Why reject Genesis on science but not the historical resurrection?


#1

My question to the author of this article stems from statements that he has made: “And the scientific evidence for evolution and an old earth grew steadily more compelling,” and, “None of this really challenged my faith, which is not rooted in a certain interpretation of Genesis, but (among other things) in the historical resurrection of Jesus and my personal encounter with divine grace. In fact, opening myself up to the scientific consensus gave me a new pair of glasses through which to see the beauty and truth of Christian doctrine.”

In my mind, the scientific evidence for a bodily resurrection of a person who has been dead for three days is sorely lacking. Scientific evidence would point to the resurrection account as being more along the lines of a myth or fable, and as the author describes his view of Genesis, not “intended to be read as a scientific description of events in natural history.”

So why and how could anyone decide that Genesis is not to be taken as a scientific description based on one’s understanding of science but believe that the resurrection of Christ is to be taken as a scientific description when it flies in the face of established science?


How I Finally Told My Church I’m an Evolutionary Creationist—and How I Should Have
(Christy Hemphill) #2

Welcome to our forum. I moved your question to its own thread so it would hopefully get more attention.


(Randy) #4

@mentalmagicman, Welcome to the forum. I’m not from Biologos, but appreciate everyone’s input here.
Maybe you can answer some of the following questions as an introduction sometime:

  1. What is your background?
    2Specific interests?
  2. Study favorite?
  3. Which book is in your opinion the most influential in the last 10 years (scientific or theological)?
  4. Which mainstream scientific or theological belief, in your opinion, most needs to stop?
  5. You go into your favorite bar or restaurant. Which one is it, and what do you order?

To answer your question, I don’t know the answer fully, but believe that the Bible is made of many, many different types of literature and by many different authors. The genre of the OT and specifically of Genesis 1-11 (not really intended to say how, but why) is much different from that of the NT, which is eyewitness (or close to it), and based on many different accounts, much closer to the source.

Lamoureux’s posts and Enns’ work (Inspiration and Incarnation) have much to do with this. Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation


How I Finally Told My Church I’m an Evolutionary Creationist—and How I Should Have
(Andrew M. Wolfe) #5

Science describes the general course of how the natural world works. It can tell us the general behavior of, say, light, or genes, or tectonic plates. By this definition, science cannot rule on one-off miracles that suspend the natural order. This sort of question falls to other disciplines, like logic, history, philosophy, epistemology, metaphysics and theology, literary analysis and hermeneutics, etc. Science can suggest whether something is plausible or not, based on what generally happens. But then again, even in 33 AD, people knew that resurrection wasn’t plausible, and that dead people stay dead.

So, without trying to be cheeky here, I might humbly suggest a slight revision of what you said:

From this point, one can go on to debate the historical and literary-genre evidence. But — unlike, critically, the science of creation — I would suggest that this isn’t really a question on which science can definitively rule, because nobody is trying to say that resurrection is part of the normal state of affairs that science describes.


(Dave) #6

For me, it comes down to the genres of the books of the Bible. In regards to the NT, Luke (Lk 1:1-4) and John (Jn 21:24) are explicit historical and eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The question of the resurrection comes down to whether or not you accept the testimonies of the writers, not if it’s scientifically possible or not. The Bible is very clear that the resurrection is the result of the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:11), which is outside the realm of scientific knowledge.

I believe the purpose of Genesis, particularly the creation accounts, is to reveal that there is one God who is the creator of all things, and sovereign over creation. It is not meant to be taken as a literalistic play-by-play of how all things were made.


(Joshua Hedlund) #7

I used to ask the same question. The key to my understanding was that this point of view is not (as I once wrongly assumed) denying miracles of creation because it is denying the outright possibility of miracles, be it at creation or the resurrection, but rather it is denying certain miracles of creation because it is claiming that there is scientific evidence that certain miracles related to creation did not happen, while there is no comparable scientific evidence that the resurrection did not happen - for example, no evidence of a tomb confirmed to be Jesus’s tomb with bones confirmed to Jesus’s still in it, or something like that.

In fact, within the diversity of old-earth and evolutionary views there is still much room for miracles even during the creation process, such as the cause of the Big Bang, perhaps some form of guidance during the evolutionary process, and even perhaps the special creation of Adam and Eve after billions of years of other activities. A key tenet underpining all of these views, however, is that the truth of the Bible (“special revelation”) should never conflict with the truth of nature (“general revelation”), and that if any strong evidence of the latter that would conflict with the former may imply not a problem with the former itself, but rather with a particular interpretation of it.


#8

It is pretty much what Joshua said. It is not that we don’t believe that God could have done the world in seven days by special creation if he wanted it. It is just that given all the contrary evidence, if God has done that, then he is purposefully deceiving us by creating fake evidence. Which doesn’t seem like something God would do. The resurrection, on the other hand, has no such contrary eviedence other than the fact that it is an extraordinary claim (as every miracle, by definition is)


(Randy) #9

Well summarized!


