Why the historicity of Genesis 1 can be considered equal to the historicity of the virgin birth and the resurrection of Christ.

One last post on the historicity and reliability of Genesis 1 (for now). I’m trying to put my thoughts into some sort of order. Some of these thoughts have been shared in other post or comments, but I have not put it all together as I have here.

There are people who have no difficulty accepting the miracles of the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ as fact. Yet, these same people seem to have difficulty accepting the creation occurred as written in Genesis 1. It seems to me to be a matter of who we trust.

None of us were there at the virgin birth or the resurrection. Both are miracles and go against “accepted” normal patterns found in the natural universe. Someone said those events occurred because God told them it happened and/or they saw Christ after the burial (depending on which event we are speaking about). Someone wrote about it. “Somehow” (and yes, I know the process, I just dont want to get into that here) we have managed to keep copies of the documents where those events were written about. People who deny the historicity of Genesis 1 but embrace the virgin birth and the resurrection as historical fact seem to be saying the virgin birth and the resurrection are more trustworthy as historical fact because people said it happened.

None of us were there at the creation. It was a miracle and it goes against the “accepted” normal pattern found in the natural universe. We know about it because God had Moses write it.

So what makes God (who told us how creation occurred) less trustworthy than men (who told us of a virgin birth or that a dead man was alive)? If men can say something, they can lie. So what makes the apostles more trustworthy than Moses, who was told by God of the origins of the universe, the world, and mankind?

Now, I do NOT think any true Christian believes the apostles are more trustworthy than God Himself. Those are rhetorical questions to make a point. My point being that if the apostles can be trusted (who were told about the virgin birth and in one instance was told about the resurrection in a vision or visitation by Christ), then surely so can God. If God can be as trusted as, or more trusted than, the apostles, then what makes us doubt the historicity of Genesis 1?

All the events in the Bible were witnessed – some by God alone and some by man and God. Why is it that people have less difficulty trusting what man said they saw than what God said HE saw? What makes GOD’s witness less trustworthy in people’s eyes than man’s witness? Obviously it is not. THAT is my point. I’m not saying by any means that if we reject a literal/historical understanding of Genesis that we necessarily reject God or the inspiration of Scripture. But I think rejecting it makes it much easier to reject anything else in the Bible – to being able to pick and choose which were true/trustworthy and not.

I am not saying Moses was told everything about creation – but what he WAS told was accurate. We weren’t told everything about the resurrection either, just how Jesus died, that Jesus was dead for three days and nights and rose again (not details as to how). And some would want to reject even that, even though men witnessed it. But the people I am speaking of accept the virgin birth and resurrection, but reject the idea that creation occurred as mentioned in Genesis 1.

I am not saying to not focus on the theological truths inherent in Scripture, or to focus on the facts to the detriment of the theological truths. Paul and Jesus both took historical truth, found the theological truths inherent in the history, and applied them practically. I think we should do the same. The Jesus “who is proclaimed by the apostles as the crucified and resurrected one” IS the one found in the Bible – the one written about as if it was fact. Its not some spiritual idea that someone made up and wrote fiction about (ala L. Ron Hubbard). Its not some mythology to ignore. Its fact which forms the basis for our belief system, not merely man’s ideas. See, history IS fact. History is literal. We must not forget that or ignore that. It DOES matter, otherwise we are merely founding our faith on the ideas of someone. Our faith is built on truth – not mythology. This is both apologetics and evangelism 101.

My issue is whether the text can be or should be considered accurate (not necessarily detailed) and reliable (written by a reliable source and not deceitful).

My point is, we need to trust GOD, rather than men. If GOD said He did it in a certain time and way, then He can be trusted to have told us the truth, just as if the apostles (mere men) tell us they saw something they can be trusted to tell us the truth.

If there appears to be a contradiction between Scripture and any external data found in the world (science, history, archaeology, etc), then we are either misunderstanding Scripture or drawing false conclusions from our interpretations of data, or both. Many errors have historically been made in interpreting Scripture, and many errors have historically been made in interpreting data. However, the Scripture itself is perfectly reliable and accurate, and the perfection of its truth is not limited to man’s lack of understanding of it or of any external data (be it historical, scientific, etc). We simply need to trust God more than men.

That’s all I’m saying.

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12 Responses

  1. I particularly liked your last paragraph. We are not infallible in interpretation of Scripture or scientific data.

    I didn’t think about biblical accuracy for a long time, but once its importance hit me (about 15 years ago), I’ve had a hard time understanding why somethings are ranked higher on the accuracy scale than others.

    • To be fair, I cribbed much of that last paragraph from a comment Rory Roybal made ( http://theologica.ning.com/forum/topics/young-and-old-earth-creation?commentId=2124612%3AComment%3A190751 ). I have said essentially the same thing elsewhere, but I liked what he said, and I wanted to make what he said more general – to encompass history and archaeology, so I re-worded it a bit.

