November 20, 2017

In the beginning, it’s not about “days”

jtot_genesis_cosmology

Better, but still not in the ballpark.

Good for Justin Taylor at the Gospel Coalition for many parts of the article, “Biblical Reasons to Doubt the Creation Days Were 24-Hour Periods.” Questioning the so-called “literalism” of Young Earth Creationism in their reading of Genesis 1 is something to be commended even if I think he ultimately misses the mark.

Go read his piece, and see what you think.

Here are some of the good things, I think, that Taylor points out:

  • He states: “Contrary to what is often implied or claimed by young-earth creationists, the Bible nowhere directly teaches the age of the earth.”
  • He recognizes that scholars from Augustine to Gleason Archer have not accepted what YEC proponents call “the plain reading of Scripture” with regard to a young age for the earth.
  • He questions the thinking in some parts of the Church, saying, “I fear that we’ve built an exegetical “fence around the Torah,” fearful that if we question any aspect of young-earth dogmatics we have opened the gate to liberalism.”
  • He accepts one of the most plausible understandings of the relationship of Genesis 1:1 to the rest of the chapter, one which I heard originally from John Sailhamer. If this is the correct reading, it undercuts the very foundations of Young Earth Creationism. [I have edited the following statement with strike-through marks to more precisely represent this interpretation.]

After the act of creation in Genesis 1:1, the main point of the narrative (in Gen. 1:3-2:3) seems to be the making and preparation of the earth for its inhabitants, with a highly patterned structure of forming and filling.

  • He correctly observes, then, that: “The Earth, Darkness, and Water Are Created Before ‘The First Day’”.
  • He properly distinguishes different uses for the Hebrew words “create” and “make,” as used in Genesis 1. So, for example, “if the sun, moon, stars, and lights were created in Genesis 1:1, then they were made or appointed for a particular function in Genesis 1:13, 14, 16—namely, to mark the set time for worship on man’s calendar.” This is consistent with Sailhamer’s reading, and also with the important point made by John Walton, that the focus of Genesis 1 is not on God creating the material elements of the universe, but on God ordering those elements so that they function as he desired.
  • When he considers the use of the word “day” in Scripture, he correctly observes that it can be used in an analogical sense and need not mean a 24-hour period of time. Young Earth Creationists are loathe to recognize any analogical elements in Genesis 1 for fear of opening the door to suggestions that Genesis 1 is something other than pure history.
  • He correctly says: “God’s revelation to us is analogical (neither entirely identical nor entirely dissimilar) and anthropomorphic (accommodated and communicated from our perspective in terms we can understand).”
  • Insofar as it goes, he is therefore on track when he quotes Bavinck: “The creation days are the workdays of God. By a labor, resumed and renewed six times, he prepared the whole earth.” [my emphasis]
  • I can accept his summary statement (again, as far as it goes): “God is portrayed as a workman going through his workweek, working during the day and resting for the night. Then on his Sabbath, he enjoys a full and refreshing rest. Our days are like God’s workdays, but not identical to them.”

However, in the end, Justin Taylor doesn’t go far enough and ultimately misses the point.

God_the_GeometerThere remains a refusal — I assume because of an a priori commitment to a certain view of inerrancy — to go beyond a concordist reading of Genesis 1 and recognize the text for what it actually is:

  • mythological portrayal of God’s creative work of forming the world as his temple and human beings (the Hebrew people in particular) as his priests in the world.
  • A mythological portrayal that reflects Ancient Near East cosmology (see the picture at the top of the post): a flat earth standing on pillars under a solid dome (the firmament), with waters below and above, and the heavenly bodies hanging in the dome to give light to the earth.
  • A mythological portrayal that is designed to counter other such ancient myths, especially those of the Babylonians.
  • A mythological portrayal that should be read that way, and should not be read to give us scientific or historical information about what “literally” happened in the beginning.
  • A mythological portrayal that should be read in the context of the story of the Hebrew people told in the Torah and Tanakh (Hebrew Bible).

Ultimately, spending our time debating the meaning of the word “day” misses the bigger point. That debate, one way or the other, is an intramural argument between those who read the text as history that must somehow be reconciled with modern science. But it need not, should not be read that way.

It’s a story, folks.

An ancient story.

To be read in its context in the Torah and Hebrew Bible, not as a timeless historical, scientific statement of origins.

“Day” means “day” — but it represents a day in the story that is being told, not a day in space-time history. We don’t have to do all these gymnastics if we simply acknowledge the nature and genre of the text.

Comments

  1. Mike the Geologist says:

    I think the bigger problem for many evangelicals is not geology but anthropology. Matthew 19 and particularly Romans 5 are much harder to reconcile as story than the Genesis account. Once the age of the earth is admitted and the geologic record of faunal and floral succession is recognized one realizes God created through a natural process that gradually unfolded. It really is the “seed principle” on a grand cosmological scale. For me personally it demonstrates the awesomeness of God much more than the 6 day “poof” theory.

    • flatrocker says:

      But if we make geology the point of the story, then we won’t have to reconcile the anthropology. It’s so much more tidy that way.

    • Trevis the Armchair Anthropologist says:

      Over the years, I’ve come to think that a lot of religious conflict boils down to anthropology rather than theology, geology, or cosmology. For example, unpack the following “altar call” question:

      “Do you know that if you were to die to night, you’d go to heaven?”

      This isn’t a question about God. It isn’t really even a question about soteriology. At root it’s a question about what the listener believes to be true of human nature. “Do you have a distinct part of your humanity that is purely spiritual and survives the body after death? If so, is it in disposition that entitles you to the blessed hereafter?” Rather more wordy that, but anthropologically self-aware at least.

      • ” At root it’s a question about what the listener believes to be true of human nature… Do you have a distinct part of your humanity that is purely spiritual and survives the body after death? If so”

        Exactly. And this is a concern that Genesis 1 & 2 barely concerns itself with; what it does address regarding this concern is based on just assuming the reader comes with a particular understading of human-kind. There is not not enought hear to establish such a belief.

      • A big reason the whole cloth of Evangelical theology unraveled for me was that it failed me so spectacularly on the anthropology front. To my question, “Why did God create humans, anyway? For what do humans even exist?” I found/was given very few and only surface answers that did not really even address the question and left me with even more questions. To achieve some peace of mind, I had to go back to the Baltimore Catechism I learned at age 6: “God made me to know him, love him and serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in heaven.” That was the placeholder for me for a number of years; at least in the Balt. Cat. answer there was no “worm theology.”

        Wright’s work rearranged the bit about “heaven” – but after reading Wright I at least had my feet on the ground and found that the point to which I had come after years of thought, prayer, bible study and other reading was actually pretty close to the anthropology of the Orthodox Church. In Orthodoxy I also found the intersection of anthropology with the Trinity (another confusing and neglected area of current Protestant theology – Scot McKnight thinks so, too). In my experience, nothing has been able to touch it. And it preserves the mythic quality of Genesis, not requiring “literal days.” Some of the Fathers believed in a 6-day creation, but in Orthodoxy as a whole, this is theologumena (opinion), not dogma. Dogma is that God created the heavens and the earth (all that is unseen/non-material and all that is seen/material), period.

