What follows is an approximate transcript of the 20 Nov 2008 AAS meeting, at which Jim, a Christian and ISU alum, spoke with us about alternative interpretations of Genesis. It is by no means complete, and if you remember any particularly interesting parts that were left out, please comment. All hyperlinks and comments within brackets were added by AAS to help readers understand the background behind this discussion.
There are many views on genesis, including: theistic evolution, young earth creationism, and old earth creationism [which has many subsets, including framework theory and day-age]. Jim considers himself an old earth creationist. [Answers in Genesis, a well known creationist group, is known for young earth creationism.]
Creationism is not black and white. It follows a biblical script but prevalent ideas in society and science also impact how creationism is thought about.
Today’s young earth creationism was started by Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in 1961 with their book called The Genesis Flood: The Biblical Record and Its Scientific Implications that looks scholarly but isn’t [for examples of how it isn’t, see Talk Origins]. The book is essentially flood geology and was originally a 7th Day Adventist view. The book took the Christian community by storm.
Young earth creationism tells that the length of the day in Genesis was iron clad but there isn’t any literature on it. Religious leaders teach that their flocks should go deep into bible, examining it for themselves, but also tell them to take genesis literally.
Jim grew up leaning about young earth creationism. He didn’t get enough science in school to know about the true age of the earth. Learning about the age of the earth would have caused problems for his faith because if genesis is wrong, then maybe the rest of the bible is wrong also. It just didn’t make sense – could thousands of scientists be wrong? or was the problem with one man’s interpretation of the bible?
The bible written in the midst of many deities being believed in. It was not mainstream. The Old Testament was oral tradition originally, needed to be memorized so it was fairly simple, easily distilled to one main point: “there was one god and he created things” that was easily distinguished from the many different creation views that existed at the time. A more detailed story of creation would not have been so easily passed from person to person.
Until recently, one problem with biblical studies is that different translations of the original Hebrew and Greek were not available to most people. Today, with the internet, the Hebrew is available so people can interpret the words for themselves, instead of relying on one or another English translation. Because of this and because of organizations like Reasons to Believe who are attempting to unify the biblical view of creation with modern science, the age of fighting over creationism is going to end. [While Reasons teaches that the age of the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years, they reject the theory of evolution so are considered old earth creationists.]
If we examine the Book of Genesis verse by verse then we see how it matches with what is known by modern science. [Jim uses the New American Standard Bible because he believes it most closely matches the original Hebrew.] Since learning about this way of interpreting Genesis, Jim taught a 10 week class at his church on old earth creationism. Continue reading