Genesis, myths and miracles


#1

From another thread, on the literalness of early Genesis:

See… you made my point. In YOUR mind, you cannot be convinced of talking snakes… or, moreso, a Global Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, a parting of the Red Sea, feeding of 5000 (loaves and fishes)… etc.

Now, as a Catholic I have no problem believing in e.g. the parting of the Red Sea, or the loaves and fishes, or for that matter the Resurrection, or the Eucharist. And yet at the same time I maintain that the creation story as told in Genesis is not a literal (historic and scientific) account. And I know I’m not alone in that.

So, what is the difference between the two? I’m still working it out in my mind, but I’ll take a start at it, hoping that others will join in.

What separates miracles like the parting of the Red Sea and a talking *** from the creation story is that the former are identifiable as miracles precisely because they go counter to our collective understanding of the world, an understanding that is validated over and over, each and every day. We know how water behaves. We know what donkeys are capable of. More generally, we accept that we can, through observation, make certain conclusions about the world that are more or less universal. And note that God is using precisely that human capacity in his miracles. God uses miracles to get our attention by explicitly violating his own natural laws as we are able to comprehend them. But without consistent natural laws, and without our ability to comprehend them, miracles would be impossible, since everything would look like a miracle!

Now compare that with the Genesis creation account. The words of Genesis 1 and 2 tell us one account of creation, while many different scientific disciplines, using many scientific laws and much observed data, tell us a very different account. The differences are so great that only one of three things can account for them:

  1. We are fundamentally unable to comprehend our world through science. Science simply doesn’t work.

  2. God has deliberately subverted our God-given intellect and ability to observe and comprehend the world around us, by creating the word one way and leaving vast and consistent evidence that the world was created in an entirely different way.

  3. The Genesis creation account(s) are not meant to be taken as literal historic and scientific fact (which is not to say that they are not true).

Both choices (1) and (2) would seem to go exactly counter to God’s miracles, where he is very open in requiring the consistency of his laws, and our ability to comprehend them, in order that we might distinguish his miracles. But if (1) or (2) are correct, then we cannot trust any miracle attributed to God, since we cannot trust either the laws or our ability to comprehend those laws. (1) and (2) seem to me to invalidate God’s miracles, and leave us in a world where we can know nothing, including God’s own actions.

That’s my first pass at analysing this question. Please chime in with your own thoughts.


#2

That was very, very well put!

I don’t have much to add, but I will say that one of the beautiful things about science, to me, is that it makes God’s miracles just that much more, well, miraculous!!

Peace

Tim


#3

Now compare that with the Genesis creation account. The words of Genesis 1 and 2 tell us one account of creation, while many different scientific disciplines, using many scientific laws and much observed data, tell us a very different account. The differences are so great that only one of three things can account for them:

Of course, this is only true IF the Genesis creation accounts are read in a literalistic way, instead of the literal way to which the Church subscribes.

And what is the literal way? It is the way the author of the writing intended, which may not be as historical fact or scientific data but, in this case, as a means to convey to us that God created everything and man’s place within creation, along with, and more importantly, his relationship to God. Those are the literal truths we see in Genesis.

I do not see any discrepancies between the Genesis stories and what science has discovered so far. I see them as enhancing one another because I do not read Genesis in a literalistic manner, but understand the author used language that would tell the people of his time (and us too) what was most important for us to know about the creation of all there is–that God not only made everything but that we humans are accountable to God for our relationships to him, to each other and to the world he created.


#4

To me it all comes down to what you believe God is capable of doing and accepting him at his Word for what he has said he has done (or will do).

Why is it so hard for you to take God at his Word about how he creation came to be? You trust him on other supernatural things he has done… right?

Don’t you see that when you reduce his Word to something other than his literal Word… a myth, a story, a coded message, some other meaning… you then set up everything about what God has done open for interpretation and argument. Remember, this is for specifically things that the Magestrium has not sided definitively on. Just wait until you have a discussion on this with a non-Catholic that doesn’t necessarily adhere to a Magestrium like we do.

It starts at the beginning, once you have negated the literal intepretation of creation. Then…

*Did the Great Flood really happen, or was it a myth and it was used as an metaphorically in the Bible to mean…

Weren’t the plagues on Egypt just really an overstatement of a few pests and pestilence that happen to naturally plague the land at the time…

There really wasn’t a Sodom and Gomorrah… just a story to illustrate God’s unhappiness with a sinful people…

Maybe there really was a Jesus, but really you cannot expect me to believe that he suffered like you said he did… nobody could withstand that and live… then be nailed to a cross… and then rise from the dead? Wait… you are telling me he not only rose from the dead, but walked around for days afterward meeting and talking with people? That’s just another story.

