Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Scary Implications for Interpretation

The bible is a book of truth and facts. It is also literature. In light of these things, we must put forth effort to interpret and understand it correctly. Ultimately, our goal is to accurately comprehend what God means through the scriptures. No sane person reads the bible, or any other book for that matter, while hoping to misunderstand it.

One aspect to correct interpretation is consistency. This means that when we look at the same types of literature, we interpret them using the same methods. Since the bible has various types of literature within it, we must be thoughtful in our approach. However, when looking at the same types of writing, we must take meaning in the same way.

The bible is written for our understanding. Most of it was penned in a manner that is extremely straightforward. For example, when we read the gospels we see an account about the life of a real man in a real place doing real things. There is no reason to do anything but interpret this literally.

The same can be said of Genesis chapters 1-11. Specifically concerning Genesis chapter one, we see a real God speaking a real planet into a real existence. God does this in space and time. As with the gospel accounts, there is no reason to understand it in any way other than literally. We do not have the right to pick and choose how we interpret the bible. God has given it to us according to His standards.

When scripture is our ultimate authority, we never have to allow outside influences to affect how we understand it. It is to be interpreted on its own merits. This applies to all information in the bible, including the creation narrative.

However, if scripture is not the starting point for thinking about this world's beginnings and some type of theistic evolution is embraced, then a big issue immediately surfaces. That issue is how to interpret Genesis chapters 1-2.

A fair reading of Genesis 1-2 indicates six 24 hour days. This is what happens when the passage is treated as being literal.

Those who adhere to theistic evolution must, therefore, interpret it in some other way than literally. Many think of it as an allegory or fictional story of some type. The specifics are explained away by saying that it is only meant to give us the idea that God is in charge of creation. They claim chapters 1-2 are not intended to provide any actual scientific data.

The scary aspect of this is that it smacks of subjectivity and relativism. Who has given them the right to treat Genesis 1-2 as if it is not to be taken literally?

The only reason the theistic evolutionists do this is because it doesn't fit their worldview (which stems from secular scientific naturalism).

If they interpret Genesis 1-2 as being non-literal, then why do they interpret any passages in a literal fashion? What is their reasoning for thinking (as many do), for example, that Adam and Eve did not exist but that Jesus did?

More specifically, why do they believe in a literal gospel message? Why do they think God literally came to earth, lived, died, rose again, and ascended? Why think any of the miracles in scripture literally occurred?

Every true Christian by definition believes in a literal Jesus. However, those who hold to a non-literal rendering of Genesis 1-2 are in a scary position. Their choice for what is to be taken literally and what is not appears to be simply that: an utterly subjective choice.

There are two consistent positions when it comes to Genesis 1-2. The first is to take it literally and accept it. The second is to treat it as fanciful and reject it wholesale (as most secular scientists do). The untenable position is the one that tries to find the middle of the road. That's what we see with theistic evolution.

Their inconsistency and subjectivity is scary for what it says about their understanding of the rest of the biblical message.

9 comments:

Brian said...

I completely understand your point of view, and I tend to lean toward your way of thinking, but there are many committed Christians who believe that Genesis and evolution are compatible.

I just want to walk a fine line, because if I press too hard and say this literal way is the only way to think I do not want to create contempt in my heart, instead I want to have love for those whom Christ came to save, and I do not want to produce sharp resistance in the hearts of non-believers if they ever hear about it.

Good stuff.

John said...

Eric,

Thanks for bringing up such an excellent topic. I've thought about this one quite bit, mainly because of a bit of dissatisfaction with some of the arguments on both sides (The way it's carried out sometimes can be quite graceless. I'm not referring to your post though!). I'm not sure if you're familiar with John Walton, professor of OT at Wheaton. He recently wrote a book put out by IVP on the first chapter of Genesis advocating a quite different vantage point. I put up a post on it here with a link to the book and a series of six YouTube videos that he put together that briefly outline his main points.

I would highly recommend it, since like us, he has a very high, evangelical view of Scripture. I found it very eye-opening and helpful on a sometimes difficult topic.

I agree whole-heartedly also with your plea for the interpretation of those passages that demand a literal interpretation. (Of course, we want to be sensitive to those times that are metaphorical: Jesus says, "I am the door.") As you mentioned in a previous post, we always want to be sure we aren't reading our own questions and issues into a text, but rather seeking to discover what the author intended. John Walton does an excellent job at approaching it in this manner. Anyway, just thought I'd mention it since we were on the subject...

Thanks brother!
John

Aussie John said...

Eric,

A model of consistency!

That last sentence: right on!

Eric said...

Swanny,

I admit that it is a struggle, in the flesh, to discuss important issues in a consistently loving and gracious manner. Speaking the truth in love is the key. The difficulty, of course, is when two different people both think they know the truth but disagree on what it is.

One great concern I have in all this is the inconsistency I see in biblical interpretation among those who hold to theistic evolution. They too often strive to make scripture fit secular scientific findings instead of beginning with the bible.

Eric said...

John,

Thanks for the information. I wish I could listen, but with working 65 hours per week I struggle to even bang out a few blog posts.

I've heard many different defenses of theistic evolution, but have never found them compelling. As I said in my previous post, their starting point is the biggest problem. I've never heard anyone begin with scripture and come to the conclusion that it teaches evolution. Maybe Dr. Walton is different.

Thanks again.

Eric said...

Aussie John,

Thanks!

Norm M. said...

A common argument from humanists is that we must choose between faith and science: rational people choose science--fanciful people choose faith.

The TRUTH stands on its own. It doesn't "need propping up." We needn't make excuses for our beliefs (either spiritual or scientific) if they are in line with the truth. If the Bible is true, then there will be no inconsistencies between the Bible and science.

If the Bible is true and God created the world, then, as Eric stated, scientific evidence will support creation. Evolution is only logical to those whose faith is in eternally-existing matter rather than an eternally-existing Creator.

Evolution is statistically impossible. I say this because hard evidence of "transitional forms" is nowhere to be found.

I believe that the fulfillment of Bible prophecies is also statistically-impossible. Except that those prophecies have been historically proven to be accurate. This is one reason that I accept the Bible as truth. Because the Bible has overwhelming evidence of its veracity, I accept its record of creation. The scientific record is further evidence of creation. There is no need to shun science, discourage scientific reasoning, or twist the Biblical account of creation to appease those who proclaim that their own faith-based theory is "smarter than yours."

Eric said...

Norm,

Well said brother.

I cannot fathom why Christians are willing to sacrifice biblical truth in favor of secular scientific findings. Added to that, why are Christians willing to be so terribly inconsistent in their biblical interpretation?

It is a sad day When believers stop believing that the bible simply means what it says.

John said...

I totally understand. And just as a quick follow-up, Walton actually doesn't think Genesis 1 supports evolution. He draws some different conclusions mainly based on the use in the OT of the word in Hebrew we translate as "create," and how early near eastern cultures discussed creation. It's pretty good and interesting, but obviously doesn't trump work and family time!