My name is Mike Heiser, and I’m a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (M.A., Ancient History) and the University of Wisconsin- Madison (M.A., Ph.D., Hebrew Bible and Semitic Studies). I taught on the college level for twelve years before accepting my present position working for Logos Bible Software, a company that produces ancient text databases and other digital resources for study of the ancient world and biblical studies.
While I’m not anti-creedal, I am opposed to treating creeds as though they are the final word on articulating biblical theology. Creeds are selective, historically-conditioned, limited by their context and the resources available to their formulators, and often agenda-driven. I’m more concerned with what the text says and what it can sustain in the way of interpretation than I am with creeds, especially if they are recent (read: English-Bible based and flavored with the hermeneutics of the 16-17th century or 20th century evangelicalism). Every post-first century religious context is alien to the Bible, and therefore not the context of the Bible. The context of the Bible is the worldview of the biblical writers who produced it, not contexts that came later. I’ll take my Bible unfiltered by foreign contexts, thank you. I also have what I think is a healthy disdain for the trendiness of academia and its own brand of self-assured dogmatics. I’d be a happier guy if every graduate student in biblical studies and theology was forced to take courses in logic and critical thinking. That’ll happen right after the Cubs win the World Series again.
A Brief Sketch of Beliefs
This really will be brief. Yes, I’m leaving gaps even in what’s here. As an academic I’m well aware of where other academics would want XYZ question addressed. But this is my blog and no one else’s, so deal with the brevity and its resulting incompleteness. If you want a bibliography on these points, I could give you one, but that would be sad.
Broadly speaking, my own beliefs flow from some pretty simple presuppositions, all of which have stood the test of time intellectually.
For example, I’m a theist – It’s more coherent than atheism. That is, the idea that there is a supreme intelligent being has more explanatory power for things we know and experience than the absence of that being.
As a theist, it makes more sense to me to think that if a God exists, that God would actually be capable of doing things, and interested in doing things (as opposed to merely existing and doing nothing). I’m not a deity and I’m not that mindless and uninteresting. I have to think God has intelligence and the desire to use that intelligence.
Continuing, I think it’s more reasonable to believe that things that exist had a cause as opposed to having no cause. When it comes to the material creation, it either (a) created itself, (b) was always there, or (c) was created by an external force. Options A and B are ruled out by the Big Bang (cosmological science) and by logic. They are also ruled out by revelation like the Bible, but if you think you need the Bible to hold this position, you’re sadly uninformed.1 Â Lots of intelligent people who assign no importance to the Bible hold position C. And although position A has adherents (setting aside the position’s infinite regress problem that has one universe burping another one into existence, thereby explaining why our universe bears the marks of a beginning) anyone who embraces a Big Bang has to (ultimately) reject it. I was taught in high school that there was no such thing as spontaneous generation of matter within a close system. It made sense then, and it still makes sense. God seems a good candidate for the external cause to the material creation, and that is quite independent of what one thinks about Genesis.
Since I accept theism and the need for a creative event for creation, I think God could do lots of things that, to me, seem of smaller magnitude. For example, he can probably influence people to write stuff down (I can do that one) that would eventually get collected and made into a book (the Bible). He could even oversee the process and make sure they don’t screw it up, and if they did, he could bring along an editor to fix it. Again, that isn’t hard. This God could also become incarnate and decide to give himself as an atonement for human sin – basically, to offer forgiveness for the moral and spiritual failings he sees in his creatures by putting the onus on himself, not them. If I were God, I not only could do that, I’d want to, especially if there was no way my creations could do that themselves.
I am also a Christian because it’s the only religious story that makes any sense for solving the fundamental problem all religions are supposed to address: right relationship to God. All other religions require perfect performance of imperfect people to please a perfect being. That’s impossible (and really incoherent). Christianity has the perfect being becoming incarnate in imperfect flesh (i.e., it could bleed, age, and die) to communicate to imperfect people that he had come to pay the penalty his own demands had placed on them (after all, he has the right to make demands of his own creatures – you do that if you have kids, and I’m guessing you don’t think it’s unreasonable). In other words, God, through Christ, becomes the solution for a problem we cannot solve. His motive? John 3:16. The requirement to have that applied to us? Faith — Trust the solution. That’s it. No endless and futile effort to appease an angry deity. The deity solves the problem himself on your behalf. That’s pretty nice of him, especially when you’re helpless to fix the problem yourself.2
That’s good enough for this space.
To contact me (other than through a posted comment), email me at mshmichaelsheiser [at] gmail [dot] com.
- Philosophical materialists and atheists would opine here on how this is unscientific, somehow never bothering to explain scientifically why so many scientists would disagree. ↩
- And incidentally, for those Jesus revisionists out there – “Jesus is really a pagan deity” – feel free to shoot me the pagan text that has this same gospel. One hint: there isn’t one, and your comparisons are void of the content of the gospel message – which is sort of important when you want to compare the point of the gospel story to something else. ↩