January 20, 2019

Why I Am Not a Young Earth Creationist

Creation. Tapestry by Bracha Lavee

WHY I AM NOT A YOUNG EARTH CREATIONIST

1. The Bible Does Not Teach It

Genesis 1 (as well as other “creation” texts in the Bible) is not a historical report designed to explain how God created the universe in a scientific sense.

Genesis 1 is a creative theological meditation on how God, the King of the heavens and earth, formed a good land out of an uninhabitable wilderness to be his Temple, filled it with living things, and appointed human beings to be his priestly representatives and to multiply his blessing throughout the world. When God had finished his work, he rested and began to rule.

This theological meditation reflects both Ancient Near Eastern cosmology and Ancient Near Eastern creation myths and served as:

  1. A reflection of the way people viewed the natural world at that time,
  2. A polemic against the gods of the nations, especially Babylon (the one true and living God alone is Creator).
  3. As we’ll see next, it was Israel’s origin story.

Genesis 1 and the complementary creation story in Genesis 2-3 were shaped to reflect Israel’s history as an introduction to the Torah.

Genesis 1-3 anticipates the entire story of Israel —

  • this chosen people who were brought through water and out of the wilderness,
  • who entered into a covenant with God the King, and settled in a good land.
  • There they disobeyed, and were exiled from that land among their enemies to the east.
  • Yet God promised his continued care and a future.

The Hebrew Bible was formed into its final shape after the Babylonian Exile. The early chapters of Genesis (1-11) were fashioned using terms, themes, and myths from Babylonian sources to communicate to the post-exilic community.

After the exile, Israel faced the same choice as the first covenant people, Adam and Eve: God has brought them back to the land. Will they eat from the tree of life and know God’s blessing?

A “clear and natural” reading of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 means reading them in the context they were given and letting them fulfill the purposes for which they were written.

There are actually seven great Creation accounts in Scripture (Gen. 1, Gen. 2-3, Job 38-41, Psalm 104, Proverbs 8, passages in Ecclesiastes, Isaiah 40-66). They are written using different genres and reflecting various traditions. They complement each other and communicate truths appropriate to their contexts within the Bible’s overall narrative.

Let the Bible tell its story.

2. The Bible Was Not Given to Teach It

Genesis 1 and other Bible texts about creation have little to do with what scientists find through observing the natural world.

  • The universe is the arena of God’s general revelation. To understand it, we use methods designed for observing and analyzing its natural materials and processes. The focus is entirely on the “stuff” of creation and what it tells us.
  • The Bible is the primary source for studying and understanding special revelation about God and his plan for humankind and all creation in Christ. Beginning in Genesis, we find that this is summarized in the prayer, “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as in heaven.” The fulfillment of that is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Bible should not come into the discussion at all when analyzing the science — it is not about that.

And it is not the job of science to speculate on the supernatural mysteries that may lie in and behind creation — so don’t expect it to.

This is not a matter of choosing to trust the “authority” of science over the “authority” of the Bible. That would suggest the two are designed to speak to the same subjects. They are not.

Let the scientists do science and help us gain an ever-increasing understanding of how the world works.

Let the Bible work faith, hope, and love through Jesus Christ and bring us to God’s new creation.

Comments

  1. Pellicano Solitudinis says:

    I am struggling a lot with this issue at the moment, not because I hold to YEC views myself, but because my church community does. I asked a question yesterday about how to exist in this environment; the answers were… not encouraging. The consensus seems to be that one shuts up and keeps one’s head down. But how can you survive spiritually among people with whom you can’t be honest? I suppose I could leave, but the personal fallout would be enormous. The impact on my children would be akin to a divorce.

    • What would be the ramifications if you were to make your views known in a proper setting with appropriate respect for others in the church?

      • Pellicano Solitudinis says:

        I’d quite possibly be put under church discipline and denied communion.

        • Susan Dumbrell says:

          Pellicano,

          My heart aches for you.
          I will include you in my prayers. You are there anyway. You are aware of this.
          Now just included more so.
          We are both having problems with our churches but from slightly different angles.
          “The Church” has a lot to answer for.
          Your views are as valid as each other person who attend your church.
          Your views should be carefully heard. You are a person who knows what you are talking about. You could run rings around their weak arguments. Hold your ground.
          Treading on toes is a risky business. I know this.

