Genesis 1: It Doesn’t Have To Be True In Order To Still Be True

Genesis 1: It Doesn’t Have To Be True In Order To Still Be True January 15, 2014

As I wrote about yesterday, the upcoming debate at the creation museum is causing quite the stir– something that I think is great, because one of the areas in American Christianity where we need more dialogue is around recovering a bit more peace amidst the tension that some of the Old Testament stories cause among us.

Right now, that happens to be the creation poem found in Genesis 1, but there are a host of examples that could serve as good discussion points in this dialogue. Unfortunately, we’ve again found ourselves with two rather extreme viewpoints in my opinion, one being that creation evolved out of nothing and the other being that the narrative found in Genesis 1 can only be interpreted in a strict literal sense in order to be true. As I mentioned yesterday, neither option is one that I find compelling– one side leaves a creator God completely out of the framework, while the other forces a beautiful text born out of oral cultures that told stories such as the creation poem, to become something I don’t believe it was ever intended: a matter-of-fact scientific text.

The truth (that which corresponds to reality) I believe, is found somewhere between these two sides.

A good starting point in this general discussion is to realize that some of the Old Testament stories don’t have to be true in order to still be true.

Let me explain:

In regard to hermeneutics, discovering “truth” in a biblical passage speaks to authorial intent. I don’t believe the “truth” is always the plain text itself (though certainly other theologians would disagree with me), but rather the message intended to be conveyed through that text. When we approach, say Genesis 1, we have to ask ourselves “what truth did the author intend to convey?” If the author of Genesis intended to convey that God created the earth 7,000 years ago in a period of six, 24 hour days, that would be what was “true” about the passage. But what if that’s not what the authorial intent was?

Truth, in such a case, would be something different– something deeper.

Interpreting Genesis 1 the way that many, such as Ken Ham, are doing today, I believe misses authorial intent– and church history agrees with me. Understanding a young-earth, literal 24 hour creation period is a relatively new viewpoint. Many of the church fathers saw the “days” in Genesis as speaking to periods of time (the Hebrew word used for “day” in Genesis can mean 12 hours, 24 hours, or also be used to speak of a much longer period of time), and the young earth movement is largely based upon Ussher’s work in the 1600’s. So, my viewpoint regarding Genesis is actually more in harmony with the church fathers than that of Ham and other modern creationists who insist on a strict literal interpretation of Genesis 1.

The question becomes: what “truth” did the author of the creation poem intend to convey?

Since Genesis 1 is clearly poetic in form, and was likely written down after generations of the story being used in the context of an oral (as opposed to book) culture, I think it is safe to say what the text was not– that being a text intended to convey scientific fact in the way 21st Century book cultures would write something intended to convey scientific fact. Imagine how it was used for generations before being written down: sitting around a campfire, looking up at the heavens, and reciting a beautiful story about a God who created everything you see around you.

And this, I believe, is where we find what is true about Genesis 1.

There is a God… and this God created everything you see around you.

When we get lost in these debates over truth, I think we actually can miss what is really true.

Did God create everything in recent history, using just six, 24 hour days? I don’t believe so. Some things don’t have to be true in order to still be true. Instead, what’s true is that he is the agent who created it– the grass, the trees, the abundant life in the oceans, all of the animals that graze from the plains of Africa to the foothills of Maine, all the way down to you and me.

That, I believe, is the truth that is intended to be conveyed when we read Genesis 1.

Another great example is the story of Jonah and the whale: did he really get swallowed by a “big fish” and live in it for three days? I think that discussion actually misses the point– what’s true about the story isn’t necessary getting swallowed by a fish. It’s a story about a God who invited a man to embrace a calling to show God’s love to his enemies– but he refused, and ran from God’s call on his life. As a result, he became miserable and found himself in a dark and lonely place, because he refused to embrace who God made him to be.

So, this story, likewise need not be true in order to still be true– because the truth of the story (embrace God’s call on your life and who he made you– don’t run from it) goes deeper than what we initially see from the plain text itself.

