I’m going to make this old argument here just so I can tell people where to look it up on the Internet in case I don’t have time or don’t feel like going through it all at the moment.
The Earth is much older than 6,000 years. Scientists change their mind about things all the time (which is absolutely what they are supposed to do) so the date moves around but everyone agrees it is over several billion years old. The Creation story in Genesis is allegorical, not a historical account of facts with dates on them. This does not, in the smallest way, change the meaning of the book nor the impact it should have on Christian readers, since it was never intended to be read as history.
Genesis Contains Allegory
By allegory, I mean: “stating one thing directly while intending the reader to get another meaning from my statement indirectly and usually on their own.”
Parts of Genesis are allegorical. I’m certain of this. If you’re not, consider that St. Paul agrees with me because he said so in Galatians 4:21-24.
(24) Now all this is an allegory; these [two women] represent two covenants.
Feel free to read it all for context but rest assured, Paul is saying that this story from Genesis is allegorical. (In Jewish language it is midrash where Paul is telling us the real meaning of the story.)
Also, consider the common belief that the serpent in the garden story is really Lucifer and not simply a serpent. There is no direct written reference the states this. The serpent can only be Lucifer if the story is allegory. We must either admit that the story is allegorical or that it is only a serpent and there is no reference to Lucifer. We can’t have both.
Allegory is used all over the Bible in other books as well: Jesus spoke in parables which are also a type of allegory.
Since some of Genesis is allegorical, any of Genesis could be allegorical.
Modern readers want to think that everything has always been the way it is right now. They might be shocked to learn that the way people have written things down over the years has changed quite a bit. The modern novel, short story, biography, and most everything we read, did not exist long ago. The author of ancient works had different ideas in mind and assumed the reader would be a certain type of person with a certain type of expectation that was different from ours.
An example of this is the classic myth. When we hear “myth” we think of mythological monsters and such but this is not what I mean. I mean the “likely story” of the Greek philosopher. This was a common technique where the philosopher told a story that was plausible and might even involve people the listeners knew but it was not “true” in that is may have never really happened, but the point was not to relate factual events, the point was to teach something. No one who was listening was “fooled” into thinking the events were real because the hearers were all familiar with the story telling device. If we read ancient writing without knowing that this technique was common, we might assume it was historical and meant to be a fact, when it was not written with that intent at all.
This Does Not Change the Story
I cannot understand why anyone thinks that since the Genesis Creation story might not be literally hooked to calendar dates it is somehow less valid. After all, the point of the story is to teach the reader something about God, not about how God made the universe.
Also, let me point out that this view is in good company:
In one of his books, Billy Graham wrote:
I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the Scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.
The Clergy Letter – from American Christian Clergy – An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science
(signed by over 12,000 Christian Ordained Clergy Members.) http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/
Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.
…there was a point of time after the earth was created after these things were done, after the universe was formed, after the asteroid hit the earth and wiped out the dinosaurs, after all that, there was a point in time where there was a particular human being that God touched and that was the human that started the race that we are now part of and I think prior to that who knows what was here. ….
You’d have to be deaf, dumb, and blind to think that this earth that we live in only has 6000 years of existence. It just doesn’t.
Pastor Brian Houston, Hillsong Church Australia
I believe in creation. The Bible starts in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. If I waver on the first 10 words of the Bible I think I’m going to have problems properly representing the rest of the Bible. However, timeframes, over what period of time that was, whether there was room for any evolving in some areas of life as well, I’m more than open to that. I’m happy to leave that to the experts.
“When we read about Creation in Genesis, we run the risk of imagining God was a magician, with a magic wand able to do everything. But that is not so,” Francis said.
“He created human beings and let them develop according to the internal laws that he gave to each one so they would reach their fulfillment.”
Francis said the beginning of the world was not “a work of chaos” but created from a principle of love. He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist.
Pope Francis tells an audience that the Big Bang does not contradict the “creative intervention of God”. He says, “on the contrary, it requires it”.
“God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.”
This goes all the way back to Saint Augustine who said in effect that where the discoveries of science contradict our understanding of God’s Word, we should first reconsider our understanding of God’s Word.
So, I think this should do it. If not, feel free to ask me questions. I’ll try to answer them. I would especially appreciate any comments pointing out factual mistakes. Reread the story and see what you think.