Saturday, March 05, 2005

 

Get in the Ring (Christianity v. Science Round 1)

It’s a big hot-button issue on both sides – the origin of mankind that is. The stakes are high and winner takes all. But does it have to be this way? Speaking from the viewpoint of a Christian, why is it that so many fellow believers view evolution (and the scientific community in general) as an assault on our core beliefs that is be rejected immediately and forcefully?

I have no specific expertise in scientific matters and so I am neither interested nor qualified to engage in a debate over the merits of evolution. My qualm here is not with those well-educated folks convinced of the validity of "Scientific Creationism" over evolution. But rather with those who are so casually dismissive of Evolutionary Theory, without really understanding it in the first place.

To advocate that Creation, not Evolution, is the answer because "that's what the Bible says" strikes me as being more than a bit overconfident and presumptuous of our own human capacity to interpret scripture. Do we really know that the earth was created in 6 days? Would it necessarily refute the story of creation in Genesis were it not so? If, say, each “day” were a billion years?

Christ used parables throughout his time on earth to teach eternal truths in a way that we could understand. I fail to see the rationale for such outrage over suggesting that perhaps some language in the Bible is meant to be interpreted metaphorically.

I think this stems from a belief by some that when something is meant “metaphorically,” it is hardly meant at all. In Miracles, C.S. Lewis disputes this claim. For me the Christian doctrines which are ‘metaphorical’…mean something which is just as ‘supernatural’ or shocking after we have removed the ancient imagery as it was before.

And that is precisely the point, I believe. It does not invalidate the inerrancy of Scripture to think that some passages are allegorical. Nor does it dilute the meanings or the ramifications of the Scriptural passages in any way. Mark Noll (in The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind) points to the potential pitfalls a completely literal interpretation may facilitate:

The modern evangelical church is extremely sensitive about the discussion of scientific issues that bear on Genesis 1-11. Enough Christians are so afraid of what might turn up in such discussion that anyone who does try to explore the issues is in ecclesiastical jeopardy. The prevailing atmosphere of fear tends to squelch attempts to deal with these issues.

It occurs to me that Genesis and biology become opposed only when either:
1. A misguided scientist claims that biology impugns Genesis OR
2. A misguided Christian claims that Genesis impugns biology

It also occurs to me that this topic is such a thought-provoking one that it would take an entire book to do it justice rather than one mere posting here. At any rate, I’ll refrain from drifting off in a myriad of tangential directions at this point.

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