Science & Religion: Competitors or Companions?

Written by Darren Hewer

“All thinking men are atheists.”
Ernest Hemingway, author

“Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind …”
Sir Isaac Newton, physicist

Are “all thinking men” really atheists as Hemingway asserted? If so, it would seem that religion and science would indeed be enemies.  However, history does not give us much support for this idea. Besides Sir Isaac Newton, many other great scientists have simultaneously held deep religious convictions, such as Johannes Kepler, Blaise Pascal, and Louis Pasteur.

Currently the situation is no different. Many scientists today also have religious convictions, such as Alister McGrath (who earned two doctorate degrees from Oxford, one in theology, the other in molecular biophysics). These examples of course prove nothing about the validity of Christianity or religion in general, but they at least demonstrate that it is possible to be a knowledgeable person of science as well as a religious believer.

So how exactly do science and religion co-exist with each other in the world? There are basically three options.

1)  Science and religion as totally separate fields of inquiry

One view of the relationship between science and faith was articulated by paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould as “Non-overlapping magisteria” (NOMA). Gould here uses the term “magestria” to refer to a domain of knowledge. In NOMA the two magesteria do not overlap.  Science and religion are just separate.

Gould cites an old cliché when he says that “science studies how the heavens go, religion how to get to heaven.” (Rock of the Ages, 6) Science, in this view, investigates objective empirical facts, whereas religion studies subjective questions of ultimate meaning. We could represent NOMA visually like this:

In practice, however, this approach is not so easy to achieve. Science and religion both address the same world, the same reality. They both impact how we understand and live in our world.  The scientist does not suddenly become a different person when they enter their church. Both fields make claims that affect the other.

Contrary to the NOMA view, science will on occasion make claims regarding religion, and religions in turn make factual claims about the world.  For example, Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn’t it cannot be both.  Considering the deficiencies of this view, some people choose to adopt a second view.

2)  Science and religion as identical fields of inquiry

This view is essentially the opposite to the NOMA view. It suggests that science and religion must occupy the same space because they seek to define the same world. If we were to draw the relationship, it would look something like this:

One of the difficulties of this view is that not all truth claims can be tested in the same way. A historical claim cannot be confirmed via the scientific method. The scientific method is a systematic process of question, hypothesis, testing, data analysis, conclusion, and repetition. Although elements of this process apply to historical testing, a historic event cannot be confirmed via scientific experiment, nor is a historical event repeatable (there’s no way we can go back in time to test it).

There are other examples of truths that cannot be adequately tested via the scientific method, such as the laws of logic (science presupposes logic), the actual existence of other minds, or other metaphysical truths. Yet we all believe logic, the existence of other minds, and many other such truths exist. In addition, we all believe in many experiential truths like love which no scientific experiment can demonstrate or capture in a test tube.

We seem to have been led to the conclusion that there are certain places which science and religion overlap, but others in which they do not. This is the third view of the relationship between science and religion.

3)  Science and religion as partially overlapping fields of inquiry

This view notes that there are both areas of overlap and areas of uniqueness. We could depict it like this, the darker gray area representing the overlapping area:

Albert Einstein once said that “A legitimate conflict between science and religion cannot exist. Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Although Einstein did not believe in a “personal” God (he was a deist) he was right when he said that true religion and accurate science cannot be in disharmony with one-another in the areas in which they overlap.

How religion differs

An objection that may come to mind at this point. “But science is different. Science gives us facts, religion just gives us opinions. Religion doesn’t lead to certainty.”

While it is true that science often leads to facts (keeping in mind that current scientific truths are often later corrected by further research) we should keep in mind that most of the truths we believe are based on probability, not absolute certainty. Even most of the scientific facts we believe are based on what we’ve been told.  Most of us have not personally conducted experiments to prove that gravity exists, but we believe it to be true.

One thing that makes evaluating religious beliefs particularly difficult is that they are multifaceted. Religion addresses not just empirical truths (though these are very important), but also addresses experiential, emotional, moral, and metaphysical truths.

