Archive for creation

Does an “old earth” make God cruel?

Posted in Evolution, Genesis with tags , , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Yet another common argument proposed by creationists is that the theory of evolution turns God into a cruel tyrant.  Some go even further and accuse “old earth creationism” of the same, even when it doesn’t include the theory of evolution.  For instance, Eric Kemp recently wrote:

How can God call His creation “very good” if there was billions of years of suffering and death in the animal kingdom before humans were created?  This notion also makes God into a bumbling, lying, cruel creator who lacks the power to prevent disease, natural disasters, and extinctions to mar His creative work, without any moral cause, but still calls it all “very good.”

How does this make God into a liar?  He said it was “very good”; who are we to judge Him?  How does this make God bumbling?  One could easily make the argument that God is a bumbling fool if He created in the “creationist” manner.  “Oops, this model of Archaeopteryx isn’t really working out for me…I’ll let them go extinct and then start over from scratch.” 

The argument of God being “cruel” or “impotent” applies regardless of how old the earth is or whether evolution is factual.  Indeed, this is one of many reasons why people choose not to believe in God.  People get sick.  People get injured.  People die.  God could stop that if He chose to, could He not?  He is all-powerful, according to Christianity. 

Even if one does view evolution as cruel, etc, does it really matter?  We aren’t God.  If He chose to create via evolution, it really doesn’t matter what we think about it.  God’s character is complex.  Let’s face it.  The bible teaches that He has thrown plagues against the earth (and shall again), He will eventually demolish the earth in judgment, and ultimately sentence nonbelievers to eternal torment.  And yet years of animal death, of all things, is what bothers us about God and His creation in light of these other biblical tidbits?


Exodus and Creation

Posted in Genesis with tags , , , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Updated 10-25-08

Creationists often cite Exodus 20, which refers back to Genesis 1 and the six days of Creation, as proof that the days in Genesis 1 are meant to be read literally.  For instance, Eric Kemp states on his blog:

Read the above passage again[referring to Exodus 20], no really I mean it.  God’s entire reason for the Sabbath, and for the literal Jewish work week, was because of a literal creation week.  If God wanted to say that the Jews should work six literal days, and rest a seventh, because He worked in an indefinite period of time, He could have used any of the other three Hebrew words for “a period of time”, but instead He chose what the Jews would interpret as literal days, the word yom

Get ready.  I’m about to shock the heck out of some of you. 

In reality, I don’t think it really matters whether you think Genesis 1 is using such terms as “yom” in a literal manner.  I’m sure some of you are wondering, “Then why go to the trouble of the stuff you have written previously on your blog?”  I do think good arguments can be made for not reading these terms so literally.  Also, things like this are what initially piqued my curiosity, several years ago, that maybe there is more to the creation story than meets the eye.

I actually don’t have much of a problem with this argument of Eric Kemp’s, quoted above.  It is entirely conceivable, in my opinion, that God would have indeed used the words in Genesis in this manner to make the Jewish people treat the work week in such a way.  I agree that one of the interests in Genesis 1 is to correlate the divine work in creation with the six days of work in the Jewish week.  Obviously it would have been inappropriate to depict God’s creative work in eleven days to a society who based many of their rules, celebrations, etc, on the six-and-one schema (six days of work, one day of rest). 

God set a pattern for us in creation, with six “yom” followed by a seventh “yom”.  This is acknowledged by all.  Yet do not mistake me.  To read into these verses that God is making statements about the actual length of the creation is more than what the text supports.  This still does not mean that Genesis is teaching, scientifically, how God created the heavens and the earth. 

The intent of the creation story in Genesis is to set up a monotheistic religion at a time when most people worshipped many gods.  The intent is to smash the beliefs of polytheistic societies to bits while affirming belief in one supreme Creator.  God gave the Jewish people something they could relate to in Genesis by drawing on cosmological imagery familiar to Near Eastern cultures.  It is doubtful that this would have been as effective at helping the Jews establish their identity and religion if God had used scientific principles and terminology to describe exactly how the universe was created.  More on this to come. 

A long yom’s work

Posted in Genesis with tags , , , , , on October 25, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Updated 10-25-08

A somewhat hotly debated issue is the usage of the Hebrew word “yom” in Genesis 1.  “Yom” is translated in Genesis 1 as “day”.  Some Christians have gone so far as to say that “yom” always means a literal 24-hour day.  This is simply false.  Some Christians make a more intelligent argument by saying it can mean something other than 24 hours, but they claim in Genesis 1 it clearly is literal.

