Monday, July 14, 2008

The bible says...

Scripture has always said:
After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. (Revelation 7:1)

Christians used to interpret this as:
- confirming the idea that the world is flat.

Christians now interpret this as:
- a metaphorical way of saying the "whole world," not a literal geological description of the shape of the earth.

Scripture has always said:
He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. (Psalm 104:5)
AND
Tremble before him, all the earth! The world is firmly established; it cannot be moved. (1 Chronicles 16:30)

Christians used to interpret these as:
- double confirmation of the idea that the earth doesn't move, rotate or orbit.

Christians now interpret these as:
- two poetic ways of describing God's creation of and interaction with the earth, not literal scientific statements about earth's rotation or orbit.

Scripture has always said:
The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. (Ecc. 1:5)
AND
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Jesus' words in Matthew 5:45b)

Christians used to interpret these as:
- proof from the Old Testament and Jesus own mouth that the earth is the center of the universe and that the sun revolves around the earth.

Christians now interpret these as:
- metaphorical ways of describing the sun's apparent "movement" across the sky, not literal astronomical descriptions of the sun.

Conclusion:
So while we as Christians understand scripture to be completely authoritative for our lives, we also must realize that our "interpretations" of Scripture often have been in error. This is especially true when it comes to scripture passages that seem to deal with truths about the "natural world."

What caused the Church to shift their interpretations of these passages? In each case, it has been honest scientific study that has forced Christians to re-examine long held misinterpretations of scripture. So let's apply this lesson learned to one more section of scripture.

Application:
Scripture has always said:
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Genesis 2:1-3)

Christians used to and some continue to interpret this as:
- God created the heavens and the earth in seven literal days.

Christians should now interpret this as:
- a poetic way of saying that God created the heavens and the earth, not a scientific description of how He did it.

Just like the other passages mentioned, the creation passages were never meant to be treated like astronomical or geological textbooks. They were meant to point us to deeper truths. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us that God created. They reveal humanity as the crown of His good creation in which order, stewardship, relationship and rest are necessary parts.

But honest scientific discovery reveals that, just as in the other passages mentioned, taking these passages literally results in a misinterpretation of scripture.

6 Comments:

At 10:25 PM, Blogger ecclesia said...

I've really been enjoying listening to Ken Ham and his theology on creation. Mark, I see what you are saying in how we get hung up on certain things and turn the Bible into a geography or science book, but I think the arguements for and against 7 day litereal creation go beyond that. Ken Ham talks about the literal meaning of the word, "day" in the Bible and he brings a good point. The ONLY time in Scripture in which Christians question the meaning of the word "day" is in Genesis 1 and 2. Every other time, day means a 24 hour day. In Genesis 1:23, "And there was evening and there was morning - the fifth day." If you are ever interested, you can borrow the DVD series we purchased from his ministry. But that makes total sense. Everyone questions what a day actually was only in Genesis 1 and 2. I've never heard it questioned anywhere else.

I know I've said this before on your blog, in my mind, creating the universe in 6 literal days just wows me even more about the mysteries of God. That He could just speak the heavens and the stars and the animals, etc. into place. It magnifies His power. His power is so much more that our tiny little brains can even grasp or imagine. It just blows me away. It's a mystery and some things just need to be left at being a mystery. There are things that science cannot explain. Science tries to explain everything, but it's just head knowledge. There is so much more. God didn't want us to know it all and no matter how hard we try, we never will until we enter the next life.

 
At 8:35 AM, Blogger Mark said...

ecclesia,
I understand why people have the view of a literal 7 day creation. But I think the evidence that we see in God's creation points overwhelmingly to an old earth and an old universe that came about by evolutionary processes.

You said: "The ONLY time in Scripture in which Christians question the meaning of the word "day" is in Genesis 1 and 2."

But even this is not true. 2 Peter 3:8 says, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

In Galileo's time, the church made the same arguments that you are making now. They said to Galileo that it was clear from scripture that the earth didn't move. They also believed it was clear from scripture that the sun literally rose and set and therefore was rotating around the earth.

When Galileo saw evidence in creation through his telescope which differed from this view, they called him a heretic. They said their view "magnified God's power." They reminded Galileo that "there are some things that just can't be explained and will remain a mystery forever."

