Thursday, May 31, 2007

our creation story

What if conservative Christianity decided to join together with liberal Christianity and read the first few chapters of Genesis like some of the earliest Church Fathers? What if all of Christianity decided that Genesis 1-2 was true but not literal? What if we all agreed together that God created the world and that Genesis gives us a beautiful, poetic picture of that? And what if we all stopped trying to cram a wooden, literal interpretation into something that was never meant to be taken that way in the first place?

Here is what might happen:
- science and reason would no longer be opponents of Christians, but allies.
- scientists would feel free to let science declare the glory of God's creation
- Christians would stop arguing about pointless things like having "creationism" in schools and would return to their first love, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Atheist would no longer have the argument against Christianity that creationism is impossible.
- Both Christian and non-Christian alike could stand in agreement that God may have indeed created through an evolutionary process
- Rather than secularism being lord of science, Christ would return as the King of all fields of study, which is His rightful place
- Agnostics who were seeking to understand God would feel free explore Christianity
- Christians on the right and left would stop bickering about how God created, and would celebrate His creation
- Conservatives wouldn't have to feel like they need to "defend scripture" as if scripture needed defending
- Liberals wouldn't have to feel like they had to deconstruct scripture but could trust in its beauty and authority

One day, I hope all of Christianity can read those first few chapters of the Old Testament as the early church Fathers read it. It is true. It is powerful. It is beautiful. It is authoritative for faith and practice. But it is not always literal.

For more reading on theistic evolution, read: "The Language of God" by Francis S. Collins.

17 Comments:

At 10:59 AM, Blogger AK said...

Mark,

Was this just for conversation?

 
At 11:08 AM, Blogger Mark said...

AK,
I am not sure what you mean. Its cool if it sparks conversation. Is that what you were asking?

 
At 1:39 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Biology is the study of life. I revised the definition halfway through my Bio degree to Biology is the study of how God created life. The more I learned about biology, the more indepth I was in my classes, and then later what I personally manipulated and failed at sometimes doing in the lab showed me over and over that God is behind all of this. There is no way everything was made without God. And when I was reading all that Buddhist stuff, the Hindu stuff I got from my friend after I left 'you know where' :) and then the atheist period I passed through, it was my biology background that steered me back to God, because I couldn't deny it.

I can't wait for the day when Christians and scientists agree. And although I haven't read Francis Collin's book, I've read excerpts, and I've been waiting for this for a long time. I remember sitting with my friend John and one of my undergrad profs and we talked about the Bible and science, and how the pieces just fit so well together! But it does take a jump from a literal perspective, and a leap of faith from scientists who feel that knowledge negates a creator. As if just because we are finally 'smart' enough to figure out life (and we are far from it still) that it now negates the presence of a creator?? No, we merely stumbled upon a very small picture of the mechanism that God designed to do so.

I think there is so much power in finding out how and why we were created from a biological view. And hundreds of conclusions can be made. What is cool is how everything in science backs up the Bible...especially in our purpose on earth, and even seeing the consequence of sin in this world through a biological eye.

Ok so I've blabbered, and could blabber about this for a few more months straight, but I hope that what you blogged can one day come true. Not only would a really long, tiring, pointless battle come to end, but that energy can then be harnessed to do better and greater things.

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Rebecca wrote: "I hope that what you blogged can one day come true. Not only would a really long, tiring, pointless battle come to end, but that energy can then be harnessed to do better and greater things."

Amen sister. Amen.

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger AK said...

Please consider reading Genesis 1 as a baby...not as an intellectual. Read it as a simpleton...for that is what we are. God has revealed THAT he created and in what MANNER he created. He not only spoke it in baby language at the beginning of Genesis, he reiterated the same simplistic interpretation throughout the revelation of scripture.

Additionally, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Also, if the scientists are atheists, why would they declare God's glory?

 
At 4:35 PM, Blogger Mark said...

AK,
I agree that we should have simple faith but not simplistic faith. Scripture talks about moving from spiritual milk to solid food. I think this is needed in understanding the Creation story.

I believe Genesis tells us the beauty, power and wonder of creation. It tells us that God is our Creator and that we were created in His image. It tells us that we have a good creation that was ordered by God yet was damaged by sin. We accept all of this as true with the faith of a child.

But I don't think this means we reject what God has revealed in nature and pose it against what God has revealed in scripture. I think we need to receive what God has revealed in both nature and scripture and we need to be open to see how they are in agreement.

I believe God has revealed to us through science that nature has gone through an evolutionary process. Scripture reveals that God created. These two truths are not in opposition to one another. They can be held together.

I believe nature may reveal the "how" of God creating and scripture reveals a lot of the "who" and "what" and "why."

