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On Christian Desperation and Literal Truth

January 17th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Fundamental/Evangelical

My sister and I were talking about the formation of the world today. About all the unknowns. When was the ice age? Was there a canopy that covered the world? How old is the earth? Were there a lot of local floods, or one big flood?

And then we got to talking about the science we learned as kids. The earth was created in 7 days, we were told. Then a flood came and ruined the canopy, and flooded the entire world. This was how the Grand Canyon was formed in just a few weeks. With the canopy gone, the dinosaurs slowly died away, but I grew up believing some dinosaurs still survive in the jungles today.

And then I thought about the unknowns, the unknowns that come from our own Bible. There is no way that Noah could have known if his flood was local or global, but according to so many conservative Christians, it matters a good deal whether the flood was global or local. huh?

Why are Christians so desperate to fit the world into a 7 day creation, global flood, 6000-10,000 year old earth theory where we all originated from one man and one woman and dinosaurs roamed beside man? I am not making a statement about who has the truth about the earth’s origination, but merely asking why is there a desperation in conservative Christianity to prove that the creation account was literal?

If the creation account is a metaphor, why would it matter?

Lets take it a step further, if someone proved that the Bible had an error, why does it matter?

Ultimately, many Christians are desperate to cling to a literal interpretation where if the Bible says Adam ate an apple, then Adam ate an apple.  The problem is, no one is a pure literalist as demonstrated by this diagram that Libby Anne posted.

selective-literalism

I re-posted Libby’s post on my facebook, and I think most of my friends missed the point. They merely saw this as an atheist picking fun at Christianity. But yet, its true for Christians. Most people don’t believe a lamb died on a cross, or that Satan is literally a dragon. But make 1 day mean 1000 years in Genesis, and I was told our faith falls apart.

The difference between an Catholic thinker and evangelical thinker is the Catholic thinker is okay with some mystery and some symbols. The evangelical builds their faith upon literalism.

This once again reminds me of Buddhism. Buddhism is not built on knowledge but on mystery. What makes you religious is not what you know, but your involvement and participation in the festivals and rites.

I am not for following a faith blindly, but we are bound to the physical world. If our soul is on but a journey, there is no way for us to see and know it all with merely six senses.

Do you see a desperation in evangelical Christianity to be literal and prove the inerrant the Word of God? For those of you who have experience in Catholicism or orthodoxy or other religions, how does mystery verses knowledge play out in your religion?

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20 Responses

  • Tricia says:

    You bring up some important things that are worth discussing.
    I think the opinion is, that if we can’t trust the word of God to be literal and inerrant in all parts, then we can’t trust any of it, since we don’t know what is true and literal and what isn’t.
    And that makes sense to me. I don’t want to stake my life here and in eternity on something that is part true, part false. But the error in the evangelical world is to see everything that goes against what the Bible literally says, and seek to destroy it as an enemy instead of thinking through it.
    I used to go along with the literal creation story, but to me, trying to take a hard line stance on science, that I am not at all an expert in, is silly. I’m not taking sides at all right now, although it is worth investigating all the inconsistencies in evolutionary theory in order to understand that science doesn’t have all the answers either. It’s OK to not know everything, but I think most evangelicals don’t get that. Maybe because of the constant feeling of being ridiculed by our beliefs, whether by the media, modern science, or whatever establishment.
    There is an organization called Reason to Believe that has a different take on explaining the science and the Bible that you might be interested in.

  • I really like this post, Lana. I go to a baptist church and we’re about to start a series about the truth of Genesis. Now, I like you, don’t believe Genesis means 7 literal 24 hour days-that’s putting God in a box, and quite frankly I don’t think he belongs in one. As humans we cannot begin to fathom or comprehend how God does what he does or why he did/does it. Last time humans tried to do that it got them in some trouble, Garden of Eden anyone? Personally I think God leaves us in the dark on some things because it’s a testament to our faith to be OK with not knowing the answers to everything. What we do know, and what matters most, is that we have a living and loving God who walks with us daily. Who died for us. Who wants us to love everyone. Who pours strength into us when we think we can’t. Keep up the good posts-I always like a good discussion!

    • Lana says:

      This.This so much. We don’t always have all the answers.

      • Jo says:

        I couldn’t agree more with Seth. The past year+ have been a real rollercoaster for me as God stepped out of the box I’d put him in even more. It’ll be interesting to see what more passing of time brings.

