I was leading a question and answer session a couple of days ago, and a young man who looked to be 12 or 13 asked me if I believed in a literal six-day creation. I suddenly felt very awkward.
Now, to be fair, I have no idea what this kid actually believed himself. But I assumed from the question that he believed in a literal six-day creation, and from how random the question was within the context of what I had been talking about, I also assumed that it really mattered to him that I believed in that version of the creation story as well.
I probably assumed this because that’s what I was like when I was younger.
In high school, I used get on Internet chat rooms and debate the evolutionists. I had all the arguments about how carbon dating methods weren’t reliable, and blah blah blah.
Basically, my relationship with science was adversarial. I was afraid of it. It threatened my faith. I assumed MY reading of Genesis was THE message of Genesis, and if Genesis was wrong, then the Bible couldn’t be trusted. How could I know that Jesus was even real then? This is why Creationism is so important to so many people. It has very little to do with scientific concern, and everything to do wanting to keep one’s faith system in tact.
The red-faced creationist is not arguing about science. In his mind, he is arguing for the God that he loves. He feels like any view outside of the one that he believes is an attack on his faith. The faith that gives him purpose. The faith that he finds hope and life within.
So in my Christian school growing up, we’d all snort and chuckle when a scientist in a documentary would mention evolution or talk about how this sort of animal existed millions of years ago. We needed to hear each other laugh, so we knew our whole life wasn’t a lie.
But now that I am a songwriter, I see this whole thing as absolutely absurd.
Genesis is a poem if I’ve ever seen one.
It’s full of refrain, metaphor, and rhythm.
And God said that it was good.
Over and over like the hook of a pop song, like a wave sculpting its shores…this is good, this is good. The poetic refrain of Genesis hammers the wonder and beauty of a creator making a good creation into our hearts.
In a science book, you’d have to discredit a text like this for glaring logical errors like the creation of light before stars, or days before an earth and a sun. In a poem, you don’t have to worry about such things. You simply can enjoy it’s beauty and hear the voice of God as it speaks over and over.
Let there be...
It is good...
Let there be...
It is good...
As a songwriter, I see the "days" of creation not as any sort of scientific statement, but as stanzas...verses...poetic structure.
So many people have totally butchered the poetry of Genesis by treating it like a science book. It’s sad, really. It would be like a sect of really hardcore Shakespeare fans arguing that Romeo believed that Juliet really was literally the sun.
“No, look, it says it right here! ‘It is the east and Juliet is the sun!’ See!?”
And then someone leans over and whispers in his ear, “Hey man, you’re kind of embarrassing yourself…There’s this thing called metaphor. It’s something writers love to use. Juliet is not actually a giant ball of fire that warms the earth.”
If this is the case, and Genesis is not a scientific text but a poetic one, then how about taking Genesis off the table when talking about science?
It would be like if a bunch of scientists were sitting around discussing the properties of earth’s sun, and one of them piped up “Well, you know, Shakespeare wrote that Juliet was the sun…Maybe that big ball in the sky is actually the rich daughter of the Capulet household. Have any of you considered that?”
What would you do with such a person?
Smile uncomfortably and ask as politely as possible for the ill-informed man to leave the room, perhaps?
That’s what our culture is doing with creationists that try to bring Genesis into the scientific discussion. (Perhaps understandably so)
Maybe we shouldn't bring our religious poetry to the science lab. It doesn’t belong there. Doing so is disrespectful both to the text and to the lab.
Science doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, I’ve found that when I finally let Genesis be what is (a beautifully meaningful poem) and science what it is (science), it can all actually be tremendously awe-inspiring. Science can actually become another testament of God--another space where the voice of God can be heard.
Why do you care whether you are made from literal dust or some guy’s rib or from chimp descendants? What does it matter? Is one really better than the other? What does that have to do with whether or not Jesus rose from the dead? What does that have to do with whether or not we ought to love God or our neighbor?
I’m not saying that every scientific theory that comes along ought to be believed blindly. Historically, human beings are generally wrong about a lot, and awfully confident in their wrongness. In reality, none of us were there at the beginning of all things. We're all guessing based on the limited amount of evidence that we have. All I’m saying is that there is no reason to be afraid. Let the scientists do their work, and then look for God within that work. Why try to impose your religious views before the science is even done? That just leads to both bad religion and bad science.
Still, I feel bad for the kid in the question and answer session. Here he is (in my imagination anyway), hoping that this musician guy that he evidently respects enough to attend this session believes in a literal six-day creation theory, and instead finds out he seems to be some sort of crazy evolutionist or something. So I feel bad for that, but I also have hope for him and the rest of us that have struggled to reconcile faith and science. I hope that we will learn to grow into people with faith that isn't threatened by science, but enriched by it--a faith that is more living and active than the commonly held dead set of fundamentalist doctrines built on fear that has to stand in opposition to science like a brick wall that tries to withstand a nuclear blast. (By the way, it's no wonder so many college students leave their faith these days.) I have hope that we will learn to find God in both the Scriptures and the testament of science, and that in letting go of our religious fear, our hearts and minds will be enriched and enlarged.
So, as to the question, I guess I'll have to come out of the closet and admit...no, sorry kid, I don’t believe in a literal six-day creation.