Religious and philosophical worldviews influence cultural values, which in turn shape both political policies and social behaviors. The value we place on human beings; the way we treat both the unborn and the born; the dignity we grant the elderly, the infirm, and the disabled; the stand we take against racism and sexism and other forms of social injustice; the steps we take to preserve endangered species and otherwise protect the environment; the positions we hold on stem-cell research, genetic engineering, and cloning––all these issues and others besides are connected deeply with how we think at the most basic theological level about the creation and the place of the human creature within it.For many people, this is not a scientific issue, it is a moral one. Even when having conversations with my wife, it is not uncommon for her to say that she understands the evidence and accepts it but that the ramifications make her uncomfortable. Indeed, both the ID side and the new atheists write that "Darwinism" is dangerous. The reasons are similar but the motives are different. Both argue that it leads one away from faith.
Here, Harlow does not tackle the modern manifestations of science and their implications but, rather, the problems inherent in a literal (mis)reading of the creation accounts in Genesis. In so doing, he says something at once profoundly true and profoundly incendiary:
God did not write Genesis. He inspired ancient Israelites to write it, and they did not do so in a cultural vacuum. Following from this, if we take divine accommodation seriously, then Genesis must not be made to say anything that would have been unintelligible or irrelevant to the ancient author and his audience. Modern concerns and concepts must not be foisted anachronistically onto the biblical text. Genesis is God’s word to us, but it was not written to us.This is the start of the "slippery slope" argument that is soundly resisted by most purveyors of the YEC model—Genesis must be read literally or else there is no barometer for how we should read scripture at all. Troy Lacey writes in AiG:
Of course, it is no surprise that Genesis 1–11 is denigrated by the secular scientific community. But these chapters are the foundational truths of the revealed Word of God, and if the foundation can be destroyed, then the rest of the Bible can also be discarded as a collection of nice stories with no practical value or moral authority.Many OT historians and theologians have stated that a completely literal read of the creation accounts is facile at best and leads to serious misinterpretations of scripture. That this warning has been around since the time of Augustine and perhaps earlier has very little traction among the recent earth supporters. Ken Ham famously asks "were you there?" when confronted by skeptics. (Of course, neither was he but that is not the point.) Ham replies that God was and he left us his Word, which is clearly understandable. Hmmm. Just what did God leave behind, exactly? According to Daniel Harlow, it is this:
If we were to insist that the Bible gives an accurate picture of the physical cosmos, then to do so with integrity, we would have to believe that the earth is flat, immobile, and resting on pillars; that the sky is solid and has windows in it; that the sun, moon, and stars are set in the sky and move along it like light bulbs along a track; that the sun literally rises, moves, and sets; that there is an ocean of water surrounding the earth; and that beyond the waters above the sky is the very heaven of God. That’s what the Bible says.Clearly, this is not what your average young earth creationist thinks. In fact, it is not clear to me that anyone within the western or Judeo-Christian perspective thinks this. They probably did around the time that this was written down but we simply know more now than we did then. As time progresses and our understanding of the world increases, hanging onto the literal, YEC viewpoint becomes increasingly difficult. As Conrad Hyers points out:
The literalist, instead of opening up the treasurehouse of symbolic imagination, digresses into more and more ingenious and fantastic attempts at defending literalism itself. Again and again the real issue turns out to be not belief in divine creativity but belief in a particular theory of Scripture, not faith but security. The divine word and work ought to have better handles!Instead of a different way of interpreting scripture, it is now the only way to do so—with Gary Parker, among others, arguing that such a reading is a salvation issue. That such a one-dimensional read of the scripture has become the de rigueur one for the evangelical community is unfortunate.
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