          I send you love and hugs.

          Susan

        • You should not have to be in such a heartrending situation. Yet you are. Such is the state of our world, and of our church. Whatever choice you make, whatever one you have to make to stay or go, know that my prayer are with you and your family, Pellicano.

        • Man, that really sucks. 🙁

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            +1

          • It really does suck. I can’t imagine being at a church that would wield its “authority” like that; and worse…willing to do so just because someone isn’t sure they believe the galaxies and the earth and all that lives and breathes was formed in six days..???

        • Clay Crouch says:

          That is a heavy burden to have to bear alone. Forgive me for saying this, but that doesn’t appear to be an environment where one can worship freely according to one’s conscience. To elevate YEC to the level of dogma is truly beyond the pale. I will pray that you will have peace and find comfort as you seek God’s wisdom for you in this matter.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          i.e. Traitor and Thought-Criminal.

      • I suppose there are always times when we need to weigh the relative importance of things, and if being a part of the church community for other reasons ends up being more important than letting your thoughts on this issue be known, then that’s probably the wiser choice. You can survive spiritually, not by being dishonest, but by making the loving choice to dwell respectfully and lovingly among people with whom you disagree on this issue. It seems to me in this case that they are the weaker brethren in that they have made adherence to this teaching a rule, whereas you feel the freedom to think outside their box. But it may be a loving choice to limit your freedom for the sake of your family and other things that you feel are important about the congregation. I’ve been in your situation, and I know that is not easy. I eventually had to part ways with the evangelical world for a variety of reasons. This one wasn’t so much an issue at that time.

        • Susan Dumbrell says:

          Through personal experience, I would treat this advice with caution.

        • I give monthly financial support to an evangelical pastor who’s views I do not always support. He does good for people and that’s enough for me. We can coexist as brothers. No it is not always easy. Pelicano has a much more difficult row to hoe because of the intimacy of the situation. I appreciate your level headedness.

        • Ronald Avra says:

          I don’t think that God intends for your family to run and rule your life, but my experience is that it is important, especially for children, to provide a stable environment for them until they are able to begin to negotiate life on their own. I have my opinions and convictions, but there is more than me going on with this life that I inhabit. I’ve had to bide my time and nurse my wounds for several years now; I’m beginning to see some resolution on the horizon and my adult children seem to still like me, even though they suspect I have fallen off the wagon of true faith. Would recommend the Chaplain’s words immediately above as well as Ric Ro’s four points below. Don’t rush anything; it will very likely take time to develop links to individuals who can sustain you.

          • The problem comes when you, as a parent, get to tell kids they Sunday School teachers are wrong.

            There was a group of about 20 families in my class way back when. When the YEC blew up about 1/2 stuck with the church. The rest of us left. No one said “leave”. But it got old being treated like fools. “You just don’t understand” was a common comment.

            In many ways were were fortunate that most all of the kids involved were of high school age and could understand the issues.

          • I wonder how truly stable and healthy an environment such a church is for kids, when honest intellectual issues surrounding faith cannot be openly and safely addressed. There is a question of the level of psychological, social, and emotional toxicity of the environment.

    • 1) Your views aren’t heresy, no matter what your current church body believes.

      2) My experience is that you can worship where you hold different beliefs than your church community’s tenets. I’m part of a church community that doesn’t believe in alcohol consumption, but I have a periodic brew, as do others in the church. It felt a bit dishonest for a while, but not so much any more.

      3) A very healthy thing to do is find people OUTSIDE your community with whom you can discuss your “abnormal” beliefs. I have several friends outside my church with whom I can share some of my “universalism” thoughts without fear of being stoned. This way you can feel more “normal” about your thinking.

      4) You might end up finding others in your church community who believe similarly to you. I’ve discovered a few like-minded believers in my church, and it’s great to know there are pockets of fellow cynics and skeptics. There are probably some in every church body, all keeping their heads down and laying low.

