For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23)

Introducing Science Fiction Christianity

Apprising Ministries reminded you in Doug Pagitt Points Us To Michael Dowd that heretical universalist pastor Doug Pagitt, along with his heretical progressive “theologian in residence” Tony Jones and Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren comprise the unholy trinity of the sinfully ecumenical Emergent Church, which has now blossomed into a full-blown neo-liberal cult that’s operating within mainstream evangelicalism.

This upgraded Emerging Church 2.0 is all the more insidious because, through the assistance of apostates like Dr. Philip Clayton of the Transforming Theology network, who continue cobbling together the new postmodern version of Progressive Christian theology—aka “big tent” Emergence Christianity—it’s poison is now being injected into the very heart of the church visible.

Later in Doug Pagitt Agrees With Evolutionary Evangelist Michael Dowd I told you that Rev. Michael Dowd, whom I first brought to your attention in Jesus Died For Our Reptilian Brain, is “an ordained Christian minister with a Master of Divinity degree”[1] and author of Thank God for Evolution!: How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World (TGfE).

Spencer Burke is founder of the aptly named THEOOZE.com, which is “dedicated to the emerging Church culture”; in These Christians Radically Rethink What A Church Is Rev. Eddie Gibbs of the nafarious Fuller Theological Seminary tells us that:

Burke is an “influential thinker” in the emerging-church movement. Burke’s influence stems in part from his website, TheOoze, which discusses issues facing the church today, said Gibbs, who, with another Fuller theologian, Ryan Bolger, is writing a book on emerging churches.

“From my perspective, Spencer has flipped too far to the left, but he represents the voice of younger leaders within the emerging church,” said Gibbs, an Episcopalian minister who recently invited Burke to lecture at Fuller. (Online source)

Living Spiritual Teacher and Emerging Church leader Richard Rohr, a universalist along with Burke, Dowd, and Pagitt, says of Burke’s book A Heretic’s Guide to Eternity (AHG), written with Barry Taylor:

Some Christians have the ability to make you want to be a Christian just by being who they are. They make the gospel alive, real, healing, and utterly attractive. I think Spencer Burke is just one of those people. In his writings he shares himself and his vision. (back cover)

Now we turn our attention to Michael Dowd – Integrity and Evolutionary Christianity from July of 2009:

In a recent interview with ThinkFwd: host, Spencer Burke, Michael shares what he calls evolution theology, and his belief that the “bad news” is our instinctual “sinful” nature and our unchosen instincts fighting within ourselves…

Michael explains how evolution theology approaches this “bad news.” We all have multiple parts of our brain. Our reptilian brain is the most ancient, and focuses on survival-safety, sustenance, and sex. Our mammalian brain has aspects of kinship, status, play and reciprocity, and our new mammalian brain gives us our drive to comprehend and predict.

We are brilliant at rationalization because if we can convince ourselves of something, we can convince those around us and we’ll have influence and status. Finally, our pre-frontal cortex gives us a quality that is unique to humans-judgment.

As we have evolved as humans, we still have our cravings and instincts from ancient times,… Nothing, Michael says, is more important than having people with diverse backgrounds talk together and really hear each other-coming together from a place of learning, not just “I need to convert you.”… (Online source

What follows is a transcription of the video segment below; next time I’ll review what was said and, Lord willing, help you to see through their Humpty Dumpty language:

Hello and welcome to TheOoze.TV. My name is Spencer Burke, your host for “Think Forward”. In this week’s episode, I sit down with my friend Michael Dowd. He’s written a book called, Thank God for Evolution. In the past we’ve seen religion and evolution at odds with each other rather than complimenting each other. Michael and I talk about the possibility of seeing in a new light many of the scriptural ideas, like original sin and the idea of the reptilian brain. I think it’s going to be an extremely challenging episode and I hope that you’ll share it with your friends and head on over to TheOoze.TV.

Burke:      Well Michael, we’ve had some fun over the years…we actually were in an accountability group…a lot of people are like, “You were in an accountability group?” I’m go, “Yeah.” But we did that over the phone, there were like 10 of us from all over the world…and that was very interesting. And one of the things that I really connected with was the idea of integrity.