        Living in the shades of gray can be scary, but things simply aren’t as cut and dried as people in traditional christianity often make it out to be. And I think the reason God didn’t make the Bible absolutely 100% understandable is because then it would be easy to worship the Bible over God. It is easier to say “the Bible says” rather than “this is what God is telling me.” But people would rather have their formulas, which is why they insist on making the Bible an absolute.

        No, God is the absolute. The Bible is just ONE of his means of communicating with his children.

        • Lana says:

          Funny Jo, I was just talking to my mom about this. I went to a Vineyard church for a while that believes God speaks through prayer, prophets, the Bible, dreams, etc. it was a relief to move away from sola scriptural. But sometimes I like the grounding of the Baptist church. A charismatic friend emailed me last night asking if I “heard from God” about what ministry I will work with. Everything becomes a sign for them. Many other Christian ministries let the mission place you according to the needs and your giftedness. In a way this is easier. I am making no statement on the right approach. There is another way I live anyway.

          • Jo says:

            It is interesting, but I was thinking about how in the OT God spoke through signs, prophets, etc. In the NT Jesus used scripture, but he also did a lot of “you have heard, but I say…” in regards to scripture.

            I do believe it is all profitable, as that passage says (and they were only referring to the OT if you think about it), but it isn’t the only way God speaks to people. Nowhere did he say “this is my final word on this, from this day forth this is the only way I will speak to you.”

            Stepping out and listening to God for ourselves takes faith and courage. Some people would rather hide behind tradition, but I think that stagnates our growth as children of God.

          • Lana says:

            Jo, yes, that’s why I rejected sola scriptura. But I’m also tired of people claiming to get words from God. It gets old when I know it’s generally emotional responses. I am reading the Duggars book right now. Mr. Duggar claims to have tossed a penny in asking God to run for president. I tend to follow “peace.” If I don’t have a peace about something, I don’t usually do it.

            I should write a post on this. I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking this.

          • Jo says:

            Yeah, I agree with you on that. And generally when God speaks to me, it isn’t about something I need to go blabbing about to everyone, it is private, you know?

            I hate the “God told me” line when it is used to try to control other people. :P

          • Lana says:

            Lol that’s a good point

  • JW says:

    In the end I think you really have to go back to the original language of the bible and compare scripture with scripture to understand what passage really means. The English language is poor in conveying some ideas whereas Spanish can tell a story much better and much deeper with its vocabulary and so it is with Greek and Hebrew. Today we tend to rely on mere emotions to decided what is truth and what is false.

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  • I think there is a desperation, yes, and I agree with the first comment – the argument is that if it isn’t *all* true, then what basis do we have for deciding which bits *are* true? That was what I grew up believing.

    I still have some sympathy for that view. I can’t accept it myself, because it’s just clear to me that the Bible isn’t inerrant. But when I couldn’t see the Bible as the Word of God anymore, I lost faith, because that had always been the foundation.

    Interestingly, even the literalists aren’t really literal. The “waters above the heavens” refer to an ancient view that the sky was a dome, with water above it. Nobody believes that anymore. There are lots of verses to support the idea that the earth is flat, and that the sun goes around the earth (hence the church’s persecution of Galileo), and nobody believes those either.

    • Lana says:

      I think my mother still believes that, lol. Its the explanation behind the flood. But I’m glad to know that people are rejecting that theory.

      I can completely understand how your faith altogether. We were taught that if the Bible has errors, it has no truth. It was an either/or that I don’t see anymore.

  • Tracey says:

    I am in sciences and I agree with the current scientific minds on evolution. To me, the best thing about science is that it is constantly re-examining itself. The more evidence we gain, the better our understanding becomes. Religion can tend to be very static. I think people assume that once God says something he sticks to that forever. The bible has so many messages that change over the years though. A big example would be the sin offerings that went by the wayside after Jesus died. We should be expecting to hear new things and find more wisdom as time goes on. We did after all, reject slavery without bible verses directly telling us. (and there are even a few verses that suggest slavery is fine) Our beliefs should ‘evolve’ too. Maybe science is a gift from God to help us broaden our understanding of our world and ourselves.

  • Nikko says:

    Hi, I’m not Christian at all. I don’t believe in god or the bible however I am glad to see there are Christians out there that try to mix both faith and science. See my theory is the bible was written by man to explain things he didnt u sees tabs at the time. It’s the best they could come up with. I believe it’s wrought based on truth like the flood etc. but I don’t think it was a godly event. Just a natural local flood that Noah didnt understand. Hope this makes sense. Have a peaceful day.




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