As to your other question, I believe scientists who are atheists unknowningly declare the glory of God's creation through their field of study. When they learn about and reveal the inner workings of nature, they reveal God's fingerprints in His creation.

When physicists uncover the mathematical harmony in creation, they reveal a part of God's perfect character. When biologists tell of the mysteries of reproduction and birth, they uncover an echo of God's voice, a shadow of His presence, and evidence of His existence.

So whether the scientist is a Christian or an atheist, their work often declares the glory of God and His creation.

 
At 10:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mark, well done you have given all a perfect example of postmodern deconstructionism. And Rob Bell your "god" I'm sure is proud. I'm not sure the GOD of the universe is proud.

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger ecclesia said...

Anonymous, in defense to Mark, I wish to ask you to stop making these harsh accusations. I have been growing weary over this for the last month or so just watching all of this. We're talking about the interpretation of creation, not to cast it off as some little thing. No, I don't agree with the post, I believe in the literal translation, however, does this merit placing judgement on someone you don't even know? Is this something crucial to someone's salvation? If I remember correctly, Jesus is adament about being obedient to His commandments and loving Him first and loving your neighbor as yourself. I don't see the interpretation of creation as one of the criteria.

I know you hate the whole concept of the emergent church and the postmodern theology, and probably for some good reason, however I do ask that you see the good too, just like ANYTHING else. I don't think there is ANYONE out there that has it perfectly right. We can only trust the Holy Spirit and ask for guidance and understanding in Scripture. Funny thing is, many of us swear we do that, and yet we still disagree. Unfortunately I have no wise words for that.

I think we need to be careful who we judge and how we judge. Yes, God placed that power in our hands in relation to the believer, but we also have to be responsible with it. It doesn't give us permission to just go around finger pointing telling everyone how wrong they are. Have you prayed about your responses before making them? Have you truly been loving? Are you slow to anger? I know I'm the pot calling the kettle black right now as far as praying before I respond, but I have just been so frustrated over this.

Anonymous, I would love for you to visit Horizon. If that is not something you are called to do, then get together with my husband and myself. We've asked a lot of questions over the last few weeks and would really love to share with you some of the great things we've been learning about Horizon and its vision. Perhaps it would be better if you hear from us in person what this church is all about, instead of being so quick to judge.

I can tell you this. I know a person who has been dealing with a struggle who has been going to Horizon and this community has done nothing but share in this person's struggle and this person believes and is at peace with where God has placed him. Please, look at the fruits of Horizon and what it has to offer. I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in more ways we can even imagine. I have to believe, at least right now, that the God of Scripture is the ultimate authority of this church. That's not to say we're perfect. That's not to say we don't have much to learn. Give us the room to learn and grow, and lots not make an issue out every interpretation of every single word in Scripture. Don't you think God knew we would disagree on such things? Paul talks about in the Corinthians, about the quarreling. Some things are worht making a fuss over, but to me, this post is not worth the fuss and the condemnation. Let's focus on what Jesus's commandments. Let's focus on our individual journeys God has placed before us and lets help each other in our journeys. This walk is hard enough without being slammed and critcized and accused of such things. I'm sorry, but it all seems so negative. I know I could use a little more peace, joy, and love and my life every so often.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Anonymous,
I ask that everyone who posts comments on this blog leave their name (or computer name) and that everyone be respectful to each other.

You have done neither. Please don't post here any more if you can't follow these simple requests. If you continue to be disrespectful, I will delete your posts.

I have always been open to having differing points of views on here. But your last comment was childish and ignorant. Please, keep your insults and your attacks to yourself.

 
At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Lou said...

You make a great point Mark. I think this view calls us to respect God and it allows room for His creativity and mysterious nature. Maybe you could expand on the way the church fathers saw this text. Which church fathers? What time period? Why they saw it this way? That would be great. Thanks!

 
At 7:57 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Lou,
I will wet your appetite here and allow you to go and do more indepth research on your own.

Look into how Origin and Clement and other early church fathers who came out of the Alexandrian school of theology interpreted the Old Testament. They often used allegorical and typological interpretations as well as literal.

Also look into the great theologian St. Augustine. He wrote specifically on interpreting Genesis. His view looks very different than the modern fundamentalist view. Here is a good online source to read:
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/topics/Bible-Science/PSCF3-88Young.html

The point is, long before science revealed an old geological record and long before Darwin or any thought of evolution, these great theological minds were reading Genesis differently than what you typically hear as the "6 Day Creation."

These guys lived just a few decades after the time of the apostles. These guys helped shape what we now know as the New Testament canon. And yet these guys didn't feel compelled to believe that a literal interpretation was the only faithful one.

 
At 9:39 AM, Blogger AK said...