        I know, there goes Dana blathering on about Orthodoxy again… As I say, we are all where we are for reasons. This was a hugely significant reason for me. I got so very tired of the arguments about “days” that led absolutely nowhere, and of a related anthropology that was so very, very flat. (pun unintended but apropos, I think)

        Dana

        • I love your blathering, Dana. Keep it coming…

        • Oh hey, we Lutherans can blather with the best of them when it comes to this issue! No need to apologize, your comments are always thoughtful and interesting

      • “Do you know that if you were to die to night, you’d go to heaven?”

        Absolutely not, and neither do you, because heaven doesn’t exist yet, so let’s turn in our Bibles to…

        *and the person walks away, frustrated at the lack of faith and mockery they just observed…*

    • I don’t know…modern YEC, yes, but it was always global flood theory that kicked off a lot of the crazy way back when.

      When an engineer reads the Bible and goes for a walk alongside someone who believes his female pastor has visions straight from the throne room of God…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        …things can get a bit weird.

        The kicker is, the same YEC Evangelicos who stick to Flood Geology would denounce the originator of it (Ellen G White of the SDAs) as a Satanic CULT CULT CULT leader. Yet they use her YEC Flood Geology word-for-word. Go fig.

    • What is “Modern” science? What science affirms the Genesis account of suns, moon, and stars being created after earth? Does that mean anything beyond counter-reformation science is “modern”?

    • Christiane says:

      Hi MIKE-the-G.
      I very much agree with you, this: ” . . . God created through a natural process that gradually unfolded. . ”

      I have no problem with the elements that make up the ‘dust’ of my body having been formed within the stars eons ago, as long as I am at peace with the idea that God created and gave me my soul Himself. Actually, the ‘science’ creates more awe in me than any of the YEC ‘the text plainly says’ lingo . . .

      except maybe for the YEC’s unicorns
      ( I do envy the YEC folk their unicorns as I have loved the idea of unicorns since the age of 2) 🙂

  2. “A Mythical Portrayal” –

    That is ALWAYS the slippery slope.

    Personally, watching the so called scientisst, Lie, Scheme, Deceive over the decades of my life, I have No Faith, in modern science and great Faith in the simple reading of Scripture.

    I believe Scripture from “Genesis to maps.” And where my Bible says “genuine leather,” I believe that too.

    Am I a dinosaur? Oh Absolutely.

    • At the risk of taking the comments section down a slippery slope myself, what have you seen scientists lie, scheme, or deceive about?

    • As it relates to Taylor’s article, I didn’t see any mention of science at all – Taylor’s article is called “Biblical Reasons to Doubt…..”

    • “, I have No Faith, in modern science ”

      I hear this occasionally. And as respectfully as possible let me respond: your claim of distrust is ***nakedly dishonest.***

      Do you use a web browser to do e-commerce? Do you use a mobile phone, wireless network, or GPS? Do you go to the doctor, have x-rays, an MRI, or take modern medicine when prescribed? Have you gone up in a high-rise building? Have your ridden a train or, even worse, taken an air-plane trip somewhere? Been on a cruise ship?

      If the answer to ANY of the above questions is YES then you have such immense trust in “modern science” that you are willing to place at least your finances in their hands, if not your very life.

      Quarantining off this bit of anthropology/geology is completely fallacious. Very much of the same mathematics, physics, and chemistry serve these concerns and technology. Take them or leave them, but do it honestly, which means doing it completely.

      • Peace From The Fringes says:

        Awesomeness.

      • I would have to comment so much more often without you Finn 😀 You stole the words from my mouth.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I have seen the same point made about post-modernist thought. Indeed, pomos and fundies have a lot in common, in substance though not in style.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Exactly alike under the completely-opposite surfaces.

        • Definitely agree. It’s like anti-vaccination fanatics coming from both extremes of the political spectrum. New age magic, pagan homeopathy, and fundi superstition walking hand-in-hand-in-hand.

        • I have lately been thinking of just that – that YEC is in an odd way similar to postmodernism. They both reject reason (just as modernism was overly optimistic about reason). When Ken Hamm asks, “Where you there?” in response to any well-established scientific theory, that displays a deep skepticism that we can use reason to discover anything. To the follower of YEC, reality can only be known from a literal reading of the Bible and direct observation (even here, one’s observations must be filtered through what one thinks the Bible says). If you talk about the Big Bang and how the heavy elements were created by generations of stars, or if you say anything about geology or just about anything to do with natural history, the well-trained YEC believer will scoff, “Were you there?” This skepticism about the the knowability (is that a word?) of anything seems to me to be similar to the pomo skepticism about everything.

          I wish we could recover the idea that reason is a gift from God and is to be used and treasured, all the while accepting that our thinking can be flawed and our knowledge is incomplete.

      • Name one single scientific or technological contribution made by a YEC believing scientist/engineer after Scopes.

        I’ll wait.

        Still waiting.

        How long, oh Lord, must I wait.

        • Kind of a silly comment Stuart.

          While I am not a YEC I personally know of several who have made outstanding contributions to their fields. Just because someone is YEC doesn’t mean they can’t do Rocket Science.

          • I’m with Mike Bell here. That was a bit over-the-top. That’s like atheistic scientists saying no self-respecting, honest, “wants to be taken seriously” scientist would ever believe in God.

          • It’s a little over the top, for sure. I meant it as such. My biggest point though is that a lot of scientific and technological process has stalled for YEC innovators while other fields that don’t have their hangups have flourished. It seems equivalent to rejecting a tool that everyone uses simply because you don’t like it or don’t believe it exists.

            What if you had some belief that computers were morally evil, or that the Internet simply cannot exist thus you never click on Internet Explorer or create an email account? Seems similar.

          • Bad theology can often drive science, but it might be bad science or bad results.

            We have corn flakes because some Seventh Day Adventist wanted to control his sexual urges, after all. Food science.

            I wonder what the faith or philosophy of the person(s) who created HFCS was.

        • Well, there’s that invention to tell if a witch is made of wood.

    • Vega Magnus says:

      Just ignore Seneca. I’ve seen enough of his posts on Wartburg Watch to know that he’s a troll.

      • Hmm…I didn’t find seneca’s comment all that trollish, just stating an opinion/belief counter to what many believe here. You may not like or believe the slippery slope argument, but it didn’t seem trollish.

      • You are correct, Vega.

    • “Myth” is not a slippery slope if it’s understood properly. (Like most supposed “slippery slopes”)

      The whole Bible is myth, really. With varying degrees of historical accuracy, depending on genre.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And “myth” does not mean “fictional” or “make-believe” like it’s usually assumed.

