Theologians stick to your trade

January 14, 2013 § 4 Comments

In the creation vs evolution debate participants do not stick to their trade. This has very nasty consequences for the credibility of the Christian faith. Creationists think that one way or another Genesis 1 forms a blueprint for the actual events of creation. They make two serious mistakes. The first one is that of taking Genesis 1 literally. Who reads a texts needs to do justice to it. This starts at the very least by looking at genre, audience, and the authorial intention. The creation story in Genesis is quite probably intended by the author as an explanation for the existence and calling of Israel (away from the garden > back to the garden/promised land). To read Genesis 1 as a scientific text about the origin of the universe is in a strange way an ‘evangelical’ variation on treating the Bible with contempt. One wants to take the Bible seriously but ends up making a laughing stock of it by letting it act as a dummy on the lap of the ventriloquist (i.e. the creationist theologian).

The second mistake is that the insights gleaned from this disastrous reading of the text are then used as a framework for the interpretation of scientific data from geology and archeology. Wrong assumptions are exacerbated by a faulty method. Who really wants to do scientific research, will try to let the data speak for themselves, try to follow the trail wherever it may lead, whatever the conclusion. But in the case of creationism the result is a forgone conclusion (because God’s Word ‘teaches’ this or that). The scientific data are thus uninvited guests on a private theological party for which beds are quickly made ready in utter embarrassment. There is no genuine interest in making scientific discoveries but rather an attempt to keep the chasm between science and theology manageable.

Of course, scientists who promote evolution are not without guilt either. The comical arrogance with which some of them assert, with grave earnestness, that science ‘proves’ that God doesn’t exist, is a equally grave over-reliance on their own ability and that of the data they interpret.

Theologians really should stop playing scientist (‘scientific proof for a 6 day creation!’) and scientists need to tone down their rhetoric (‘we don’t need a god anymore’). If both camps simply stick to the interpretation of their own data (the Bible for the theologian and scientific data for the scientist) we already get a collection of ideas that defies the imagination. Theologian stick to your trade! That is really important if the Christian faith wants to remain relevant in the 21st century.

 

(Originally published as a column in Dutch)

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