Genesis, was not written in an attempt to write a science book. It was intended to convey a beautiful truth: there is a God, and this God made everything in the universe.

My hope is that for many of us who wrestle with difficult parts of the Old Testament, that we’ll find freedom to embrace these stories– gleaning truth and wisdom from them, instead of getting lost in the tiresome literal or metaphoric debate– if you look hard enough, there’s a third option.

It simply requires us to look a little deeper than the surface of the text, where we find that things need not always be true in order to still be true.


(for more on this topic, be sure to read this important article I previously wrote on Literal vs. Metaphoric or are we asking the wrong question?)
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  • The Genesis mythology (along with the closely related epic of Gilgamesh) is a narrative of the Neolithic revolution; the last 70 years of paleoanthropology confirms this exegesis.

    Ched Myers (2005) The Fall & Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Edited by Bron Taylor. NY: Continuum.

  • Pubilius

    We first semester seminaries wrestle with this– we say it’s not fact, but there’s truth in it. EXCACTLY right though. This understanding is liberating and far deeper than biblical literalists (and also atheists) understand.

  • TheRealRandomFunction

    What about the story of Eden and the fall?

  • code_monkey_steve

    ‘The bible is definitely true, except for the parts which science has demonstrated are definitely false, which are still true, because they were intended to be true.’

  • One of my mentors, the late Davie Napier, used to say that the “is-ness” of scripture is more important that the “was-ness.” In other words, the important thing is not, did this actually happen in a literal sense, but rather, it’s message is one that is being fleshed out even today. Similarly, someone else pointed out to me that if we are focused on a literal Adam, we can conveniently avoid what the Genesis story says about those of us now who are reading the text.

  • ThisIsTheEnd

    So very true. And if that approach can be applied to the Bible then it can be applied to all religious texts. Or more prosaically any text. The adventures of Harry Potter doesn’t have to be true in order to still be true.

  • Itarion

    I will have to disagree that [I’m assuming you meant all] atheists don’t understand that there is and can be a deeper intent hidden within what’s written. Literature analysis tools were a large part of my education, and the Bible qualifies as literature. What is being read is not literally true, but understanding of the world, society, etc. can be gained by understanding what is written.

    As an aside, generalization along stereotypes is often not helpful. Many don’t understand that there is hidden meaning in works of fiction, but the fact that these people may or may not be atheists or biblical literalists is irrelevant.

  • Pubilius

    I think in this case, given the medium of the Internet, it’s quite helpful to speak generally, as there are many atheists and biblical literalists who discount deeper readings of the text, indeed these appear to be majority voices on both groups (Reddit, HuffPo, etc) sometimes to the point of being anti-Jewish by dismissing the Hebrew Bible (OT) as being about factual violence and awful, for example.
    But you’re absolutely right, by no means do all atheists or biblical literalists do this, it’s entirely possible that the majority of atheists, apart from those on the Internet, don’t ascribe to doing this and take a literary analysis approach to the text.

  • VorJack

    I think it is safe to say what the text was not– that being a text intended to convey scientific fact in the way 21st Century book cultures would write something intended to convey scientific fact.

    Obviously not, since the genres of science and scientific history did not exist, and would not exists for thousands of years yet. But just the same, trying to interpret it as modern literature is also a problem.

    I don’t think you can separate literary meaning and surface meaning that easily when dealing with ancient mythology. As near as historians can tell, the authors of Genesis believe they were telling a meaningful story about creation AND a roughly accurate story about how the world came to be. The authors were trying to answer both the “how” questions and the “why” questions in the same story.

    We don’t have to focus on just the things that appear to be absurdities to us today, like the flat earth and light appearing before the sun. But I think we should recognize that the original authors did not see those things as absurdities, and likely thought they were making accurate statements.

  • To be fair, it should be noted that in the New Testament, for example, there are instances showing Jesus and Paul using specific references to the Genesis creation story to advocate doctrines which are much more specific and literal than merely the general “there is a God, and God made everything in the universe”.

