Hey everyone, I’ve been a fan of Biologos for a long time although I grew up a homeschooled YEC (I’m in college now). I’ve been on a journey of questioning my faith for the past year or so and have come to believe that the theory of evolution is basically correct. Learning about ERVs and the fossil record of whale evolution were big “nails in the coffin” for me in becoming an Evolutionary Creationist. I like WLC’s idea (I think this is also what Josh Swamidas believes) that Adam and Eve could have been Heidelberg men.
However, I’ve reached the point where it’s really hard for me to believe that the Bible is inerrant/infallible. Part of that is due to moral issues in the Old Testament and some other contradictions and insertions, but part of it is due to the fact that I can’t figure out how to reconcile evolution with the story presented by Scripture.
The plain reading of Genesis 1 is that God created Adam and Eve as special creations out of the dust, unrelated to the other animals. The implication is that there was no animal death or suffering beforehand, since God said creation was “very good.” Noah’s Ark, the tower of Babel, and statements like “There was at yet no man formed to till the ground” all fly in the face of mainstream scientific thought.
Since I believe in evolution, do I now have to give up on a high view of the truth of Scripture? Or can the two be plausibly reconciled?
Hi SeekerKid – welcome to the forum! It’s good to have you. I grew up homeschooled YEC also and have come around to EC myself over the past few years, so I get where you’re coming from. I think a lot of how we view concepts like “inerrancy” has to do with what we expect from the Bible in the first place. I was basically taught to read Genesis from the perspective of a western, 21st century reader, and I think we unconsciously bring a lot of expectations to the table that come from our understanding of what we expect from science-based journalism. But ancient literature doesn’t always conform to those expectations. Have you read anything by John Walton? He has what I would certainly consider a “high view” of scripture, but has tried to interpret the first few chapters of Genesis as he believes an ancient reader might understand them. I’ve only read “The Lost World of Genesis One,” but he has a few other books that I also want to get to. One assertion he makes in that book is that God’s declaration of “very good” had to do with how well the world functioned, rather than a statement of virtue or morality. Here’s an article he wrote about inerrancy that I’ve found very helpful:
He also discusses the “death before the fall” question briefly toward the end.
It sounds like you were primarily exposed to rigid views of the Bible and that you thought you had to be right about everything. But I say, don’t worry. We all have questions and we don’t have to have all the answers.
Its 100% natural during deconstruction of a literalist interpretation of scripture to go through moments of doubt. It’s dozens of paradigm shifts. The problem is not in a better understanding but the fact a bad one guided you for so long. These are the basic processes I go through with people.
The Bible never claims that it must be read literally throughout its story. Most of us are aware of that. When we read psalms 74 about God battling a multi headed fire breathing dragon we don’t have a eternal war of truth or lie because we was almost all taught that psalms was poetic in nature and does not have to be read as literal truth. When we read parables in the Bible , or most of them anyways, we also don’t have that internal war because we was taught at a young age or with our first encounter of them that parables are not meant to be read as literal truth. We understand the symbolism there.
The first main book that many of us encounter and have that internal battle with is revelation. Most of us, at some point in our life was heavily influenced by “ the rapture and being left behind” fictional books and films. When we read revelation as a teen we struggled with was the four horsemen real? Are they angels? Is it the Angel of death on a pale horse? Will there really be anti christ faced flying insects with scorpion tails and will the moon literally be blood red? Is a blood moon rare!!! But as we read it more and asked more questions we realized it was not literal. We realized , or many of us anyways, that revelation was very symbolic.
In the same way many of us are taught that genesis 1-11 is literal. But the reality is that there is no reason to believe that. Putting science and history to the side, the literary style itself screams fictional. Fiction does not mean lie. As I like to point out we don’t go into a library and ask , “ where is the lie section”?
Genesis 1-11 covers thousands of years and majorly world events in just a few seconds. It’s not written in a way similar to 1 chronicles, the gospels, or exodus. It’s written more similar to places like revelation or psalms.
