April 20, 2014

iMonk on Interpreting Genesis 1

seven-days-of-creation-i-sushobha-jenner

From To Be or Not to Be?
Everybody thinks I should be a young earth creationist. I’m not. Why?
by Michael Spencer (undated)

* * *

The young earth creationists believe that Genesis 1 is “literally” a description of creation. I do not. It is this simple disagreement that is the cornerstone of my objection.

I believe that Genesis 1 is a pre-scientific description of Creation intended to accent how Yahweh’s relationship with the world stands in stark contrast to the gods of other cultures, most likely those of Babylon. Textual and linguistic evidence convinces me that this chapter was written to be used in a liturgical (worship) setting, with poetic rhythms and responses understood as part of the text. It tells who made the universe in a poetic and pre-scientific way. It is beautiful, inspired and true as God’s Word.

Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares?

Here I differ with Hugh Ross and the CRI writers. I do not believe science, history or archaeology of any kind establishes the truthfulness of the scripture in any way. Scripture is true by virtue of God speaking it. If God spoke poetry, or parable, or fiction or a pre-scientific description of creation, it is true without any verification by any human measurement whatsoever. The freedom of God in inspiration is not restricted to texts that can be interpreted “literally” by historical or scientific judges of other ages and cultures beyond the time the scriptures were written.

In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless. Utterly and completely worthless and I will freely admit to being bored the more I hear about it. I react to this much the same I react to people who run in with the Bible and the newspaper showing me how 666 is really the bar code on my credit card…

Does the Bible need to be authorized by scientists or current events to be true? What view of inspiration is it that puts the Bible on trial before the current scientific and historical models? Has anyone noticed what this obsession with literality does to the Bible itself?

The compliment that is paid to the Bible by those who say it is “literally” and scientifically true comes at the expense of an authentic and accurate understanding of the text.

Comments

  1. Oh, thank you, Michael Spencer for speaking so plainly. This is a conversation that needs to happen in many more churches to dispel the fear in stepping away from believing the words & into believing The Word. As Rabbi Jonathon Sacks has pointed out over & over again, science & religion answer different questions. Science takes things apart to analyze & explain while religion puts it all back together to give meaning & reveal. They are both necessary to walking this world but should not be confused with each other.

    • > Oh, thank you, Michael Spencer for speaking so plainly. This is a conversation that needs to happen

      +1

      > science & religion answer different questions. Science takes things apart to analyze & explain
      > while religion puts it all back together to give meaning & reveal

      On the other hand I don’t buy this at all. Both ask the question “what is man”? “what is mind[soul]?”. I feel this compartmentalization is a matter of convenience used most often to avoid *real* conflict and to ask very hard [and complicated] questions. This asks the question and then promptly pushes it aside.

  2. “Does it match up with scientific evidence? Who cares?”

    “Scripture is true by virtue of God speaking it.”

    “In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless. Utterly and completely worthless and I will freely admit to being bored the more I hear about it.”

    I feel a great loss for not having read this when Michael wrote it. I would have loved to thank him. This is where I am at currently with Genesis. I think Ens’ and Byas’ “Genesis for Normal People” is in agreement with him.

    • > “In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists
      > claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless. Utterly
      > and completely worthless and I will freely admit to being bored the more I hear about it.”

      +1 +1 +1 Heroic words.

  3. I am unimpressed by backwoods Protestant attempts to describe a “middle of the road” approach between science and a naive reading of Genesis. Approaches like Spencer’s are motivated less by intellectual integrity than an awareness that other people are laughing at them. Think about it–why all the focus on science (which is famous) rather than non-scientific scholarship (which is less well known)? Why do these backwoods preachers never agonize over the challenges of text-critical approaches, or Syro-Palestinian archeology? The answer is, because they don’t have to. Their audiences have never heard of such things–but they have heard of the Big Bang, and evolution. So Spencer is doing damage control here, not honest theology.

    The question of how the universe, or life, or humanity arose is utterly separate from the issue of how to intepret Genesis. It is entirely possible, even likely, that some of its authors or editors really did believe that the world really did originate as described. To say that “God” speaks to us through the text is just at attempt to finesse the conflict by resorting to the language of poetry, in a way that these people would never apply to Homer or the Bhagavad-Gita.The whole discussion (like so much of Christianity) stinks of dishonesty.