Brian McLaren gives the following illustration of the difference between these types of truths:

Imagine a group of physicists and astronomers gathered for a lecture on cosmic background radiation. As the lab-coated lecturer drones on, the group is listening, taking notes, rubbing their chins, crossing and uncrossing their legs, maybe nodding a bit, occasionally mumbling, “Interesting,” or something of that sort. Suddenly, a woman walks briskly onto the stage and whispers something into the lecturer’s ear. He hands her the microphone and she says, “Ladies and gentlemen, a fire has broken out in the lobby. Please stay calm. Leave quietly and quickly through the exits on your left. Do not use the rear exits, as they are already smoke-filled and unsafe. Please follow me – this way.”

At this moment, no one keeps rubbing his chin, crossing and uncrossing her legs, taking notes, or mumbling, “Interesting.” The reason? Before, during the lecture, their situation allowed them the luxury of abstracted, disinterested detachment. But now, their real-life situation has been addressed, and the category of communication has changed from knowledge or information (a lecture on astrophysics) to news (of a threat to safety and life and how to escape it). (McLaren, Finding Faith, 16)

Religion includes not just abstract intellectual facts but also issues of the heart, of intimacy, and meaning, and destiny. This may be one of the reasons that religion can unfortunately become so contentious: It requires submitting all of our mental faculties to be truly understood.

Conclusions

We have been led to the conclusion that science and faith are not, in fact, enemies. They both attempt to describe and throw light upon reality, sometimes in complimentary ways, other times in ways that only their particular methodology can do.

For some, scientific study can lead them away from their faith, as their erroneous understanding of real faith conflicts with their new scientific knowledge. Others, however, such as astrophysicist Hugh Ross, are led to faith through studying science. He tells his story in the article My Search for Truth. I hope, similarly to Dr Ross, that you find the truth that you are searching for, the truth that truly satisfies our multifaceted search for intimacy, meaning, and destiny.

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20 Responses to “Science & Religion: Competitors or Companions?”

  • DAVID ORUKO says:

    I have read the bible and listen to the teachings of both the historians and the scientist and come up with an opinion that both of them are saying the same thing but understanding the bible has been aproblem to them. So to understand the bible one need to accept the work of the holly spirit as this will make you understand the teachind of those who wrote the bible as to some extend science can not explain other things but the bible explaine everythin. The historians have dug deep into study of religion and have found that there is the truth.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Actually Dudely, other than the structural arrangement, the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are surprisingly consistent. Part of the value of the Dead Sea Scrolls is that they reveal how accurate the copies that we have today are compared with the scriptures used by the Qumran communities of the first century.

    I know that the Qur’an has some differences but Mohammed acknowledged that the revelation he received from Gabriel showed that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures had been tainted and his was the only accurate reflection of the words of Allah. So it makes sense that his writings are different from the others.

    It is true that the Bible does claim to be the inspired Word of God, and I suppose if that was all that we had to go on there may be reason to question that. But the Bible’s claims are not the only thing we have to corroborate that exclusive title. First of all, we have the amazing historical accuracy of the scriptures. By no means have all accounts of the Bible been affirmed by archeological study but time and again, when the events, place and people of the Bible have been questioned subsequent archeological discoveries have uncovered the truth of the Bible. Examples of this are too numerous to list but a recent one is the existence of King David. Many scholars have questioned whether such a king ever lived and ruled in Israel but recent excavations in Jerusalem have discovered His palace with his name inscribed in prominent places. There was also the Tel Dan Stele which accounts the victory of a Damascus king over ‘the house of David” which dates back to 850-835 B.C.

    We also have the Bibles amazing prophetic accuracy. Specific events, kingdom developments and even specific people named are described hundreds of years before those events ever took place. The most stunning to me is Isaiah’s prophetic words regarding how Cyrus, king of the Medeo-Persian Empire, would instruct the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem in 520-516 BC. Cyrus is actually named as the one who will be used by God to rebuild the Temple. This was written 150 years before Cyrus came to the throne, 80 years before the Temple was even destroyed. Again this is just one small example of the myriad of prophecies recorded in the Bible that have been fulfilled.

    The most powerful confirmation of the Bible being the Word of God is the testimony of Jesus Himself. Jesus described Himself as the Son of God and confirmed that the Bible was the revealed Word of God. He quoted the Old Testament authoritatively, He affirmed the accuracy of the prophecies found in the Bible, and helped instruct His followers in their understanding of what the Bible teaches. So you have the confirmation from God Himself that the Bible is His revealed Word to the world so that we can know Him.

