Evolution and the Bible, Incompatible?


(Dan) #1

Hi all, I am new to this forum but not new at all to Theistic Evolution or Young Earth Creationism. As I was reading through blog posts etc. I was intrigued by the insightful conversation, and debate that has already occurred among so many.
I hope you will graciously hear me as I struggle with some questions that have puzzled me on the nature of evolution, Biblical authority and origins.

Many Christians, “Theistic Evolutionists”, and "Young Earth Creationists"alike, have attempted to understand the relationship between God’s written Word, the Bible, and God’s revealed Word, creation.
The problem seemingly comes down to interpretation. When General Revelation “Science”, and Special Revelation “Scripture” seem to conflict, how should we interpret them? They both come from God, they both are perfect. Which one has the greater authority, or are either of them superior? Where can we go to find the truth? How can little ole fallible, sinful me interpret God’s Holy, infallible revelation?

For example, consider the apparent clash between Genesis 1 and 2 and Evolutionary Theory. Assume momentarily that we let established Scientific Theory, “General Revelation”, take precedence in the interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. We can now easily reconcile the apparent contradiction in General and Special Revelation. All we need to do is tweak our interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. Instead of seven twenty-four hour days, we now have seven-hundred-twenty-four billion years… This is good, we now have a fix and we are happy at least until… Genesis 3:15… Is God already ‘interfering’ with natural selection? We begin to puzzle, and feel the need to do more reinterpretation. And then there is the rest of the Bible where God reveals His amazing redemptive plan… and miracles by the boatload. flood, red sea, Pharaoh, water, manna, wilderness, preservation, risen from the dead, God MAN?? JESUS.

The point is, we can easily explain away the creation account, put it down to poetry or excuse it away as a myth, but as Christians, who rely on Salvation in Jesus we cannot deny our Saviors’ resurrection, incarnation, or the cross? When we allow General Revelation to take precedence haven’t we contaminated the necessary ingredients for our salvation?
Think of it this way, if I can choose to reinterpret Genesis 1 & 2 based on solid scientific evidence for evolution, what prevents me from choosing to reinterpret the way I am saved based on solid scientific evidence that resurrections don’t occur?

Thanks for reading, I look forward to reading insightful answers clarifications and question.

Define General and Special revelation see Westminster Confessions and Belgic Confession Article 2.


(George Brooks) #2

@dd35

Do you think you are equally at risk if you choose to characterize snow and hail as the result of atmospheric frozen precipitation of what was once water vapor? Do you HAVE to believe rain and hail are kept in giant storage areas in the sky?

Yahweh asks Job what he knows of the natural world around him …

Job 38:18+
Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?
Tell Me, if you know all this.
“Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place . . .
Do you know it, because you were born then,
Or because the number of your days is great?

“Have you entered the treasury [storage] of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury [storage] of hail . . .

By what way is light diffused,
Or the east wind scattered over the earth?

“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water,
Or a path for the thunderbolt,

To cause it to rain on a land where there is no one,
A wilderness in which there is no man . . . "

Since Yahweh would not lie to Job, must you be CONVINCED that there is a treasury of Snow and Hail?
Must you believe there is a DWELLING OF LIGHT, the underworld where the Sun comes from?


#3

(1) Choosing to “reinterpret” Genesis 1 and 2 based on a scientific theory makes no sense to me. It ignores genre and the obvious Anachronism Fallacy. I don’t consider Genesis 1 and 2 to be scientific accounts.

Genesis 1 is a six-stanza hymnic tribute with repeating chorus honoring the Creator and meant to contrast that God with the pantheons of neighboring cultures which assigned individual gods and goddesses to particular domains of the world.

Genesis 2 speaks of the first Imago Dei human, not the first Homo sapiens. The descriptions of the environment are not about the world in general but just the garden planted by God in a region called Eden. The theological purpose is explaining the loss of fellowship with God due to sin. In no way is it an “alternate creation account.” Planting a garden in a particular place is not an account of creating the universe.

For both chapters, it is vital to recognize that ERETZ means “land” or “country”, not 'Planet Earth"----just as ERETZ YSRAEL refers to “the Nation of Israel” or “The Land of Israel”, not “Planet Israel.”