    • “The question of how the universe, or life, or humanity arose is utterly separate from the issue of how to intepret Genesis."

      But Gerald, that is exactly what Michael Spencer said here.

      • But notice that he only does this with Genesis, not (say) the Gospels. He’s only listening to science because he has to. He doesn’t grapple with “liberal” scholarship, because most of his listeners aren’t aware of challenges from this direction.

        • I’m not sure what you have against Michael Spencer or why you feel the need to insult him and his readers so much, but your view of him is a one-sided caricature. Spencer actually thought Marcus Borg and JD Crossan were worth reading and useful sources for studying the Gospels, though of course he didn’t endorse their conclusions.

    • Aidan Clevinger says:

      Besides, this interpretation is hardly limited to 20th or 21st century attempts to combat evolutionary theory or the Big Bang. As early as the 4th century Augustine argued against a literal interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. To insist that the literal interpretation has *always* been the one favored by Christian theology is to speak out of ignorance of what Christians have actually believed through the ages.

      • It’s basically just a certain wing of anglophone Protestants who are doing this. Probably some Orthodox too. But Spencer never really left this wing, even though he argued with them constantly. That’s why his view of Christianity is so deformed.

      • > As early as the 4th century Augustine argued against a literal interpretation of the
        > first chapter of Genesis.

        Or to cite a name most on-the-street protestants and evangelicals would recognize [and love]: C.S. Lewis. He rejected literal creationism. That is a helpful citation, because they love him. It at least makes some of them pause.

        > To insist that the literal interpretation has *always* been the one favored by Christian
        > theology is to speak out of ignorance of what Christians have actually believed
        > through the ages.

        Yes. But here lies the truth; there is a tremendous *FAILURE* of **EDUCATION** in a wide swath of [especially] protestantism. Nobody can have a meaningful opinion, or dialog, about something they know next to nothing about. That is why evangelical preachers, and those on evangelical radio, can say factually ludicrous, and certainly unnuanced, things. The real question, IMNSHO, is how churches can repair faith education? [especially in an age when most clergy [very incorrectly] reject the idea of the sermon/service as an educational instrument]

    • Gerald: your “all-or-nothing” criteria matches perfectly the obverse claims of the “backwoods preachers” you decry; to my thinking, that makes you a type of “fundamentalist.” And actually, the Big Bang in no way contradicts Christian theological belief in creation ex nihilo; in fact, until the evidence became incontrovertible, many scientists were hoping it would prove the universe to be steady state rather than having a beginning. Metaphysical speculations of some scientists concerning a multiverse aside (since there is no empirical evidence for it), all current scientific evidence indicates that the universe simply “popped” into existence a very long time ago, out of nothing. Out of nothing=ex nihilo. On this one, Gerald, the theologians knew it before the scientists did.

      • Oh, I don’t pretend to know how the universe got here. That’s a question for particle physicists, I guess. No, I can’t “prove” that God didn’t start the Big Bang, or that the biblical authors weren’t somehow trance-channeling God. It’s a matter of religious opinion, period.

      • > many scientists were hoping it would prove the universe to be steady state rather
        > than having a beginning.

        As a subscriber to multiple scientific periodicals; the notion of t=0 ["the begining"] isn’t accepted by much of anyone anymore.

        One significant problem with marrying science to theology is that the science is a very moving target. Even what scientists mean by the same term ["big bang" for example] changes. So a preacher discussing the big bang is often talking about the big bang of the last decade.

        > Metaphysical speculations of some scientists concerning a multiverse aside (since there is no
        > empirical evidence for it),

        Empirical evidence and particle / high-energy physics / cosmology? Empirical evidence is hard to define.

        > all current scientific evidence indicates that the universe simply “popped” into existence a very long
        > time ago, out of nothing. Out of nothing=ex nihilo

        No, I don’t believe you’d find many scientists who would agree with that statement. And you have a problem with “time” as time itself is defined by the current condition of the universe. So even the work “beginning” is problematic.

