On science and creation narratives
Do we need to consider modern scientific discoveries when discussing the creation narratives?
The primary object of this newsletter is for me, a believer in Christianity’s basic tenets, to take a close look at the Bible using every tool available to uncover every stone. I take the Bible seriously but I also am a rational and skeptical person. It is this tension in my mind that creates a desire to look at the Bible deeply. As it has been said before, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.”
For many Christians, science and faith are opposing forces that can never be reconciled. You either believe in science or you believe in God and never shall the twain meet. There are some who try to incorporate modern scientific understanding into their theology, with mostly mixed success. Theories like theistic evolution are often interpreted into the text by saying each “day” of creation is actually a larger period of time. To me, this has never made sense because it’s clear common descent and evolution are not concepts found in the scriptures, and they would be completely foreign to the writers, editors, and readers of the Bible.
So, are we forced to make the decision fundamentalists demand? Faith or man’s science? I don’t think so. We can take the Bible seriously while also understanding and accepting the truth of evolution.
The first step is to understand the Bible is not a scientific text. For years, young earth creationists have been using the Bible to teach children about science but this fundamentally misunderstands the point of the text. The Hebrew Bible, especially the Torah, is a liturgical text. It exists to teach the people of Israel what to worship and how. I’ll write an entire post about this in the future so I don’t want to give too much away, but the days of creation are about worship not time. When you get this wrong you get the whole thing wrong.
We also need to understand for whom the Bible exists. If the text is a message from a creator God to his special chosen people, then it makes no sense to have hidden messages about evolution in it. No one in the 5th century BCE would understand that. No one in the early Christian period would either. It simply wasn’t a part of their vocabulary.
When we understand that the Hebrew Bible is a liturgical text, we easily see why we need to put away scientific concepts. The Bible is about worship, that’s what it’s teaching first and foremost. Whether or not you believe in common descent is irrelevant.