Thursday, May 27, 2004

After the failure of Atkins and co to impress, I thought I should mention a rather more fruitful lecture I went to a few weeks ago. That was here at Cambridge on science and the bible by Ernest Lucas. Dr Lucas has degrees in biochemistry and Old Testament Studies and spoke about Genesis 1.

His central contention was that Genesis is not a scientific treatise and neither was it intended to be. Whoever wrote it did not think that it reflected reality and we would be foolish to suggest otherwise. Instead, we should interpret it within the milieu of its own time and consider the purpose that it was supposed to serve. Cutting to the chase, I would summarize Dr Lucas's position as follows: Genesis 1 is a piece of polemic against contemporary views about God and creation. It is supposed to counter certain erroneous views but does so within the kind of narrative framework that the author was familiar with. So, whereas most ancient Middle Eastern theologies said that the world was created from chaos, Genesis says it was created ex nihilo. Likewise, there were many stories about the birth of the Gods. Genesis makes clear that God existed before the universe. There were many ideas about the duality of spirit (good) and matter (evil). Genesis is clear that matter is good because God created it. I suppose you might say Genesis is part of an argument which has become hard to understand because we only have one side of the story.

I must say, I found this explanation intellectually very satisfying. Genesis as a work of theology from the ninth century BC is a far more accurate document than Genesis as twenty first century science, which is what YECs want to make it. I hope Dr Lucas, himself an evangelical, can persuade a few of them.

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