Ask Kasey Leander (June 24-28, 2019)

Hello, everyone! (@Interested_In_Ask_RZIM)

We’re very excited to have with us this week Kasey Leander, fielding our questions about faith, life and evangelism. Kasey is a Fellow with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA) currently based in Boston. Prior to his time at OCCA, Kasey earned a degree in history and PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) from Taylor University. While at Taylor, he served in various ministry roles on campus and was active in student government. He has also worked briefly in politics, serving as an intern in the US Senate in Washington, DC.

Through all this, a love of discussing the big questions of life has led Kasey into full-time apologetics ministry. As an OCCA Fellow, he enjoys speaking on topics such as the need for God in moral reasoning, the philosophical underpinnings of popular culture, and the historical basis of the Christian message. In a world of increasing ideological divergence, Kasey’s great joy has been exploring the peace, truth, and clarity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Kasey originally hails from Colorado Springs, Colorado, and harbors an unquenchable love for adventure, sunny weather, and spectacular views.

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Hi Kasey

Could you help me with what appears to be a contridiction between the two stories of creation in Genesis

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Thanks for that introduction, Kathleen! I love RZIM Connect, so it’s a privilege to be here with you guys.

I find that one of the best functions of this platform is to help us point each other to reliable sources. In the information age, we theoretically have nearly unlimited access to the answers we’re looking for - but what we are so often lacking is perspective on how to make sense of different voices . To that end, I think one of the most valuable things I can do in this role is recommend thinkers and books that have really helped me answer some of these questions for myself.

Not only that, but apologetics is a team sport! As my longtime friend Mark Mittelberg has said on occasion, “We are living in a golden age for Christian apologetics.” What a great time to be alive!

Looking forward to getting to know you all more as we press into different questions this week!

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Hey Paul!

Thanks for that question brother! Happy to take a shot at it!

First things first. In the spirit of Ravi, whenever I’m in a conversation with somebody, I’m always looking for the “question behind the question.”

For me, the “question behind the question” with regards to Genesis has to do with the idea that if God authored a book, it would never contain perspectives or statements that differ from one another. If we find seeming instances of those things, then the Bible really wasn’t authored by God…. right?

There is some major truth to this, namely, in the idea that all scripture really is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). The Bible will never contradict itself, and if the Bible means to tell us that something is a historical fact, then we must treat it as such. Not only that, but Jesus had an incredibly high view of scripture (Matthew 5:18) - and we should too, if we really take him at his word.

So how do we make sense of instances like Genesis 1:1-2:3 looking like a different creation account than Genesis 2:4 and onwards?

I think this question has less to do with actual contradictions and so much more to do with how we discern literary genres in the Bible.

One of the most helpful answers for me comes from John Lennox’s book Seven Days That Divide the World. He makes a widely acknowledged point: that we cannot simply ignore context and literary genre if we are going to find what the authors of the Genesis truly meant to say:

“It would be a pity if, in a desire (rightly) to treat the Bible as more than a book, we ended up treating it as less than a book by not permitting it the range and use of language, order, and figures of speech that are (or ought to be) familiar to us from our ordinary experience of conversation and reading.”

In other words, sometimes we approach the Bible in a way we would never approach conversations with other people.

My buddy Tim, for example, is incredibly skilled at ultimate frisbee. I was recently bragging to some friends about how good he is, and had the following conversation:

Me: “Tim is really good at ultimate frisbee. When we played the other week, he knocked the other team’s socks off.”

Friend 1 : “Woah, really?”

Me: “Yeah. I saw him throw a hammer 40 yards, against the wind, right into the arms of his teammate who was in the end zone.”

Even in this conversation, we’re interacting with a few different literary devices.

Two accounts of the same story/theme: My first description described what happened in the big picture. My second story re-told the same events with more specificity.

“Wait!” somebody might say, “There’s a contradiction here! Did people’s socks get knocked off or did Tim throw a hammer at a teammate?”

