I struggle with any interpretation of the Bible that suggests the world is 6000 years old and that human origins took place in the (supposedly) unified (read: disunified), clear (read: unclear) and chronological (read: anachronic) nature of Genesis 1-11.
I reject Young Earth Creatonism (YEC) on the basis of the science it is ignorant of for the perpetuation of it’s theory.
YEC claims are regularly challenged on scientific grounds. This is to be expected when your theory defies modern geology, biology, paleontology, physics, astronomy, and genetics.
That is quite enough for me – I don’t need YEC to defy anymore than all of that to say “I’ll not be having any of it.”
Yet, while I don’t need it to defy anymore than that, it does. It is ignorant of world history (which I had never thought about in any real depth) and by consequence Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) culture and context – factors that are vital for understanding the early chapters of Genesis and the cosmological and temporal framework the ancient Israelites used to comprehend and interpret their place in the world.
Less frequently do we hear YEC (Young Earth Creationists) claims held up for comparison against history.
We’ll get to this world history bit in a moment – but for now an example, Genesis’s flood narrative is well understood as significantly later in composition to early ANE flood narratives such as Gilgamesh Epic and Atrahasis. What this suggests about Genesis does not explode taking ‘the Bible’ seriously – it just means we need to think about what it isand what we do with it more seriously! We need to accept that for the Israelites the theological message their Flood narrative was of primary importance to them – regardless of its historicity or similarity to other flood narratives.
Additionally, it is quite sensible to conclude that some sort of localised flood occurred within the ANE region which then received treatment throughout various religious schemas (inc. Israel’s – because it occupied the same ANE cognitive framework as its surrounding nations).
Why do I say these things? Because I was fascinated by the points put across byCognitive Discopants and James McGrath as they underlined not just how the YEC hermeneutic is bizarre but how world history(!) continued quite unperturbed by Genesis’s world destroying flood (as dated by the YEC hermeneutic around 2300BC) as it took place.
Egyptian dynasties and pyramids continued as normal.
Empires, such as Akkadian, were built.
Life in Indus Valley, China, Ireland, Scandinavia etc. plodded along.
To summarize, James McGrath writes
Assyrians, Egyptians, Harappans, and many others had the audacity to carry on with dynasties, conquests, and pyramid-building as though the flood of Noah were something that could be simply ignored.
When subjected any kind of sensible analysis the YEC understanding of Genesis does not hold up. We need something much better than it.
Old Earth Creationism (OEC) does a reasonable job of giving up on preposterous dating and tarnishing history with black marker pen, though I take issue a number of things. 1) Commonly there is an insistence on rendering ‘day’ in Genesis 1 as something like ‘millions of years’. This superimposes an understanding unknown to Genesis 1 upon it as 2) it reflects the base assumption that Genesis is telling us something flat-footedly ‘historical’ that we must look for. In sum OEC fails to take the text for what it is – it makes it say what it wants it to say.
However, we don’t need to do this because when we read Genesis we enter ancient minds at work and what is written reflects that thought world and the robustly pre-scientific and cosmological capacities those minds knew of – which quite reasonably will not correspond easily to our own thought world. We need something better than OEC as well, though it’s not so bad.
We need science, we need world history, we need the Bible. Each are old (and sometimes they feel their age) but they each continue to birth and shed light on new things. We need to understand each in light of the other – only then can we be understood to be acting wisely.
For the sake of all the capacities we’ve been given lets take them all seriously!
Join me in discussion in the comments section or on Facebook if you feel a conversation coming on.