Evangelicals & Genesis 1

James Jordan, in his book Creation in Six Days, made an interesting observation regarding the way Genesis 1 is read.  He noted that liberals and unbelievers have never had a problem seeing that six 24-hour days are intended in the text.

Furthermore, the traditionally orthodox – including conservative Lutherans, Orthodox Jews, conservative Calvinists, and Christians fundamentalists – have never seen the need to read it any other way. 

So, as Jordan notes, the historic Church and historic Judaism, conservative Christians, and unbelievers have all agreed on the literal reading of Genesis 1.  This leaves only one group to question the literal reading of Genesis 1; only one group that sees the need to challenge 24-hour days – some modern evangelicals.

But, why?  Jordan doesn’t get into assigning motives unduly and I have no interest in that either.  But, we should want to know why one particular group feels the need to somewhat suddenly question the literal historical reading.  Jordan suggests, and I agree, that this cannot be attributed to any other source than the influence of modern science.

Granted, some of the early Church fathers questioned the literal reading for philosophical reasons, but none of them did so because they felt pressured to give in to scientific claims. 

Because all articles must end somewhere, I would like to leave it with questions.  Are the evangelicals who question the literal reading of Genesis doing so from a proper method of biblical interpretation?  In other words, is it safe and wise to attempt a re-reading of the Bible simply because of claims from modern science?  When this takes place, what is the real source of authority?

For those interested: Jordan, James.  Creation in Six Days.  Canon Press: Moscow, ID, 1999.

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2 thoughts on “Evangelicals & Genesis 1

  1. What about modern Catholics? Let’s not forget about them.

    I have found that it is common to invoke traditional interpretation when debating the meaning of Genesis 1, but I am not so sure that it has much weight in this instance. There was no reason to take a second look at this passage of scripture and to question whether or not it was literal until, as you mentioned in your post, science brought up questions about the age of the earth and the common origin of all life.

    Is it safe and wise to reread the Bible based on the claims of science? I would say that one ought to be very cautious, but sometimes science can and ought to give us cause to reconsider our interpretations. Can you honestly say that we would have ever interpreted the Bible figuratively when it speaks about the shape of the earth or its position in the universe if we didn’t have the claims of science that the earth is an orb rotating around the sun? It seems plain to me that we have allowed science to correct a faulty understanding of scripture in these areas.

  2. Thomas,
    Thanks for your comment.
    I agree that there may be times when science helps make something clearer, such as the shape of the earth. However, I’m not sure we should take the references to the “four corners” to be a reference to the shape of the earth, but rather to all directions. In other words, I don’t think Scripture would contradict sound science and I don’t think sound science would end up contradicting Scripture.
    The problem I was referencing is when one rejects the clear meaning of Scripture in favor of a contradictory interpretation simply because some scientists came to a different conclusion; something I fear is being done with some of the modern interpretations of Genesis in particular.

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