Telling Our Story

The first comment on my post last Thursday was a thought provoking one – John Frye suggested the importance of story in wrestling with the conflict at the core of the interaction of science and faith. From his comment:

Maybe we need to have, also, a heart for truth and a mind for God. You offer the scientific evidence, theologians like Waltke offer biblical, exegetical evidence and it looks like [the] Stott [quote] attempts to marry the two. As an observer, the biblical creation story seems, from the viewpoint of faith, to be vandalized by the idea of God implanting “the image of God” into an “already existing hominoid.” This, then, brings us back to hermeneutics and the ANE mind in writing creation stories. I am totally with you that Genesis 1 – 2 are *not* intended to be viewed as scientific documents of *how* things were ordered, but *that* things were ordered (after chaos).

I would encourage you and your believing colleagues to create accessible faith-informed scenarios that help the average Jane and Joe Christian to not feel the fierce jolt to the Creation Story that they feel by your take on evolution and humanity and the *imago Dei.* For example, using the imagination, take us to and let us ‘see’ that moment when the already existing hominoid was touched, infused with, received the *imago Dei.* If the phrase “the dust of earth” allows for the animal side of the evolutionary story, unpack that creatively and then correlate as much of Genesis 1 and 2 as you can.

He concludes with an important insight: Exegetes and scientists will not be the persuaders of Jane and Joe. Story-tellers will be.

This comment is dead-on. We need to tell our story – the Christ-centered story told in scripture – in an accessible and faith-informed fashion. I will come at this puzzle from several different directions in an occasional series of posts. But we can start with a simple question:

How does our story begin?

We cannot conjure this our of thin air of course – so the question really becomes:

How is this beginning told in scripture and how is it told in the church?

Here is a common framework of the narrative as told in at least some of our churches:

Genesis 1 tells of God as creator – maker of heaven and earth, of everything visible and invisible. The common refrain in Genesis 1 is that as God created He  saw that it was good. Genesis 1:31 concludes creation with the words: God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. The idea that creation was “very good” means perfect –  total perfection, no death, no dying, no pain, no injury, (no rain and no carnivores).

Humans were created, male and female, in the image of God, in a state of innocent perfection.

Satan took the form of a serpent, tempted Eve, who in turn tempted Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This deliberate rebellion destroyed God’s perfect creation, brought death, pain, suffering, and evil into the world.

Evolution undermines this narrative. No question about it – evolution requires a cycle of life and death complete with carnivores and pain preceding the appearance of humans capable of understanding evil and capable of turning to God. If this is the narrative of the Church, the narrative of Scripture, it is hard to reconcile evolution – or even an old earth and progressive creation – with our faith.

This narrative is – or at least can be – consistent with scripture read in a particular fashion. But is it really the scriptural narrative? I suggest  that the problem with this narrative is not, first and foremost, the conflict with science. The most significant problem with this narrative is that this is not the Genesis narrative, the story of creation told in scripture. This narrative can be made to fit scripture, but only, I suggest, by some rather imaginative contortions. I think most Old Testament scholars, including evangelical scholars holding a high view of scripture and a deep faith in God, would agree with this. In other words – it seems to me that the Bible itself undermines this version of a primeval perfection narrative.

This is not my area of expertise – and I am open to listen to contrary opinions. What do you think?

Does this narrative reflect our story as you’ve heard and learned it? How would you tell the story?

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