    I would also point out that there is a fallacious circularity involved in any kind of hermeneutic principle that automatically disallows any interpretation simply because the interpretation states or implies an idea that we know is wrong.

  • I don’t disagree, and that wouldn’t describe my hermeneutic. I don’t disallow alternative interpretations– in fact, I lean towards accepting the Jonah story as written. My point was, even if it’s not literally true, the important principle in the story still would be true. My main points of contention are YEC, and viewing the days of Genesis as literal, solar days. I’m probably in the middle of where a traditional creationist would be and where my average reader might be.

  • Jim

    Other things that are not true but are believed by millions: the great flood and Noah’s ark, the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, the ten plagues of the Egyptians (why didn’t God kill the pharaoh instead of the innocent first born “of man and beast?”), the battle of Jericho, the talking snake, Eve picking the forbidden fruit (why did God put a guard around the tree after Eve picked the fruit?) and dozens of other stories.

  • luciano tanto

    …pure (celestial) magic!

  • WalterWhite007

    Sounds like a whole lot of special pleading….the only thing one has to keep in mind is; you can’t claim some of the biggest stories of the bible which are the basis for many peoples faith aren’t really true and then claim other stories really are true (as in factual or facts). Then to assert that your beliefs are based on both is how you end up only believing based on ‘faith’ which as we all know is a belief in a thing in the absence of any facts. Also, one has to go with what is most probable until proved otherwise. The scientific explanations for how the universe has evolved are far and away more probable than any bible stories which are almost all not probable since many of the myths contradict what science states. Revelation is claimed as a source of knowledge by many faithful when all it is,is an idea in a person’s mind and not in any way factual.

  • I think one of the points you’re missing is that science is unable to explain “how” the universe actually came to be. Yes, it can explain the big bang and so much after, but no one can answer where matter came from. If you go back enough, we both arrive at a position of faith because one would either have to have faith that something can spontaneously came into existence without cause, or that there is a God who caused it. So, ultimately both sides rely on an element of faith.

  • WalterWhite007

    Saying there’s a god doesn’t answer how only who. Explaining a god however is a much more tricky subject. Apply your ‘can’t explain where matter came from’ to god and you are in the same place. Many physicists have explained that the 2nd law of thermodynamics is not violated if the universe sprang into existence out of nothing. In their opinion it makes perfect sense.
    No faith required. god and all things supernatural/mystical are constructs of the human mind. Even IF there was god it couldn’t possibly be the psychotic imbecile of the bible.

  • WalterWhite007

    After reading your article and your responses to posters I think you are an agnostic and if you applied some critical non biased thought to your beliefs (look at what you believe (bible etc.) as a non believing alien new to the planet for example as though you’ve never read the bible or been told what to believe by your parents) I think you would not be a believer when your enquiry was done. Belief in bible myths takes a lot special pleading with one’s self imo.

  • WalterWhite007

    Science still can’t explain many things but its track record at explanation is far and away better than any other method we have.
    Bible explanations worthy of being taught in school = 0.
    Science explanations = infinity.

  • Mark Caponigro

    Which just shows that a great desideratum for a great many Christians is to acquire the courage to point to places in the Bible and simply declare them false. Christians (and Jews) do not need scientists to tell them that the story of the Flood is unacceptable; they can find enough reasons in their own hearts (hopefully, if they have a decent conscience). “God” in that story (and not just there) is merely an unimpressive divine character, not the true God. How in the world can a decent person actually propose that we worship a god who put to death the great majority of human beings, as though every single one of them can really be believed to have committed a capital offense, even little infants, to say nothing of all the perfectly innocent non-human animals? Michelangelo got this right, on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, when he showed great sympathy for the people about to drown, and not much interest in the Ark in the background. It is a shocking, monstrous deception, that so many Christian parents can cheerily put images of Noah’s Ark in their children’s nurseries. And then there’s that detail about the Curse of Ham, and how for centuries pious Bible-reading Christians used it to justify their enslavement of African people — abominable!

