Articles by Brian Jackson
A Reasonable Approach to Creation
15 July 2007
It's been a hot-button issue, especially on social news websites like Slashdot and Digg - "Intelligent Design", to borrow the questionably vague term coined to describe Creationism as if it were a theory.
I've set out to write a bit about my approach to Creation and Evolution. Feel free to interrupt or object at any time - I won't be able to hear you through a computer monitor anyway (though, to be fair, you could always leave a comment at the bottom of the page).
I'm going to try to give you five points that I think are worth considering about the whole situation, and you can take them or leave them. After all, I'm hardly a theologian, and Computer Science hardly prepares one to make statements about biology and genetics.
Point One: Natural selection is not the same as macroevolution
It's possible and even reasonable to accept the idea of natural selection as valid. Of course the creatures with a better chance of survival and procreation will have more descendants than those unfit to avoid predators and the dangers of life in the wild. The scales will tip, so to speak, in the favor of those genes that benefit a species in its environment. This is not to say that one creature can change into another creature because of accumulated changes in genetics. The fact that most literal Creationists believe in a flood which caused the redistribution of species into different types of environments is good cause for them to believe that animals are capable of variation within a kind to a very large degree - just not from a fish into a rodent.
Point Two: Creation has never been, and will never be a theory
A theory can be defined, refined, and ultimately confirmed or rejected. Certainly, the latter is true of the Biblical account of Creation, but can the story be refined? Not unless you reject the doctrinal purity of the Bible. To compromise, to change, to dilute the scriptural account is to create a monstrosity that is neither fit for a believer nor a man of science. The Bible lays out very clearly the story of Creation, and there's no changing it to fit evidence. When the Biblical account is challenged by any scientific theory there is really no way of changing it to fit the ideas of the secular scientific community, whereas the idea of macroevolution, that is to say, Evolution with a capital 'E' is free to adapt, and somewhat curiously, evolve to meet new criticism.
Point Three: To reject Evolution is not to reject science
To criticize Evolution is to draw fire from every subscriber to secular humanism. The repetition of Evolution in classrooms and in the media for years and years has cemented the idea in the minds of the masses. Many can't fathom that Evolution is a theory, and have accepted it as a fact. If the Creation account is true, then this wouldn't be the first time an accepted scientific theory has been incorrect. Nevertheless, the very same scientific community originally built to question and examine their own data has refused to do so when faced with problems in the Evolutionary theory, and rather than reject or redefine the theory, has adapted it slowly by degrees. They have shut down any objection by constant argumentum ad hominem, the very same tactic they claim is in wide use by Creationists (which, to be fair, is the case in more arguments than I care to mention).
Point Four: To reject Creation is to reject Christianity
To reject the authority of scriptural doctrine in one case is to bring into question the whole lot. To state that Genesis is a vague metaphor and open to any kind of interpretation is to call into question the redemptive work of Christ in the New Testament. The Fall of Man after the biblical account of Creation is an essential doctrine to the doctrine of Atonement. One cannot play games as if Jesus is an imaginary friend over whom the believer has creative prerogative.
Point Five: There's no reason to disrespect someone who has drawn the opposite conclusion
There are many Creationists and Evolutionists who are guilty of disrespect toward each other. The Evolutionists are quick to try to redefine the Creationist belief (namely, to assert that Creationists don't believe in natural selection), and many Creationists are just as quick to call the Evolutionists evil for drawing a conclusion incorrectly.
As a Creationist, I hope that I can still be respected for attempting to avoid such personal attacks as I have decried here. I hope I can encourage all who read this article to weigh all the evidence for themselves without immediately dismissing persons who disagree.Tweet
Jolly good show old boy! couldn't agree with you more.
Good article. I recently went to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY, so to see this article was yet another reminder that the truth is still alive and well in many respects.
Congratulations, you've got the attention of those on stumbleupon. Great article. First creation article I've given a thumbs up to in a long long time(apart from stuff I've submitted myself).
The Bible is not a science book. It's story relates to WHO created rather than how that creation occurred.
The Bible doesn't have to be a science book, and while it doesn't state exactly how the Creative act works, it does have a clear time line in which separate varieties of animals are created. An attempt to dilute the clear language in Genesis by some stretch of metaphorical interpretation is an attempt to fit a conclusion you've already drawn to a supernatural occurrence that needs no more explanation than has already been laid out.
