Ran across an article recently in which a statement was made about how one determines whether the Genesis creation account is figurative or not. The statement implied that a natural reading pointed to a literal interpretation, which is a common perspective for interpreting these passages. It is interesting to compare this approach with Scripture.
Here is the statement I ran across, followed by a verse of Scripture:
Is there any Scriptural basis for believing that God was only revealing, not creating, on those six days? A natural reading surely excludes such a conclusion.
— Charles V. Taylor, at AiG (emphasis mine)
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
— Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2:14
Now, Paul is probably talking about unsaved people in verse 14, not how one reads text. But this juxtaposition highlights what we mean by “the natural reading” of text. We typically mean that whatever seems most correct to the natural mind, must be the truth. In other words, however an unsaved person (who’s only discernment capacity is the natural mind) would read the text, must be right.
However, the context of Paul’s statement, and in fact the tenor of the entire first couple of chapters in 1 Corinthians, teaches against this very idea. The primary idea that Paul uses to address is the truth of the Cross, but he generalizes to spiritual truths in general. In other words the superiority of God’s wisdom over man’s, and the inability of man’s wisdom or thinking to comprehend spiritual truths. Given this, the typical reliance of natural understanding to assess use of figurative writing in the Genesis creation account seems out of place.
It especially seems out of place when you consider the very real possibility that the Genesis passages are prophetic revelation. We should take care to note that figurative language in the Bible does not necessarily mean spiritual topics are being addressed, but that very association is often found in the Word, and is pointed out by the Lord in Numbers 12:6. And of course, we talking here about discerning whether a passage is figurative, not understand a spiritual perspective. But I think the concepts are linked.
So why on earth would one focus on what seems right to the natural mind, instead of approaching the passage figuratively, as with other prophetic descriptions of cosmic events?
I fear that this is the real danger that science represents to the faith — that we believe we can come to know truth through human reason, and that the Spirit is not necessary.