THE THEOLOGY CHAPTERS
Scot’s first chapter deals with four principles with which to read the Bible. As Scot says at the outset “Theology which is designed to investigate that nonempirical reality in some ways, can provide a map onto which we can locate science and which can challenge science.” (p. 95). Exactly my point. The empirically observable and testable world is not all there is to reality. Scot’s concern is “we will all gain clarity if Christians learn how to speak about Adam and Eve in a context that both affirms conclusions about the genome and challenges some conclusions drawn from the Human Genome Project.” (p. 97).
The first of the four principles by which to study the Bible and talk with others about it is respect and respectful discourse for disciplines other than Biblical studies, and in this case science, and particularly genetics. I agree with Scot’s statement on p. 99 that it is disrespectful to Scripture itself to expect the authors of Gen. 1-11 to be scientists in advance of the scientific era that already understand DNA etc. There is no evidence that they did.
If one takes the related field of cosmology, what we have is the use of phenomenological not scientific language about the relationship of our sun to earth. They talk about the sun rising and setting, which is true from an earthbound observational point of view. That’s how it looks to us. It’s not the reality of the situation however. Such observations are not intended to teach us cosmology, merely how things appeared to these ancient people, and indeed, how it appears still today to us. Scot spends considerable time situating Gen. 1-11 in its ANE context in some helpful ways as we shall see. He even recites my favorite dictum—a text without a context is just a pretext for whatever you want it to mean.
I will certainly never forget the time I hitch-hiked back from the mountains of N.C. in 1969 with two flat landers, who insisted that the moon walk by Neal Armstrong and all those pictures of a beautiful round and revolving earth were a Hollywood stunt. When my friend Doug asked why they thought it was fake the answer was ‘it says in the book of Revelations that the angels will stand on the four corners of the earth’. Can’t be round if it has four corners. ‘Bless their hearts’ these folks did not know that apocalyptic literature isn’t teaching cosmology, its teaching eschatology, and the whole point was the angels would round up people from all points on the compass, not that the earth was flat! Sometimes invincible ignorance is impossible to dialogue with.