  1. You referred to “solid scientific evidence that resurrections don’t occur”. Science records human experience where human resurrection has not been observed. Science does NOT claim that resurrection cannot occur. (Science doesn’t usually tell us what cannot happen.) Thus, science is totally silent on whether or not Jesus was resurrected as described in the scriptures.

The Bible considers the resurrection of a human to be an event without a natural explanation. Modern science tells us essentially the same thing. And that is why the Bible considers a human resurrection to be a miracle: without natural explanation.

Science and philosophy-theology are very different academic fields of inquiry.

If one reads Genesis 1 and 2 looking for the Theory of Evolution or any other scientific message, you are sure to be disappointed. (Besides, the Anachronism Fallacy always disappoints.) If you accept those texts on their own terms and genre, there is no conflict. Questions about imagined conflicts between Special Revelation and General Revelation are misplaced. Just as the storehouses of snow don’t refute modern meteorology, instructive texts from ancient Hebrew don’t pose any problems for the disciple of Jesus Christ who recognizes and accepts the history of the universe God has given us within the creation itself.

I grew up within the “slippery slope” theory of Christian fear. It is yet another logic fallacy: the excluded middle.

Ever notice that the people in Genesis 1 and 2 have no names? At most, they have titles (“The Soil Man” and “The Mother of Life”.) Does accepting the epic poem genre of Homer’s Iliad force one to assume that the account of Paul’s missionary journeys in The Acts of the Apostles is also epic poetry—just because both text involve voyages? No.

Beware the slipperiness of the slippery slope argument.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Hi Dan, welcome to the forum, I hope you have a good experience hashing out these concerns with others.

I don’t have much to add to what @Socratic.Fanatic posted, but I thought I’d throw out a link to a discussion that addressed a similar concern and a recent post that examined the idea that Genesis is “either history or myth.”

Also, this is a helpful post from Roger Olson’s blog that summarizes narrative theology. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2016/01/narrative-theology-explained/

I think it is accurate to say that many theologians who don’t see conflict between Genesis and science incorporate features of narrative theology into their approach to Scirpture, so it is good to be familiar with them in order to have an idea where people are coming from.

And two introductory housekeeping notes you may find helpful as a new user:

  1. If you want to quote another person’s post, select the text you want to respond to and then hit the “quote reply” option that appears. This will drag the selected text into your post and tag the original writer in case they want to respond. Quoting other people also helps others follow conversations between multiple people on one thread since replies are not nested. You can also tag people with the @ sign and their user name.

  2. If you ever want to start a fresh thread responding to something in an old thread, or if you want to take a discussion in a different direction than the OP, you can hover in the right margin and get the “reply as linked Topic” option. This drags the text from the post to the left into a new thread, which you can then title appropriately.


(Wookin Panub) #5

Very well written! dismissing all of Genesis as allegorical and replacing the biblical version with an evolutionist perspective


#6

@dd35, after reading my response to your OP and post, I hope you now understand that I do not “reinterpret” Genesis 1 & 2 based on any kind of science. It is not a scientific text and so I have no reason to demand some sort of science-driven concordism.

Also, your choice of the word “reinterpret” gives the impression that there is some sort of obvious “original interpretation” and science demanded a new one. Do you understand that prior to the last half century, what is now considered a “traditional Young Earth Creationist” interpretation of Genesis 1 was not all that traditional and emphatic? Check out the testimony from the infamous Scopes “Monkey Trial” to see what I mean.

Now, as to:

…that is not at all what I wrote. I don’t “dismiss” Genesis as allegorical. Was Jesus “dismissing” anything when he taught in parables, for example?

Dan, you asked an excellent question which I should address:

Should we not first recognize that, as you reasoned, because they both come from God (i.e., the evidence in both the scriptures and in the creation), the problem is with fallible humans and not with God? And instead of demanding some sort of “tie-breaker” by assigning more weight to one or the other, why not simply honestly acknowledging what confuses us and continue to engage the evidence, both scriptural and “creational”? (Sorry. Couldn’t resist coining the term. It’s just that I wanted to avoid the word “scientific” for the moment because far too many people wrongly assume that something “scientific” is somehow more “secular” or flawed than what it truly is: evidence from God’s created universe. The universe as God’s creation is “very TOV” [very good] in terms of reflecting God’s intentions, the Divine Will. So why treat it as less important or valid?)

