Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Christianity and Western Society

I've often wondered about how and why "western societies" were able to become so much more advanced than many of the surrounding cultures after the dark ages. Most historians in the west now tell us that it was European greed and exploitation that caused so many of the advances in science and industry that western societies enjoyed at the expense of other cultures.

I've often thought in terms of the Europeans taking advantage of more useful and plentiful natural resources than, say, those in Africa and the middle east at the time. But there are some interesting ideas outlined in this interview of Rodney Stark. Most of the story has to do with misconceptions about the Crusades, but I hadn't really thought about the impact of Christianity being the dominant religion in western society:
"Christianity was the basis of western civilization. When you look at western civilization and see what it has, it came from Christianity. The notion that somehow western science broke through against the resistance of religion is total nonsense. Without the religious background, there wouldn't be any science, because the fundamental notion that separated the West from everybody else was the notion that God is rational and created a rational universe, so there were rules out there to be discovered.

"Nobody else looked for the rules, because they didn't believe they were there to be found. They didn't believe that the world had been created in the same rational way. The marvelous thing is that these early Christian scientists, including Newton, believed God had created a rational world, went ahead and looked for the rules of that rational world -- and darned if they didn't find them. In an interesting sense, it was a scientific confirmation of the Christian religion."
With respect to Muslim societies, specifically, many of the aspects of their religious beliefs had the opposite impact on their development:
"On religious grounds, Muslim scientists would have faced many challenges. It was widely held theologically that the notion of physical law was blasphemous. The laws of science presumed to limit the power of Allah, and therefore they could not be true. Clocks and printing presses were prohibited for centuries on the grounds that they were somehow blasphemous.

"Implied in the notion of scientific law, Muslim theologians felt, was that Allah would not be free to do whatever he pleased, whenever he pleased. They did not imagine Allah as the Great Clockmaker. He does as he pleases. That creates two impediments. One is it basically declares science itself heretical. But second, and more important, it says that science is impossible. If the concept of scientific law is regarded as theologically contradictory, then there are no rules there to be found. So who is going to go looking for rules that do not exist?

"You have astrology all over the world, but scientific astronomy only really happened in Europe. You have alchemy all over the world, but it turned into chemistry only once -- in Europe. And so it goes. And that's why in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Europeans could sail around the world, when everyone else could only row around a "lake" like the Mediterranean.

"The most surprising discovery for Europe when the age of exploration began was not the discovery of the New World or the civilizations in the Americas. It was the fact that the whole rest of the world was so far behind them. They had rather assumed that China would be way ahead of them. But that wasn't the way it was."

I Like Beer

Especially Guinness - both the draft and extra stout varieties. After seeing this video, I have even more reason to love this particular brew of the beverage Benjamin Franklin described as evidence of God's love for us.

Apparently, Arthur Guinness was a Christian, particularly influenced by John Wesley to use his status for good. I'll have to grab a copy of Stephen Mansfield's new book next time we're in Barnes and Noble.

I first saw the link to this video at Justin Taylor's blog, where he followed up some predictably silly comments from the Teetotaller crowd with an excellent post about Christian alcohol consumption. I have some sympathy for the position of total abstinence, being a recovering baptist, but have no use for those who try to claim that you can't be a Christian and drink the odd adult beverage. It's just not a position that can be supported by anyone who holds to Sola Scriptura.

He quotes D.A. Carson:
Paul refuses to circumcise Titus, even when it was demanded by many in the Jerusalem crowd, not because it didn’t matter to them, but because it mattered so much that if he acquiesced, he would have been giving the impression that faith in Jesus is not enough for salvation: one has to become a Jew first, before one can become a Christian. That would jeopardize the exclusive sufficiency of Jesus.

To create a contemporary analogy: If I’m called to preach the gospel among a lot of people who are cultural teetotallers, I’ll give up alcohol for the sake of the gospel. But if they start saying, “You cannot be a Christian and drink alcohol,” I’ll reply, “Pass the port” or “I’ll think I’ll have a glass of Beaujolais with my meal.” Paul is flexible and therefore prepared to circumcise Timothy when the exclusive sufficiency of Christ is not at stake and when a little cultural accommodation will advance the gospel; he is rigidly inflexible and therefore refuses to circumcise Titus when people are saying that Gentiles must be circumcised and become Jews to accept the Jewish Messiah.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

He's Back

Ok, so I've been extremely negligent in my blogging recently. I've been (allegedly) studying for the PE exam, coming up on April 16, and combining that with a new baby just doesn't leave much time for posting. Add in the depressing nature of events in the political and Liverpool Football Club worlds, and motivation has been low.

