Reconciling Old Testament Biblical Stories with Current Scientific Knowledge

dn13620-1_300All Christians agree that God created the universe, the earth and all living creatures. However, the beautiful and exciting wording of Genesis (chap 1-3) leaves open how God’s processes of creation actually occurred. Biblical truths, express in broad terms, that our creator God caused it to happen and left later generations of theologians, historians and scientists to discover and interpret the details.

For at least the last two hundred years many process details have been uncovered by dedicated scientists from dozens of countries with specialties in geology, archeology, anthropology, paleontology and biology. Many theories along the way have been proposed to explain the evolution of creation. Some have been critically evaluated and found wanting, while others have, over time, been accepted by the international scientific communities – first as theories and later as scientific facts.

Multiple scientific excavations (known as digs) have been made at hundreds of sites in many European, African and Mid Eastern sites by scientific teams usually representing universities or other private organizations seeking to gain a better understanding of how humanity evolved. Literally thousands of artifacts, fossils and special human like skulls and bones have been unearthed, preserved and dated especially from major “digs” in South-East Africa. With careful precision and multiple checks and balances, a pattern has been established that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that prehistoric up-right, bipedal creatures (hominids) lived in Africa (and beyond) whose brain sizes  developed slowly over the last million years (or so) from 500cc to 1450cc – the current size of modern human brains. At some point in history, most experts say between 10,000BC and 5000BC, these almost human creatures began to:

  • Take care of their families
  • Defend their tribes
  • Make useful tools and vessels
  • Paint pictures on cave walls
  • Bury their dead
  • Domesticate food production and certain animals

In my NIV Bible footnotes, we find these words: “Make, create and form are used to describe God’s creation of both man and animals. Humans and animals alike have the breath of life in them. The Hebrew phrase here translated “living being” is translated “living creature” in Genesis 1:20-24. The words of Genesis 2:7 therefore imply that people, at least physically, have “affinity” with the animals”. One definition of “affinity” is: “a relation between biological groups involving resemblance in structural plan and indicating a common origin”.

At this point the symbolic Biblical story of Adam and Eve enters into the evolutionary picture. Absolute knowledge of how these developing homo-sapiens became fully human cannot be scientifically proved. However, both the Bible and current scientific facts point strongly toward God choosing to breath his Holy Spirit into these almost human creatures. The Hebrews call it the “Neshama” – they gained a soul and a conscience and like the scriptures confirm, symbolic Adam and Eve, for the first time, gained self awareness- they became ashamed of their nakedness – after disobeying God. The Bible symbolically describes them as “fallen angels” since they were initially perfect (without sin) in the Garden of Eden and then they were tempted by the devil. They chose to exercise their free will for the first time, rejecting God’s commandment, became imperfect and thus fully human sinners.

For centuries the best theological minds and the best scientists have struggled to reconcile the Biblical truths presented in the book of Genesis with modern scientific information. Progress has been slow at best. One of our greatest Christian theologians, Augustine of Hippo, stated in about 300AD: “When interpretations of scripture face serious conflicts with scientific knowledge, it is time to reinterpret scripture”. (maybe not exact quote).

To the contrary, a significant segment of current Christians – generally identified as fundamentalist, (most in the United States), hold defiantly to the literal interpretation of all scriptures. They categorically reject the evolutionary conclusions of the vast majority of the international scientific community. These people are, for the most part, very fine conscientious, well meaning Christians. However, most modern educated Christians believe the Biblical story of beginnings can, and must be, reconciled with what the scientific world has established as facts.  Most well read Christians think such a reconciliation will greatly enhance the credibility of the Old Testament. Attached is a partial list entitled: “What are possible reasons why some Christians emphatically defend the literal interpretations of all scriptures.” Other reasons may exist. How do you feel about these reasons?

Why is this subject important for the future of the Christian church? Unless we begin to reconcile the Biblical truths with what we know as scientific facts, we run the risk that future generations of our most educated youth will continue to move away from churches that hold on to outdated interpretations of Old Testament scriptures.

As an active Sunday school teacher in a large Methodist church, I believe this is the most logical and inspiring explanation of creation ever written! Hopefully, this attempt at understanding God’s creation will help all Christians – especially young people, involved in academic learning, to better understand the beautiful story of “beginnings.”

God gave us in the Old Testament book of Genesis. Jesus said: “Yea shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

W.F. Peck   aka  Bill Peck

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