Science and the Sacred

Science and the Sacred


Our Story

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In the early chapters of Genesis, we meet Adam and Eve,
the original man and woman formed from the dust of the Earth, brought to life by the breath of God, and placed in a beautiful garden with a mysterious tree whose fruit gives knowledge. Their story provides a foundation for the rest of the Bible. Paul, for example, refers to Christ as the second Adam, for just as Adam’s action of eating the forbidden fruit brought death into the world, so Christ’s sacrifice for humanity brought life.

However, as we note in one of our Questions, modern scientific evidence seems to contradict a literal reading of Adam and Eve. Recent genetic evidence points to a population of thousands — not just two — from which all humans descended. Furthermore, fossil and DNA evidence seem to support a gradual creation in which humans and animals are related. Even the tensions between the two creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 make it difficult to reconcile chronological details.

Yet, if we reject a literal reading of Genesis, isn’t the story of Adam and Eve no longer important? Not at all. As Darrel Falk writes in his book Coming to Peace with Science:

“There is a good reason for God’s putting the creation story in the form he did. The story of Adam and Eve is our story. It is not simply the story of an ancient couple who lived in a garden. If that is all we see, we are missing a gift that God gives to us. He wants more than anything to tell us how much he loves us, and the story of Adam, Eve and a garden is the story of Jesus, you and I, and life in God’s presence.”
-page 221

The beauty of Adam and Eve’s story is how it communicates the love of an all-powerful creator who still lowers himself to the level of his beloved creations. Is Genesis a historical account or simply allegory? As Falk reminds us, “Regardless of the historicity of Adam and Eve, their story is our story and the truthful meaning of the story comes from God.”

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Albert the Abstainer

posted September 10, 2009 at 8:56 pm


Even so, it is allegorical, and there are many allegorical/mythic tales that arise out of different cultures and traditions, and they each have meaning and sacredness to people. Some adherents even hold that their particular set of myths and interpretations are “solo scriptura”.
This is not to say that if someone derives meaning, or a sense of the sacred through the reading and studying of their tradition’s scriptures that there is a problem. The problem comes to the fore when these narratives and poems are related to as exclusively inspired and perfect forms.
I do not read the Iliad as anything other than myth. It is powerful, insightful and breathtakingly inspired literature, filled with meaning that crosses cultural and religious boundaries. It speaks to me as myth. By approaching religious literature this way I am able to derive meaning from many scriptures from many diverse traditions, without being trapped within a dogmatic cage.
In our age, whether we like it or not, many traditions and people are brought into far greater proximity with each other. While this provides a rich potential for arts and sciences, it makes isolation from competing ideas and practices almost impossible. This is very disquieting for those to whom their beliefs and practices were unquestionably and exclusively true. To avoid or at least mitigate that risk is best achieved through appreciation of other ways, other scriptures and practices. It requires experiential openness, and a willingness to set aside a priori judgments. It requires humility.



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Dannii

posted September 10, 2009 at 11:27 pm


If we cannot trust Paul when he tells us that Adam’s actions brought death into the world, why would we trust him when he tells us that Christ brings life?
You’re right that Genesis is the foundation for the Bible. If Genesis isn’t historical then the rest of the Bible crumbles away with it!



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Daniel Mann

posted September 11, 2009 at 4:20 pm


Albert,
I can certainly agree with your concern:
“In our age, whether we like it or not, many traditions and people are brought into far greater proximity with each other. While this provides a rich potential for arts and sciences, it makes isolation from competing ideas and practices almost impossible. This is very disquieting for those to whom their beliefs and practices were unquestionably and exclusively true. To avoid or at least mitigate that risk is best achieved through appreciation of other ways, other scriptures and practices. It requires experiential openness, and a willingness to set aside a priori judgments. It requires humility.”
Although there certainly does arise a danger when we believe that our “beliefs and practices were unquestionably and exclusively true,” I think that there is another way that we can retain some sense of humility as we relate caringly to others with whom we disagree. Christ is so good about reminding me of my un-worthiness and His abundant love and worthiness. This never fails to take the wind out of my arrogant sails, even as I disagree with what I think is wrong.
After all, we have to be dogmatic about some things. You are clearly dogmatic about tolerance, “experiential openness” and humility, and you should be! Therefore, allow others to also be dogmatic.



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Daniel Mann

posted September 12, 2009 at 3:20 pm


BioLogos Foundation wrote, “Yet, if we reject a literal reading of Genesis, isn’t the story of Adam and Eve no longer important? Not at all.”
Of course, we all agree that there are deep and rich meanings that transcend the literal reading of the text, but this shouldn’t become grounds to dismiss or diminish the literal reading or its historicity. In fact these deeper meanings depend upon the historicity of the account in the same way that the tree depends on the soil from which it grows.
To disparage the historicity of the Garden account (Genesis 3), is also to deny the theology based on this history:
1. The Fall
2. The origin and nature of sin and death.
3. The goodness of God who had made a perfect world only to be corrupted by the advent of sin.
4. The “second Adam,” Jesus.
5. The promise of His coming (Gen. 3:15)
6. The atonement for sin (having originated not with God’s bloody creation but with us!)
7. The restoration to the perfectly created environment (Acts 3:21, not to a world of the survival-of-the-fittest!) and rescue from the effects of our self-wrought sins (Romans 8:20-23). Essentially, TE blames God for this messed-up, dog-eat-dog world and blurs the Biblical distinction between humans and animals.
Disparaging the historicity of Adam and Eve, is also to disparage the understanding of Paul and Jesus who taught their historical reality (Matthew 19; 1 Tim 2; 1 Cor. 15; Rom. 5). If we dismiss the historicity of these teachings, how can we trust anything else Paul and Jesus said? If you choose to argue that they were just talking figuratively—while the context fails to support this claim—what confidence can you have that the authors of the Bible were not also talking figuratively about the death and resurrection of Christ and heaven? When you gut the Bible of its physical-world teachings, when they conflict with evolution, you also gut it of its teachings to support those few doctrines that you wish to retain.



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Mania

posted September 12, 2009 at 9:03 pm


I wish that there were no such story in the bible – then I would not have to reject it. Honestly it just seems like Moses was passing on the myth of creation – now you still have way too many people believing it like it was true and it becomes impossible to get anything out of it.
It’s almost as if 40% of everyone thought Santa was real. I could hardly enjoy Christmas at all if I had to just sigh and shake my head since I could not reason with these people that Santa is just a story and does not really exist.
Yes I am looking at you literal Genesis believer. To me you are like a three year old who cannot be reasoned with.



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Daniel Mann

posted September 13, 2009 at 7:36 pm


Mania,
Let’s try to approach this thing objectively. There are many crazy-sounding things—like the indeterminacy of subatomic particles or the nature of light as both wave and particle—that we believe about the physical world because of the expert testimony of scientists. In fact, if we hear this type of stuff regularly enough, we even begin to take it as reality with a second thought.
However, if we are willing to believe these “absurdities” about the physical world on the basis of expert testimony, shouldn’t we be willing to believe some “absurdities” about the Divine-workings of God based upon Divine expert testimony?
Why are we willing to believe the one set of phenomena and not the other? Is it because of our powers of rationality or the authority of the culture into which we are submerged?



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