        Myths are the Old Old Stories of a culture touching on Where We Came From, Where We’re Going, (why we spend so much time in between wearing digital watches), and Why Things Are The Way They Are.

        • Very good description.

          Lord of the Rings is mythic. So is the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

          • The next thing your’re going to tell me is that he really didn’t hunt vampires.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Remember how the current reboot of My Little Pony started out — with the Pony myth of the Mare in the Moon, a “history became myth” long-ago conflict between their (incarnate) Solar and Lunar deities:
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHgRh7sEJkU
            And the kickoff two-parter that followed was about the fulfillment of a prophecy connected to that myth.

    • Clay Crouch says:

      When you claim to be a dinosaur, are you speaking metaphorically or literally?

      I doubt that you will enter into a serious discussion. That’s not the way dinosaurs roll.

    • Personally, watching the so called pastor, Lie, Scheme, Deceive over the decades of my life, I have No Faith, in modern theology and great Faith in the simple reading of Scripture and ongoing self-correction of Science.

      There. Fixed it, as best I could, for you.

    • Just google “scientific oops”. There’s a plethora of them my friends. There’s actually a website dedicated to current scientific retractions. There’s hundreds of them.
      *
      Of course the whole global warming/change “scientific data” is quite current.

      Like I said, you pays your money and takes your choice.

      [ BTW, I’m strongly in the “coffee has no harmful effects, may actually cure cancer and make you look more handsome while providing testosterone on those special nights” camp.

      • Far from lying, scheming, or deception, being willing to change your positions when they are proven wrong sounds to me like a sign of remarkable honesty and humility.

        And with how much coffee I drink, I sure hope it does all that…

      • “Oops” is built into the scientific process. It’s not a deception it’s a strength.

  3. Kudos to Mr Taylor – difficult thing to do in that crowd.

    Jumped down to the comments section at his blog just to see if he was getting ripped a new one. About what I expected. A lot of talk about the meaning of “day”. Seems like there are a few comments of approval, while most find his article to be flat out wrong at best, and probably heretical:

    Here’s a good one (the beginning of a lengthy comment):

    “I’ll say right up front to everyone here that I find no Biblical reason to ever doubt the clear, obvious, repeated Word of God and I find this article from title to finish to be a disturbing example of apostasy in the church today (i.e. a departure from truths held sacred for all generations). The writer esteems what other men have said rather than what God Himself is saying, and for what possible purpose other than to stand with the evolutionist in undermining faith and inciting doubt in minds to shake those not firmly established in the faith?”

    I think that pretty well sums it up. It’s an uphill battle for Taylor.

    • And yet that commenter himself does not take Genesis 1 “as the plain meaning” of scripture. I doubt that he believes the sky is a solid dome, that there is an ocean above that dome, there is an ocean below the earth, the sun, moon, stars are hung on the dome and move across the sky, the moon gives its own light, there are pillars the earth rests on, the earth is a flat disc… And yet that is what the text “plainly” says.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        “The Plain Meaning of SCRIPTURE” never gets stretched so much as when it’s Genesis or Revelation.

        I remember “The Plain Meaning of SCRIPTURE” regarding the Plague of Demon Locusts in Revelation: Helicopter gunships armed with chemical weapons and piloted by long-haired bearded hippies.

        • The need to take some of that into metaphorical territory may just be the result of modern life. How many modern people have seen a cloud of locust descend on a field? Every generation that number gets smaller.

          I have seen it. It was ***AWESOME***. And the sound it indescribable They came one summer in the mid-80s. But still not terrifying, because it was the 20th century in America. Pretty much: “that sucks; someone needs to fill out the crop insurance claim form”. And trucks still brought food to the grocery store, and the train still brought supplies to the town elevator. Life went on.

          How soon until someone interprets Demon Locusts as computer viruses taking down Facebook? Young people everywhere will be terrified. 🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            How soon until someone interprets Demon Locusts as computer viruses taking down Facebook? Young people everywhere will be terrified. 🙂

            Yet that is what The Text Plainly Says (“SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”)

            And when you don’t accept What The Text Plainly Says (“SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!”)
            YOU DENY GOD AND CHRIST!!!!!!!

        • Didn’t that happen in Nam?

        • OldProphet says:

          Hal Lindsey was right! Giant killer locusts! Cannibal cockroaches! I bow, yea kneel to the ultimate end times theology to pastor Lindsey. Take my hand, O Headless One, and together we shall sit at the feet of an end time master of Church triumphant! LOL and Whoo ahh

      • “..disc… And yet that is what the text “plainly” says.”

        Yep.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Some years ago there was a news item out of Saudi:

          The Supreme Ulema (council of Islamic scholars) there issued a Fatwa that The Earth Is Flat because the Koran plainly says so.

      • Exactly. All other considerations aside, I don’t think that the commenter is accurately representing what’s being plainly said in its totality.

    • Most people who talk like that would not, in my opinion, be able to get the Gospel correct if you asked them. I wouldn’t however consider them apostate, even though it’s a far more serious issue than age of the earth. I like to think this makes me more gracious than they, but I’m reminded otherwise by a keen impulse I have to smack them upside the head with a big, leather bound, gold embossed KJV 1611 Bible.

    • The layers of inaccuracy in that statement are amazing. You start unpeeling it and you’ll find a lot of uncomfortable facts.

      One of those times it’s so difficult to separate the sincere but misguided person from the very wrong facts and opinions…

  4. For us who are not fundamentalists, or biblicists, it is wonderful that we do not have to go down these cul-de-sacs and get all tied up in knots over them.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And while we’re going “DIE, HERETIC!!!” over Genesis 1, pastors’ widows are still eating out of dumpsters.

  5. Whew!! Thanks, CM, my POV exactly (I didn’t know it till now, lol). I don’t see the point, btw, of calling commenters “trolls.” If a poster has another agenda we are all grown ups and can see that, and make our decision to read or delete. Actually I sometimes enjoy a bit of outrageousness, tho this did not fit in that category.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Senecagriggsyahoo has pulled these stunts before, under a couple identities including “Seneca” and “Jimmy”. I think he got banned from Wartburg Watch for trolling.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      In its classic sense, an internet troll is someone who swoops into a group and lobs a verbal bomb, not to engage in a serious discussion, but simply for the juvenile glee of provoking a reaction. It is like visiting a worship service and blowing an air horn.. There are times and places were blowing an air horn is called for. A worship service is not one of them. Doing it merely annoys the other people, and indeed this likely is the point.

      Typical examples of internet trolling might be going to a Christian group with a comment about the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or going to an atheist group with a comment about how they are all going to Hell. And then, in either case, sitting back and watching and cackling gleefully at the rubes.

      Context matters, and who is making the comment is part of the context. If one of our regulars were to find himself in a period of doubt and were to ask if the Flying Spaghetti Monster crowd might not be right, this would not be trolling. If a visitor were to come and post a respectful and substantive comment from an atheist (or, going the other direction, a fundamentalist) perspective and were to engage in the conversation, this would not be trolling. In this instance, we have a visitor coming in with a provocative (but not in a good way) comment that isn’t really on topic, but is close enough that it could derail the conversation. This visitor turns out to have a history elsewhere of similar behavior, under various nyms (itself a bright red flag).

