Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why rigid creationism is inconsistent with Christianity

Rigid creationism, for me, is when a person so literally interprets the wording of scripture, especially the book of Genesis, as to feel compelled to deny the possibility that dinosaur fossils are tens or hundreds of millions of years old.  Such denial stands in the face of a great mass of rigorous research by intelligent, careful,  highly educated, and well-trained people.

This essay will discuss why I think such rigid creationism is inconsistent with Christianity.

Jesus, the founder of Christianity, lived in Israel at a time when Talmudic scholarship was becoming well-established.  For those who are not familiar, Talmudic Scholarship is a branch of thinking within Judaism that uses an extremely literal and legalistic interpretation of scripture.  Decisions interpreting scripture, within the Talmud, are made like decisions of a court of law.  

Jesus seems to have disagreed with this process.  He stated "Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered." Luke 11:51-53 (King James Version)  This passage does not refer to the practice of law in civil courts, but rather religious courts, because the context of the passage is in challenging religious authorities.  Therefore, he is confronting religious lawyers, telling them that their legalistic interpretation is wrong.

Jesus's confrontations with religious authorities of his time were defining aspects of his ministry.  They were what got him crucified.  We must not suppose that he said these things lightly.  These pronouncements are therefore to be taken very seriously -- really at the heart of his teachings -- by those claiming to be followers of Jesus.

Yet rigid creationists, while claiming to be Christians, are in fact doing precisely what Jesus preached against in Chapter 11 of Luke.  They are interpreting scripture so rigidly as to preclude the gathering of knowledge.

These same scriptural passages in the Old Testament, especially Genesis, can be interpreted more flexibly and metaphorically.  What was a day for God?  What was a day before light and dark were created?  What was the intent of the original story teller here, as opposed to those who came later and tried to make the story into law?  These words do not have to be interpreted as literally, legalistically true.

Not accepting the story of creation as literally true is not the same as rejecting the idea that God created the world or life.  God could have created life by creating evolution.  God's processes may be beyond our understanding, not describable in words.  Words might be a bit like an impressionistic painting, creating broad stroke impressions, without precision.

The brain, reason, the ability to gather knowledge -- these are God-given gifts.  Using the Bible as a mental trap to prevent their use is not Christian.  Using the Bible this way is being a rigid, religious lawyer: exactly what Jesus inveighed against.

These fundamentalists who claim that the Bible is contrary to evolution are in fact not Christians.  They should be denounced by anyone who really cares about what Jesus said.

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