Science, Evolution and the Bible

Pete Enns is dead-on with this one: the issue has much more to do with what we think the Bible is than what the Bible says (in its context):

Why is there such tension between evangelicals and evolution?

The real problem isn’t evolution. There is a deeper problem: evangelicals tend to expect from the Bible what it was never intended to deliver.

Too often evangelicals start out the evolution discussion assuming that the Bible is prepared to address human origins as we think of it today—in historical and scientific terms.

When that unexamined assumption is the default, unimpeachable starting point in the discussion, conflict between “faith and science” is guaranteed. This puts people in the lose-lose position of feeling the need to compare and contrast the Bible and science and make a choice between them.

So, maybe we need to think more about how the Bible works and whether we are creating a problem by beginning with false assumptions.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • AHH

    The highlight for me in Enns’ essay:

    Supposedly, it is unworthy of God to speak through ancient stories of origins that are neither historical nor scientific. God is the God of Truth. He would never stoop so low.
    Uh … actually … yes he would. God is all about stooping low — way low. That’s how God rolls — at least the Christian God.

    And then he talks about the Incarnation …

  • Doug

    excellent. thanks for the link.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    Scot,
    You hit the nail right on the head. I get tired of repeating this basic statement though.
    Peace,

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com/ Peter G.

    It’s not always an assumption.

  • Dean

    My position is that the Scriptures are reliable for their intended use. However, interpretations are often unreliable. This frightens only those who insist on the inerrancy and reliability of their preferred interpretation (and application).

    I have no problem with a both/and approach to the creation story. From God’s perspective, one day is as a thousand years (or million, for that matter). From man’s viewpoint, this unfolded over multiple lengthy eras of linear time. So, I could say without internal conflict that I believe in both a literal 7-day creation (God’s viewpoint) and a process leading to the present of billions of years (scientific discovery).

  • http://OurRabbiJesus.com Lois Tverberg

    I completely agree, Scott. The Bible is simply not interested in addressing every issue we want to know about, and we get into trouble when we insist on extracting answers from passages that aren’t addressing the questions we raise.

  • William Varner

    Where is Jesus in this discussion? Was He simply wrong?

  • John Southwick

    I read something Gary Boyd wrote on this recently. I agree that we should not be approaching the Bible like it is a scientific book nor that our historical and scientific presuppositions as moderns concerning origins were in anyway meant to be addressed by Genesis.

    That said Genesis does profess to talk about origins whether we like it or not and saying that it was not trying to address our presuppositions does not wash as a get out clause. I think the conflict in worldviews and how evolution is used by these is primary issue – evolution has nothing to say about origins either.

    But there are serious theological issues if we take evolution as a God appointed form of ‘creating’. Boyd recognizes this when he posits that the earth was created in conflict with Satan, and it was his fall that brought death into the creation and suggests using the Gap theory as a way of showing how the world evolved over millenia. God then created man untouched but through? this conflict and placed him in the Garden which I presume God only described as ‘good’ not his entire creation and it was not until man’s fall that the whole earth was once again subjected to death and man the pinnacle of his evolutionary creation was also cursed.

    If death is truly the penalty of sin then how can we have death as the instrument for creating and that creation be called ‘good’ whether we believe Boyd’s thesis or not, at least he is taking this theological issue seriously. Was death reigning before man? If so what do we do with the theology of Genesis never mind any origins. Secondly on a nature of God issue how can a God of love create in such a way where mutation and death are the driving forces for creating in a hostile environment and the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’ seems to fly in the face of kingdom values which professes the exact opposite. Will the new creation happen by evolution?
    I am yet to hear decent arguments to counter these theological issues.

  • scotmcknight

    William, if you are saying that because Jesus mentions Adam that therefore Jesus meant “historical Adam” as we talk about it in creationist theory … if you mean that, I’d say that’s the whole issue. (In the way I’ve been saying it recently, it’s the QED.)

