Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Big hurdles: The Adam and Eve story

Ever since I actually opened my mind to Christianity (rather than just vociferously describing myself as "open-minded," which I used to do all the time) I've found acceptable answers to some major hurdles to faith. Hopefully this post will be the first of many on this subject.

What about all that Adam and Eve stuff? No reasonable person could believe that's literally true, therefore the rest of the Bible must be suspect as well.

This was a big one for me. Especially when you approach the topic with a cynical, bitchy attitude it's easy to write this off as a bunch of silly stories. But when you calm down and actually open your mind and think, "ok, is there any way this could be true and/or be the inspired word of God?" a funny thing happens: it starts to seem plausible.

Do I literally think that two people named Adam and Eve were hanging out with God and talking snakes in a place called the Garden of Eden? Not exactly. But I think it could be true in a sense. For example:

When my son is four years old and starts asking questions like where babies come from I'm not going to open up a copy of Hustler and give him all the graphic details. I'm going to tell him something that's based in truth, but more appropriate and palatable to his four-year-old mind. I'll probably say something like, "When two people love each other very much a baby is formed, and it grows in Mommy's tummy" or something like that.

Is it the literal, scientific truth? Not really. But it answers his question sufficiently without overwhelming him or telling him things he's not ready to hear. I have a lot of nuanced reasons for not explaining sex in all its complexity to him, though his limited intellect couldn't understand that. He should just trust me that I know what I'm doing and will reveal information about the world to him as is appropriate.

Let's say for the sake of argument that there is a God and that a few thousand years ago he decided to hand down an inspired text to people to explain life and how they should worship him, one that would be accessible to people of all intellects, at any place and time on earth. Would it have made sense for him to start off with, "When I first created the universe it consisted mostly of photons and other massless particles like neutrinos…"? No. Just like I wouldn't answer my four-year-old's question about where babies come from with a complicated discourse on humans sexual mores, it's plausible that God told people the truth, but just framed it in a way that made it more palatable to them and the times they lived in.


At September 14, 2005 2:10 PM, Anonymous Steve G. said...

This is extremely astute. It's so important when reading the bible to understand that there are many different literary types, written over thousands of years, by different authors, in different cultural contexts. Some are history, some poetry, some biography, some allegory, but ALL true.

The essentials that God created the Universe, and formed man/woman in his own image, and that at some point those first parents rejected God is not stifled by the fact that its told in the form of a beautiful story which leaves those essentials intact.

Whether that story took place over 7 literal days or 7 billion years, or the formation of man took one second, or millions of years of evolution allegorically represented as nearly instantaneous, the fundamental truth is not lost.

When you are ready for it, I'd suggest that if you want to truly plumb the depths of the meaning of the creation story in Genesis, you get a copy of Christopher West's talks on John Paul II's Theology of the Body. It is absolutely mind blowing!...

Theology of the Body-from the Gift Foundation

...and will shed more light on the nature of the Trinity, the incarnation, and the meaning of marriage and family than anything else you will read or hear!

At September 15, 2005 2:10 AM, Anonymous Julie said...

I've been lurking for a week or two now... And I must say that I truly believe that the book of Genesis is FACT. Completely. Please check out this website:

Though I have always believed in Genesis, I still had some unanswered questions... Until I saw a DVD series from them. Please, check them out.

I hope you find the answers you are looking for.


At September 16, 2005 11:35 AM, Anonymous Steve G. said...

I agree that Genesis is factual. But factual is not the same as literal. Genesis can not be literal history as the person who wrote Genesis was not actually present at creation to observe what occurred.

I have no problem with believing that God either directly created man from the dust (as creator of the universe, he certainly could have), or that He used an evolutionary process to create man, and that this entire process is summarized in a few sentences that say God formed man from the dust of the ground. That statement is factual under both understandings.

From the factual evidence available to us, it appears more likely that it's the latter that is what occurred.

At September 16, 2005 11:05 PM, Anonymous Julie said...


But the Bible says that man was formed in one day. Why should a one day mean one day in the rest of the Bible, but not mean one day in Genesis.

I believe it's literal and factual.

Just my honest opinion.

At September 17, 2005 9:12 PM, Anonymous Steve G. said...

Because the bible was not written as one book as you now possess it. It is many books written over nearly 1000 years by different authors from different cultures and different points in history. Some are undoubtedly literal history, some are poetry, some are biography, some are none of the above. They all serve the purpose of communicating God's inerrant word to us, but using various literary types.

You are begging the question in assuming that since 1 day is always one day elsewhere (which is actually incorrect-see below), it must be so here. What if this is the only place where that's not true, because it's the only place that it makes sense that it's not true.

This is the danger in the individual beleiver picking up the scriptures devoid of an understanding of the cultural context, the historical context, the source languages, etc. and trying to determine which things are literal and which are not. We need guidance in such things. You tacitly admit that by passing along a reference to a site you trust to help you do that. In doing so, you admit that you aren't qualified to handle such issues on your own. That's fine, I admit that I am not able to either. But why do you trust that source you passed along to interpret scripture for you?

Specifically, with regard to 1 day being 1 day, it's true from the human perspective, but the bible tells us it's not so from God's perspective, 2 Peter 3: says...

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

...Since Moses wasn't present at the actual creation, and the account is CLEARLY from God's perspective, It's not much of a stretch to think that in this particular case, that indeed 1 day does represent much more than just 1 day.

God Bless

At August 31, 2009 8:31 PM, Blogger V said...

I really like the insight in this post. As I read the bible from front to back, I see the development of a greater maturity in mankind's relationship with God.
First we are snivilng toddlers, begging for food in the desert, we are told what NOT to do. How not to be bad. Later we are told how to be good, what TO DO, via Christ. The relationship gets alot more mature overtime. =)

At May 18, 2010 11:21 AM, Blogger Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

There is a difference:

Explaining sex to a four year old would endanger innocence when he grew up towards puberty.

Calling a billion years a billion years would not.

Also: Genesis was not just a revealed text, it was also Hebrew tradition, linking Adam to the start of Egyptian exile. At what point would fact and gentle fiction meet?

Moreover: auditors of Genesis were by no means innocent four year olds - read about Sodom and Onan.


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