Ultimately, it becomes a man-made, made up bunch of stories that really are meant for people to take what they want, be a better person from it perhaps, but are not to be taken seriously if you do not… for if Heaven and Hell do not exist literally, then neither does God.*

Ultimately, God is reduced to be just a story… a man-made fable… and it happens every time we reduce his supreme authority and sovereignty.


#5

I think that since God created science He would actually be a fan of it :slight_smile:

And because He invented and created things He would have a inside track on its finer operations. So while it would be miracle to us, to Him its just how things are. We only find things overwhelming because we dont know the ins and outs of it.

Science trys to describe the world around us, it doesnt fail it simply doesnt have Gods wisdom, if it did, it would go Ah Ha, thats it. We as Christians try to describe God, the bible tries to describe Him, it doesnt work, for He is so much more.

If people are wigged out by talking donkeys or snakes, what about Jesus walking on water? He did. He also calmed the storm and told it to settle down. As the Creator He can do that and it isnt hard for Him. Since He created science, nature, everything, He knows it. Just like He created us and knows us.

He saw the the disciples in the boat, in the storm struggling, so walked out to them. Dont forget Peter did also walk for a bit. Jesus would not have asked him to if He didnt allow Peter to walk on water. So why are talking snakes so hard to get?


#6

Hello Everyone,
I’m new here, and it looks like I was just in time. Creationism/big bang cosmology are my favorite things to discuss. I’m very partial to talking about them, you see, because I study astronomy for a living.

 The question then is quite simple: which do I choose to believe, the big bang, or genesis?  The answer of course is both.  I very much agree with TylerAlex.  To call any part of the Bible myth, or to say that it is not historically or scientifically accurate, is to cast doubt on the whole thing.  As a good friend once asked me, "Why do you think God is a liar?"  As the creator of the universe, God certainly knows how the universe formed.  To then claim that the genesis account is utter trash scientifically, is to call God a liar, since He knows what really happened.

 If I wanted to give my kids an idea of how much I loved them (assuming I had kids) and how much time I put into caring for them, I wouldn't do it by telling them a story of how I traveled through the wilderness for a month, scaled the highest mountain in the world, and then wrestled them away from the storks living on top of the mountain.  Granted, I might not go into lots of details of what I did and how I did it, but I wouldn't make something up, which is what you are claiming God did.  If the genesis account is in no way related to how the earth was actually formed then the whole thing is made up, the whole thing is a lie, and the rest of the Bible might as well be too.  God is a God of truth, not deception, and to claim otherwise is an insult to His Name.

 That leaves one last question.  If I believe in the Bible, I'm sure many of you are wondering why I also believe in science.  The answer is simple.  I think the typical creationist interpretation is wrong.  I think the Bible is dead on, but the people reading it are reading from the wrong angle.  Another christian astronomer by the name of Hugh Ross has started a ministry, Reason to Believe, that presents a biblical based, scientific creation model.  It affirms the big-bang, and rejects evolution.  I've read many of his books, and find them quite well thought out.  He uses a combination of good science and good biblical exegesis to formulate his model.  For those interested, I highly recommend any of his books.

#7

I am not personally opposed to science… but when science and God do not see eye-to-eye… I side with God.

Science changes its mind all the time. How many times is a “new discovery” made to challenge currently held beliefs in science. Twenty years ago every magazine and many prominent scientists declared and predicted the next ice age was imminent… presently today it’s global warming and the threat to all man-kind.

Rational science thought today will probably become obsolete fifty years from now. People will look back and think how foolish we were to beleive what we believe now… and many are peddling today’s secular science almost like a religion.

The fact remains to me that God created everything just like he said he did. When I get to Heaven, he can then fill me in on all the details on HOW he did it.


#8

Hey welcome to the boards

glad you see God as a science fan :slight_smile:

So is there a “nutshell” on your guys big bang thing?

Tyler I couldnt agree more I think Heavens going to be OH really, didnt know, wow Oh thats why. Ok un huh go on :smiley:


#9

I am not personally opposed to science… but when science and God do not see eye-to-eye… I side with God.

I couldn’t agree more. I would take God’s Word well before any scientist. After all, who’s more likely to be right, the Creator of the universe, or the created? That’s a no-brainer.

So Kitty Chan, you want the big bang in a nutshell, huh? How’s this:

Big Bang = God creating the universe :slight_smile:

If you’re looking for something a bit more specific, then let me try this:

  1. The universe didn’t exist
  2. Something made a gigantic explosion
  3. Time, Space, and Matter all popped into existence. Scientists don’t know how, naturally, although Judaism has had the answer for the past 10,000 years or so :slight_smile:
  4. Galaxies, stars, and planets started forming.

