Saturday, November 07, 2009

another post on Evolution

It's not me this time.

I recently discovered the blog of Rachel Held Evans (not to be confused with my wonderful younger sister Rachel Joy Evans), an author and speaker from the 'buckle of the Bible Belt', Dayton, Tennessee. I've really enjoyed Rachel's posts so far, and I'm looking forward to keeping up with the blog.

I thought I'd pass along a post she's recently written on Evolution, that favorite topic of mine that doesn't ever seem to leave the wardrobe front page for too long. Eight Reasons to Give Evolution a Second Chance. If you aren't tired of the topic, check it out. The picture accompanying her post is worth the visit by itself.

I, of course, don't get tired of the topic (for whatever reason). In fact, if anyone's feeling generous today, feel free to hop on Amazon and order me a copy of Richard Dawkins's latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. If you're looking for a sort of popular introduction to the topic yourself, you might want to take a look as well. It's a very nice, user-friendly book, from what I've seen so far.

But, again, I'm not really here to publicize Dawkins. Go check out Rachel Held Evans's blog.

Also, I'd like to leave everyone with Numbers 23:19. This comes from the middle of the story of Balaam, the unlikely oracle of God, that takes up Numbers 22-24. If you're a little fuzzy on the details of this account, go read it. If you like tales of war, comedy, and talking donkeys, this is the one for you. It's wonderful.

Numbers 23:19:
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

What does this verse mean to you? What does it say about Evolution, if anything? What does it say about scripture, if anything? How would a compelling demonstration of a long, evolutionary development of life on Earth affect the way you understand this verse? Should it?


Josh said...

Funny, I can't seem to fight the urge to write about evolution either.

I'm not sure what link you see in the verse from Numbers. To me, it's a statement of God's faithfulness and also a picture of how he isn't fickle like humans are.

Some would argue that God, via Genesis 1, has told us that evolutionary history isn't how it happened, but I don't buy that.

Nance said...

I've often heard the verse from Numbers (or some others similar to it) used to bolster that argument. 'Of course Genesis 1 is giving us good science/history: *God doesn't lie*.'

I think there's a deeper confusion here than about what it means for God to lie or change his mind--though those are great questions too.

Kevin said...

It seems that in order for God to "lie" there would need to be some judgement that would hold God accountable for breaking an agreement.

If we can say that God has lied, are we not assuming for ourselves a criteria to judge, one that has made known to us by God, and then using that as absolute and our right to call God a liar?

I think in order to do such a thing is a relinquishment of humility, and anyone who has ever been a student or in a position of learning has forgotten how dynamic revelation can be.

Josh said...

Cool, I see where you were going now.

My first thought is that for us to know that God lied, we would have to understand what he was saying.

I think we have good reason to think that God is not telling us science/history in Genesis 1 and 2, and so isn't lying.

There's a lot of other stuff packed in there too, regarding theories of inspiration and divine authorship.

Have you read John Walton's new book, "The Lost World of Genesis 1"? It's a paradigm-breaker, and I think it will be an important text in the next wave of debate surrounding evolution/creation.

Ryan said...

Well this is of course a bigger issue for people with a view of Biblical inerrancy that ties the words of the Bible to the words of God in a one-to-one relationship rather than a view of Scripture as inspired by the Holy Spirit and written by human authors. If you view Scripture as inspired works of human authors rather than coming down whole from God to man (an idea that has its source in Islam rather than Christianity), you avoid the issue I think, because you can account for human limitations- the authors had no conception of evolution and so can't be expected to write in those terms.

It's when you view Scripture as written directly by God that you run into problems, since He must know about evolution and so should be expected to talk about it. I still think you could address this by saying that God is accommodating His original audience who would either need a primer on evolutionary science to preface Gen 1 or be in the dark about the way in which Creation is spoken of.

More of an issue for me is Abraham's bargaining with God over Sodom and Gomorrah. What's going on? Is Abraham changing God's mind? Is God just playing a game with Abraham, knowing all the time that they will settle on trying to find one righteous man in town? Another example would be Noah's Ark, which is probably why we are more interested in it as a Sunday School story about an adventure on a boat with a bunch of animals than addressing God's grief at having made man.

Nance said...

Thanks, Ryan. I think that gets to the heart of Kevin's comment.
I agree with you on Genesis 18--that's the sort of chapter that really needs to be wrestled with, but it's not getting the time. I've heard a few explanations myself, but nothing really compelling. And it occurs to me as I type this that it's probably only a matter of time before someone asks me about this.

I've seen quite a bit about Walton's book over on Scot McKnight's blog--he's been posting alongside his reading. Beyond that I haven't really encountered it, but it's nice to hear another recommendation.