It is interesting to observe that millions of Christians and thousands of theologians have wrestled with understanding the best interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2. Even Young Earth Creationist ministries strongly disagree on the interpretation of the Biblical evidence on origins topics and on the correct interpretations of the scientific evidence related to origins. Yet, scientists have reached far more pervasive agreement on the evidence gleaned from creation when it comes to reading the history of life on earth and of the planet itself. The difference in consensus is striking! The vast consilience of the scientific evidence versus the obvious disagreement of Biblical scholars (even among just the evangelical academy) makes this a source of laughter for many non-Christians. So when choosing between God’s two great “books” (which I don’t advise we do), why would anyone ignore the consilience of the evidence God placed in creation in favor of the ongoing lack of consensus one finds in the evangelical academy concerning the scriptural evidence?

I’ll say it again: I always find it interesting that those who demand an immediate “tie-breaker” between the evidence from God’s scriptures and the evidence from God’s creation so often choose to totally ignore the vast consilience of scientific evidence from God’s creation! (If you aren’t famliar with the concept of consilience in science, please Google the term.)

God said that creation is “very good” but one would never get that impression from the Young Earth Creationist origins ministries which treat the story God revealed everywhere we look in his creation as suspect and even deceptive! Doesn’t that sound like a far more serious dismissal of God’s revelation than simply considering a particular pericope or text to be allegorical? Dan, does that kind of dismissal bother you at all? I am far more offended by the scorn shown God’s creation when Young Earth Creationists treat it as a vast and deliberate lie which includes a deceptively engineered “appearance of age.” [I don’t know whether you are a Young Earth Creationist. Nevertheless, you are making arguments which are very common among Young Earth Creationists. So this entire post is geared towards a general audience, most of whom are probably familiar with YEC views on origins.]

Furthermore, I don’t consider the issue one of General Revelation versus Special Revelation so much as considering all of God’s evidence (i.e., in the Bible and in his creation) versus a focus on preserving particular sectarian traditions about origins and the “traditional” Young Earth Creationist interpretations of the last half-century. No, I’m far more interested in determining what God has revealed to us in the scriptures and in the creation itself.

The evolutionary history of life on earth can’t be denied without scorning God’s creation as a enormous and deliberate lie. The fact that very vocal non-scientists deny evolutionary processes—even while confusing biological evolution with abiogenesis and the Big Bang and all sorts of science fundamentals----is irrelevant to the scientific academy (both Christian and non-Christians in the associated fields of science.) Their ignorance of science also makes their claims irrelevant to me. Is there any doubt that those best known for rejecting the overwhelming evidence for evolutionary processes and billions of years are also known for their pseudo-science bloopers and appalling science-illiteracy? (Kent Hovind? Ray Comfort? Ken Ham? Chuck Missler? Ad infinitum?)

After many years as an adamant Young Earth Creationist, I had to ask myself whether it made sense for me to repeat the sad history of so many other science-denying Christians down through the centuries. Will we keep repeating our mistakes of being the last to accept the overwhelming evidence? The Copernican model of planetary motion was once rejected as “obviously unbiblical” and for “leaving out God”. Some reasoned that the motions of the planets was already explained: God obviously commanded angels to push them around—and anyone claiming otherwise was replacing God with “man’s science” and “ignoring the scriptures.” Does that sound at all familiar to you, Dan? Will we continue to repeat that sad history of denying science?

Notice how today you don’t hear many Christians saying that the heliocentric solar system or Newton’s Laws of Motions “obviously” defies the scriptures. Why is that, Dan? I’m neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet but I will make a prediction: A hundred years from now, the denial of evolutionary processes and billions of years of earth history will be just as rare among Christians as Martin Luther’s denials of science are rare today. It will be in the same category as claiming in an American church in 2016 that a flat planet earth and geocentric system are demanded by scripture.