Comment goes here... I agree with Peter. Be careful about adding requirements to the simplicity of the gospel. Believe in Christ and you will be saved. No where in the New Testament is it stated that salvation requires belief in six 24-hour days of creation. One can, and perhaps should, come to that conclusion after studying the scriptures. But such a conclusion is not necessary for salvation, in the same way that coming to that conclusion will not save you if you are still outside of Christ.
While I think it's possible to be saved without believing in six 24-hour days of creation, I think it's dangerous to dismiss the literal reading of the Genesis account. When you can choose to color the book you hold as absolute truth with whatever the popular theory is, then you have questioned the same source of truth that guides you to salvation in the first place. Any attack on the literal interpretation of the Bible puts a believer on very shaky ground. Your theology must be grounded first in the Bible. Nevertheless, I think there's a little bit of heresy in everyone's beliefs and the hard part is finding out where it is. That's why we're encouraged by the very same Bible to search out the scriptures and make sure that these things are so.
Well thought out arguments - I agree with most everything you have said here. I am disturbed by the number of evolution adherent who make wild claims about rejecting science altogether if you don't accept evolution uncritically - "you'd better throw away your computer then" - that kind of stuff. I am equally disturbed by the number of science-illiterate Christians who seem to think science is a tool of the devil designed to discredit God. That may or may not be the aim of some scientists, but certainly not science as a discipline. Good article - thanks.
After seeing some of the programs on Discovery Channel about how the universe was formed I am convinced that there is a creator. Being a Christian, I know there is a God, but to see the scientific community scratching their heads saying "this could only happen with these perfect circumstances" makes it even more clear. Science will eventually prove intelligent design. Also I totally agree that the dispute between Evolutionists and Creationists needs to be handle respectfully. We should agree to disagree.
Although I admire your attempt to put some reason into this hot-button issue I would question a couple of your premises. First theology is NOT always based on a literal translation of the Bible. eg. The Trinity. No where is this literally defined in Scripture. Rather it is a doctrine which is held universally by all Christians which was developed by the early Church through interpreting Scripture. It is widely accepted that the authors, through divine inspiration used different writing styles and techniques included allegory and metaphor. I give you several links which may add to understanding of this issue which I hope will be taken in the spirit of the original post. http://www.catholic.com/library/Adam_Eve_and_Evolution.asp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_and_the_Roman_Catholic_Church These pages point to the idea that God did indeed create everything out of nothing but also that science when and if it reaches truth would not contradict faith as there is only one truth. Thanks.
This tiny article, however well thought out and well intentioned cannot begin to delve the complexities that lie at the heart of this debate. It is impossible to read any text without interpretation problems occurring. Even in everyday conversation, differences in interpretation cause "foot in mouth" disease. As an Evangelical Christian, a seminary student and a graduate of the sciences, I know that a word like Theory can have many different meanings. In the most common sense, a Theory is a guess at explaining something. A scientist uses the word theory in a more concrete manner. A good definition is the following: an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena. I cannot recount to you the frustration I feel at Christians choosing to deny scientific arguments in order to support a literal biblical interpretation of Genesis. When reading Genesis, we must remember that God was revealing to a nomadic tribesman a vision of how he created Life, the Universe and Everything. ;-) Could this tribesman describe in scientific words this amazing process? His vocabulary would be limited to his particular vernacular, and would probably lean towards the poetic, not the scientific. Every religion has their stories to explain the world around them. The common word used to describe these stories is to call it a Myth. Before getting too wound up about Creation v Evolution, consider that Genesis is our Christian Mythos. It establishes the basis for our world view. It does not exist to explain the process God went through. Genesis tells us that: 1. We were created "good", not evil or flawed. 2. We chose to sin. 3. God placed us in a good world but we must now labor because we chose to sin. These are just some quick off the cuff thoughts, but viewed in this light, I find it plausible that God revealed to that Tribesman a view of creation, by methods of evolution. Provided that you understand that the word translated to the English “day” more correctly meant period of time. You could conceptualize it similar to watching the highlights on Sports Center, and then retelling the game based on that. Let the flaming begin…
I cannot begin to see how "And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day" (also the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days) could possibly refer to a time period larger than a single day. The period of time is quite clearly defined within the verses themselves.
