Thursday, July 14, 2011

Biblical Authority and the Origins Debate

We've just come off an excellent seminar here at Grace by Answers in Genesis and Dr. Tommy Mitchell.  I am grateful for what was shared, especially as I am currently preaching through Genesis and much that was shared will keep me from having to cover the same material!  As I listened, I was once again finding certain questions floating around in my mind.

Most readers of this blog will know that I believe the Bible's account of creation and Noah's flood to be describing actual events that took place as described--creation in six actual, consecutive days, and a flood that was worldwide.  I accept the genealogies as records of actual descent, and when times are given, I take them as accurate.

I have friends who disagree.  I greatly respect a number of authors and scholars who disagree.  And these are people who are as loyal to the concept of biblical authority as I am.

That said, I have some questions I would like to pose to those who hold to biblical authority but do not hold to recent, direct creation, and/or to a worldwide flood in the days of Noah.

1. Are your objections to teaching recent creation and a worldwide flood driven primarily by your study of the text?  Is it the Hebrew of Genesis, or the flow of the narrative, that causes you to reject these two ideas in favor of something else?  If theories demanding millions of years or long ages of time did not exist, would your objections?
2. What would a person with little background in the language or history assume if he or she were to simply sit down and read Genesis 1-9?
3.  How are the creation and flood accounts treated by other biblical authors who reference them?  Do Jesus, Peter, Paul, and others seem to treat them as straightforward history?  Does this have ramifications for your view?
4. If the scientific community across various disciplines (biology, geology, astronomy) were suddenly (or over the next decade) to put forward evidence creating a paradigm-shifting understanding that "proved" that life on earth could only have existed for less than 10,000 years, how would that effect your understanding of creation and/or claims of a universal flood?
5.  Would your interpretation exist if not for scientific assertions of the nature of reality, including assertions about the distant past?
6.  If your view is an attempt to harmonize biblical teaching with the findings of the scientific community's consensus, how would you answer someone who says you are subjecting biblical authority to the higher court of scientific conclusions?

I ask these questions because it is my belief in biblical authority, along with a hermeneutic that defaults to straight-forward meaning and following Jesus' and the biblical writers' lead (if Jesus cites it as accurate, it's accurate; if Peter says the world was destroyed by water, it was) that anchors me to these beliefs.  If I am missing something, I want to know.  If you are unintentionally allowing human opinions (which have shifted greatly in the past few years, decades, centuries, and millennia) to determine your interpretation, I would encourage you to reconsider.  And if you believe that scientific inquiry has led us to the point where we must reject what seem to be straightforward understandings of the Bible to fit with our discoveries, I wonder if we have different understandings of biblical authority.

This doesn't just apply to origins either.  Consider the current debates on sexual identity, gender, and marriage, and how science joins with other disciplines to argue for changes in historic and biblical understandings.  How much evidence will be enough to create a "tipping point" away from historic biblical teaching?  Has it already been reached by some?

My own commitments to recent creation (and historical understandings of marriage and gender) are not driven by evidence or even personal comfort, but the conviction that I cannot escape the understandings drawn from the most straightforward readings of the texts involved, and the support of the historic witness of the church down through the ages for these views.  I recognize that there have been other, minority views in the past, especially on creation, but the overwhelming testimony of the church has been a view of recent creation.  The age of a view isn't proof it is right (Arianism and it's Mormon and Jehovah's Witness descendants are an example of old heresy lasting).  But interpretation grounded in historically accepted hermeneutics, witnessed through time, is a good place to be.