Does Elizabethton Presbyterian Church in Tennessee Teach Heresy?

This coming weekend, Dr. Jason Lisle and I will be speaking in two churches and at a conference in Johnson City, Tennessee. (Go to our outreach site for more information about the various meetings.) A Presbyterian minister in that state has commented very negatively (on his personal blog) about this visit by AiG. But before I share some of his comments with you, let me offer some quotes from the website of his church, First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee (this so-called “Presbyterian church” is about 20 minutes from where I will be speaking):

During Winter, we honor the path of Creativity. One dramatic way to put it is that we give birth to God. The incarnation means that God has become one with us. As created in the image of God/dess, we are co-creators with the Divine Spirit. “Creativity,” writes Matthew Fox, “Is where the Divine and the Human meet.” Creativity is not a special elite project of professional artists and musicians, but it is the essential aspect of humanity itself. We are creativity . . .

Here is part of their Mission Statement:

Honor our Christian heritage while we explore the knowledge and wisdom of multiple religions, science, philosophy, humanities and psychology to deepen and enrich our spiritual journeys. Nurture one another through fellowship and compassion in a community that seeks to offer wholeness. Embody our faith through local ministries and in actions that promote environmental sustainability, peace, and justice for all people and Earth. In awe and gratitude for the Divine Mystery that dwells within each of us and pervades our Universe, we seek to create a Christian community that honors our past, is vitally connected to our present, and looks with hope and vision to the generations after us.

Their website also states:

We will also use some texts from other traditions, such as the teachings of the Buddha in the Dhammapada, creation mythologies from different cultures, and we will explore our new creation story, the 14 billion year creation extravaganza that finally produced you and me. In order to remove the obstacles and get out of creativity’s way, we may need some ritual, meditation, prayer, or way to center in community. Walter Wink in his book Engaging the Powers, writes about creativity and how we can unleash it through prayer: Prayer is rattling God’s cage and waking God up and setting God free and giving this famished God water and this starved God food and cutting the ropes off God’s hands and the manacles off God’s feet and washing the caked sweat from God’s eyes and then watching God swell with life and vitality and energy and following God wherever God goes. . . . When we pray we are not sending a letter to a celestial White House where it is sorted among piles of others. We are engaged rather in an act of cocreation, in which one little sector of the Universe rises up and becomes translucent, incandescent, a vibratory center of power that radiates the power of the universe. Pp. 308-9. What we are setting free, of course, is the Divine within.

The bio about the church’s minister, Reverend John Andrew Shuck, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary, states: “John has been involved in the work of the Westar Institute (the Jesus Seminar).” The Jesus Seminar involves those who reject the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, the virgin birth,  and all of the miracles found in the Gospels.

The bio also declares, “One of John’s passions is advocacy for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons in the church and in society. He is the secretary for PFLAG Tri-Cities and is a member of More Light Presbyterians. He is honored to serve a congregation that is More Light and fully inclusive.”

I assume to appease the Gay and Lesbians, he describes his marital status this way: “John sleeps with the choir director, Beverly Shuck, and has two grown children . . . ”

On his personal blog, the minister of the church comments on the visit by Dr. Jason Lisle and me this weekend. He states:

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis will be in Johnson City this coming week as part of the Origins Conference . . .

According to Mr. Ham, questions regarding the origins of the Universe, Earth, life on Earth, and homo sapiens have their “answers” in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. He is, of course, wrong. There are no answers in Genesis. There are stories in Genesis. They are stories about what it means to be human. They have absolutely nothing to tell us about how the universe was formed (including our solar system), the formation of Earth, and the evolution of life on Earth including human beings. We go to science for those answers.

The Bible, including the Book of Genesis, contains fascinating stories. They are even more fascinating when we learn how and why the stories came to be. The first chapter of Genesis likely was written during the Babylonian captivity in the 6th century BCE. The six days of creation and the seventh day of rest is a poem and one of the key points of the poem is to encourage and explain why the Sabbath should be kept. Our resting on the seventh day is in keeping with the way God rested when God created the world. None of that is literal. It was a way in which these storytellers found meaning. It is a creative fiction, a myth.

The story of Adam and Eve is not historical reportage. It is another myth of coming of age and testing limits. If Eve had decided not to eat the fruit, the whole story ends. But she doesn’t. She wants to know. She wants to see. That is what human beings do. Our quest, our curiosity, make us both unique and dangerous. We cannot be satisfied living in a gated garden. We live with the thorns. The story of Adam and Eve invites us to reflect on what it means to be human . . . . Finally, our cosmic and evolutionary story that we are uncovering through science is fantastic. It is an amazing story. We are related to all living things. Humanity has a special role in that we are the eyes, ears, and consciousness of the universe. We have the joy and the responsibility to tell the universe’s story. We need our children to learn this fantastic story that is unfolding. They will have a part in uncovering more.

Well, the ministry of AiG is certainly needed in Tennessee to help counter this anti-Christian teaching from a pastor. What this church teaches, sadly, is the result of those who accommodate the pagan religion of the age (evolution and millions of years) with God’s Word (the Bible) and then become consistent with what they have done.

Please be in prayer for our Tennessee conference this weekend.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken