But Evolutionary Creation does not automatically equal no historical Adam.
I’d absolutely agree with you that origins are extremely important – I’m just not convinced Genesis 1 is necessarily teaching us “things about the universe” so much as it is teaching us about God and his relationship to us. Genesis 1 also reads in a very poetic fashion, which the other chapters don’t, so I think that often plays into the assumption that the days need not be literal (it seems the numbers 6 and 7 carry more weight than the time periods assigned to them).
Just speaking for myself here, but I don’t think rejecting a historical Adam is necessary. I’m still working through that, and I think both sides have some merit, but I also have no problem seeing Adam as a real person – but there are different views on that subject here. BioLogos has some great articles on different theological topics, and they have helped me even when I don’t 100% agree. As @Christy said, you don’t have to take a position on this topic right away – it’s worth reading about. I wish you the best as you learn.
Oh, I wasn’t saying they were. You were arguing against a modern perspective (evolution is a fact, the earth is ancient) because it wasn’t held by Christians of the past. Many aspects of our modern perspective (women are equal, slavery is wrong, colonialism deprives indigenous populations of rights and dignity) were not held by Christians of the past. My point was that we don’t have to have all the same attitudes and beliefs as Christians of the past.
But they flat out lie about science and scientists. So why should we trust them?
Any idea can be used by broken people in hurtful ways. I know plenty of women who have had Scripture used in very domineering ways to keep them in abusive marriages and to keep them from reporting sexual assaults. I wouldn’t say that means there is something inherently abusive about Scripture, just that like anything else, it can be misused.
Using a culturally contextualized hermeneutic does not point you to an author. That would be a job for textual criticism, which is a different discipline. Who you believed the author was would affect what you thought the context and intent was. There are conservative Bible scholars who use a culturally contextualized hermeneutic based on more conservative textual criticism assumptions (like Mosaic authorship of the Penteteuch) and other Bible scholars who use a culturally contextualized hermeneutic based on different theories of authorship. I’m pretty sure JEDP (at least the version that was originally presented) has largely been discredited at this point. But that doesn’t mean everyone just went back to “Moses transcribed God’s words on Mt. Sinai.” We have a lot better understanding of orality and literacy and the role of written texts and how they were transmitted in the ancient world now. You should check out Walton and Sandy’s Lost World of Scripture. They are conservative Evangelical scholars.
It would take a lot of work to convince me that the construct of inerrancy that came out of the Fundamentalist reaction to the theological liberalism of the early twentieth century was the same concept held by Clement, Irenaeus, and Augustine. I don’t believe it is. Inerrancy as people describe it today emerged in a particular social and historical context and relies on modernist epistemology that did not exist in the time of the church fathers.
Accepting inerrancy and reading literally are not one and the same. John Walton affirms inerrancy as do many other Evangelical scholars who believe the best exegesis goes way beyond a literal reading.
I think inerrancy is basically a political term at this point and I don’t use it. But I think the Bible is the inspired true and authoritative word of God and the rule of faith and practice for Christians.
You have been a delightful conversation partner and I hope you persevere in wrestling through these issues until you come to a place of peace, wherever that ends up being.
What would I say to dissuade you?
What does it matter? Do you think your salvation depends on getting the answers to such questions right? I hope not. Are you a biologist or biology teacher? I hope not.
I will only say this… I wouldn’t… I couldn’t… be a Christian without evolution. I could never worship the monster that some people describe God as – usually a consequence of the excuses they make for evil and suffering in the world. If such a creature throws me in hell, I would give thanks – thanks that I would not be acceptable to the thing as well as relieved that I would not have to be in its disgusting presence.
I would not mind if fairies, ghosts, psychics or UFOs were real. I have no reason to believe they are real. But it would be exciting if they really did exist. But even though though the YEC universe has a similar fantastical character to it, I would not feel good about a reality where demons went around arranging evidence to deceive us.
I’m not sure Ayala is even a professing Christian these days even though once upon a time he was a priest. Kenneth Miller is Catholic and comes at things differently than Francis Collins, who is an Evangelical. You probably shouldn’t assume they all believe the same thing about divine action.
I couldn’t agree more. Many of the evolutionist Christians go too far in my opinion. Genesis may not be history (let alone science) according to modern standards but the whole book clearly has history as at least one of the purposes for the story it is telling. It is all about the origin of things. Where did our world come from? Where did we come from? Where did evil and sin come from? Where did the multiplicity of languages, cultures, and nations come from. But most importantly, for this occupies most of the book, where did the Israelites come from. It is setting the stage for the stories which follow that we may learn from God’s relationship with these people.
But there is a middle ground between only literal Bible and only science describes what is real. Where to draw the line may be difficult but here is a principle which may help: look for what gives the text the most meaning. Now consider the following points remembering that I am NOT trying to dissuade you from YEC, I am just trying to illustrate the principle.
- You don’t acquire knowledge by eating a fruit.
- Nothing in the Christian experience supports the idea that God would be opposed to understanding the difference between good and evil. Quite the opposite.
- The eternal life which God promises us is also not something you acquire by eating a fruit.
- Snakes don’t talk.
Because of these disconnects with our lives, there is great potential for increasing the meaning of the story if you don’t insist on taking them literally anymore than you would take many of the parables of Jesus literally. Besides, the Bible even tells us in two of these cases, that they have a deeper meaning than the literal understanding. The last of these, number 4 is easiest because we have other passages in the Bible (Revelations) that tell us that the ancient serpent and deceiver of the whole world is the devil and Satan who was a leader of angels which were cast out of heaven. This makes the story more meaningful than the talking snake, for it shows his role in the fall of mankind. The rest of the Bible is also helpful in the case of the tree of life for it is spoken of elsewhere. But I will let you look those up yourself. The others are not so easy, but the point remains that more is going on in this narrative than a straight forward historical account. It can actually be more meaningful, if it is not taken literally. But to be sure, this can go too far if the story is taken so metaphorical that it longer gives the promised explanation of origins.
So what does any of this have to do with contradictions with the findings of science? This is another disconnect with modern life which has the unavoidable effect of making the Bible less meaningful to people today. It gives good cause for a great deal of people to dismiss the whole book out of hand as nothing but nonsense. If it sounds too much like a fantasy and fairy story then they have little reason believe it is anything more than that. Thus the Bible is far more meaningful to people if there is no such contradiction with science.
For the whole treatment of Garden of Eden story in Genesis along these lines see here.
I agree with this. There is a lot of research on how our brains work that suggest that metaphors are not just some fancy thing writers do to spice up their stories if they feel like it. There is also a wrong idea that the meaning of a metaphor lies somehow beneath the metaphor in a literal proposition that a metaphor encodes figuratively. But this isn’t actually how it works. Metaphors are foundational to how humans think about the world.
Often when you try to put a metaphor into a basic proposition you actually lose meaning instead of clarifying meaning. Take the cognitive metaphor ANGER is HEAT. Relying on this metaphor, you can describe someone as “boiling over” “blowing up” “smoldering with rage” or “simmering beneath the surface.” All of these convey rich layers of meaning that are lost if you give the basic proposition “He was angry.”
So when God parades a host of animals in front of Adam and asks him to choose a partner, and he can’t find one, and God puts Adam into a sleep and creates Eve from his rib, you can take that literally. (There was no chemistry between Adam and the zebra, but when God used a miraculous process to create him a lady friend out of his rib, he was really happy.) Or you can let those images communicate something closer to what they probably communicated to the original audience, in a culture where stories often involved the gods supernaturally revealing the hero’s counterpart. The sleep would have probably been understood as a divinely given vision of truth, not literal supernatural surgical anesthesia. The word for rib used elsewhere in Hebrew means “side” or “half.” So God is revealing to Adam that Eve is his “other half,” his counterpart, his life helper, the one he didn’t find in the parade of animals.
Instead of teaching that females are somehow derivative of males, which is a meaning some people take away from a literal reading, you get the profound truth (that would have been counter-cultural in a time when women were considered men’s property) that Eve was presented to Adam as his partner and counterpart, the ezer kenegdo he needed to do the mission God gave him in the garden. Ezer means helper, but not in a subservient sense. It is most often used for God in the Bible and is also used for kings who came to rescue other kings when they needed help in a battle. Kenegdo has the idea of an interlocking piece and speaks of the mutual benefit and interdependence that God designed men and women to live in. These are deep and enduring truths that can shape our lives and relationships today.
I believe it makes much more sense that God is trying to teach us about who we are as men and women and how we should relate to each other instead of believing God was simply satisfying our curiosity about the process used to physically form the first woman in history.
I’m just going to add some points of information into this conversation. Origen, the most influential Christian of the 3rd century, said Genesis was not literal. So did Augustine in the 4th century, perhaps the most important Christian of the Roman period. Then, the most important (or at least right up there) Christian of the medieval period, Thomas Aquinas, also ruled out 6 day creation. Allegorical interpretations go way back and have had an expansive range of influence before evolution.
The only thing in origins that is important is Adam and Eve. All the rest is a matter of varying the context.
Looking at the original question, and in general with questions like this, I am inclined to point you toward good information and let you decide on the basis of that rather than try say something to change your mind.
I think the main thing you have to examine is the “young earth” in the statement, as all Christians are creationists of one sort or another. You seem in your opening statement base the age of the earth on your interpretation, which means you have to examine if that interpretation is correct or not, and what problems each view has. If you are looking at the whether a young earth is a reasonable conclusion, you have to look and learn about the various dating techniques, the size of the universe and measurement of light, geology, archeology, and perhaps even genetics, though that gets into evolution, which is a secondary question at this point.
When I looked at such things, I realized that the earth and universe was ancient, and only some form of old earth creationism was possible to be compatible with a true and holy God. However, you have to look and reach whatever conclusion you wind up with yourself. Just be aware of the tendency towards confirmation bias, and avoid reading only those who agree with your leaning.