    The purpose of the Bible is to help facilitate our relationship with God. It is one of the ways that God speaks into our lives. It helps us measure other revelations and ideas we have about God to assess their authenticity. It is a reflection of the nature of God’s desire to be known. He does not hide Himself from us but instead shows Himself to us in a myriad of ways. So in His desire to be known by humanity He has given His Word into our hands. Many people have spent their lives studying the Bible but missed the fact that it is only a means to an end which is the chief pursuit of all humanity: to know God and to love, and serve Him alone. If a person’s reading of the Bible is only to read a book and not to get to know God they will miss the power of its words.

    And getting back to the point of this article, science is also a means of getting to know God: by studying that which He has created. But when scientists begin with the bias that there is no God they blind themselves to the wonder of seeing His hand in every aspect of the universe around them. Science will never give us a complete picture of God but it can be a wonderful way to discover the complexity of His creative personality. That is what our brains were designed to do!

  • Dudely says:

    First of all I would like to say that if your faith makes you a better, happier person than I am happy for you regardless of what you might beleive.

    I have read the bible front to back on two separate occasions, so yes, I am very familiar with what it says.

    When discussing the word-for-word accuracy of the bible the first thing that must be considered is that the first five books- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy- are actually in all three of the Abrahamic religions. In each of these religions the texts are slightly different. The major plot points are the same (all contain a 6 day creation, for example, but the Quran does not mention a rest day), but there are quite a few minor differences.
    Now I’m not going to sit here and pretend that the Jewish faith, which had already existed for centuries before Christianity began, is somehow wrong and ONLY the words of the Christian bible are right. I have to consider that the differences are there because of the folly and the mistakes of the men who translated and transcribed it.

    I also have to consider that God does not play games with us. He’s not going around planting bogus evidence for us to find and question.

    Finally, I have to consider that the only reason we know the bible is the inspired word of God at all is because. . . well because the bible says it is!

    Given the above it seems reasonable that God does not expect us to live strictly by every letter between those covers. Heck, it’s probably planned out that way as a lesson in relying on physical objects and words to provide you your faith.

    He gave us a brain and He expects us to use it.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    It is my opinion that the Bible does record exactly what God wanted those men to write thousands of years ago. The reason I have that point of view is not because of my faith in those men’s abilities to accurately interpret and pen the words they received from God but it is all because of my faith in God. If He is the One who was able to create all things out of nothing, and if His purpose for creating all of this was so that humanity, as the ones who bear His image, could be in relationship with Him, would it not be important to Him and entirely within His ability to empower the writing of these words so that they accurately reflect His Character and His actions? Would not that accuracy be essential for us to be able to know Him as He truly is? For a God who is described to have accomplished the things the Bible claims He has accomplished doesn’t that seem like a pretty simple task? And what does it matter the mode of transfer of those ideas and words? Why would ‘word of mouth’ be any less reliable when you have God invested in the accuracy of the message? And if God is involved in the initial communication why couldn’t He — why wouldn’t He — be involved in the preservation of that message as well?

    So yes, I do believe in an actual 144 hours because the language is very clear when at the end of each component of Creation we read, “and there was evening and there was morning — the first (second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth) day.” (Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31) I think it is a mistake to take such specific language and interpret it as metaphorical representing thousands or millions of years.

    And again, as I have said previously, when later scriptures use this first week of Creation as the basis for the importance of Sabbath rest, taking one day in 7 to rest from our labour and enter into the rest of God, I think it would be a misinterpretation to think that there were no connection with an actual historical event. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

    Does that make sense why I think that the words of the Bible are trustworthy? Have you spent much time reading and studying the words of the Bible to discover what they say?

  • Dudely says:

    @Jamie

    Thanks for such a nice reply! It certainly deserves a good answer :).

    When reading the bible you have to realize that you’re not reading exactly what God said. You’re reading the interpretation of what God said to people who lived between 1900 and 3500 years ago. Can you be TOTALLY sure that what is meant by “6 days” LITERALLY means 144 hours? Or is that just the word the mostly-illiterate Israelites chose to describe what was being said to them? Can we even be sure the person(s) God told this to even wrote it down? Maybe it was spread by word-of-mouth for a few generations? Maybe something was lost then? It certainly seems reasonable to me.