      • Clay Crouch says:

        Rick Ro, your third point is excellent advice. Fortunate are those of us who can find that WITHIN our communities. For those who can’t, places such as IMonk provide a valuable and serviceable alternative.

        A heartfelt thank you to Michael 1 and Michael 2.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        3) A very healthy thing to do is find people OUTSIDE your community with whom you can discuss your “abnormal” beliefs.

        You need to have some other contacts than Church.
        If nothing else, as a fallback position and bugout refuge if things really go sour.
        Abusive churches (i.e. CULTs) try to reduce your universe to themselves and themselves alone; i.e. ALL your friends are Church friends, 24/7 Church progamming (attendance mandatory), NO Salvation outside of Church.

        4) You might end up finding others in your church community who believe similarly to you. I’ve discovered a few like-minded believers in my church, and it’s great to know there are pockets of fellow cynics and skeptics. There are probably some in every church body, all keeping their heads down and laying low.

        The problem with that is feeling out the other potential Dissident without revealing yourself, lest they be a Thought Police Informer looking for brownie points with GAWD and/or Pastor.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I asked a question yesterday about how to exist in this environment; the answers were… not encouraging. The consensus seems to be that one shuts up and keeps one’s head down.

      “Swear allegiance to the flag,
      Whatever flag they offer;
      NEVER LET ON WHAT YOU REALLY FEEL…”
      — Mike and the Mechanics, “Silent Running”
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-KFhT9O6-A
      (best YouTube mash-up of the song, to visuals from Red Dawn)

    • I suppose I could leave, but the personal fallout would be enormous. The impact on my children would be akin to a divorce.

      Walk this line with care. You don’t want to wind up where other families tell their kids that your’s are not really Christians or don’t want them to play with yours.

      Seriously.

      And as a footnote you need to understand that the YEC is the only way a true Christian can believe was sort of the match that lit the fuse for the bomb that became “The Wartburg Watch”.

  2. Christiane says:

    A thought for Peliccano:
    that if you stay there for the sake of your family, that is, as Chaplain Mike has suggested, a good reason, an honorable reason . . . . unselfish and self-giving because you are in a difficult situation sure, but it would a choice for the family’s sake.

    perhaps quietly, you could meet with those in your community who share your views and have that as an outlet for being able to discuss your difficult situation . . . . surely some among them must have been through similar quandaries. . . . someday, when the children are older and will understand, then you may find a different situation where you won’t have to ‘keep your head down’ in silence. And that will be a good day. But until then, Chaplain Mike’s words ring true: ” . . . it may be a loving choice to limit your freedom for the sake of your family”

    ” love, patience, kindness, and self-control”
    not a bad way to cope with a situation that protects your family for a period of time requiring long-suffering on your part, and may God give you the grace and strength to endure your burden for the sake of your children . . . God Bless!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > perhaps quietly, you could meet with those in your community who share your views…

      If you want to do that, or feel convicted to do that. But the church’s hang-ups are not on your shoulders.

      It is not your job to guide any community down the perilous slopes of the mole hill they have declared to be a mountain. That’s on them.

      • Christiane says:

        Hello Adam,
        I think when I wrote ‘your community’, I was envisioning the larger community of the town rather than the specific faith community (YEC).

        I did not write that clearly. Your comment gives me an opportunity to clarify, and thank you.

    • David Greene says:

      I guess I find that advice a bit troubling. While it is great to think of the children’s needs now isn’t it possible, in that environment, they might grow up with some mythical baggage that will challenge their faith when they have to face reality in, say college for example?

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > The Bible Does Not Teach It

    This. It is beautiful because it is both True, and one never has to again endure the tedium of the Creationist hair-splitting-to–[not]-achieve-reconciliation exercises.

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    “This is not a matter of choosing to trust the “authority” of science over the “authority” of the Bible. That would suggest the two are designed to speak to the same subjects. They are not.

    “Let the scientists do science and help us gain an ever-increasing understanding of how the world works.

    “Let the Bible work faith, hope, and love through Jesus Christ and bring us to God’s new creation.”