Of course, the events of the last few months have been building up what will be a rant of epic proportions on the nature and character of our "public servants" in Washington...whenever I have a few hours to formulate (and filter) all the disparate and oftentimes inappropriate thoughts bouncing around in my head, said rant will no doubt be allowed to escape onto the pages of this blog. It will be therapeutic, I'm sure. That is, after all, the main purpose of this blog (which is read mainly by sympathetic members of my family).

But for now, in light of Holy Week and a hope for maintaining my blood pressure at reasonable levels, I've decided to post a few links related to the Church.

First of all, Justin Taylor has a great series of posts all week following the historical events of Holy Week in Scripture. By the way, The Gospel Coalition blog has become one of my daily clicks.

A very interesting article turned up in the Christian Science Monitor about the recent surge of Calvinism in America. It's actually a great piece on the phenomenon I've written about before. I'm encouraged by the fact that more Christians are gravitating toward a faith that's based on solid doctrine, and into what I like to call "real" churches. The mega-church culture within American evangelicalism has produced far too many unserious churches, which in turn tend to produce self-centered believers, unprepared for anything other than Joel Osteen's promised prosperity, who couldn't begin to tell you what it is that they actually believe. Calvin believed in a church that took its role of proclaiming the Gospel and shepherding the flock seriously.
Today, his theology is making a surprising comeback, challenging the me-centered prosperity gospel of much of modern evangelicalism with a God-first immersion in Scripture. In an age of materialism and made-to-order religion, Calvinism's unmalleable doctrines and view of God as an all-powerful potentate who decides everything is winning over many Christians – especially the young.

Twenty-something followers in the Presbyterian, Anglican, and independent evangelical churches are rallying around Calvinist, or Reformed, teaching. In the Southern Baptist Convention, America's largest Protestant body, at least 10 percent of its pastors identify as Calvinist, while more than one-third of recent seminary graduates do.
I've been encouraged by the recent surge in college and grad types in our own church, and I can certainly identify with the desire for a serious church in increasingly troubling times. I continue to believe that early American Christianity's understandable and somewhat justified desire to get as far away as possible from Roman Catholicism lead to an overcompensation in certain areas of ecclesiology that was never intended by the Reformers.

But I also share Mike Pohlman's concern about the potential results of the "movement" becoming popular...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Faith Healing

Another sad example of people misapplying the principles of Scripture.
On the last day of Kent Schaible's life, his parents and pastor intensely prayed over his 32-pound body, which, unbeknown to them, was ravaged by bacterial pneumonia. When the 2-year-old boy finally died at 9:30 p.m. Jan. 24 inside the family's Northeast Philadelphia home, the pastor called a funeral director to take the boy's remains to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office.

At no time that day, nor in the week-and-a-half prior, did Herbert and Catherine Schaible seek medical treatment for their son despite his sore throat, congestion, liquid bowel movements, sleeplessness and trouble swallowing, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore said in court yesterday.

"All it would have taken is a simple visit to a doctor for antibiotics or Tylenol, maybe, to keep this child alive," she said during the couple's preliminary hearing.

After the two attorneys representing the Schaibles argued for their innocence, Municipal Judge Patrick Dugan held them for trial on charges of involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to commit involuntary manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
Taking your child to the doctor is in no way a demonstration of a lack of faith. Unfortunately, this could've been avoided had this couple's pastor known anything at all about the way God works. God is active in this world. He is not a passive spectator watching everything that happens to us. He's also totally sovereign. Each event in our lives is part of his plan, but we also must realize that he has ordained that these events come to pass through secondary causes.

God chooses to use natural events and real people to accomplish his will here on earth. That doesn't mean supernatural things don't happen, but we have plenty of evidence that secondary causes are God's chosen means for getting things done. God installs the leader of this nation, but he uses the votes of real people to do so. In the same way, God is the great physician, but he heals people through the work of doctors, nurses, and advancements in medicine.