    The approach many of us take, and I think this is what Pete Enns is saying, is that Jesus shared a common world of discourse with his audience. It is impossible to prove (nor not prove) that Jesus, in his day, thought as scientific people do today about origins of life. The best approach is to ask what Jesus would have meant in his world, and what Genesis meant in its world.

  • Steve

    I would HIGHLY recommend “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John Walton on this subject.

    Simply an outstanding book that I think everybody should read.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    Wow. So concisely gets to the root of the issue (assumptions) in just a few short paragraphs (granting I’m referencing your post, not the original).

    That said, I really do confess the I get annoyed at some of the push-back that such comments often generate (for example, the one here that says “it’s not always an assumption”) which do nothing to actually challenge the premise. If you want to make a case that it isn’t just an assumption, is it unreasonable to expect a few more sentences to make that case?

  • John W Frye

    Scot, so many young people in our local churches graduate and go off to university and are put in the lose-lose dilemma. I have talked both with parents and their children, children who abandoned the Bible (used as a science text book on origins) in the face of the scientific evidence for evolution they confront in class. This idiocy has to stop. Peter Enns is trying to help stop it.

  • John W Frye

    comment #12 should read “…Bible (misused…”

  • Robert A

    For those of us who find an evolutionary matrix fore creation dubious and believe in a literal Adam the issues are not as simple as Dr Enns makes them out to be. As mentioned in another post, those of us who accept the biblical account of creation (in one form or another) aren’t always young earthers (I certainly am not) and have thought this through.

    The reality is the discipline of science isn’t nearly as reliable on these matters as its present day heralds suggest it is. Cosmology is a philsophical and theological discipline with little attachment to sciences. The discussion of origins needs not be cornered by specious reasoning and a faulty deference to a mythical scientific method.

    Instead of maligning those of us who do believe in a literal Adam and those of us who do question the mechanism of evolution as useful in our ancestral origins perhaps it is better to consider us as conversation partners. Many of us have thought these issues through and weighed the various arguments and evidences carefully. We haven’t haphazardly thrown together our beliefs. Granted there are segments of evangelicalism who haven’t done this and that is troubling. Yet for the rest of us we have good reasons for questioning the underlying philosophy of science that has gotten us to where many have pushed us.

    Most of the YEC commitment is devoted to the after-effects of the fundamentalist and modernist controversy. That isn’t something easily overcome…even three generations later. Though I appreciate (and posit) a mmore nuanced approach to Genesis (and am called a liberal by some and a fundamentalist by others) it isn”t too far afield to suggest balance is needed. There are means of appropriating a reasonable position which accounts for nature of creation as we have it while also upholding the biblical reality of a literal Adam.

    I’m not one who says the earth is 8,000 years old. Yet I am also not one who is beguiled by the present day theory of the moment concerning origins (historically this is always in flux.) Where we are left is with the documents of our faith and understanding their confusing statements about origins. They are always a better starting point than a philosophically shakey terrain of modern Cartesian empiricism.

  • http://blog.benirwin.net Ben

    More proof we should take Christian Smith’s advice and stop trying to make the Bible speak to every issue under the sun and let it be what it actually is: the inspired witness to Jesus the Messiah.

  • John W Frye

    And this is what I’ve discovered: reasonable conversations with very conservative parents about the fact that YEC and theistic evolution both affirm that *God is the Creator of all that is*, and so we’re definitely not playing the old Darwinian atheistic evolution game anymore sets parents at ease. It is a matter of what the Bible reports and how and why it does so. Parents I’ve talked to are relieved to know that their child(ren) can accept evolutionary evidence and NOT abandon their faith in God or the Bible.

  • http://www.allanbevere.com Allan R. Bevere

    Three cheers for Pete Enns!

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    John W. Frye#12, ..or in my family’s case, about the time the kids reach 9th or 10th grade. That’s when my kids realized that all the stuff the literalists say makes no sense, and it causes them to lose their faith.

    When are the literalists going to realize that believing stuff like literal science in the bible drives people away from Christianity. They are not defending the faith, they are corrupting it.

