Apologetics, Genesis, and C.S. Lewis

Sun, 22 Nov 1998 23:14:39 EST

Let me jump in on the historicity of Genesis question. What bothers me with
the "strong historical" approach, aside from the empirical evidence that no
two 'pro-factuality' supporters seem to agree on what the 'obvious' factual
meaning should be, is that it all seems to hinge on our current late 20th
century knowledge. If a reason for trusting Scripture is that our current
knowledge matches the testable "predictions" of, say, Genesis, then doesn't
that mean that a person prior to us (with her different scientific or pre-
scientific knowledge) would have been perfectly justified in rejecting
Scripture because it was falsified by the best science she had?

If not, I see two alternatives:
1) She had "scientific" support in her day, but which we know to be incorrect.
But then aren't we saying that she was right to accept Scripture, but for
completely wrong reasons? I doubt many of us would find this acceptable.

2) Maybe she didn't have enough scientific info to falsify or verify
Scripture, so her paleo-ASA colleagues urged her to simply wait a millenium or
two and she would get her answer. In principle this may work but it hardly
seems satisfactory. (Try it on the next journal editor who rejects one of
your papers and see how far you get!)

So doesn't it make sense that parts of Scripture (especially the earliest
parts of God's progressive revelation) would be in a form that would not be
subject to the alternating visions of science as the latter developed through
various revolutions. (One need not be a full-blown radical Kuhnian to
acknowledge Kuhn's key insight of the nonlinear development of science.) As
Holmes Rolston put it with respect to Genesis 1-3, it "...is both once upon a
time, and once upon all times, aboriginal and perennial".

In what is perhaps the least cited of all C.S. Lewis's popular books,
Reflections on the Psalms, he has a wonderfully insightful chapter on the
development of Scripture in general. He distances himself from those who
insist on historical and scientific factuality by using an analogy with the
part of the Quicunque Vult (Athanasian Creed) which affirms the Incarnation:
"I have therefore no difficulty in accepting, say, the view of those scholars
who tell us that the account of Creation in Genesis is derived from earlier
Semitic stories which were Pagan and mythical [p.110]...For we are taught that
the Incarnation itself proceeded "not by the conversion of the godhead into
flesh, but by taking of (the) manhood into God"; in it human life becomes the
vehicle of Divine life. If the Scriptures proceed not by conversion of God's
word into a literature but by taking up of a literature to be the vehicle of
God's word, this is not anomalous [p.116]"

There are a number of conflicting "facts" in the Bible (e.g. the time of day
of Jesus' death), yet the early Church in assembling the canon knew this and
included the texts -- warts and all. Perhaps (like Lewis) we should learn
from them.


Karl V. Evans