      Its beyond me how people want wiggle room in what they accept as accurate, just in case science or archeology or something comes up with a statement that appears to invalidate scripture. I think its because some people trust science as much or more than God. People want to measure the word of God by the world, instead of the world by the word of God.

  2. Wb,
    Just a quick comment…I believe the issue as to historicity concerning Genesis one is related to the issue of genre determination. If Gen. 1 is believed to be poetry then we may expect hyperbole, certain ‘mythic’ elements, among other things, and would not build a historical case from it. If, however, it is believed to be not poetry but some form of narrative (that contains portions of poetry), then we has something that is being described as historical. Both the poetic and the narrative describe reality, but each would do it in differing ways and would require differing methods for understanding the historical elements of each. I do agree with your posting, but just thought I’d mention the question of genre as that seems (in my opinion) to be paramount to how one reads Gen. 1 (but I also believe it is external factors related to understanding the claims of modern science that lead one to seek alternate genre than poetic-like narrative). The reason I bring all this up is because it is actually a significant portion of my Master’s thesis that I am in the midst of writing…so I’ve had to wrestle with some of this a bit :-). Blessings to you.

    • Rick,

      I’m familiar with the concept of genre, but most who read the Bible are not. Also, just because something is poetic does not make it poetry. And, just because something is poetry does not mean it is not 100% accurate in every detail and word.

      When archeology was new (not that its old now, but it is more established), the complaint was that Bible could not be trusted because they could not find evidence of certain people groups or certain cities (and even today some want to try to use it to say the facts in the Bible could not be true). Now the complaint is that certain facts in the Bible (or if not the facts, then the interpretation of them) could not possibly be accurate because of what science claims is possible or not possible. So either people want to say the truth of the details don’t matter (only the theological ideas), or they want to deny the accuracy of the Bible, or they want to “spiritualize” everything, or they want to deny the supernatural (take your pick). Everyone seems to be weighing the Bible against the world instead of the other way around. People seem to forget that God is supernatural and could make donkeys speak literally, water come out of a rock, separate water to make dry land so millions could walk across a sea bed, make manna fall from the sky, cause a virgin to become pregnant, bring the dead back to life, etc. If God is capable of all that, why do people insist something meet their expectation of how it should have occurred?

  3. W,

    Personally I think these are wrong questions and conclusions. As to the fact that the God of Creation is Himself always Immutable. The Scripture does speak of God as creator for a variety of reasons, almost none of which resembles the aims of scientific description and the explication of the processes of evolution and origination. Thus to put science and the biblical understanding of creation in direct competition, as in certain creationism, is to neglect their different natures and functions. See here, Prov. 8: 22-31, and the great truth of Wisdom. But, I respect you “belief” and “faith”.

    • Fr. Robert,

      I realize you believe in an old earth and do not think the details matter. I disagree with both of those things.

      It seems to me that if one can ignore the facts and the history that make up the BIble, then one is only believing spiritual ideas with no basis for those beliefs. If that is the case, then is makes it easy to deny any part of the BIble for any reason, or “reinterpret” any part of it from its original intent, because the ideas were not based upon facts. I am not saying that is what always happens, but that is the door that is opened when we are able to ignore the facts.

      But our faith is built on the facts of what God has done, who God is, what God will do, etc – not merely interesting philosophical/metaphysical ideas conjured up by someone.

  4. I would hope that the American readers would get to read N.T. Wright’s book: The Last Word, Scripture And The Authority Of God – Getting Beyond The Bible Wars. (Harper, 2006). We simply cannot approach these issues without “theological” thought! The Revelation of God is always within this thought and “genre”. (2 Peter 1: 21)

  5. W,
    This is such a complete mis-read of my whole creation statements and theology! Oh well *sigh* Again, perhaps you might find a copy of Tom Wright’s book, and read it?

    And “details” do matter, but only properly understood. I am convinced myself you really don’t understand “genre”. And Redemptive history, to be truly redemptive, must be existential, appropriated in inwardness in personal existence as a demand and resposibility. This is the meaning of biblical faith as ‘Heilsgeschichte’. And this no liberal position, of itself!

    • Fr. Robert,

      You have said you believe in evolution and old earth and that Genesis 1 was written with the cosmology of what we currently understand was the Hebrew cosmology at the time of Moses. You have said that that erroneous view does not match science, and we should not be concerned with the details – that we need to be concerned with the theological truths as they relate to the redemption history. Now, if I’m wrong in what I have stated as my understanding of what you have said, then please forgive me. But perhaps you are not communicating as well as you seem to think you are. I keep reiterating what I understand you to say, trying to avoid confusion. You keep claiming you want people to dig, but may I suggest you trying explaining things if you find people are not understanding you and you want to be understood.

