TalkingSnake

If the first talking snake had kept shtum, we wouldn't be here. Eve wouldn't have eaten the forbidden fruit. But she listened and was curious. So she fell into humanity, thank God. Good old snake, say I. I celebrate its independence of mind. Satan? Neh, that's a later interpretation. The snake was part of the divine purpose. God allowed it into the garden, aware of its linguistic abilities. He knew what would happen. Jesus commended dove-like innocence. AND the wisdom ... of the snake.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Have human beings evolved from creationists?

I’m in danger of losing it here. The reason: I have downloaded a file called "Genesis Unplugged" from the Creation Research website and I just don’t, I can’t, they’re not, I’m sorry I need a stiff drink.

It’s a series of questions based on a video which one is supposed to have watched first, but it’s not hard to get the gist. Here are some of the - scarcely believable - questions posed by Creation Research, followed by my answers, which needless to say are not the ones they are looking for.

What books did Moses write?

None. That’s what Biblical scholars say. In effect it’s what Creation Research believes. It thinks God wrote the Bible and any human "authors" were mere amanuenses, incapable of thinking for themselves, making any creative or editorial decisions, or - of course - any errors. They qualify their concept of "authorship" so much it ceases to mean anything.

Did Moses write anything about evolution?

About as much as he wrote on differential calculus and for the same reason.

Does the 7 day week come from:
(a) Politics? (b) Astronomy? (c) Religion?

The moon takes 28 days to orbit the earth. Divide it into 4 and you’ve got a 7-day week. It’s convenient, we've developed rhythms around it. There is nothing "sacred" that says we have to divide our time into weeks of any specific length. Please.

Could the 6 days of Creation be any length of time, or were they six ordinary days such as you and I know them?

The writer of Genesis understands them as ordinary days. But the story is a legend so the matter is of little importance.

If the police force can be persuaded to work a 10 day week, followed by 4 days off, what do you predict their attitude would eventually be to:
(a) Abortion? (b) Euthanasia? (c) Infanticide?

No, they are serious. Trust me, they mean it.

What is God's attitude to capital punishment?

They want you to say "in favour" on the basis of Genesis 9 vs 6, as though attitudes have to be stuck in a 4000 year old culture. How DARE they presume to pronounce on the mind of God on the basis of one text? Do they actually understand what blasphemy is?

Does the Bible teach that there should be legal penalties for performing an abortion?

And suppose it does? Why are they so obsessed with this issue? Theologians understand that the Bible is one resource among several on the basis of which we make Christian judgements. Human reason is another one, which creationists themselves try to use continually, only they have not been taught how and I doubt anyone could put that right, they would have to start too far back. I am unhappy about abortion on demand - in effect the situation in the UK - but that is very different from wanting to penalise all women irrespective of circumstances.

Do fisherman have the right to remove seals from their fishing grounds?

Oh come on, it’s obvious. Look up Genesis 1: 27-8, which - er - makes no mention of the issue. It had never occurred to me that Genesis might be relevant to this question (there could be a reason for this oversight on my part, don’t you think) or that, if it be considered relevant, that all people reading it will apply it in the same way.

The USA was built on the belief that "All men were created with certain inalienable rights". Can a democracy function, if evolution is taught as a fact in the educational institutions?

No, no, please, I’ll confess! The question should be: can a democracy function if creationists are regarded as sane people. Go on, download Genesis Unplugged for yourselves. Prima facie evidence that my current description of them as psychotic is too mild by a factor of umpteen. These people are BARKING! Ooww-ooww!!!

How does evolution undermine God's definition of sin?

You don’t have God’s definition, for one thing; you have a number of human definitions. Blasphemy again. Secondly, evolution undermines nothing but stupidity. I was brought up with a powerful sense of sin; also to believe that "God made the world, Darwin showed us His methods" - theistic evolution in other words, the only sane position for Christians to hold, as thankfully the majority in Britan do. From somewhere deep in childhood, the influence perhaps of two devout Christian parents, I have acquired a deep respect for truth, no matter what its source, and for clear thinking no matter where it leads: I regard these as at least Gospel-compatible if not Christian principles. And it partly explains my fury at creationism, which respects nothing but its own idolatrous and insane take on the Bible.

What reason does Paul give for male leadership in the church? Is his reason based on culture?
Is it the slightest use my saying that Pauline authorship of the Pastorals is debatable? Thought not, though maybe it’s beside the point. Answer to the first question: a very silly and very sexist one so yes, quite obviously it’s based on patriarchal culture. You mean there are people who don’t realise this?