  • Rick

    DRT #18-

    “When are the literalists going to realize that believing stuff like literal science in the bible drives people away from Christianity.”

    When they are given a good, reasonable alternative, that addresses most of their concerns in defending the faith.

  • Rick

    And once that alternative is available (for example Walton’s theory), then people must figure out a way to quickly and clearly communicate it to seminaries, pastors, church leaders, laity, etc…

  • scotmcknight

    Robert A,

    Why do you trust the inductive results of biblical scholars and theologians more than the inductive results of scientists?

  • RD

    I’d like to see John’s questions (#8) addressed. I’ve struggled with them myself. If evolution is the way God chose to create, then is death embedded in the plan? Did death actually predate the Fall….and, if so, how does that impact the theological understanding of the Fall?

  • Fish

    Pi isn’t equal to 3.

    The Bible is not a science textbook. If making it so drives people away from Christianity, then stop making it so. There’s absolutely no need. God created the earth and He created evolution and He created science and He created the Bible.

    Science is a good and holy occupation in which we use our God-given reason to understand more about the world God created. Scientists seek the truth just as hard as theologians.

  • Rick

    Fish #23-

    “Scientists seek the truth just as hard as theologians.”

    But if certain scientists are more naturalists, then are they really seeking the truth just as hard?

  • TimHeebner

    “There is a deeper problem: evangelicals tend to expect from the Bible what it was never intended to deliver.”

    This is why I have a hard time calling the Bible the “Word of God.” Jesus = Word of God. I have no problem calling the Bible “inspired” or “scripture,” but the “Word of God” leads us to think word-for-word from the mouth of God.

  • John W Frye

    Rick #19,
    You and others are not “defending the faith” by treating the Bible as a science book and opposing theistic evolution. You’re defending views that you hold that are not held by other deeply committed Christ-followers. I sure hope you don’t think a certain segment of the church’s population are alone in defining and defending the faith. Doesn’t that come across as a little bit arrogant?

  • Adam

    I like Pete Enns approach but there’s still a question or reality that I don’t think science will ever accurately address. And I think believing this reality will make people look insane from a purely scientific view point.

    That belief is: Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead. I don’t think Resurrection is possible in a scientific construct. So, I think there will continue to be a tension where people who choose not to believe in Resurrection will continue to see insanity in christianity.

  • scotmcknight

    Adam #27. It is not possible in naturalism or scientism, but science can’t speak about what it can’t measure … denying what it can’t measure exceeds what science can do.

    I’m reading the new study of Polkinghorne by Dean Nelson and Karl Giberson and Polkinghorne has done a fair bit of work on science and resurrection, science and faith, etc., and his perspective — that they are both quests for truth — is for me by far the most satisfying and intellectually responsible approach I’ve seen.

  • Rick

    John #26-

    I was not speaking for myself (I agree more with John Walton’s approach). I am just trying to communicate the perspective of those who do feel/think of Scripture in the way Enns described.

    Until we clearly and adquately address their concerns, and communicate the alternatives, little progress will be made.

  • http://homewardbound-cb.blogspot.com ChrisB

    I could agree if only the NT didn’t base it’s theology on Adam.

  • Rick

    In looking at #30, I rest my case.

  • PLTK

    A personal example of how this influences young kids–in our Sunday School class last week I volunteered to pray for the daughter of another class member. Her daughter is struggling with her faith at college and is very angry at the church right now because of this issue–she is unable to reconcile what she was taught with the possibility that evolution may be true or that Adam as traditionally understood might not be accurate, so she is in the process of throwing out all of her faith and leading a few friends with her. I am praying that her daughter makes it through this crisis of faith that is directly related to inflexibility in understandings of how God created.

  • Adam

    Scot #28

    I still think there is a place in this discussion for personal decision/belief. And that belief gives way to different ways of living.

    Sometimes the way we talk about interpreting the bible (even those who support evolution) frame it in a way of “If we just interpret it correctly all will believe or be forced to believe”. And I don’t think that’s the point.