    This is worth emphasizing. Go to a university town and look at the local churches. It is not difficult to find faculty members in them, including faculty from the various science departments. You are considerably less likely to find the science faculty in Evangelical churches, though a few manage the cognitive dissonance. (Note that engineers don’t count for this discussion.) There are, however, many Christian traditions other (and often older) than White Evangelical Protestantism. All this Young Earth stuff is, in most of them, simply a non-issue. The idea of agonizing over this disagreement with your church is simply mystifying to me. If you are in abusive relationship, then walk away. There are lots of other churches that would welcome you, without imposing this burden.

    We are going on a half century of Evangelical Protestantism claiming the exclusive right to the word “Christian.” They have manage to persuade not only themselves of this, but many non-Christians as well. This does not, however, make it true. Get past this Big Lie and whole old worlds open themselves to you.

    • “Note that engineers don’t count for this discussion.”

      An important point. Engineering and fundamentalist theology share many epistemological traits.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        So true. But the Psychological appeal of these approaches are so strong to particular personality types, even if those people are smart enough and know enough to know better.

    • Note that engineers don’t count for this discussion

      I would say the same for physicians. Broadly speaking, physicians are to the biological sciences (including genetics and biochemistry) as engineers are to the physical sciences. I know a lot of Christian physicians (most of them good people and good doctors) whose arguments against evolution essentially boil down to “I know a lot about the human body and I just don’t believe something that complex could arise through evolutionary processes.”

    • (Note that engineers don’t count for this discussion.)

      Uh, actually they do.

      • Yes we do!! I am an Engineer by education and vocation (and an Evangelical for that matter). Engineers are not monolithic in their thinking any more than any other profession is. But there is one thing all engineers subscribe to: the scientific method. It requires observation and reproducible data to determine the truth of any claim.

        I don’t question Richard’s observations regarding university science faculty and church attendance, but I did find one survey of evolutionary biologists (certainly relevant to creation theories). It found that nearly 80% of evolutionary biologists do not believe in a traditional God. I don’t suspect that they would show up for church.

        https://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/06/evolutionary-biologists-flunk-religion.html

        YEC’s definitely have a bias toward the literal Biblical accounts in Genesis. I would bet that evolutional biologists hold a similar bias against Genesis.

        Back to the main topic of YEC. I do not hold to YEC, mainly because of the lack of evidence and counter evidence for longer periods of time in geology, biology and probably others. However, I am not convinced of the truth of macroevolution (and no, that term is not an Evangelical buzzword). I have yet to see any observation of macroevolution occurring. Plus, it cannot be shown by observable and reproduceable evidence. Therefore, I still regard macroevolution (remember the scientific method) as a theory and not “settled science”.

        Of course science is never settled. Ptolemy’s earth-centered universe held sway for about 2000 years before Copernicus. Newtonian Physics was thought to be always true until Quantum Physics came along. It’s likely that current evolutionary biology will be shaken up by future discoveries.

        So what do I believe? I believe Genesis in the spirit it was written (Genesis is not a science textbook). I do literally believe first 5 words of Genesis:

        In the beginning, God created…

  5. I don’t think I agree.

    Science deliberately chose to concentrate on the purely material, so in that direction I’m with you.
    But I don’t think that there’s anything that says that the Christian faith (in general, I’m reacting to your answer, not the question, so not specific to Genesis) limits itself to the purely metaphysical. I think the Bible might not have anything to say about science, but it definitely does have things to say about the relationship between God and creation, between the supernatural and the natural (whatever they mean). So it definitely is going to end up walking on science’s lawn.

    This is probably more a function of what I’m musing on right now than what you actually wrote, by the way 🙂

  6. This is about where I end up on the matter. Largely, I think the YEC crowd is missing the point. They’ve taken an ancient story with great truths and treated it as a scientific text to be dissected and defended. Ugh.

    And honestly, I wouldn’t care if some people wanted to do that. It’s their choice. The problem is that they are usually spiritually absolutist about it. If you disagree, you’re pretty much on the road to perdition in their minds, and they won’t hesitate to tell you that. Ugh again.