A word of caution before going further…Genesis 1 contains the phrase “and there was evening, and there was morning – the ‘nth’ day”.  The actual number of words in the Hebrew is much fewer than what one reads in the English translations.  The actual phrase is better described as “evening and morning ‘n’ day”.  This phrasing is unique in the Old Testament, occurring only in Genesis 1 to my knowledge, so making firm conclusions on its meaning is tenuous at best.

Eric Kemp at Intelligent Science makes the following argument:

It is true that the Hebrew word for day, yom, does not always refer to a literal twenty-four hour period (it can also mean from sun up to sun down and an indefinite period of time).  But when it doesn’t, the context always makes it clear.

Is the context for “yom” always so clear?  Let’s look at Genesis 2–also part of the creation story.

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made earth and heaven. (Genesis 2:4)

Did it literally take God only one day to make earth and heaven?  Recall that according to Genesis 1 it took Him 6 days

Genesis 2 uses “yom” again when God commands Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

Yet did Adam really die that day?  No; according to the Old Testament he lived for hundred of years after this event.  (Now, of course, there is another issue here–one could say that the death referred to here is not physical death but spiritual death.  That would not make reading this particular verse literally as much of a problem.  Yet most creationists actually don’t make this argument.)

Another argument often seen on creationists sites is that when “yom” is combined with “evening” (ereb in Hebrew) and “morning” (boqer in Hebrew), it is always referring to a literal 24 hour period of time.  Here is such an example from Eric Kemp again:

Yom is also used here with “morning” and “evening”.  Everywhere these two words are used in the Old Testament, with yom or without it, the text is referring to a literal evening or morning of a literal day. 

Moses, traditionally held to be the author of Genesis 1, is often also credited for writing Psalms 90.  In this Psalm, Moses compares human lives to grass.  He says that the grass sprouts in the morning and withers in the evening.  Evening and morning in this example surely do not refer to a 24-hour period of time. 

You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning [boqer] they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning [boqer] it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening [ereb] it fades and withers away. (Psalms 90:5-6)

The verse above does not also contain the word “yom”, but it does demonstrate that the words for “evening” and “morning” can be used for something other than a 24 hour day.

So what about when “evening” and “morning” ARE used in conjunction with “yom”?  Do they really ALWAYS indicate a 24 hour day?  Unfortunately there aren’t many instances of such usage.  But let’s continue our investigation with Daniel 8:

“The vision of the evenings [ereb] and mornings [boqer] Which has been told is true; But keep the vision secret, For it pertains to many days [yom] in the future.” (Daniel 8:26)

Daniel 8 is a hotly debated chapter in eschatological circles, but no matter how one interprets it, it is clear that this part of the vision in Daniel does not take place in a mere 24 hours. 

The reference in Genesis 1 to “evening” and “morning” on the first day also means we have to ignore the fact that there is somehow light and dark without there being a sun or other stars at that point–which is how one would normally gauge such times as “morning” and “evening”.  Also interesting to note is that the seventh day does NOT refer to evening and morning.  The seventh day of Genesis is not “closed”, yet the vast majority of creationists treat it like the other “days” mentioned in the creation account–as 24 literal hours:

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.

Another creationist claim often made is that when “yom” is used with a number, it always refers to a 24 hour time period.  Again, Eric Kemp demonstrates:

Yom is also used in conjunction with a number; one, two, three etc.  Every other time yom is used with a number, it is in description of literal days.

In Genesis 1, numbers are used to describe the different days.  Genesis 1:5 states:

And there was evening, and there was morning—the first [echad] day [yom].

The word “echad” is used to represent “one” here.  It is also used in Daniel 11:20:

Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few [echad] days [yom] he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle.

“Echad” is also used here but is translated as “few” instead of “one”.  This verse is widely believed to refer to Seleucus Philopator, who reigned for several years, not mere days (though certainly a short period of time when compared to his father). 

Zechariah 14:7 also contains the word yom combined with an ordinal (again, the number one, echad).  (It is interesting to note that the NIV translates yom echad as “unique day” in Zechariah, but translates the same Hebrew phrase as “first day” in Genesis 1:5) The context of Zechariah 14:7 seems to indicate that the yom echad will be a period of time at least spanning one summer and one winter (see 14:8).