I've also heard that the word from which "day" is translated in Hebrew is never used for anything but a 24-hour day.
This is, indeed, a reasonable approach to creation. Point five especially ought to be applied by all who read.
I dare say that I couldn't have stated what was said any better. Kudo's to most of the comments as well. The plausibility of the creation account is no less than that of the evolutionary theory and with intelligence behind it makes it much more likely. As said although not necessary to salvation, it is quite clearly spelled out and must be taken as Deut. and Rev. state, without changes to fit our propensity for logic.
I'd just like to say to all commenters here: take a bow. It's so rare to see a Creat vs Evol debate on a public webspace that doesn't degenerate into ugly and pointless name-calling. This is the Internet as originally envisioned.
Generally an interesting site, however it is important to note that you can be Christian withotu being a creationist. The Old and New Testaments are two separate documents whcih were affirmed by two separate political processes. One can clearly accept the validity of Jesus's statements without accepting the mythology that precluded it.
I have to disagree with the above poster. The New Testament is predicated upon the Old Testament - the concept of original sin in Genesis and the prophecies that foretell the Messiah are necessary to make sense of Jesus.
I believe scripture is true and infallible. I believe translation and interpretation are not. If you study the old testament prophecies which fortold the coming of the messiah, they were often fulfilled spiritually or metaphorically in Christ, not literally. Many of the pharisees and other jews who missed his coming did so because they held too literally to the words of the prophets. They expected a political leader who would reclaim the throne of David and cast off the worldly oppressors from Israel. They got no such thing, and thus missed what God was doing. As a believer I must dismiss any idea that directly contradicts the Word. I am willing to accept an idea that can be understood metaphorically. I prefer, all things being equal, to understand the Word literally. But even within the scriptures we see that many things are meant to be metaphoric, not literal. This is not to dismiss things we find too outrageous to believe, but in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, I think we need to be flexible with our interpretations while staying faithful to the truthfulness of the Word.
I think the trouble wasn't that they believed the prophet's words too literally, but that they didn't really understand what the prophets were saying. The Old Testament taught that the Son of Man would have to suffer. The pharisees (among others) did not understand this. They were impatient for the beginning of an eternal kingdom, which Christ will bring, but did not bring *immediately*. It's true that if there is evidence that our interpretation of the Bible is wrong, then we cannot stick our fingers in our ears and forget it, however, I question the validity of certain facts as evidence of one theory over another. I think the facts, including carbon dating, support a literal Biblical understanding of history. The supreme stumbling block to rational people usually isn't these evidences; it would seem to me they have other reasons not to believe in the God of the Bible.
I don't understand one thing, how are the books determined by a political action in Nicaea considered to be true. What of the books that couldn't muster the political support to be included? One wonders why were Jubilees left out, there is plenty of material that seems worthy of inclusion to the cannon. With the creation of the trinity by the council I fully understand why the Book of Barnabas was left out. I am just trying to point out God did not deliver the Bible to man, it is a collection of works by men, assembled together in this grouping by men. If men were inspired to write these things down that is one thing, how inspired were those who grouped these books in this particular order?
This is something I've thought a great deal about recently. Now, we consider 66 books "canon", but that doesn't mean all books that didn't get included are necessarily heretical. Granted, many are - they're unverifiable whereas other documents have original manuscripts available. Additionally, many of the books of the Bible mention each other, even in the New Testament.
It's problematic to say that because the individual books were assembled by man that they must be written by man. Believing in a God who uses circumstances including Paul's prison sentences and John's exile to bring about inspired works, it follows that God is capable of using circumstances to assemble inspired works and eliminate epistles that are "merely human", so to speak.
As far as what you call the "creation of the trinity", you seem to be saying that by assembling the Bible, the early church could make words and themes appear in the books without changing them. Or do you also assert that they changed the books? This is also problematic - older manuscripts exist than those duplicated at the time of the first canon.
The Bible, I've found, is remarkably self-consistent - but you don't have to agree with me - the apostle Paul encourages readers (or listeners) to examine both his letters and scripture very carefully to see if they are true. Have you? Reading articles about apocryphal books online is hardly an efficacious study on the subject.
