Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Slippery Slope

When I was a teenager, I became embroiled in a discussion concerning Creationism with my older brother. He was defending the literal seven day creation as in Genesis chapters one through three. I on the other hand argued for a reconciliation of the Biblical account with modern science. After all, to my mind, reason must prevail, and there must be some way to make sense of the Biblical account in such a way so as not to go against established scientific evidence. This young Christian wanted to believe that what the Bible was true but to believe this in the face of I had learned in the name of Science put my faith to the test, with the result that I unwittingly changed how I viewed the Bible.  I had unwittingly strayed from simply taking the Word at its simple literal truth exchanging that truth for an explanation more palatable to the world in which I lived. I maintained my belief in the creator but I disputed the method by which He did His Creation.

This all came to mind when I recently overhear a conversation concerning Creationism which is how the literal genesis account in normally called. However during that conversation it was suggested that the issue is not Creationism, but Literalism. The inference was that it is possible to believe that God created the universe in a time frame and method in agreement with modern scientific thought. Consequently, according to this way of thinking, one can be considered a Creationist without taking the Genesis account literally. The Literalist, on the other hand, has decided to accept a scenario that runs contrary to set scientific principles. The one position sees that where science and the Bible are at odds the Bible must be explained in such a way as to reconcile the two. The other position sees the Bible as Truth and where it appears to be at odds with science, science must be wrong.Consequently, whether we believe in the literal Genesis account of creation or in one that is more acceptable to modern thought is determined on how we view literal interpretation of the Bible.

Literal interpretation of the Bible has long been at the core of Fundamental/Evangelical thinking.  To be sure, it is at the core of the Gospel. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that the Gospel is believing and receiving the literal Truth that Jesus, God the Son, came to die on the Cross for our sins and rose again from the dead. To deny these literal facts is to deny the Gospel. However, the question is that beyond the Gospel, must we always interpret the Bible literally? The answer to this is a resounding “Yes!”  If we cannot accept that what the Bible is saying is literal and accurate in all things, then we cannot be certain it is literal and accurate concerning the Gospel. When we stray from a literal interpretation of the Bible we open ourselves to all kinds of practical interpretations of the Bible that take away from its central Truth. Liberal theological thought is based on creative interpretations that reduce the Bible to allegory or simply a guide to better living instead of the Truth that the Bible is the Truth of God’s work of redemption of a fallen human race.

And so, as a teenager, and as one who believed the Gospel, I tried reconciling what I had been taught in the name of Science with the Truth of the Bible, not considering the dangers of doing so. If someone had suggested that I was stepping out into liberal Christian thought I would have thought them ridiculous for I had the notes of none other than the respected biblical scholar, C.I. Scofield himself right in my Bible. Scofield for all his support of a literal interpretation of the Bible supported the gap theory that opened the door to other creative interpretations of Genesis in otherwise sound Biblical churches. It was not until later that I realized what a slippery slope this is. The Truth is, we are on dangerous ground when we attempt to reconcile the literal Truth of the Bible with modern thought.  The same Bible that portrays the seven days of creation is the same that portrays a literal Adam and Eve and the same that portrays a literal death burial and resurrection of God the Son.  If we are not going to take the Bible literal in all its points, but still claim to hold to the Gospel then we have the difficulty of sorting out what is and what is not to be taken literally.

Should we decide to interpret the Bible in light of scientific thought we must consider that such thought is man, not God, centered. While science has brought us many advances over the history of things it does have its limitations. It is not as conclusive as prevailing thought would have us believe. When we reject the literal creation account in Genesis we are placing the science of geology over the Bible.  However, when we do this we must consider how many “ologies” there are under the umbrella of science. Psychology, sociology head up the list of such “ologies” that have permeated modern otherwise conservative Christian thinking to the point that so many churches have gotten away from the Truth and are condoning what was once seen as sin. The Gospel has taken a back seat as churches seek to be seen as relevant in a secular society. To be sure, when we forsake the literal interpretation of Scripture we have begun to descend a slippery slope.

{Note to readers: There is more to come on this—How reliable is Science any way?—Can a good Christian believe something other than a literal interpretation of Genesis?} 

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