      “Troll” is all too often used to mean “someone who disagrees with me, and persists in disagreeing with me even after I have so clearly demonstrated that he is wrong wrong wrong!” That use of “troll” is not useful, and indeed is itself a tactic for avoiding engagement. But in this case? It looks to me that “troll” is a fair assessment.

  6. A mythological portrayal — A mythological portrayal — A mythological portrayal — A mythological portrayal — A mythological portrayal….

    Chaplain Mike wants us to believe that anything he says five times is true.

    All I know is In the beginning, God — In the beginning, God — In the beginning, God — In the beginning, God — In the beginning, God….

    Everything else is conjecture.

  7. I really like the title of this article! Says it all! It’s not about “days.” And what bugs me most about YEC-ers isn’t the belief that it IS about “days,” it’s that if you’re a Christian who does NOT believe it’s about “days” then you’re an apostate/heretic/not really a Christian. Jesus did not die on the cross so that the world would believe in “days.”

    • Christiane says:

      the closer a fringe group gets to being a ‘cult’, the more they tie their pet teachings to salvation

      YEC’s do it with their literalism, ESS’s do it with their insistance that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father, and the SBC’ers do it with their patriarchy claims of the ‘headship’ of a husband having authority over his submissive wife . . .

      there is almost a desperation in how these teachings are clung to and fostered . . . with the addition of special ‘lingo’ and ‘code language’, the group identity is formed and solidified and sealed by tying the pet group teaching as needed in order to accept salvation from Christ . . .

      there must be some really good studies out there about how ‘cults’ form and the processes they go through, but honestly, we can see some of it in the works by just listening to the strident supporters of these special pet teachings . . . and, of course, the groups are exclusive, exclusive, exclusive . . . so if you want to get it, you have to swallow the kool-aid without hesitation or, God forbid, questioning sources and origens of those teachings

      • “there is almost a desperation in how these teachings are clung to and fostered”

        Yep.

        And so many of these desperately-urgent-beliefs bear no real relevance to anyone’s actual life. That gets harder and harder to take.

  8. Richard Hershberger says:

    “?A mythological portrayal that is designed to counter other such ancient myths, especially those of the Babylonians.”

    This is key to me. Any work of art is created within a cultural context. It is directed toward people who are primed with a body of expectations about the work. The work might follow those expectations or it might challenge them, but either way those expectations color its content and how it is interpreted. It is difficult for persons with different expectations to take the same message away from it as did those within the cultural context.

    Here is a familiar example: You are watching a television show. In it a young pretty blonde is walking down a dark, spooky hallway. She looks around nervously. Tension builds. Then the vampire jumps out of a doorway, making for a very bad day. This scene has played out in countless horror shows. But in this case, the blonde is Buffy, and she is the Vampire Slayer. She doesn’t cry out for help as the vampire bites her. She kicks some vampire butt before staking him. Our expectations are confounded as the roles are unexpectedly reversed. It is a powerfully transgressive commentary on the horror genre.

    Or at least it was fifteen years ago. It is hard to remember that nowadays. Partly this is because of Buffy itself. We probably have watched this very scene before, perhaps many times if we are fans of the show. Even if we haven’t, other shows have come later, influenced by Buffy. The girl power horror show is no longer a radical twist on genre expectations. If anything, it is in danger of being a cliché. I am old enough to remember the pre-Buffy genre, but even so I have trouble recreating the mental state of seeing Buffy with the old expectations. My daughters will never experience that condition, and will only even understand the issue if I subject them to lectures on the subject.

    Now to bring this back to the first chapter of Genesis. It is a genre piece. The genre is Near Eastern Creation Myth. (I am not using “myth” in the modern sense of ‘stuff we know isn’t true.’ This modern sense is an obstacle to many people, so feel free to substitute some other word if you prefer.) It is a Near Eastern Creation Myth with a twist: the God of Abraham is not merely yet another tribal god: he is the prime mover, the creator of the universe! The point is not the details of chaos and order and day and night and so forth. Those were the familiar tropes of the Near Eastern Creation Myth. The point is where the Genesis story diverges from the familiar pattern. This would have been immediately apparent to the original audience.

    Genre in the Bible is a delicate issue. Sometimes we have no problem with it. We read the Psalms and we recognize it as lyric poetry, because lyric poetry is still a familiar genre. We don’t hear the “literal” argument about “The Lord is my shepherd” because it is intuitively obvious how lyric poetry uses metaphor.

    We get this argument about Genesis 1 because the Near Eastern Creation Myth is no longer a familiar genre. Indeed, it was completely forgotten for centuries, or even millennia. It was only recovered when archeologists started digging up all those clay tablets and eventually deciphered them. I am in possession of some of my father’s seminary books. One of them is an anthology of ancient Near Eastern texts. When I was younger I wondered why this would be part of a seminary curriculum. It became clear once I started thinking of genre and the Bible.

    A modern reader trying to understand the point of Genesis 1 without reading, or at least reading about, earlier Near Eastern Creation Myths is like a modern viewer trying to understand Buffy the Vampire Slayer without watching any earlier horror films, or even having more than the vaguest awareness that such things ever existed. This viewer might be able to enjoy Buffy in various ways. It is, after all, a very good show. But this viewer will inevitably miss much of what is going on, and may well create a different interpretation to fill in the gaps. One can imagine such a viewer growing so set in his interpretation that he will reject any discoveries of earlier horror films and the idea that they might have informed Buffy, while denouncing as heterodox anyone who disagrees.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “?A mythological portrayal that is designed to counter other such ancient myths, especially those of the Babylonians.”

      A lot fell into place when I heard that Genesis 1 was structured and styled as a PARODY of the Enuma Elish (the Babylonian version of the standard Mesopotamian creation myth). It makes a lot more sense that way.

      And the explanation that the original manuscripts of the Old Stories of ha-Torah may have been partially destroyed when the Babylonians knocked over the Jews and the resulting gaps had to be reconstructed from memory in Babylon, resulting in ha-Tanakh’s final form. The reconstructions would have been styled similar to local (Babylonian/Mesopotamian) Old Stories, because that’s what the exiled Jews would have been immersed in. A lot of them were probably drifting off-base from ha-Torah, more familiar with the surrounding Mesopotamian culture than their ancestral one, and this would have reached them where they were.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      (I am not using “myth” in the modern sense of ‘stuff we know isn’t true.’ This modern sense is an obstacle to many people, so feel free to substitute some other word if you prefer.)

      How about “The Old Stories”?

