Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What would convince me? Part 2

A couple months ago, I posted a response to a reader's question about what it would take to convince me to accept evolution. It was an interesting way to think about it, and it really forced me to think more carefully about why I take the position that I do. In that first post, I responded to criticisms that I'm a fideist or suffering from cognitive dissonance, which prompted another reader to write in to tell me that I write about myself too much. And here I'm doing it again. Sorry.

Anyway, ironic emails aside, the initial question that prompted this series was
If somebody convinced you that evolution (and an old earth) and Christianity were compatible, would you give up Young Earth Creationism?
Now I suppose one could read that as a fishing expedition for what scientific arguments convince me that creationism is correct, but I read it a different way: Would biblical compatibility alone be enough to convince me to accept evolution or an old earth? To that question, I say for certain, NO. Not even close.

Compatibility is certainly important. The INcompatibility of evolution with my faith is a big reason I do not accept evolution, but showing that evolution is compatible is not the same as making a theological or biblical argument for evolution. That's kind of trivial, I know, but that thought led me to think more carefully about the cost of compatibility.

It seems to me that the fad in evangelicalism today is debating the genre of Genesis 1, especially considered in the context of the Ancient Near East (ANE). Resolve the Genesis 1 problem, and that clears the way for accepting evolution. Except that it doesn't. As I've argued before, Genesis 1 is just one piece of the puzzle. Even if you include Genesis 2 or 3 or Genesis 1-11, you still don't get a free pass to accept evolution. Undoing the historical meaning of Genesis 1-11 means that you have to learn how to read the scriptures in a completely different way. What appear to be historical references must be reinterpreted as literary references. Logical arguments for why we ought not divorce (Matt 19:4-6) or why Jesus had to die (Rom 5; I Cor 5) have to be reimagined as mere analogies or maybe even mistakes. I don't know about you, but that seems like a big, big change. From my perspective, the compatibility of Christianity and evolution requires me to reimagine inspiration, scriptural authority, Jesus' death, the core message of Christianity (creation, fall, redemption), etc. I'm getting hung up on the actual form that "compatibility" would take and what that would cost me. Without understanding the cost, I can't say for certain if I would actually go along with it.

But let's leave that to the world of the hypothetical. Let's pretend that the cost was not very high at all, and I could continue to believe in inspiration and redemption without insisting on young earth creationism. Let's pretend that Genesis 1-11 really could be separated out from the Bible with no theological consequences. Would that be enough to convince me to accept evolution?

That is a question for another post. Let's pray it doesn't take me another two months to get to it.

Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com.