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Evolution and Creation. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is life all about?

Creation and Evolution

Postby More Lakes » Wed Jul 27, 2016 6:04 pm

How can evolutionists refuse to take parts of Genesis literally, but not other verses of the Bible? I know it sounds like a loaded question, but it really isn't. I just don't know how to frame it better.

So, I do believe in Evolution. But I just can't reconcile it with the fact that Genesis 1:31 says (NIV translation): "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day."

The most straightforward answer would be that the Bible is not to be taken literally all the time. But then how can we possibly make the decision on what is a literal truth and what isn't? Couldn't one just jump to the conclusion assume that when Mark calls Jesus "the son of God", maybe he is not the actual son of God but merely his human prophet? Should we just rely on common sense to choose what is a literal fact and what isn't?

Again, this is just a question and I'm not looking to refute evolution in regards to christianity. I just want to understand how you people cope with this dilemma.
More Lakes

Re: Creation and Evolution

Postby jimwalton » Mon Aug 15, 2016 9:34 am

I think "literal" is a problematic word that doesn't contribute to our understanding or conversation, and that's sort of the premise of your question.

The Bible is a rich literary collection containing music, poetry, metaphor, allegory, archetypes, parable, hyperbole, metonymy, irony, simile, and many other literary forms, as well as genres such as prayer, prophecy, blessing, covenant language, legal language, etc. "Literally" quickly becomes a word with very little meaning or helpfulness. If a poet says the trees of the field will clap their hands and the mountains will jump for joy, is that literal? Of course not, it's poetry. If a man prays, "God, kill all those people", we may all understand that his prayer is inappropriate, and is not blessed by God, but is it literal? Well, how does that word even apply? And how does it apply to archetype, allegory, parable, and all the others? It's a word that should be dropped from the discussion because it doesn't take us anywhere except to the Land of Misunderstanding.

It's better to think that the Bible should be taken the way the author intended it to be taken. If he was using hyperbole, we're to take it that way. So also allegorically, historically, parabolic, poetic, etc. Our quest is to understand the intent of the author. In that case we'll take the Bible *seriously*, but "literally" doesn't take us anywhere.

Dr. John Walton has published some perspectives on Genesis 1-2 that are making a huge impact around the Christian world ( ... enesis+one). I like his approach. What his analyses of the text have shown are that Gn. 1-2 are accounts of *functional* creation, not that of material creation. In the Bible there is no question that God is the creator of the material universe (and there are texts that teach that), but that's not what Genesis 1-2 are about. They are about how God brought order and functionality to the material universe that was there. And it is just as much a **literal** approach to the text as the traditional. Let me try to explain VERY briefly.

Gn. 1.1 is a heading, not an action. Then, if it's a text about material creation it will start with nothingness, but if it's a text about bringing order, it will start with disorder, which is what Gn. 1.2 says.

The first "day" is clearly (literally) about a *period* of light called day, and a *period* of light called night. It is about the sequence of day and night, evening and morning, literally. Therefore, what Day 1 is about is God ordering the universe and our lives with the function of TIME, not God creating what the physicists call "light," about which the ancients knew nothing.

Look through the whole chapter. It is about how the firmament functions to bring us weather (the firmament above and below), how the earth functions to bring forth plants for our sustenance, how the sun, moon, and stars function to order the days and seasons. We find out in day 6 the function of humans: to be fruitful and multiply, to rule the earth and subdue it. Walton contends that we have to look at the text through ancient eyes, not modern ones, and the concern of the ancients was function and order. (It was a given that the deities created the material universe.) The differences between cultures (and creation accounts) was how the universe functioned, how it was ordered, and what people were for. (There were large disagreements among the ancients about function and order; it widely separates the Bible from the surrounding mythologies.)

And on the 7th day God rested. In the ancient world when a god came to "rest" in the temple, he came to live there and engage with the people as their god. So it is not a day of disengagement, but of action and relationship.

In other words, it's a temple text, not an account of material creation. There was no temple that could be built by human hands that would be suitable for him, so God order the entire universe to function as his Temple. The earth was ordered to function as the "Holy Place," and the Garden of Eden as his "Holy of Holies". Adam and Eve were given the function of being his priest and priestess, to care for sacred space (very similar to Leviticus) and to be in relationship with God (that's what Genesis 2 is about).

You want to know about the seven days. In the ancient world ALL temple dedications were 7-day dedications, where what God had done to order his world was rehearsed, and on the 7th day God came to "rest" in his temple—to dwell with his people and engage with them as their God. That's what the seven days mean.

Back to evolution. Therefore Gn 1-2 make no comment on *how* the material world came about, or how long it took. We need science to tell us that. We need Gn 1-2 to tell us what it's there for (God's temple) and how it is supposed to function (to provide a place of fellowship between God and humans, and to bring God glory as an adequate temple for his Majesty).

Feel free to discuss this. For those who have never heard these ideas, it takes a little adjusting. But they make a whole lot of sense to me.

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