    • Interesting examination of this topic, Richard. At first, I was a little skeptical. I thought you were going a bit too deep in the “spiritual playbook” in trying to defend a position (the genre of “Near Eastern Creation Myth”? Seriously? If you gotta go THERE to make a point about Genesis, where do we need to go when analyzing Christ on the cross?), but your use of the word “art” made think reconsider what you’re saying.

      When I combine the topic of creation in Genesis and the word “art”, I think of the earliest cave paintings, the ones with really tall, almost alien-like stick figures and animals flying in the sky. If I was to look at these literally, I’d conclude that at one time bulls could fly and earth was populated by people who resembled Mr. Pretzel. But we know that was where “art” was at the time, very crude and rudimentary. The nuances of art hadn’t yet come into anyone’s mind and skill. This even fits with your notion of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At first there was the basic vampire story (analogous to crude stick-figure art), then came the nuanced vampire story of Buffy (analogous to better cave paintings).

      So I guess where my mind ends up is, Could the word “Day” in the creation story be just a stick-figure sort of day, representative of something that doesn’t resemble an actual day as we know it?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Even in English, “day” can be used to mean an indeterminate period of time.

        “Back in the day…”

        • No, it can only mean literally day. I mean, all means all, right? Always.

          I put part of the blame of this on the lack of reading comprehension. We have very many literalists in the world who can’t grasp how fluid language can be. I see it with friends and family all the time, they call me out for making a “literal” statement when i never intended anything of the sort; the exceptions go unsaid because they are assumed.

          Of course, another good example, President Clinton’s meaning of the word “IS”. Separate the morality from his actions, and his statements make a sort of sense.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            “When you point at something with your finger, the dog sniffs your finger. To a dog, a finger is a finger and that is that.”
            — C.S.Lewis

            As for Slick Willie Clinton (hmmm… just like “Tricky Dick Nixon”, the name sounds like a Border Reiver between England and Scotland), the “whatever the meaning of ‘is’ is” DOES make sense from a lawyer’s POV because law is a profession and milieu of very precise definitions and Boolean logic. Outside of that milieu, it’s an obvious shuck-and-jive to get away with something.

          • Nixon literally *is* a Border Reivers surname…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Nixon literally *is* a Border Reivers surname…

            I know. A friend showed me a history book on Border Reivers titled “The Steel Bonnets” by the guy who wrote the “Sharpe” series. The foreword mentions Richard Nixon’s inaguration, with Tricky Dick flanked by LBJ and Billy Graham. The Grahams and Johnsons (under various spellings by branch) were also infamous Border Reiver clans, and all three LOOKED like Reiver archetypes you still find along the Scots-English border.

            And with the section on Reiver nicknames, let’s just say “Tricky Dick” would fit right in.

            I’m wondering if “Clinton” was also a Reiver name.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I’m glad I brought you around, at least part way, but I am surprised by this: “the genre of “Near Eastern Creation Myth”? Seriously?” Genesis 1 is a creation myth. (Or are we getting hung up on that word “myth”? If so, switch it out with “story” or “account” or “narrative” or whatever.) It was written in the Near East. It was written contemporaneously with the active life of other Near Eastern Creation Myths. At this point a comparison becomes imperative. If Genesis 1 turns out to be completely unlike any other NECMs, that is itself a very interesting discovery. As it happens, however, Genesis 1 turns out to have many striking parallels with other NECMs. Yet we aren’t worshipping Marduk. How can it be that we have such similar creation myths, with such different results? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine how any Christian could *not* find this fascinating, and a source of insight. It all starts from the recognition that Genesis one is a member of the class of Near Eastern Creation Myth.

        “If you gotta go THERE to make a point about Genesis, where do we need to go when analyzing Christ on the cross?”

        This is a nice illustration of the difficulties many conservative Christians have with Biblical exegesis. The logic seems to be that we don’t believe in the truth of those other Near Eastern Creation Myths, so if we treat Genesis 1 as a NECM it follows that we don’t believe in the truth value of it, either. But go down this road and you are forced to strip out any cultural context from the text. The writers of the Bible are reduced to mere transcribers, taking dictation with the Holy Spirit whispering in their ears. Take this road to its end and the most trivial textual contradictions, such as discrepancies in genealogies, become crises of faith, to be met with frantic and improbable attempts to reconcile the versions, loud protestations of “I’m Not Listening!”, or existential despair.

        This is all so unnecessary. Looking at Genesis 1 in light of other Near Eastern Creation Myths does not entail dismissing it as a fairy tale. It is an attempt to better understand its message.

        • It all starts from the recognition that Genesis one is a member of the class of Near Eastern Creation Myth.

          I like the side step many make by claiming that Genesis 1 is the TRUE story that EVERYONE knew at one point but because of SIN/REBELLION they changed it, and then later on Moses or whomever wrote down the true story that everyone already knew at one point. That’s they are so similar, Genesis 1 came first in non-written form!

          meh

        • Good stuff. And when I consider Jesus on the cross from the cultural aspect of the time (“Levitical Jewish Law”)…wow! It’s old covenant versus new, much like your original vampire story versus Buffy the Vampire Slayer analogy!

          You’ve won me over, Richard!

        • Richard,

          “At this point a comparison becomes imperative.”

          That seems like a significant point. So often I see back and forth dialogue and it’s so unfruitful – the starting points and the a priori assumptions are just so different that people talk past one another. This seems like one of those points. Indeed, given a “mythic” or “narrative” perspective, a comparison IS imperative (at least in this particular case). I don’t think that a typical inerrancy, fundamentalist, verbal plenary inspiration, basic instructions before leaving earth approach knows what to do with such an idea – that the early chapters of Genesis find value not (only) as a standalone religious truth document that exists in a vacuum but in relationship. It would seem to go against the whole biblicist operating paradigm – handbook of timeless propositional truth, self evident “plain readings”.

          And taking a “mythic” approach doesn’t resolve all tensions. Far from it. It can be freeing, but it also creates new tensions that can be every bit as challenging as a “Bible as modern science book” approach. Death before “the fall” for example, is a very theologically difficult issue IMO. Still, I think that this “narrative” approach represents a better picture of what the early chapters of Genesis actually ARE, warts and all. In the end, if we see a comparison as imperative in understanding the significance of these early chapters of Genesis, then I think we see the Bible itself modeling something very important. We see the writer(s) engaging and wrestling with ideas and the nature of God in their own time and place. In addition to modeling propositional differences in views (say for example that God created out of love/grace rather than out of need), it’s also a document that models and is itself part of a dynamic process and a changing world, it’s not a static world and so the Bible is a static book. Still trying to flesh out these thoughts…….

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          The writers of the Bible are reduced to mere transcribers, taking dictation with the Holy Spirit whispering in their ears.

          And the Bible becomes just another occult book of Automatic Writing with nothing to differentiate it from Oahspe or Seth Speaks.

      • This is a side point, but have you taken a look at pics of cave paintungs found in France and Spain? I’d highly recommend the movie “Cave of Forgotten Dreams.” Point being: lots of those cave paintings are incredibly sophisticated, especially given their great age.

