Sunday, April 26, 2009

Take God at His Word

In my last post I talked about the way that evolution figured into my salvation experience, and mentioned that I made the conscious decision to trust the claims of God's Word that He had created everything rather than the claims of man that things had evolved.

Katie James, the Christian heroine of Fossil Hunter, (the book I mentioned last week as having precipitated all these thoughts of mine on evolution) encounters a similar position when discussing the matter with her father, a Baptist pastor. He tells her "eventually you're going to have to learn to take God at his word. We're called to walk by faith, not by sight," and that God said He created the earth in six days so that's what she should believe.

She responds by saying that she'll take her cues from the passage and goes on about Genesis being written with obvious structure (the first three days he made the containers and the second three he filled them -- I'm not sure how that supports her position, though), how it's very poetic and full of puns, the example being Adam's name, which straight from the Hebrew means man of the earth... ie, he was made of earth. (Since this what the Bible says God used and what science agrees constitutes man's physical body, i.e., the elements of the earth, I don't see how that's really a pun either. Names have a lot of meaning in the word of God and must be examined with the expectation of gaining information about the thing so named.) She also says the six days could be literal days or geologic ages and that the passage doesn't make it clear, so she's going to pick the long view.

This brings up, of course, the matter of what the word of God actually says and obviously people disagree on that. Should Genesis 1 be taken literally or should it be taken figuratively? And what exactly does "day" mean there?
Ironically, I find part of the answer couched in a couple lines of dialogue that follow not too far on the above.

Katie's father says he's reading a book that "blows your 4-billion-year-old earth out of the water," and goes on to cite the radiometric dating technique as an example of age measurement systems not being accurate. Before he can finish his sentence, she interrupts to demand, "Is the author a geologist? Has he spent his whole career working on radiometric dating?"

To which I would have responded... "If that is to be your standard, then how can you, Katie James, paleontologist, presume to interpret what Genesis 1 says and how it should be taken? Do you have the gift of pastor-teacher? Have you been properly trained in the Greek and Hebrew, the history of the time of writing, the categorical study of comparing scripture with scripture? Do you know what the First Mention principle is? How about the difference between a qal stem and a piel stem? Have you spent your career studying and teaching the word of God on a daily basis?"

Why should science be put forth as a discipline that must be believed because the people in it are "experts" whereas these same people feel they are fully qualified to interpret the word of God based on their own ideas? It's no different. Even more ironically, shortly before she made this statement, she was talking about how complex God is, how difficult He is for us to comprehend. So difficult He can't do it "without using metaphors. So why do we think we could even begin to understand how he created the universe?"

If He is so difficult to understand, why would you think any old person could just pick up His word, which is His mind, and understand it? Why would you believe the dicipline of paleontology requires years of study and expertise to understand, but the word of God does not?

Every true scientific discipline you can think of -- neurology, physics, biochemistry, genetics -- is nothing more than the examination of how God's things and laws work. It's basically the discovery and study of His design in all the multifarious areas in which He has designed things. Why should His word not then be taken with just as much seriousness as any other discipline? Why should those studies of how God designed the material world to work require a technical language, a systematic approach and years of study to master, but God's word not?

Well, I happen to believe that it should. And when I first said I would take God at His word, I had confidence that it made sense and that a detailed and consistent study of it would produce answers. Now, having spent a lot of time learning what it says from the prepared pastor-teachers God has assigned to me, I find that my confidence was not misplaced.

Tomorrow: Old Earth Creationist...