    Also, and related to this, in yesterday’s post, I thought the first of the 10 theses (“The doctrine of creation is essential to the Christian faith”) was the most interesting. If by “doctrine of creation” they mean the belief that God created heaven and earth, then yes, I would agree. But not everyone is going to stop at the creedal understanding of the doctrine; many are going to go way beyond that. Specifically, many in the YEC crowd tie YEC belief to salvation and doctrinal purity. And they had to know this when they wrote that thesis and left it so nonspecific. It’s so meaningless that it’s little more than a mold into which people with wildly varying positions and beliefs can inject their own meaning. That kind of mush may keep the peace for a while but it’s not intellectually or theologically honest or helpful for the long term. Again. Ugh.

    This is one of the big reasons I’m in the post-evangelical wilderness. Evangelicals just seem unable to speak plainly and honestly about or to their own community.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “””That kind of mush may keep the peace for a while but it’s not intellectually or theologically honest or helpful”””

      This.

      “””And they had to know this when they wrote that thesis”””

      Yep. It’s a tired rhetorical trick where you either have to assume the author is (a) being dishonest or (b) entirely clueless.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Largely, I think the YEC crowd is missing the point. They’ve taken an ancient story with great truths and treated it as a scientific text to be dissected and defended.

      Some years ago, CM’s opinion was that the one-two punch of the Age of Reason and Industrial Revolution caused a major paradigm shift in how we view the Bible — from the Old Stories of God and Man to a Spiritual Engineering Handbook/Checklist of Axiom, Axiom, Axiom, Fact, Fact,.Fact, Check, Check, Check. (Check all the checkboxes correctly and you’re Saved.)

      And outside of the blogosphere, one of my contacts once commented about the YEC-related obsession with Finding Noah’s Ark:
      “They’re Looking for Absolute Solid Evidence that their Bible is True; something they can rub in our faces and go ‘See? We’re Right! You’re All Wrong! See? See? See?'”

  7. First of all let me say that I think the the interpretation of Genesis in today’s post is most probably the correct one. Despite being placed first in the canon Genesis was written rather late and is the culmination of at least a millennia of deep thought by sophisticated literary minds. That said, the truth is, but for the occasional exception, the stories in Genesis have been taken more or less literally by most of its readers over the last two thousand years.

    And this didn’t end with the passing of the Medieval world. On his third voyage to the Americas, in his journal Columbus speculates that the tremendous amount of fresh water they detected flowing into the ocean from the river now known as the Orinoco (a river of a size no European had ever seen) must come from one of the rivers of Paradise described in Genesis. The development of the science of Geology was held back for decades in the early 19th century (pre-Darwin) because the assumption was that the Flood must be a historical event. (Allow me to recommend an absorbing intellectual biography, “Genesis and Geology” by Charles Coulston Gillispie.)

    My point here is that once we modern sophisticates have abandoned a literal reading of Genesis and accepted Evolution as an accurate description of the development of the diversity of life on earth, we have not ended the conversation but truly begun it. There are consequences to taking a non-literal view of this text. This conversation rapidly becomes troublesome and problematic. (Which might give us a smidgen of sympathy for those who do not wish to begin it at all.)

    What do we say to those fundamentalists who ask, “What? No Adam and Eve? No Fall? The what is the point of Jesus? What becomes of Paul’s argument in Romans? If there was no First Adam, what need of the Second?”

    I guess what I’m saying here is before we criticize the point at which the Fundamentalist is ready to draw a line in the sand we better think about the point at which we’re willing to draw that line. How close to Easter do we get before we start getting queasy? If we respond that the Resurrection is fundamentally different than the creation account then we should expect another question, “How so?” After all the resurrection of the dead is a much more astounding claim than talking snakes!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      “””What do we say to those fundamentalists who ask, “What? No Adam and Eve? No Fall? The what is the point of Jesus”””

      I feel that we’ve covered that extensively here @ IM.

      But the trick I think is that answering “those fundamentalists” is pretty much pointless.

      Non-fundamentalists have answered this questions in many ways, over centuries.

