How should we look at the creation account?

Monday Musings for February 18, 2019

Good morning, Musers,

Today I bring you a study in patience — mine with God! But the more I look at it, perhaps it’s his with me. This depends on one’s viewpoint, of course… because viewpoint is everything… as we learn from the law of relativity.

Einstein showed us that, although everyone’s time feels as if it’s passing normally (and it is passing normally within each of our systems), it passes differently for people traveling at different velocities. The problem is that we only notice this when we measure one entity against another — and since only scientists can do that at the scales required, let’s move back to the topic of patience.

I’ve been playing with different ideas about creation for nearly fifty years, and I can’t think of a theory that I haven’t tried on for size. I’ve been disappointed every time, too… but that’s because I want it all. I want creation to occur in six literal twenty-four hour days (because I think that’s the best interpretation of the biblical text)… and I want the earth to be 4.6 billion years old (because it is) — and today, I’m a happy man!

But how can this be? Aren’t those two notions mutually exclusive? Nope… and for he that hath an ear, I’ve got a story to tell… but I’ll have to let other people tell it so I don’t mess it up.

Dr. Gerald Schroeder is a nuclear physicist. But he is also an observant Jew who has deep knowledge of the Hebrew Scripture and its related Jewish commentaries. As such, he is a double threat: this MIT grad (Go Massachusetts!) is a credentialed expert in the physical sciences, but he is also deeply knowledgeable about what the Jews think of their own literature… and very few Christians can deliver such a one-two punch.

Schroeder draws on the Torah — with commentary from Maimonides, Nahmanides and Rashi — to show what Jewish scholars thought the sacred text meant before the discoveries of modern science — before the data was available to “pollute” biblical hermeneutics. But here’s the best part: in spite of having never heard of a dinosaur, these scholars understood the text as allowing for the physical finds in the fossil record as well as a 14 billion-year-old universe!

I find it interesting that Christians aren’t the only ones who tended to reject a billions-year-old old universe. Science rejected it too… but this is because it assumed the universe to be eternal. In fact, most scientists resisted the idea of a big bang until the data overwhelmed them in the second half of the 20th century!

What we had then was people on both sides of the argument fleeing the truth — not just for years — but for millennia… and Schroeder shows us what each side has been missing. I’m used to it being the young-earth biblical literalist who is defending the six twenty-four hour day interpretation of creation… not a scientist. But here I have a scientist doing it — and I’m beside myself with glee!

So, today’s big lesson is to be patient with what you feel to be the truth… because if something is not true, you will have no peace with it  — even after you accept it as the best current solution. But give yourself a break: if all truth is God’s truth, then it’s reasonable to hang in with his word no matter what you face. Just be open to making interpretive adjustments.

You see, whatever else Christianity is, it’s a thinking man’s game… and God expects Christians as well as scientists to change positions if the data calls for it — and we have done this in the past. Few Christians still insist that our solar system is geocentric, and no credible scientist still believes that the universe is steady state. So, since each side has changed positions in response to the data before, why not do it again?

God gave us a discoverable universe because he revealed himself in it (Romans 1:18-20). So, let’s not purposely skew his picture. Let’s keep drawing the best picture of God we can…. and let’s base that picture on our continually growing dataset… because the existence of God gets more reasonable by the hour.

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