Wednesday, February 11, 2009

An Unnecessary Divide

The 200th anniversary of Darwin's birthday has raised the usual dust storms of controversy between creationists and those who are convinced that the theory of evolution best accounts for the scientific evidence about the origins and development of life.

I have no interest in entering this debate. I am a Bible-believing Christian who happens to think that most of the evangelical response to this issue has unnecessarily inflamed the culture wars and exacerbated a needless and harmful divide between the church and science.

My interest as a pastor and teacher has always been in understanding the Bible as a follower of Jesus and as one called to provide spiritual nourishment for others. To read Genesis, the relevant text in the creation debate, for ammunition in that battle, is way down my list of priorities. Furthermore, I think it is an illegitimate use of the text when we force it to speak to issues it was never meant to address.

The early chapters of Genesis should first of all be read in the context of the Torah, the five-fold book that begins the Bible.
  • The Torah's main themes are the Promised Land, God's blessing, and the seed (the chosen people of promise). These are set forth in the topic sentence of the Torah, Genesis 12.1-3.
  • Genesis 1 introduces these themes by telling how the God who made everything (Gen 1.1) prepared a good land and put his people in it to live within his blessing (Gen 1.2-2.3).
  • The larger section of which Gen 1 is a part, Genesis 1-11, is the early history of the land of promise. It shows, over and over again, how people failed to live in God's good blessings and were exiled from the land, yet always with the provision of God's salvation as well. This section ends with people moving eastward from the land and being scattered over the face of the whole earth.
  • Genesis 12-50 is the early history of the people of promise. It shows how God chose Abraham and his descendants, promised them the land and the restoration of his blessing to all nations through his seed.
The rest of the Torah, of course, continues these themes and concludes its story with the people on the verge of entering the Promised Land.

My point is that the early chapters of Genesis are about this story—about the land of promise and God's plan that people live in his blessing and experience his rest. These are the very themes that fill the rest of the Torah, the themes that Moses' audience, the first recipients of this book, needed to hear as they prepared to enter the land. That is why Moses, under the Spirit's inspiration, wrote Genesis 1 as he did.

Creationism vs. evolution? Not anywhere in sight.

1 comment:

Damaris said...

Amen! Bless you for refusing to use the book of life as a brick to throw through someone's window. May God guide us into all truth.