Mark,

I think, ultimately, yes, I wanted to see if this was mostly for conversation purposes. And, yes, I agree we need to move away from milk and onto meat; however, why should we move away from simplicity?

 
At 9:54 AM, Blogger Jeff Mount said...

I love the fact that you mentioned that the early church fathers did not necessarily accept the Genesis account of creation as literal. It's important to realize that biblical literalism arose IN RESPONSE TO attacks on the integrity of Scripture, but prior to that, no one made the claim that it was literal because no one needed to know what kind of truth it was. They just accepted it as truth.

Also, I find it interesting that the early church fathers were content to believe that they didn't have a mapped out, literal explanation of creation...either literal Genesis OR Darwinian evolution. They were okay with no explanation, because the absence of an explanation did not change who God was, and who God is.

I'm not scientifically inclined, so lots of the creation/evolution debate goes over my head. But 2 Peter talks about people "deliberately forgetting that God created the world."
That has always been very tellig to me.

 
At 9:57 AM, Blogger Mark said...

AK,
My desire is that we have a simple faith but not a simplistic one. Here is the difference:

sim·plis·tic –adjective characterized by extreme simplism; oversimplified

sim·ple –adjective
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned
4. unaffected; unassuming; modest:
7. occurring or considered alone; mere; bare: the simple truth
8. free of deceit or guile; sincere; unconditional: a frank, simple answer.
10. not grand or sophisticated; unpretentious: a simple way of life.


Of all the definitions that can be used for the word simple, these are the ones I feel like express what our faith is supposed to be. Free of deceit, unpretentious, mere, not ornate or luxurious, not artificial. This is what it is to have simple faith.

But simplistic faith is something else. To oversimplify our experiences with God and scripture is to do a disservice to God's mystery and wonder. To oversimplify the Creation story is to not understand its purpose and meaning. To oversimplify Genesis 1-2 is to reject the truths we find revealed in nature.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger ballofdirt said...

Hey Mark :-)
My God is an Awesome God !!!!!!!!!!
He and His attributes are not simple. John stated it so well.
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

The darkness has not understood it.
The darkness has not understood it.
The darkness has not understood it.

Just because we can not get our brains around how God could do such an incredible thing, why must we try to bring it down to our level. God's ways are not our ways. His ways are WAY above ours. Something's will just be a mystery until we are worshiping His glory in heaven. I want it that way, I need a Powerful GOD!
I look around me and see Creation, that means to me there must be a Creator. I agree with Rebecca, the more I see the more, I learn, the more I fear(in Awe of) the Lord. He told us in His first of 66 love letters to us how he created everything.
I think God's plan is elaborate, ornate, luxurious,grand, sophisticated, absolutely awe-inspiring. And those simple words don't do Him justice.
Job 38:4
1 Then the LORD answered Job out of the storm. He said:
2 "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?

3 Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

4 "Where were you when I laid
the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.

5 Who marked off its dimensions surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone-

7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels [a] shouted for joy?

8 "Who shut up the sea behind doors
when it burst forth from the womb,

9 when I made the clouds its garment
and wrapped it in thick darkness,

10 when I fixed limits for it
and set its doors and bars in place,

11 when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?

12 "Have you ever given orders to the morning,
or shown the dawn its place,

And on and on God goes. He set all this in place and He told the stars where to go and they went, He told the sea how far to come and it obeys, the mountains, the Sun, the moon, all obey. And me a ball of dirt he sends me 66 love letters and I say "no it can't be, I know better".
What church fathers?
Not Peter, Paul, James, Timothy, Luke, Matthew, Mark, John............!
I think the only thing we need to come together on/at is THE FOOT OF THE CROSS. That is Love. It is not about Liberal or conservative, it is about Jesus Christ, the Cross and The resurrection. And God will get all the glory.
Come together at the Cross and all the other issues will be taken care of in God's time.
Mark, I don't use this text in a mean or harsh way, I am concerned when you us this kind of teaching.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
I don't think it is proper hermeneutics to use the milk and meat scripture to promote myths or stories.
Just a thought. This was not intended to be offensive to anyone, just a ball of dirts - that God loved so much that His Son was crushed by His Father's wrath, the wrath that I deserved - opinion.

 
At 10:06 PM, Blogger Mark said...

ballofdirt,
I think we can both agree that God created the universe and everything in it. I think we can also both agree that He did this in a mysterious and wonderful way because our God is both mysterious and wonderful.

You don't need to be concerned with my teaching, my hermeneutic or my doctrine. They are as sound as they come.

But maybe you could tell me a bit more about yourself. What kind of education do you have in the bible and what kind of learning have you done to develop a proper hermeneutic.

 
At 4:26 PM, Blogger ballofdirt said...

Just a broken vessel.

 

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