When I decided to become an official, professing Christian, I was thrilled to see that I could honestly say that I believed in every word of the Apostle’s Creed.
I am very grateful that the creed I had to believe in was not the following:
I believe in one specific interpretation of the Bible, and reject all others.
I believe the Bible in its English translation of the Hebrew and the English translation of the Greek translation of the Aramaic is literally true in every word, and no interpretation is necessary. Ever. Except for the parables of Christ, of course. And, um, some other stuff (see below).
I believe that some things about the Bible that are not actually in the Bible are also infallibly true. For example, I believe that the calculation of the age of the Earth based on the Biblically stated generations and ages of the lineage of Adam is correct. In fact, I believe that the truth of that calculation, with all of its assumptions, extrapolations and sources of error is more infallible than any conclusion of modern geological, biological, paleontological, archeological or any other branch of modern science.
I believe that the story of the creation of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 is an expanded and more detailed version of the sixth-day creation of humans in Genesis 1. It doesn’t actually say that in the Bible, but I believe it anyway, because, well, that’s what the interpretation I believe in says.
I believe that incest was not a sin for Adam and his children, because….well, that’s the only way Cain and the others could have found wives, and for my interpretation of Genesis to make sense.
I believe that when Genesis uses the phrase “And God saw that it was good,” the word good actually means “perfect”.
I believe that this way of reading the Bible is not only the only true way today, but has always been the only way real Christians have ever interpreted the Bible, going back to um, well over a hundred years. Maybe a bit more.
I believe in some very special scientific ideas. These include that after the flood, about 4000 years ago, there was a hyperfast period of evolution in which all the modern species of living things arose from their original Ark-bound kinds.
I believe that mutations cannot produce new information, because that’s what I have been told by a couple of Bible-believing scientists. All the other so-called scientists, including so-called Christians, are wrong.
I believe that light traveled a lot faster in the old days, and radioactivity doesn’t really allow for age calculations, and….OK, enough.
If that had been the creed I was supposed to follow to be a Christian, I would still be searching for some religion to follow. Do we wonder why the children of fundamentalists are dropping out of the Church as soon as they begin to get an education and learn how to think? Are we surprised that the number of young people with no religious convictions or interest is continuing to climb? And that so many people lose their faith, simply because they cannot reconcile what their Church tells them they must believe with what they know to be true?
I am aware that some people have pointed out the danger of abandoning the central messages of the Christian faith. Accepting the idea of evolution and of a metaphorical interpretation of some biblical passages does not constitute an abandonment of the central messages of Christianity. If you are not convinced by my statement, watch the talk by Jim Stump at the recent Biologos Conference.
In fact, the false creed that I listed above is NOT the orthodox traditional Christian view at all. It is a modern kind of fundamentalism borrowed from 19th century Seventh-Day Adventism, mixed with some pseudo-scientific “evidence” from a book written in the 1960s. Many mainstream Catholic and Protestant theologians – including two popes – and renowned Biblical scholars have spoken and written against the YEC interpretation of the Bible, so the idea that this interpretation is in any way representative of Christian theology is simply untrue.
I have argued on this topic before, and I will simply close with one point that I think bears repeating often. Acceptance of evolution has nothing to do with rejection of God, Christ, the Old or New Testament, or any truly fundamental aspect of Christian faith. On the contrary, an understanding of the beauty and wonder of the lawful evolutionary process that produces all the magnificent forms of life we know about, leads to a deeper knowledge and worship of the majesty of the Creator.
Absolutely love this post. It’s really sad that people seem to put a great deal of their faith in interpretations of the Bible and let that cloud their reliance on Christ. We all struggle with idolatry though in one form or another.
I personally have no problem with understanding the early chapters of Genesis as metaphor and poetic symbolism. In fact, seeing the creation story as non-literal opens up a whole new realm of mystery and intrigue. This Eve and Adam discussion has seemed to be getting a lot of hubbub over at BioLogos. May we all discuss these important topics with grace.
Thanks Ethan. I think things are calming down at Biologos. Grace wins again.
I’m glad the Christian faith I learned as a child was likewise tied to the real creeds (and history, and science, and the Bible), so I didn’t have to relearn what I believed as an adult. God and grace are big enough for all our questions, and refusing to allow any questions only shrinks our image of God. Great post. Thank you.
Thanks Sy. I don’t know any Christians personally who would disagree with you. Perhaps I don’t get out enough!
A frequent motorcycle-riding partner in the US a local firefighter/paramedic who also happens to be a Jehovah’s Witness. He’s made it clear to me that it’s okay if I can’t stop the bleeding after a big get-off. I wouldn’t be happy with that, but I understand. And he puts up with me. Neither of us see each other’s perspectives as accurately reflective of the truth of things; but I’m not so sure there’s much to be gained in dwelling on such difference. Somehow, I know he’s a decent person. And I think he feels the same about me. At some point, it’s just about mutual respect… and maybe keeping a tourniquet in my gear.