    • +1

  9. I appreciate Taylor having the guts to post something like this, given the increasingly fundamentalist culture he is stuck in. I don’t particularly care what a person’s understanding of Genesis 1 or the “length of days” is, or even the age of the earth. When people start pretending that a “literal 24 hour day” and a young earth are the “plain reading of Scripture”, however, I can only shake my head and assume they’ve never actually read it.

    • I don’t think we would have seen him publish something like this 5 years ago. Who knows where we will be in another 5 years.

      And maybe in 50, “we’ve never believed in YEC…”

      • Just like how they’ve never approved of abortion or slavery.
        Or how Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          DOUBLEPLUSCRIMETHINK!
          OCEANIA HAS ALWAYS BEEN AT WAR WITH EURASIA!
          DOUBLEPLUSCRIMETHINK!

  10. Cholmondley Patterson says:

    Of course the first chapters of Genesis are written in the language of myth. People had a “mythic imagination” back then. That was the way they thought.

    I wonder why it took so long for the scientific empirical mindset to gain traction. As a explainer-of-phenomena it is vastly superior to any other implement in the human mental toolbox. The first societies that adopted it gained a rapid advantage over societies that did not.

    Yet I am not convinced that Scientific Empiricism is the Omega point of human thinking. What it fails to examine is as significant as what it explains.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Rob Bell (who got piled on by Team Hell) refers to this as “Poem Truth” and “Math Truth”.

      When the Old Stories of ha-Torah were first written down — even when they reached their final form — Math Truth didn’t exist. They were written in Poem Truth.

      When the Gospel was first recorded, Math Truth existed (due to Greek philosophical ideas) but was not widespread. So a lot of it was still Poem Truth.

      Nowadays, after the Age of Reason and Industiral Revolution and Information Age, we think in Math Truth. “A = A”, “X” “A” (“X” != “A”), and the like. And in so doing, we read the Poem Truth of Genesis & Revelation as if they were pure Math Truth. And that’s where a lot of the weirdness comes from.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        P.S. Math Truth is Boolean logic, Poem Truth is Fuzzy Logic.

        • 1 Kings 7:23 even plays it fast and loose with math!
          Or St. Matthew’s 14-14-14 genealogy.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            If you’re talking the dimensions of the Brazen Sea, I figure they just rounded it off to the nearest whole number. I understand Semitic languages were not as precise as Indo-European ones when it came to mathematics or time measurement terminology.

            Though I once saw a long involved apologetic resolving the “Pi = 3” problem by claiming the diameter was the OUTSIDE diameter and the circumference was the INSIDE circumference.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Again from Rob Bell, the 14-14-14 genealogy is Poem Truth. In the numerology puzzles of the day, “14” was the Number of the Name of King David, and three 14s puts further emphasis on the line, promises, and legends of King David.

      • I think that “math truth” is beside the point. The writing was never intended to express any such thing, and i bet the writers would have a good laugh over it if they knew how so many modern people try to take what they wrote and make it into something it’s not.

        • Cholmondley Patterson says:

          No, I don’t think they would. The transmission of the material was obviously a serious matter to the compiler[s] of Genesis. I don’t think anyone would be laughing; neither our ancestors nor us..

          I think it’s more of a case that their mental furniture would be alien to us. I wonder if they had “Math Truth”. Stepping that far back from the world doesn’t appear to have been possible until the Axial Age [Zoroaster, the Upanishads, Isaiah, Thales, etc]

          I’m just chasing black cats in the dark maybe. I think about things like this a lot, like what was it like to discover the use of adjectives. The very first cave paintings were as sophisticated as any art ever produced, but the literary production of the earliest ages seems to carry a dreamlike, or childlike, quality that we have lost the art of appreciating.

          • I meant that i think the writers would find the current YEC readings comical and also baffling and kind of pathetic.

          • And yes, their mindset would be alien to us, but i think ancient peoples came up with ways of trying to understand the physical world that ate often pretty sophisticated – though we tend to be a bit too dismissive because they are not “scientific” per se.

    • -> “What it fails to examine is as significant as what it explains.”

      Like that.

    • I wonder why it took so long for the scientific empirical mindset to gain traction. As a explainer-of-phenomena it is vastly superior to any other implement in the human mental toolbox.

      Empiricism is not young. The Greeks used it, for starters. And the Romans were certainly great practical empiricists as far as engineering goes. But it took a general sense of a created natural order framed by a consistent Creator (i.e. Christian assumptions) to really get it kick-started. IOW, no Christian theology, no large-scale empirical thought. The fact that the rise of empiricism was timed quite closely with the bloody disintegration of the European Christendom in the 16th and 17th centuries helps to explain the link between empiricism and skepticism, though…

      • What do you say to those who suggest that the rise of empiricism was the result of the Renaissance, and its rediscovery and expansion of Classical values and humanism, rather than with Christian theology; and that the link between empiricism and skepticism is consistent with the same link that developed in the ancient Classical world, which after all gave rise to skeptical philosophies as varied as that of Democritus and the Sophists?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          What if it was a Perfect Storm situation of all the above?

          But it took a general sense of a created natural order framed by a consistent Creator (i.e. Christian assumptions) to really get it kick-started. IOW, no Christian theology, no large-scale empirical thought….

          Natural Theology (with a single consistent God) and a consistent reality…

          What do you say to those who suggest that the rise of empiricism was the result of the Renaissance, and its rediscovery and expansion of Classical values and humanism…

          Another factor in the mix…

          The fact that the rise of empiricism was timed quite closely with the bloody disintegration of the European Christendom in the 16th and 17th centuries…

          And a breakdown of an existing authority that could enforce Dogma upon all, allowing other lines of thought to spread and cross-fertilize and reach critical mass.

      • I think most historians would reject your premise, that the correlation between Christian thought and empiricism is causal. To the contrary, the general consensus as I understand it is that empirical thought has arisen throughout multiple cultures and various times since several thousand years BC. And of course, it is ironic that you should make that comment on a thread that features YEC. Think about it – when archeologists recover data from our day a thousand years from now, will they think of us as empiricists or a bunch of oddly superstitious and fundamentally irrational religionists? The archeological record of past civilizations helps us understand their science, as well as their social structure. But the Chinese were building natural gas wells and pumping it throughout provinces with bamboo piping around 800 AD, the Egyptians have the pyramids, Greece had the antikythera enginge, Babylon had the hanging gardens – these are all decidedly non-Christian contexts that prove a level of scientific and technological sophistication that Western Europe would not reach for hundreds or even thousands of years.

  11. http://retractionwatch.com/ – a website that follows the innumerable scientific retractions.

    As my friend, Dr. Robinson, has said many a time. “Statistics don’t die, but liars do statistics.”