        • There can be no evidence of a multiverses since each individual universe would have to be completely discrete to remain local, with no information communicated between universes; otherwise you’d simply have a bigger universe bracketing the smaller entity(ies) that were thought to be the universe. That would not explain away the anthropic principle or fine-tuning, which is the whole point of speculating about multiverses. The hypothesis of multiverse is simply the most elegant model scientists can come up with for explaining the anthropic principle and fine-tuning that would dispense with the possibility of God, but the hypothesis is actually a mess rooted in metaphysical speculation. Of course time does not exist apart from space; the point is that time/space began to exist and has not existed into an eternal past. That is something from nothing. And this is the scientific consensus, fallible as that may be.

    • Using words like “backwoods” to discredit another person’s viewpoint is a classic example of the “poisoning the well” fallacy.

      • …or ad hominem.

        • Sorry…next time I’ll just use the words “personal attack”.

          • Well let me put it this way. Remember that preacher on the other thread who gives sermons about Kim Kardhashian? There’s a reason he does that–they have the same audience.

            Look, I don’t blame Spencer for his culturally-deprived surroundings. But you have to acknowledge that it did impact his theology. His influences were mainly TV evangelists and the like, not theologians of substance.

          • His influences were mainly TV evangelists and the like, not theologians of substance.

            Really Gerald, you do love to pontificate from ignorance, don’t you? Have you read any of Spencer’s material? Seriously, as hard as you are talking down, you’d think you would at least be better informed. Spencer is no more doing damage control than the Pope who declared evolution and creation compatible. The real “backwoods fundamentalists” would never consider such a compromise. It’s too bad Spencer’s audience was full of ignoramuses and not brilliant intellectuals like yourself, otherwise he might have been challenged and actually produced some decent food for thought! Can you hear yourself?

          • Michael Spencer himself used to poke fun at the “backwoods preachers”, including his own childhood pastor who insisted on King James only and railed against “the Greek and other translations”.

          • Chuckle snort. Because, of course, Gerald knows what these “theologians of substance” are, while poor Michael remained a hopeless simpleton.

  4. Gerald,

    “Approaches like Spencer’s are motivated less by intellectual integrity than an awareness that other people are laughing at them.”

    “So Spencer is doing damage control here, not honest theology.”

    “The whole discussion (like so much of Christianity) stinks of dishonesty.”

    So I decided instead of making ad hominems and painting with broad brushes (as you do in your post), I’ll give you my “honest” Christian answer. The answer is that everything begins and ends with Christ. He is the reason why I believe and follow. He is my guide in life. He directs my path. He is my Lord. Do I have doubts? Most certainly. If I didn’t, I suspect I wouldn’t be human. Do I have all the perfect answers? No. Do creation/Genesis debates challenge my faith? Yes. However, let me remind you again if in just a few short sentences you may have forgotten. Christ is my strength. Now you may consider me unenlightened, delusional, or unreasonable, but I won’t let you tag me with the dishonest card. Let science have all the fame it wants, it makes no difference with this Christian.

    • Marc B.,
      But don’t you know that according to the latest “text-critical” approach, the mythicists have proven that Jesus Christ was not an actual historical person?

      • Sounds like Ken Ham’s all-or-nothing argument, i.e. if one does not accept young earth creationism, then Jesus is a myth, the gospel is no more, and cats and dogs are sliding down the slippery slope together.

        • There are solid grounds for doubting various aspects of the gospels, even if to say this would somehow please Ken Ham. In fact it is hypocrisy to admit a critical approach to Genesis, but not the gospels.

          As an aside, I believe that current scholarly consensus holds that Jesus did, in fact, exist–and that we can be reasonably sure of several other facts about him (such as his crucifixion).

          • And is that what we are to take as our gospel, Gerald: the current scholarly consensus? It’s a good thing that never changes, huh, unlike our Christian exegesis of Scripture? Oops, I forgot; it changes every 20 years or so, sort of like our Christian exegesis of Scripture. Well, it’s a good thing you don’t adhere to any double standards; for instance, one standard for secular scholars, and another for exegesis from within the Christian community. That wouldn’t be fair, would it?

  5. So we now know the Book of Mormon is inspired Scripture, since any scientific, historical or archaeological findings that dispute or refute it are irrelevant?

    • I don’t see that your point fits what Michael is actually saying.

