This seems to be a direct contradiction of a literal reading of the book of Genesis, which has the universe being created in six days, culminating in the creation of Adam and Eve.
Which is true? “Eve was created out of one of Adam’s ribs! You cannot be serious!” This is a widely- held view which is used to discredit the bible, and seems to directly contradict the scientific world view. Hasn’t Darwin’s “Theory of evolution by natural selection” been accepted by everyone except some fundamentalist creationists in the USA?
John Young’s book, “The case against Christ” proposes several alterrnative ways of viewing the Adam and Eve story, which I summarise and provide comments:
1. The story is literally true If God is God, He has the power to perform a miraculous literal 6- day creation, alongside the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib. It has been said that “rib” is a mistranslation of the original Hebrew, and a more accurate translation is “side”. Young quotes former Prof Verna Wright, of Leeds University, UK as saying: “For myself, I believe in a six-day creation. A straight-forward reading of Genesis by an intelligent man, not exposed to the evolutionary model, would suggest a literal six-day creation. The only way around this interpretation would be to suggest the account was allegorical or poetic. Neither in the opening chapters of Genesis nor elsewhere in the Bible is there a suggestion that the account is symbolic. Moreover, it is not found in the poertic section on the Old Testament.” Young comments ”Views held by a professional scientist, on a subject which he has studied closely, must be weighed carefully.”
2. The possibility of accepting the theory of evolution and the Bible Many people strongly disagree with the above approach, as it draws attention away from Jesus and onto sterile secondary issues. Such an approach may lead unbelievers to write off Christians as “anti-science”, who’s faith can be therefore be dismissed or mocked. Recently, “militant atheists” have used the literlist approach as ammunition against faith. Believers in evolution and the Bible say that the order of creation in Genesis Chapter 1 is similar to that suggested by evolutionary scientists, ( e.g. water creatures before land creatures). They also point out that the “6 days”, in Genesis refer to extremely long periods of time. Indeed, there are Biblical references concerning God’s timing: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” (2 Peter, Chap. 3, verse8) “For in Your sight a thousand years are but a day that passes, or a watch of the night”. (Psalm 90, verse 4) Many people also point out the Bible tells us that God created the world and all living creatures, but scientific theories of evolution attempt to tell us how He did it. This idea is echoed by Revd. Professor Sir John Polkinghorne, KBE, FRS in many books, but most accessibly in “The Archbishop’s school of Christianity and science” he states: “…Doesn’t science tell us all we need to know, giving us enough answers to mean that we don’t have any need of religion as well?
Not at all. Science doesn’t even ask all the questions. It has been very successful precisely by not trying to ask and answer every possible query. It limits itself to asking how things happen. Science’s task is is to explore the processes of the world that keep things going. On its part, religion is asking another and deeper set of questions, enquiring into why things are happening. Is there meaning and purpose behind it all?.......”You come into my kitchen and the kettle is boiling. I put on my scientific hat and I say that this is because the burning gas generates heat, which raises the temperature of the water to 100 degrees, Centigrade and then it boils….
Yet nothing prevents me taking off my scientific hat and saying that the kettle is boiling because I want to make a cup of tea. We need to answer both the how and why questions in order properly to understand what is going on. I like to think that I am two-eyed and that, by using both my scientific eye and my religious eye, I can see more than with either alone.”
3. Is Genesis a history book?
Young says that some people say that the early chapters of Genesis are pre-scientific or non-scientific.They were written cenruries before the rise of modern science… The authors of Genesis did not know about modern science, and were therefore unable to be concerned about answering scientific questions. Genesis uses different types of language, and is concerned with different issues. Literal truth is not the only type of truth. Are the following staements literally true? “I lost my head” “She’s an old battle axe” “He’s got a frog in his thoat” This idea is taken further by Prof. Russell Stannard in “Science and Belief – The big issues”. Programme 1, Evolution and Genesis. Christian Education Publications, In it he quotes a William Blake poem: “Tyger Tyger, burning bright, In the forests of the night. What immortal hand or eye, Could frame thy fearful symmetry? “ These phrases are clearly ridiculous, if taken literally, but they are vivid descriptions of what the writers wanted to convey. As Young stated “ On the basis of reading the first few chapters of Genesis and taking them seriously, but not literally, what sort of world would we expect to find? We should expect a world in which there is a great deal of beauty and design,plus a great deal of trouble and disharmony. In short, we would expect to find the world as it actually is.This is the genius of the book of Genesis. It describes and explains the human situation in a most profound way.” Genesis Chapter 3 contains a description of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. Here we see how humans behave when discovered to be at fault. The man blames the woman, and then God himself! “ the woman you put here with me- she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it” ( Genesis, Chapter 3, verse 12, NIV). Not to be out-done, Eve also passed the blame on. “The serpent decieved me and I ate” ( Genesis Chaper 3, verse 13).
Genesis is absolutely truthful about how we behave. How like 21st. Century people! This story is a good example of a myth.
myth noun (ANCIENT STORY) B2 [ C or U ] an ancient story or set of stories, especially explaining the early history of a group of people or about natural events and facts: ancient myths
So, myths can be true about the human condition, if not historically true. We need to answer the question as to who is right; the proposers of the “Big Bang” theory, or those who have a literal view of the Bible? My view is that they are both right. The Scientific view gives a cogent view of the truth of how the Universe was created, whilst the Bible gives us the truth of how people behave.
We might also consider another question: “if the “Big Bang” is true, what, or who, caused it to happen?” There are many other issues concerning the creation of the Universe and the accuracy of the bible. I’m sure you have views about this. Are we honest, if we recite, “I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of the heaven and earth”?
Please let me know what you think.
Prof John Fielding, April 2020