The Bible is at the core of many public fights (such as the current debate in Kansas about evolution as portrayed in this article) only because of political ambition and public misunderstanding.
I know that’s a strong statement, but the point here is not to grapple with scientific and academic infighting about evolution concepts – a slippery and contentious field of science even aside from theological disputes.
Rather, this writer would like to see an end to the Bible being held up to public ridicule because of popular misreading often fueled by political ambitions. For certain arguments which have brought the Bible into public dispute do not hold up – namely that all discussion of evolution is categorically contrary to Scripture.
EVENTS IN KANSAS AND FARTHER WEST:
The Kansas “trial” is an example of political disinformation campaigns using the Bible to manipulate voters on the right fringe, which plays absurd to the public and the media. Which of us has not heard the extreme ideas of some media culture Bible politicians/teachers: that there were no dinosaurs; that dinosaurs are a plot by Satan to overthrow God by making the Bible seem false; and that we know this because “the Bible teaches that the world was created in seven days (24 hour days)?”
Well, this writer happens to live in the heart of the ancient sea which shrank down to become the Great Salt Lake. We pick up fossils all over our property and see them on the public lands where we walk. Scientists from everywhere come to dig fossils, and we have watched them do it. Yet as they drive SUV’s around, guzzling fossil fuels, a lot of badly-instructed Christians are telling their children there could be no such thing as dinosaurs “because the Bible says.” Well, the Bible doesn’t say that.
A PROBLEM OF ‘DAYS’:
The Hebrew term for day is yome – a broad term with all shades of meaning – day (as opposed to night); day (24 hour period), days; lifetime; time, period or epoch (general), and so on – but for political leverage the politicians/televangelists insist on the 24 hour day interpretation of “yome.”
What happened on the fourth ‘day’ of creation? The sun and moon were created.
What predicates the 24 hour day, but the rotation of the earth in the light of the sun and the moon? In other words, the terms of the 24-hour day – evening and morning as dictated by the sun and the moon – were created on the fourth ‘day’ of creation. By understanding this, by a strict read of Scripture, it becomes impossible, at a minimum, that the first three ‘days’ of creation were 24-hour days.
This opens up the possibility for scientific inquiry about evolution to have occurred among creatures other than man during those epochs spoken of as ‘days’ in Hebrew. The general concept of ‘evolution’ does not have to be synonymous with ‘Satanism.’
THE MORE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS:
Thus discussion about evolution leads right to this question: what is different about man as against other creatures? The Bible distinguishes man from the rest of creation by explicit and profound Holy intervention in the human case. This opens up an opportunity to talk about God in the context of science, which is going to build stronger understanding in children. They will, in any case, make up their own minds in the end.
SO WHY ALL THESE BIBLE-BATTLES?
Ultimately the political infighting about Biblical text is not about the Bible. Why all the media circus then? Picking fights, drawing lines, taking sides – all of this is what polarizes voters. These kinds of tactics are the way politicians run campaigns – they certainly don’t win by agreeing with their opponents. Tragically, some of them are using the Bible to instigate fights in the name of Christianity.
For if the televangelist/politicians loved Scripture as they pretend to do, wouldn’t they pony up the funds to have channels on television dedicated strictly to reading Scripture or put it into text? Why don’t we see Scripture in text threads on monitors in the airports? Why aren’t people holding services on Sabbath Day, where much Scripture is read – as in Jesus’ day, before the invention of the printing press? People didn’t have Bibles lying around the home. They had to go to Temple to hear the Scriptures read.
How to respond? Study the Bible more. For those who have not tried to do so, learn to look things up in original Hebrew and Aramaic terms on the many excellent online resources now available. Looking up the word “day” in Hebrew could be good practice in using important tools of inquiry. But most of all, let’s recognize when the fighting is in bad spirit, or when the real issues, the issues God stresses all through the Bible, are being ignored or buried in the destructive excitement of another fight.