    BTW, didn’t they, this very week, decide there was no “Big Bang?”

    http://www.collective-evolution.com/2015/02/11/quantum-equation-suggests-the-big-bang-never-occurred-the-universe-has-no-beginning/

    • The more you throw bricks in a china shop, the sooner you’ll get thrown out onto the street. I suppose that might validate any martyr complex you might have, but it doesn’t help convince anybody who might disagree with you yet still has an open mind.

    • I saw the “Big Bang” thing a few days ago. A couple thoughts regarding that:

      1) I’m not sure what they found “decides” anything, regardless of what they say. It’s merely another piece of some mysterious puzzle I doubt will ever be solved or proven.

      2) I’m not sure that’s necessarily “good news” to a Christian. Isn’t a Big Bang more supportive of a God (who caused the Big Bang) than a universe that has no beginning…?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        My thought was “Aristotle’s Eternal Cosmos returns for a rematch with Genesis’s Starting Point of Linear Time and Buddha’s Eternal Cyclic Time”.

    • As I said above, retractions constitute a sign of remarkable honesty.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “BTW, didn’t they, this very week, decide there was no “Big Bang?””

      Who is “they”? It’s not as if there is a committee that decides what science thinks on any given subject this week. The big bang theory is accepted by a large, but not universal, consensus of cosmologists as the best way to explain the known facts. What we see here is a minority opinion being put forth. It could eventually sway the larger community, resulting in a new consensus. More likely is that problems with this new study will be pointed out, and it will quietly go the way of cold fusion.

      The thing is, this is how science works. This particular debate is unremarkable except that it involves a sexy topic. The big bang theory is sexy and easy to visualize, so the general public knows about it in a vague, non-mathematical way. Therefore any challenge to it is also sexy. This is why you have heard about it.

      Also keep in mind that general journalism is terrible at reporting on science. This is true even of journalists who specialize in science. This in part is because the idea of “specializing in science” is ridiculous. (Does anyone else remember Dr. Science? “I’ve got a Master’s Degree: In Science!” At one time he would sell you a fake Masters Degree in Science certificate. My brother bought one and had it framed and hung it on his office wall, next to his Ph.D. in chemistry.) The default assumption on reading any story like this one should be that it probably gets the story mostly wrong, and certainly is sensationalized. So what is the layman to make of this? At best, wait ten years and ask a specialist.

      Finally, on the “this is how science works” front, I have observed over the years that this is an area where you can’t win. If all scientists agree on some topic, that proves that it is total groupthink at best, and a sinister conspiracy at worst. If not all scientists agree on some topic, that proves that they are just flailing around blindly. This is all very lovely if you are interested only in scoring rhetorical points, but if you are actually interested in how the world works, it is not so good.

    • Either you aren’t reading, or you don’t know what science is actually trying to do.

      Here are a few examples from the article of how a viewpoint rooted in scientific inquiry does just the opposite of “deceive and lie.”

      “When it comes to the science regarding the true nature of our reality, you won’t find a shortage of theories, or a shortage of criticisms of each theory.”

      “The big bang theory postulates…”

      “Again, so many considerations to be pondered.”

      “The theory also suggests…”

      And then in BIG BLUE LETTERS in case you missed it:

      “What We Know Is Often Just Theory”

      The whole point of the scientific process is to throw around hypotheses based on what we know, back them up, tear them down, and see what kind of conclusions can be arrived at through observation. I really don’t see the boogyman anywhere here.

    • Folks who use words like “retraction” or think in binaries completely misunderstand science, its methods, and even general epistemology. The whole point of nearly every paid scientific research position is to disprove a hypothesis. We start with the null hypothesis. Which, interestingly enough, so does statistics – which is an elegant and sophisticated branch of mathematics. While I understand the ongoing jokes about and war against advanced math and intellectualism, I always cringe when people make fun of statistics because of what it says about the joker.

      • “I always cringe when people make fun of statistics because of what it says about the joker.”

        This. It is generally what happens when someone runs out of data.

  12. My experience, restractions occur under duress – dryly.

    Point of those two articles? I think you’re wise to take a very jaundiced view of “scientific” studies. If you’re building your theology on the ever changing landscape of scientific findings, I might think you are unwise.

    • This comment reflects the confusion I tried to point out in the article. The fact is that the Bible — a primary source for our theology — does not speak to “science.” And science is not a source for theology.

      Science is a method by which observations are made and models built to explain the workings of the natural world. The Bible was written for different purposes. The whole problem with concordist interpretations of the Bible is that they try to mix what cannot and should not be mixed. There are, on the other hand, materialist/atheist spokespersons who make the same mistake: they try to use scientific findings to make theological points, which is equally unacceptable.

      Genesis 1 says nothing — nothing! — “scientific.” It is not a report of the findings of someone who applied the scientific method to observe nature. It is a religious text that makes claims, vis a vis other religious claims, that there is one true and living God who is the Source of meaning and significance in the created order and that this God intends to rule the universe in partnership with humanity made in his image.

      • C.M., a side thought; I wonder how many of your commenters think Adam and Eve were mythical figures versus two real flesh and blood individuals from who all mankind emmanated.
        *
        What’s your take on Adam and Eve C.M.? inquisitively

        • “I wonder how many of your commenters think Adam and Eve were mythical figures”

          Me, for one.

        • Far as I’m concerned, that is one hundred percent indifferent. St Paul tells us that Adam was a foreshadowing of Christ. If this literary device also happens to have been a real person, great; to God be the glory. If not, so what? Christ IS real, and it’s him that matters.

          • Let’s see, if Adam is a foreshadowing of Christ, and Christ is an exact representation of the Father, then…then…Adam is foreshadowing of the exact representation of the Father, and…and…well, I don’t know…what does it all mean???

          • And thus he is said to have been made “in God’s image!” 😛

          • It means:

            I am he as you are he as you are me
            And we are all together…
            I am the eggman, they are the eggmen,
            I am the walrus, goo goo goo joob…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I am me
            And she is he
            And we are all
            Rule 63’d!

  13. Just read Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s, The Phenomenon of Man. It gave me a view of evolution that is imbued with hope and grace. Never saw that before. It is not a sealed deal though. In the end, to arrive at “Omega” requires conscious consent on the part of the now conscious man. That could be a sticking point that still has the potential to send this thing spiraling but he does ultimately end on a hopeful note. Very interesting stuff.

  14. It’s all well and good to talk of “myth” but if you take the mythic view of Genesis (which I think is the correct one by the way) there are some consequences.

    If there was no real Adam doesn’t Paul’s entire argument in Romans kind of fall apart?

    How can we reconcile the Abba, the loving Father of the New Testament with the voracious wasteful mechanism of evolution by natural selection?

    • Stephen, I accept that evolution occurred. But I don’t know how to reconcile the horrific mechanisms of such a process with God as I understand him in the love and self-giving of Jesus Christ. I’ve never encountered as explanation that could satisfactorily harmonize evolution as God’s chosen method to develop life with the goodness of God; I don’t think Chardin succeeds at this, either. He tends to wax poetic about the beauty of evolution as as strategy all the time looking at the ascendant forms he sees coming from it, but ignores the ugliness and blood going on down in the trenches, where the failures die in ignored agony. As Bette Middler sang, “From a distance, there is harmony…,” but up close things get mighty discordant, and agonistic. I don’t know how to make sense out of it, and I think I’ve stopped trying.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        It’s a Paradox. Deal with it.

