One of my pet-peeve misconceptions is the notion that an illiterately literal reading of Genesis 1-11 is somehow an expression of “conservative” theology.
Of course this “literal” belief in the six-day creation of a young earth isn’t liberal theology either. It’s just bad theology. Not orthodox, not conservative or liberal, just wrong — just a weirdly misleading way to read this text.
Bad theology and wrong theology shouldn’t be blithely equated with conservative theology. Yes, Al Mohler is a young-earth creationist and he’s right-wing politically. But just because he’s a political conservative doesn’t mean that his disrespectful abuse of Genesis is also “conservative.” His disrespectful abuse of this scripture is only just that — the disrespectful abuse of scripture.
That’s partly why I like this engaging short video on “Science and Genesis” (via here)– because it refuses to play this game of calling modern, illiterate literalism “conservative.” The video features a bunch of fairly conservative Protestant theologians treating the text with respect. This ain’t liberal theology, and it’s not some kind of radical new cutting-edge approach to the text.
This is how Christians read the Bible. The actual Bible — not the make-believe one of the make-believe “conservatives.”
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Maggie Koerth-Baker writes about “Crackpots, geniuses, and how to tell the difference.”
She offers five smart “suggestions” for sorting the crackpots from the geniuses, but I want to highlight the third:
If believing the idea will make you smarter than the official experts, be suspicious. Experts aren’t always right. But they do know their fields and experience does matter. Chances are, you’re an expert in something. Say you knew how to bake pies really well. You’d be pretty suspicious if somebody who didn’t bake (or didn’t even really cook much) told you that you were making pies all wrong — and that they had a secret pie recipe that was better than yours. They might be right. It’s worth taking a look at their evidence. But it also worth being skeptical.
This is good advice that applies to every field of study — including those fields of study that fall under the category of religion.
You can find plenty of ignorant books and blogs written by crackpot Christians “explaining” what’s wrong with Mormonism or Judaism or “secular humanism.” They’re all written by people who don’t know anything about Mormonism, Judaism or secular humanism, but who imagine they have some special insight that makes them more knowledgeable about those subjects than any of the people who actually study such things.
Likewise, you can find plenty of ignorant things written by people “explaining” what’s wrong with what they imagine Christians believe about, say, Genesis 1-11. Sometimes these are written by crackpots who imagine they have some special insight that makes them more knowledgeable about that than any of those theologians in the video above. Sometimes these are written by people who encounter a crackpot like Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis and mistake him for an actual, and typical, Christian biblical scholar.