      “””That said, the truth is, but for the occasional exception, the stories in Genesis have been taken more or less literally by most of its readers over the last two thousand years”””

      I am not certain that is true. It may be true if you limit the scope of your history to western Catholicism [which, itself has always carried within it a mean Fundamentalist streak – of which Columbus was a member].

    • We have dealt with such questions here, and there is a multitude of sources out there for people to check out that posit reasonable and satisfying interpretations for these questions. A main problem is that certain positions have become politicized and represent “our side,” and thus cannot be questioned.

      • This is a subject that obsesses me for sure. But I see I bit off more than I could possibly chew in a single post. How could it be otherwise?

        Yes, we have dealt with such questions here. One of the things that draws me to this place. But I find very few of those interpretations either reasonable or satisfying. My own itch to scratch.

        If we’re not going to let the fundamentalists off the hook than neither should we let ourselves off either.

        • But some of us do find those interpretations reasonable and plausible. Can we agree that it’s okay to disagree in this, and leave it at that? Not all reasonable people end up with the same conclusions, because there are large areas of ambiguity.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Stephen,

      re the Resurrection:

      1) there were witnesses. People who knew Jesus before his death saw him after his Resurrection, and knew he a) had been truly dead; b) was both the same person and c) there was at the same time something different about his body post resurrection. There were no witnesses to the Creation, no specific person to whom we can point. What we have in Genesis is a Story, the truth of which is much more like the Chronicles of Narnia than the nightly news report.

      2) – and this may not go over well with anti-Catholic types – there were martyrs and saints who lived their lives as if they already participated in the Resurrection; they lived from that basis of being, not the basis that was defined by their own death.

      If someone isn’t willing to listen to these, especially point 1, then better to be humble, pray for that person, and let the whole thing be, without argument. Much better for your own soul.

      Dana

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > and let the whole thing be, without argument

        Yes. If they are not open to these things, is debating the implications of creation/origin myths with them or hosing them down with Augustinian psycho-babble going to work?

        Sometime it is better to buy them a beer and talk about how the hockey season is going.

      • Yes, the New Testament emphasizes again and again the importance of the witnesses and their witness to the resurrection of Jesus. It understands that if you do not believe the witnesses, if you think their accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are the result of being deluded, mistaken, or intentionally deceptive, you have no basis for having faith in the risen Christ.

      • Dana, we read the story of Genesis in a book. But we also read the stories about Jesus in a book. Jesus and all the “witnesses” are characters in a book. Unless you accept some sort of special revelation these characters only come alive for us through the power of the active imagination. Through that power they transform us. I’m always hesitant to bore others with my personal spirituality but over the years I have developed a mystical bent. (Which is why I am drawn eastwards.) The Resurrection is a matter of faith not evidence. It is best thought of as an event in the consciousness of the disciples rather than as an event in space/time. This means it can be an event in our consciousness as well rather than merely another factoid in history that we assent to based on “evidence”.

        • The Resurrection …. is best thought of as an event in the consciousness of the disciples rather than as an event in space/time.

          Is consciousness not in space/time?

        • I assert and affirm that Jesus brings others to life even when they are dead, or otherwise incapable of imagining him or his resurrection. The severely intellectually disabled may not be able to imagine him, but he is still their creator and redeemer, and he transforms them, and me, despite the respective limitations of our imaginations. There is certainly mysticism involved, because this world itself as God created it is charged with mystical reality, and we see it clearly in the material resurrection of Jesus. There is no conflict or bifurcation between the mystical and matter; God’s world is all one piece, no two story creation, as Dana has reminded us repeatedly.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      “My point here is that once we modern sophisticates have abandoned a literal reading of Genesis…”

      Note the implicit assumption that a non-literal reading of Genesis is a recent phenomenon.

      • Implicit? Just the contrary. But as Adam points out hereabouts we have to unpack what we mean by “literal”. What it absolutely doesn’t mean is that the ancients viewed the first two chapters of Genesis as a scientific explanation. To them “reality” was a story. A true story. A true story that could be interpreted on multiple levels. It’s not that they didn’t understand the concepts of “literal” and “figurative”. It’s that they didn’t see them as contraries. In choosing a “figurative” interpretation over a “literal” one we make a distinction the ancients didn’t.