      • I guess a difference, at least when it comes to Genesis 1, etc., is that I believe the Book of Mormon claims to be historical, and Michael seems to be saying that textual and other factors show him that Genesis is not trying to be that kind of thing. But to me he does seem to be saying that science and archeology and history can’t be used to judge whether the Bible is true or inspired, which, if applied to the Mormon’s claims for their Book’s truth and inspiration, would seem to give it a pass no matter what anthropologists and historians might say or prove against it. But I’ll accept that you might be reading Michael more correctly than I am and know that he is not saying or implying that.

        • It is possible that the text of the Book of Mormon was meant non-literally! If I am not mistaken, the Community of Christ (the church formerly known as the Reformed Latter-Day Saints, RLDS) believes something like this.

          Swedenborg taught an allegorical approach to scripture. One 20th century Swedenborgian group then took an allegorical approach to Swedenborg!

        • I would say that science, archaeology, and history most certainly can NOT be used to judge the divine inspiration of scripture any more than biology can be used to demonstrate the virgin birth. It’s not within their field of examination; divine inspiration is a dogmatic, presuppositional claim about non-empirical events. It can be used to evaluate the accuracy of scientific, historical, or archaeological claims in scripture, but honestly, that’s a very small percentage of the text. If we start from the position of faith, assuming these are God’s words and therefore true, then so long as all truth is God’s truth, the worst science can do is shed light on how rightly to understand certain texts. In that sense, I think recent scholarship should only be helpful to the theologian.

          But when it comes to Genesis: If you create a tree on Monday, cut it down on Wednesday, and it has 100 rings, how old is the tree? If you said 2 days, you’d be right, but if you said 100 years, you’d also be right. I’m still having a hard time understanding where the trouble is with believing that God created the earth with the appearance of age. It seems that empirical reductionists can not tollerate this because their powers of observation are the supreme and infallible source of all truth. If science says, then it must be, because no power above or beyond natural causes could possible exist! This sounds like begging the question to me.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Miguel,

            Because it is not the earth only – it is everything – galaxies, light, DNA, Rocks, fossils – He’d be creating a history that never was, leaving remnants of animals that never lived, in a way that clearly supports their gradual evolutionary development, climate changes, etc etc. Such a God, or rather, god, is a trickster, a Loki.

            Furthermore, epistemologically, you are giving up all knowledge – the mature creation idea is indistinguishable from Last Thursdayism.

          • Klasie

            Your argument only works if you can explain how creation would NOT have appearance of age.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Daniel –

            If we were really only 6000 – 10000 years old, the following would be the case:

            1. We would not be able to see any other galaxies, nor any stars in our galaxy further than 6000-10000 light years.
            2. Very little of the rocks in the earth’s crust would be sedimentary or metamorphic rocks.
            3. Almost no fossils.
            4. Only small amounts of radiogenic elements that are the result of long half-lives.
            5. Our mitochondrial DNA would be different.
            6. No humanoid fossils

            .. for starters.

            But it is not. Furthermore, it would require that God created a universe that intentionally tells a very defined story, with wide-ranging aspects fitting together very well. Then, when we make the obvious conclusions, He would be laughing – “Ahh, I tricked you, you little creation, bwahaha, now got to hell, bwhahaha”. Because this is exactly what the apparent age argument implies. And I for one do not believe in such a malevolent deity.

          • My Dad has said on a few occasions, that it cannot be a young earth, because so much evidence is for an old earth. To create an earth with an appearance of age, God would have to be a deceiver, and he is not. It is not part of who he is, and he cannot act contrary to his own being.

          • The “appearance of age” argument fails, because if you accept or propose it, then you can no longer prove that you or anyone else has any actual personal history or ever did anything, because you can’t prove that God isn’t moment-by-moment giving you and everyone else the impression of memories, supported by simultaneously giving the world and the universe and everyone and everything in it the moment-by-moment appearance and experience of aging, doing things, etc.

            The “appearance of age” argument renders all further conversation pointless.

          • So we have:

            The instantaneous creation of a planetary and solar system and galactic and universe ecosystem with all the intricate macroscopic and microscopic and subatomic networks of physical laws and forces and relationships that even the most primitive of such systems exhibit and indeed must have

            versus

            Such a system evolving over time, as evidenced by the way everything we see or investigate has adapted to and fits in with or responds to its environment, its hosts, its enemies, its benefactors, its pathogens, etc.

