Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Denis Lamoureux: I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution

I try to avoid posts that simply link to other peoples' work, but I was listening to a series of slideshows by Denis Lamoureux, a professor with doctoral degrees in theology, biology, and (logically enough) dentistry and a proponent of the "evolutionary creation" interpretation of Genesis that offers a way of harmonizing modern science with the Biblical account of creation. The slideshows summarize his book I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution and do a much better job of explaining how this can be than I can (or even Peter Enns). So far he has done four of these concisely narrated presentations, and I stay updated on them via Peter Enns' blog.

Chapters 1 and 2: Lamoreux explains why the perceived conflict between evolution/"science" and religion/faith is an illusion and presents the alternative of evolutionary creationism (or teleological evolution), which embraces both science and faith.

Chapter 3: Lamoreux explains the hermeneutical principle he is applying to Genesis, which he calls the "message-incident principle". This means separating out the inerrant, unchanging kernal of truth in the Bible from the incidental, contextualized means used to deliver that truth, which may incorporate (or "accommodate") ancient ideas of cosmology and biology that are now known to be false. In other words, he believes that the Bible must speak theological, but not scientific truth, in contrast to inerrancy which believes it must speak both.

He gives some good examples of passages in which this principle must be applied:
  1. Jesus' mustard seed parable (Mark 4:30-32), where Jesus' statement that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds has since been proven false by the orchid.
  2. Ecclesiastes 1:5, which is not simply a poetic way of expressing a modern understanding of the solar system but presupposes a stationary earth around which the sun revolves.
  3. The second and fourth days of creation in Genesis 1, where God creates the sky as a solid dome (the "firmament") and places the sun, moon, and stars on it.
  4. Or Philippians 2:10, where "under the earth" is better understood as a reference to Hades, the Greek underworld.
In all of these examples the theological message has to be separated from the incidental way in which it is delivered, which was originally thought to be true is now known to be false. He then raises the question of whether the creation narrative of Genesis 1-2 falls into the same category.

His mantra here is to "separate, don't conflate" the message and the incident. This approach recognizes the Bible's dual role as the word of God and the word of human authors. You may object, "Jesus and the apostles took the Bible more seriously than this and interpreted it literally, and so should we." But as I've already pointed out, Jesus and Paul both use hermeneutical tricks that would get them laughed out of the room today. It seems "taking the Bible seriously" is itself culturally contextualized. The message-incident principle is, of course, not found in the Bible because it wasn't necessary for anyone in the Bible to apply it to messages already contextualized to their own culture. What we have in common with Jesus and Paul is a need to read scripture faithfully, but also as relevant to our present context and in harmony with what we believe about the world at large.

Supplement to Chapter 4: An interesting tangent in which Lamoreux discusses the theory that the creation and flood accounts are the combined work of two different authors.

Chapter 4: Lamoreux points out the numerous stylistic and factual differences between Genesis 1 and 2 (e.g. different names for and depiction of God, different literary style, different order of creation of man, woman, and land animals/birds), which the two-account theory from last time explains. He compellingly argues for the understanding of Genesis 1's seven-day structure as a literary framework for an ancient conception of origins, not as scientific or historical fact. He then applies his "message-incident principle" to the Genesis creation account to separate out the truths a modern audience can still glean from it from its ancient science that we now know to be false.

No comments:

Post a Comment