  8. Burro (Mule) says:

    Once again, I think we err in thinking that our ancestors had the same kind of perceptions that we do; that they saw more or less the way we do. Reading the Iliad in the 8th C BC Greek puzzled me for the lack of color words used. It appears that green and yellow were relatively fresh experiences for them.

    Reading old books you kind of get the feeling that the ancients lived in a world that was more instinctive and, for lack of a better word, mythological, than ours is. I also don’t believe that they had as highly developed a sense of individuality as do early 21st century Westerners. Certainly, in my travels, I have found Americans and Europeans to be more individuated than Indians and Middle-Easterners. So, in a sense, the Edenic narratives were ‘literal’ for them, but not in the way they would be ‘literal’ for us.

    Somewhere around the 17th century, the idea of the mechanistic, materialistic universe took hold, kind of about the same time Descartes positioned Doubt as the epistimological primitive. It worked marvelously well as kind of a spiritual antihistamine, but like a strong antibiotic it killed off the benevolent ‘macrobes’ as well as the virulent ones. We no longer had to worry about ‘the evil eye’, but our ideologies became more ruthless and demanding.

    I wish I had enough time in my life to pursue these sorts of questions, but as far as I know very few people are even interested in them, and the ones who are, like Owen Barfield, are hard to follow.

    • Burro (Mule) says:

      Also, not that I know a great deal about this sort of thing, but some of the stuff in Genesis, especially in the fourth, sixth, eleventh, and twenty-second chapters, has a very antique feel to it.

      As does Job
      As do some of the Psalms

    • Ronald Avra says:

      Pursuing ‘those sorts of questions’ will very likely entail a lot of initial and basic research because, as you noted, few people are interested, or will be ever interested.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        And nobody’s gonna pay you to do it.

        But that is some of what the likes of John Walton do; and he especially presents a very complex reading of Genesis.

      • Once again, I think we err in thinking that our ancestors had the same kind of perceptions that we do; that they saw more or less the way we do.

        I’m not sure the guy down the block has the same kind of perceptions that I do, or sees more or less the way I do. For your idea to be anything other than speculation, we would need a way to measure such subjective intangibles across centuries of time, as well as across contemporary modern city and suburban neighborhoods.

        • Burro (Mule) says:

          There are ways of measuring these things, using things like language and wavelengths, so that it doesn’t have to be entirely subjective, but can be properly intersubjective. A couple of the people who have poked their noses into this labyrinth (Owen Barfield, Richard M. Bucke) have commented on the relatively recentemergence of color-words for blue, green, and yellow, which were non-existant in Homer and the Vedas, and so posited the relatively recent evolution of the ability to discern those wavelengths.

          You’re right about the difficulty of establishing changes in perception and consciousness to be anything other than idle specualtion, but it appears to me to have happened a couple of times in recorded history; once during the so-called Axial Age, and again during the birth of positivism in the 17th/18th C.

          Words as neurological events are just now beginning to be studied.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > the Edenic narratives were ‘literal’ for them, but not in the way they would be ‘literal’ for us.

      Yep. Notions like “literal” are something that itself needs a lot of unpacking and deconstruction; it often relates more to the “obvious” meaning than anything Literary. And what one person in one culture find that Obvious meaning to be, verses another…

  9. senecagriggs says:

    Of course when you read the words of Genesis, there is nothing about the passages that suggest it is allegory. It is written as if it was literal history.

    So, there is actually no Adam, no Eve, no Garden of Eden, no tree of life, no serpent. There is no Cain, no Abel. All of it is myth or allegory?

    At what point in Genesis did these humans become factual instead of mythological. If Adam was myth, who then was a real flesh and blood man in Genesis.

    And the men who wrote Scripture; God was not shepherding their writings either? Their writing were not “spirit breathed?” A God who is perfect and demands perfection is content with this?
    __________

    It’s a “bridge too far” my progressive friends. I cannot agree with making Scripture less than authoritative when you consider the Holy, Perfect, Immutable, omnipresence of a righteous and perfect God.

