We are up to video #3 in our new introductory series “BioLogos Basics.” The topic for this one is the Bible. When Christians first encounter the view of evolutionary creation, they often respond with questions about how this fits with a plain reading of the Bible’s account of creation. We try to show that our plain reading of Scripture today encounters interpretive difficulties, and that when understood in its proper cultural context, the Bible doesn’t contradict what we’ve discovered about the world through science. Of course a short video can only skim the surface of this topic, and we encourage you to check out the more in-depth resources in “Next Steps” section below.
Script: Jim Stump and Andrew DeSelm
Video production: Andrew DeSelm
Narration: Cristian Mihut
Next steps for exploring this topic:
- In our Common Questions, there is a section on Scripture Interpretation which gives answers to questions about interpreting Genesis and the Bible in general.
- In this video, NT Wright answers the question, “What do you mean by literal?”
- John Walton’s series Genesis Through Ancient Eyes is the audio of a talk on Genesis 1-3 with PowerPoint slides.
- We have a couple of series about the history of interpreting Genesis: Sujin Pak, professor at Duke Divinity School discusses Pre-Modern Readings of Genesis 1, and John Dickson, the director of the Centre for Public Christianity in Australia, gives a series called The Genesis of Everything.
- Ted Davis’s significant series “Science and the Bible” is a comprehensive overview of the various positions taken by Christians.
Doesn’t evolutionary creation contradict a plain reading of the Bible? Well, that depends on whose plain reading you mean. If we just open the Bible and read plainly for 21st century Americans, we find lots of passages that contradict our beliefs and practice today: like the earth being set on pillars and the command not to wear clothing with two kinds of fabric. And even in the New Testament we reinterpret the plain readings of passages like the mustard seed being the smallest seed on earth and the frequent command to greet each other with a kiss.
The Bible is a collection of sixty-six different books, written across a span of more than 1000 years by lots of different people in many different cultural settings. So understanding the meaning of the text is more complex than opening the latest English translation and reading the words.
There are clues in the Genesis creation accounts of a more profound message than we get from a plain reading. For example, notice the symmetrical way in which the text depicts the creation of spaces on the first three days and then populates those spaces on the next three days. These parallels suggest a stylistic rendering, rather than a direct journalistic reporting of facts. Notice too that there was day and night for three days before the sun was even created on day four.
And a straightforward reading of the sequence of creation in Genesis 1 and 2 doesn’t correspond. Instead we need to look for something more profound.
A lot of scholarly work has been done to understand the ancient Near Eastern context of Genesis. This leads us at BioLogos to believe that God didn’t use Scripture to reveal scientific truths. We think a serious and faithful reading of the Bible doesn’t even address the science of evolution. Neither does it address photosynthesis, general relativity, or DNA. We won’t learn about such things through more careful exegesis of Scripture.
What we do learn from scripture is that there is only one Creator and that there’s a clear distinction between God and the created world. And that we who are created in the image of God are able to investigate a creation that is remarkably tuned for our discovery. When we look carefully and systematically there, we find amazing evidence for how God brought about the diversity of life on earth.