          • @Klasie Kraalogies:

            If we were really only 6000 – 10000 years old, the following would be the case:

            Isn’t that the same thing as saying that a particular supernatural event could only have happened IF the natural evidence for it looked a certain way? Isn’t that presupposing the inability of supernatural events to supersede the natural order? Still sounds like begging the question.

            Furthermore, epistemologically, you are giving up all knowledge

            Hogwash. I’m giving up YOUR epistemology, not all possible knowledge. Not everybody subscribes to empirical reductionism as the only way to obtain knowledge.

            Such a God, or rather, god, is a trickster, a Loki.

            Baloney. The vast majority of human history was not subject to this “deception,” and for the rest, so what? As if we’re gonna walk through the pearly gates and demand that God apologize for hurting our feelings by wasting our time in science class. Assuming YEC was the case, evolutionary science is still worth studying if for no other reason than the creator left it there for us to observe.

            “Ahh, I tricked you, you little creation, bwahaha, now got to hell, bwhahaha”.

            As if Christianity taught that belief in an old earth condemned you to hell? Fore pete’s sake, a sizable portion of the scientific community still holds to religious tenants, just as the vast majority of the religious community still values and relies on science. You seem to propose that they are mutually exclusive.

          • @ Michael Bell:

            Your father’s line of argumentation is essentially this version of the parable: If you create a tree on Tuesday and chop it down on Thursday, it could not possibly have any rings whatsoever, unless the creator were dishonest. It’s nothing more than dogmatically insisting supernatural creation of mature creations is impossible.

          • @ Eric W:

            because you can’t prove that God isn’t moment-by-moment giving you and everyone else the impression of memories

            Aren’t there entire schools of epistemology build around this kind of idea? (Think: the matrix.) I’m not saying I subscribe to them, but just because God allegedly did this once 6-10k years ago doesn’t mean he’s constantly doing it every moment of time. However, there may be some eastern mystics who get quite cozy with this idea.

            The “appearance of age” argument renders all further conversation pointless.

            It renders all debate pointless, because it’s an agree to disagree truce. It is a way to look at all the data, accept it as true, yet draw from it different conclusions, mainly because the data of religion is considered strictly superfluous to non-religious scientists.

            Such a system evolving over time, as evidenced by the way everything we see

            So what your saying is… Because we’ve observed certain things developing over time to respond to its environment, therefore the only way possible for something to be suited to its environment is by this exact same process of developing over time? That’s a universal negative that is beyond the scope of scientific research to support. It’s a dogmatic claim.

          • This debate kind of reminds me when I’ve heard people argue about whether Adam and Eve had belly-buttons… In the real world, it doesn’t make much difference. But I tend to agree that the “appearance of age” argument isn’t very convincing. I suppose God could have made the cosmos to look older than it was, but what would be the reason for doing so? Just to prove that He could?

            The main thing that I see from Scripture is that starting small and unassuming and developing more fully seems to be the way God works. There are relatively few examples of God doing things quickly or instantaneously. Even Jesus was born a baby and developed into an adult. To me a creation that takes time to develop and evolve just seems to fit with the way God reveals Himself in Scripture.

          • This whole discussion is the kind of thing Michael is writing against in this post. Genesis 1 has nothing to do with science.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Miguel,

            I don’t think you get it: Almost everything in the universe would be telling a story that never happened, present a history that is fictional. And in such a cohesive way that it would be a horrendous fraud, designed to tell something, designed to important information that deceive. Simple logic, reason, evidence would all be untrustworthy. Hence the decent into last Thursdayism – if all that is “faked” – on what basis do you presume ancient runes, writings aren’t faked as well? On what basis do you claim that your own memories aren’t faked as well? Hence, no epistemology. Nothing.

            You might not like it – as in your response to Eric. But that doesn’t negate it. The universe can’t be remade according to personal feelings. And the age of the cosmos, the evidence for evolution etc etc is not based on feelings etc. It is based on exhaustive investigation, data collection, constant refinement etc etc. To deny that, you might as well question 1+1 = 2. Or even worse, you’ll have to descend into that extreme type of postmodernism where all becomes relative to the hearer, where you land in the egocentric predicament. No knowledge is possible then. Not even knowledge of language, communication, and hence, Scripture.