    As far as “kinds” go evolution does not differ from the bible in this. I have often seen religious people have such wildly fantastical views of things like evolution simply because they see it as wrong at the outset and learn nothing about it, or only what they need to know to convince themselves it’s wrong. In reality evolution also states that things reproduce after their own kind.

    The difference is evolution says two populations of creatures of a given “kind” which reproduce by themselves will eventually be unable to reproduce with one another. This is not a radical statement in any way- simple genetic drift will cause this given enough time. These creatures will continue on separate from each other until humans come along millions of years later. Inevitably humans will see the differences and split them into different “kinds” even though they were once as close as brother and sister!

    As far as the complexity of things around us go, yes, it’s certainly unbelievable to think it all happened by chance. But there is so much else in this universe that’s unbelievable to our limited human brains that it would be folly to throw out the idea simply because your personally think it’s unbelievable. where would we be if that was our reaction to Germ Theory? Or heliocentric astronomy? Or anything that was revolutionary!

    I think evolution deserves a good study on its own merits. I think it explains a lot about the world around us and I think it would be a very stupid of someone to deny that because of their own personal interpretation of some very old parts of the bible.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    You are right Dudely, Richard Dawkins did follow up his comments about higher form of intelligent life seeding our world with the building blocks for life (and those comments were not edited out by the producers of Ben Stein’s documentary and you can hear them yourself if you follow the video link I embedded). I still see that as a reach to try and explain where life began. If we push it to another life form where did their evolutionary journey begin? Were they too seeded by some other higher form of life? When does it actually start from nothing? Laws of physics demand that our universe had a beginning?

    God absolutely could have created the universe so that life could eventually evolve. But He said that He created it in six – not seven – days. He also said that the creatures He made would reproduce each after its own kind (Genesis 1:24) which seems to stand in opposition to the idea that all life sprang from common ancestry.

    We also know that the process for evolution would have been, as described by Charles Darwin, “only by very short and slow steps”. And yet the irreducibly complex nature of life makes that kind of adaptation impossible. Every organ in the human body is made up of multiple components, all needing to exist in order for the organ to function. There could be no short, slow steps in their evolutionary development because they would not do anything until all the pieces are in place. That reality becomes even more magnified when you take into consideration the molecular biology and the complex adaptation necessary to change the DNA of any given cell. And evolution is supposed to be the simplest explanation for the origin of life?

    I would be interested to hear more from you Dudely how you understand the relationship between science and religion.

  • Dudely says:

    Jamie, Richard Dawkins did NOT claim that life was seeded here by aliens. He simply said that it was possible. Right afterwards he even shored up what he meant by saying “but of course the aliens must have themselves evolved from something”. I’m afraid Stein has a bad habit of selective editing which hurts his credibility dearly. So yes, Dawkins was still claiming that, at some point, amino acids came together inside a shell of lipids and started to divide, eventually producing complex life.

    It could be that God created the universe in such a way that the improbable act of life being created out of basic chemistry WOULD eventually occur on Earth. There is no reason to think that is not how he chose to create man.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Ray, the reason that I believe that God created this universe in six -not 7 :)- days starts with the reality that God is the one who created all things. His authority over all things stems from that fact. It is no wonder that those who choose to be free from the authority of God reject Him as Creator. So God has clearly revealed that He is Creator. We have His testimony of that in the Bible but also science is discovering more and more conclusively that there is such a high degree of complexity at every level of nature that it is only conceivable that there must have been some intelligent designer who instigated it. I was intrigued by Richard Dawkins’ answer to how life came to Earth. Recognizing the unsatisfactory answer of ‘spontaneous evolution’ his answer was that life was seeded here by some advanced alien life form (you can hear his comments from Ben Stein’s movie “Intelligence Expelled”). Even Stephen Hawking, when talking about the beginning of everything, can only come up with “the universe created itself”. It just seems to me that these are strained attempts at finding any possible solution except the obvious, God created all things! And if He is able to create all things what would inhibit Him from being able to create all things in six – not 7 – days?