If you can't reject creationism and be a Christian, Christianity is in trouble. The 6 days of creation in Genesis 1 are out of order, and directly contradict the second creation story in Genesis 2. further, the world described in Genesis (flat, domed by a sky studded with stars, geocentric)is not the planet we live on.
It does not follow that the six days of creation are out of order just because they're different from macroevolutionary theory. Furthermore, the events of Genesis one and two would certainly be contradictory if you took them as a linear story.
You need to consider the following, though. The original Genesis is not split up into chapters or verses. If you view the text naively, the portion beginning in verse seven where the text refers to the creation of man and the garden fleshes out the previously mentioned sixth day. I would guess that this method allows for an entire overview of the creation story without breaking the narrative before explaining the events of specific human creation. In no way are the two mutually exclusive.
As far as scientific description of celestial mechanics goes, the Bible does not explicitly say "everything revolves around the Earth", nor "the sky is a solid dome surrounding the earth". In this day and age, we still use the expression "sunrise" and "sunset" to describe dawn and dusk, despite the heliocentric model.
If you have an objection to the Bible, surely the creation story is not the only one. But we hardly use Genesis as an evangelistic tool (Answers in Genesis notwithstanding). I would suggest that anywhere we see a conflict between empirical knowledge and the Bible, we are either drawing the wrong scientific conclusions or interpreting the Bible poorly. No amount of faith makes facts disappear, but it's certainly possible that secular science can draw incorrect conclusions from valid facts. Scientists are not stupid, but even a small false assumption can become grounds for a bad conclusion.
I am noting that the two stories are inconsistent (no matter how your divide up the text), and that we can be sure that green plants did not precede the sun. On the contary, the Bible clearly states that the sky is a done, on top of which God's throne sites, and from which he can survey the earth. But my original point was that you do have to let go of a literal view of Genesis creation - essentially, interpreting the Bible in light of what we have learned about the natural world. This does has far-reaching implications.
Oh, don't get me wrong. I fully intend to interpret the Bible in light of our knowledge about nature and science. I don't think every poetic interlude in the Bible should be treated as scientific theory. The point of bringing up God's throne is not to say that the Earth has a dome, but to speak to the authority and knowledge of God. In the psalms this idea is even more common - a human soul can't really pant like a deer for water. That's not the point. That's common sense.
But there's a big difference between interpreting a poetic interlude and throwing out the idea that God created the species of Earth in discrete variety.
You bring up an interesting point - could plants exist before the sun? I would suggest that the light in verse 3 (attributed to God's presence by many commentators), created in the previous verse, would be sufficient to sustain plants until the sun was put in place.
I'm going to have to disagree that the two accounts are inconsistent. It's completely possible to reconcile a specific account with an overview of the same story. Now, it's obvious we both have a lot of thought put into this, but we must always approach the text from as objective a standpoint as possible, not injecting either confirmation bias or its polar opposite into our examination.
I won't attempt to force my opinion on you. Examination of the scripture is more profitable, I think, than persuasion.
Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, "Let us make man in our image....27b male and female he created them....31b And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.” Genesis 2:4 “When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens- 5 and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, ... 7 the LORD God formed the man. 8 Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. ... 15 The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. ...19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. ...22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.” Genesis 1 makes it clear that the earth, plants, fish and animals were created before man and woman, who were created together. Genesis 2:4ff makes it clear that man (but not woman) was made before shrubs or plants. Then man works in the garden and names the (newly created) animals BEFORE woman is created. It is not possible to make Genesis2:4ff some sort of expanded version of day 6. Well, of course it is possible, but involves doing serious damage to the text. While it is of course possible to imagine a scenario where the Genesis 1 creation order is accurate, this involves denying overwhelming evidence of how it did in fact happen, and distorting and/or denying the clear meaning of the Biblical texts in the process. Much more honest, I believe, to simply recognize that the texts include cultural beliefs current in the day, but which have turned out to be wrong.
axniaxn writes "The point of bringing up God's throne is not to say that the Earth has a dome, but to speak to the authority and knowledge of God." You only say that because you know he's not up there, above the clouds, on a throne. Absent that, the scriptures themselves would lead you to believe exactly that. Isaiah 40:22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,and spreads them out like a tent to live in. JOh 22:13 Yet you say, 'What does God know? Does he judge through such darkness? 14 Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.' I could go on and not just in the OT - talk about how Jesus was taken to a tall mountain, from which he could view all the kingdoms of the world - not possible of course, no matter how high the mountain.
