -- on this historic day in the life of this parish.

It doesn't quite add up, does it?

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Real dangers in India, Indonesia and Brazil as the religious pendulum swings way right

Real dangers in India, Indonesia and Brazil as the religious pendulum swings way right

Human history may be explained as a pendulum that swings, uninterrupted, between religious and political extremes that have profound consequences for those affected. Our limited time here is no different.

This metaphor for perpetual change is currently swinging to the right in much of the world. A prime reason why, is that the most recent political and religious pull to the left failed to deliver on its promises of economic justice, political equality, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of inner security and calm craved by all.

Impatient and needy creatures that we are, such failures inevitably shift the underlying gravitational momentum that sets the pendulum in motion. When liberal (pluralistic in outlook, government and rationalism viewed as essentially positive forces) views fail us, large numbers inevitably swing to the right. A similar dynamic occurs when right-leaning ideas (top-down tribalism, traditionalist “cures” for society's ills) leave us dissatisfied and feeling threatened.

The hope is always the same, of course; finding a quick, earthly salvation to get us through the day.

In recent days, several elite media stories about events in India, Indonesia and Brazil have illustrated the problematic impacts of the current global shift to the right. (I’m covering lots of ground here so rather than use wordy block quotes, please click on the links provided to better understand my point.)

All concern religious freedom issues. All illustrate how religious, and ethnic, minorities have been treated miserably by majorities who use religious and political dominance to trample the rights of the powerless.

You could argue that none of this is new, that it’s just more of the pendulum at work. And you’d be correct.

But I cite them here not because they're new under the sun, but simply as a reminder that the human desire to dominate those who are different -- religiously or otherwise -- continues to wreck havoc on the weakest among us.

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