Of course years later the Church was embarrassed that they clung to a misinterpretation of scripture. They were embarrassed that they denied all the scientific evidence that the earth was not the center of the solar system and instead it was the sun.

We as the Church today shouldn't repeat those same mistakes. There is undeniable and overwhelming scientific evidence that the earth is around 4.6 billion years old. There is also overwhelming evidence that the universe is around 12 to 16 billion years old.

Not only that, but astrophysics, nuclear-physics, geology, and biology all overwhelmingly show evidence of an evolutionary process. To deny this is to deny the foundations of the scientific method.

We all can agree that God created. The only question is "how." Science is not the enemy. It is a tool just like any other (like art, music, etc..) that we have been given by God to use in pursuit of truth and in order to bring glory to Him.

To believe in a literal 7 day creation is to close our eyes to the truth that God reveals in His own creation about how He in fact created.

 
At 1:10 PM, Blogger ecclesia said...

Mark said, "But even this is not true. 2 Peter 3:8 says, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day."

By comparing that Scripture to Genesis 1 and 2, isn't that like comparing apples to oranges? First of all OT was mostly written in Hebrew, right? And the NT was mostly Greek, right? I'm not trying to be sarcastic, but I'm just wondering, can the two actually be related? And if you look at the context of 2 Peter and the grammatical makeup of that sentence "a day is LIKE a thousand years." it seems to be figurative, a comparison, but not meant literally. Again, just looking at the context quickly, if you go to verse 9 is referring to the coming of Christ and verse 8 is comparing, in other words to say that we should be patient. I just don't see how the two Scriptures can be related at all.

Genesis 1 and 2 seems pretty clear to me, there was never any question on my mind. I'm not even arguing Science and that all science is bad. A lot of science is good. But I also wanted to make mention of the Flood. Don't you think a 40 day flood of continuous heavy rains and the water that remained in the days after could've caused the rocks to age a certain way, etc. I think the flood did more than we give it credit for. Volcanos have erupted and in just 3 days caused certain rocks to form certain ways, as if it had happened over an extended period of time.

I don't claim to be well educated in Science simply because science just never really sparked my interest. But I think to believe in a 7 day literal creation requires more faith than to believe in the old age Earth.

Anyways, I know neither one of us can change each other's mind, but that's okay. This just made for some great discussion. Thanks, Mark!

 
At 1:37 PM, Blogger Mark said...

ecclesia,
I'll try to cover your questions:
Yes the O.T. was written mostly in Hebrew and the N.T. in Greek.

Yes, Peter is being "figurative" in his language (just as Genesis 1 and 2 are figurative in their description of Creation.)

As to science, the very parts of science that you accept are founded on the same scientific principles that give us evidence of an old earth. You can't have one without the other.

No, a world wide Flood can't change the carbon dating of a rock. They have done lots of experiments testing things that might affect carbon dating and almost nothing affects it. And there are multiple ways to date rocks and all of then confirm the same conclusion. That is, that the earth is about 4.6 billion years old.

Understanding science teaches us not to take passages like Ecclesiastes 1:5 literally.
Ecc. 1:4-5
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.

We know from science that the sun doesn't literally move around the earth "rising" and "setting." If we didn't know science we would interpret that passage literally, and therefore, wrongly.

The same is true of Genesis 1 and 2. We know not to take those passages literally because science gives us overwhelming evidence that the earth was not created in 7 literal days and that the earth is much much older than 6,000 years.

I would challenge you to not be satisfied with a misinterpretation of scripture. If you want to interpret scripture in a way that doesn't ignore science, then here is a good place to start.

Read the books:
"Coming to Peace with Science" by Darrel Falk
or
"The Language of God" by Francis Collins

Both are books written by faithful followers of Christ who are scientists by profession. They show why it is more sound biblically, theologically and scientifically to accept that God created the earth using an evolutionary process.

 
At 9:42 PM, Blogger Rebecca said...

I have the answer:

Ask John McCain. He was there.

Scott ;)

 
At 9:56 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Rebecca & Scott,
Low blow. True, but still a low blow. :)

 

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