    I think the Gospel, and the Resurrection specifically, are trying to make a statement “If you choose to believe in the impossible, life, love, hope, generosity, etc are opened up to you.” And people who refuse to believe in the impossible will be missing out on that.

    I don’t think we will ever be able to explain it in a controlled and rational way. I think it requires an abandonment of control, and that abandonment may be a stumbling block to scientism, and conservatism for that matter.

  • phil_style

    Chris B, the NT does not base it’s theology on Adam. It might base elements of it’s anthropology on Adam, but not it’s theology.
    The NT bases it’s theology on a complex web of Judaism and historical event occurring during the time of the Roman Judean occupation. Sure, Adam is part of this, but hardly the basis for the entire NT.

  • AHH

    ChrisB @30,

    Gee, I always thought the NT based its theology on Jesus. I Cor 3:11 and all that.

    My snarkiness aside, it is hard to see how two brief mentions by Paul, as he draws on OT imagery to explain what Jesus accomplished, can be considered the basis for an entire theology. Universal human sinfulness is an important part of the story, but exact details of how we got to that state, not so much.

  • RJS

    ChrisB and Rick,

    I don’t think the NT does base its theology on Adam. I think Paul uses Adam to make a point about Christology, but perhaps human fallen rebelliousness is the key point not Adam per se. Of course it is more than one comment (or several blog posts) to develop this. But this is the place where the conversation really needs to focus.

    I had dropped the topic for a bit, as people (including me) seemed to be tiring of it, but it is probably time to get back to it to try to work through the range of ideas.

  • Seth

    Interesting quote. To be sure, it’s a difficult issue to address because it requires stepping outside of our own minds, so to speak. Still, it seems to me that Enns’ nuanced argument just as much supports a literalist view of Genesis.
    True, the Bible does not purport to be scientific, but then what does it mean to be scientific? Science (ideally, not always) systematizes rigorous observation, experimentation, and analysis. It is really just a search for truth, but usually practical truth. That’s not to say all science is practical. Cosmology and much of origins are unrepeatable and unobservable using traditional tools. Heavy assumptions usually need to be made in order to do that kind of science.
    I say this because science is really just a recently developed search for truth through a specific set of methods, and isn’t the Bible the word of Truth? It’s easy to romanticize science. As a practicing research scientist, I have to say it far misses the mark of the ideal system for consistently producing reliable knowledge. It’s true that an ancient Israelite wouldn’t be concerned with the science of Creation, but he would be interested in truth. He would want to know where he came from, how he was created, and what this tells him about this God who has chosen his people to be His people. To answer these questions, God could have written a piece that left out all of the detail of what was created on the different days, that they were days, and even His thought process in creation. He could have done all these things and made His point, but He didn’t.
    Where Genesis communicates truth, we need to recognize that it is truth. It may not fit within the scientific method (like the resurrection or the plagues of Egypt), but that does not mean it is not relevant to a scientific understanding of these events. I wouldn’t say that the Genesis account is scientific. I’d say that it is true, and it seems that there are serious interpretive problems (and heavy modern bias) that is introduced when one begins to say, “Well, it is truth, but it’s not scientific truth, so we can ignore the ‘how’ details and focus on the ‘why’ details.”
    Furthermore, I’ve discussed this with many people who warn that teaching children a literalist view may cause them to forsake the faith when confronted with the evidence for evolution, but this is only true if one does not reason with the children beforehand concerning what the Bible teaches about these issues and if one shelters them from the evidence beforehand.
    True, there are far too many parents who do this, but the culprit is not the literalist interpretation. The same problem would arise if a parent taught their child a theistic evolutionary viewpoint but did not discuss the text or the evidence beforehand. The student might find that the evidence confirms what he has been taught, but if he then applies the same approach to all of Scripture, he may very soon reject the virgin birth and resurrection of Christ as historical because he does not know why a literalist approach may be taken in one area, not in another.

