Seeing how many have written and said enjoy these Bible-related and creationism topics—and valid and interesting observations in the process—I’ll mention yet another observation on these tangents: I get annoyed at Young Earth Creationists for thinking that a text has only ONE “literal interpretation.” The popular use of the word “literal” has drifted from what a linguist means by “literal”. And creationists go ballistic when I tell them that there are often MANY literal interpretations for just about all of the controversial statements in Genesis 1 and 2. Of course, when they insist that theirs is the ONLY truly literal interpretation of each pericope, they usually ignore the fact that “the plain and natural, simple reading of the text” can depend upon the particular English translation. If one is working from a “literal reading” of the Hebrew text of Genesis, the “literal interpretation” can be quite different.
For example, if one adopts a “plain and natural reading” of the Hebrew text of the Noah account, it is hard to come up with anything but a REGIONAL/LOCAL flood, not the GLOBAL one favored by Young Earth Creationists. After all, the Hebrew text refers to a flooding of Noah’s ERETZ, that is, his “land”, “country”, or “region”. There is no mention of ERETZ in the plural (“lands”) and even today in modern Hebrew, nobody assumes that ERETZ YISRAEL means “the planet of Israel” or “Planet Israel.” It is always read as “Land of Israel” or “Nation of Israel.” Thus, if I read Genesis LITERALLY, I will understand Noah’s flood to have destroyed all Imago Dei descendents of Adam— not every hominid (and NEPHESH creatures in general) worldwide.
In fact, I used to have my students import the Noah chapters of Genesis into a word-processor using the King James translation (or even sometimes other translations if sufficiently literal in translation approach) and then doing global replacements on the following words:
earth ===> land
heaven(s) ===> sky
mountain(s) ===> hill(s)
All three of these translations of the underlying Hebrew words are valid. But when the student reads the KJV account of Noah’s flood where “land”, “sky”, and “hills” appears instead of “earth”, “heavens”, and “mountains”, he/she discovers that their “simple, plain, and natural, LITERAL reading of the Biblical text” leads them to assume that Noah’s flood was restricted to Noah’s region, the only “world” Noah knew.
If I really want to irritate every Young Earth Creationist within earshot, I will tell them, “I prefer to interpret Genesis literally and work from a plain, simple, natural reading of the Hebrew text. Therefore I follow both the scriptural evidence and the scientific evidence to their natural conclusion: The Theory of Evolution is our best explanation of the diversification of life on earth. Moreover, “Let the waters bring forth [living things]…” and “Let the land bring forth [living things]….” (in Genesis 1) and even “God formed the human one from the dust of the ground” (in Genesis 2:7) are all references to ABIOGENESIS (biological life from non-living ingredients, the very definition of abiogenesis.) No matter how much they protest, I tell them that my interpretations are LITERAL because I’m using a “literal meaning” for each word as defined in the Hebrew lexicon.
No, I’m not claiming that readers down through the centuries could have consulted the Hebrew text of Genesis and predicted the eventual publication of The Theory of Evolution. I am saying that someone can affirm The Theory of Evolution while also maintaining literal interpretations of Genesis. Convincing the skeptical of that claim would take far more space than what is available here. But I am quite serious. (Yes, believe it or not. I’m totally serious. I’ve posted generously on this topic on various forums. Dr. Janis, who first invited me to subscribe to this blog page, has seen some of my essays on this topic. So this is not the first venue where I’ve discussed this idea.)
My purpose in doing that is not to convince anyone that “the Bible had it right all along.” Nor am I pursuing Science-and-the-Bible concordism for concordism’s sake. No, I want to reach the many Christians who are constantly at war with science and explain to them that such conflict is entirely unnecessary.
I’m sick and tired of the YEC peanut gallery, the infamous origins-ministry millionaire entrepreneurs (e.g., Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, Kent Hovind et al) and concerned for the many thousands of sincere but science-illiterate and gullible “creation science”-endorsing pastors who are manipulated into whipping millions of Christians into a frenzy of anti-science nonsense that is neither scriptural valid nor scientifically valid. Whatever one thinks of the Bible and its teachings, if I can convince Young Earth Creationist Christians that they can affirm the Bible while also affirming the scientific method and following the evidence wherever it leads, their silly war on science (and The Theory of Evolution in particular) can be ended.
Quality science education in America today is only safe if a large percentage of the population is not bent on destroying it. And while I appreciate what Biologos is trying to accomplish in that regard, I believe their present strategies will not be successful in reaching fundamentalist Christians (for reasons beyond the scope of this modest post.) My approach is to convince fundamentalists that the Bible does not contradict or denounce abiogenesis nor The Theory of Evolution. And I can do so even while using literal interpretations of the Hebrew text. For the most part, Christians who oppose The Theory of Evolution will not be won over by science-education alone. First they need to be convinced that modern science and the scientific method does not pose a threat to their faith—-only their extra-Biblical TRADITIONS.