  • deadweasel

    As part of your seminary instruction, do they teach that special pleading is a fallacy, or a valid method of apologetics?

  • I do realize that your overall perspective and mine are rather divergent. (But do note that I was raised in a fundamentalist denomination, was a Christian myself for several years, and even had Biblical Studies for my major my first year in university, so your perspective is certainly not completely foreign to me.)

    I say this merely as tangential context for my following point…

    I take issue with young earth creationists for their circular method of ignoring science whenever they feel like it because of their particular religious beliefs (about the Bible). It is circular, because once a person goes down a path of adhering to some particular belief(s) despite any evidence to the contrary, he has automatically thrown epistemological concern out the window. This issue in the context of creationist rhetoric impinges directly on all of the rhetoric they use regarding “truth” and “morality” – because, obviously, anyone who decides he’s going to believe what he believe (and promote that belief) without giving due consideration to contrary evidence (i.e., following a behavior of being more-or-less systematically careless about getting his facts straight) has no legitimate claim to being truthful or truth-seeking, and this kind of behavior is inherently dishonest (not truthful) and thus by its very nature it is not moral.

    But there is a flip side to this coin, in the same context of religious belief and specifically Christian belief in the Bible, which has to do with the doctrine of biblical infallibility (in whatever particular manifestation that doctrine might be used). It is this doctrine that young earth creationists are relying on to reject science. But it is also this doctrine that more moderate Christians are relying on to “reinterpret” the Bible, to try to make it “not wrong”.

    And just to get a potential argument out of the way quickly, there is no doubt that there are many things in the Bible that are actually right, just as, for example, there are many things in the Quran that are actually right, but this fact does not imply that the general claim that the book (or, in the case of the Bible, that the writings, and their editing, and their collection and canonization) came from a god, was inspired by a god, or even actually has anything to do with any actual god, is correct.

    I do realize that in the current context you are not attempting to address these kinds of issues, but that you are a “more moderate” Christian addressing “more conservative” Christians in regard to creationism and the Genesis creation story in the social context of what we have learned about reality through scientific study which directly falsify some previous traditional Christian doctrines. And I’m merely pointing out that the doctrine of biblical infallibility – which you both share – is itself what produces the problem of circularity.

    In specific regard to the days of Genesis 1, there is no doubt that some Christian theologians several hundred years ago were willing to not interpret the days themselves literally, but this does not change the fact that all of them were young earth creationists, who simply believed that the creation took place instantly, at once, a few thousand years ago, instead of in six days a few thousand years ago.

    Additionally, in regard to our later context (i.e., the last two hundreds years or so), all the reinterpretation going on has been directly motivated by and a reaction to scientific discoveries that showed that the previous religious beliefs based on the Bible had to be wrong, and a desire to preserve the more fundamental doctrine of biblical infallibility (or, perhaps I should be referring to the belief that the Bible is divinely inspired).

    Young earth creationism is obviously wrong, and is thus highly corrosive to Christian religious belief in the 21st century, where incredibly easy access to excellent science-related information at, literally, the click of a (graphical) button has been completely democratized with the magic of the internet. (The Hubble Space Telescope website, for example, is candy for the science-interested.) I’m simply pointing out that creatively reinterpreting the Bible so as not to be so wrong does not actually improve the situation on a rational basis – even while I agree that pragmatically it obviously helps the promotion of Christian religious belief in the 21st century to jettison young earth creationism.

  • “it’s entirely possible that the majority of atheists, apart from those on the Internet, don’t ascribe to doing this and take a literary analysis approach to the text.”

    Uh… You’re missing the point. In regard to *atheism* the issue, in regard to the Bible, is whether or not it is true in regard to having come from a god. The argument, that ‘Well, what it literally says is not what is true, but it is the message that is true, based on a literary analysis of the text’, simply doesn’t help substantiate the claim that it is true in regard to having come from a god – indeed, in many cases that argument is used precisely for the purpose of trying to remove the claim being tested against actual evidence in the first place.