“Echad yom” is also used often in the Old Testament to refer to the “Day of the Lord”–a time period which is often not regarded as lasting one day, but for several years (some people insist it will last literally 7 years). 

I, for one, actually believe that the intent of the creation story is more important than whether one should read it figuratively, literally, symbolically, and so on.  Yet I find it interesting to engage in such discussion anyway, especially as such issues as the ones above and the ones in my previous post simply cast doubt on how the account should be treated.

Further thoughts from other commentators:

Some thoughts from Christian scholars:

Gleason L. Archer, Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pages 60-61, Baker 1982:
” There were six major stages in this work of formation, and these stages are represented by successive days of a week. In this connection it is important to observe that none of the six creative days bears a definite article in the Hebrew text; the translations “the first day,” ” the second day,” etc., are in error. The Hebrew says, “And the evening took place, and the morning took place, day one” (1:5). Hebrew expresses “the first day” by hayyom harison, but this text says simply yom ehad (day one). Again, in v.8 we read not hayyom hasseni (“the second day”) but yom seni (“a second day”). In Hebrew prose of this genre, the definite article was generally used where the noun was intended to be definite; only in poetic style could it be omitted. The same is true with the rest of the six days; they all lack the definite article. Thus they are well adapted to a sequential pattern, rather than to strictly delimited units of time.”

Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, page 271, Zondervan 1999:
“Numbered days need not be solar. Neither is there a rule of Hebrew language demanding that all numbered days in a series refer to twenty-four-hour days. Even if there were no exceptions in the Old Testament, it would not mean that “day” in Genesis 1 could not refer to more than one twenty-four-hour period. But there is another example in the Old Testament. Hosea 6:1-2 . . . . . . Clearly the prophet is not speaking of solar “days” but of longer periods in the future. Yet he numbers the days in series.”

The Firmament

Posted in Genesis with tags , , , , , on October 5, 2008 by airtightnoodle

I’ve been having a discussion over at Internet Pastor with the blog owner about the mention of the “firmament” in the Old Testament.

This is something I’ve planned on discussing on my own blog, but it looks like it will have to wait this week.

In any case, it’s turned into a rather interesting and somewhat humorous conversation, as I feel the good pastor keeps dodging my questions.

*Update 10-6-8

Internetpastor claims he can no longer have this discussion with me after learning of my gender. 

Having only recently learned the truth of your gender I am obligated to inform you that due to the enormous respect I have for my marriage I have a personal conviction to not engage in intimate conversations (debates) with persons of the female gender. You are involved in other similar debates and I hope you find them stimulating.
You are welcome to comment on any of my articles as you wish.
Be well, sister.

Now, my gut tells me this is a cop-out.  But, I’ll give this man the benefit-of-the-doubt and drop the debate at his site unless he wants to continue pursuing it.  I posted the following as a response:

Well, that’s certainly a new cop-out for me.

Hope you’re truly being honest and not running away from something you’re tired of debating/don’t know how to debate/are worried you might be wrong about.

God bless.

I still plan on writing more about the firmament in the near future.

*Another update, 10/13/08

This guy is really a hoot!  After telling me he can no longer converse with me based on my gender, he then refers to me in his most recent post as a “christian?”. 

Likewise, if you believe as this {christian?}, you really have no clue what to believe, so you just go along with the current intellectual dogma, thereby actually losing your mind completely.

So, if you come across my mind, please return it.  I’ve lost it completely (not partially, mind you).

And, in another post, I left a comment pointing out how Internet Pastor had contradicted himself (again).  He then replies to the post but at the end leaves the following disclaimer:

This comment is to the panel and to no one in particular.

Like I said, he’s a hoot!  Who does this guy think he’s fooling?

What did Jesus say about creation?

Posted in Evolution, Genesis with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Updated 10-5-08

Many creationists make the argument that Jesus believed in a literal creation story as told in Genesis. Naturally, if Jesus believed it, why shouldn’t we?

For example, in Mark 10:6 Jesus states:

“But from the beginning of creation, God MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.”