As I explained, I know well the arduous process of abandoning YEC and OEC traditions concerning the interpretations of the early chapters of Genesis and coming to terms with what God has revealed in his scriptures and in his creation. It is hard work, but the freedom and harmony that results, along with a much greater appreciation for God’s power and wisdom, is absolutely worth it! I can hardly convey how much it has done to bring me greater trust in the scriptures and in the plan of God in my life. I wish that blessing for everyone.

Feel free to post specific questions. There’s plenty of people here who can help to explain the points I’ve made.


(Dan) #7

Mr, Brooks,
Thanks for the comment, and apologies for the late response, I have no time during the week so I am forced to post on the weekends.

Anyway to your comment… as you have conveniently laid out, the Bible is full of examples of poetical and metaphorical illustrations. You may be aware that many theologians and scholars agree that the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon are largely written in informational parallelism (aka poetry). But not so Genesis, although theistic evolutionists would like to claim that Genesis 1, 2 etc. are poetical.

But, “The bottom line is that Genesis is not “Hebrew poetry.” Genesis is Hebrew narrative prose. In other words, Genesis is a record of accurate, true history. Not mysticism. Not mystery. Not myth. Anyone who can read a Bible can prove that Genesis is not Hebrew poetry. And this is not a minor issue, because Paul hung his theology of our salvation in Christ upon the historicity of the Genesis record (Romans 5:12-21).” (http://www.allabouttruth.org/poetic-books-of-the-bible.htm) Poetry, Parables, Prophesy, letters, biography, autobiography, and authentic historical facts

Anyway I definitely don’t claim to be an expert on the intricacies of literary genres. Comfortingly however, I don’t need to an expert to interpret Genesis 1 and 2 for me. All I need to have is faith in Salvation through Jesus Christ. Faith, that I share with fellow believers from all ages, and faith that is confirmed by the rest of the Bible.

"1.) he principal people mentioned in Genesis chapters 1–11 are referred to as real—historical, not mythical—people in the rest of the Bible, often many times. For example, Adam, Eve, Cain, Abel, and Noah are referred to in 15 other books of the Bible.

2.) The Lord Jesus Christ referred to the Creation of Adam and Eve as a real historical event, by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 in His teaching about divorce (Matthew 19:3–6; Mark 10:2–9), and by referring to Noah as a real historical person and the Flood as a real historical event, in His teaching about the ‘coming of the Son of man’ (Matthew 24:37–39; Luke 17:26–27).

3.) Unless the first 11 chapters of Genesis are authentic historical events, the rest of the Bible is incomplete and incomprehensible as to its full meaning. The theme of the Bible is Redemption, and may be outlined thus:

i. God’s redeeming purpose is revealed in Genesis 1–11,
ii. God’s redeeming purpose progresses from Genesis 12 to Jude 25, and
iii. God’s redeeming purpose is consummated in Revelation 1–22.

4.) The historical truth of Genesis 1—11 shows that all mankind has come under the righteous anger of God and needs salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.
But why does mankind need to be redeemed? What is it that he needs to be redeemed from? The answer is given in Genesis 1–11, namely, from the ruin brought about by sin. Unless we know that the entrance of sin to the human race was a true historical fact, God’s purpose in providing a substitutionary atonement is a mystery. Conversely, the historical truth of Genesis 1–11 shows that all mankind has come under the righteous anger of God and needs salvation from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.

5.). Unless the events of the first chapters of Genesis are true history, the Apostle Paul’s explanation of the Gospel in Romans chapter 5 and of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 has no meaning. Paul writes: ‘For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus] shall many be made righteous’ (Romans 5:19). And, ‘For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit’(1 Corinthians 15:21–22; 45). The historical truth of the record concerning the first Adam is a guarantee that what God says in His Word about the last Adam [Jesus] is also true. Likewise, the historical, literal truth of the record concerning Jesus is a guarantee that what God says about the first Adam is also historically and literally true. " (http://creation.com/should-genesis-be-taken-literally)

There is much more to be said, but I will leave it there for now. I look forward to hearing a response.

-Daniel


(Christy Hemphill) #8

Why does it have to be “historical truth” and not just “truth”?

You can affirm that humanity is sinful and in need of a Savior and the the substitutionary death of Christ is God’s provided way of salvation even if you think the Genesis creation account is mythologized. Saying the account is mythologized or poetic does not amount to dismissing it as not true or not authoritative. It is a false choice to set up these categories of literal history=true=authoritative vs. mythical narrative=false=dismissable.