I can get even more specific if you’d like, I just don’t want to bore you with the details :slight_smile:

There’s one thing I like to share with people, which I really find very interesting. Before the big bang came around, pretty much every scientist there was assumed that the universe always existed, always would exist, and was essentially unchanging. Naturally, this view was completely contrary to the Bible. When scientific evidence for started accumulating for the big bang, and an actual beginning to the Universe, almost all scientists (including a very famous Albert Einstein) completely rejected the idea out of hand because it presented, as they put it, a smoking gun pointing to the existence of God.

Imagine the irony. Almost every scientist around when the big bang was proposed rejected it because they truly believed it was far too much evidence for the existence of a God, that they really didn’t want to believe in. Instead, most of them spent many decades finding ways to tweak the theories and push back the beginning of the universe to an infinite time ago, and thereby removing God very thoroughly from the equation. Of course, they failed, and we know now that the universe had a very firm beginning about 13.5 billion years ago. However, everything else has been turned 180 degrees around on it’s head. Instead of the big bang being firm evidence for a creator, it is now used by atheists as proof that God doesn’t exist, and rejected by many Christians because they think it is anti-God. Personally, I liked the original viewpoint much more.

Anyway, if you guys want to know more, check out www.reasons.org. I particularly recommend creation as science and fingerprint of God.


#10

I dont think there should be a contradiction between the Genesis Creation account and Evolution or Science with Religion.

I have a BS in Biology and worked in the health care field.

Science has in fact increase my awe of the greatness of God. It makes everything so perfect from the tiniest atom, gene to the whole Universe.

Science in fact increases my faith in God.


#11

thanks cmancone

I was wondering about Hugh Ross, is what you said what he is speaking about?


#12

I’m not sure if Hugh Ross mentions how the big bang has been turned around as evidence against God. He might have, in one of his books. I really don’t remember.


#13

What is the porpose of the Genesis account if it is not true? Let’s assume for a moment, that the Modernists are correct, and Genesis is not true (because it doesn’t conform with what science tells us). Then why believe in the resurrection? Science tells us that is impossible. Why believe in the parting of the Red Sea? Why believe any of it?

If in fact the Creation story in Genesis is a myth, what is its purpose? It seems to me that it works against the credibility of the Bible. How can anyone accept specific parts of the Bible as true, and others as myth? Isn’t this what the Protestants have done…thrown out the parts of the Bible that they didn’t agree with?

First, science has no idea of how Creaton occured. Nobody was there to witness it. All we have is speculation, and this speculation tends to change. Look at how Darwinism has “evolved” over the last hundred and fifty years. How much credibility does a man who believed he was descended from an ape, really deserve?

My point is this: we need to realize what is science, and what is not, and we either accept supernatural explanations for miracles, or we try to find naturalistic forces at work. In my opinion, the natural explanations are rather far fetched. I mean, how could anyone acturally believe that a monkey, or ape, or some kind of simian creature could become a man, by the actions of natural forces? All around, we see things degrading, and yet we are supposed to believe that lower forms become higher forms. This isn’t science, it just plain foolishness!

Evolution was invented to give an explanation for creation without a Creator, and Modernists have accepted it. They have a right to their opinion. It’s called Freedom of Religion. But I object when they call it science.

ابو كمون


#14

#15

The truth is that God created everything. That truth can be taught in many different ways, including myth.

Let’s assume for a moment, that the Modernists are correct, and Genesis is not true (because it doesn’t conform with what science tells us).

You have to understand the difference between literal truth and the truth of what is being taught. A story can describe truth and still be fiction, myth, legend, etc. Genesis describes events beyond the author’s comprehension and that author is using a symbolic story to try to present an explanation of those events.

Then why believe in the resurrection? Science tells us that is impossible. Why believe in the parting of the Red Sea? Why believe any of it?

That’s why one has faith - to accept the things one can’t understand or explain.

First, science has no idea of how Creaton occured. Nobody was there to witness it.

That is very true - the authors of the bible were not there either and they had far less understanding of science than we do.

The story of the man and the woman in the garden is a myth. It is an imaginative story that uses symbols to explore a realty beyond our comprehension. The reality being explored is “Why do human beings suffer?” Given the beliefs that God is all loving and all powerful, that God made humans human beings in God’s own image, and that we are very good, why do we suffer? You would think God would have created things in an order that didn’t involve suffering. Why pain in childbirth? Why death? Suffering appears to be part fo the order of things. All of this is very mysterious. How can our belief that God is all loving and all powerful be made compatible with our experience of suffering?

The author who chose to explore this question does not have the option of giving an historical explanation. He doesn’t know a historical explanation. The author makes it very evident that his genre is not historical by his obvious use of symbols.

