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Evolution, Theology

The Trouble With Genesis

Suppose there is a Higher Power. Let us ascribe maleness to this Higher Power and call him God only for convenience. Without knowing anything else about God, and with such things being unknowable, let us imagine that he spun the Universe into being; creating matter, energy, and all other necessities from seemingly nothing. Suppose he also authored the laws of physics, the mechanisms which drive biological evolution, and every other aspect of nature. In so doing he supplied time in abundance along with the progenitive “spark” of life.

We might say that after this point he tended it along like a garden or that his involvement was what we may call inessential. Suppose further that, after a time, God came along and surveyed the Earth. Perhaps, with foresight, or omniscience, or sheer benevolence, he then imparted some primate ancestor with the “spark” of humanity. This spark is what, in a sense, distinguishes humans from animals in an immaterial, numinous way. Let us call this the ambiguous spark of conscience.

That this is possible I can infer with little help. However, such a possibility in no way authenticates any notion or precept in the pages of Genesis. Does it belie Genesis and religious doctrine, though? Probably, yes. It could oppose it in relation to the specified days found within Genesis, though one needn’t a terribly imaginative mind to stretch that, only a non-rigid one. Still, is it fair to stretch “days” to mean just any convenient thing?

Adam and Eve provide one argument against the notion, and also present a number of other obstacles to any reading of Genesis. I cannot escape one Adam and one Eve whatever, nor that Eve was made from and for Adam. And while their unique creation could in some way explain the sexes in humans, of what import is that when the sexes also exist in Nature? That is to say, if sex can come about by evolutionary means, then it is unnecessary for God to create the sexes by his own hand. One is left with no choice but to attribute the act to God via the mechanism of evolution, but in this scenario his work seems negligible at best.

What of the specific genealogy found within the New Testament which traces Jesus’ lineage all the way back to Adam, the Son of God? Perhaps the 6 days of Creation can be inelegantly widened, but how does one tinker with such specificity without feeling guilty of having one’s cake and eating it? Adam’s descendants route directly to Jesus which means that, according to scripture, there was a specific individual from whom Jesus descended. Yet both the ancient timescale of the Universe and the working of evolution within it is indisputable. It could be that some things found within scripture are generally in error, the creation story being one of them. Such error does not, by itself, do away with God, but it does not help his case either. Scripture itself does appear to self-destruct under the weight of its own specificity, however: Moses (or whoever) certainly may have misrepresented the Creation account – but the gospel writers as well? And Jesus speaks highly of Moses and does not correct his apparently egregious mistake regarding the beginning of all things. If there was a time clear up the matter, as he apparently saw fit to do with some moral and legal matters, it was then.

Both of these worldviews cannot persist at the same time. The mountain of evidence from variation in creatures, evolution by natural selection, the immensity of time, and vastness of space which formed our universe all point to the same thing: a massive cosmos whose every known feature clashes magnificently with its depiction in Genesis. And we cannot simply excise Genesis, for its connection with the New Testament, and with its key figure, Jesus, is inextricably bound. Scripture’s failure to address this mass of evidence is perhaps more troubling still. The only way to harmonize scripture is to unseal canon and habitually modify its content until it no longer trips over itself or the discoveries of science.

Maybe we can resort to tricks and desperate remedies to reconcile such things, but following the evidence wherever it leads persistently favors one view and always at the expense of the other.

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4 thoughts on “The Trouble With Genesis

  1. Pingback: The Moon Glows With or Without God | Bridgewater Society

  2. Pingback: Purpose Within Our Universe | Bridgewater Society

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