  • Rick

    RJS #36-

    I was not mentioning ChrisB’s comment because I agree with it (I think Abraham was a more central OT character), but because his comment demonstrated the hesitation of folks to accept what Enns is proposing.

    There is not a clear, reasonable alternative given, nor is there a system to spread/communicate that alternative, so many will hold-off from buying into what Enns is advocating.

    They have serious concerns that are not being answered. And if they are answered, how will those answers make it down to the laity in this, or the next generation?

  • Rick

    And yes RJS, you should return to this topic. It is one that is clearly on the mind of many, and this blog is one of the few that gets attention from most streams in the Evangelical spectrum.

  • Clay Knick

    Pete is spot on. I’m looking forward to the new book! It should be here soon.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Seth#37 says “but this is only true if one does not reason with the children beforehand concerning what the Bible teaches about these issues and if one shelters them from the evidence beforehand.”

    Seth, in my case my kids have always been told what the bible teaches from my perspective. What has happened to them is that they have realized that nearly all of the Christians that they know, with me being a big exception, believe in outrageous stuff and speak poorly of people who do not believe like they do. Once the kids realize that I am indeed correct, they also realize that all of these other people are incorrect, and that makes it so they do not want to associate with Christians. I live in the rural south and there is little tolerance…

    Frankly, my kids look at me and think of me like Don Quixote. I am the only one they know of that looks at it like I do and for them to be Christian does not mean that they would be part of my beliefs, but they would be seen as part of the Church, which they cannot ascribe to.

    I don’t blame them and that is why a big part of my mission in Christ is to help educate Christians.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick, you have repeatedly made the point that you feel that folks would believe the truth if we were able to communicate to them what the truth is and what impact it has on their faith.

    Would you please define faith? It seems to me that the point has been made over and over and over here what this means to faith. It pretty much means absolutely nothing to people’s faith in Jesus. The only difference is in the man-made constructions outside of the bible and outside of Jesus.

    The gospel does not change. Following Jesus does not change. Nothing changes.

  • Rick

    DRT #42-

    “The only difference is in the man-made constructions outside of the bible and outside of Jesus.”

    Although some clarifying of definitions would be needed (“man-made constructs), I think you are right.

    “The gospel does not change. Following Jesus does not change. Nothing changes.”

    If you are referring to “gospel” as Scot does in The King Jesus Gospel, I think you are right. In fact, I think that is a great comment, and one that could be a rallying cry when bringing it up in wider circles.

  • Rick

    DRT-

    Just an additonal thought: even though we don’t see essential things changing, many are not so sure (comment #30), and they have valid concerns and good questions.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Yes Rick, as far as #30, we do indeed need Scot’s book emphasizing what the good news really is.

    This again may seem harsh, but this is why god let the folks wander in the desert for 40 years. Had to let all of those people who believed in the old ways die off…..

    The most effective avenue is to be educating the educators. I hope that pastors on this blog realize the impact they have…

  • leah

    @Rick #38

    Pete Enns did indeed offer a clear and reasonable alternative: genesis is ancient literature, written by ancient people, and reflecting their ancient worldview because they were the first consumers of that literature. genesis is God incarnating himself in order to reach his creation that he loves.

    you and i are not the intended audience of genesis. people living in a strip of land on the eastern mediterranean coast ~3000 years ago are its intended audience. over the years, the community that produced that literature recognized truth in it, and as descendents of that community, at least spiritually and religiously, we also confess there is truth there.

    there will never be a systematic way to communicate this because the bible is not a system. it is, as Scot continually emphasizes on this blog, a story. the Story, in fact. it contains truth. but it contains truth that was written in the language, worldview, and literary forms of people a thousands of years ago in vastly different cultures.

    personally, i would advocate for churches to run “intro to biblical studies” classes to teach people how to read ancient literature. of course, i’m a student of ancient literature, so i would :) but 1) we don’t want to go back to a magisterium controlling the text and interpretation of the bible, but 2) if we give high school students a semester of instruction to help them read Shakespeare (or at least we did when i was in high school), why don’t we give people similar background when we ask them to read, interpret, and apply to their lives literature that was written at an even greater temporal and geographical distance?

    these are very complex issues and the desire for a simple, systematic way of communicating them is admirable, but, at least in my opinion, impossible. as someone currently on a path to become a teacher in the church (seminary student), i realize this makes my job harder, but i’m passionate enough about it that i’m willing to do it.