Unfortunately, this is just another example of the dangers in not having a strong grasp on doctrine and Biblical teaching.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More on Coral Ridge

One of the issues surrounding the current schism within Coral Ridge PCA is the assertion by new pastor Tullian Tchividjian that politics should not be preached from the pulpit. This question of how involved church leaders, and pastors in particular, should be in local and national politics has interested me for some time. I'm a very opinionated and politically informed person. My initial tendency is always that the church should be actively involved in influencing the political realm at every level and in every way, but is that the Biblical view?

We had a discussion about this a few weeks ago in our officer training session, in which our pastor talked about what he called the traditional southern presbyterian view on the church and politics. It's traditionally been taught in churches like ours that the purpose of the Sunday morning worship service is, well, the worship of God; and that the pastor's priority is the exposition of the Word of God to the people. The southern presbyterian view is that it's the pastor's job to inform the people from the pulpit concerning the Biblical principles that govern every area of life - including public policy and political thought. It is then incumbent on the individual members of the church to go out and apply those principles to every aspect of their lives, and to the political and public policy debates. When church members get involved in the local school board, run for other public offices, and vote for candidates that align with Biblical principles as outlined from the pulpit on Sundays, the church is then indirectly, but effectively, influencing the political landscape.

I've always found it disturbing to hear pastors telling members which candidates to vote for in elections, and using their pulpits to endorse certain campaigns. It happens quite a lot in many of the black churches here in Macon, where a church service can resemble a political rally at times. (On a related note, the "reverend" Jeremiah Wright is coming to Macon this month to "preach" at St. Paul AME.) However, I also tend to think that we as Christians have a duty to be involved in our government and in the making of public policy.

So, is Tchividjian correct in steering Coral Ridge away from it's high profile association with the religious conservative movement under Dr. Kennedy? There is no question that Dr. Kennedy sought to directly shape the political landscape both through his preaching and related ministries. His sermons, which were aired on television and radio for years, would often take on legalized abortion, homosexuality, evolution, and the idea that America had strayed from its founding Christian principles. He was a member of the Moral Majority, and was constantly quoted as wanting to "reclaim America for Christ." Some have accused him of being a Dominionist - of wanting America to be ruled by Christians, according to Biblical Law - however, I don't see his teachings going to quite the extremes of Christian Reconstructionism.

Tchividjian, on the other hand, seems to fall more in line with the southern presbyterian model, and is certainly of the opinion that preaching should be expository in nature. While I have a tendency to enjoy hearing Dr. Kennedy calling America out, I also tend to think that preaching should be more focused on explaining the Scriptures. Don't get me wrong, the Bible has a lot to say about many of the hot button political issues of our day, and when a pastor is preaching from the whole of Scripture he should not be afraid to explain the truth on each of these issues. It's difficult to know where to draw the line.

I suppose my view is that the pulpit is the place for revealing God's will through his Word, and that pastors should stick to doing just that. If that means pointing out what the Bible says about a particular political issue, then so be it. But politics shouldn't be the dominant topic of discussion on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, we are called to change our culture, not withdraw from it, so it's up to us as members of the body of Christ to go out and apply the principles explained to us from the pulpit in our communities.

I'm seeing more and more of the younger generation of believers displaying an almost knee-jerk reaction against the evangelical church's association with the "Christian right." Unfortunately, I think it almost always seems to be an overreaction. So many of the leaders within the so-called "emergent" movement are so heavily focused on running away from the issues typically emphasized by traditional evangelicals like Dr. Kennedy, that they end up glossing over or totally leaving out the true Gospel, replacing it with just another warmed over version of the heresy of the social gospel. It's probably true that the younger crowd of believers these days would not respond well to Dr. Kennedy's brand of preaching. However, I hope that we don't go too far in our attempts to appeal to the surrounding culture.

I'm excited about Tchividjian and the possibilities he represents for moving our denomination into the future. I hope, and have every confidence, that he will remain true to the Word of God.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian

It's difficult to watch what's happening at Dr. Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian, however it is very indicative of some of the issues bubbling under the surface within our denomination right now. So many of our churches, like our own FPC Macon, are finding it very difficult to come to grips with what it means to be relevant while also remaining faithful.

I'm only just now learning about the situation at Coral Ridge, but the news today that 2 elders have resigned from the session of this very influential church is disturbing and sad. After reading some of the back-story, it sounds like it's the typical situation that more and more conservative, traditional evangelical churches are starting to have to face these days: the culture has changed, and the younger generation of pastors wants to change the ways we are reaching it.