      I agree details matter, as do the interpretation. Yet, you keep claiming the facts do not matter, only the theology matters. One can theologize all one wants, but if one is wrong about the facts, how can one be sure one is right about the theology? Although it is certainly possible we are correct, we can’t be sure without understanding the facts.

      Salvation history is not the only framework to use when reading or studying the Bible. It is only one. And while redemption is of critical importance, it is not the only thing of importance in scripture. We need to grow disciples – not theologians. I do NOT care if people understand all the different frameworks for studying scripture. I don’t care if people understand all the different theological terms that men have invented or twisted language to describe when trying to describe what the Bible states. I find theology (as in the case of most theory) is not usually practical, and I am a practical person. I find I don’t like even speaking with most theologians, because in my experience they want to focus on theory rather than help people grow in biblical knowledge, faith, obedience to and love for God and others – which are things *I* want to focus upon.

      I am called to reach and teach people until they reach and teach others. I am to grow disciples who grow disciples.

      I don’t do this by using language or terminology that makes people scratch their heads and decide to either ignore me or go look up what I said. If I use a term, I try to describe what I mean by it, because what is important is not the word, but what I am attempting to communicate. I want to grow people’s knowledge, but not as much as I want to grow their desire to live for God. I can not communicate if people have to look up what I am saying. It stops a conversation dead in its tracks. I find using big words makes people look at me askance and wonder if my purpose is to communicate or to make them think more highly of me. It is pointless to use theological language with most people and even with other theologians it is not always helpful. My target audience is not the theologian. My target audience is the common person, who may or may not yet know Christ.

      I try to make it so the common person can read scripture and understand it and apply it. So part of the purpose of this blog is to write my thoughts and lessons and sermons in such a way so as to help people come to faith in Christ and to help Christians grow in their knowledge of God, faith in God through faith in Christ, love for God and others, and obedience to God. I grow disciples by putting the scripture in front of them, answering their questions, helping them understand how to read and trust what is written in the BIble, challenging them with the truth of the word of God, helping them trust God, helping them obey God, encouraging them to reach to become more like Christ.

      Some people can’t even trust what the Bible says if they can’t trust the details of the scripture. And while it is God who calls and who gives faith, some people have difficulty having faith in Christ when they can not trust what God has written. So that is why I have been focusing so much of my energy in trying to describe the need to be able to trust Scripture.

      You can call me, ignorant, a liar or confused, but while you may not believe that I understand genre (or even subgenres), in fact I do. The common categories are historical narrative/epic, law, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, apocalyptic, gospel, epistle, although there are many various subgenres that some people try to use to categorize and interpret the Bible.

      You make the mistake that just because I do not use something or do not agree with something then I must not be aware of it. Just because someone wants to categorize a particular book, or even part of a book as fitting into a specific category (or subcategory), does not mean I necessarily agree with either the need for it nor the usefulness of it. In particular I do not necessarily agree with changing how that particular passage should be interpreted, even if it fits all the requirements for being considered part of a certain genre. Sometimes I find it helpful, and sometimes not.

      What I mean is that I do not think we should automatically move something from the realm of fact and history to the realm of mythology or epic story or poetry just because we think it can be (or should be) spiritualized, or it does not match our current scientific models, or it speaks in terms which we do not normally consider to be normal vocabulary for what we understand the passage to be saying, or because we think it is describing something which could not have actually occurred. Just because it DOES fit into a certain category, for instance poetry, does not mean that it is not also 100% accurate in all its details – it may have just been the divine author or the human author was presenting the information in an interesting fashion. Just because something speaks in epic language does not mean it did not occur exactly as specified. Just because something speaks in apocalyptic language does not mean it will not actually occur, but is using ideas and language that was common to the place and time of the original audience and human author to describe concepts or events which could only occur thousands of years later.

      I find that sometimes considering a passage to be of a particular genre or subgenre is useful in coming to a fuller understanding of it. But I am not convinced it is always useful.

  6. W,
    I NEVER said I agreed with evolution, not once! But that I hoped and thought many who are still believers of theistic-evolution would be in the glory. I can see that you are not reading my posts so closely. That’s fine. WE are not going to agree here! You appear stuck on this one thought and idea, that somehow the literal must be used in the creation narrative?…”These are the generations of the heavens and earth when they were created. In that DAY that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens..” (Gen. 2: 4) This seems more narrative to my thought and thinking?

  7. This subject has had so much heat on it, and like the Scopes trial in America (1925), we don’t want anything to make public opinion against Creation. But we must be sure and honest with theText and the whole of biblical theology. If you are ‘Young Earth’…to God be the glory! But the same must be said, for us ‘Old Earth’ guys also!

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