  • Rick

    DRT #45-

    I do think that is a bit harsh. Furthermore, I think you are mistaken if you think that their positions will just go away after this generation. They are impacting the next generation, and so on.

    Leah #46-

    I am not denying the complexity of the issues, but I do think there could be a more clear way to approach them- one that does not automatically make dialogue difficult due to lack of clarity on essentials. Also, we need to listen to their concerns, and not dismiss them as “just not getting it”. As #30 indicates, faith is a priority and all else falls under that umbrella.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    It seems life and death to Christians, and I hate entering into this, because I have friends and relatives who see it as a premier, if not the premier threat now to the faith. Intelligent, devoted folks.

    But for that very reason I think I need to. There is another way to look at scripture and science, in keeping with both, I think. I do look forward to reading Peter Enns’ new book.

  • DanS

    I do not think the Bible is a ‘science’ text and I don’t think even the most ardent YEC advocates do either. I do think that the “story” of redemption becomes incoherent if the historicity of the fall is undone. If you change the supporting details, the background context, you change the story. If you change the story, you change Christianity into something else.

    There are two radically different answers here to the basic questions “who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Why is there evil and suffering?, What is the answer to the human predicament?” One says a good world was corrupted by willful rebellion, the other says suffering, death, red in tooth and claw are normative to the world God created. Those are the two views that cannot be reconciled. Different problem, very different implications for the incarnation, cross and resurrection.

  • Richard Jones

    #46 Leah “…you and I are not the intended audience of genesis”

    Moving aside from the specific issues of Biblical truth v. scientific truth especially applicable to evolutionary theory

    I think its a very dangerous road to travel if we decide the “audience” of scripture is somehow limited. I agree that mesopotamian culture of 2500 BC is very different from what is to be found in the world today except with the most superficial of resemblances. But if we truly believe scripture to be “God breathed” and for the purpose of revealing God’s salvation plan for His creation which plunged itself into death, then everyone down through the ages and in all cultures form the “audience.” And that includes Genesis 1-2.

    The fact that scripture, once translated into native tongues, is a vehicle able to transform transform the life of the Amazonian cannibal as well as the banker on Wall Street speaks to this reality.

    Limiting the “audience” of scripture does not solve any problem between scripture and naturalistic science. It only serves to undermine the credibility of scripture.

    #21 Scot My answer is an unequivocal yes when it concerns scientists with naturalistic presuppositions.

  • http://aworldofinterestingideas.blogspot.com Trav

    As I ponder these issues, I think DanS’s last paragraph is definitely worth thoughtfully considering.

  • RJS

    Richard (#50)

    Scot’s question in #21 wasn’t a yes/no question, it was a why question. I assume from your response you would say that it is because scientists are blinded by naturalist presuppositions.

    In a way I agree with this – I think many people in our culture are blinded by naturalist presuppositions, including scientists. Any time you hear someone say that the resurrection has been disproved by science, or that even if there is a God he can’t intervene and perform miracles. Or as often is said – that we’ve outgrown the ancient superstitions. This naturalism is pervasive, implicit and explicit.

    But … but it isn’t at the root of, or heavily involved in, the evaluation of the evidence for an old earth, evolution, or common descent. There is a reason why the vast majority of Christians active in the sciences accept the basic consensus on these issues while rejecting and fighting against the assumptions of naturalism as the be all and end all of existence. Darrel Falk, Francis Collins, Bill Phillips, Ian Hutchinson, Ard Louis, Owen Gingerich, Simon Conway Morris, most science faculty at most Christian colleges, and you can add me to this list, accept the consensus on the data because it is overwhelmingly convincing, but do not accept the metaphysical naturalism of our culture. The small minority of Christians in the sciences who reject an old earth or evolution do so for theological reasons, often rooted in their view of scripture, not for scientific reasons.