Dowd:       Why integrity is so essential is because to be in integrity is to be right with God. It really means being aligned with reality as reality really is, not as you wish it was. And, uh, and that really is what it means to be right with God. And why we get out of integrity…I mean one of the things as I think about the gospel…what you know…what we mean by the gospel…the “good news”, well…good news is only actually experienced as good news if its in some way an adequate response to (or addressing) of the bad news. So the question is always…the pre-question before you can even talk about the gospel is, “What’s the bad news?” You know…and most people today aren’t really you know, sweating bullets thinking that they’re going to spend eternity in a burning hell; that’s not the bad news they’re dealing with. So, if what we’re offering in terms of the gospel is merely cosmic fire insurance, that’s not a surprise that young people are not flocking to the churches. 

                  And so, the bad news that’s universal that does give me a deeper, richer appreciation of traditional concepts (such as the fall of Adam and Eve and original sin), is that we all have instincts, we all have an unchosen nature; and we get this through our best understanding of science. We get this through what God has been revealing through evolutionary psychology and evolutionary brain science; is that we have a reptilian brain – the most ancient part of our brain – it’s concerned with the basis of survival…safety, sustenance, and sex…the core elements to survive and after puberty reproduce.

                  Then we have the paleo-mammalian brain – the old mammalian brain – which is concerned with feeling, bonding, emotions, kinship, status is very important to mammals (all mammals), play…you don’t find reptiles playing the way you find all mammals playing. Also, reciprocity…if I’m nice to you…if I’m kind and generous to you, you pretty much naturally are going to want to be nice back. But, if I’m nasty to you, you’re pretty much instinctually are going to want to be nasty back; it’s hard wired…it’s why it’s so important to have laws in place that we can’t give politicians significant gifts because even if the rational part of the brain thinks they won’t feel indebted, the old mammalian brain can’t not feel indebted.

Burke:      Pastors could learn something from that line, too.

Dowd:       Yeah, yeah. So then there’s the neocortex…the neomammalian brain…and the neomammalian brain only two new drives come into being with the neocortex; the drive to comprehend and the drive to predict. Now, comprehend and predict for what? I mean, why would evolution produce an organism that was really good at comprehending and predicting? Well, so that the reptilian brain and the paleomammalian brain can get what they want more effectively. It’s like, you know, it’s one of the reasons why we’re masters of self-deception. We’re literally brilliant at rationalizing, ’cause I can deceive you so much more effectively if I were to deceive myself.

Burke:      Yeah.

Dowd:       And then the most recent part of our brain – the pre-frontal cortex – is all concerned with good judgment, with poor judgment, it’s about our sense of the divine, our sense of ultimate reality, ultimate wholeness…it’s unique to humans and as I said, it’s about good and poor judgment and it’s also the last to develop in young people. I mean, parents know this.

Burke:      Yeah.

Dowd:       Car insurance companies know this because it only develops between the age of 23 and 25. And, one of the things we know about testosterone levels (which is at the reptilian brain) is that the higher the testosterone levels, the more risk taking occurs in men and women both. So, if you get young men under the age of 25, which have a lot of testosterone without good judgment, it’s not a surprise that it’s so much more expensive to insure.

Burke:      Right.

Dowd:       So, where a lot of people find freedom around this…part of the saving good news…is recognizing that we all have instincts that didn’t evolve to serve us in the world of today that we have to live in.

Burke:      Yeah.

Dowd:       Our instincts evolved to serve us in that kind of world that our ancestors used to live in. For example, we all have cravings for sugar, salts and fats because for 99% of human history, it wasn’t easy to find sugars, salts and fats.

Burke:      Right.

Dowd:       So having a craving for those things allowed our ancestors to survive long enough to reproduce. Yet today, it’s very easy to find sugar, salts and fats…we still have these cravings; so it’s a mismatch between our cravings (our instincts for sugars, salts and fats) and the world of today that we have to navigate.

Burke:      So in a sense, they weren’t bad…

Dowd:       No!

Burke:      …but now in world where you don’t get killed on the way to the refrigerator versus when you would try to kill to get fat from a living animal, you had a 50/50 chance or less of dying. So in the old world where I think of that as “bad…wrong” (slaps hand), that was original sin…that’s the context.

Dowd:       That’s the key. This where an evolutionary theology perspective is radically transformative, because I don’t know of anybody…I don’t of any committed Christian who is truly grateful for their sinful nature. And yet, without gratitude those things have power over us. When I (let me speak personally), when I came to an understanding of my own unchosen nature (my inherited proclivities) and appreciated the fact that without those things…my ancestors…I wouldn’t be alive.

Burke:      Right.