        • Since you’ve had so much experience with this, exactly how do you “deal with” a capital P paradox, wise Guy? By throwing out curt challenges to others to “Deal with it”? Nice!

          • Well, i hate to say it (kinda), but i do think there’s much about this world – and God – that truly is capital-P paradox. But i don’t think saying “Deal with it” is terribly helpful, though ultimately, we all will be in that place, due to the paradoxes we run into simply by living. No?

          • I don’t know how to make sense out of it, and I think I’ve stopped trying.

            That’s not exactly “dealing with it,” but it’s a close enough approximation for me.

        • And here we have it-the central problem of Christianity in a nutshell. In the face of the most painful questions life has to offer, all we are given is a kind of brute stoicism. “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Fear God and keep his commandments anyway.” What are these but the ancient equivalent of “Deal with it”? For the love of the god who commands us to deal with it, HOW DO WE DEAL WITH IT?! What does dealing with it look like? Brute stoicism is merely ignoring the problem.

    • “If there was no real Adam doesn’t Paul’s entire argument in Romans kind of fall apart?”

      I assume you mean Romans 5. The answer is, Only if one believes that St Paul’s argument is about Christ restoring our “moral standing” with God (that we somehow lost through “the Fall”) by means of “imputed righteousness.” I think Paul’s argument is really simple and does not necessarily depend on a the “historical existence” of a single human named “Adam”, though it’s certainly possible that that one person got the ball rolling, so to speak.

      There are other ways to interpret Paul. If you’re really interested, read N.T. Wright’s Christian Origins books. Otherwise, remember that in Hebrew “adam” simply means “human being.” In Romans 5, St Paul is saying that death came into the world through one human being, and the reversal of death likewise came into the world through one human being (who was/is also God) – and that reversal of death was the gift of God. Typology is operating here – and Paul even comes right out and says so. Typology is always about something that actually happened in the present being related to something figurative in the past, which may or may not have actually happened in the past. Doesn’t at all change what Christ did or that he did it, or the meaning and significance of what he did.

      Interpretation is the issue.

      Dana

    • Otoh, my problem with the goodness of a God who would use natural selection in forming life is of the same kind as my problem with a God who would order the extermination of entire cities and cultures in order to clear out the Promised Land for the Israelites.

    • Stephen, if we are going to use any kind of ethical argument, why don’t you start with the atrocious violence in the OT supposedly commanded by God? I know that sounds kind of unrelated, but my point is that once we go down the God and ethics road we find out pretty quickly that it is a looking glass.

  15. Why is the seventh day on which God rested also the seventh day he made holy? The first is just a day in the story but the second is an actual day (the Sabbath)?

    “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2.2-3)

    God bless you and your work. 🙂

  16. Ah, well. It was just another day in paradox.

    • It’s only a paradox to us, not to God. And that’s what is the important thing. As long as the Lord is in control, we are in good shape. When He begins to think that His own works are a paradox, and He is confused then we are in trouble. At least them we have a huge plethora of theologians and learned scholars to guide us. Maybe God can seek out their counsel too!

  17. My last 2 cents. I don’t believe in a young earth. I don’t believe in a 7 day creation. Whether Adam and Eve were literal or not has no bearing to me about the reality or truth about God and his creation. The truth about God and his care and love for his creation is true. The fact that there is an everlasting bickering, arguing, and grenade throwing that permeates across the entire spectrum of denominations is really frustrating to me and so many others.

  18. Esther Hall Gordon says:

    Great discussion thread! Typically, many evangelical believers and pastors steer away from this type of discussion and teaching from the pulpit for about two reasons: 1) They don’t understand it (the entire Evolution vs. Creation discussion; or
    2) they prefer to “throw the baby out with the bath water” by hiding behind “literalism,” as it relates to the Creation account.

    All of this gives pastors and believers good cause to “study to show [ourselves] approved [by God – not man], rightly dividing the Word of Truth,”rather than passively accepting everything that is handed down from a book or pulpit, without themselves ever bothering to “dig a little deeper” into other reliable sources, including historic, scientific, and, certainly, linguistic writings, many of which support The Word of God, rather than dismiss it as (take your pick): “myth,” “oral,tradition,” “allegory” or “poetry,” when, actually, all of these writing genres are contained in The Holy Bible, but all within the sacred texts and framework of The Inspired Word of God. So, The Word of God has a place in both historic and scientific disciplines.

    Quite frankly, those four or five “Big Bang” or “Evolution” theories, including “the long version” and “the short version,” are “old school,” and take a whole
    lot more faith than most rational and truth-seeking minds coming out of both Jewish and Protestant evangelical faith traditions could ever wrap themselves around.

    And speaking of stories, may I just say, there are no “stories” in the inspired Word of God.

    Also, the eternal infallibility of The Holy Bible is emphasized quite strongly throughout, i.e., “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my Word shall not.”

    Personally, I will believe “the report of The Lord,” no matter what the world says. I don’t necessarily have to understand something, in order for it to be true. While I don’t necessarily understand every detail about how an automobile engine operates, I do have faith to believe that if I maintain my automobile properly, it will start for me when I turn the key in the ignition.

    So, getting back to the discussion at hand, even if, as a believer, I don’t understand all of the nuances surrounding the entire debate over the accuracy or the historicity of the biblical account of Creation, I can still accept it, because my source of truth IS The Bible and NOT science.

    • See my comment above, Esther. You are making a false dichotomy when you say, “my source of truth IS the Bible and NOT science.” They are separate and don’t address the same “truth.” Science is a method that seeks to understand how the physical world works. The Bible is God’s revelation to tell us how he plans to rule as the world’s King. Don’t confuse them. Genesis 1 is not about “science.”

      And yes, there are plenty of stories in the Bible. Many of them are even historically accurate.

      • Esther is a troll from other sites. Seeing her pop up a lot more often.

      • OldProphert says:

        One thing for sure CM, and the rest of you heretics. My whole theological view has changed a lot by belonging to the Imonk tribe. A revolution in my biblical views really. I see everything in a much more balanced way. Some of my views will never change, some will. I will always think that some of your posters views are nuts, but that’s ok too. I enjoy this blog a lot, Even HUG is ok, although I don’t understand his affinity for Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto

    • Believe what thou wilt.

    • Christiane says:

      Hi ESTHER,

      on ‘faith’ and ‘science’, from those who consider God to be the Creator of all that is seen (including the natural world) and unseen,
      please consider this more orthodox perspective for a moment:

      “”…methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.
      The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”
      (from ‘Gaudium et Spes’, a pastoral letter)

      “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth”. (from GS)