When earnest young believers discover the freedom to question the religious requirements of their elders, they sometimes revel in the freedom to doubt apart from the quest for the truth. The sad result is they simply shed one overbearing master for another, and place their trust in the authoritative voice of science because they no longer trust the voice of religious authority. I’d like to suggest a subversive question: what if both sides miss the point? We can argue the facts and miss the voice of the Spirit.
I’m tired of the debates over whether the earth is young or old. Both sides miss the wonder that the earth exists at all. I’m impatient with the struggle between whether the text is “factual” because neither side seems to be concerned with what the text says to every generation. Facts change from century to century; truth is timeless. I try never to confuse the facts with the truth. Orthodoxy is the settled opinion of whoever is in charge: the voice of the Spirit instead points to the One who is alive, who is loving, who is good, and smarter than us all put together.
Jesus does not submit himself to the latest round scientific discoveries nor to religious scholars who confer degrees. Instead, he comes with a simple offer to his disciples, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” He is speaking above the fray.
To argue over facts is to miss the message of the Spirit. The One who brooded over the waters of chaos is busy revealing the truth about the world and all who dwell therein. To demand a specific interpretation of Genesis is to bottle up the Living Word. Don’t tell me “Aslan is not a tame lion” even as you try to back him into a religious corner.
What if we set aside both our doubt and our certainty, listening instead for the voice of the Master? I’d like to suggest that anyone smart enough to create and sustain the universe is smart enough to write a book that can last through the ages of scientific discovery. What if we are missing the banquet table he set for us? May I share just three appetizers of the meal that remains to be enjoyed in Genesis?
1). Genesis tells us all of creation is good: Science cannot tell us creation is good, it can only point to the obvious--that creation is. Have we failed to hear the voice of the Spirit affirming the goodness and wonder of all that we see? In whatever manner he chose to create, God has transformed his innate goodness into the air we breath and the earth we walk. What if we concentrated on witness of creation rather than the method?
2). God Himself rested: When we read that the Creator God rested on the seventh day from all he had done, we are invited to discover the mind-blowing possibility that by resting from our labors we can become imitators of God. The failure to observe the sabbath is not simply a transgression against some religious law but rather a missed opportunity for transformation.
3). One account is not enough: When we notice the distinctive difference in focus and tone between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 (I know--it starts at 2:4b, actually) we discover the liberating reality that one account is not enough to describe the nature of God. Chapter One reveals an Eminence who creates from afar off--he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. Power, glory, and majesty shine forth from this transcendent picture. But that is not enough: in Chapter Two reveals the tender mercies of the God who comes near. The Creator of the universe personally fashions the man and kisses the breath of life into his handiwork. The first picture leads me to trust in God’s power and greatness; the second assures me of his love and care. I am not forced to choose between a god of power and a god of love. He is both, and He is real.
These three ideas are merely suggestions, not definitive judgments on the “meaning of the text.” Yet suggestions like these have given me the freedom to listen for his voice instead of demanding an answer. Do we really imagine our intellect can contain his voice? I prefer to hike the trails in the forest of his revelation. Let the scientists and theologians both examine the leaves, I want to see the beauty of the woods.