As native English speakers, we’d all recognize how badly they’re missing the point.

Levels of metaphor describing true events. My friend Tim “knocked the other teams socks off.” While it’s true that archeologists would not find socks littered across that field, nobody should just write off what I’m saying as untrue, because I’m describing something very, very real (Tim is amazing at frisbee). I’m actually doing it in a way that’s meant to convey more than just saying the words “Tim is amazing at frisbee.”

Then I go on to say that Tim “threw a hammer.” I’m still using a metaphor, but now its a bit more specific. Archeologists in this instance would not find hammers buried in the field where we played frisbee… but they might find contemporary versions of people throwing a frisbee “like a hammer.”

And finally, when I say that Tim threw the frisbee “from 40 yards,” “against the wind,” and “right into his teammates arms,” I’m getting a lot more specific. But take note! Even here, I’m not actually trying to give a breakdown of how wind, frisbees and the human arms operate according to the laws of physics. I haven’t told you if Tim’s throw won the game or just got us some points. I haven’t told you if this happened multiple times or just once. There’s still a lot we don’t know!

But ultimately it’s okay, because my intent in telling you this story was to tell you how good Tim was at frisbee and give you a powerful, real-life illustration of how that plays itself out.

If archeologists and historians of the distant future find my account and have some difficulty deciphering exactly what I meant to say, it doesn’t mean that I contradicted myself!

So to conclude:

Christians disagree over which bits of Genesis are mostly metaphor and which bits are meant to be more specific, but nobody disagrees that the Bible uses all of these methods to accurately describe what happened at the beginning of the world.

Christians disagree over whether Gen 1:1-2:3 and Gen 2:4 are two separate accounts of creation compiled into one book, or whether they are the work of one author using different styles, but in many ways, it’s a little bit like dissecting my story looking for contradictions. The two accounts don’t contradict: they just have different levels of emphasis.

What really matters is to ask “What do the authors want us to know about God and how he created the world?”

I would highly recommend the following resources if you want to dig in further:

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Good day Kasey,

How do I bring other members of my team (my senior pastor) that apologetics is not just confined to universities and philosophical debates. But for being prepared to respond to people’s serious questions about Jesus?
Thanks
Bill

Hi Kasey

I have thought a lot about this today
I am satisfied that Genesis 2 was regarding the establishment of the garden of Eden and not in the same order as Genesis 1 and creation was not created in the same way.
Walton suggests matter was already present and God formed it I don’t believe this I believe God created the Heavens and the Earth from nothing.

Hey Bill-

I so appreciate your raising this question, because I’m right there with you on the need for churches to delve seriously into apologetics issues.

The truth is we all do “apologetics,” because apologetics is nothing more than “reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something” (that’s Merriam-Webster talking.)

We’re all going to argue for our positions. The only question is whether we will do so well or poorly! As my friend Mark Mittelberg points out, even those who deny the need for apologetics do so by arguing for why they don’t think we need it!

With that being said, sometimes apologetics does carry negative connotations, and there’s a very real caution to be found here. The apostle Paul himself tells us that “if I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

I can speak to this, unfortunately, because I’m guilty of it! Out of an inner desire to look knowledgable, I can too often jump into conversations guns blazing and forget to have love, patience and compassion for the person I’m speaking to. In those situations, part of me feels like it’s almost better to remain silent - apologetics for selfish reasons is a lot more like having somebody clash cymbals together next to your ear than a loving, reasoned and persuasive articulation of the gospel.

Of course, I don’t know the details of your situation - it might be that this isn’t his concern at all. But if is the case that your pastor distrusts the idea of apologetics as compassionless head-knowledge, it might be worth it to demonstrate how concerned you are for that pitfall as well!

In my opinion, the best persuasion always comes when the other person can hear you articulate their deepest concerns and say “Exactly! I couldn’t have put it any better myself.”