Therefore, creationists say, there could not have been billions or millions of years of life before humans burst onto the scene. However, this statement ignores the fact that no matter how one reads the text, marriage (which is what this passage is really about) did NOT begin at the beginning of creation. Even if you take the verse out of context, not realizing the passage is talking about marriage, you would have to conclude that Jesus got it wrong.  Mankind was not even created at the beginning but on the sixth day (see Genesis 1). Humanity was created later as the pinnacle of the creation.  By reading the creation account literally, one comes across a bigger problem–you must either admit that Jesus lied or is very forgetful, according to Mark 10:6.

Furthermore, Mark 10:6 is rarely quoted in context when being used to debate creation. Mark 10:1-10 states the following:

Jesus then left that place and went into the region of Judea and across the Jordan. Again crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them.

Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”

“What did Moses command you?” he replied.

They said, “Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away.”

“It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law,” Jesus replied. “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

When they were in the house again, the disciples asked Jesus about this. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

Jesus is simply explaining the institution of marriage as was commanded to the first two creatures it applied to. The passage has no bearing on the age of creation.

In John 5:45-47, Jesus gives weight to the word of Moses:

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”

One of the passages in the words of Moses is Exodus 20:11:

For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Creationists often cite this verse as evidence that clearly Jesus and Moses believed in a literal interpretation of the creation account. This passage instructs the people to keep the Sabbath day holy and not to work on that day. This passage compares the six days of our labor to the six days God used to create. According to creationists, this means that both represent literal 24 hour days.

However, God declared other Sabbaths. A Sabbath for the land consists of six years of cultivation followed by a seventh year of rest (Leviticus 25:2-4). This establishes the principle of six periods of work followed by one period of rest. And in this case, the “days” are not six 24 hour periods.  This 6:1 ratio is used in many instances to express important principles, including 6:1 year cycles in Exodus 23:10-11 and Leviticus 25:1-7.

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, it is important when reading the bible to keep in mind the history and cultural influences of the times.  The ancient Israelites were in need of establishing an identity for themselves.  These people were facing ancient Near East nations that were mostly hostile and polytheistic.  The Sabbath principle allowed them to establish their identitiy and develop an efficient work ethic-first in a nomadic situation and then in a land they were charged to establish as their own. 

Ironically, most Christians recognize the important principle in Exodus without taking it absolutely literally. Most do not rest or devote the actual Sabbath day (Saturday) to worship. If this passage is meant to be taken literally, we should all be worshipping on Saturday. Yet most Christians truly see the significance of the principle stated above, six periods of work and one period of rest, without following the literal interpretation.

In my opinion, I do not feel that one can conclusively say that Jesus was a “creationist” or believed in a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation account. Certainly he affirmed the supremacy of God the Father and acknowledged the Father as creator, but this says nothing about the manner in which God created the heavens and the earth nor how long it took Him to do so.

Later I plan on commenting on what Paul had to say about creation. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, you may find the following posts interesting:

Death Before the Fall?

Should the creation account be read literally?

You may also be interested in the following blog, Servant’s Thoughts.

Does accepting evolution require faith?

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 11, 2008 by airtightnoodle
Science and Religion

Science and Religion

One argument made by creationists or proponents of intelligent design is that accepting (they typically say “believing”) evolution requires just as much faith as believing in the Genesis creation account.  These people say that evolution (sometimes called “Darwinism”) is as dogmatic as any religious belief out there.

It is hard to see how evolution, or science in general, can be called religious, when it does not have any of the characteristics of a religion.  Most religions include a belief in supernatural beings.  Evolution certainly does not require anyone to believe, or not believe, in supernatural beings.  There are also no sacred times, places, or objects; no ritual acts one must perform; and so on. 

To blur the distinction between evolution and religion, creationists argue that evolution cannot be proved.  Since it cannot be proved, one therefore must have faith to believe in it.  However, nothing in science can be proved with absolute certainty.  Yet most people would not classify jumping and knowing you will land on the ground as a “leap of faith”.  That is due to gravity.  Most people know this and accept it without a second thought.  Though nothing can be ultimately proved in science, high degrees of certainty can most assuredly be reached.

The theory of evolution is based on evidence that has been observed.  The amount of this evidence is not scant, in the least, as some creationists would have the world believe.  The amount of evidence supporting evolution is vast and well-documented, and it also comes from many diverse fields. 

