Genesis is history and can't be forced to fit with evolutionary theory

Hi Ernie, welcome to the forum. I love your high view of the bible and your desire to be faithful to God’s perfect revelation and how you interpret it. That’s a massive area of common ground that we share. And clearly you want to be faithful to God’s word as you seek to understand science in the light of God’s revelation. Again common ground we share.

Meeting on that common ground, I’d like to run something by you to see what you think. Here in the British Isle, we have a rich history dating back thousands of years. And were we to begin an archaeological dig somewhere we might well discover artefacts and remains from that historical past.

Imagine then we picked a hypothetical English field and began a dig. What might we find? Well first we might come across evidence of Victorian farming practices (1831-1901), digger down so more and we might find evidence of a Tudor barn or farmstead (1485-1603). Keep going we might find remains of a Norman period (901-1204) battle. And on we go, down to the Vikings, below that the Romans, and so on. The point is that each of the artefacts we find would be neatly banded with the earliest at the lowest depth and the most contemporary at the top. From this, we would conclude that these remains and artefacts were deposited over several thousand years. It would be illogical to assume that they all died at the same time.

Compare this to a Soviet mass grave. There we would find, for argument’s sake, one hundred bodies all dumped on top of each other. Close examination might reveal that these people came from near and far, but all from a relatively short time period. Namely, from the time the grave was dug to when it was covered over. From this, we conclude that these remains were deposit as a result of a catastrophic event. Again it would be illogical to conclude that each person died and was buried over several thousand years.

From here we can make a comparison to the fossil record. Which of the two scenarios is most analogous to the fossils as we find them in the ground? Had these fossils been formed as a result of a single catastrophic event, namely, a global flood we would expect to find all sorts of animal and plants fossils, along with human remains all dumped alongside one another like a mass grave. At best, we might expect the fossils of heavy animals to be deposited lower down with lighter animals and plants near the surface.

This, however, is not what we find. What we find is a clear delineation of fossils into bands much like we find in archaeological digs. Most notable are two things, 1. The fossils become less complex the lower down the layers we go, 2. not one human skeleton has been found in the same layer as a dinosaur fossil. From this many conclude that, just like in archaeology, the lowest levels represent the oldest fossils. From this it would be logical to conclude that some time passed between the fossil deposited in the lowest depths and those at a higher level - perhaps over thousands of years, perhaps even longer (How that time frame might be determined is a separate question).

How then should we integrate this scientific information into our understanding of Scripture’s witness regarding the flood? Well, we could adopt one of the following positions.

  1. The flood event never happened . It is fiction present as fact, that the bible is unreliable, and should be discarded.

  2. The literal reading on Genesis 6-9 is what happened, and that science is mistaken. However, this conclusion would lead us to question many of our basic, foundational assumptions about the reliability of logic, intuition, the witness of our senses, reason, and our ability to come to any reliable conclusions about the past. Such conclusions would be more in line with the philosopher David Hume than the writers of scripture.

  3. Scientists are involved in a global conspiracy to undermine the bible. This option requires such an evidence threshold to be true that, should such evidence exist it would likely have already been suppressed by those involved in the conspiracy. Thus making the conclusion impossible to prove.

  4. The author Genesis is using common literary techniques of his time; such as rhetorical devices and interacting with ideas and texts that were known to his first audience. Given the span of time between us and the first readers, it is not unreasonable to conclude that these once commonly known elements in the text are now lost to us without engaging in extra-biblical research. And whilst not necessary for us to understand the key teaching of the text, they are required when understanding the historical details and literary devices and how the text fits with our contemporary knowledge of the world.

Clearly for you and I, option 1 is no option at all. So that leaves option 2-4, I wonder, which of these makes the most sense to you? I loved to hear your thoughts.

Every blessing, Liam

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And that is one of the many reasons along with the age of the earth that made me leave YEC and return to EC. If there was a global chaotic flood that killed a lot of stuff then we should see dino, human and animal bones all scattered about and not neatly layered. But yet we do and no one has found human or modern animal bones mixed with dino bones. SO thus the of dino’s living with modern humans and the world wide flood are proven false.

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Again. It depends on what your authority is and what you mean by the “early church”. As significant their contributions may be Early Church Fathers are not the word of God itself. The clearest and most simple reading of Genesis and the Apostles of the Old Testament and Jesus is that these were historical figures. Christianity is founded on the literal historical view of Genesis. Without a literal historical view of Genesis there is no Gospel. Literally.