(Mitchell W McKain) #10

I guess the simplest answer is… I don’t.

I take Genesis as generally historical (hardly by modern standards however), but not naively literal, and certainly nothing like a science text or a “creation for dummies” book. The story is focused what went wrong – on why the world exists but not about exactly how it came to be what it is, other than with regards to what went wrong.

In regards to the resurrection I follow Paul in 1 Cor 15 which teaches a bodily resurrection to a spiritual body and not to a physical body. I don’t see what science has to do with that either.


#11

Do you reject a physical resurrection?


(Mitchell W McKain) #12

I am tempted to tell you to read 1 Cor 15, for I cannot see how Paul could be more plain about this. But, unfortunately I know better. Now matter how plain something is, people often refuse to see what is right there in front of them. He teaches that resurrection is a bodily resurrection to a spiritual body not a physical body – saying over and over again, spiritual not physical, spiritual not physical, spiritual not physical… So the answer is NO, I do not contradict Paul on this point to say that the resurrection is physical.

42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall[b] also bear the image of the man of heaven. 50 I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

And from this we can also go a very long way in nailing down the difference between physical and the spiritual.

  1. Verse 42: The physical is perishable and spiritual is not perishable. Why? Because the physical is an existence based on the laws of nature (mathematical equation of space and time) which makes everything subject to destruction. The spiritual is not based on these laws of nature.
  2. Verse 47: The physical is made of the stuff of the earth and the spiritual is made of the stuff of heaven. The stuff of the Earth and the whole universe are molecules, atoms, and particles. And you might well ask what do these weird things have to do with who we are? They are frankly like the pixels which things are made of in a movie you are watching – like a medium of representation which has nothing to do with what the movie is about. So I am willing to bet that stuff of heaven which spiritual bodies are made of is not like that at all. My thinking is that what the spiritual is made of are the choices made by living things.
  3. Verse 44: The physical is weak and the spiritual is powerful. The physical is limited to the laws of nature which care nothing about what you want or care about. But I think the spiritual exists by its own nature where your choices, values and desires are of primal importance.
  4. Verse 45: “the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” But it should be known that as a life giving spirit like the Father Himself, the resurrected Jesus must not be confused with ghosts, which, if you believe they exist, are dead spirits – really nothing but shadows, like a badly blurred photograph.
  5. Verse 43: “Sown in dishonor, raised in glory.” So resurrection is not just about a transition from physical to spiritual but about a rebirth from the degradation of sin into the loving hands of God. If there are such a things as ghosts let them be a warning of what is waiting for those whose spirit remains dead.
  6. Verse 50: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” This may seem to contradict Luke 24:39 where Jesus says… "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” But I think the point is not that resurrected Jesus is physical, but that we must not think that a living spirit is lacking in reality or substance. The physical is actually more like the image on a tv screen while the spiritual, like God, is the reality behind the mere representation.

(Randy) #13

je pense qu’elle a parle de la résurrection de Jésus

I think she was talking about the resurrection of Jesus, which was thought to be physical.
It would be an interesting study to discuss the difference in Resurrection between Jesus and the eight or more more other resurrections documented in the Bible. but I don’t want to get into too much of a red herring. Blessings.


(Mitchell W McKain) #14

But Paul quite clearly includes the resurrection of Jesus in his discussion of the nature of the resurrection.


(Bill Adams) #15

Two things have stood out to me as I’ve considered this question. The first is the Jewish view of what happens to the soul after death; the second is the literary evidence in the epistles and gospels for the evolution of the doctrine of the resurrection.

The Jews believed that when a person died their soul went down to Sheol, the place of the dead. This was not a place of eternal judgment (unlike hell) but a place where one loses all agency. Psalm 115:16-18 is a good example: “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to humankind. It is not the dead who praise the Lord, those who go down to the place of silence.”

I think it’s quite reasonable to say that the earliest understanding of Jesus’ resurrection was that God did not leave him in Sheol, but exalted him to heaven. This is in line with Paul’s very clear teaching that the resurrection is spiritual, not physical.

What I really find interesting is reading the New Testament in chronological order paying particular attention to the doctrine of the resurrection. You will quickly see that the earliest writings put very little emphasis on the resurrection. The earliest Gospel (Mark) barely mentions it. When it is mentioned in the Gospel there is good evidence that the phenomenon is something other than physical as the disciples don’t recognize him, he walks through walls, suddenly disappears, etc. The main focus of the earliest writings was not the resurrection, but the crucifixion and imminent (and I mean VERY imminent) return of Christ.

