Creation, evolution and myth
When I first learned of the Creation Museum, my initial reaction was to wince painfully. “Wonderful,” I thought. “This gives unbelievers more ammunition with which to mock the faithful.”
A museum with a natural history derived from creationism would certainly earn the derisive laughter of those who reject creationism in favor of evolution.
Many creationist Christians probably would not let the mocking laughter of unbelievers bother them that much. But due to a number of factors, half my mind lives in a world influenced by the Enlightenment and the other half in a world shaped by the Christian faith.
Because of that I find myself unable to completely reject evolution even as I recognize that any objective reading of the first chapter of Genesis allows no room for evolution or the big bang or a universe that is billions of years old.
Listening to some people, one would think the theory of evolution was every bit a threat to Christianity as the ideas of the ancient arch-heretics Marcion and Arius. Marcion rejected the Old Testament and viewed Christ as a spiritual being only, while Arius rejected the doctrine of father and son as equal and eternal.
But whereas their ideas directly challenged Christian orthodoxy, evolution does not seem to pose much of a threat in comparison. All evolution does is try to understand how life came to be by using reason to comprehend evidence from the natural world.
Rational mind, natural world
Both the rational mind and the natural world derive from God. Therefore, when a rational interpretation of evidence from the natural world as to how life developed seems to contradict a literal reading of Genesis, there is no reason to reject the interpretation out of hand. Nor is there any reason to torturously interpret evidence so that it will conform to a literal reading of the Bible’s account of creation. What the evidence most strongly implies can be accepted as it is.
But that still leaves the problem of reconciling biblical revelation and the evidence from the natural world when the two seem to contradict each other. One way to do so is to read the Bible’s account of creation as myth. Myth seeks to explain why things are the way they are through story; exact details are often not as important if they do not contribute to the main point the myth is trying to make. Reading the early chapters of Genesis as myth would allow one to retain all the benefits of a literal reading without having to discount or distort what can be learned about the natural world through scientific inquiry.
Admittedly there are problems with such an approach, such as how does one draw the line between what can be regarded as myth and what should be considered literal history. But it does offer the chance to reconcile seeming contradictions between what is revealed in God’s Word and God’s creation.
Jamie Wilson of Decatur, a recent graduate of Beeson Divinity School at Samford University in Birmingham, is one of several local ministers writing religion columns for The Daily. For more information, call Melanie Smith at 340-2468.