What if Genesis told the story in a way that pre-scientific man could understand? Could Adam and Eve be man and woman with sentience? Can creation and evolution be used in the same sentence without angering believers and skeptics alike? If God chose the Jews to be his people and to bless the world, would that anger a pagan gentile like me, or would I be glad to be included?
What if the flood was local? Again told from the perspective of the ancients who did not know the heliocentric solar system or spherical earth. Am I married to literal interpretation? Am I allowed to consider the evidence of geology without accusing God of deceit or fantastic existence? Will the skeptics hold me to a literal interpretation of all scripture when I don’t view it that way myself? Can I ask these questions in church? As a student? As a teacher?
What if my childish question about Babel was right thirty years ago? “Could a tower reach to heaven when heaven is not a physical realm?” What if the story resonates with the neo-Babylonian ziggurat? What if the story of language confusion is an allegory to explain pride and our disconnection? Is God offended by me interpreting the story in nonliteral terms? Are the skeptics handing me a revolver, compelling me to shoot, then insisting that I commit intellectual suicide every day I believe the Bible? Are my questions welcome in the church?
What if the Nebuchadnezzer II that I read about in the book of Jeremiah actually existed in ancient Iraq? How would I know if old books, written by fallible men, could not be trusted? How do I know he destroyed Solomon’s temple? Was I there? When does story end and history begin? If he existed, then why would I believe the writings of one who claimed to be a Hebrew prophet? Why trust any writing at all?
Too many questions. Here’s my answer. I love history although I can’t test it all scientifically. I love science although I can’t verify it all historically. I love people, even when I disagree with them. The Bible can be true and not be subject to the straightjacket of literal interpretation. How can I avoid going too far? That is a question that all thoughtful believers must ask. The scripture is one of my four cornerstones of faith because it tells a story that I can believe – – man created, fallen, and redeemed. It has immense explanatory power. I realize that ancient religions were asked to explain phenomena that we now understand as natural. But for the deeper questions – – the very nature of nature and love and hate and who I am and how I should treat you – I still look to God. In the few decades I have left on this earth, that is unlikely to change.
*all photos and illustrations; wikimedia commons, under public domain or CC license, generosity of the contributors much appreciated.