A while back, after the death of D. James Kennedy - a man I admired greatly - the church voted by a wide margin to offer the post of senior pastor of Coral Ridge to Billy Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian. Tchividjian had been the pastor of New City Church - a smaller congregation of mostly younger people, which he merged with the existing congregation of Coral Ridge. It sounds like he also brought in his own leadership team, replacing many long-time staff. Evidently, Tchividjian also decided that wearing a robe while preaching was not necessary (I know it seems silly, but this has been quite the controversy in our denomination. We had the same little outburst within our congregation when our head pastor started wearing a suit several years ago), and also has stopped what he calls "preaching politics from the pulpit." Dr. Kennedy was a founding member of the Moral Majority, and one of the leading voices in the religious conservative movement. More on that later. Other changes included moving toward a more contemporary worship service (the good ole worship wars - also a big issue within the PCA right now), and modifications to evangelism and other popular programs.

Evidently, a group of 6 influential church members, including Dr. Kennedy's daughter, took advantage of the unrest these changes were causing and began organizing resistance to Tchividjian. After writing letters to the congregation and circulating a petition suggesting he be fired, Tchividjian had the members banned from the premises. It seems a bit harsh, and it certainly offended my innate Baptist congregational sensibilities - at least initially. But if this was done in accordance with the requirements for church discipline, as laid out in our Book of Church Order, then the case could certainly be made that they were causing disunity within the congregation and refusing to submit to the authority of the session. About a month later, after nearly 400 members had petitioned for a vote on Tchividjian's removal, the church held a congregational vote which overwhelmingly confirmed support for the new pastor.

Now, we obviously don't know all the details, but my guess is that Coral Ridge had a significant portion of long-term, probably older members, who bristled at the changes that their new pastor started making. I can't speak to the specifics of what happened, but it's possible that TT (I can't keep typing that name over and over again) may have tried to institute these changes a little too quickly. I know that a similar fallout would probably occur if some of these same changes were made all at once in our church. I can sympathize with some of the long term members who have supported the church for years, both financially and with their time, only to see these "young whippersnappers" come in and take over, a-changing everything they worked so hard to establish. However, if these changes were made with the approval of the session, as long as they were acting within the guidelines of our constitution and the Scriptures, then I see little room for argument.

Perhaps the new leadership didn't handle everything as well as they could have, but it's also true, at least according to TT, that many of the dissidents didn't follow the Biblical model of confronting fellow believers. In this Christianity Today interview, TT suggests that his critics should've come first to him personally with their grievances, as is outlined in Matthew 18. Instead, and this is still according to TT, they immediately began undermining him and the church leadership among the congregation. If this is in fact true, then I have to say that he was probably justified in breaking off communion with these members.

This just illustrates that even those churches who have a strict set of guidelines for the government of the church will still have to deal with the fact that pastors, elders and members are always going to be sinful, fallen people. These kinds of problems will always exist within the church, as long as different people hold different views about what the Bible teaches. Unfortunately, this particular conflict is being played out in front of the entire nation, and is not exactly helping win people to Christ. Many former members of Coral Ridge have already splintered to form a new church, and it looks like there is little hope for reconciliation.

I have to say that my initial reaction to what I've learned is that Coral Ridge's new pastor and session have acted correctly in what is a very unfortunate conflict. I'm sure there are things they wish they'd done differently, but my guess is that Tchividjian has the best interests of this congregation at heart, and is implementing what he thinks is the best plan for reaching people for the Gospel. Changes of this nature will always create schism within such a traditional, conservative denomination; but perhaps they are necessary for reaching the current culture.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Great Debate: Women in the Church

Following in the vein of yesterday's post about our church and it's structure, I'd like to comment briefly on a very hot topic within Christendom right now: what should be the role of women in the church? There's a nice little non-theological overview of this debate here. By way of summary, this is how the author, Allen Yeh, describes the two sides of this issue:
Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism is often a hot-button issue amongst evangelical Christians. To define these briefly, Complementarianism is the theological position that men and women are created differently and correspondingly should have different roles—i.e. men and women are not inherently unequal, but their differences should lead to different roles which complement each other. Egalitarianism is the position that men and women are equal and thus can have interchangeable roles.
Our denomination recently addressed this issue at General Assembly, where a debate was held between two of our most respected pastors, Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, and Ligon Duncan of First Presbyterian in Jackson, MS.