We often think to ourselves that well jesus and others refer to it so it must be literal. That’s not true. Jesus was using biblical language to discuss biblical things. Same as we often use myths as references. One of my favorites is that “ so and so is as strong as Hercules” or we say something like I’m so hungry I could eat a whole horse, or tree. When we say these things we are not implying they are literally true but that they are metaphorically true. Jesus, along with ever other human in recorded history could also refer to myths when making a point without demanding it be taken literally.
I am from the opposite direction, starting with science and then still finding value in Christianity and the Bible.
I don’t think so. I think that would make Adam and Eve insignificant. I think they are modern humans right before the beginning of human civilization 12,000 to 6,000 years ago.
I never did believe that. It seems absurd to me that anything in human languages could be infallible, and unlikely that anything written using human beings as instruments would be inerrant.
Sounds like the “plain reading” of the parable of the sower as agricultural advice. Jesus explains in Matthew 13 that literalism like this is symptomatic of people who simply do not want to understand. They don’t want to understand the Bible any more than they want to understand science.
My “plain reading” of that text is that God created Adam out of the stuff and nature of the earth, then gave him the divine breath (the etymology of “inspiration”) in order to bring the human mind to life.
How could God warn Adam that he would die if he ate the fruit if there was no death? And did not God create the animals according to their kind – predators with the nature as well as form of predators. It would make more sense to claim that God created no lions, tigers, or wolves until later. But there is not evidence of that in the Bible.
God said creation was good and that man was very good. But the balance of the ecosystem IS good. I very much doubt the inconsistent Candyland daydreams of children is better.
Not if you read the story with science as your perceptual filter and take into account the change in the meaning of words over time. For example, there was no concept of a planet when this was written and the earth is not described in that way in the Bible – a small table shaped section of the planet. Thus it was a local flood of which is far from an unusual occurrence.
There are certainly things you have to give up and no doubt that includes some ways of looking at scripture, such as the idea that KJ Bible was written by God Himself.
Hey SeekerKid! Studying the Bible doesn’t have to be an either/or choice between literal truth and figurative truth. It can be both. Actually, there’s also symbolic truth, and Jesus said that he was The Truth. So he encompasses all of the figurative, literal, and symbolic truth. Genesis has two creation stories. Chapter 1 and from the end of chapter 1 through to Chapter 2. The end of chapter 1 begins another story that took place before vegetation sprouted. So that’s hard to reconcile with Genesis 1’s day by day creation.
One could say that all of the Genesis narrative happened literally as written “in the mind of God.” Then the symbolic days, which are undisclosed period of time, and could be hundreds of millions of years. I read the successive days actually mirror what we know from science pretty well. First day’s creation of light being the creation of existence itself. Or the singularity before the Big Bang. Day 2’s imagery looks a lot like the Big Bang to me. Water gathered in a central place and then expanding outward. Day 3 can be the differentiation between matter and energy.
I can go on, but of particular significance in Genesis 1 is the poetic night came and then morning. This imagery points to the dying and rising of Christ, over and over again. So when Paul writes that all of creation was created through Christ, we come full circle to know that Jesus’ death and resurrection (the one that takes place outside of time and space) was woven into our existence and creation.
Study Genesis 5 in light of what we know about human evolution. Do the work. Let me know what you find and if you want to test any insight with another person who also has the Holy Spirit abiding in them. Good luck!
Hey Laura, thanks for the reply! I’m definitely familiar with John Walton, but I haven’t yet read “The Lost World of Genesis One.” It’s definitely on my reading list though!
The article you linked to was interesting (I liked the part where he used the Bible’s reference to kidneys-for-the-mind and flat earth taken for granted to show how this works out practically), but I still have some reservations.
My main issue is with Walton’s distinction between what the Bible affirms as true and what the human authors believed as they wrote. For example, when the human authors described the earth as sitting on a flat disc, surrounded by a firmament, unmoving in space upon pillars, they did so because they really believed that the earth was that way in actuality and meant to affirm it in their writing. Maybe the distinction is that it was something they took for granted, and wasn’t meant to be the main point of the passages in question? But I would think that “side points” would be as errorless as main points.
