Accepting Genesis 1 as scientific truth
Mon, 17 May 1999 03:48:26 EDT

Vernon (and I am writing this also for Kurt Streutker and John Neal who also
share your assumptions)

You have mentioned at least three times the necessity of a Christian to
accept the literal truth of Genesis 1:

"It [the theory of evolution] has progressively undermined
the word of God - specifically, in challenging the literal truth of the
early chapters of Genesis….

The data available to us is surely capable of a different interpretation -
one that is more in keeping with the literal requirements of Genesis 1.

This matter alone [birds created before land animals], I suggest, presents
the TE with a real problem. Believing God to be sovereign in respect of an
evolutionary creation, how - logically -is he able to question a statement
(that could only have come from God!) regarding the order in which the
created forms appeared? 3(b) Believing the Genesis sequence to be correct,
this suggests that an evolutionary reading of the fossil data is incorrect."

You are asking, how can a TE believe in evolution and at the same time claim
to be submitting to the Bible?

First of all, though a TE, I do not question the basic interpretation of Gen
1 which you have mentioned. Further, I disavow the usual renditions of
day-age concordism, which in my opinion distort the biblical data as much as
creation science distorts the scientific data. You can see my rejection of
concordism in "The First Four Days of Genesis in Concordist Theory and in
Biblical Context," Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, 49:2 (June,
1997) 85-95

What I do question is your assumption that Gen 1 is intended to teach us HOW
God created the world, rather than, to put it basically, WHO created the
world. I see in Gen 1 several revelations, which stand out in sharp contrast
with the Ancient Near Eastern theologies of the time and especially
Babylonian theology. Namely, (1) the monotheism (2) the demythologization of
the natural forces (3) the concern for the welfare of man. But, I also see
that the basic scientific picture in which this revelation is embedded is the
science of the times.

There are, I believe, two basic reasons why people think Gen 1 is a
revelation of science. One, they are ill-acquainted with the ancient Near
Eastern literature and background which is the historical context of the
chapter and hence interpret the chapter out of context, and, two, human
reason wants the Bible to be scientifically inerrant, rather than being what
God gave, an accommodation to the science of the times in order to
communicate his theological message to the people of that time.

If "conservative Bible-believers" were consistent about accepting the science
in Gen 1 as a revelation from God, they would affirm that the sky is
rock-solid. That is the historical-grammatical meaning of the Hebrew word
rightly translated in the KJV "firmament." I have documented this in my
paper on the meaning of the firmament and the water above, in the Westminster
Theological Journal vol 53 (1991) 227-240 and 54 (1992) 31-46. These papers
are also on the web at and

But, all of the "conservative Bible-believers" that I have met always reject
this historical-grammatical meaning of "firmament" and twist the meaning into
"space" or "atmosphere" in order to make the Bible conform to modern science.
They do the same thing with the "water above the firmament" twisting it into
meaning "clouds" or "a canopy of water below the firmament." (I might mention
that both the solid sky and the ocean above it made perfect sense to anyone
in the ancient Near East.) I venture to say that you also reject the literal
meaning of "firmament" and "the water above" in favor of an interpretation
that brings the Bible into line with your knowledge of modern science. If
so, you are not in much of a position to question TE's for doing this. But,
I am not seeking to be hard on you, rather to help you realize this issue is
much more complicated than Ken Ham and the like make it appear.

Best wishes,

Paul S., a servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Truth.