Houston, We’ve Had a Problem

Scot forwarded this letter, with permission of the author to post. I am putting it up for consideration because it fits with the general topics I’ve posted on for the last several years. We’ve had a problem – and this problem has raised serious questions in the minds of many, from seventy year-olds in retirement, fifty year-olds looking at middle age, and twenty year-olds looking toward the future. I don’t post to sow seeds of doubt, but to work toward a solution for a crisis that requires response.  This letter reflects a fairly common situation. We’ve had a problem … where do we go from here?

I’ve a thought and a start, (after the jump) but there is much more to say. How would you reply?

(Omitting some personal preliminaries)

Anyhow, here’s my deal.  It’s not so much a simple question, but more of a situation I find myself in and I’d like your comments.

As a [seminary] student in the 70’s I was taught that the entire 66 books of the Bible front to back are equally true.  I’m one of those people who feel that science and scripture should agree if both are true.  For me evolution is a problem as I cannot see how to harmonize it with any plain reading of Genesis 1-3.  So on the radio a few years ago I heard a guy say, something like this, “Sure evolution is a THEORY, but it’s the BEST supported scientific theory of all time.”  That seemed like a bold statement.  Anyhow, I decided it was time to do more reading on this.  First I wanted to explore the age of the universe.  I read Simon Singh’s book — title escapes me now — on the Big Bang.  It seems inescapable that the universe and the earth are billions of years old.  Then I read a book on geology that explains how plate tectonics works and how we see evidence of that the earth and its land forms are constantly changing–again support for an old earth.  Then I’ve read some on human evolution and there, too the evidence is pretty convincing.

So, I’m convinced from the evidence we see around us that the basic tenets of modern science must be about right.  That throws out any historical value to Genesis 1-3.  There was no guy made from dust called Adam, etc.  But if that’s true, then what about the large volume of the rest of the Bible that seems to assume there was.  Jesus and Paul, for example talk about Adam like an historical figure.  So that makes those statements suspect, too.  And now I’m left with no confidence that any of it has any weight.

That leaves me with no basis for calling the Bible “true.”  Which in turn leaves me with no basis for any of the faith I was taught.

So, I’m wondering if my logic has gone astray somewhere.  What do you think?

The first thing that popped into my mind as I pondered this letter last week was an old song, first published about 1836. Surprisingly we also sang this song in worship last Sunday (surprising only as it is somewhat more traditional than usual these days):

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand; all other ground is sinking sand.

We’ve had a problem – and I suggest that a substantial part of the problem is that we’ve lost sight of the foundation of our faith. Other things, other frames, assume central importance and on these we lean. Worse yet, we teach others to lean on these frames. These frames can be “sweet” – they can be true. But right or wrong – they are not the rock on which we stand.

Peter and Paul preached, of their own experience, Jesus, the Messiah, the crucified and risen Lord. They didn’t stand on inerrancy or any myriad of other things we attach to the gospel, and neither do we. This realization, this foundation, lowers the stakes and allows us (it certainly allowed me) the confidence to ask and search for answers to important questions. I don’t have a definitive answer to the Adam question, or even the intent of Paul in Romans 5 – but this isn’t foundational. We wrestle and we ponder. Sometimes we use a little duct tape for a time to hold our ideas together.  But we stand on the solid rock – all other ground is sinking sand. (Photo: makeshift for CO2 scrubber on Apollo 13, credit: NASA)

What do you think? What would you add?

If you wish you may contact me directly at rjs4mail[at]att.net

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