Friday, July 21, 2017

Adam and the Genome 7: Four Principles for Bible Reading

Chapter 5 begins the second set of chapters, by Scot McKnight in Dennis Venema and Scot McKnight's book, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science.

Previous posts
Personal Preface
Forward and Introduction
1. Evolution as a Scientific Theory
2. Genomes as Language, Genomes as Books
3. Adam's Last Stand?
4. Intelligent Design?

Chapter 5
Chapter 5 is titled, "Adam, Eve, and the Genome: Four Principles for Reading the Bible after the Human Genome Project."

1. Scot begins the chapter with his own story, which is so similar to so many of us. Indeed, he mentions a student who came up to him after a lecture at North Park University and said, "Thank you. This lecture saved my faith" (104). I don't know if this claim is true, but McKnight claims that "The number one reason young Christians leave the faith is the conflict between science and faith, and that conflict can be narrowed to the conflict between evolutionary theory and human origins as traditionally read in Genesis 1-2" (104-15).

This brings me to a request for the majority of Christians who do not struggle with this issue or who have come to the conclusion that the science for creationism is clear cut. I dare say that we all have thoughts about God and the Bible that are wrong. How could we not? It is sobering to see the issues where Christians have vehemently said, "It's this way, no other," only for others to agree later that they were completely wrong.

I don't believe that our precise understandings save us. I don't believe the Bible teaches that our understanding saves us. We are saved on the basis of our faith in Jesus Christ. You will not find a verse that says we can only be saved if we have a particular understanding of the Bible or science. Rather "the one who comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who diligently seek him" (Heb. 11:6).

So Christians need to leave a space for other Christians who struggle on the questions of science or who have reached different conclusions on matters of science and faith. Souls are at stake. Woe to anyone who puts a stumblingblock before one of these little ones! Now that's actually something the Bible says, Jesus in fact.

2. Here are some quotes from the early part of the chapter:
  • "There is a better way, one that permits each of the disciplines to speak its own language but also requires each of the voices to speak to one another" (94).
  • A defining moment for Scot was asking himself the question "whether traditional interpretations of Genesis 1-2 were perhaps well intended but misguided and in need of rethinking" (95).
  • "Every statement about Adam and Eve in the Old Testament, in Jewish literature, and in the New Testament is made from a context and into a context" (97).
3. Scot sets out four principles in this discussion:

A. Respect - "To understand what someone is telling us, we must respect that person as a person" (98). In terms of Genesis 1-11, "we must respect that text as designed for the ancient Near Eastern culture" (99). "It is disrespectful to Genesis 1-11 to think it somehow should understand modern science, DNA, and the Human Genome Project, or for that matter the science of any generation after the writing down of Genesis 1-11!

"Genuine respect begins when we let Genesis 1-11 be Genesis 1-11, which means letting Genesis 1-11 be ancient Near Eastern and not modern Western science" (100).

B. Honesty - "Face the facts and do not fear the facts" (100). "Are you willing to face the facts--the facts of the Bible and the facts of science?"

McKnight makes the controversial claim that some of the most ardent defenders of certain interpretations of the Bible on these issues might actually be afraid. They are afraid to open the door to such questions because they are afraid it will lead them to lose their faith.

McKnight does not only ascribe this kind of uncharitable spirit to creationists but to some Christian evolutionists as well. He quotes Ron Osborn: "I have often been equally dismayed by the attitudes evinced by some individuals on the other side of the debate over creation and evolution... how quickly some are prepared to write off people of sincere faith who are at different places in their intellectual and spiritual journeys" (101).

C. Sensitivity to the Student of Science
I already mentioned the student whose faith McKnight says was saved by him opening up the window to the possibility of having faith and yet not concluding God created the universe 10,000 years ago. "The student is in my rearview mirror in all I have to say in my section of this book" (105).

D. Primacy of Scripture
Scot is an evangelical, so the Bible always comes first. The investigation of truth can go to other bodies of knowledge in addition to the Bible, but it always starts with the Bible: "Scripture first.'

4. He ends the chapter with a sense of some of the complexity these discussions can take on. For example, what do we mean by the "historical" Adam and Eve? Another view of Adam and Eve is the "archetypal view," Adam and Eve as representatives of all humanity. His sense of a "literary" view does not so much draw conclusions on the historical, but looks at them within the text of the Bible.

More to come...

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

Those principles sound good. Thanks again for the series.