You are right. If you take a “pre-evolution stance,” you cannot claim that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, because the Bible is not the inerrant Word of God. Jesus is the inerrant Word of God. John 1:1:smiley: Evolution is not a stance. Evolution is a fact.
The problem seems to be that Evangelicals think that the Bible must be absolutely true for Jesus to be true. The fact is that Jesus is absolutely true and the truth of Jesus confirms the facts of the Bible, not the other way around. Thus evolution cannot disprove Jesus, but actually evolution supports the fact that the universe was created through and by the Logos, Jesus Christ.
Man, you have really drunk the Kool-Aid, haven’t you?
Hi Hman! This is a great thread you’ve started.
Take it quite seriously? Absolutely. But that wouldn’t be reason to reduce it to its plain literal sense. I think it would help to look at other places where someone writes from a secluded location due to God’s supernatural inspiration. Maybe John writing Revelation on the island of Patmos by God’s guidance? How straight-forward was God’s revelation to him?
I’d argue that the rule rather than the exception when God supernaturally reveals something is that it’s going to be somewhat psychedelic. The prosaic stuff more often comes when someone writes as an eyewitness (e.g. Nehemiah) or when they’re compiling together historical accounts and testimony (e.g. I-II Kings, Luke). Even Jesus’ words seem to fit this: his favourite vehicle for truth was a good story. What if the God who inspired Genesis is the same?
There’s also another way of looking at this. Instead of finding where else a part of Scripture is revealed directly by God rather than being based on sources or eyewitnesses, you could look recursively for where within Genesis there are parts that are visions within the overall vision we’ll presume was given to Moses. There are quite a few dreams in Genesis. They aren’t blandly literal as to what they represent. In fact, the point often seems to be that they require interpretation, and that interpretation only comes through God’s Spirit.
Anyway, I think rejecting a plain-sense reading is far easier if one holds that Genesis was written by Moses through divine revelation. If, instead, it was composed from various sources pieced together by an inspired editor (or layers of such editors), I think we would have more reason to expect at least some parts to be closer to a form of ancient history.
It’s not the kool-aid… it’s the intransigence of the opposition…
My drug of choice is diet Coke or Pepsi; I’m afraid it affects my dogmaticism too. Sorry! These are good discussions.
Not real sure I follow you there, but interesting to consider. If put together in the 5th - 6th centuries BCE, as seems likely given the use of nation names that did not exist in Moses time, you feel it is more likely to be historical? I do understand your thought that an inspired vision as the origin may be more symbolic and less literal, I think. But please elaborate a bit on your thoughts for the benefit of those of us who are a little slow on the uptake.
It would seem that you need to choose between the traditions of men or the demonstrable facts of the world around us.
Dr. Francis Collins wrote a wonderful essay about evolution and other scientific discoveries that is geared towards his fellow christians. You may want to give it a read:
If it was put together from any kind of pre-existing material, whether written or oral, that may place it in a different category than a divine vision. Some parts could still derive from a vision, but the whole of Genesis would not.
From my reading of Scripture, if Genesis is entirely a divine vision revealed to Moses that does not rely on any pre-existing sources, I wouldn’t expect a straightforward historical narrative. Perhaps history told through a symbolic story that reveals God’s perspective on events. Perhaps a glimpse behind the curtain to see how supernatural actions affect earth in ways no human witness could physically perceive. This is what I see especially in parts of Daniel, Ezekiel, Job and Revelation. But in a vision I wouldn’t expect a prosaic recounting of past events (such as Ezra, Nehemiah). Of course prosaic recountings are also shaped by the writer and what they choose to focus on, but the style is still quite different.
Personally, I don’t think Genesis was written by Moses due to a divine vision. I think there were written and spoken sources from Israel’s cultural memory, creative and thoughtful editors, and God’s Spirit working through all these people and pieces to give us what God wanted us to have.
The point I wanted to make, though, is that if one does view Genesis as the result of a divine vision, it’s actually simpler to argue that we should expect symbolism and a non-literal style than under a more convoluted view of Genesis’ origin. (The problem, of course, is that Genesis as a whole doesn’t look like other divine visions. Visions don’t usually have genealogies, for instance.)
Sort of. You have to consider that in light of the fact that during the first millennium nobody had any reason to believe in an old earth. Any of us who so strongly support an old earth would have been YECs in the first millennium.
What is related but demonstrably false is the oft-made claim that a six ordinary 24-hour day view of creation was universal in the early church. Not only was it not a universal view, it is also true that the early church didn’t make a fuss about it–since the early creeds emphasize the who (God) and the what (created) but not the how or when.
It is really only with the advent of the ToE that a segment of the church started to elevate six-day creation to a cardinal doctrine.
Edit: The quote insisted on appearing to come from T_aquaticus. I did my best to fix it.
Thanks, that clarifies it for me, and I tend to agree with you.