    We do ourselves no favors by dismissing the overwhelming consensus with a verdict “blinded by presuppositions.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    DanS#49

    There are two radically different answers here to the basic questions “who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Why is there evil and suffering?, What is the answer to the human predicament?” One says a good world was corrupted by willful rebellion, the other says suffering, death, red in tooth and claw are normative to the world God created. Those are the two views that cannot be reconciled.

    DanS, I don’t believe evolution or an old earth has any impact on these questions, or at least it does not increase the range of responses. We are made in god’s image and god has made us. We have chosen to sin (for whatever reason). As far as your suffering, death etc, I contend that my theology has never said that the creation was absent all of that. Evolution does not change this.

    Different problem, very different implications for the incarnation, cross and resurrection.

    Not to me. Same problem, we need to find god and know how to follow him. Jesus came to show us god and be our Lord. No difference there.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    To be more specific, having knowledge of the actual mechanism that god has used in creating us gives us a new perspective into what is important in the scriptures. DanS may have believed that the entire world was without pain, death and everyone was a vegetarian prior to the fall, but others never thought that. There is good evidence in Genesis that there was evil and death prior to the fall story. The evolution mechanism just helps direct us toward the better theological context, that Genesis was not intending to teach us that everthing was lacking in death prior to the fall story. It was not universal that people believed that all was perfect by the one definition.

    Likewise, knowing that the earth is old and knowing the actual mechanism of it forming leads us to understand that the exact period of time in one day is not the point of the Genesis story. It has helped clarify what the important messages are. It is important that god is one and god is the creator and that god thought creation is good and etc etc. The timing is not the important part. that does not seem like very much of a change, especially for me since I never thought the timing was important.

  • sean

    Here is my difficulty with the author’s premise, indicating that the Bible isn’t written to explain man’s origins. From the beginning and “in the beginning” is clearly about …the beginning. Not, of course the beginning of God, but clearly the beginning of his creating, and therefore his creation. There are clearly areas where people try to stretch the bibles intended context, subject, and point to fit a preconceived theory. However, to say that genesis is not written to describe the manner by which God began can only be promoted by someone who also has preconceived “theories” as to why this cannot and should not be the case.

  • sean

    Moreover, I have to say that there is too much literal theology that is based upon the real events described in early genesis. To relegate this to story or otherwise truly puts the theology itself in question. If there is not a literal 1st sinnner who is our father then there is also not a literal sin that was passed down, therefore there is also not a need for the literal savior. I believe and the Jewish community would have heard these stories and read them in their own Torah as histories of the origins of their common ancestors and ancestry. Is this not one the reasons the genealogies themselves are placed in the gospel? Jesus himself being the son of David and son of Abraham traces his very humanity to back to adam the ” son of God”. Were both Matthew and Luke speaking unpoetical and figurative ways, or were they establishing and validating jesus’ very humanity and ancestry? To say anything different would be forcing the gospels to NOT say what they were intending to say.

  • John

    Did Jesus come to defeat his primary creating force?

  • Susan N.

    Ted (#48) – I, too, am looking forward to reading ‘Evolution of Adam.’ RJS must have written a very persuasive recommendation for the book, because I pre-ordered it back in August! Had forgotten all about it, but the release date has arrived…

    ~Peace~

  • Jeremy

    What strikes me as odd is that Genesis clearly describes a finite garden from which Adam and Eve could be cast out of into “wilderness.” So it seems that the utopian vision that many Christians have of our beginnings, including no death, can only be ascribed to what is essentially one tiny piece of creation, and God’s “curse” is largely executed by forcing them out into the real world without his direct support.