What in the story is an obvious symbol? It is easy to recognize the tree of a knowledge of good and evil as a symbol. Such a tree does not in fact exist in the order of reality. Notice there is no apple tree in this story. There is a tree of a knowledge of good and evil and a tree of life - another obvious symbol. If one can eat every day from the tree of life, one will not die. A third obvious symbol is the talking snake. Notice too that the snake is not referred to as the devil. The snake is a character in the plot, just as God, the man, and the woman are characters in the plot.

It is not unusual for a student to ask “How do you know that these are symbols? Maybe back at the beginning of creation there were trees like that and snakes could talk.” This question flows from the same misunderstanding common to the creation myth. The story does not date back to the beginning of time. The author is not contemporary whith the dawn of creation. This is a very sophisticated story. At the dawn of civilization society did not have a highly sophisticated view of marriage as expressed in Genesis 2:24. Neither farming nor the establishment of towns was an early development in prehistoric life, yet the fourth chapter of Genesis reports that Cain, who tilled the soil, married and built a town, all while separated from the family of his birth. This story, like the story in which God creates the world in a workweek, reflects a much more highly sophisticated society than would a story about the actual first human beings on the face of the earth. However, when we understand the literary form of the story, questions that presume historicity appear irrelevant. The text will simply not support a claim of historicity.


#16

What authority do you have to say that we cannot take God’s Word literally? Your understanding is completely different from mine.

The author is God. Are you saying God does not comprehend what He has created and how to tell us?

Your argument is basically that your faith is in only in what you can see/hear/understand. The Bible is full of examples, even in the Gospels, where faith without all the appearance of miracles and proof was glorified and sanctified.

Once again, the author was God. Are you saying God does not understand the science he created?

This is silly. Just because you cannot comprehend it- which to me is really an excuse for a refusal to accept it literally, does not make it a myth or a story. Then, you start interpreting the events to convey your own personal feelings about God’s motives… and apparently, you start to struggle with God’s reasoning towards the end because YOU can’t put the pieces together.

The author is God. And… it is not obvious, nor evident, that anything described there is meant to be symbolic.

Alright… since you seem to be an expert in symbols and meanings, tell me exactly where in the Bible I am supposed to believe that supernatural things that took place were not symbolic, but meant to be taken literal?

This is more silliness. Cain is now a story… I suppose Moses was too? According to your logic, because agrarians back in the day would not have the proper drilling equipment and sophisticated farming methods, Scripture (Exodus) mentioning the account of God proving Moses and Israel manna and water from a rock was a story too.

The Bible is just one, big story after story then. This is the type of reasoning I suggested that was happening and you proved my point.


#17

First, HOW God created the earth and heavens is not known for certain, and whether you can scientifically prove it or not does not matter. What evidence do we have that he truly created a Heaven? What evidence do we have that manna appeared from nowhere on the ground, or water flowed from a rock? Prove Jesus fed 5000 people from a few loaves and fishes! What evidence do we have that a person can rise form the dead, let alone walk and live amongst people afterward?

Fideistic… hardly. Your desire for evidence supercedes God’s plan to have you just accept his Word on Faith. How do you reconcile that? There are examples where God requires us to trust in him implicitly… despite the fact that there is a dearth of evidence.

God could spend an eternity trying to convince you with evidence and many of you would still not believe. Your threshhold for proof and understanding is completely different from the next person.

Anytime you look at the world and filter it through man’s conscience and understanding, you risk tainting and distorting it.

It is not all or nothing… it is, however, a position that is taken when there is a conflict between science (or human understanding) and what God has said with his Word. When the two do not see eye-to-eye, then I side with God’s Word.


#18

Ah, but do you see the false comparison you have set up? On the one hand is “human understanding”, on the othe hand is “what God has said”. But “what God has said” must be processed through human understanding as well! The real conflict is between human understanding and human understanding. If we can’t understand the world perfectly through human effort (and I agree we can’t, perfectly), then why assume we can understand what God has said perfectly through human effort?

The answer is, we can’t. We can only understand what God has said without error through the Church. Catholics of all people need to understand and accept that.


#19

I am willing to accept the Church as THE authority on these matters. I do not deny that. I also agree with you about the conflict of human understanding. The problem stems, I beleive, that the Church has not come out and made a definitive stance on this issue.

Another poster alluded to the same thing… they created a messy situation by alluding to the fact that the Genesis account does/does not have to be taken literally. They could have just said that it is a literal account… the HOW God did it is unknown.


#20

That’s a fair easy one. Let’s take the names of the first humans

Adam Seth Enosh Cainan Mahalel Jared Enoch Methuselah Lamech Noah Shem

Now translate from Hebrew to English

Adam Seth Enoch Cainan
Man was appointed suffering as his lot

Mahalel Jared Enoch
The Glory of God will descend and grow up

Methuselah Lamech Noah Shem
And by his death to the poor? man comfort shall be his name.


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