Consider the following, which constitutes just a few pieces of evidence of evolutionary theory:

  • All organisms share the same basic mechanisms of replication, heritability, and metabolism.
  • Fossils appear in an order in the strata consistent with common descent.
  • The distribution of species across the globe is consistent with their evolutionary history.
  • Evolution predicts that new structures are adapted from other structures that already exist; similarity in structures should be based on evolutionary history rather than function, according to the theory.  For example, human hands, whale flippers, and bat wings all have similar structures even though their functions differ.
  • Speciation has been observed.
  • Other fields of science confirm that the earth, and the universe, have been around for billions of years–a long period of time, which evolution would require.

Creationists object that since evolution takes long periods of time, and since no one can go back in time to witness these changes, that evolutionary theory is therefore not scientific.  Again, if it is not scientific, one must simply have faith to believe in it, according to the creationists.  This begs the question to creationists: what do you think science is, and how does it operate? 

The Last Battle

The Last Battle

No one can directly see the earth moving around the sun.  No one can see atoms with their own eyes.  No one can see gravity.  Any possible theory of how a star forms must not be scientific, either.  We cannot create a star, the process is not repeatable, and the process takes a very long period of time.  Therefore, these theories must not be scientific either.  We may as well believe the depiction of stars as people from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.  In fact, large parts of the science world, including much of astrophysics, astronomy, geology, seismology, plate tectonics, and more, should simply be thrown out of the world of “science”, according to this line of thinking.

What creationists do not realize, or simply refuse to realize, is that it is not necessary for all parts of evolutionary theory (or any theory) to be directly observed.  What is necessary is that evolution makes falsifiable predictions that can be tested, and it does exactly that.

Evolution predicts that fossils will be found in chronological order–fossils further down the tree of life are older than fossils that are higher up.  This is certainly falsifiable.  Haldane suggested that anyone wishing to disprove evolutionary theory only needs to discover a rabbit fossil from Precambrian rock.  (Ironically, most creationists say fossils do not prove evolution, yet most creationists readily accept that dinosaurs existed, even though no one was there to see them.  All we have left of them are their fossils.)

Evolution also predicts that we will not observe organisms being spontaneously created, or spontaneously changing into a completely different creature.  Evolution requires that mutations must occur and be allowed to accumulate over time.  Evolution also says that true chimeras cannot exist (as in, a mermaid or centaur).  All of these predictions certainly allow evolution to be falsified.  If the fossil record was found to be static, if chimeras were found, if a mechanism could be found that prevents mutations from accumulating, if organisms could be observed being created, if it could be clearly demonstrated that the earth has not been around for billions of years, then evolutionary theory would certainly need some major adjustments to it, or it would possibly need to be dismantled altogether. 

Instead, the predictions that evolutionary theory makes seem to be verified time and time again.  If memory serves correctly, when Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species no one knew of any hominid fossils.  If none had ever been found, that would have falsified evolution as well.  If no transitional fossils were ever found, that would falsify evolution, too.  Yet when we dig up fossils, we see many examples of change over time.  Evolution predicts that speciation will happen; creationists argue emphatically that speciation has never happened and/or never been observed, but again, it clearly has.

Ironically, many creationists have no problem with the concept of “microevolution” (small changes within a species).  It is macroevolution, speciation, and common descent that they find dangerous.  These people fail to recognize that the same processes involved in microevolution are involved in macroevolution. 

Just as evolution is not a religious belief and does not require faith, creationism and intelligent design are also not scientific.  Both creationism and intelligent design rely at least partially on a supernatural being to explain origins and the diversity of life; this is not testable.  Neither creationism nor ID provides a model for making predictions, they provide no further problems for scientists to work on, and do not provide a way to solve other problems.  Evolution does all of this, and is arguably the best supported scientific theory currently in existence.  It does not require faith, belief that is not based on proof or material evidence, to accept it.

Why do creationists argue that evolution is a religion, or that it requires faith?  This argument deliberately blurs the line between religion and science.  Many religious people feel threatened by evolution and science in general.  Of course, science has turned a lot of the opinions and beliefs of the religious upside down over the years.  By challenging science, creationists are undermining the willingness of others to rely on science.  If evolution can be portrayed as a religion, a false religion more specifically, then perhaps Christians will be as unwilling to accept evolution as they are unwilling to adopt the Islamic or Buddhist religious systems.  One might even classify this as a defense mechanism.