(Side note: Some close family friends, also YEC homeschooled, have come to believe that the earth is flat on the basis of Biblical passages that seem to affirm a flat earth view of the world. It seems like there’s a lot of parallels between what they’ve started believing and what YECs in general believe.)
Hi Skovand, thanks for your reply!
It’s true that most Christians have no problem with saying that the parables of Jesus were meant to be taken symbolically, since Jesus Himself says that this is how they are to be interpreted on several different occasions. But I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that the first eleven (or more) chapters of Genesis were no more symbolic than the parables of Christ. There is no prelude before and no epiloge after to clearly define them as “intended to be read fictionally.” I think the original human author(s) of Genesis intended their works to be taken as true events, although they probably had some idea in mind that they were writing in order to challenge some of the reigning cosmogonies of the time.
Welcome to the forum, hope you get some good food for thought here.
There are ways to reconcile some ideas of inerrancy with ideas like divine accommodation (In addition to the Walton article Laura linked, you could check out this more scholarly Henry Center essay), but also keep in mind that a huge percentage of the global Christian community doesn’t work itself up over inerrancy at all. It’s enough to say the Bible speaks with authority on what it intends to tell us is true.
If you want to read up more on this topic google inerrancy and divine accommodation and I think you’ll find the kinds of debates you’re looking to explore.
Also, it might be interesting for you to check out literary approaches to the Genesis text.
Bible Project has a great visual commentary video that explains the framework view of Genesis 1: Genesis 1 - YouTube
Hey Mitchell, thanks for your response!
Can I ask how you first found value in Christianity and the Bible?
One of the main problems I see with the view “Adam and Eve were the first modern humans 10,000-6,000 years ago” is that it implicitly says that other hominids living at the same time as modern humans weren’t “real humans.” This is hard to believe when it comes to species like the Neanderthals, seeing that they used tools and I believe also made cave art, and the fact that they seem to have had offspring with modern humans on several occasions in our genetic history. If your view is correct, such actions would seem to be bestiality on the part of the “real humans.”
(Please correct me if I’ve misunderstood your view or misremembered what science has discovered about the early hominids.)
I have trouble with viewing Genesis the same way I see the parables of Jesus, as I described to another poster above.
You’re right that the existence of predators poses quite a challenge to a literal interpretation of Genesis and Romans about death before the fall. So it warrants some rethinking. But the idea that God’s original plan for creation was a world in which animals would prey on each other and natural disasters would run rampant doesn’t sound “very good” at all, even if the ecosystem gets balanced in the meantime.
(Sorry for not responding with the quote feature, I’m on my iPad and still learning the interface).
Hey Ralph, thanks for asking! I definitely used to love Jesus wholeheartedly, but recently it’s been more difficult – mostly because it’s hard to love someone that you’re not sure is really there. But I’ve been praying and trying to seek Him in whatever way He will be found.
As a sometimes Ipad user myself, I feel your pain. I’ve finally figured out how to “touch and hold” (a ‘persist-touch’) to begin the selection of text, and then try to move the tiny blue knobbies then visible to include at least all (and probably more) than the text I wanted to include. Then I trim it after the quote has been safely embedded. (I don’t know about Ipads generally, but on my Ipad mini - all fingers are “fat fingers”). So … yeah … it is so much easier on PCs.
I think one of the most damaging things I have seen in the conservative homeschool culture (I homeschool my kids and was homeschooled myself until sixth grade, though my parents weren’t all that connected to “Christian” homeschooling like it exists now) is the idea that the Bible is the object of our faith. That’s just wrong. The object of our faith is God, specifically God made human in Jesus to redeem our broken humanity and reconcile us to himself through his Sprit. We put our faith in a person who relates to us, not a collection of writings whose propositions we mentally assent to. Faith in the Bible is allegiance and commitment and putting your ultimate hope in the eventual fulfilment of the promises God has made, not mere “belief” that certain facts about the world are true. (Even the demons believe what is true about God and the work of Christ, it’s just they rebel against the kingdom he came to establish instead of signing up to be ambassadors for it. James 2:19)
It seems to me that this “faith in the Bible” mentality is a really hard obstacle for some people to get past when they are shifting their faith paradigms. But it is a really important question to settle in your own mind. What is your faith in? My faith is in the person of Jesus, whom I know and experience. I love the Bible and want everyone to have access to it. (I live in rural Mexico and work in minority language Bible translation.) But the Bible’s job is to reveal God, not be a god. If God is the one my faith is securely placed in, then I can reevaluate my interpretations of passages that reveal him, and I can admit things about the inadequacy of human language and the limitations of human cultural perspectives, and it doesn’t threaten my faith.