You're leaving out a lot of context in this scripture. In the full text, the overview account is complete in the middle of verse five of chapter two. The rest of verse five through seven are somewhat of an aside, containing details of main's creation, not necessarily a complete biological treatise or a list of specific events that took place in the immediate time around the creation of man. You'll notice, by the by, that the portion you're calling a second account gives no chronological indications - "first day" or "second day" - of the type that the first chapter uses. The simplest explanation is a treatment of the same story; who writes two conflicting stories back-to-back?
Now, what you call overwhelming evidence, I will not dispute. Facts are facts. The fossil record is not some sort of hoax. I do question secular science's interpretation of the appropriate data. I think the Biblical events were capable of producing the same evidence, and so to call the facts undeniable evidence of Evolution is somewhat misleading.
As far as cultural beliefs go, it's likely that early readers might have interpreted poetic narratives literally. That's to be expected, I guess. I think it's Paul that mentions that prophets had to make investigation into their own prophecy to find out what it meant, so it's not out of the question that the hyperbole of some Biblical passages could be misinterpreted. It does not follow that their early misinterpretation invalidates current, correct interpretation if the scripture is, indeed, inspired by God rather than formulated by human writers.
The central question, then, is this: is Genesis inspired? Otherwise, hyperbole of the kind you bring up would be complete speculation and would be factual error rather than divine imagery. I cannot make an empirical proof of divine inspiration. I can, however, speak from logic. If the book is inspired, it's also self-consistent if interpreted correctly. If it's inspired, it cannot conflict with other inspired documents. I hold that both of these are true. Moreover, if you eliminate this first book, there's no reason to keep the other books of the Torah present in the Bible. Further, this brings into question the reliability of Jesus' dialogues that mention the books of the Torah. This also shakes the assumption that Paul's epistles are inspired, because he mentions the Genesis description of marriage. This is a cascade of problems.
Now, it's your choice if you don't believe scripture, but separating the books into "believable" and "unbelievable" is problematic. This is what I am getting at in the original article.
axnjaxn writes "You're leaving out a lot of context in this scripture. In the full text, the overview account is complete in the middle of verse five of chapter two." This is not true. Read the passages, and it is clear that the story comes to an end (in 2:3), and then starts over again. Clues? The text in 2:4 starts over - "This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created." Doesn't sound like an interlude or aside to me - sounds like the start of "...the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created." Consider that the two stories use different names for God. Consider that the means of creation are different ("and God said" versus "made from the dust of the earth"). Consider that there are different attitudes toward the woman (co-equal with the man in Genesis 1, created for man, from man and after man in Genesis 2). Consider the widely different chronology (2:4 ff clearly states that there were no plants or shrubs when the man is created, and that the woman is not created until after tress and shrubs and animals). This is how you know the are different stories - by noting all the differences. Only by ignoring the clear meaning of the text are you able to read into the text those things you "know" to be true (for example, that Genesis describes the universe and solar system we live in, and that the two different Genesis stories are the same). Without a prior commitment to what the story "means" it is clear that the world of Genesis is NOT the world we live in - rather, it is the world that the people of the time (mistakenly) thought they inhabited. You ask if Genesis is inspired - this isn't actually the question - the question is, do the human authors' worldviews intrude into the text, or is it a kind of "automatic writing"? Actually, it is clear that the authors bring the cosmology of the day into the text - the question is, are we thereby forced to freeze our understanding of cosmology, geology and biology at what was known in 2500 bc? I think the mistake you are making is to take a particular understanding of what it means for the Bible to be inspired, and then to force everything through the filter of those assumptions.
"Now, it's your choice if you don't believe scripture, but separating the books into "believable" and "unbelievable" is problematic. This is what I am getting at in the original article." Yes, you must filter the believable from the unbelievable. Do you think that the day was lengthened in Joshua by making the sun stand still? This is what the text says (not that it appeared to stand still, or seemed to stand still, or that peoples perception of time was altered, but that Josuha asked God to stop the sun, God said he would, then the Bible says that God did stop the sun, and that thereby the day was lengthened. This is not poetic, or metaphorical - it is a plainly worded account of what the author understood to have happened. You must know that stopping the sun does not make the day longer - it would probably just fling us out of the solar system. Problematic? Yes. But that does not mean that we don't have to deal with it.