It is my opinion that feeling threatened by evolution or science in general is simply unnecessary.  Having true faith means that one accepts and trusts that whatever God has done is okay.  What is troubling is that this type of faith does not seem to be compatible with most creationists.  Many creationists insist the Genesis creation account be read literally, even though there is nothing in the text that demands it be read in such a way.   Many creationists insist that any other interpretation is simply wrong, or even satanic.  Many of these people cannot accept that whatever God has done is okay, even if what God did was use evolution.  This fervent allegiance to something that so obviously contradicts the observations of the natural world around us does not serve as a good example of faith, and it certainly is not good “PR”, so to speak, for Christians, who unfortunately already have a lot of poor publicity to counteract.

As I have written before:

If God is the author of both the Word and nature, then we should expect there to be no conflict between the two when properly interpreted.

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Evolution is good

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , , , on July 5, 2008 by airtightnoodle

Quote of the day…saw this while reading the AP Environmental Science list serv.

…And God saw that it was good, and evolution continued.

Death before the Fall?

Posted in Genesis with tags , , , , , , , on April 26, 2008 by airtightnoodle

One of the stumbling-blocks for Christians accepting evolutionary theory is the idea of death before the Fall of man. How can this notion possibly be reconciled with the accepted scientific viewpoints of the history of life on Earth?

Many Christians insist that the Bible teaches there was no physical death before the fall of man. This notion is not well-supported Biblically, and it certainly isn’t well-supported scientifically.

If there was no physical death before the fall, several interesting questions arise.  For instance, if animals couldn’t die prior to the fall, why did God give them reproductive abilities?  Recall that God instructed them to “be fruitful and increase in number”.  Furthermore, animals not being able to die creates problems such as the following: An ant crawls along the grass.  A cow comes along and eats that patch of grass, ingesting the ant in the process.  The ant cannot perish if there is no physical death; it somehow must survive the trip through the cow’s digestive and excretory systems.  For that matter, why would the cow even need to eat?  If there was no physical death, starvation would certainly pose no problem–yet God granted the plants to the animals for food.  Speaking of plants, they would have the same dilemma as the aforementioned ant–how would the plants survive being eaten without dying?

Literalists who accept the idea of no death before the fall run into a problem right away when reading the Genesis account of the fall. God told Adam that he would die the day he ate the forbidden fruit. Note that nowhere does it say that before this time Adam was destined to be immortal. If someone hands you a venomous snake and says, “If this bites you, today you will die”, does that imply you were going to live forever otherwise? Of course not. In any case, on the day Adam ate the fruit, he certainly did not physically die! He went on to live many, many years, according to Genesis. One could, of course, suggest that the term “day” here did not literally mean a 24-hour period…but that’s pretty inconsistent for a literalist who insists “death” here MUST mean physical death.

A much more consistent reading would mean that the death here refers to spiritual, not physical, death.

1 Corinthians 15:21-22 supports this reading (and is ironically often quoted by others to support physical death): “For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

The verse alludes to Adam’s death at the Fall, which was certainly not physical since he did not physically die that day. The verse parallels death in Adam to life in Christ. Do we have physical life in Christ or spiritual life in Christ? Regardless of religious beliefs, people continue to be physically born every day. Many people have lived physically just fine for years without believing in Jesus Christ as their savior. The passage is much more meaningful if taken as a reference to spiritual death and life. Jesus even referred to himself as granting spiritual life. “…Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11). Since we do still obviously physically die, Jesus was speaking of spiritual death…which is a death far worse than physical death ever could be.

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Should the creation account in Genesis be read literally?

Posted in Genesis with tags , , , , , , on March 18, 2008 by airtightnoodle

A little bit of background info may be necessary to explain some of the beliefs I’m already bringing with me to the table.

  1.  I was raised in the Lutheran Church.  Some may not know that there are divisions in the Lutheran church here in America.  I belonged to what is called the Missouri Synod (more conservative in general than the one you usually hear about in the papers, the ELCA–evangelical Lutheran church of America).
  2. The church I grew up largely regards (and I still do) apocalyptic literature as symbolic and figurative (though this is a whole ‘nother debate).  See this link for an LCMS explanation.
  3. The church seems to usually regard the creation account in Genesis as literal (but see the links here for an explanation from the LCMS).
  4. Former president of the LCMS A. Barry seemed to be a proponent of Intelligent Design.
  5. In Revelation and other apocalyptic literature, numbers are used in very symbolic ways (7 often being a number symbolizing completeness).  My question, as a child and teenager, was basically, “Why are the numbers considered to be symbolic in Revelation but not in Genesis?”
  6. The LCMS’s response to this question was as follows:

<<It is the nature of apocalyptic literature (like the book of Revelation) to use numbers, strange creatures, events described in unusual ways, etc. to provide a message to believers who are able to understand the “true meaning” behind the cryptic stories and symbols.  One of the messages of Revelation is that God’s will will be done in spite of all opposition.  He is in charge. He reigns. It is a message of comfort for the one who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior and King.

