Young Earth, Old Earth - What Of The Gospel?
In December I participated in a graduate student’s M.A. thesis presentation. His project was a contextualization of Jesus’ use of “living water” from John 4 and 7. The student’s presentation traced the meaning of “living water” back through Ezekiel 47 into Genesis 2. The theme was the imagery of a river, sourced in the deep creative waters of God, flowing out of the temple bringing life to all. A fascinating aspect of the presentation dealt with understanding Eden as temple, a place where God walked and was worshipped. This caused the cymbal banging monkey in my head to start uncontrollably clapping as I pondered the apologetic value of such an understanding of Eden.
Genesis And Apologetics
I’ve always been taken aback by how much apologetic ink is spilled over understanding Genesis in the light of contemporary science, usually evolutionary biology. In a way, one’s take on understanding Genesis is a litmus test to see which theological in-group you belong with—conservative or liberal.
Do you believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis with a strict 24-hour day, Adam and Eve as the only hominids, and specially created biological kinds? Then you must be a conservative. If you play a little loose with the notion of a day, are willing to entertain the possibility that Adam and Eve were not alone, and believe the borders of biological kinds were a bit fuzzy then you must be a liberal.
This has created an interesting apologetic environment within which all, conservative and liberal, must navigate. A quick search of the internet finds Christian organizations on both sides of the tracks devoted to tutoring Christians and non-Christians alike about the value of a conservative or liberal approach to Genesis.
Think about this for a second. Put yourself in the shoes of a non-believer. What do you see? Allow me to suggest internecine foolishness!
In an ironic twist of fate, both conservatives and liberals work together doing violence to St. Augustine’s admonition in his commentary on Genesis:
“[I]t is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men” (emphasis mine).
I do not want to suggest that conservatives and liberals are talking nonsense about creation. I think very important questions are being raised about how we ought to understand Genesis in light of current science. However, in the apologetic context, the high visibility of these differences in understanding Genesis are a hindrance to what is most important in the apologetic conversation, Christ crucified.
A Plea For Armistice
On a bitterly cold winter night in December, along the Western Front in 1914, instead of the usual crack of cannons and the ching of emptying rifle magazines, one heard Christmas hymns sung in German, English and French as soldiers put down their weapons to focus on the peace found in Christ. (For those interested, a moving rendition of this historical event is found in the movie Joyeux Noël ). I would like to see a similar cease fire in our public presentations of Genesis.
The apologetic value I see in the aforementioned student thesis is in theologically motivating a view of Genesis as a type of temple. Understanding Genesis as temple, raises questions other than the “standard” Genesis fare. What is the purpose of the temple? What is the temple made of, or, in light of John’s Gospel, who is the temple? Why is a temple needed?
These are questions much closer to the person and work of Christ than debates surrounding days, age of the earth, or Adam and Eve. This suggests that a theologically motivated avenue is open for the apologist to traverse from Genesis directly to Christ, the only appropriate object of the apologetic task.