Long story. A lot of links to portions of this can be found here.
Well science shows that most of the lines that we have traditionally drawn between animals and humans simply are not there or are at most a quantitative difference. Animals use tools. Animals do art or the definition of art is too subjective. I do not see solid difference in this. There really is only one valid candidate for a difference and that is language – not communication but a language with all the Turing complete representational and abstraction capabilities that equal and surpass that of DNA itself making it another possible medium for the life process (these are lines which are well defined).
Now I would be thrilled to find that some animals do have kind of language, but if some do, it is likely much more limited than this. It is also true that considerable evolutionary adaptation is a part of our development of language over a 100,000 years, but that really only prepares the setting for bringing the human mind to life by this communication we had from God – for ideas have a greater power to transform human existence faster than mere genetics. So the difference I am talking about is not just a capability for language but also what we have done with, making ourselves a mental life (including an inheritance passed to the next generation) that rivals our physical life.
Depends on what makes the transition from animals to human beings. If it is like I have suggest a matter of thought and inspiration rather than genetics then our very ideas of relationships and marriage are a part of that transition.
One should have trouble viewing Genesis the same way as any of the other diverse types of literature in the Bible also. It isn’t a parable, but it isn’t just history or a science text either. Any telling of events from so long ago before the specialization of human activities into history, law, science, religion, and entertainment has a recognizable mythical character from the mixing of all these together in an oral tradition. The Bible itself shows that some of the elements of the story are symbolic rather than literal.
The things God did or told the Israelites to do in the rest of the Bible doesn’t sound “very good” either… not to mention many of the realities of life which has been the greatest criticism of theism since Epicurus in the third century BC (known as the problem of evil and suffering). The result is that I couldn’t believe in Christianity without evolution, because it shows quite conclusively that life simply could not exist without death and suffering because that is how it develops. Thus the flaws you are seeing really come from Deist notion of God as a watchmaker designer rather then the Biblical role for God as a shepherd – a role accepting that self-organization, learning, adapting, and struggling against death and suffering is all part of the very nature of what life is. So the truth is that the Bible with all its moral horrors and the stark realities of evolution fit together like a hand in a glove, and it is trying to make Genesis into a Candyland dream of children which is ultimately incoherent.
P.S. It has been claimed that natural language is not Turing complete, whatever natural language may be. But the proof that human language is Turning complete and surpasses DNA is quite simple. These things are both themselves described and explained in human language. That would be impossible unless language has all the same functionality as these things. Indeed you could say that human language has something more fundamental which includes the ability to learn, develop, and explain things like Turing completeness and DNA.
If they meant it to be taken literally then why is it not written like all the rest of the historical and biographical narratives? Why does it flow with the rest of ancient Mesopotamian mythologies?
Read the entire story of Adam and Eve, or Cain and Abel. Or even Noah. What is it? 1-3 chapters? Now read the entire story of Moses, or Jacob or Jesus? What is that? A few books worth? Why was the story of Adam and Eve 2 chapters instead of of 100?
One question to ask yourself is why did you think that the human authors would have been able to step outside their worldview like this? Is your view of inspiration that God dictated Scripture? Don’t let people tell you that re-evaluating your understanding of inspiration necessarily entails some kind of all-or-nothing acceptance or rejection of the Bible. Again, the vast majority of Christians globally are not committed to verbal plenary inspiration. That’s a relatively new modernist theological construct, and it’s not really compatible with what we now understand about human cognition and language production and processing.