“Do you think it's possible for a Christian to view Genesis more as metaphor than fact? Just as the Bible was written in a different language(s), the words and understanding were entirely different. Imagine for argument that the current science is correct, Genesis could read, ‘In the beginning there was a singularity of infinite density. It was touched by the hand of God and exploded into a multidimensional space time continuum...’
That would have made absolutely no sense 1,000 years ago.”
My response was:
“(or 3,500 years ago when Genesis was written.) Interesting insight. I agree. See: A CHRISTMAS THOUGHT. I plan on writing more on this in the near future.”
So here I am. I have many thoughts on this matter; many are a bit scattered, so this is an opportunity for me to assemble them. Pardon me if I seem to ramble.
First of all, a few thoughts on the Creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis. There are, I believe, actually three accounts in these chapters:
· Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This sums up all of creation.
· Genesis 1:2-2:3. The six days of creation and the day of rest. This account basically describes the same creation as 1:1, but views the creation in greater detail and describes it from the perspective of the earth. Even the heavenly bodies are described as they would be observed from the earth.
· Genesis 2:4-25: “…the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, on the day the LORD God made earth and heavens.” This account is concerned with the creation of man. All of the rest of creation is seen from the human perspective. In the previous two accounts, God is referred to by His “generic” name, Elohim; in this account, His personal, covenant name Yahweh is used and paired with Elohim, “The LORD God.”
There have been many attempts at somehow reconciling the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 with current scientific views. More than we could count. Though some are pretty far-fetched, I believe that for the most part these are sincere efforts. If we believe that all truth is God’s truth, then there should be no contradiction between God’s truth as revealed in Scripture and God’s truth as revealed in nature (i.e., scientific truth).
We should, however, beware of two extremes: first granting too much authority to our own personal “biblical’ interpretations; and, second, granting too much authority to current scientific views. Both are subject to change.
For instance, it wasn’t too long ago (within my lifetime) that the “Big Bang” model for the origins of the universe was considered something akin to heresy for many in the scientific community. The “Steady State” was the accepted doctrine of most. (Scientists are as conservative and dogmatic as theologians. It takes a lot of evidence to convince them to revise their beliefs.)
In fact, as the “Big Bang” was gaining ascendancy in the scientific community, Pope Pius XII jumped on the bandwagon on November 22, 1951 with an address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences entitled: “The Proofs for the Existence of God in the Light of Modern Natural Science,” in which he endorsed the Big Bang model.
According to Simon Singh in his book, Big Bang; The Origin of the Universe “…the Papal endorsement…became an embarrassment for the Big Bang proponents, … the British physicist William Bonner, for example, suggested that the Big Bang theory was part of a conspiracy aimed at shoring up Christianity…” (pages 360, 361).
I’ll not spend much time discussing the various views of biblical apologists in which they attempt to reconcile a literal six day creation with scientific views. Except for one matter that I find ironic – that many 6-day Creationists anathematize the Big Bang theory, which itself was originally anathematized by scientists as being too “Creationist.”
So back to your suggestion:
I agree that, accepting the Big Bang as valid, there would have been no way to explain this to a pre-scientific person. The Bible is not a scientific textbook and was not intended to be. It’s a revelation of the Person and work of God and has been accepted as such for over 3,000 years. The six day creation account was adequate for its readers for most of that period. And I believe it’s adequate for 21st century readers – not to satisfy us with the details of creation but to give us a satisfactory picture of the Creator.
As far as interpreting the Genesis account ”more as a metaphor than fact,” this makes sense as long as we recognize that a metaphor is not meant to contradict fact, but to explain fact. So I’d rephrase the question something like: “Is it possible to understand the Genesis account as a metaphor explaining the fact of creation?” I’d say that the answer is Yes.
The Bible, like most literature, is full of figures of speech: similes, metaphors, hyperboles, etc. One of the important aspects of interpretation is to recognize these and distinguish them from simple statements of fact. The various creation accounts present us with some of these problem areas.
There are other creation accounts in the Bible besides those in the first two chapters of Genesis, which if taken literally (or literalistically) would seem to contradict the Genesis account as well as science. In fact, Genesis 2:4 speaks of “…the day the LORD God made earth and heaven,” while chapter 1 speaks of six days of creation.
One of my favorites is Job 38:4-7, where, in some of His most cutting sarcasm, the LORD tears into Job:“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me if you have understanding!
Who set its dimensions? Because you know!
Or who measured it with a line?
On what were its bases sunk?
Or who set its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
Here the LORD pictures the creation of the earth as though it were a building. In fact, some of the language is reminiscent of the passages on the construction of the Temple.
There are many more: Job 26:7; Psalm 104:5-9; Proverbs 8:29, Isaiah 51:13; Zachariah 12:1.
We accept these accounts as metaphors because they are found in poetic sections of the Bible, as well as the fact that we know that the LORD didn’t construct the earth as an architect constructs a building. In these cases, we who believe the Bible accept the findings of science as true and the words of the Bible as metaphorical.
So why can we not do the same with Genesis 1 and 2? To do so would not be to deny that “God created the heavens and the earth.” It would simply be to accept the details of the creation presented in Genesis as metaphors for the basic truths of God’s creation.
Though I lean strongly toward this explanation, I hesitate to dogmatize. Whatever our views of the origins of the universe as described in Genesis, all of us have to admit that we weren’t there at the time, nor was any other human being. There was only one Eyewitness who was present at creation.
See:OUR COUSIN, THE FISHAPOD?
A CHRISTMAS THOUGHT
JOB, GODAND SUFFERING, 7