Thursday, November 30, 2006

But is it true?

"Is it true that God created the world in six days?"

That was the question rather bluntly put to me the other night at the Intelligent Design meeting. They asked me whether I believed that Genesis 1 was true. I said, of course (because I believe the whole bible to be God's true and inerrant word), but not in the sense of modern historical or scientific textbooks. Rather more in the sense that a poem is true. In fact, I tried to tell them, sometimes a poem is more deeply true than any forensic description of "the facts". But they didn't buy it. Truth, pointed out the young pastor, according to St Thomas Aquinas and to Aristotle before him, is defined of "That which IS the case". So then the question: "Do you think it is true that God created the world in six days?" Is it the case that God created the world in six days or not?

Well, they had me in a corner, because I wanted to say that Genesis 1 was true, but not true in such a way that I could say (historically and scientifically speaking) that the world came into being in 6 days.

Now, today, it came to me in a flash. What is Genesis 1 (and Genesis 2-Revelation 22, for that matter) about? Is it about what "was"? Or what "is"? If that which is true is THAT WHICH IS, then indeed the whole bible, all its stories, all its poems, yes, evening its histories, ARE TRUE, because they tell us the way that things ARE. The story in Genesis 1 (and, for that matter, the whole book of Revelation which is a different but related topic) are not about what WAS (or, in Revs case, what WILL BE) but what IS, right now. It is more true to say that the world IS created in six days than to say that it WAS created in six days. That is what the rhythm of the week is about. Even more, that is the meaning of the week in the light of Christ's resurrection. The new creation is a seven day (actually, an eight-day--and again there are links with Revelation) creation. We are living in the present Creation. There is no past or future to God, but in him everything IS. He is the Great I AM. He is the "Right Now". He is "The case as it is now".

Do you get it? Yes, Genesis 1 (and especially 2-3) is TRUE because it speaks truly about the CASE AS IT IS right now. And that is more true than getting hung up about how it happened billions (or 6000) years ago.

3 Comments:

At Thursday, December 07, 2006 3:00:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

David,

When dealing with this particular issue, nuances with the Hebrew word translated as "day" are always helpful to show the poetic form.

2 Peter 3:8 — ‘one day is like a thousand years’

"[A]t least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar" (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis, 5:2).

"What kind of days these were is extremely difficult or perhaps impossible for us to conceive" (The City of God 11:6)

For a descent summary, see: http://www.catholic.com/library/Creation_and_Genesis.asp

Inquisitive Brain
inquisitive.brain@gmail.com

 
At Thursday, December 07, 2006 3:02:00 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Addendum: The above quotations are from Augustine of Hippo.

Inq Brain

 
At Friday, December 08, 2006 10:36:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I like to say that I take the scriptures "literally", ie. in the literal sense that the writer wrote it (we'll leave aside reader response theory at this point). I don't think the poet of Genesis One was playing games with the notion of "day"--after all, he says "there was evening and morning, the xth day" which would seem to indicate he intended 1) a 24 hour day, 2) he was mirroring the Hebrew view of the day, which started and ended at sunset rather than at midnight.

[Interestingly, there is a nice touch in one of the writings of Eugene Peterson, a US presbyterian writer on spirituality, who points out that the day is half over by dawn. God has been busy while we were asleep, and we get to join him when we wake up.]

Only those who want to take the Genesis account in a sort of scientific/historical sense would find the need to alter the sense of "day"--but I think to do so does violence to the text. I didn't know that the coupling of Genesis 1 "days" with 2 Peter 3:8 was as ancient as St Augustine. I don't feel obliged to concur with the saint on this score.

 

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