  • Your reply contains two errors: (1) Atheists don’t rely on faith, specifically and deliberately. (2) The god-of-the-gaps argument is a fallacy. If you don’t know something, then what is the correct response? The correct response is, obviously, “That is something we don’t know”, not “God did it”.

  • kaffikjelen

    What follows is a true story:

    On December 6th 2009 I sacrificed everything in order to save Barack Obama from two Mexican mercenaries, who went by the names of Juan and Miguel. They were born on October 2nd 1982 and March 27th 1979, respectively. The president was at my house that evening, for it was cold outside. The night took a sudden, dramatic turn when I noticed the thugs approaching the president as he sat by my fireplace, which was an authentic 18th century oven, located in the ground floor. I sneaked up on the criminals and threw my favourite blanket over them, blinding them for a short spell. Unfortunately, as they tumbled around, they collided with a lit candle, causing them to be set on fire. The fire quickly spread, and I had no time to get any water or the fire extinguisher located in the upper floor by the picture of my grandma. I hurried to alert the president, who was sound asleep from all the beer he had been drinking. He quickly regained consciousness from the smelling salts I customarily carry around. The strategic placement of a nearby window saved us that day, as we jumped out, escaping by the skin of our teeth, which teeth were already in bad shape after all the candy I served the president. He thanked me graciously, but we were both saddened to see my entire house burn down. By the time the firefighters arrived, there was little to save. All I was left with was a 10$ note from the president as consolation. What a cheapskate!

    The End.

    I plan to add this story to my upcoming autobiography, which I am ~50% done with, thanks to perusing the works of the Brothers Grimm and other folklore. It will be the most veracious autobiography ever, unlike most of the exaggerated ‘literature’ released by these pompous Hollywood celebrities.

  • Pubilius

    No it doesn’t. I haven’t missed the point, I’m afraid you’ve missed mine: My comment is regarding the many atheists who automatically assume all Christians take a literalist view of the Bible, and that the history mentioned, like that of the Israelite wars and slaughters, are literally historical fact– both of which are not correct.

    My comment is not about the existence of a divine entity at all.

  • Pubilius

    again, my comment was not about the existence of the divine, that’s not a premise to my statement, but rather a fallacy of many atheists that assume all Christians view the Bible as historical fact, while at the same time, do not understand that many of the most violent acts mentioned aren’t historically factual.

  • When you bring atheism into the context of discussion, it is, by definition. This is the point. Atheists don’t care whether you take the Bible literally (it’s wrong), or not (it’s still wrong, or, at best, merely subjective, in which case it provides no good empirical basis for the belief that the Bible says anything correct about anything, but especially about anything to do with gods, angels, ghosts, demons, spirits, spirit worlds, visions of a resurrected savior, etc.). If the Noah’s Flood account is taken as an actual event, the Bible is wrong. If the Noah’s Flood account is merely a religious myth with a supposed “spiritual meaning” then it is merely pointless (not to mention morally barbaric) with any typical fable of Aesop holding greater value. Bear in mind that I’m fully aware of the allegation by “moderate” Christians that atheists are typically ignorant or naive about supposedly “more sophisticated” theology, and what I’m pointing out is that in the context of dealing with the criticism of religious belief by atheists that allegation is not only wrong but it doesn’t change the fundamental criticism of religious faith (in this case, Christian faith) by atheists.

  • I’m fully aware of the allegation by “moderate” Christians that atheists are typically ignorant or naive about supposedly “more sophisticated” theology

    Hi there!

    what I’m pointing out is that in the context of dealing with the criticism of religious belief by atheists that allegation is not only wrong but it doesn’t change the fundamental criticism of religious faith (in this case, Christian faith) by atheists.

    Since you’re still unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of myths, Steve, I’d say the criticism stands. Just because the only way you’re comfortable with approaching myths is at the sophistication level of a five-year-old Christian, I’m afraid you still have a lot to learn about the tension between mythos and logos.

    Rock on.

