A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible Review: are young earth creationists naive?
A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible Review: Chapter 1 – How Everything is Good: The Creation Story
John Dickson’s A Doubter’s Guide to the Bible begins at the beginning of the Bible with Genesis 1 and the Creation story.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth
I’m interested to hear what ‘doubter’s’ make of the first chapter of the Bible. This is because your view of what that chapter contains will impact how persuasive you find Dickson’s argument.
Dickson outlines some of the controversy surrounding the interpretation of Genesis 1 and rightly claims that ‘For some, this part of the Holy Scripture, with its emphasis on God creating the world in six days, is a huge obstacle to taking the Bible seriously.’ (p.18)
Is this true for you?
Young Earth Creationists are naive?
Dickson then goes on to describe (helpfully in my mind) the genre and purpose of Genesis 1. Yet along the way he makes some interesting comments about ‘Six Day Creationists’ – ie. Young Earth Creationists – people who believe that Genesis 1 claims that the world was created in six 24 hour periods about 6-10,000 years ago.
Dickson is very generous towards these people as he outlines how he believes Genesis 1 should be interpreted. He says (correctly in my mind) that Genesis 1 was not intended to be an historical report. He goes on and says,
‘Many fellow Christians disagree with me, and that is fine; I do not want to be dogmatic about this, and nor do I want to cast my Six-Day Creationist friends as naive’.
This is a curious statement. What does it mean to ‘not be dogmatic’ about this?
It also raises questions about the audience Dickson is attempting to reach. Is it the doubter? Or is Dickson concerned about a backlash from a certain group of Christians? I can appreciate Dickson’s attempt at not attempting to alienate some of his Christian audience (an audience in my experience who are extremely aggressive, dogmatic and vocal). Yet by doing so, I wonder if he has not actually spoken to the “doubter”?
How does the “doubter” view young earth creationists? Are they naive? A group of people who overlook the vast body of modern scientific evidence which demonstrates that the universe and our earth are very very old (billions, not thousands of years).
I recognise that Dickson’s key point is to say that the primary purpose of Genesis 1 is to address theological and philosophical questions, but Genesis 1 still does open up some issues relating to modern science. I wonder if trying to placate Young Earth Creationists, Dickson has alienated some ‘doubters’? I’d be keen to hear some reactions.
Genesis vs atheism
Dickson goes on and very helpfully describes how Genesis 1 is profoundly different to other creation stories in the Ancient world – where creation is good and men and women are created in the image of God.
Dickson then goes on to contrast Genesis with atheism. i.e. a purposeful created world, contrasted with the ‘accidental’ world of the modern atheist.
He makes a controversial claim summarising his argument,
The difference between the pagan/atheist view of existence and the biblical view of existence is enormous. If you know the world to be beautifully designed and intentionally created – that is, if you see the genius behind it – you have a logical and moral imperative to treat it with reverence and care. Of course, both atheists and Christians can be equally cruel or kind toward the world. But only for the Christian (and, of course, our Jewish friends) is care of the world a necessary corollary of a worldview.
I’d be keen to see how doubters view this? Is there an enormous difference between the pagan/atheist view of existence and the biblical view? Would it be persuasive to the doubter if our experiences and desires to care for the world and for each other correlated with a universe that was actually purposeful and meaningful?
I found the chapter a helpful and thoughtful summary of some of they key issues pertaining to the interpretation of Genesis 1. I’d be keen to hear if Dickson’s arguments and discussion are helpful for doubters? If they weren’t helpful, what would be helpful?