James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”

Love your passion for clear thinking brother! Thanks for this question!

Resources:

Here’s a list of amazing quotes about why apologetics is necessary, brought to you by The Poached Egg: https://www.thepoachedegg.net/2019/06/121-quotes-on-why-we-need-apologetics.html

And here’s a bonus quote, one of my favorites. It’s from from Christian philosopher Henry Stob:

“To become philosophical is the business of us all, and we always need more philosophy than we have. Life needs to be seen steadily and seen whole. This is but to say that it needs to be seen in philosophical perspective. The student has no call to dabble in philosophy; he is bound to throw himself into it with every energy of his soul. This does not mean he must heap up courses in school philosophy. It does mean that he must, in and out of school, love and pursue wisdom and be in never ending quest of cosmic understanding.”

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Wow! I really appreciate the “poached egg” site ref…
Thank you
Bill

Hello Kasey :smiley:

I would like to ask if the Protestant doctrine Sola Scriptura is biblical.

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Hi Kasey, I was wondering how there can be three distinct and separate persons in one God?

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Hi Simon-

Thanks for raising this question! It has definitely prompted some deeper research on my part, because in my (admittedly brief!) tenure as an apologist so far, I haven’t encountered an objection based around Sola Scriptura on a campus or in a church. For that reason, I hesitate to venture much more than my own personal opinion - especially because so many incredible Christian thinkers have written extensively on the subject!

What I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that Scripture is vital, inspired, and irreplaceable. Without the Bible, we would be no better off than any other major world religion in claiming to know the truth. “All scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Tim 3:16) and the Bible is how we know Jesus, who is himself the “Word become flesh.” (John 1). God will never contradict his written word, and we should be wary of those who say that He does. (Galatians 1:8).

With all that in mind, my opinion on Sola Scriptura is that it is indeed a Biblical doctrine. I tend to agree with RC Sproul’s assessment that this is a very different belief from “ solo Scriptura,” or the idea that the individual alone may reign supreme in their interpretation of scripture:

Sola Scriptura, like the Scriptures themselves, recognizes that God has gifted the church with teachers and pastors. It recognizes that the church has progressed and reached consensus on critical issues in and through the ancient ecumenical creeds. It affirms with vigor that we are all standing on the shoulders of giants. But it also affirms that even these giants have feet of clay. And there is where the Bible does in the end teach sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is a biblical doctrine not because the Bible says so. That would be a tautology- the kind of argument we find in that collection of lies the Book of Mormon. Instead the Bible is our alone final authority because it alone is the Word of God. It has been attested, authenticated, by God Himself. Miracles serve as the divine imprimatur, the proof that this is a message of God. This is how Nicodemus reasoned when he said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2)

In other words, when there is any type of conflict between Christian traditions, creeds and the Bible, the Bible must win. It alone is authenticated as God’s ultimate word to us by way of the miraculous lives of Jesus and the apostles whom he commissioned to write it. The Bible is clear on the issues that matter. It speaks for itself. And in my opinion, doing away with this view of scripture opens us up to a number of dangerous paths away from the Gospel. As I write this, I’m soberly reminded of Galatians 1:8. The stakes of loosing the Gospel are high.

Now, I recognize that a lot of my Catholic and Orthodox friends will disagree me on Sola Scriptura, and that’s why I want reiterate on what I perceive to be the far bigger apologetics issue for you and I: how Christians work out their disagreements on doctrine.

Too often, we’re at each other’s throats trying to assess the weight we give traditions and Chuch as they relate to scripture, while clearly missing what the Bible tells us: Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (1 John 4)

I’m so often guilty of ignoring this. The real evidence that the Word of God is alive in our hearts is this fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This fruit should be obviously and continuously present in our lives, even when we disagree!

Feel free to message me with any more thoughts/comments Simon. Would love to hear what you think!

Kasey

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Some of the articles that have influenced my thinking on this…

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