  • “unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of myths”

    Again (yet again), this is an entirely bogus argument. Atheists are not unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of Bible myths and other Bible stories any more than they are unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of Greek or Roman or Mayan, or Viking religious mythologies. Your argument is, again, merely false. There is no doubt that this bogus argument is used as a red herring to merely sidestep the point, the point being that symbolic meaning does not in any sense make the myths true in the broader context of the claim of divine inspiration. As empirical claims about reality, religious mythologies are merely pointless. Arguing that the stories are not “literally” true, but are “true in their spiritual meaning (because they were inspired by God)”, does not touch hide nor hair of the atheistic criticism of religious belief. There is no doubt that anyone can seek “spiritual meaning” in any religious mythology, just as they can seek “spiritual meaning” in a Tom Robbins or Carlos Castaneda novel. But this has zero relevance to justifying the idea that, for example, a Yaqui shaman can turn into a wolf (or whether anyone like don Juan ever even existed at all) – in other words, it has nothing to do with claims that Christians make about reality based on their selected “spiritual meanings”, such as that the Bible God actually exists. Christian religious belief is subjective belief based on religious mythologies and superstitions of a particular religious culture, and reinterpreting Bible texts to merely glean their “true spiritual meaning” doesn’t change that in the slightest.

  • Steve, in one breath you say,

    Atheists are not unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of Bible myths and other Bible stories any more than they are unable to deal with the symbolic meaning of Greek or Roman or Mayan, or Viking religious mythologies.

    Then in the next, you say,

    As empirical claims about reality, religious mythologies are merely pointless.

    Which just demonstrates how profound, consistent, and intractable your ignorance of symbolic language is.

    Once a fundie, always a fundie. I’m never so amused as when a person who used to excoriate others for their failure to live by his interpretation of Christianity becomes a person who hectors and derides others for their inability to provide empirical evidence for matters that aren’t scientific. You’ve traded the phony certainty of religious fundamentalism for the phony certainty of scientism, and now you’re demanding that others abandon their false beliefs or be subject to ridicule by the neo-positivist online arbiters of Truth.

    If you could look at this issue outside of your biases, you’d be surprised to learn that I don’t believe in the Biblical God, the efficacy of prayer, or life after death any more than you do. Believers aren’t all black-and-white fundies who push pseudoscience and homophobia, and who invoke the name of their CEO God to settle online disputes. If that easy target is the only object you feel comfortable calling a believer, well, that just goes to show how seriously you take this whole silly crusade.

  • “Which just demonstrates how profound, consistent, and intractable your ignorance of symbolic language is.”

    Yet again do we observe your employment of utterly red herring rhetoric, used to completely ignore the point. Do note that my major in college was mathematics, in which symbolic language is all there is.

    I will also point out that, in regard to your particular religious beliefs, whatever they may be, from what you have just stated here you are not just outside of the Christian mainstream (not just fundamentalist/evangelicals), but *far* outside of it.

  • Yet again do we observe your employment of utterly red herring rhetoric, used to completely ignore the point

    Your point seems to be that religious mythology is useless in making empirical claims. I have said several times now, in plain enough English, that religious mythology isn’t meant to make empirical claims.

    So, um, which one of us is truly ignoring the point?

  • “Which just demonstrates how profound, consistent, and intractable your ignorance of symbolic language is.”

    Of course, I neglected to mention that you also completely ignored my specific reference to Carlos Castaneda.

  • I neglected to mention that you also completely ignored my specific reference to Carlos Castaneda.

    Heh heh. Just when I start thinking you’re the most humorless old prick on the planet, you go for the curve ball.

    Well played.

  • “religious mythology isn’t *meant* to make empirical claims.”