          • @ Chaplain Mike:
            I think I’m with Spencer here:

            In my view, both the scientific establishment’s claims to debunk Genesis and the creationists claims to have established Genesis by way of relating the text to science are worthless.

            My whole point is that it is presumptuous for scientists to conclude that their discipline is the highest form of all knowledge, and if they’ve proven it in a lab, it’s beyond all possible dispute. I think their findings are true and reliable, but it crosses the line when it begins to put limitations on a power beyond it’s scope of inquiry. To say that SUPERnatural forces couldn’t supersede the NATURAL order because we’ve only observed things to work a certain way is to presume the impossibility of truly supernatural activity.

            @ Phil M:

            To me a creation that takes time to develop and evolve just seems to fit

            I agree that this makes plenty of sense. I just wouldn’t elevate it to the level of dogma and insist that God MUST have done it this way or he’s violating the integrity of my intellect. I reserve him the right to prove me wrong.

            @ Klasie Kraalogies:

            it would be a horrendous fraud

            You’re right, I don’t get it. Explain to those of us with limited mental faculties how this is harmful or destructive in any way. Whether or not the past was “faked” is not the concern of science, history, or archaeology. They are concerned with the empirical realm and have the responsibility of exploring that for what can be learned from it. If the data’s there and it’s consistent, it matters precious little if we’re winding the clock backwards past zero. I don’t see how such a God is guilty of betraying us in any way. Christians aren’t commanded to fear, love, and trust in their power of observation above all things. I quite honestly don’t have a basis for claiming any particular memory is not faked, and the science of psychology has more than demonstrated that implanting memories through suggestion is highly possible. But since they are the memories I do have, and since it is the reality I live in, I treat it as such, as do you. I don’t think the physical realm is the highest form of reality. To insist that is a statement of dogma which science cannot prove.

            To deny that, you might as well question 1+1 = 2

            Oh please. The age of the universe isn’t nearly so well established. Tell me then, exactly how old is it? We don’t know for sure. The only thing scientists can agree on is that it’s really, really, really, ridiculously old, but we keep recalibrating it by a few million years or so every time we make a new discovery.

            you’ll have to descend into that extreme type of postmodernism where all becomes relative to the hearer

            It is so refreshing to hear someone who believes in the objective nature of reality. I couldn’t agree more. I just don’t hold the epistemological presupposition that flawed human power of observation is the supreme and only method of discovering it, despite how powerful and utilitarian it is the vast majority of the time. I am not nearly a relativist, and I believe very strongly in the power of words for communication as I believe they are thoroughly justified for no other reason than God chose to use them to reveal himself.

            Simple logic, reason, evidence would all be untrustworthy

            No, simple logic, reason, and evidence would just have to admit that as compelling and reliable as they are, there is a limit to how much about reality they have the scope dictate. I believe our reasoning faculties are given to us by God and we are to use them to study and learn from creation as best we can. But we can not find God through them, neither can we limit God by them.

          • ME: Such a system evolving over time, as evidenced by the way everything we see

            MIGUEL: So what your saying is… Because we’ve observed certain things developing over time to respond to its environment, therefore the only way possible for something to be suited to its environment is by this exact same process of developing over time? That’s a universal negative that is beyond the scope of scientific research to support. It’s a dogmatic claim.

            I’m not saying the only way possible is evolution over time, my second option (versus instantaneous totally-integrated creation, my first option); I’m just simply listing what seem to me to be the (two) options.

            I’m being picky about the total integration at all levels aspect because the universe is not like a movie where you can fake things and use props or use CGI or other tricks to create and fill in things. EVERYTHING at all levels and at every point from the macrouniverse to the microuniverse has to fit with each other part (whether benignly, beneficially, or detrimentally), whether you’re talking Newtonian physics or quantum physics.

          • Miguel: Nevertheless, I can accept that God could have done option 1, because He is God, and just because all the human minds together since there first were such things, including all human minds from now until the end of time, cannot conceive of how such a thing could be done or even be possible does not mean that God can’t do it or that He didn’t do it.

