As always, there is a large amount of discussion going on in the biblioblogosphere about one thing or another. This week, it seems to be Genesis, on some level. First, go here and here, then here and maybe here as well.
We don’t have to be afraid, you know, of being wrong. It is a shame when one has to twist and turn to avoid being wrong, in their mind, and thus, in their mind, prove the bible wrong.
Henry Neufield wrote today,
I don’t understand why so many Christians are afraid to admit that they are interpreting and then they are following their interpretations. It sounds so pious to claim that one is following just the word of God without any human involvement.
Worldviews are important, and I defer to N.T. Wright:
(HT for the videos)
My point in Genesis 1, is that it is deeper than a literal creation story, and should be seen as such. I believe that it is a deeply theological text, and should first be seen as such. As I have stated numerous times, I believe that Genesis 1 is literal….in context. While we may apply our context to Scripture, and sometimes come up with what is right, we should endeavor first to examine Scripture in the context in which it was first written.
When we state such things, we are often accused of trying to tie the bible to scientific fact – you know, because we create creation institutes and manufacture stories of God placing the dinosaur bones to confuse us all. In reality, we can look at civilizations much older than the biblical time frame, such as the Egyptians (Calvin was a theologian), the Chinese, even those in Mesopotamia and know that it has been our human understanding which is wrong, not the Scriptures. We find that the many early Fathers thought that the world was 6000 years old at the time of their writing (or nearing such), but by the time of Augustine, the notion to allow science as fact and not witchcraft had become something viable. While digging into such people as Theophilus, they see only their view, but not the view of the author:
On the fourth day the luminaries came into existence. Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth came from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before the stars. For what comes into existence later cannot cause what is prior to it.
They jump at the notion of the fourth day, and yet, as a theological pretext of Genesis 1, I find Theophilus as an ally. He explains why God did what He did. I find it funny as well, that those who would use the Church Fathers to their defense here, deny them in other areas, and more often deny that they would be bewildered that the earth is now 8000 years old by their reckoning. As we note, that the idea of the 6000 year old earth was important to the early Fathers for one reason – they took a certain passage too literal:
For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed: it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousand year. (Irenaeus: Agaist Heresies V, 557)
I laugh as well when they quote Clement of Alexandria, who had a distinctive motif for the ‘six-days’
For the creation of the world was concluded in six days. For the motion of the sun from solstice to solstice is completed in six months–in the course of which, at one time the leaves fall, and at another plants bud and seeds come to maturity. And they say that the embryo is perfected exactly in the sixth month, that is, in one hundred and eighty days in addition to the two and a half, as Polybus the physician relates in his book On the Eighth Month, and Aristotle the philosopher in his book On Nature. Hence the Pythagoreans, as I think, reckon six the perfect number, from the creation of the world, according to the prophet, and call it Meseuthys and Marriage, from its being the middle of the even numbers, that is, of ten and two. For it is manifestly at an equal distance from both. (Clement of Alexandria, The Strommata: 512-513)
Why? Because he connected it to other ‘sixes’ in pagan literature. Of course, Clement might disagree with himself as well, noting that since those six days actually constitute time, and yet…
“How could creation take place in time, seeing time was born along with things that exist.” Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.210
It wasn’t until the fourth day that God created time, and yet? You see the problem, right?
Should we even bring up Augustine?
Oh, and Origen, again, might would disagree in part with the scientific literalists:
“This is also part of the church’s teaching: that the world was made and took its beginning at a certain time and that it is to be destroyed on account of its wickedness. But there is no clear statement in the teaching of the church regarding what existed before this world or what will exist after it … insofar as the credibility of Scripture is concerned, the declarations on this matter are easy to prove. Even the heretics (although having widely differing opinions on many other things) appear to be of one mind on this, yielding to the authority of Scripture. Concerning the creation of the world, what portion of Scripture can give us more information regarding it than the account that Moses has transmitted about its origin? It contains matters of profounder significance than the mere historical narrative appears to indicate. Furthermore, it contains very many things that are to be spiritually understood. When discussing profound and mystical subjects, it uses literal language as a type of veil. Nevertheless the language of the narrator reveals that all things were created as a certain time.” Origen (c. 225 AD, E), 4.340 -341
I don’t discount Origen here, and indeed, would agree with him.
Further, there is the notion of the other creation accounts:
You, O God, are my king from ages past, bringing salvation to the earth.
You split the sea by your strength and smashed the heads of the sea monsters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan and let the desert animals eat him.
You caused the springs and streams to gush forth, and you dried up rivers that never run dry.
Both day and night belong to you; you made the starlight and the sun.
You set the boundaries of the earth, and you made both summer and winter. (Psa 74:12-17 NLT)
Give thanks to him who placed the earth among the waters. His faithful love endures forever. (Psa 136:6 NLT)
The central theme here is that God created order from Chaos.
Don’t let anyone say that unless you take Genesis 1 as literal scientific fact then you are attempting to measure the bible by philosophies (science, because you know, science is a speculative where as faith, religion and theology is the operative method). Instead, we take the bible as it rightly should be, and not the idol that many make it out to be.
Does this have anything to do with Inerrancy? No, not really. If you allow that Genesis 1 is scientific fact, and you push yourself into a corner by saying that either it is true or the bible is false, then it becomes a matter of faith, among other issues. The bible is true, and I don’t need a scientific or historical validation of one passage or another to make it so. I have to ask – where is your faith if you believe that unless Genesis 1 is scientifically accurate, then the bible is not true? Is it in Christ or man’s opinions?
I find it odd that for the first few centuries of Christianity, the focus was on the Gospel, and now? Now we must have this or that to be a Christian. We must believe this interpretation or that interpretation to be a Christian. Odd, ain’t it? And now, a literal interpretation of Genesis is required. Umm…adding to the Gospel much?
In case anyone is wondering, I believe that Creation happened just like the Scriptures say, how they were first written and understood.