Genesis v. Science
What strikes me about the scientific and theological approaches to the question of the origins of the universe and mankind is that neither will ever be able to produce the level of articulation desired (or perhaps expected) by modern minds. Technically speaking, there is no such thing as “proof” outside of the discipline of mathematics. This is especially relevant in matters of historicity. There were no scientists, theologians, or philosophers present at creation.1 Thus, it seems essential for all sides to humbly recognize that no theory can ever ultimately rise above the status of theory. Said another way, any position one takes on the origin of the universe requires some degree of faith.
Epistemologically speaking, there is no one who truly “knows” what happened. Those who have come to faith in God are unwilling to accept any theory that does not include God. Those who reject the existence of God/gods are unwilling to accept any theory that includes supernatural agency. Thus, the ultimate point of contention is not a genuine disagreement between impartial parties reviewing the same data set. Instead, disagreement enters at the front of the discussion in the form of pre-commitments.
Moreover, this topic often serves to winnow the tares from the wheat in terms of one’s faith. Those who can be reasoned out of a belief in God based on purported scientific evidence for an old Earth and/or macroevolution reveal that their ultimate faith was misplaced in mankind. Those whose view can evolve (pun intended) from a purely materialistic understanding of creation into a view that includes the creator God of the Bible provide us with further evidence that the Living God is alive and active today.
Given this framework of the creation discussion, we must agree with Kenneth Turner’s assessment that problems arise for the Christian “when interpreting the biblical text is a means to an end, or when one forgets that such positions are supposed to be implications rather than starting points.”2 Indeed, the proper posture for a believer in God reading the creation account in Genesis is the orientation Turner endorses: “We must sit under the text, read it on its own terms, let it ask and answer its own questions.”3
Further, we must acknowledge that the Bible is not a scientific textbook and does not purport to teach science. It is a book of theology that teaches us about God. Therefore, I propose it is misguided for any believer in God to dogmatically affirm or deny scientific statements about the origins of the universe or mankind based solely on the text of Genesis. Indeed, I do not believe there is any need to harmonize the unchanging Word of God with the current state of modern science. The “who/why” of theology and the “how/when” of science do not need to be seen as mutually exclusive explanations. To insist on exclusivity would be (to use an analogy made famous by John Lennox) like saying that you have to choose between Henry Ford and the law of internal combustion to explain the motor car.
Davis’ Seven Obstacles
Jud Davis observes that the modern Christian has been presented with an acute dilemma on the issue of creation. “Christians want to be under rather than over Scripture, yet we do not want to be anti-science.”4 Of the four basic positions on creation that Davis outlines among evangelicals, I tend to gravitate toward the view that “Gen 1–2 does establish a relatively recent cosmology. . . and geology and science should be interpreted to accord with that view.”5 I find this opinion appealing because of its novelty and inherent prioritization of God over science. Thus, rather than a staunch theological position, I consider it a matter of harmless fun. At the end of the day, I believe God is sovereign, He created the universe, and science is man’s nascent, fallible, yet most powerful tool for studying that physical creation. As 17th-century scientist Johannes Kepler famously stated, “Science is the process of thinking God’s thoughts after him.”
Davis makes an impactful point in his discussion of antinomies in Scripture: God is one and more than one, Jesus is fully man and fully God, and His kingdom is both already and not yet. Davis used this observation to pivot into his larger point. However, I wonder if Scripture’s use of antinomy could be viewed as the primary point on the creation issue, or at least a significant part.
If we view the “great divide” between science and theology on this issue through the lens of modern, Western linear logic, the “either/or” dilemma appears insurmountable. However, when viewed through the lens of the “both/and” approach of ancient Near Eastern block logic—which is the worldview held by the ANE author of Genesis—the dilemma wanes. Indeed, this “both/and” ANE perspective of reality is the source of the antinomy we find in Scripture.
Davis says he cannot adopt this perspective of Gen 1 and provides seven points of difficulty. He calls for greater interaction with the views of Jesus, Paul, Yom Echad, and other ancient texts on creation. I am not opposed to greater interaction in these areas. However, it must be noted that they all revolve around ANE thinkers/texts that would have seen reality through the same lens as the author of Genesis. Creation does not need to be constrained to either history or theology but can be understood as both/and. While the “how/when” statements in Genesis might be anachronistically labeled “scientific” in nature, they were ultimately “who/why” statements of theology. ANE thought prioritizes function over form and why over how. I wonder if Davis and others are trying to find a middle ground in a way that is not required by the topic at hand.6
1 This statement obviously presumes that the universe is not past eternal.
2 Kenneth J. Turner, “Teaching Genesis 1 at a Christian College,” in Reading Genesis 1–2: An Evangelical Conversation, ed. J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), 195.
3 Ibid., 192.
4 Jud Davis, “Unresolved Major Questions: Evangelicals and Genesis 1–2,” in Reading Genesis 1–2: An Evangelical Conversation, ed. J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), 209.
5 Ibid., 208.
6 I should note that I reject Darwin’s theory of macroevolution outright, not just based on the Bible but also because of modern scientific discoveries such as the human genome and the recent work being done in ID by scientists like James Tour and Stephen C. Meyer.