Seven Glorious Days: An Interview with Karl Giberson
The book was successful and we were all happy with that, but I kind of had this project sitting around. So I approached Lil Copan who was an editor at Paraclete at the time and she liked it a lot. She suggested that I write a little short book—she described it as the kind of thing you do in a long weekend. She really liked the sample chapter a lot, and made some great suggestions and then brought it to the marketing people there. They said they wanted to publish it, but they liked it so much that they wanted to boost it from a 20,000-word book to 40-45,000. So they asked me to do that.
How should readers approach this book? How was the process of writing it different from your other books?
The book needs to be understood as a creative exercise. It's as if someone said, paint a picture of Jesus at Starbucks, or tell a story about Jesus going to Walmart. You have to give someone creative license to do that.
One of the first things I had to do was figure out how to divide the history of the universe from the big bang to the present into seven periods. And I'm not doing that because I want to suggest that the days of Genesis are 2 billion years long and if you just make that change everything will line up, but it's a way to keep it connected to the Genesis story.
Also, we understand now that the creative processes that gave birth to the universe don't really stop, so I had to figure that out. That's quite different scientifically and theologically from most of Genesis.
Then, the modern scientific picture comes across as much more deistic than the biblical story does. So I had to think about how to handle that. We don't understand creation today as involving all kinds of divine interventions to do things, but as Christians we affirm that God's creative work is unfolding throughout history.
So those all involve making artistic decisions. I hope it will be read on those terms.
Is this book an effort to convince people who don't believe in evolution that it is, in fact, compatible with faith?
I used to be more idealistic and think all we need to do is get good arguments in circulation. But, I'm a lot more pessimistic now. I think that the people who oppose contemporary science are going to oppose it no matter what.
So this is really more of a book written for the faithful to let them enjoy their "liberal apostasy" in a way they couldn't before.
That said, it has the potential to be very convincing, especially for evangelicals who don't feel the need to be biblical literalists. They can buy into this and see that this is a grand story; there are a lot of people who think the secular origin story is quite wonderful. There's no reason why people can't be drawn to that position.
But I don't feel like you're going to get that many people to change their minds. I think we're at a cultural moment where people believe what they want and become immune to information. And they can always find some credentialed expert to tell them that they're right.
Paraclete is not one of the big evangelical publishers in the same way as some of the others you've worked with. How was that experience different?
The book is a reflection of my own spiritual journey. Like so many mid-career academics I share the feeling that evangelicalism has abandoned us, in a sense. It went somewhere over the course of our adult life and adopted a public face which is anti-intellectual and anti-science. It became very political and obsessed with a few social issues at the expense of the broader gospel. So I'm quite happy to say that I want to speak to audiences that have evolved past evangelicalism or were never in that community to begin with.
Jonathan D. Fitzgerald is the managing editor of Patrolmag.com, and writes on the various manifestations of Christianity in culture. Follow him on Twitter or at his website, www.jonathandfitzgerald.com.