Maybe this is how you see things, but I am perfectly capable of finding ultimate and authoritative meaning in Paul’s explanation of the plight of humanity and the Messiah-ship of Christ in light of that plight without needing a literal historical Adam.

There are many better reasons we could come up with to trust the apostolic message recorded in the New Testament other than “Genesis is literal history, therefore Paul is trustworthy.”


(Dan) #9

Hello, and thanks for the reply to my post. As I mentioned in a response to George Brooks, I am unable to post during the week do to my busy schedule so my replies are confined to the weekends.

Anyway, I really appreciated your posts… First off, I would like to address the following statement.

When I posted “Think of it this way, if I can choose to reinterpret Genesis 1 & 2 based on solid scientific evidence for evolution, what prevents me from choosing to reinterpret the way I am saved based on solid scientific evidence that resurrections don’t occur?” I was hoping that someone would point out that my statement is very difficult to verify with science. As you put it, " Science does Not claim that resurrections cannot occur" in fact, currently Science doesn’t claim anything about resurrections because we haven’t been able to use the scientific method to observe classify, obtain data, or analyze whether or not they can occur.

"The fact is that Science has no claims to make about origins either.
It is a common misconception that Evolution embodies the very essence of scientific objectivity. Evolutionists like to portray their system as a philosophy that stands in opposition to all faith-based worldviews, pretending that it is scientifically and intellectually superior precisely because of its supposed non-religious character.

Not so. Religion is exactly the right word to describe Evolution. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.1

Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it “scientific” in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can furnish no knowledge whatsoever about where the human race came from or how it got here. Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more “scientific” than any other kind of religious faith." (http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A365/creation-believe-it-or-not)

I know you claim to be a “Theistic Evolutionist” so some of the above doesn’t exactly apply, but the fact is that Science, doesn’t have a say on origins.

I look forward to following up on the rest of your posts soon.

-Daniel


(Dan) #10

Hello Christy,
Thank- you for the previous post, and the most recent one. Although I don’t have time right now to respond in full, I would like to make a quick clarification to one of your statements.

I agree that there are many biblical passages that support “The apostolic message recorded in the New Testament” However, I did not say that Genesis is literal history, therefore Paul is trustworthy, On the contrary, I argued that since we agree that Paul is trustworthy, therefore Genesis is literal history.

I think this is an important distinction.

Anyway, I look forward to responding to the rest of your posts.

-Daniel


(Christy Hemphill) #11

If you are talking about material naturalism as a philosophy, maybe so. But the evolutionary model, the idea of common descent with modification is a scientific model (not a philosophy) that is supported by lots of empirical data and consistent observations. It doesn’t make metaphysical claims.

The evolutionary model accounts for the diversification and common ancestry of living species. Abiogenesis, the creation of life from non-life, is not something the model speaks to.

This is just not a good definition of science. The idea that “historical sciences” are somehow not using the scientific method is something creationist apologists made up for rhetorical reasons.

http://biologos.org/blogs/deborah-haarsma-the-presidents-notebook/the-reliability-of-historical-science https://thenaturalhistorian.com/2015/06/18/is-historical-science-reliable-an-exploration-of-the-aig-origins-science-label/


(Christy Hemphill) #12

I agree with your premise, but I don’t see how the conclusion necessarily follows.


(George Brooks) #13

@dd35

Dan, I suppose I should have expected this response. I have quoted your point (1) because it mentions Genesis 1 to 11 which, of course, includes the Table of Nations in chapter 10.

Most historians agree that the Table of Nations is based on cities and people which, if they existed at all, existed in the 600’s BCE.

The Table of Nations is not a Bronze Age document.


