Friday, September 23, 2011

Christians Divided Over Science Of Human Origins

[Y]ou're either going to accept that the Bible gives us the authoritative word concerning the entirety of our understanding of things relative to who we are as human beings, what God did in creating the world and what God did for us in Christ. If the Bible is not the authoritative source for that and instead has to be corrected by modern science, then the Bible is just there for our manipulation, and quite frankly, the Gospel is there for constant renegotiation. It ends up being another Gospel, the very thing the apostle Paul warned against.

So said Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in this very interesting discussion from an NPR podcast about evolution science and the Genesis story of the Fall. I have a difficult time understanding such misguided attitudes that pit faith against reason and seem to "kick against the pricks" (Acts 9:5 KJV). Perhaps coming from a Catholic background accepting evolution just wasn't as difficult for me than for a Southern Baptist like Mohler. Indeed, this 1994 document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission speaks about the dangers and folly of such thinking:

Fundamentalism also places undue stress upon the inerrancy of certain details in the biblical texts, especially in what concerns historical events or supposedly scientific truth. It often historicizes material which from the start never claimed to be historical. It considers historical everything that is reported or recounted with verbs in the past tense, failing to take the necessary account of the possibility of symbolic or figurative meaning...

It is often narrowly bound to one fixed translation, whether old or present-day. By the same token it fails to take account of the "re-readings" of certain texts which are found within the Bible itself...

The fundamentalist approach is dangerous, for it is attractive to people who look to the Bible for ready answers to the problems of life. It can deceive these people, offering them interpretations that are pious but illusory, instead of telling them that the Bible does not necessarily contain an immediate answer to each and every problem. Without saying as much in so many words, fundamentalism actually invites people to a kind of intellectual suicide. It injects into life a false certitude, for it unwittingly confuses the divine substance of the biblical message with what are in fact its human limitations.

The mental gymnastics one must engage in to ignore evolution and deny what seems to be pretty clear from all disciplines of science, that the universe is older than 6,000 years, life evolved and humanity did not arise from a single couple, seems to make a mockery of faith in my view. I do not expect a Bronze Age writer to expound upon scientific theory as we might do so today. Such was not a part of their culture and would have been completely alien to their understanding of the world. No, the Creation story in Genesis wasn't meant to be taken as science or history in my view but instead as myth which conveys a moral tale with essential truths about the faith. It seems to me rather silly to be continuing an argument about this that should have ended decades ago. Still, a good discussion and a podcast I recommend.