"I can, however, speak from logic. If the book is inspired, it's also self-consistent if interpreted correctly. " ---- I am not at all sure that this follows. If the various books record genuine interactions with God, and those interactions are verbalized within the context of their understanding, then we would expect to get error along with accuracy. ----- Read the various books of the Bible in their original, and the voice of the individual authors come through much more clearly than in translation. Different sentence structure, different word choice, different style - clearly,the personality, the humanity of the authors come through. Reading a committee translation, it is easy to make the mistake of thinking that the Bible was written in a single language at the same time. This is not the case, and one of the ways we know this is because of the cultural bias and errors of fact that crop up in the text. Given cultural bias and errors of fact, we should shy away from some sort of rigid doctrine of verbal inspiration. It does not do justice to the text, and so warps our understanding of what God is trying to tell us through the Bible.
I took the phrase "this is the account" to mean that the previous chapter was the account. I suppose you'd have to go to the Hebrew text to get a concrete answer on that. Unfortunately, I'm a computer programmer and I can only tell you why I believe what I believe.
I think the two methods you mention of creation are not mutually exclusive. MacArthur, in his explanation of the text, divides the beginning of chapter two into summaries of different portions of the story.
As far as the issue of men and women goes, if God created them on the same day, chapter one hardly contradicts chapter two.
I know it's easy to read my thoughts into the text. That's precisely what I was hoping to avoid, but you do have to avoid the opposite - that our knowledge is somehow inaccessible to an inspired writer. Whether the writer writes as a human robot or not is moot - God's knowledge is what is penned in scripture, and His knowledge of the universe is perfect. By assuming that the book is or is not inspired, we have come to these different conclusions. I think the consistency of the ideas (among other things) testifies to its inclusion as an inspired book, but all I have is the text and the benefit of a mathematical background. The mechanics of writing an inspired text are not explicitly clear in the Bible, so I can't speak to that.
To address Greg's first reply:
God created orbital mechanics, and a miracle of the type described in Joshua is not necessarily of the kind that needs to fit into conventional physics. Whether the sun literally ceased motion or the earth stopped or there was some sort of eclipse or bizarre celestial quirk is really just a matter of semantics. I don't think that the text supports one interpretation over another - the practical results of any of them are the same - that the sun appeared to stand still, and the battle continued. That's what I consider a working conclusion.
Toward the second reply:
I am persuaded by the weight of others' opinions that the Bible is more useful (especially in earlier centuries) in the form it's in than it would have been as a science textbook. That said, I don't think there's any reason to believe the Bible contains factual errors if it can be reasonably interpreted within the context of what we take as scientific law.
Do the writers' styles come through? Of course. Paul's sarcasm and David's lyrical tendencies aside, this is one reason I would believe God didn't use human robots to write the Bible. I am fully aware the Bible is composed of more than one original language, but I think the God who invented language can inspire a human being to put together a proper sentence and convey an accurate idea.
I have no intention of sticking to a rigid doctrine of any kind inasmuch as it prevents real examination of the scriptures. But I will not sit in ignorance if, by diligent study, I can gain a truer understanding. I can certainly see you've done your homework, but don't assume I haven't done mine. These convictions I hold are the result of study and reason, not of blind acceptance. If an alternative idea can be proven to me, I will not cling to a familiar error on merit of its familiarity.
I do appreciate your discussion on the page, though, and I may have to write a follow-up to flesh out some of the reasons I believe how I believe. I certainly don't want anyone to think I'm just willing to say "God did it" facing a difficult portion of the Bible.