(Christy Hemphill) #14

Poetry has to do with language, not information content. You could write about any subject in poetic form. It seems you are conflating the concept of fiction vs. non-fiction or figurative sense vs. literal sense with poetry vs. history. But there are overlapping concepts here. A person can write fiction using all the linguistic hallmarks of narrative history (like Lord of the Rings). A person can write about history in poetry (“The Battle of New Orleans” by Dunn). A person can use figurative senses of words and metaphors to talk about history in non-fiction accounts. A person can use literal senses of words in fiction and parables. I personally would not trust “anyone who could read a Bible’s” assessment of whether Genesis 1 was Hebrew poetry. I would trust someone who had studied ancient Hebrew and comparative ANE literature. In fact it you consult most Genesis commentaries written by Evangelical scholars, they will point out poetic aspects of Genesis 1. And even those that reject the idea that it belongs to the genre of poetry or hymn, (like conservative Evangelical Genesis scholar Bruce Waltke) still point out that it isn’t meant to be taken as a “stratightforward, sequential history.” (For example, page 6 of [this copy] (http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~moon/oregonstatefscf/fscf_apr_19_2006_acro5.pdf) of Waltke’s article “The Literary Genre of Genesis Chapter 1” from 1991, showing that this interpretation was not a “reinterpretation” based on recent scientific developments like the sequencing of the human genome.)


#15

As I read your posts I don’t see much evidence of the ‘struggle’ you mention in your opening post. Rather, they seem to be a bit of an apologetic for a literalistic approach to Genesis / Young Earth Creationism. Doing so is completely fine of course, however, I’d like to see where you struggle. For example, I accept Theistic Evolution and, at the same time, ‘struggle’ or at least see a weakness in understanding ‘the Image of God’ alongside TE. It is a point of tension for me.

Anyway, I’d like to push you on this comment. [quote=“dd35, post:10, topic:5328”]
I agree that there are many biblical passages that support “The apostolic message recorded in the New Testament” However, I did not say that Genesis is literal history, therefore Paul is trustworthy, On the contrary, I argued that since we agree that Paul is trustworthy, therefore Genesis is literal history.
[/quote]

Paul is trustworthy, therefore, people who have died are literally “under the earth” awaiting the Eschaton (See Philippians 2:10). It seems to me that the Philippians 2:10 text reflects what Paul, as a First Century Jew, actually believed - inspiration notwithstanding. In fact, many commentators posit that in Philippans 2:6-11 Paul is quoting an early Christian creed. He uses the poem pastorally in an attempt to get the Philippians church to get along with one another. Is it possible that Paul, as a First Century Jewish person living within his First Century cosmological system, does much the same thing when he picks up the “First Adam” language to make his soteriological point about Jesus as the Second Adam?

regards Larry Schmidt


(Jim Lock) #16

@dd35 Welcome, I hope you don’t feel piled on here and I wasn’t going to comment to avoid that risk. However, I do want to piggyback a little bit on @gbrooks9. My understanding is that the Hebrew marker indicating a proper name (person’s name) isn’t used in Genesis until Seth is born. If you really want to read Genesis literally, you have to use lower-case adam for the first several chapters. I don’t remember my source off the top of my head, but I can rustle it up if you would like.

I’d also challenge you to consider other genres besides Myth vs History. In another discussion here it was suggested that ‘saga’ might better describe Genesis 1-11. Its poetical in nature but still encapsulates a central truth.

No response necessary as I understand you’re quite busy. Just thought I’d add my thoughts for you consideration.

Respectfully,
Jim


#17

My feelings exactly. In fact, I hate to be inclined to think this way but @dd35’s “struggle” now appears to have been a bit of a “strategy”. (I would be delighted to be proven wrong in my suspicion.) I thought I was being implored to help a struggling brother by taking the time to explain my own journey of wrestling with these issues. Yet now I feel like I was wasting my time because dd35 was not asking for help. He was soliciting an audience so that he could advocate for his personal position. I’m not at all against someone preaching their beliefs here. I just like to know that upfront.


(Dan) #18

Hi All, thanks again for posting… I would like to make a clarification regarding these statements

As I expressed in my original post, I am in fact attempting to struggle with some questions I have on the nature of Biblical Authority Evolution, origins etc. I apologize if I have come off as preachy, I was mostly following up on your posts with the “Young Earth Creation” I have been taught, in hopes you could further clarify and better explain your views. I hope that you will continue to explain clearly and consistently present your views as they have already been so helpful in solving some of my questions regarding these topics.

