Logical consequences are the scarecrows of fools and the beacons of wise men.
-Thomas Huxley (English biologist 1825 – 1895)
The last three posts have hopefully demonstrated how loving the Bible led me from belief in Young Earth Creationism to embracing evolution. If you’ve reached this post without reading the others, I suggest taking a quick look at them (it’s ok, I’ll wait).
So what now? What changes for me?
Certainly some things (and maybe quite a lot, depending upon your perspective). Here are four consequences connected to the discussion. If you can think of more, feel free to leave a comment.:
1. Trading Inerrancy for Infallability.
Considering the fact that reading the Bible differently is the very thing that led me here might make this point seem circular, because reading differently is both cause and consequence.
If Christians accept the tenets of evolution, then they accept that Genesis cannot be literally true.
Who imposed this category of “must be true in the literal sense for God to work in it” anyway? If Jesus can use parables and the prophets can employ metaphors, why can’t God speak, really speak, within ancient story-telling?
To deny that God could work through ancient story seems hopelessly biased to me. I realize that contemporary humans are smarter, prettier, and undeniably better than every other human that has ever lived… in every way… without question… but to say that we have unique access to God, whereas the ancients did not, feels like it takes us one step too close to the enchanted land of egotism.
Those people telling you that Genesis only matters if it’s “literally true” might be placing your God, and your Bible, in a box. This conviction leads to the kind of readings which elevate literal statements about “what happened” while missing the actual points that God appears to make in the text. “Just accepting it” becomes dangerously more important than truly understanding it.
This is the difference between inerrancy and infallibility.
Inerrancy was famously defined by the Chicago Statement of Biblical Inerrancy as the following:
Holy Scripture… is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches.. Being wholly and verbally God-given, Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching, no less in what it states about God’s acts in creation, about the events of world history….
The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited of disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own; and such lapses bring serious loss to both the individual and the Church.
Inerrancy affirms that there are no historical inaccuracies in the Bible, including the story of Genesis: God literally made Man before God made Woman. A snake literally spoke to Eve. Jubal literally was the father of all those who play stringed instruments and pipes (Gen 4:21).
Infallibility, on the other hand, affirms that the Bible is completely trustworthy in regards to salvation, life, and faith… and that it will not fail to accomplish the things which it sets out to do. A scientific portrayal of creation is simply not one of those things.
The kind of reading that I do “post-evolution” is freeing. I believe I am much more free to read, question, think, and entertain ideas which I might otherwise shut myself off to. I am free to listen to the points which Scripture makes instead of working to make it fit the things I need to believe.
2. Rethinking “The Fall.”
If Genesis isn’t scientifically true, then death did not enter the natural order through a great Fall brought about by the sin of the first humans.
3. Rethinking “God’s Image.”
Biological science tells us that we have far more in common with other animals than we have ever known. Neuroscience tells us that (probably) everything we “do” in our minds is attached to a physical process in the brain. We can no longer locate the divine-image-bearing aspect of humanity in the traditional, categorical differences between our biological makeup and everything else in creation.
I believe being made in the “image of God”, Trinitarian that I am, means that humans are created in (and physically from!) relationships. We belong to each other and to God by virtue of who we are as people, just as the members of the Trinity have belonged to each other from eternity.
4. Disagreeing with many, many other Christians.
A slightly more practical consequence of accepting evolution is that I’ve fallen into disagreement with many of my brothers and sisters (over 75% of evangelical ones in the U.S.). This is particularly difficult in the realm of professional ministry and it can be a taxing thing on close personal relationships as well.
Still, I am not discouraged- not in the least. Difference and disagreement in the Family of God does not make it any less of a family.
In fact, it kind of does the opposite.
Did I miss anything? What do you think are the logical consequences of accepting evolution as a Christian?