The book of Genesis, on the other hand, does not contain the characteristics of apocalyptic literature.  It is written as historical literature. There is nothing in the book of Genesis itself (or in Genesis 1-3 in particular) that suggests that we are to take what is written here as anything other than a literal, historical account of how God created the world.  That does not mean, however, that the literal “seven days” of Genesis 1-2 may not also have an additional “figurative” or “prophetic” significance.  The number seven often signifies “wholeness” or “completion,” and it seems clear from Scripture that God chose to create the world in seven days both to highlight the “completeness” of his work of creation and to point forward to the final “completion” of his plan of salvation in heaven.  In this connection, it is interesting to note that the writer to the Hebrews refers to God’s resting on the seventh day and then refers to the fact that there remains a sabbath rest for the people of God (Heb. 4:1-11). That “sabbath rest” is eternal life in heaven, won for us by the life, death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.>>

Maybe I’m just picky, but that was never good enough for me.  Why is all of Genesis supposed to be read as a historical, step-by-step account?  I can see the argument for much of the book.  However, man was not around (according to science OR the Old Testament) to actually see the Earth being created.  Man, in Genesis, is not created until day 6.  Naturally that means whoever wrote the account (Moses, according to most believers) was relying on information from elsewhere.  (Most would say that ultimately that information came from God.) 

Something about the argument from my church just didn’t sit well with me.  It bothered me for years.

Then I realized that being non-literal doesn’t make it non-historical (woo!  look at all those negatives).  Also, something can be non-chronological and still be historical.

Is it possible that Genesis does describe events that actually happened in a logical but non-chronological way?

I believe so.

Enter the framework interpretation (ironically, something pointed out in the footnotes of my old handy-dandy Lutheran NIV Study Bible…basically the same as the NIV Study Bible published by Zondervan with more “Lutheran-esque” notes tossed in here and there). 

Genesis 1:2 describes two problems: the earth was both formless and empty.  The following verses describe (historically but not chronologically) how those two problems are solved.

The first three days produce form by separating light from dark, sky from sea (waters above and below), and land and sea.  The next three days fill these forms: creating the sun and moon, birds and fish, land animals and plants.

To sum up:

Days of Forming

Days of Filling

Day 1–light and darkness

Day 4–sun, moon

Day 2–sky and sea

Day 5–sky and sea animals

Day 3–land and sea, plants created

Day 6–land and sea animals, humans, plants used for food

Logical, but not chronological.

This framework stresses the orderliness and completeness of God’s creative work. 

A similar approach has been called “the worldview approach” (an excellent thought-provoking read).  This interpretation points out that many ancient cultures wrote in a similar manner; for example, the number seven was also important to the Mesopotamians.  It was customary to divide six days of work into 3 pairs.  Hence the framework as seen above (two parallel triads of days) is not suprising.  The author of Genesis was simply writing in the prose-narrative style of his day.

A slightly different framework interpretation describes the first three “triads” (first three days) as representing “creation kingdoms” and the next three represent the “creature kings” that rule those kingdoms.  When read in this way, it makes the seventh day that much more climactical, as this reading shows with clarity that it is God who is the ultimate King in control of the Universe.  All of the created kingdoms and kings are subordinate to God, who takes his rest as the Creator King, on the 7th (Sabbath) day.  The one true God is depicted as sovereign and transcendent over ALL OTHER THINGS.  This would have combatted the competing worldviews of the day (polytheistic, pantheistic, etc) quite effectively.

 By not reading the creation account as a literal, chronological narrative, one solves the problem of the two seemingly-conflicting stories in Genesis 1 and 2.  There is also no conflict with science; the framework interpretation quite easily fits what science teaches about the age of the earth.  A literal 24-hour interpretation clearly goes against science. 

If God is the author of both the Word and nature, then we should expect there to be no conflict between the two when properly interpreted.

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