Monday, March 03, 2014

Creationism, evolution and authorship

I see with some disappointment that a theological institution in the US has made a public statement about Young Earth Creationism. While I recognise that many faithful Christian people hold such a position, I can't see this as helpful or the natural reading. Furthermore, too often this is linked with an unhealthy attitude toward science, including climate change science - which is dangerous the closer we approach the point of no turning back from very damaging change.

It seems to me that there are two equal and opposite errors when approaching the bible as a Christian. Both are about authorship. The first is to assume that the bible is merely a human book; our reflections about God. In this case we are left with no real guide, no retrievable significance for lives beyond a 'flea fart in a hurricane' (Australian writer Philip Adams) - something the new atheists point out. For a Christian, this is theological Liberalism and promotes a grab bag of ideas when it suits us.

The opposite error is to deny that humans wrote the bible, which is the reaction of Fundamentalism. This denies any shaping by context, any similarities in stories that might point to the real purpose of texts (e.g. Genesis 1 as the dedication of a temple cosmos, teaching a theology of who created not a science of how), all for fear of Liberalism from above.

One thing I admire about the work of John Walton and Peter Enns is the keeping together of the tension that in theory Christians hold - that the bible is book human and divine - but doing so in practice. This allows God to speak in a human world, and for us to have to both understand an ancient world and listen for God's voice in that. This means we can hear his voice today as well, maybe even in an evolving world, a world of a changing climate. Sometimes that means an evolving theology to keep up, even with a fixed text.

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