Sincerely,
Daniel


(Jay Johnson) #19

I believe that you truly are struggling with these issues. However, if you want to find answers that are both spiritually healthy and intellectually satisfying, I suggest you “wipe the slate clean,” as much as that is possible, and start from scratch. In my view, you are so committed to your previous understanding of Scripture that all your mental energies are spent defending it, rather than asking the hard questions about the assumptions behind it.

The above quote is as good a place to start as any. This is a dogma taught by opponents of evolution that you seem to have accepted. Is it true? Yes, in a certain sense. The scientific method does, a priori, rule out any appeal to the supernatural as a cause. But this is the basic premise of all science, not just evolutionary science. All science – again, not just evolutionary science – must proceed on the basis of anti-supernaturalism. Otherwise, science itself would not be possible. Every time a scientist ran into data that did not fit a particular hypothesis, he/she could just chalk it up to the action of God. There would be no need to search for better theories to explain the data. God did it; I believe it, to coin a phrase.

The entire scientific enterprise – from discovering why things fall to the ground to why we get cavities – is dedicated to discovering the physical causes of the physical effects we observe in the world. Science cannot discover or explain supernatural causes of physical effects. It is an impossibility, a category mistake of the first order. Biology is no more religious than meteorology. All science is “godless,” in the sense that no researcher in any field is allowed to appeal to supernatural causes to explain the data he/she has observed. This is the scientific method, and it applies to every science, not just evolutionary science. Christians who oppose the conclusions of evolution on the grounds that it a priori rules out the involvement of God are effectively opposing evolution on the grounds that it follows the scientific method. One might as well criticize a dog because it does not behave like a cat.

Think through the issues carefully. The science is neutral, but its explanatory power is voluntarily self-limiting. The science of evolution, because it is science, cannot tell us whether God was involved in the process or not. By its very method, science is precluded from giving an answer to that question. The problem arises afterward, when the scientists present their conclusions, and the partisans on both sides begin arguing over how to fit the new information into an overall worldview. These are philosophical/theological questions that cannot be answered by science. Many Christian apologists make a big deal out of science’s a priori commitment to materialism. It is proper to point this out, but that insight should serve only to notify us of the limits of science, not to justify throwing out scientific results that do not agree with our own a priori commitments.

If you want to come to resolution in your struggles, I suggest you start by recognizing which of your own beliefs are a priori commitments, questioning their foundations and deciding whether they deserve such a lofty position. I would submit that many of the positions you’ve expressed so far are not fundamental to your Christian faith, but peripheral arguments that you’ve elevated to the status of accepted dogma.


#20

Thank you for your clarifications, @dd35. And I hope that others who have made this trek will post their faith-story.

I’m interested in learning more about your positions. To that goal there are several appearances of contradiction in our posts that I don’t understand"

OK, if you are not an expert on Hebrew literary genres, how do you know that Genesis 1 can’t be a hymnic tribute to the Creator in an obviously stanza-chorus style of repetition? The 3+3 and chiasmic structures are impossible to miss. Can you name any other “Hebrew narrative prose” in the Old Testament that is structured like Genesis 1? For someone who confesses to not being an expert, you sure sound dogmatic just a paragraph later. Can you explain this appearance of contradiction?

By the way, I’m not an expert on Hebrew literary genres, but I have plenty of academic colleagues who are and they’ve published prolifically in making the exact same points I’m making here. What evidence do you have which should convince me that they are all wrong?

Perhaps you would like to reword that paragraph. You make it sound as if “informational parallelism” is Hebrew poetry and Hebrew poetry is always informational parallelism. Is that truly what you mean? Of course Genesis 1 does not necessarily have identical attributes as texts in the books you mentioned. But your argument sounds similar to saying that Homer’s Odyssey doesn’t read like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, so therefore, Homer’s text isn’t poetry.

Just for the record, I (and several of my colleagues) recognized the poetic elements of Genesis 1 and 2 long before they gave any thought to “theistic evolution.” (I recognize that that defies the stereotype of the “apostasy of falling away from Young Earth Creationism” narrative told by Ken Ham & Co. but it’s the truth.)

I would say that it depends on what one means by “to interpret”. I didn’t need an expert on Hebrew exegesis and genres to understand that the texts declare God the Creator of everything and that there is no pantheon of gods and goddesses in charge of the various domains mentioned in Genesis 1.