    Now knowing that God is a not One who hides, but freely reveals Himself to all He has created so that we are better able to worship Him for His greatness, why would He hide how He accomplished that? Why wouldn’t He give us information of how He pulled that off? And He has. He laid it out in the first written account of His revelation. Not only that, but part of His instructions of how we are to relate to Him and relate to others around us (the Ten Commandments) includes the structure of our week based on His act of Creation, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

    Now the principle of Sabbath rest is a key element of our relationship with God. Jesus taught that humanity was not created to bring meaning to the Sabbath but that the Sabbath was created for our benefit (Mark 2:27). In Hebrews we read that as followers of Jesus we are called to enter into the Sabbath rest of the Lord “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest” (4:9-11). This idea is such a central aspect of our relationship with God it only stands to reason that the basis for it be solidly established in a real, historical event – namely the six days of Creation followed by the seventh day of rest.

    As for how that meshes with the findings of science that seem to suggest a much longer process of development of the universe, I think it just reflects the extravagance of God’s creativity. He was not One to just create the basic necessities of life but He went over the top in creating variety, beauty, complexity, and intricacy. He didn’t just make nutritional supplements but created a vast cornucopia of flavours, textures, and aromas that make the nourishing of our bodies an experience of joy and pleasure. He didn’t just create foliage to provide shelter, nutrition, clothing, and air but we have before us innumerable varieties and species of plants which we revel in daily. I mean you look at what is now only being viewed in space via the technology of telescopes like the beauty of the nebulae and the brilliance of supernovas. Those things have been there all this time, unviewed by human eyes for millennia and yet God put them there anyway–just because He could. And what about the beauty in the depths of the seas that we are only now just beginning to bring light to? And what about the complex intricacy and beauty at the molecular level? All this points to a God with limitless creativity. Surely, when He spoke the universe into being it was all done in an instant including all that necessitated the history of their development. When He created trees, did they have no rings? When He created Adam, was he only an embryo or infant? No the trees had rings showing years of development, and Adam was a grown man ready to carry out the mandate as steward of God’s Creation. That is just the kind of God that He is and I can’t help but praise Him for His excellence, His beauty, His extravagance, His perfection, and His love!

    Psalm 104:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
    2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent
    3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.
    4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants.
    5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.
    6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains.
    7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
    8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them.
    9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth.
    10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains.
    11 They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    12 The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.
    13 He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work.
    14 He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth:
    15 wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.
    16 The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    17 There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees.
    18 The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys.
    19 The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down.
    20 You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl.
    21 The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God.
    22 The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens.
    23 Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening.
    24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.
    25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number– living things both large and small.
    26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
    27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.
    28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.
    29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.
    30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.
    31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works–
    32 he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke.
    33 I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.
    34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD.

    That’s why I believe that the record in Genesis 1 is an accurate reflection of what happened at Creation.

  • Ray McKendry says:

    It looks like we both have some reasons to hold the positions we hold Jamie.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Ray, I am not trying to be contentious but I don’t think this would constitute Jesus affirming a literal six (not seven) day Creation.

    Luke 13:14-16 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”
    15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?
    16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (NIV)

  • Ray McKendry says:

    Jesus agreed with the quote or he would have said so.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    My Bible credits that quote to a synagogue leader not Jesus. Does yours translate differently?

  • Ray McKendry says:

    Sorry I misquoted but Jesus did mention the six days (not 7) of creation in Lk 13:14 where he referred to the cration order of work and rest.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks Ray, I appreciate your insight on this. Could you give me the reference where Jesus makes that statement “in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth”? I can’t seem to locate it.

    Some of the commentaries that I looked at indicated that ‘the earth’ in Genesis 2:5 could also be translated ‘the land’ and from there suggested that there were no plants or shrubs in the land where Adam was created and that is why God moved him to the garden in Eden. So there were already plants created but not in the land where God created Adam.

    Does anyone else have a different perspective on the two different descriptions of Creation?

  • Sharon Sharon says:

    good article– thanks for posting it

  • Ray McKendry says:

    You wrote: Author: Jamie: Comment:
    Sorry Ray. I wasn’t trying to be cryptic in what I was saying. I want to be able to understand which point of view matches what God has given us in the Bible.