Would you accept Paul's reasoning if you believed in evolution?

What the blazes has evolution got to do with church order? They’re coming to take me away, ha ha, they’re coming to take me away. Oh, sorry. I think the question means: would I be a male chauvinist if it wasn’t for Darwin? No, actually. Feminism pre-dates Darwin by a generation at least.

According to the Theory of evolution, should man or woman be the head of the house?

I read this question aloud to my wife. Words failed us both. Let me try to find some: er, there are people who still regard "headship of the house" as a meaningful concept? There are people who having the concept feel that gender rather than competence, aptitude or circumstances is relevant to it? and who feel that the social mores of one particular Middle Eastern society fix for all time the way in which all communities must function? There are people who feel that any of this is even slightly connected with Darwin? Come back to us when you’ve had some proper education, will you. I have no idea who is the head of most of the households I visit and would not dream of asking.

Is ‘falling in love’ the Bible's basis for marriage (Matthew 19:4-7)?

Bang head on brick for ten minutes, it’s so nice when it stops. No it isn’t. The concept of "falling in love" did not exist in Bible times and there have been some interesting debates in educated circles about when it actually emerged: the early medieval period perhaps? C S Lewis’ "The Allegory of Love" was a key text at one time. My sense is that - partly due to our "no deferred gratification" culture, which I deplore as much as any creationist only I know better than to blame it on Darwin - the construct of "falling in love" is on the wane again. But this is by the by. The question is silly and deserves a far sillier answer than I have given it here.

According to one science magazine, modern married couples divorce after about 3 years because that's the longest time two gorillas can tolerate each other. What assumption about the history of life are they making?

Oh come on, that’s too easy a shot. What assumption is the questioner making about surveys in magazines, and the candour of people surveyed? Is creationist "research" habitually carried out at such depth?

Why has evolution had such a devastating effect on people's confidence in the Bible over the past 100 years?

Aha, an almost unloaded question with a hint of truth to it. Evolutionary theory has done a great deal to undermine confidence in, note, certain aspects of Biblical teaching as traditionally held. But that traditional understanding had to change, and tragically couldn’t change fast enough. The 19th century Church couldn’t cope and the casualties were many. In the 20th century it got its act together, came up with theistic evolution and the issue went away, until creationists started forcing it again.

The unasked question is: will the Church survive the damage now being inflicted on it by creationists heretically presuming to speak in its name? I hope so. I love the Bible, more I believe than most fundamentalists do, because I am not blind to its real nature: they worship an idea of the Bible rather than the real thing and can't recognise its depths, its complexities, its frailties.

How could the Antichrist use the theory of evolution to promote lawlessness?

George Bush could order the invasion of Iraq having lied through his teeth about the connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11, that’s the Antichrist bit. (Bear in mind that the Antichrist will masquerade as one deeply religious, it’s not so implausible.) Acording to a modified theory of evolution, widely held by the American Right: Western democracy always drives out other forms of government, even when these might be more culturally appropriate, on the basis of the survival of the richest, sorry, fittest.

Why did God give us clothes?

Feathers and scales fell off, suits of armour were too heavy ... no, come on, give me a clue. You want me to say: cos God dressed up Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, don’t you. This is a "just so" story, or aetiological legend if you prefer.

How has evolution helped promote the increase in pornography?

Talk about an own goal! Pornography is an absolute gift to capitalism, because sex sells; America, the most bullishly capitalist nation on earth is also the most porn-soaked (the Internet, born in the USA, runs on porn as we all know), and it’s only in America that creationists get taken seriously. I am not attempting to correlate belief in creationism with an enthusiasm for porn, but the converse IS true at least in my experience: evolutionism is associated with the Left, which at its worst is no more than equivocal about porn and can be deeply puritanical because porn exploits women, and the Left is feminist or should be; whereas the more creationist-sympathetic Right exploits it enhusiastically for commercial purposes. You won’t find tits and bums in the tabloid Mirror or the heavyweight Guardian and Independent, Britain’s left of centre dailies; but you’ll find plenty in the Sun, run by Murdoch, who also owns Fox. Geddit? The evolution/pornography connection simply isn’t there. The capitalism/pornography connection quite manifestly is, and creationism - even if it shuns porn - loves capitalism, which promotes porn. Truth is, creationists aren’t interested in exploring the roots of pornography. They are only interested in finding something nasty and blaming it on evolution, but their list of social evils has some very revealing inclusions and omissions. A subject for another time.