Now, it says a lot about our denomination that this debate was very limited in it's scope. The PCA is pretty uniform in its complimentarian view. The debate, and the subsequent vote of the General Assembly, was over whether PCA churches should be permitted to "appoint" deaconesses, or female deacons. Note that the word "ordain" is very carefully avoided. The issue of whether women should be in authoritative or teaching roles is not even in question. While I don't see this as an issue of terrible importance, I do tend to fall on the side of complimentarianism. I just don't think you can get past the unequivocal statement by Paul in I Timothy 2:12, even if, as Yeh suggests, you look at the whole canon of Scripture.

"I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man" is about as clear as it gets. And despite the protestations of many an egalitarian, no other verse in Scripture contradicts this view. The most common verses cited have to do with inferences that women are expected to prophesy (I Cor. 11:4-6), and examples of women serving (perhaps as deaconesses - see Acts 6) in the early church. However, prophesying (which I believe has ceased anyway with the death of the apostles, at least in terms of new special revelation) and serving as deaconesses is still a far cry from teaching or holding positions of authority. The office of deacon is one of service, not of rule.

I'm not even going to get into the defenses of the egalitarian view which are not based on Scripture. I had a Christianity professor in college whose defense of this view consisted of "Well, women in leadership roles would not have been accepted by the culture of that day, so that is why Paul prohibited it. Women are now accepted by our culture as equal to men, so this no longer applies." Such an argument is completely without merit. You could use the same logic for any number of Biblical commands. What happens when society accepts adultery as the norm, or any other practice prohibited in Scripture? Do we throw them out as well? Where do we draw the line?

Our pastor does an excellent job of explaining our view on this every time it comes up. This position does not come out of any view that holds women to be inferior in any way to men. In fact, it is often recognized that many women have better skills than men in any number of areas. It is simply a matter of being faithful to Scripture, and not basing any interpretation of God's Word on man's limited understanding and logic; and certainly not on the prevailing winds of current cultural norms.

In terms of the deaconess debate, I'm a little ambivalent. The complementarian view certainly does not prohibit women from being a vital part of the church ministry. In fact, Calvin himself encouraged churches to appoint women to help the diaconate in their ministry of service. Whether we call them a "Deaconess" or not really doesn't matter to me. I have tremendous respect for both Keller and Duncan, and appreciate their willingness to have an open discussion. I also appreciate our denomination's continued (and increasingly unpopular) stance on a difficult issue.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Praise for the PCA

Over the past 6 weeks I've been through an officer training course in our church, which is part of the path toward ordination as a deacon. The class has met each week, on Sunday afternoons, and has been a surprisingly thorough examination of everything from our specific denomination's system of government to our strongly held doctrine and theology. For a lot of evangelicals in this part of the world, the fact that we require officers to complete a fairly rigorous course of study, including both written and oral examinations, just to become a deacon or elder seems pretty extreme.

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition, all this stuff would've seemed downright "catholic" to me about 15 years ago. We actually have a constitution consisting of a book of church order and an exhaustive declaration of our system of beliefs in the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. The church itself has a very specific form of government, which was just totally foreign to someone coming from a congregationally governed church background. Of course, I've come to believe that this is the Biblically correct model for a church - otherwise I wouldn't be here - but what caused such a severe change?

Well, I pretty much just read the Bible with an eye for what it teaches about the church, and came to the conclusion that the presbyterian form of church government most closely matches those teachings. I suppose it doesn't hurt that I'm an engineer and am naturally drawn to such a well structured and strictly governed organization as the Presbyterian Church in America. The Book of Church Order reminds me of a design specification for the construction projects I work on daily, and from what I can see, makes things so much easier on the leadership of the church. Disagreements over certain teachings, and difficult decisions that are made by pastors are not backed up merely by the individual pastor's opinions, but are shown to be either in or out of line with the accepted church position.

Some would argue that this adds to the requirements of Scripture, but that is only the case if the church's position is not thoroughly backed up by the Scriptures themselves. And all creeds, confessions, and similar documents must always be viewed as subject and subordinate to the ultimate authority of the Word of God. I've learned an incredible amount in the last 6 weeks, and am encouraged by our church's commitment to Biblical leadership and government. I wish more churches would take it as seriously as the PCA obviously does.


