Willing to Be Wrong: Genesis 1 and Our Interpretive Evolution

Recently I wrote an article for www.biologos.org on a willingness to set aside our biases and preconceived conclusions on the Genesis 1 Creation account and allow it to interpret itself. I describe this in terms of my own journey from a young earth model to an evolutionary one. I have provided an excerpt and a link to the rest of the article. Enjoy and have a great week!!

 

Genesis is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I read through it probably once every few months and repeatedly grind my Hebrew language skills on its opening chapters. Unlike Leviticus (at least in the opinion of most people I know), the Genesis narrative is exciting and adventurous. Some of our favorite stories come out of the book: Noah and the Ark, The Tower of Babel, Abraham and Isaac, Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors, and so on.

But no story is perhaps as infamous and well known as the creation account (or accounts) as presented in Genesis 1-2. Almost every Christian or Jew, even those less than devout, know the opening words to the tale: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that God created the earth in six days. We know Eve was taken from Adam’s rib for a companion. We know that God called the general creation “good”, the special creation of man “very good” and, at the very end of it all, took a day of rest (which I’m sure most of us would call “very good.”)

Of course, we know all of this. Yet we challenge it (and are challenged by it), continually, when we consider the variety of interpretations of how this story intersects the world as described by science. With Genesis, are we dealing with a literal scientific account, where “day” means 24-hours; are we dealing with metaphorical “days” in which epochs or periods of time or even processes are being described; or are we readers of a creation mythology from the Ancient Near East that doesn’t have anything directly to do with material origins? Interpretations go on and on, as anyone who has spent any time at all studying the creation debate knows. By and large, however, we can probably categorize Genesis interpreters into three camps: the Young Earth Creationists, the Old Earth Creationists, and the Theistic Evolutionists.

Now, I have the unique benefit of falling into all of these individual camps at one point or another in my life, sometimes even mixing them up. I have made a strong transition from being a die-hard Young Earth Creationist to being convinced that the evolutionary story is, in fact, the more substantiated and evidenced position. I say this with no pride, since my own transition involved many agonizing questions, a whole lot of reading, and a significant internal spiritual battle: what I believed about when and how the earth was created would not only change the way I read Scripture, it would also change certain aspects of how I viewed the Creator.

While I’ve certainly learned a lot of information on my journey, it was not an accumulation of facts that has kept me following Christ through all the ups and downs, but Jesus himself, and the knowledge that truth is not something which the Christian should find spiritually threatening. Nevertheless, those same ups and downs—and my internalization of each of these views on creation in turn—has provided me with one simple realization about the debate over scripture and evolution: most of us are not so committed to finding the truth about Genesis and creation as we are to sustaining and maintaining our own interpretive boundaries and the boundaries of the communities which influence us. In other words, the debate is often not so much over Genesis—or even over whether we can all follow the same God when we believe different things about how he created—it’s over our own ability to be right. I know this because admitting that I was wrong was the most difficult part of my own transition.

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