    John (57) – This idea seems to lend itself to an overly platonic view of “perfect.” What if nature as we know it IS the best possible collection of features to accomplish whatever it is that God wishes to accomplish with His creation? Death could be a significant piece of the puzzle (though really, natural selection and evolution seem to be founded more in life in death..that being that the most fit thrive and are more successful rather than the less fit simply being killed off). A tool for the moment that God fully intends to set aside at the fulfillment of His ultimate plan.

    It seems that if God’s intention was to create a meaningful, vocational purpose for his people, then creation needed to have a gap for us to fill. Free will, in essence, requires the ability to choose, and meaning requires necessity. We have chosen not to fulfill our purpose and nature therefore suffers along with us.

  • leah

    sorry to come back to the conversation so late…

    Rick #47
    nowhere did i claim people were just “not getting it.” i am arguing that Peter Enns, and Scot in his first paragraph, have put forward a very clear statement: we need to look at what the bible contains instead of what we want it to contain. i advocate very close examination within a faith community. i am not questioning anyone’s faith, nor am i dismissing anyone’s questions.

    Richard Jones #50
    i agree with you about limiting the audience of scripture. as i said, we ask people to read these texts, interpret them, and apply them to their lives. i could have added “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and a local church community.” sorry for the unclarity. but i don’t think this moves away from biblical truth vs. scientific truth at all. the original writers whom God inspired did not have the same scientific understanding or knowledge of the world that we do, so i, at least, don’t expect them to communicate in a modern, scientific way. i possibly also could have clarified “intended” as “intended by the original inspired human author, who could never have conceived of microorganisms or black holes even if they thought of people reading their writings thousands of years later.” i believe this recognizes what scripture is, not undermines it. through the Holy Spirit, it is inspired. it is transformative. it is also incarnated. and its incarnational aspects have to be recognized along with the rest.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    No, he not dead-on; more like dead-wrong. What he is missing is that there are multiple meaning to the term ‘evolution’ and many evangelicals rightly reject some of the definitions. When scientists talk to the public (or when politicians are asked, etc.), a shell game takes place where definition B is inferred (drenched in worldview presuppositions), and then the people are laughed at for rejecting definition A (the actual science).

    Now, certainly, a good majority of these same evangelicals don’t reject the bad definitions of evolutions based on their level of scientific knowledge, but because a) they smell a rat, and b) on the authority of scientists with a differing view.

    The Bible may not be a science text in the modern sense of that term. However, it isn’t a fairy tale either, no matter how true a principle the fairy tail might be promoting. The fact that so many seem willing to quickly trade the historicity of Adam and Eve, for example, for some credibility in the academy (despite this being based on questionable computer models and empirically proven incorrect genetic studies) is disgusting IMO.

    And then, to blame evangelicals for not going along with the charade because they supposedly don’t know how to read their Bibles? Really? Um, OK. Pete might want to look in the mirror for some ‘unexamined assumptions’ of his own, creating his ‘unimpeachable starting point’.

  • Richard Jones

    @RJS in your response in #52

    You seem to be saying that we should subject authority and interpretation of scripture to an “overwhelming consensus.” By this “consensus” I take it you mean widely accepted conclusions of science.

    I could not disagree more.

    And I am further not intimidated by those that “do science.” If they are concurrently promoting denigration of scripture for the sake of their interpretations of data then they are “doing evil” to their peril and to those who would follow them.

  • Richard Jones

    #61 Steve: Kudos, brother. That’s the way to speak the truth in love.

  • http://www.TilledSoil.org Steve Wilkinson

    @ Richard #63 -

    Thanks, though I could have been a better demonstration of loving, I suppose. After re-reading my post, it seems I was maybe a tad bit miffed by Enns suggestion that people who don’t agree with him aren’t sophisticated enough Bible readers. I think I was fully justified in being miffed, but I could have been a bit more charitable in how I stated it.

    I should have just taken his last statement and reworded it to:
    ‘So, maybe we need to think more about how science works and whether we are creating a problem by beginning with false assumptions.’


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