What do you mean by this? In what way is the gospel dependent on a literal historical reading of Genesis? How are you defining “gospel?”

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Ernie,
I appreciate your thoughts, but what like to address a few of your statements , some of which have been touched on above, but perhaps deserve a little more attention and discussion. Most have been addressed on other posts, but I would like to order my thoughts a little if only for my own sake:

This tendency is almost universal, and happens whether students go to college or enter the workforce. In fact, “blue collar” laborers are among to most poorly churched in the USA. A recent article addressed how many Christian colleges address this by exploring how students can reconstruct their faith, and the faith they had borrowed their own. I think that problem of casting off faith is worse when students enter adulthood having never truly examined their Christian beliefs, and they then have no means of integrating it into their lives.

Actually, very few PhDs in the sciences do not accept an old earth and evolution in some form. Most of those that do are employed by employers that require such a statement as a condition of their job, primarily places like AIG and ICR, or fundamentalist colleges. The actual percentage is very small.
Lastly:

No, Christianity is founded on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. AIG and ICR are founded on the literal historical view of Genesis.

Just came across this article which is appropriate to the topic:

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I and many others on this forum are very familiar with Jason Lisle and the rest of his team. That ground has been well trodden. I believe him to be wrong. Actually, to borrow Wolfgang Pauli’s phrase, I believe him to be not even wrong. There I would be in the good company of nearly all astro physicists, including working research PhDs, nobel laureates, department heads and lab directors. In reality, there is no Uniformitarian interpretation of science, there is only science period. I do not completely dismiss presuppositional apologetics, but it is not science, catastrophic or otherwise.

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To read it as though addressed just to us in our time may be simple but I can’t imagine why anyone would recommend doing that when obviously it wasn’t. It seems more naive than simple to understand it that way.

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Jesus was often found of saying things like “have you not read…” and proceed to quote. So, I’ll quote some of him in answer to your statement, “in what way…” so we come to a conclusion that Jesus believed Genesis was not allegorical…

  1. Marriage, literal view
    “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female…Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” ([Matthew 19:4-5]

Did he just not understand science and evolution?

  1. Flood. Literal view
    “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” ([Matthew 24:37-39]

Now, did he, Christ just not have a good grasp on sedimentary deposits and the difference between a local lake and global flood?

Now, to me, there is nothing here that is figurative in the Mind of Christ, and we could go on and on… as Christ in the old testament is from the beginning of the old to the end of the new (jn 1.)

The most striking ones to me, His testimony of Abraham, who rejoiced to see his day, Moses, who “he wrote of me”, and David of course who “called me Lord”…
Jn 5:46, Jn 5;39, et…
‘‘Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me; for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?’’ ([Joh 5:46,47]
Jesus and the gospel stand on the viability of Gen.

Welcome to the forum, Randy. Good to have your thoughts in the conversation.

I have read this narrative, so I can understand what Jesus is referring to. The fact that he asks if I’ve read it doesn’t in any way mean “this narrative is literal history.” I don’t understand how you make that logical jump. I don’t have to believe that Adam and Eve were historical individuals to accept as true that God ordained marriage or to believe any of the other theological implications of that passage.

Of course Jesus did not understand ancient earth and evolution. He was a first century Jew.

Who is to say he would not have employed the same teaching strategy even if he had? He is making a didactic point about coming judgment. You can make that point effectively using a reference to Noah, whether Noah is a historical or literary figure.

Okay, but that is just your opinion about what was going on in Jesus’ mind.

For the record, I personally think that Gen 1-11 is a different category than the rest of the book. I think Abraham and David are historical figures.

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And here we go. A major reason why millions of young folks have lost faith in just the past decade.

I’m quoting this because it bears repeating and I can’t give it more than one “like.”

YEC is engaged in the opposite of evangelism. Is there a word for that?