Dowd:       Without our instincts, none…we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I mean, the other thing about testosterone…I think a lot of people are fascinated to learn…is that when there’s a rise in status…well, first of all, testosterone…the higher the testosterone (in men and women both), the more (not just risk taking), but also the more the person thinks about sex. In fact I’ve got a friend of mine in California…the San Francisco bay area who is a women who is on testosterone patches (she had to wear hormonal patches, she was on hormonal therapy) and she told me, she said after two days “I couldn’t stop thinking about sex!” You know, she said, “Is this what guys have to deal with?”

Burke:      Yeah.

Dowd:       Well it is, but it’s not just guys and so women also have testosterone, but the thing that’s interesting (and this is where the freedom came for me) is recognizing that when status rises, testosterone levels rise. So, if somebody gets elected into public office, or they become the vice-president of their store (or their corporation) or manager of their store, or they become ordained, or become a mega church pastor…any way where people are looking up to you and admiring you…a judge…you know, where they weren’t looking up to you and admiring you before, for all men and about half women testosterone levels go sky high; so it means people are taking greater risks and they’re thinking more about sex. And when women who are in the presence of high status males (women in child-bearing years), their testosterone levels goes up.

Burke:      And even to be aware about that struggle, I mean Paul constantly is talking about “the things I don’t want to do, I do and the things I do want to do…whatever” and instead of seeing that as “negative, bad, wrong” (slaps hand), it’s more like, “look this is working out your salvation…this is the Christian endeavor…

Dowd:       Right.

Burke:      …to not move toward your base, but to move toward the possibility.”

Dowd:       Exactly, but here’s the interesting thing…this is why it is important to recognize science as revelatory, “facts is God’s native tongue” is that the Apostle Paul couldn’t have known what we now know.

Burke:      Exactly.

Dowd:       God couldn’t have revealed it to him or to any of the other apostles. God could not have…in the same way it’s like trying to understand infection before microscopes. It wasn’t as difficult to understand infection before microscopes…it was impossible. It wasn’t as difficult to understand the large scale structure of the universe before we had telescopes, it was impossible. Or it wasn’t as difficult to understand the structure of our brain 2000 years ago, it was impossible. But, what you would have known (and the Apostle Paul knew it) was that we all know (unintelligible), which we all say, “I’ll do that, but we don’t” or “I’ll never do that, “ but we do.

Burke:      Right.

Dowd:       We say, “You can count on me for that,” but they couldn’t. And so that’s why it’s so vital to have this understanding of our instincts as a realizing and making real concepts such as the fall of Adam and Eve.

Burke:      The other areas if you think about it, some of the things that the reptilian brain played with were issues of sex, but also the idea of protection; and so, I think the struggle that we have sometimes to move towards violence versus reason.

Dowd:       Exactly. Almost everything that we find frustrating or challenging about ourselves and those that we are in close relationship to, served us in the past. And when that piece gets integrated into Christian theology and Christian preaching, we will see a transformation of the Christian world that will make the Protestant reformation look small. We are in the place where we’re moving from flat earth Christianity to evolutionary Christianity (and flat earth versions of every other version of religion). And what I mean by flat earth Christianity isn’t people believe the world’s flat, it means where our understanding of sin, salvation, the kingdom of God, heaven and hell, Jesus as the way, the truth, and light, are still understood in the way that people did understand those when the world was flat…so,

Burke:      Rooted in that time…

Dowd:       …Evolutionary Christianity gives us an evolutionary understanding of sin and salvation and the kingdom of God and so on.

Burke:      Mm hmm. Well, I’ve even been thinking like of…with environmental issues, you know…there’s a sense that way back when, when we’re trying to clear an area or create space…how long would it take someone to cut down a tree, you know two, three, four thousand years ago…and today, we can just take and clear a forest. So sometimes I think it’s not can we, but should we?

Dowd:       Yeah.

Burke:      I’m not sure we ask that question and maybe that’s tied in more to that accountability and integrity together…is that some of these questions we shouldn’t be answering alone.

Dowd:       Yeah.

Burke:      We should be asking it in community.

Dowd:       Absolutely. In my opinion, nothing is more important than having diverse people of different backgrounds converse in a way that they really “get” each other… they really “hear” each other. That’s why some of the most exciting things that’s happening around collective intelligence is in dialogue and deliberation and having people really “hear” each other from a place of learning, not just a place of “I’m going to convert you from my perspective.”

Burke:      Right. I love that. Well I’m really looking forward to finding out more about this and we’ll have to keep in touch on this next book. It looks real exciting.

Dowd:       I’m looking forward to it.


[1] http://michaeldowd.org/, accessed 10/01/10.

See also: