(As of February 26, 2013)
I've been spending a fair bit of time in the last while learning about the relationship between the bible and science from different sources. This time has been confusing, testing, and very enlightening. There may be a few of you out there interested in my response to the very compelling arguments out there that challenge the traditional view of the way we read our bible.
What are hermeneutics? The definition you can read online is "the theory and methodology of interpretation, especially of scriptural text." (http://www.answers.com/topic/hermeneutics) In layman's terms (and for those of you who don't understand this idiom [ie. expression], "in layman's terms" simply means [from as far as I interpret it] to "put simply so that the average reader can understand"), hermeneutics means "the way we read and understand the text." Without knowing it, I've been concerned with hermeneutics before I even knew about the fancy term or what it meant.
Let me start with a word that people (including me) like battling over. Evolution. I have once stood on the soapbox to proclaim that evolution is stupid. Today I say, "evolution is a stupid theory, if you eliminate God from the equation." Yes, you heard me, I believe a theistic evolution is completely plausible and a Christian is able to believe it without their foundational beliefs being compromised.
My own opinion of evolution seems to be ever evolving, but I'm hoping that regardless of my current personal opinion, the truth of this article will still stand.
The biggest problem I had with the idea of a theistic evolution (or a God-involved evolution) was that it contradicted with the bible's story of a six-day creation. As far as I was concerned, if you didn't believe the literal translation of this bible story, you were taking your own meaning out of the bible. I simply cannot accept the idea that the bible can mean whatever you would like it to.
The meaning of any literature is the meaning that the author intends it to have, not the meaning that the reader gets from it (unless the author intends for the reader to get whatever meaning they want out of it). But what was the author of Genesis' intent in its writing? I've heard it said that Moses didn't write Genesis, but a combination of two authors wrote it. But let's suffice it to say that it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. What did God's intend for us to get out of Genesis?
Most of those who read Proverbs know that the divinely inspired sayings aren't meant to be true 100% of the time, that they are just generally very wise words. Scripture needs to be interpreted in light of the book that they are in, or as an educated professor may put it "hermeneutics according to the literary genre." The problem with the way I was reading Genesis that I was imposing on it my own idea of the type of book it was, or literary genre. I was imposing (for justifiable reasons) my idea that it needed to be read very literally.
I still believe that it should be read literally, but literally in the context of its original audience. The original audience who believed that the world was flat, and that the entire population of the world existed inside the sperm (or seed) of Adam.
I explained in "Science and the Bible" why it wouldn't be a good idea for us to read the bible as a book of science. God wasn't too concerned with the way humans believed the Earth to be three-tiered (the heavens, the land, and the underworld). He was more concerned with the fact that the humans believed that he was the one who created the Earth.
Because God cares about us, and wants to be in relationship with us, he converses with us in a language that we can understand. God doesn't bother explaining that the Earth revolves around the sun and not the other way around because what he really wants to talk about is his love for us and how awesome it would be for us to see how magnificent he is. All these scientific facts would distract us from the main point of God's glory.
Now let's apply this to Genesis. Do you think God is too concerned on whether we believe the six days of creation to be six literal days or six different ages? You may disagree with me, but I don't believe so.
Do you see how this makes evolution plausible? God wasn't going to explain the ins and outs of adaptation and evolution. He just wanted to make sure that we understand that it was Him who made us.
I want to restate that without God, evolution doesn't make sense.
There is lots of evidence for evolution. People who say otherwise haven't gone to school studying the science of evolutionary geology and biology. However, this is not the ship I want to be captain of if it sinks, this isn't the point I'm trying to make. I simply wanted to say that if we look at the physical evidence, we can see how it could point to evolution. Yet the missing intermediate fossils of evolution only begins to scratch the surface of how it couldn't have just happened by itself. But this isn't going to be a scientific document to prove one way or another.
What is the one big problem that Christians have with the idea of evolution, even a theistic one? It's simply that with evolution, death comes before sin and not the other way around.
But what constitutes as "death?" I believe that the physical aspect of the word isn't a huge issue. Skin cells die all the time. When Adam and Eve ate (non forbidden) fruit of the garden, the part they ate ceased to have life. I could most definitely be wrong, but I'm sure that at least a few of the few billion bacteria inside of the digestive systems of Adam and Eve died before Eve bit into the forbidden fruit.
I believe the death that God is concerned about and the one that came after Eve sinned is spiritual death. Humans are not able to come into the presence of God by their own accord because they aren't perfect (and imperfection cannot exist in a perfect realm), and this saddens God. If someone died without sin, they could freely live in the presence of God.
Now a lot of people who believe in a theistic evolution believe that Adam and Eve were just symbols, as well as the whole Garden of Eden. I don't believe this. Yet, once we understand that the death we need to be concerned about is the spiritual death, the issue of who Adam and Eve were isn't one that we should really get hung up on.
Lets take these new hermeneutics and apply it to the topic of the flood.
If God was concerned about referring to the world as the humans saw it because of his desire for a relationship with them, and less concerned with letting the people he was talking to in on all the mysteries of the science behind his creation at the moment, then there is a good chance that when God told Noah that he was going to flood the world, he meant the world as Noah and the rest of the population knew it; Noah was to gather all the kinds of animals as he knew them.
You don't like this ideology? Great. I don't really like it 100% myself. It's just the way that with my new hermeneutics I'm able to understand the text.
I believe that I raised more questions than answers, and that's fine. Actually, it's more than fine: knowing that we have very little idea of how God actually did things should give us a very healthy humble attitude with the desire to learn.