There is a scene from The Exorcist which reminds me of how I used to think of Christians who interpret the Book of Genesis literally. When exorcism was first suggested as shock therapy to Chris MacNeil by the Clinic Director, Dr. Barringer, he noted that “it’s pretty much discarded these days, except by the Catholics who keep it in the closet as a sort of embarrassment.”
My Christian closet had more Creationists than an audition for the tent revival episode of True Detective [season 1]. No more. John Lennox has given me a new perspective based on his talk at the Socrates in the City forum. The talk was a fluid combination of a detailed and logical reading of the Book of Genesis along with an appeal for empathy based on how certain positions in the Christian faith, which today are considered orthodoxy, were in some cases in dispute for hundreds of years. “How we speak to and of each other is important,” Lennox implored. “We are being watched.”
Are you a fixed earther?
Lennox makes the case that if he were addressing a similar crowd in the 16th century, the topic of his talk could have been to argue whether the earth moved. He then highlighted how that controversy mirrored current disputes, in that a scientific theory seemed to contradict scripture. Lennox then asks his audience to reflect on why the issue is no longer controversial and how Christians moved past the quandary.
Did the Christians who adopted the position that the earth moved do so because they stopped viewing Scripture as the inspired and authoritative word of God? No argues Lennox. What happened was that Christians recognized that although parts of Scripture touch on the physical sciences, the Bible is not a scientific tract. In short, Christians accepted that the Bible was [and is] more about why than how.
The rest of Lennox’s explanation touched on C.S. Lewis’s idea that Scripture deals in metaphors about real things. So when the Bible speaks of ‘foundations’ and ‘pillars,’ Christianity came to realize that we didn’t have to interpret those terms in such a way that contradicted science.
A hard [look at] days & nights
Lennox then addressed the subject of his book, Seven Days That Divide the World. I got goose bumps. Posing a deceptively simple question, Lennox asks why do we assume the six days of creation refer to 24 hours days? His close reading of the Book of Genesis makes the case that those who infer six 24 hour days are choosing to do so. He wants to let them know they have alternatives, including the powerful “we don’t know” option.
Lennox is on a mission to help Christians avoid being dogmatic about things not central to our faith. He asks that we proceed with humility regarding our brethren who may be in the midst [millennium-ly speaking] of adopting alternative interpretations. The seriousness with which they take their Scripture should bind us more than any disagreements fringe to our faith should separate us.