            And I guess what Michael Spencer said and what Chaplain Mike is saying is that Genesis 1 is NOT saying that this is what God did, even if it’s seemingly portrayed as such. The fact that it is portrayed as occurring or coming about in successive “days” seems to argue against an instantaneous creation of a totally-integrated and functionable planet and universe of the kind we know and experience and know has to be to even exist, even were it to have the “appearance of age,” which suggests to me that Genesis 1 is NOT scientific or attempting to be, and it should not be used to support or refute science, or vice-versa.

            Your apparent ability to play guitar well pretty much absolves you of doing anything wrong in my eyes.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Miguel, I’m not arguing for the equivalence of the age of the universe with arithmetic. I’m arguing that you cannot destroy the epistemological base of the one without destroying the epistemological base of the other. That is the key.

  6. Gerald’s comments are immature, belligerent, and stupid. Perhaps you call me harsh, but remember that Jesus never hesitated to call people out, so I’m not going to, either. The church is full of pussy-footing wimps who won’t stand up to challenges to their faith, so take heed, folks. If you let guys like him stomp around unchallenged, you might as well let a wolf into your sheep pen.

    The crux of his argument seems to be “You pick and choose which scholars you listen to! Neener neener!” But this is a stupid oversimplication of everything involved. The gospels are a completely different genre from Genesis – the Gospels are straight historical narrative (along with books like Judges, 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, and Acts, among others.) The books whose genre is debated is much smaller – such as Genesis, Revelation, Jonah, Job, and Daniel. These books blur the lines and often include different types of literature into their texts (like Daniel, which is part historical narrative, and part apocalyptic literature; or Job, which combines historical narrative with poetic discourses.) Anyone who wants to argue that the former group of books are metaphor have a steep uphill battle compared to the latter batch.

    These books are justifiably debated because where and how the lines are blurred can be a challenge, and it doesn’t do anyone favors to be dogmatic about it. But the reason why the Gospels aren’t similarly scrutinized is because, aside from fringe left-wing scholars, few in your average church are doubting that they at least claim to be a historical narrative of Jesus’ life. The issue just doesn’t come up often in Christian discourse. Genesis stands in stark contrast; it has perhaps the most different types of literature of any single book in the Bible, and consequentially gets a lot of debate time. And unlike academic quacks prone to flights of fancy concerning the gospels, there is good reason to believe (as has been posted here many times before from Enns, Walton, etc.) that the creation account is not a straight historical narrative and incorporates elements of poetry and temple worship, not to mention rebutting other ANE creation myths. And in addition, there are many conservative scholars who say similar things to this; it’s not cherry-picking from liberals, and I’d consider someone like Walton to be more in the vein of the Context Group like Malina, Pilch, Rorhbach etc.

    However, I think EricW brings up a good point. We can’t ignore scholarship; we have to learn it and either utilize it or refute it depending on its veracity. To stick your head in the sand and ignore science, philosophy, and social science altogether is to make you no better than Mormonism, and is a far cry from the faith preached by the Apostles on the basis of the evidence and proofs of scripture and Jesus’ resurrection.

    • I was just wondering who tinkled in his cornflakes……usually his pugnaoius pronouncements where he shares his 100% perfect knowledge of God and the universe are enought to make me stop reading.

      ……and I am Roman Catholic without a dog IN this fight!

    • Klasie Kraalogies says:

      Not only that – he seems to ignore the fact that people are often on an intellectual journey. Lets presume he is totally correct in his views – he should have been applauding Michael for leaving some of the more fundamentalistic evangelical views behind. He should have felt encouraged with Michael’s growing understanding etc.

      But this is not what we see. We see somebody that believes that all who differ, in any way, from him, are backward, stupid etc etc. This is egocentric fundamentalism.

  7. David Cornwell says:

    Up above Gerald referred to: “culturally-deprived surroundings”…

    Where one lives, his/her cultural surroundings have nothing to do with one’s intellect. In fact some of the most intelligent people I’ve met in my life live in that generally “deprived” area. To look down one’s nose at someone else because of where they are situated geographically is highly offensive. To say that someone is lower in ability or knowledge or whatever because of educational background is to elevate oneself above one’s “lower” neighbors.

