Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Genesis and Genre

I didn't post when, a few weeks back, Bruce Waltke resigned his post at RTS (announced April 6) after a controversy about the orthodoxy of theistic evolution. From what I have read from the pen of Bruce Waltke, and what I have heard from people who know him, he is a gracious, deeply respected brother. As I've reflected on what's happened to him, and on some of the reaction, I felt I should post by twopenneth. So, what happened? You can read about it at CT here, but basically a video had appeared on BioLogos (which has subsequently been removed at the request of RTS) in which Waltke questioned whether Christianity can seriously ignore scientific data that seem to point to an old earth and to evolutionary theory. Waltke has since re-affirmed his belief in a historical Adam and Eve (you can read Waltke's Statement of Clarification here), but this it seems is insufficient. BioLogos themselves hold that young earth theories are untenable and that the ID movement has reached a 'dead end'. Waltke probably isn't so definite about the latter of these, but perhaps it's another case of the dreaded Guilt By Association. Have we really reached the point where any concept of theistic evolution is viewed as heresy in Reformed thought?

Such a broad concept allows perfectly well for an Adam and an Eve, for the divine fiat, for man as the Imago Dei. In fact, it allows for all of the truths that Reformed Christianity holds to. I might not be a confirmed theistic evolutionist according to one specific model, but I can see that the earth is very old. Evolutionary processes at some level are contributing to biology today and have done so in the past. It seems probable to me that death existed in the animal kingdom even before the fall (from looking at the Genesis narratives, not from ignoring them). However, I still think that teleological arguments for design have got stronger and stronger in recent years, in the realm of microbiology and elsewhere. After all, it is this type of argument that eventually proved persuasive for Anthony Flew. Evolutionary process, the divine fiat and design are not mutually exclusive.

At heart, this problem is (again) centred around the doctrine of Scripture. If Scripture is to be read as a genre-less, ahistorical monolith, then we should all be young earth, six day creationists. However, if we believe in divine accomodation in scripture; if we believe that scripture is a human as well as a divine work, written to make sense to the first readers, as well as to us; if we believe that incarnation is some sense helps us understand the nature of scripture (if you argue with this concept, you are arguing with Warfield, Hodge, Bavinck, Ridderbos as well as with Enns - and you need to read this); if we believe in hermeneutics, then other options are available for the interpretation of the Genesis narratives. Why is it so hard for Reformed theology to recognise its own view that Scripture is human and divine, is itself an accomodation to human understanding? The Genesis creation narrative is expressed in the context of the ancient NE. Its genre reflects the aNE stories of origins. And at the same time it is true; it is the Word of God. The Genesis narratives convey critically important truths about God, about man, about the cosmos, about sin, about redemption. It is my firm opinion that if Christians spent less time trying to defend a literalistic, scientific reading of the Genesis protology, and more time reflecting on its theology, then the Church would better understand not only protology, but also eschatology, and a whole lot of ologies in between.