Thursday, February 25, 2010

Genesis, the Resurrection, and History

RJS over at Jesus Creed relates a letter he recently received, from which I quote here:

I agree ... that it is helpful to understand Chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis as mytho-historical.  … My question relates to how to handle this issue when teaching my kids the Bible stories. My oldest is 5 yrs. old. She doesn't have any idea what "mytho-historical" means. To her, the story in Genesis 1 and 2 is no different from the resurrection story when I read it out of a kids' Bible stories book. One is naturally as historical as the other, in her mind.

To me, that is pretty interesting. Someone just reading the text without burden or prejudice, thinks that Genesis 1-2 sound like real events, just like the resurrection.

The letter continues:

Is it better to wait until kids are older to begin to discuss these issues? If not now, at what age, and what is a good way to raise it? And if I wait, do I set up a crisis of faith when she later learns that I don't really view Genesis 1 & 2 (and perhaps other passages) as history in the same way I view the other, central NT stories I've been teaching her.

I think you will set up a crisis of faith when she discovers this strange hermeneutic you have. My guess is that she will wonder why, if Genesis 1-2 are not actual history, you think the resurrection and other NT stories are.

I have to admit I wonder the same thing.

I think it smacks of what my theology professor used to refer to as “brush pile theology.” It is theology that is unintegrated with the whole of revelation. It’s what leads us to say that “this is historical and this is not” and then just leave the piles sitting there uncomfortably separated, sticking out a like a haystack in the Biltmore house. Everyone knows there is something wrong, but it’s at the Biltmore house, right? Surely they don’t make such a mistake. It’s an emperor with no clothes. But because some PhD from TopNotch U said it, people fall in line.

Now make no mistake. There are hard historical questions in the Bible. But Genesis 1-2 is not one of them. It could hardly be easier.

He ends with:

Any wise advice from others who've already confronted this issue with young kids would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Here’s my advice: Believe that Genesis 1-2 is actual history and teach your children to believe that. It brings several benefits.

First, you will be like Jesus and the rest of the biblical authors who believed that Genesis 1-2 were actual history, and that’s pretty good company to be in.

Second, you won’t have to deal with the burdens of a scientific community who can’t explain why things are the way they are, but you can rather recognize that things are the way they are because God created them with order just the way that  he said he did. The reality is that there is too much in the “scientific community” that makes no sense in their worldview (and most of them know it). Only in the biblical worldview with a Creator God as revealed in Genesis 1-2 does the material world actually make sense.

Third, you won’t have to find some torturous explanation for your daughter as to why some of the Bible is worthy of your belief but other parts are not.

Simplistic? Sure

Out of touch with reality? According to some … some who are not omniscient, who have hard questions because we do not know everything.

Since we do not know everything, it seems a reach to assert that Genesis 1-2 is not actual history since there is nothing in either the text or the material world that would lead us to believe that.

So why not simply say that?

I don’t know …


klatu said...

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Bob McCabe said...

The framers of the Westminster Confession of Faith agree with you:

"It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good (chapter 4, paragraph 1)."