Reconciling Genesis with Science A mere few topics have created as much tension and discord between Bible believing Christians and our science-saturated culture than the Genesis creation and human origins stories. How many of the brightest among our youth have jettisoned their faith because of a strong literalist approach to Genesis chapter 1-3? To what degree have these arguments contributed to the marginalization of the church within our culture?
The two sides seem irreconcilable. Jesus and Paul and all the prophets speak undeniably of a literal 6-day creation event. How can Christians even consider other interpretations. And Scientists speak just as convincingly of perspectives completely at odds with a literal 6-day event. The impasse seems irreconcilable.
But it need not be so.
An illustration might be helpful. Everyone, even the most brilliant of astronomers, speaks of sunrise and sunset. But we know that literally no such thing as sunset and sunrise happens. It takes considerable mental gymnastics to go from this simple universally understood language to the undisputable facts of the earth’s rotation on its axis and the planet’s revolution around the sun. There is the universally accepted story of sunrise and sunset and there is the backstory of rotation and revolution. On the surface they seem at odds with each other but anyone who looks a little deeper, finds that the two harmonize beautifully at every point.
The same scenario is at play in the Genesis creation story. The Bible was written for ordinary people. Every unschooled sheepherder and red-neck soldier as well as pre-science rabbi needed answers to the questions that haunt our existence. “Where did we come from? What is the meaning of life? What is wrong with our world, with me? Is there hope for our human dilemma? etc.” A simplified sunrise / sunset type story was needed to answer these questions for the widest of spectrums of humanity. The Genesis 1-3 stories provided such an easy-to-understand version.
But just as in the sunrise / sunset story we can easily envision a backstory for the simplified creation and origins stories of Genesis. Any thinking person can easily envision the literal reality of a much more complex unabridged creation story. After all, how could three short chapters possibly capture the seemingly infinite complexity of the creation process and the beginnings of human history with its endless layers. The Genesis “Reader’s Digest version” has become the norm for everyday communication. Jesus and all the prophets used this language. But does Jesus know the unabridged backstory? Of course He does, after all He is the Creator of all.
But just as in the sunrise / sunset story scenario, the simplified Genesis story will harmonize beautifully with the infinitely convoluted backstory – when all the facts are in.
Science has taken upon itself the challenge of unravelling that creation backstory. They are using the tools with which God has endowed humankind: reason, observation, the scientific method etc. They have accepted the challenge of Proverbs 25:2, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” All power to them. We as Christians need to release them with our blessing to pursue that backstory. We can all rest assured that once the facts are all in, the resulting backstory will not contradict “the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen (Matt 5:18)” of the condensed version that has served humanity so well for so many millennia (and will continue to do so until He returns).
Every true scientist knows that much of the science of origins continues to operate with theory and conjecture. Very few facts have as yet become concrete for the final connecting of the dots that will eventually complete the picture. But in practise, under the pressure of the controversy with literal creationists many of the theories have solidified into certainties. As a result even the scientific community has not been able to hold its theories loosely so as to enable open mindedness as they seek to unravel more of the mysteries of that backstory.
Bible believing believers need to step back from the debate, allowing the scientific community to slug it out amongst themselves without the threat of losing face. We need to rest with confidence knowing that when all the facts are in (possibly not before eternity), then that backstory will most certainly harmonize at every point with the “Readers Digest version” we find in Genesis 1-3. To be sure, Christian scientists should be encouraged to scour the condensed Reader’s Digest version for clues that might just help them set direction for their research. If others wish to pursue answers blindfolded, so to speak, then we just might need to let them be, without being judgemental. After all in most other human enterprises most pursue success blindfolded as well.