As I mentioned in the first article on this topic, just a few of my friends joined into the conversation on Facebook. Perhaps I cannot understand the true reasons of those who decided to be silent on the subject of Creation. From the comments of those who shared their opinion, I draw a few ideas and present them here (without naming the authors) as an introduction to what I would later present as “A Coherent Creation Model for the 21st Century”.
One of my friends opined that it would be wise to consider the Pascal’s Wager before we discard the belief in God. I answered that I agree with Pascal and I don’t discard the belief in God, but my approach was not about God’s existence; it was about the Creation. At this he replied that we should take them as a “package”, meaning that if we believe in God, we should also believe in Genesis’ literal rendering of Creation. To this I cannot subscribe. The belief in God is subjective since God is outside our possibility of inquiry, therefore He is outside the scope of science. There is no wonder then why finding two persons who have the same understanding or concept of God is such a daunting task. With the Genesis, however, things are different. Genesis is a text that we can examine scientifically. Even though we do not know for sure who the author is, we can understand the times, the style, the reasons, the rhetoric, the polemic, the audience intended, and the author’s position on all the fundamental questions he tries to address in the Book of Genesis. Only when we employ a sound hermeneutic and understand this text in the context of all the conditions surrounding the producing of this text, we can attempt a “coherent creationist approach”, as pastor Mike put it.
Another friend acknowledged that the Genesis description of Creation is problematic, but he considered that the reason for it has to do with the “incompleteness” of the description. He said “I think that, if we are honest, we will have to admit that the Creation story has many points that we simply haven’t been told yet”. Then, using the example of Einstein’s Cosmological Constant where he used a division by zero (caught by the Russian scientist Friedmann) my friend made a second point that had to do with how scientific theories are dealt with, meaning that when a mathematical theory is proven to have faults, that is enough to discredit the theory and there is no need for presenting a better one. In other words, Einstein removed the Cosmological Constant without asking Friedmann to present a better version of the theory. Suffice to say that the removal of the Cosmological Constant by Einstein is actually considered to be his real blunder (see here). Even though pointing to flaws in a mathematical theory can lead to the discard of such theory, our discussion regarding the Creation is not a scientific attempt because the Creation is not, and it cannot be, a mathematical theory. The Creation paradigm is a philosophical-theological worldview that rests, in most cases, on the text of Genesis, or rather on the interpretation of it. I believe that it is self-defeating to point towards the flaws of various scientific theories in order to discard them, while at the same time we entertain a theological position that is filled with contradictions and paradoxes. In order to be successful in deciphering and exposing the pseudoscience, we first have to examine our theological position and update it so that believers would not have to live constantly in a state of cognitive dissonance with the rest of the world and the scientific facts.
Yet another old friend of mine (meaning that we know each other for a long time, not that he is an old man) took an apologetic position towards the literal interpretation of Genesis, while inserting a little of his known sarcastic style in his comments. He asked whether my intention was to “come up with another Creation model than what the Bible says”. In his opinion, “the report of Creation in Genesis concerns is not a scientific description but still an accurate one”. When you add to this his following sentences, “His (God’s) Creation has deep symbolical connotations. But it surpasses our understanding”, it appears that my friend is either ignorant of the contradictions resulting from such statements, or that he is not bothered by such contradictions. I tried to reason with him and pointed out that the Creation models in Christianity are based on the Genesis text, therefore I was not pleading for a model that disregards Genesis. On the contrary, I believe we ought to devise a Creation model that is based on a better understanding of Genesis. The laws of nature are constant throughout the passing of time, but in the case of theology this is not true, theology being constantly changing. You cannot use the term “accuracy” without noting that this term describes a result of a scientific inquiry. How do you determine that something is “accurate” except that you observe, measure, quantify, check and re-check your calculus and make sure you are not calling “accurate” something that is in fact inaccurate? And how do you engage in this undertaking and declare something to be “accurate” if you are dealing with “symbolical connotations that surpass our understanding”? I agree that the Genesis story has many symbolic connotations. Moreover, I suggest that the value of Genesis consists exactly in these symbolical connotations, but I believe that we are able to understand what is written because that was the intention of the author. Otherwise, why would an author write something that is not understood neither by his generation, nor by the future generations? Wouldn’t that be a silly and fruitless activity?
The opinions expressed by my friends are somewhat representative of the general understanding of Creation among the evangelical Christians, in general, and the Seventh-day Adventists in particular, where the Biblical interpretation is dominated by the doctrine of a literal Divine inspiration of the Bible, hence “you take it as you read it”. Where does this understanding come from? Who is educating and formatting the mind of the believers? And, more strikingly, what is the purpose for such education? Could it be that our spiritual leaders are actively involved in a “blatant thought control” of the people, as my preferred theologian put it? For those who are interested in understanding the relationship between the Book of Genesis and the prevailing mythological texts and perceptions of that time, I recommend the article “THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COSMOLOGY IN GENESIS I IN RELATION TO ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN PARALLELS” by Gerhard F. Hasel (deceased), a scholar of Andrews University. Also, see “CREATION AND COSMOGONY IN THE BIBLE” from the Jewish Virtual Library. These are easily accessible sources and there is no need that I repeat or summarize the ideas contained in them as I move toward a new, balanced and coherent approach to the Creation, such as proposed below.
A Creation Model for the 21st Century
- God is the only Supreme Being, unborn and unmade. He is both Transcendent (He is beyond space and time) and Immanent (He reveals Himself in Creation and sustains it).
- God is the Creator of everything there is. This means that we do not believe in the absoluteness of time, space, matter, energy, etc., but all of the above have been created ex-nihilo by God.
- Since we are created beings, we cannot fully understand the Creation. We are not attempting a definition or description of Creation, its timing, process, scope, extensiveness, or future.
- We believe life is God’s gift. However, we do not claim to know fully its processes, capabilities, and development. We welcome the use of life sciences to better understand it. Science cannot deny God.
- We understand the Bible as a human enterprise and search for God, an interface that allows us to draw closer to God and understand His love. The Bible is not dictated by God and is not inerrant and absolute.
- The narration of Genesis does not represent a historical and factual report of Creation, but a polemic device against the mythologies of Ancient Near East, namely Sumerian, Babylonian, and Egyptian.
- The Genesis creation story is dependent on the socio-cultural conditions surrounding the time, place, knowledge and understanding of its author(s) and has been influenced by similar writings of the time.
- Because Genesis sets important lessons for humanity, the later use and citation of Genesis by other Bible writers or by Jesus should be understood also as a cultural application, not as a literal confirmation of it.
- We agree with Galileo: the Bible and Nature are two “books” that reveal some of God’s Majesty. Nature reveals how heaven work and the Bible reveals how to get to heaven.
- Science and Faith should not conflict with each other. When Science contradicts the Bible, we need to reassess our theology and that is ok with God. He is greater than our weak understanding of Him.