That being said, there are clear places in the Bible that seem to talk about Jesus’ physical resurrection. There isn’t much need to discuss the empty tomb and the conspiracy to explain it away if there is only a physical resurrection. So were these people lying? I don’t think so, but I do think they (eventually) remembered it wrong. After years of talking about Jesus spiritual resurrection, it’s quite possible the memory evolved into the idea of a physical resurrection. That would explain why they told themselves they didn’t quite recognize him at certain times, and some of the other strange bits.

I know that almost any devout Christian reading that last paragraph will interpret it as a weak attempt to explain away the heart of the gospel message. I would have had the same opinion myself not long ago. Before you dismiss it though, I would recommend doing some research into human memory and how malleable it is. For a quick and fascinating summary, listen to Malcom Gladwell’s podcast “Revisionist History.” Episode 3 (A Polite Word for Liar) and 4 (Free Brian Williams) of season 3 will be particularly relevant to this discussion.


#16

Genesis isn’t being “rejected”, it’s being correctly interpreted in its literary and historical background. It’s allegory, not history, and no one here rejects the allegories of Genesis.


#17

No, I was talking about the resurrection of everyone at the end of the age. A physical resurrection is part of orthodox Christian tradition. Gnostics reject a physical resurrection, for they see all matter as evil.


(Randy) #18

Oh, I get it. Well, didn’t we talk once about what happens with cannibals and those who have been eaten by people? I really don’t want to get my own body back, thank you very much–but it doesn’t really matter what I think. God will figure that out. :slight_smile:

I came in toward the end of that thread on the Resurrection, I think. It’s one of those things that I’m glad I don’t have to worry about.

it’s interesting how emphasis changes over time–the Gnostics were a problem, so Paul and the others argued against the licentiousness and frank weirdness I think, that they had.

What do you think, @beaglelady, about going deeper on the other thread posted by @jpm, and taking on some broccoli? What is your favorite passage on that/study? Wright? Beatitudes?


#19

Well, like I said, a physical resurrection is part of the orthodox Christian tradition. Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox believe it. Evidently the belief is waning in Evangelical circles.

Back in May, around the feast of the Ascension, I posted some thoughts on the resurrection from my pastor:, the Rev. Joel C. Daniels, PhD:

We continue to celebrate the Ascension for the ten days between that day and Pentecost. The bodily ascension is as essential to Christian salvation history as the bodily resurrection. And both are as scandalous to the pagan religious imagination as the bodily incarnation, the idea of God taking on flesh. This isn’t a new scandal. Along those lines, I was recently sent an article on Evangelical Gnosticism , written by a friend of a friend, on the widespread Gnosticism of modern life - even and especially within Christian communities.

Gnosticism here is defined as a distrust of, and even feelings of disgust at, the body and embodiment. But, as the article points out, the source of sin isn’t the body, but the soul. This has been the classical Christian theological position since the time of the patristic authors, including Augustine and Cyril of Alexandria. To summarize Augustine, “to see the flesh as more sinful than the soul is to follow the way of the flesh.” The author writes

The apostolic tradition carries a radical message that defends the truth of human personhood against the secular tide of pessimism about the flesh. Safeguarding that message requires entering into the mysteries of the Incarnation and the Resurrection…


(Mitchell W McKain) #20

I think you are wrong. I think all of these denominations believe in the Bible and so they don’t contradict what Paul says so easily as you do. I think you are confusing bodily resurrection with physical resurrection. Paul certainly says it is a bodily resurrection but that it is a resurrection to a spiritual body not a physical body.

Well as much as I like to flatter myself that the Evangelicals have a deeper commitment to the Bible than these other denominations. I really think the problem here is you. But let’s investigate.

I looked it up in the Catholic Catechism and nowhere are the words “physical resurrection” to be found. Again like Paul, it is a bodily resurrection not a physical resurrection. 996 it says the life of a person continues in a spritual fashion after death. And in 999 it says Christ will change our lowly body into a spiritual body.

Next I looked it up in the Westminster confession. There it says, “the dead shall be raised up, with the selfsame bodies, and none other (although with different qualities).” Again the words "physical resurrection is not to be found. Instead it says they are the same bodies but with different qualities. I take this to mean they will be recognizable as our bodies but in accordance with the words of Paul in the Bible they will be spiritual (imperishable, powerful, and made of the stuff of heaven) rather than physical (perishable, weak, and made of the stuff of the earth).

For the Eastern Orthodox, I went to this site. And immediately it went to 1 Corinthians 15 just like I do and bases its explanation entirely on what Paul says there. What a surprise, another issue on which the Eastern Orthodox think just like I do.


(Mitchell W McKain) #21

All the material substance of the body is continually being recycled. It is the pattern not the actual matter which makes us who we are. But there I go trying to be scientific and reasonable, when it seems like a lot of these Christians go out of their way to contradict science and common sense whenever they can – even if they have to contradict the Bible itself to do so. Sometimes I think it is like a publicity gig where they do it just get attention. Other times I wonder if it is like they think the sacrifice of their intelligence is the price of salvation.