It seems like most of my spiritual fuel comes from blog posts lately, and this comment on a post about Young Earth Creationism has stuck with me for the last several days:
You know, there comes a point in a story where you have to introduce so many Deus Ex Machina devices to close the gaping holes based on very basic knowledge of today (what we see animals eating; what their teeth look like, how big their territories/space need to be, problems with wooden boats-stuff you can observe without having specialized training) that one ought to take a step back and re-evaluate whether this story was meant to be literal. If there’s a ton of explaining about the story on a very basic level just in order to close up gaping holes of realism, maybe the story is more of a fantasy than a non-fiction.
It’s like traditional gender roles. If they’re so natural, why do people have to work so hard to force everyone to fit into those roles? If you constantly have to explain your 100% true story because there’s all these highly unrealistic plot holes, I think that tells you something. And yet, no matter how many times somebody asks a straightforward, basic question like “Wait, how did Noah manage to stop the lions and other carnivores from eating everybody?” people like Ken Ham never take a moment of introspection.
I never thought of Bible stories like that. I was a little late to Christian formation compared to most of my friends who got it in Sunday School, but when you’re brand new to the faith and possess the wet-behind-the-ears innocence of an impressionable believer, it doesn’t matter whether you’re 2 or 20 years old when you’re taught to believe everything in the Bible as 100% true and literal. I didn’t have a ton of knowledge about evolution, either (my public school was in a very conservative town, and functioned more like a private school in terms of permitted religious behaviors) so it never crossed my mind that genetic diversity today is actually too diverse to have originated from just two modern homosapiens.
It wasn’t until seminary that “real science” started to creep in around the fraying edges of inerrancy, when I encountered people who didn’t think environmental causes were that important because God would ultimately take care of his creation. Global warming, ocean life dying from oil spills, that was all propaganda from godless liberals bent on destroying Christianity. That was just one of my breaking points where I thought, What if we’re misinterpreting something here?
Better late than never, right?
The more intricate justifications I hear about how, precisely, Noah kept the carnivores from devouring the smaller animals on the ark, or how an entire population of humans came to be without committing the sin of incest, I fear we are drifting further and further away from the point of these stories. Far be it from me to explain what the “true” points are, but I don’t see how making creation all science-y is a productive use of time. We know that oral tradition was an important teaching tool in biblical times, and Jesus himself employed this method in his ministry by using parables. To me, arguing the specific unknowns of Old Testament science is as fruitless as debating whether the Good Samaritan was a real person. It’s not the point.
My background in literature and Judaic studies make it simpler for me to parse truths from meaningful, but perhaps factually un-true stories, which are all part of a Bigger Story (this is what I mean when I say I “do Christianity ‘Jewishly’”). I have fears of being completely wrong, but I also fear closing my mind to knowledge and reason. To paraphrase a friend of mine, the battle between intellectual honesty and the pursuit of religion might just be my greatest act of faith.