    I agree that Jesus’ reference to the account of Adam and Eve’s union (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9) is a strong support for the historical accuracy of the Genesis account. I would also say that the Bible’s presentation of original sin (Romans 5:12-21; 1Corinthians 15:21-23) depends on the actual existence of Adam as the first human from whom all the rest of humanity has been born. Along with that, for me the Sabbath Laws and instruction about entering into God’s rest (Hebrews 4) are compelling argument for the literal 7 Day Creation.

    Now there are others who would say that the two different Creation accounts (Genesis 1-2:3; Genesis 2:4-25) in Genesis show that they are symbolic stories rather than historically accurate accounts. There does appear to be a different order in the first account (creation of man on the sixth day after the plants had been created on the third day) and that described in the second account (Genesis 2:5-7) “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…” While I wouldn’t call that conclusive I do agree that it opens the possibility of symbolic narrative rather than historical description. How do you deal with thdiscrepanciescies?”
    Jesus knew and saw the Genesis account and he saw no discrepancies so I am happy with that. As Jesus said “in six days (not seven) the Lord made the heavens and the earth.” Chapter 1 of Genesis sets down the supremacy of man over the animals as the last created at the peak of God’s created order. Chapter two emphasises that there is no creature to compare with Adam the human. The difference in the order is to do with when the animals came into contact with the man for the first time. The order in Gen 2:5-7 is to do with precedence as the dictionary says: “the right to precede in order, rank, or importance; priority.” So it has to do with precedence of importance to God’s purpose in creation as a whole. Verse 2:8 said God had already “planted a garden in the east…” Please see the NIV translation for this. It was of importance to the Holy Spirit in revealing chapter 2 of Genesis that man had been created as separate from the animals as this human creation is the special creation of God. This is however contradicted by humanists, evolutionists, and those who argue for animal rights and say animals have rights just as we humans do. Genesis clearly sets the record straight. Just as Jesus does.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Sorry Ray. I wasn’t trying to be cryptic in what I was saying. I want to be able to understand which point of view matches what God has given us in the Bible.

    I agree that Jesus’ reference to the account of Adam and Eve’s union (Matthew 19:4-6, Mark 10:6-9) is a strong support for the historical accuracy of the Genesis account. I would also say that the Bible’s presentation of original sin (Romans 5:12-21; 1Corinthians 15:21-23) depends on the actual existence of Adam as the first human from whom all the rest of humanity has been born. Along with that, for me the Sabbath Laws and instruction about entering into God’s rest (Hebrews 4) are compelling argument for the literal 7 Day Creation.

    Now there are others who would say that the two different Creation accounts (Genesis 1-2:3; Genesis 2:4-25) in Genesis show that they are symbolic stories rather than historically accurate accounts. There does appear to be a different order in the first account (creation of man on the sixth day after the plants had been created on the third day) and that described in the second account (Genesis 2:5-7) “Now no shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no plant of the field had yet sprouted, for the LORD God had not sent rain upon the earth, and there was no man to cultivate the ground. But a mist used to rise from the earth and water the whole surface of the ground. Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground…” While I wouldn’t call that conclusive I do agree that it opens the possibility of symbolic narrative rather than historical description. How do you deal with those discrepancies?

  • Ray McKendry says:

    Well, whatever does “best reflective of God’s revelation of Himself” mean? It sounds as though we are grasping at straws to try to get God to reveal Himself. Is that what you are suggesting we have to do? How do we know God is a ‘He’ anyway without the revelation of God’s self by means of His Son Jesus Christ in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments? Jesus said that in the Scriptures we would find Him as He spoke to correct the Pharisees. and he said that from the beginning the man and woman are brought together in marriage quoting Genesis 2 verse 24 so He must have had respect for the authority and veracity of Genesis.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Thanks for your input Ray. It is always good to have different points of view to compare which one is best reflective of God’s revelation of Himself. I would love to hear why you feel committed to the Genesis accounts as historical accounts of a literal Creation and Fall. You say Jesus affirms this perspective: what quotes from Him help you to hold that position? Perhaps there is someone else who can say why they have come to the position that the accounts given in Genesis 1-3 are metaphorical and do not constitute a historical description of the beginning of the Earth and humanity.

  • Ray McKendry says:

    Hugh Ross may have come to faith but he is not a good example of such a person as he denies Jesus words about the literal, factual act of creation and then the fall of mankind as recorded in Genesis.

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