    • It’s not a bridge too far, it’s just a difficult crossing that you are unwilling to make. But not crossing, staying behind on your side of the chasm, presents its own difficulties, and they are crippling ones.

    • “Of course when you read the words of Genesis, there is nothing about the passages that suggest it is allegory. It is written as if it was literal history.”

      Of course, simply reading the passages in English translations with no appreciation of the original cultural context, you could say that. But that’s not how the original recipients would have understood it.

      “At what point in Genesis did these humans become factual instead of mythological. If Adam was myth, who then was a real flesh and blood man in Genesis.”

      Why is that so important? I’m not saying it *isn’t*, but maybe you should ask WHY that’s so important to you.

  10. john barry says:

    Did Jesus conquer death and return? If that is not true than Christianity is a false religion without a base to exist. Believe in Jesus Christ comes from our exposure to the Bible and its teachings. Sitting here in 2019, wow 2019, it is easy for me to come to the conclusion that the only part of the Bible that is useful in the New Testament , as far as “real” truth is concerned. I believe the early Christians had no use for the Old Testament and it was not held in high esteem.

    If evangelical leaders would gently and using real understanding of their peoples longing for 21st century, start a realignment of their historic , long taught and sincere beliefs “wean” the true believers from the OT it might be the answer. I believe the OT served its purpose for the people it was written for , when it was written. From that foundation came the Messiah , who freed us from the “law” which can only condemn us.

    I think the early Christians had it right. The whole battle of the reality of the OT is taking the energy away from the story of Jesus.

    The OT is the story of the people who teachings, learning and faith led to them being chosen as a people who God chose to send his Son.

    Easy for me to write, hard for leaders to upend 3000 years of OT .

    • No reason to eject the Old Testament, and not a good idea, because “salvation is from the Jews.” Christians just need to read it through the prism of Christ, and to recognize that it is Christ who makes the OT meaningful to us, not it him. To claim that the proposed historicity of Genesis is equal in importance for the Christian faith to the apostolic account of the resurrection of Jesus is to take Christ out of his proper place and make him just one data point among many others in the Old and New Testaments. That’s a losing proposition.

      • senecagriggs says:

        There had to be a first man. Can you not see that I-monkers?

        • Christiane says:

          I like to think there was, senecagriggs.

          I suspect that the ‘first man’ was a creature who was capable of compassion and empathy for one of his own kind who was disabled and would not survive without special nurturing . . . and there is an account by an archeologist that evidence was found that among the earliest evidence of human kind, there were the remains of a skeleton that showed a deformity in the bones that would have made that person unable to fend for themselves. . . . . and the strange thing was that this deformed person’s remains were those of an adult.

          The significance? In order for the deformed person to reach adulthood, there would have had to be someone who was humane enough to care for that deformed person,
          and we know that in most early civilizations, there was no evidence of empathy or compassion because ‘survival’ required a brutality that had no room for the disabled.

          So maybe, senecagriggs, the ‘first person’ made in the ‘image of God’ was the one who cared for that handicapped helpless being. From what we know of the ‘fruit of the Holy Spirit’, that person who was kind and showed compassion and love, over a long period of time, would have been ‘humane’ enough to care for a helpless being into his adult age. I like to think that evidence showed something of a giant step for humanity, that a helpless being was first cared for and lived by the kindness of one who was blessed with humanity’s most signature quality: kindness born out of compassion.

  11. Let the scientists do science and help us gain an ever-increasing understanding of how the world works.

    Mike, your faith in scientists may be a bit overdone. Science these days is a bit hamstrung by dogmatism which limits its own lines of inquiry. I’d love to get your thoughts on this presentation:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TerTgDEgUE

    Sure, we are still making forward strides. But let’s not kid ourselves that science is the undisputed epistemological queen of the empirical realm. It relies on certain assumptions, and more importantly, the ability of man to question his own sacred cows. Dogmatic materialism may have to be overcome before science can take us to the next paradigm.