Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thought Experiment: Genesis and Science

If the first eleven chapters had somehow gone missing for centuries and were only recently rediscovered, it would be academics telling Christians they should accept them gladly, and the fundamentalists who would resist this most strongly. Genesis has got lots: the first intentional crops date from around 8,000 years ago, Genesis has the Cain-and-Abel conflict a very few miles away between settled growers and hunter-gatherers about 6,000 years ago – pretty good estimate for a people who had no archaeological science or written history; the beginning of mankind is associated with language and the naming of things – with choices, forethought and afterthought; the gradual creation; the storing of food against times of want; the flood at about the right time and place; the invention of wine at something close to the right time and place; the cultural interactions of receiving strangers and making covenants; confirming the existence of whole tribes of peoples and tells us something about them. Historians and anthropologists would be insisting, dude, you have got to claim this. This book is great. Christians would be more wary, especially the literalists, who would look askance at all this six days of creation and people living for centuries stuff. Sounds pretty much like stories handed down, thanks. We like our Bible nice and literal, word-for-word and tightened up. No messy God for us, thanks, just a neat predictable one. We said nyet to the Apocrypha, remember. I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit, and that after decades of rancorous debate the church would recognise the missing chapters as Scripture. Just not at first.

Once this is understood, the literalists look rather like the old fable of the monkey with its hand stuck in the jar, unable to let go of the treasure. If the little ape could let go, it could pull forth its hand and then pour out the treasure. Refusing to release its grasp, it is stuck forever with neither hand nor treasure.

I’ll be displaying some of this treasure shortly.

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