Genesis 2, obviously, is not another “creation account”. It tells of a particular place in the Eden region where God planted a garden and we read of the first Imago Dei humans. We aren’t told their names but their descriptions/titles are “The red-soil man” and “the mother of life.” We are told of how their relationship with God was disrupted by their sin, and as a result, they were banished from the source of their immortality and forced to make a living in a “non-special place”, the natural wilderness that was outside of the garden. (Obviously, thorns and weeds and death had been out there all along but only after their banishment did they have to cope with a land which God didn’t special plant for them. There was no “second creation” after the Fall.)

I’m not hereby declaring that they were NOT “real people”. But I’m curious as to what evidence or declarations you used to determine the “real historical people” attribute for each of the people you named. (Obviously, simply referring to a named person does not in itself determine if that person was historical.)

This is the Argument from Personal Incredulity fallacy. The fact that you might not understand how the Bible could be “complete” or “comprehensible as to its full meaning” is irrelevant to the argument. Indeed, I would expect you to be far less familiar with other viewpoints than your own. To conclude that “Anybody who doesn’t read the Biblical text like I do has abandoned the Bible entirely” is certainly simply and certainly is easy to do—but is that really how you want to go about settling such important questions? Considering how much the “traditional view” of Genesis 1 and 2 has changed so radically in the hundred years (and even in the last 60 years), I find that tactic jaw-dropping in its naivete. Even a reading of the Scopes Monkey Trial transcripts will shock many readers into seeing how those “traditional” Young Earth Creationist interpretations of Genesis 1 and 2 hadn’t even become entrenched by the 1920’s. Of course, everybody wants to believe that their particular set of denominational views and traditions is the “true one” which dates back to the Apostles themselves! This cartoon captures the mindset perfectly:

Illogical. Are you not basically saying that all 66 books of the Bible must be the same genre—or all is for naught? Why would a collection of 66 books in three languages from a wide variety of authors and spread over thousands of years have to be uniform in genre? (Even Jesus’ preaching involved multiple genres.)

Keep in mind that I totally agree with so much of your theology. But your argument sounds like, “My way of looking at Genesis and the rest of the Bible makes perfectly good sense to me. Therefore, any other view must necessarily succumb to the perils of the slippery slope. All or nothing. My way or no way.”

By the way, a half century ago I would probably have 100% agreed with everything you wrote. What happened in the meantime? Lots of Greek and Hebrew study and also a lot of work in comparative linguistics, translation, and a lot of very tedious lexicographical and syntactical research, not only in the Bible but in other cognate languages and texts of the Ancient Near Eastern cultures. I began to realize that I had confused my church’s traditions with what the Bible actually stated. I was guilty of a lot of anachronism fallacies, such as confusing ERETZ with “planet earth” instead of land, nation, country, or even specific regions like the wildernesses of the Exodus. I even thought that “the circle of the earth” referred to their knowledge of a spherical earth! (Yes, I was that naive. I still had only a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew.)

Wow! So if your identification of genre in the early chapters of Genesis is wrong, the entire Gospel message collapses into “no meaning.” Is the Eternal Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ truly that brittle and vulnerable? Do you really want to take that kind of Argument from the Slippery Slope fallacy? It certainly makes for a dramatic sermon presentation. (Yes, I myself was guilty of that very rhetoric as an impassioned youth minister back in the 1970’s.)

Again, I’ve yet stated my views on the various people and events you’ve mentioned. But do you really think it is likely that the entire Gospel message’s value and validity rests on your ability and my ability to correctly identify the genre associated with ancient texts of languages and cultures of which neither you or I have intimate knowledge as native speakers? Isn’t it rather frightening to make salvation dependent upon such a complex array of skills and knowledge sets of which most people in human history will never ever grapple?

I understand the power of tribalism and tradition. It draws us to think of everything in terms of “we good, they bad” and the assumption that my group has everything correct and everybody who disagrees with my group is wrong—and not only wrong but dangerously destined to abandon the truth of the Gospel entirely. Do you truly think it wise to make our salvation that dependent on fallible humans to figure out such complexities to 100% perfection?

You have raised some very important topics and I appreciate your structured arguments.