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Cosmos, Episode One: A Religious Approach to Science and an Unscientific Approach to History

As I've publicly stated in the past, Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my favorite people on the planet 1. He has a compelling personality; he's a brilliant thinker; and he has an inspiring story. When he has appeared on The Daily Show (btw, Jon Stewart is another one of my favorite people on the planet), I've watched with a generous portion of fanboy enthusiasm. I love it when he corrects the inaccurate science of movies and TV shows without apology or subtlety 2. I'm like that when it comes to theology. If I come on your show and you've got Jesus hanging on the wall depicted as a European, better believe I'm going to tell you about yourself!

For all these reasons and more, I was very excited when I find out Tyson had been chosen to host a reboot of the classic TV show: Cosmos. And I watched the first episode with 'nerdy glee'. 3

While the episode's visual effects were stunning (including a very cool, updated version of the "Cosmic Calendar" from the original show), and while I will continue to watch the series to see what develops, I have to unfortunately report that I was very disappointed with what I can only call the episode's religious approach to science and its unscientific approach to history.

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The "Real" Jesus: Why Reza Aslan is Right! (…and Wrong)—Jesus, the Reign of God, and Objectivity

For those who are not familiar with Dr. Reza Aslan (like his Fox News interviewer, apparently), he is a religion scholar 1 who has published several books on terrorism, Islam, and radical Islamic fundamentalism.2 I became familiar with Aslan when he appeared twice on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, once in 2009 to promote his book How to Win a Cosmic War and again in 2010 to promote a different book: Beyond Fundamentalism. Both books deal with religion, globalization, and terrorism.3

Recently, Aslan has returned to The Daily Show, this time to promote his new book on Jesus, but not Christianity.4 At the start of the interview, John Oliver (the interviewer) says:

"Let's be clear, this book is about Jesus the man, not so much Jesus the Christ."

To which Aslan responds, nodding his head in the affirmative:

"It's about the historical Jesus, not the Christ of faith."

The tricky thing about evaluating Aslan's take on Jesus is that so much of what he says is exactly correct. But in the fine details, Aslan makes many critical errors that are both historical and theological. In this post, I'd like to give Aslan credit for what he gets correct, while also pointing out the mistakes he makes and offering a possible reason why he's made them.

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The "New" Story of God: Job, Plato, and the Open View—A Review of The God Biographers

Author: Larry Witham
Hardcover: 204 pages
Publisher: Lexington Books - 2010
Language: English


Special thanks to Tom Oord for providing a review copy of this title.


The God Biographers is a fascinating book about the way God's story has been told in doctrines down through the centuries of religion and philosophy. Perhaps the grand irony is that the book itself becomes a biography of God as it attempts to tell this epic story. Larry Witham, the book's author, described as a veteran journalist on the book's jacket, sets out to, "[look] closely at the cultural and scientific context of each age and how these shaped the images of God." He argues that, "Each biographer labors under the influence of a particular cultural milieu." Therefore, the book becomes primarily a journey through historical theology dating from the Classical period in Greek thought to present day Open and Relational theisms. However, Witham's survey is not merely a general overview. The author specifically details the views of God's biographers as they relate to one of the single greatest tensions in theism: the relationship between divine providence and human volition. In the service of this very specific focus, the author employs the book, and figure, of Job as an overarching theme in which to ground the discussion. This odd yet often-cited ancient Hebrew text stands apart as one the clearest examples of this essential antinomy. Yet, for as many biographers as have attempted to tell God's story, at least as many interpretations of this book have accompanied them.

The God Biographers is also a book about two competing biographies of God that have remained enmeshed in a struggle for the hearts and minds of theists since the very beginnings of philosophical and religious thought. The first biography is that of an aloof and "unchangeable monarch," while the second tells of a God who participates in a “dynamic relationship [with] the universe." (p. 2) Astute readers will recognize these two biographies as classic summaries of the competing visions of God developed by the Greeks and the Hebrews. Early Greek philosophers warred against the oppressive myths of capricious gods, who meddled in the affairs of humanity, often for sport, and inflicted meaningless suffering upon helpless victims for their own amusement. In their place, Plato, Aristotle and the like exalted a view of the Supreme Being as an impersonal, static reality that neither felt "passions" nor "changed" in any way. By contrast, the Hebrews exalted a view of God as utterly personal: a living, dynamic presence who revealed himself to their people through the law and prophets, led them out of slavery in Egypt, and responded to their prayers. Over the millennia since humanity began to think and write about the divine, Greek, Jewish, Islamic, and Christian scholars have all had to grapple with these diametrically opposed biographies and account for the realities of daily life, advances in human understand of the world, and the sacred texts of the Bible (and Job in particular).

Job is a fitting theme since his story is one of a righteous man who is suddenly stripped of everything. He is depicted as an innocent victim of tragedy at the hands of an enemy: the satan. God's relationship to this calamity has always presented God's biographers with a primal trilemma often called the "problem of evil." And its exploration in relationship to God is called "theodicy." Attributed to the Greek philosopher Epicurus, the problem can be summarized thusly:

Is God:

  • "willing but unable to take away evil (impotent)"
  • "able but unwilling (malevolent)"


  • "both willing and able—so why is there evil at all?" (p. 27)

Theists since Lactantius have felt compelled to address this “problem,” but perhaps no century has been more filled with reminders than the twentieth. Two World Wars and the explosive advancement of science brought theism and evil into sharp contrast. Appropriately, then, Witham spends a good portion of the book in this period.

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Exploring Covenant Affirmations: Blog Series

Through a series of blog posts, I will be exploring the six essential "Covenant Affirmations" of the Evangelical Covenant Church (also known as "the ECC" or "the Covenant").

1) The Centrality of the Word of God

Coming Soon

2) The Necessity of New Birth

Coming Soon

3) Commitment to the Whole Mission of the Church

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Welcome to

Theological Graffiti is a blog written by T. C. Moore @tc_moore ...a Jesus-disciple, husband, father, Associate Pastor @NewCityChurch of Los Angeles, sometimes web designer, writer, and theology geek. For more about me, visit my Personal Website or my Online Profile. Otherwise, enjoy the graffiti.

T. C.

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