axnjaxn You are justifying (to my mind), not explaining. 2:4ff clearly states that when the male was created, there were no plants, animals or woman. Since Genesis 1 has plants and animals created BEFORE humans, and the woman created AT THE SAME TIME as man, this can't be the same day. These cannot be the same stories. This is further highlighted by the different names for God and different means of creation. As for the orbital mechanics of Joshua, of course we can come up with ways that this could have happened - but we don't have to, because the story provides the mechanism - God makes the sun stand still (it is moving at about 250 km/sec). The only problem is, this would not impact the length of the day (unless the sudden stop ejected us from orbit, in which case we would now be in perpetual night). That is to say, it did not happen the way it is described in Joshua. We also know that it did not happen as described in Genesis 1 OR Genesis 2. Given these facts, there is no need to hold on to special creation at all. These stories are not literally true - so there is no need to defend them as if they were. Is this problematic for NT writers who base theological arguments on OT passages? Of course, but we won't get anywhere by denying the facts. On the one hand, you insist that Genesis 1 and 2 adhere to some rigid meaning, then you abandon the clear meaning of the Joshua text because you admit that you can't make sense of it. Well, you can't make sense of Genesis 1, or Genesis 1 as compared to 2 either. Can you see that you have two different standards here - if you can rationalize a way to make the text fit your idea of inerrancy, you mangle it to fit, and if you can't, you claim an unmentioned miracle must have occurred. WHy bother to reason at all, if that is your approach? Just say, for whatever reason, that God faked all the contrary evidence and leave it at that? There are difficulties - but the way to deal with them is not to pretend that they are not there.
Concerning the first two chapters of Genesis, I don't think I explained myself well enough. The conclusion I have drawn is this: Chapter one provides a numerical, chronological narrative of creation, and chapter two mentions discrete events within the same narrative. They don't have to appear in the same order as in chapter one because the order has been established, and the emphasis is placed on the creation of man in chapter two. Creation out of dust is not necessarily a different method of creation from the speech of God, either. "Let us make man" can be interpreted as a Trinitarian internal dialogue, or, if you prefer, the speech may have created the physical man and the breath of God created the soul. I'm hardly qualified to speak authoritatively on the specifics, but I mean to say that it's not hard to come up with a plausible explanation given an omnipotent God.
And as for Joshua, the point of my earlier statement is that you don't have to interpret the Sun standing still on a universe-sized frame. People observing the sun and moon would have noticed that the appearance of motion had ceased. The relative positions and orientations of the Solar System could have been fixed for some amount of time without necessarily being "Still" with respect to a viewer outside the system. In any case, this goes against the natural order, and the only way to claim it happened is the obvious way - by direct divine intervention.
What it really boils down to is this - we have the facts, and saying we "Know" Genesis is false just because we interpret it one specific way is a kind of cognitive bias that has no place in science. I know very little of Hebrew idioms, but I can tell that it's inappropriate to treat a poetic interlude as bad science or good science as bad poetry. There is a difference, and the approach needs not be the same for both passages. The standard here is a standard of observation - the text is fixed, and our approach is mutable. If we can deal with the idea that we are error-prone, that even reason can occasionally mislead us, then we can truly say we're objective.
Come on! The text says plants and animals were created before man in the first story, and after man in the second. COuldn't be clearer. Add the different names for God and the different method of creation, and the different attitude towards the woman - it is obviously not the same story! ------------ As for Joshua, it does not say that people THOUGHT the sun stood still, it says God made the sun stand still. Making the sun stand still with regards to the sun does not make the day longer. Only stopping the rotation of the earth would do that. The passage does not say God stopped the rotation of the earth. Of course it is not a natural thing - the point I am making is that the explanation fits a (mistaken) geocentric view of the world. That is, it reflects cultural misconceptions of the time. ------------- It does not take a cognitive bias to hold that Genesis is mistaken - in fact, it takes a cognitive bias to argue, as you do, that it is inerrant.
Is this what the argument has dwindled to? I've laid out my reasons, and if you disagree, then by all means, disagree. You certainly seem like a reasonable guy, but I can't endorse your conclusions for the reasons I've already mentioned.
We'll never be free of bias, but I can tell from your web page that your focus is on throwing out scriptures that don't fit with your scientific worldview (a fascinating, read, by the way). Are you really prepared to say you are have no bias towards throwing Genesis out?
But my question is this: can you still believe any part of Christianity since Christ himself cites Genesis? How do you piece together enough theology without original sin or the doctrine of marriage or the patriarchs? Isn't that a problem if you discard Genesis?
Also, if you need to format your text, you can use html line-breaks. I need to get a better comment-posting system up here.
As of the seventh of June 2008, I'm locking the comments on here as to avoid giving spammers a chance to post more links on here.