    Uh… This does not happen to represent a point of disagreement. My point of contention is in the failure to recognize that the entire context of the article (at the top of the page) is based on a hermeneutical principle that is inherently fallacious, not to mention the fact that it is based on the idea that religious mythology IS meant to make empirical claims (just not those particular claims that have become popularly recognized to be obviously wrong), including the claims that the Bible God (not just any vague notion of a god) exists and that Jesus died on the cross as a propitiation to God for personal sins so each person may be saved by God in the afterlife, and a host of other empirical claims about reality. This is not just a matter of fundamentalist Christianity, but we’re talking about the vast majority of Christian religion on the planet. Even such a liberal Christian as John Shelby Spong (who does not, I think accept all of my next-to-previous sentence) makes such remarks as “The Christian affirmation that God was encountered in the person of Jesus, which is the substance of the claim of divinity…”, is making an empirical claim about God and Jesus, and God. If his remark is purely metaphorical, then it is misleading at best.

  • dangjin1

    #1. Jonah isn’t in Genesis so why did you use it here?

    #2. Genesis 1 is true as written. It is not an oral tradition and it tells of God’s creative completed over 6 24 hour earthly days.

    #3. All of Genesis is true as written and for those who do not like how God did things they have a lot to learn about God and his ways as Isaiah 55 tells us, that God’s ways are higher than ours. Stop importing your sinful ideals onto God.

    #4. The whole article was just crap and made me want to puke.

  • I’m still struggling to understand the liberal Christian, true-but-not-true view of the Bible. Part of the claim which was always presented to me, when I was a Christian, about why I should believe the Bible is that the Bible is true. It wasn’t just the legends passed on by primitive peoples; it contained the true word of an Almighty God. You say the Genesis myth could have been passed on verbally for years, and the important part was that God made us, not the details of how he made us.

    But when you look at the story…if the original storytellers got one part wrong, how do we know they didn’t get the rest of it wrong? Maybe they were wrong on the details — earth was made 4 billion years ago, not 6,000 years ago. So what makes you think they were right about the God part? If God is real and omnipotent, he could reveal how he really created the earth to primitive peoples. Or, he could just straight up tell them, “You don’t know how I created the earth; you can’t understand it yet, so I’m not going to tell you; the important thing is that you believe in me.” Instead this God apparently allowed humans to use a FALSE story to pass along a vitally important truth.

  • TByte

    I think it is safe to say that Genesis WAS written to be a factual explanation of the origin of the universe. That was the intent, and that is what people actually believed until science showed us otherwise.
    Do you really think that any of the ancient Israelites who repeated this story, if asked, would have answered “well, of course we don’t actually believe it happened this way”?
    No, that is what they believed, and that is what they wrote, and that is how it was intended.

  • Phil Wala

    On a short term missions trip I had the opportunity to teach a class of eager young Bible students in Ukraine from the passage where Jesus calls the mustard seed the “smallest of all seeds on earth”. I then proceeded to show them a picture of mustard seeds next to the much smaller poppy and orchid seeds and asked them, “So, was Jesus lying, or just stupid?” The look on their faces was priceless. It led to a discussion of the danger of conflating the deep truth that was Jesus’ INTENDED message with the outer story in which that truth was wrapped. A great topic, which I addressed on my own blog a few years back:

    I just discovered your posts, but I look forward to reading more. It seems we have much in common.

  • clint majors

    So what your saying is that you dont believe in god or the word of god??? not trying to pick a fight just want to clarify

  • clint majors

    more importantly you forget that if you believe in god than you do not question his word you take his word as the truth…now with that being said obviously you dont believe i see but my next question would be who or what do you believe in…once again not picking a fight just asking

  • Mark Caponigro

    No, of course, there’s no reason to fight, whether about this sort of subject or about much else.
    FYI, I do recognize that human nature (in which I participate) requires logically an ontological source, preferring Intellect as primary development/representation — which is why I am a Neo-Platonist. That is not quite the same as what Christians mean by “belief in God,” I think.
    “God” in Jewish and Christian traditions can be / has been a wonderful aspect of the sense of the ontological true and beautiful, taking into account our requirement as social primates for a personal, powerful, hierarchically superior figure to love, admire and adore.
    The Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament and the New Testament often give a good representation of this “God.” But often they do not, in which case it is morally obligatory to call them out on it.