    Some of the best writings in the world have emerged from prison, Siberia, ghettos, or near-by fires of holocaust. So they certainly had elements of cultural deprivation.

    I could go on and one because thought adds to thought, but I do live in a rural area and MoMA isn’t down the road.

  8. I find most people are fine with a “poetic” reading of Genesis until you come smack dab into the “problem” of Adam and Eve. Scientifically we don’t descend from one couple, we are not all related to one couple – so we can’t all inherit any one human’s sin (genetic studies have supported this since the 1960s, with stronger evidence added every decade).

    If you try to fit y-chromosome Adam, into the story, remember he is only about 90,000 – 50,000 years old, long, long after the beginning of modern humans. Mitochondrial Eve was older – about 180,000 years old – older, but according to the writers of the Bible, it isn’t her sin we inherit.

    Archeology further works against Genesis ch. 1- 11, because no one was farming, or planting until the Neolithic era, 30,000 – 10,000 years ago ( there were fits and starts to farming in Africa and Asia before the success of the Agricultural revolution, which was only 10,000 year ago).

    If it is OK to read Adam and Eve poetically, then I am fine with this view, but so often, people claim to be OK with a non-literal reading until Adam comes up. Well, those spouting penal substitutionary atonement theory tend to cling to a true Adam.

    I highly doubt anyone took a real man (named ‘human’) and a real woman (named ‘Living One’) with their pet talking lizard as literal before the 18th C – strong evidence people didn’t view it literally from the Early church writers – Origen, Augustine, all the way to writers of the 17th C. The big problem was with the advent of Darwinism. The church went into a clinging, desperate mode, trying to oust the moral problems it saw with evolution by using Genesis as a scientific rebuttal, throwing out the baby (scientific evidence) with the bathwater (immoral applications of Evolution). Up until this point, no one took talking serpents all that seriously.

    We are so saturated in this view, like the view that everyone thought the world was flat until Christopher Columbus sailed it, that we have lost sight that church history didn’t make too much of the literalism of the Genesis story.

    So, I am fine with this view, but it does bump into the New Testament quite a bit, since there really was no historical Adam (at least not an evangelical christian “Adam”). The Jews only viewed Adam as their Jewish ancestor, and have no Fall in their theology.

  9. The search for a middle ground is occurring on both sides. Stuart Kauffman is an atheist challenging the concept of reductionism accepted by many evolutionists. He teaches that there is order, meaning, and even creativity in the universe. He also quotes several overwhelming statics against the creation of the universe from mere random chance. It is a long way from a theistic creationist view, but it is also a long way from Dawkins. But whether the topic is religion, politics, or science, the middle-ground will always be vilified by both extremes.

  10. Man, I miss Michael’s voice especially when I’d like to discuss something like this further. Always made us think!

  11. I have a question for anyone who would care to answer: I understand that science and theology do not address the same issues in many cases. But there is an overlap. If theology asserts that God is the creator of everything that exists, it’s making a factual truth claim; if scientific consensus postulates that the world in some sense has always existed, and so was never created, a contrary factual truth claim has been asserted. In this case, science and theology are contending over a piece of truth that brings them into conflict; at least one of them is wrong. When this situation or an analogous one arises, should I believe theology, or science? And by what criteria do I decide?

    • As the science stands now, though, your question is kind of a non-sequitor. Steady state theory is pretty much discredited, and some form of the big bang theory is generally the consensus. The thing that’s debated has to what the nature of the cosmos is. Some evidence suggests we may be living in a “multiverse” instead of universe, where there’s a very, very large number of universes. The thing with this theory is that is impossible for the different universes to interact with each other in any way. But regardless of these questions, science is still left with the question of how something comes from nothing. All these things are just in a sense kicking the can further down the road.

      • I agree Phil M.

        The current theory geophysicists use is Big Bang – and pre-bang there is no current consensus. It doesn’t mean. pre se the Bang came from nothing, it just means we can’t determine what caused it.

        So, no it is not current consensus that the universe always was (and even then, earth was formed about 4? billion years ago, not always here), but it is beyond our material reach to study what lies beyond or before the current Universe.

    • When we get to the ultimate bottom line: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” — we are all making a faith response to that.

      But that is not the battle Michael is fighting in this article.

  12. AMEN BROTHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Love the post