Sometime in the next couple of weeks I will have the privilege of meeting Harold Becker Jr. He teaches at Portland State University. My wife is one of his students and she is the one who connected us. I’m excited because (1) he is a Christian and (2) he teaches science at a major state university.
I don’t struggle with reconciling most of what Scripture says about origins with the findings of modern science. I read Genesis 1 as ancient cosmology which is much more concerned with the phenomenological and theological. If it took billions of years for something to happen that Scripture poetically describes as occurring in six work days for the Almighty these two things don’t seem irreconcilable to me.
It is Genesis 2 that is the somewhat problematic for me. I don’t know much (which is why I am excited to meet Becker), but I do know that scientists almost unanimously agree that it is does not seem possible for all humans to have come from one couple, that the genetic evidence suggest that is is absurd to argue that the first woman came from the side of the first man, that there was a long process of species dying and surviving from which humans emerged rather the a pristine world where there was no death until “the Fall”.
Even with that I think I could read this story figuratively (Adam representing early humans emerging from the early and becoming engendered, or something like this) with ease if it were not for the writings of the Apostle Paul wherein he seems to argue that sin and death make sense because of a man named Adam who is the father of us all. Christ is the one who brings us from the sphere of death where Adam left us to the sphere of life in himself. It seems possible to make this metaphorical as well, but it’s difficult to maintain the implications of Paul’s anthropology if Adam is was not real.
Let me note that I don’t want to be on the wrong side of what is true, and I imagine many readers of this blog share that desire, whether you affirm a historical Adam or not. We know Israel told their story while being mocked by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans, especially for their monotheism. I don’t want to be one who caves because of culture. That being said, the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and even ancient Hebrews had many, many odd beliefs about the gods, the cosmos, and human origins, so I don’t want to be someone who holds to mythology as science because I’ve misunderstood how God intended Scripture to function and why he allowed the creation narrative to be told as it is told in Scripture. Again, I assume most readers of this blog have a similar desire.
So I want to have this discussion and I’d like to include readers of this blog. Last week I asked what events recorded in Scripture must be true to history for Christianity (and Judaism) to remain true (see “How much of your Christianity can be ahistorical?”). This post continues in that thread.
Why do you affirm or deny the literalness of the biblical creation account, especially human origins? How do you reconcile your Christianity with modern science?
While I open this post to those who are not Christians I do ask that you respect those who are asking these questions (i.e. no comments like “You wrestle with this because you are stupid religious fanatics.”) because this topic can lead to more heat that light quickly. As much as is possible, let’s be respectful though I don’t mind if you are firm in your convictions. What would be most helpful is if you explain why you believe what you believe and what evidence/research/presuppositions led you there. We can all benefit from that.
Also, if you’d be interested in writing a guest post on this subject click here.
Brian, I’m interested in finding out how you view Gen. 1 as poetry. In my studies, that’s actually one of the things that I’ve hit a wall on. Is it because you view poetic description as author’s intent, or because I have less of an understanding of what Hebraic poetry looks like? Inquiring minds want to know. Thanks bro.
@Tony : It may be better to say something like “poetic narrative” rather than poetry since some people take issue with Genesis 1 being poetry because it doesn’t fit the examples of poetry found elsewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures. Some elements would be the six day categories; how days one through three provide the broad categories that are filled by days four through six (i.e. see how day 1 matches 4, 2 matches 5, and 3 matches 6); and the frequent (though not consistent) use of tov.
John Walton (though I’ve not given a sustained reading to his argument) says that it matches literature in the ancient near east that describes the construction of temples. He argues that Genesis 1 should be seen as temple dedication literature on a cosmic scale (i.e. Genesis 1 is not about the science of creation, but it depicts how God prepared his cosmic temple in which he would dwell and in which Adam and Eve were his priest unto creation).
So it would be unfair to compare it say Psalms. It isn’t that kind of poetry, but it is definelty structures to make a point other than what our scientific minds are seeking.
‘no comments like “You wrestle with this because you are stupid religious fanatics.”’
@Scott F : Ha, nice!
I take Adam as real and historical and having lived just a few thousand years ago, exactly as the bible says. I also have no problem reconciling science, though when I use the word science I’m talking about hard observational science, not the philosophical musings and gross assumptions cloaked under the banner of science. I’ve come to my position through a great deal of research, both theological and scientific. On the science side there’s the matter of gravitational time dilation, comets, moon drift, solar shrinkage, magnetic field (earth and other planets), deluge evidence, fossil record, radioactive phenomena, genetic phenomena, non-material mind sciences, just to name a few. Of these, psychology does the best job of proving the existence of non-material reality and magnetic planetary fields does the best job of proving the earth is thousands, not billions of years old. As for the theology, either God did what He said, or He didn’t. Its a question of authority. I didn’t write it, but it is available to read. Satan tempted Eve in the Garden and the very first of his lies was to imply that God did not speak truth. Satan attacked God’s word. He still does – as do many in the name of science today, though their claims have nothing to do with real science. I have no problem with science, just the lies that are told in the name of science.
Yes, we definitely live on a planet riddled with lies and the best filter we have in sorting through them is the Word of God. It keeps us from falling for falsehoods that would claim God to be a baked potato and all us humans to be french fries. Unlike the supposition proposed on an earlier post, I believe there are there are three types of people in the world.
1. Believes the Word of God
2. Doesn’t Believe the Word of God
3. Mechanics that want to examine or “fix” the Word of God
(just to be absolutely sure)…*; )
Group “3” is most likely made up of a combination of catagories 1 & 2.
Nancy – Brilliantly stated regarding your group 3. ~_*
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