It's been entirely too long since I posted anything on this blog, and that's due in large part to some pretty serious change happening in our family. After 11 years of being a family of 3, on September 2, we became a family of 4 with the birth of our new daughter Ellie. After spending many months getting the nursery and house ready for a new baby, our preparations were cut a bit short by little Ellie's arrival 4 weeks early.

She was born 5 lbs 3 oz, 18.5 inches long. After several extra days in the hospital trying to get little Ellie to eat and gain weight, we finally came home to a very different family dynamic. We'd become very used to having a big kid who can take care of herself, and had really forgotten what it was like to have a helpless little baby. Very little sleep is being had in our home at the moment, but it really is a lot of fun!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Augustine on Creation

I came across a very interesting article today, written in honor of the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, at Christianity Today's website. The article is written by Alister McGrath, and deals with Augustine's views on the creation account in Genesis.

After reading through Augustine's Confessions recently, I noticed that one of the major hang-ups he had in fully embracing Christianity was a difficulty in believing the "stories" in Genesis. It was a common belief among the intellectual elite of that age (as is certainly, and more severely, the case in our own time) that the Biblical account of creation was simply ridiculous and illogical. There is a lot of evidence that Augustine struggled with the creation account for much of his life, and this article helps to illuminate the results of that struggle - a view on creation that I found very interesting, especially in light of the fact that Darwin's theory of evolution was still more than a millenium away.

I've done quite a bit of study relating to the various current views on the creation narrative, and have become much more open to alternatives to the Young Earth Creationism that I have always embraced. For one thing, many other men who have my utmost respect, and who are very orthodox in their theology, have also shown a willingness to accept the idea that the literal, six 24 hour day creation account may not be the only Biblically accurate interpretation. My own reading of the Genesis account has also led me to be willing to entertain the idea that the six "days" may or may not have been literal 24 hour periods (also known as the "Day-Age Theory").

One thing that I think is very important in this line of thinking is that it was not science that led me to this belief. In other words, I am not trying to fit the Bible into a man-made box by trying to explain the creation account based on what man's current "knowledge" about science tells us. The earth very well may be billions of years old - I don't know. I also do not believe that our current system of carbon dating is as reliable as some "experts" would have us believe. It's important to make the distinction that it is my reading of Scripture, and my study of other respected individuals' writings on the subject of the original language, that has led me to my current postion.

This is not how I usually work. My default position on Scripture is to interpret what I read in the most simple and literal terms, but also in the context of the rest of the Bible. I usually fall back on the idea that we are much safer erring on the side of caution, and not leaving the Bible open to erroneous views that are based only on manmade (hence, flawed and limited) ideas. I firmly believe that the accounts in the Old Testament - all the stories told to me in my childhood about Jonah, Joshua, Moses, and others - are descriptive of real life events that actually happened in time and space. So it's a pretty big leap for me to be willing to say, in a way, that the account in Genesis is, just maybe, not to be taken literally.

So does this mean that I'm stepping outside of long-held orthodox belief. Well, not necessarily. Upon reading this article about Augustine's views on the subject, I find myself encouraged by the fact that he drew some of the same conclusions from Scripture.
Augustine draws out the following core themes: God brought everything into existence in a single moment of creation. Yet the created order is not static. God endowed it with the capacity to develop. Augustine uses the image of a dormant seed to help his readers grasp this point. God creates seeds, which will grow and develop at the right time. Using more technical language, Augustine asks his readers to think of the created order as containing divinely embedded causalities that emerge or evolve at a later stage. Yet Augustine has no time for any notion of random or arbitrary changes within creation. The development of God's creation is always subject to God's sovereign providence. The God who planted the seeds at the moment of creation also governs and directs the time and place of their growth.
Now Augustine is certianly not the only source of knowledge on this subject, and he could very easily be totally wrong. But, I find it very encouraging that he struggled with these very same issues, and that he was willing to admit this uncertainty. Just to be clear, I still believe in the historicity of God's creation of the earth and everything in it - including, as is discussed elsewhere in the article, God's creation of time itself - as well as the real events of The Fall, the flood, and the other events described in Genesis. You certainly won't find me writing here about my belief that the story of Adam and Eve is really just a parable, meant to warn us of our tendencies to stray from God. I just find myself more open to a slightly different translation of the description of a series of events that are well beyond our ability to comprehend.