There are many debates surrounding the right way to interpret certain Scripture passages, especially in Genesis. To a large extent, it boils down to the question of whether or not to take a passage literally. A common approach for thinking about this is the “plain sense” perspective — “If the plain sense makes sense, then seek no other sense”. Regardless of where this statement originated, it seems to express a common perspective. The idea is that we should take the words at their normal meaning, and the text at its obvious meaning unless there is some reason to do otherwise.
Although this is a very common perspective, it seems fair to ask whether it actually has any Biblical basis. It turns out that there is Scripture that deals with the use of figurative terminology, how the natural mind perceives it, and related aspects. The interesting thing is that these seem to teach against making a literal assumption, rather than for it.
At the ascension of Christ, the disciples were given direction regarding their mission to carry the Gospel throughout the world. These words still speak to us today.
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:6–8 (ESV) Continue reading
One of the common arguments against evolution is that it requires death before mankind’s fall. Often, the argument is that creation was described as “very good” before the fall, and it doesn’t seem reasonable for a very good creation to include billions of years of death.
Of course, it’s important to define what is meant by “good”. There are many possible definitions, but a reasonable starting point is to look at things that are called good in the creation account. Turns out the first thing is the creation of light:
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:3–4 (ESV) Continue reading
In a recent online discussion about creation viewpoints, I was challenged to reject evolution because I was “not evolved fish” since I was “made in God’s image”. The idea seemed to be that creation in God’s image was a physical reality, or at least involved some aspects of our physical being. Because of that, our bodies could not have evolved since that would be incompatible with God’s image.
The funny thing is, virtually no one really believes the image is a physical thing. At best, it may require certain physical attributes to reflect spiritual attributes. But even that seems hard to believe since God is spirit, and Jesus took on human material flesh in the Incarnation. Assuming He was fully God before the Incarnation, and so fully expressed God’s image, physical manifestation must not be necessary.
At any rate there seems to be little support, even among YEC proponents, for our creation in His image to be a physical reality.
Nevertheless, people still make this connection from time to time, as if searching to find any argument that can be used to refute evolution, even if that argument makes no Biblical sense. However, this mistaken belief regarding God’s image really is just one example of an error that shows up in many places, especially in the creation debates. That error is to focus on just the natural, instead of also recognizing the spiritual. Continue reading
One complaint about a figurative interpretation of the first half of Genesis is that it calls into question one’s interpretation of the rest of the Bible. If one doesn’t believe the straight-forward narrative statements in Genesis 1-11 are literal, then why should one believe any of the straight-forward narratives in the Bible? For example, if we take the first half of Genesis figuratively, is there any reason to take the second half as literal history?
This question is often used by young earth creationists to challenge old-earth views. They apply the reasoning blindly through remaining books, making it seem that rejecting a young earth perspective leads to rejecting the truth of Scripture itself.
Most counter arguments for this have to do with the nature of the narratives themselves, but I think there’s another interesting detail that’s worth considering. By reflecting on some of the physical artifacts that span multiple books of the Bible, we discover a reason to think of the second half of Genesis as literal even if we conclude that the first half is figurative. This becomes another way to halt the slippery slope reasoning described above. Continue reading
In the discussion of how best to interpret Genesis 1, the debate is often characterized as a choice of literary type, based on perceived content. A recent article by Joel Anderson proposed a slightly different perspective by focusing on the historical context and what it would have meant to the people of the time. As one component of this, he made the important point that truth or falsehood of a narrative does not depend on only natural perspectives, but also depends on the spiritual. I think this is key, and points to an important aspect of Scripture interpretation. Continue reading
This blog explores Biblical perspectives of creation that start with spiritual observations instead of literary or scientific viewpoints. The resulting approaches are a little different from many creation discussions, yet the goal is to always bring the reasoning back to detailed exploration of Scripture. I hope this balance avoids both overspiritualizing, and reading the Word with a purely natural mindset. Think of it as reading the Bible with the mind of Christ. Continue reading