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Is Genesis about Science?


How old is the Earth?

How old is the Universe?

What about Dinosaurs?

What about Evolution?

What about the Big Bang?

The Bible has no direct answer for these questions. ‘Answers in Genesis,’ a Young Earth Creationist outpost, claims that Genesis answers all of these questions. But they fail to understand the kind of literature, as well as the time period, that Genesis was written in. The questions above are our questions, not the questions of Genesis.

The point I am trying to make is that no one has a good leg to stand on when they try to say the modern answers to the questions above are wrong based on specific Bible verses. Using the ancient text of Scripture in this way is a little bit like trying to use a hammer to pump up a tire. A hammer never was meant to do such a thing. The Scriptures were never meant to offer a final answer to the questions above.

The point of the narrative of the first few chapters of Genesis, is to offer an account with imagery of the Ancient Near East (local imagery) mixed with a transcendent message about both God and humanity (eternal message). Getting lost in the local imagery, or getting stuck on the meaning of the “days” moves away from the eternal message. The local imagery is only meant to take us to the eternal message. The message of the early chapters of Genesis is trying to tell us something about God and humanity, not something about science.

In the beginning of the 5th century, the church leader St. Augustine had to deal with the similar problem of Christians trying to make Genesis say something it was not intended to say. Please read the whole quote, which comes from his work, “The Literal Meaning of Genesis.”

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of the world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [quoting 1 Tim 1:7].

I guess Augustine said it all.

-Isaac

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