Is the order of events in Genesis the same as the order of events in the theory of Evolution? If not, how do they differ?

Oh Lord, they’re fundies and they don’t even read their Bibles properly. The order of events in Genesis 1, or the order of events in Genesis 2, do they mean? They do realise the order is different ... oh, no they don’t. That would imply contradiction. Error, even ... I am aware of frenetic attempts to harmonise Genesis 1 & 2 but even if there were convincing, both are obviously wrong, which doesn’t matter because Genesis is not in competition with a proper scientific account, such as evolution at least attempts to provide. Evolution could be wrong as well; creationism however CANNOT POSSIBLY be right. The word "right" may only be defined in such a way as to categorically rule this out. "Right" is not something that creationism can be.

Hitler, Stalin and Mao all accepted some form of evolutionism. What result did this have on their attitude to their fellow man?

This is simply ad hominem, or if you prefer, snide. A good theory is not discredited because evil men misinterpret it. I daresay Hitler and co believed in quantum physics as well. Certainly these butchers claimed support from evolution as they understood it, but the theory did not make them butchers in the first place. Anyone can play this game. Jimmy Swaggart was/is, I am sure, a good creationist.

What is the Gospel?

It has to do with God’s truth, for a start. Therefore precious little to do with creationism. Now I’m getting nasty but hey, I’m sincere, and the facts are with me.

Were Adam and Eve originally vegetarians?

I’d have said vegans. In a world without death, which young-earthers say was the case in pre-Fall Eden, there would also be no need for reproduction (otherwise the earth would get over-crowded rather fast), thus mammals would not provide milk, nor birds lay eggs. Dairy products are certainly not mentioned in Genesis 1.29.

Now there is a massive problem here: in the first creation story (in which human beings are created "male and female", with no suggestion there was only a single couple, or that men and women were made at different times) creatures are told to be fruitful and multiply. So there WAS reproduction - but no death? Talk about unsustainable. Creationists will have thought of this one and come up with a silly answer. How do I know in advance it will be silly? Because of the silliness of the question. What did two imaginary people eat? Imaginary food of course.

When was man first allowed to eat meat?

Miss, Miss! Please miss, I know! It was after the Flood when God said to Noah it’s all right to eat animals now.

Is any explanation provided for God giving this alleged permission, having previously withheld it? Do creationist answers ever explain anything? Is the Pope a Protestant?

The question of when early human beings became carnivores, having presumably learned to master fire (since we can’t eat or digest our meat raw) is quite interesting and has implications for the development of language and community life. Hunters, it is said, need to bond, to communicate with each other quickly and precisely, in a way that agrarian farmers don’t. Needless to say, creationism will have no comment to make on this since it thinks man was created as a skilled language user and ignores anthropology as a discipline for obvious reasons.

What do Luke 16:31 and John 5:46-47 have to say about the effect of the theory of evolution on people hearing the gospel?

You didn’t know the theory of evolution was mentioned in the Bible, did you. Well of course it isn’t. What IS mentioned is the denial of "Moses and the Prophets", as in these two verses. Creationist logic: Evolutionists deny the literal account of creation in Genesis 1 - 3 (which Jesus will have assumed was by Moses having no basis for assuming otherwise), therefore they can’t believe in Jesus, who said that Moses and the Prophets testify to him. Ergo, evolutionists aren’t Christians even if they say they are.

Here’s the truth. Theistic evolutionists deny the literal account of creation in Genesis 1 -3 for the excellent reason that it cannot be read literally by people who a] understand modern science and b] know what the word "literally" means. Because they also want to affirm God as Creator, they take the view that the early chapters of Genesis are stories - a particular kind of literature, to be interpreted in a particular way. But get this: most Christians come to faith because of what they see in Jesus, not because of how some people interpret Genesis 1 - 11.

Creationists insist that these chapters are essential to faith, and major on them so much they produce, in true psychotic fashion, exactly the opposite effect to the one they imagine they do. They drive people away from the Gospel. They parade their prejudices; they do not glorify Christ. They tell us nothing about Jesus - and I can testify here: my study of creationism has sent me to parts of the Bible I did not know as well as I might, especially though not exclusively in the Old Testament. That’s been a learning experience, and I am grateful. Have I learned one new thing about my Lord and Saviour? Not a blithering sausage.

How would you "rebuild the foundations" of the truth of Creation?
(a) If you are a church leader?

I am one, in a modest way: and you’re looking at it.

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