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Wrong, Christianity was founded on the teachings of the risen and alive Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus teachings go off the Old Testament and show that He is Lord and Messiah. Also a lot of the Early Church Father’s took Genesis at in some spiritual and allegorical way, even the ones who somewhat took it literal didn’t see it in the way and fashion of how modern YECism takes it today. The main concern for the Early Church Father’s was that God made a material universe and that it was good in order to combat Gnosticism which said a material universe was bad and the Greco-Roman mindset of some who saw the universe as eternal. While Genesis is somewhat a historical book, it isn’t a scientific book on geology and cosmology and biology. The only thing it talks about is God making humans in His Image and forming a relationship with those early humans but sin gets in the way and separates us from God and how it’s the start of God’s plan of salvation. Genesis 1-11 goes into the issue of the broken relationship between man and God, man and other fellow humans and man and nature.

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I would call it counter-evangelism. and yes, YEC sets up the mindset of compromise, “either the Bible or science” when in truth we an have both.

There can be many beginnings, but Mark’s version of this saying is more specific, “from the beginning of creation” (10:6). So, how should we understand “creation”? Is creation an event that took six days? If so, the beginning of creation would be the first day, or at least surely not the last day of creation. But according to Genesis 1, it was only on the last day of creation that humans were made, male and female. Since that reading leads to Jesus saying something obviously wrong, perhaps we shouldn’t understand “creation” as referring to the entire creation event.

The context of both Matthew and Mark’s versions of this saying is divorce, a decidedly human activity. And Jesus is referring to what was made “male and female,” which is not rocks, bacteria, bees or dandelions. Jesus isn’t talking about all creation, he’s talking about humans. If we interpret this saying as speaking about human creation, it makes a lot of sense: our Creator made us male and female from our beginning. Science has no disagreement: there never was a time when humans existed without being male and female.

The trouble, perhaps, is that once the verse is interpreted in a way that doesn’t contradict Genesis, it also doesn’t contradict mainstream science. But should that really be a problem?

I don’t see anything about a global flood in that passage. If you think “swept them all away” could only mean a global flood, do you also think “destroyed all of them” in Luke 17:29 speaks of a global cataclysm? I think Luke’s parallel shows that Jesus had no problem using regional events to speak of what the day of his coming would be like.

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The Bible is a book. Evolution is reality. So the only question here, is what kind of book is the Bible? Fantasy? Comedy? Farce? I don’t think so! But that means that we don’t read it in the same way we do a comic book. It is a collection of many kinds of literature, including historical narrative, law, poetry, homily, prophecy, proverbs, apocalyptic, and letters. It is not history by any standard of modern historical scholarship. Nor is it a science text by any standard of modern scientific review.

So when the option arises to choose between the meaning of a particular portion, do we choose those which contradict reality like we do when we read a comic book? Or do we look for a more symbolic and metaphorical meaning of the text which tells us about something reality? For example, consider the following 4 passages.

  1. Genesis 3:1 "Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?”
  2. Genesis 4:14,17 “I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me… Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch.”
  3. Genesis 2:7 “then the Lord God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”
  4. Genesis 6:1-4 “When men began to multiply on the face of the ground, and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were fair; and they took to wife such of them as they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My spirit shall not abide in man for ever, for he is flesh, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.”

So the choice here is to make up things like sisters, incest, and butloads of children never spoken about in the Bible in order to make this contradict science, OR to see that some of these passages as a bit metaphorical in nature in order to agree with science.

  1. So is this really a talking snake or does the snake represent something else? Talking snakes belong to Walt Disney productions for children, like Robin Hood and not anything people are suppose to believe is real. Thus Christianity has long understood this “snake” to represent an angel referred to by the name “Lucifer” which fell from heaven to become our adversary “Satan.”
  2. So do we accept the scientific reality that the earth was filled with people for millions of years or do we bend over backwards trying to come up with excuses for why Cain was so afraid of all the people all over the earth which couldn’t possibly come from Adam and Eve? The fact is that science demonstrates conclusively that the earth was filled with people and people-like creatures for millions of years and so it makes perfect sense that Cain would be afraid of people out there who might kill him if he became a wanderer over the earth.
  3. So do we go with the Walt Disney comic book version of ancient necromancer creating golems of dust and bone, or do we go with something more informed by scientific discovery such as God creating mankind from the elements of the earth according to the laws of its nature and then giving them the inspiration (divine breath) which would make them human beings and His children?
  4. So do we go with the more common understanding of sons of God in the OT which refers to God’s chosen people or the very rare use for angels? The former then explains the wives of Cain and Seth without inserting sisters and incest into the text, while the latter helps prop up this anti-science interpretation of the Bible even if you have to insert the fantasy of angels having sex (contradicting the Bible elsewhere which says angels don’t even have a sex) with women and giving birth to fairy tale giants.

So the question becomes… just how far are we expected to bend over backwards to make the Bible disagree with the findings of science? And why? Why go to such trouble to oppose the results of honest scientific inquiry? Frankly I think this is about power, pure and simple. The religious establishment and Pharisees want to forbid science from asking certain questions so that they can dictate the answers to people which best serves their agenda to control the minds and thinking of those people.

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All the fossils are not in a single contemporaneous layer. For example, human fossils are not mixed with dinosaur fossils. While there were catastrophic Ice Age floods, none were global.

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I suggest this as an understanding of Genesis 2:

The story of the Garden of Eden is an Exodus story ( Genesis 2:4 – 3:24 ). It is the first Exodus story and the story that arches over and encompasses and undergirds the rest of the Bible. As an Exodus story, it is a story of God providing deliverance from bondage. The story tells about the ensuing roundabout journey into the freedom of the wilderness. It is in the wilderness where we have a continuous opportunity to discover God and to experience God and to learn how to be in relationship with God and through that relationship be resurrected and transformed into the here-and-now Kingdom of God.

The construction and activity of this magnificent chaotic universe guarantees the existence of free-willed sentient life. Without the power and opportunity to say “no”, free-will cannot exist. Within the Garden of Eden story; if Adam and Eve do not defy God, if they do not say “no” to the limitations imposed by God, they will not have free-will. The Garden of Eden will not be a utopia, it will become a zoo, the ultimate gilded cage – a life without freedom, a life without hope, a life without a future. Eden becomes a place of bondage.

Instead, by defying God, the Garden of Eden becomes an incubator and a proving ground. Being driven from the Garden of Eden into a stark wilderness is not a punishment – and it is not an Exile because we are never going back, should not go back, cannot go back. Our hope and our future is in front of us – toward wilderness and discovery and a journey with God.

The journey out of Eden is an Exodus. Like any Exodus, it is a roundabout journey away from bondage (and a place to which God never wants us to return and a place to which we should never want to return) into the freedom of the wilderness. Outside of Eden is where Adam and Eve and all the people of the Bible and all of us are to discover God. In the wilderness is where we learn how to be in relationship with God. Ultimately, how to be – here and now – a community of love and grace; of equality and inclusion; of justice as repair, rehabilitation, restoration, and hope for reconciliation; and of compassion as a personal virtue and a communal identity – how to be the Kingdom of God. The story of the Garden of Eden is not a story of failure, it is a story of success – for God and for us. It is not a story of condemnation, it is a story of affirmation. Free-will would be meaningless if God did not expect to be surprised by us.

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Ern, thanks for chiming in.

Surely ‘every word of God is tested’ (that is, proves true, see Proverbs 30:5), and as a pastor friend of mine once said, science will eventually catch up to where God’s word has been all along.

Mark

The Bible has nothing to do with science. It ain’t no science book. It is a book on moral and spiritual truths based on the prophets of God from the Old Testament and from Jesus Christ and the apostles from the New Testament.

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I think the intent of that affirmation is that we can bank on the fact that God is ultimately faithful to his promises. It doesn’t necessarily mean that every proposition you can hypothetically derive from a Bible verse has a positive truth value. The mustard seed isn’t the smallest seed, after all. Our faith is supposed to be in God’s character and Christ’s work, not in the idea that the Bible can (or will eventually when we know more science) pass any fact checking test we throw at it.

Science will not “catch up to” nor has it “passed up” the Bible because they aren’t on even the same path and it isn’t a competition. Science and biblical interpretation are two different ways of arriving at different kinds of truth.

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I agree that Genesis and the Bible is historical, but confusion is caused when we confuse different kinds of history. Genesis is the history or story of God’s plan to save humanity from its sin. We also have natural history which is the history of the physical nature in different forms. You can also have histories of ideas and institutions.

Genesis is a special divine history so it should not be confused with science. On the other hand vv. 1-5 are a remarkable snapshot of the Big Bang. Certainly the Creation is an important part of both God plan and science.

Science is generally against history, but evolution has force it to take it seriously which is part of the4 reason evolution is so controversial. It goes against the ahistorical character of traditional science and philosophy.

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