We live in a time when the loudest voices of Christianity come from the side of biblical inerrancy, what if that viewpoint is in error?
What if the oldest stories in Genesis tell us about how early modern humans sought to reconcile their own evolution?
Take a look at “the fall” of Adam and Eve.
First, they suddenly needed clothing. Could early modern humans have remembered the time when they wandered naked without shame? Did clothed tribes live alongside naked tribes?
Then, Adam was forced to toil to make the land produce food – he would have to farm, rather than just gather. Did the early farming tribes have romantic notions of the good old days of the nomadic life of hunting and gathering?
Did these people witness some form of evolution among serpents where they lived? Maybe grandpa told stories about when he was little and the serpents had feet, but now they slither on their bellies.
What of Eve’s curse, to feel the pains of childbirth? Did women evolve in such a way that giving birth became more painful? Perhaps the evolution of the mind allowed for more fear and anticipation of that pain?
The cause of all of this was eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
In our legal system, the definition of insanity is the inability to recognize the difference between good and bad. Did early humans recognize that some kind of change happened within them, something that caused them to begin labeling actions as “good” or as “evil?”
Does it make the Bible wrong to interpret it that way? Personally, I think it makes it a lot more interesting! And it doesn’t change the purpose of the story: humans are different from other animals. The choices we make toward progress have consequences that lead to suffering. There is a God who intervenes in human history to save us from suffering, but how God does that has changed over time.
If God could create the universe in a day, then God could surely have created the universe over billions of years. The Bible reveals a God who plays the long game; the really, really long game. The story of redemption is the story of how humanity’s relationship with God evolved over time. One generation at a time moving toward the Promise.
Here we are, two thousand years after the time of Jesus and the Church has evolved, too. We are in the midst of a season of reformation and the church will make a leap forward to its next “normal” over the course of this generation. The post-war program church is becoming extinct, the environment has changed and new variants are forming, adapting to a different culture.
Maybe the question of inerrancy isn’t about the Bible at all. Maybe we need to take a higher view of Scripture and assume that it’s not black and white, that it is far more complicated than we are comfortable with.
Maybe we need to stop reading it like children, having it spoonfed to us, never questioning and looking for simple answers to complex questions.
Why is there suffering in the world? Why do we have to suffer now, today?
When the Jewish people asked why they had to suffer in Babylon, God didn’t answer their questions with simple answers, he told the people a story. A long, complicated, sordid story, in the beginning…
If we want to be followers of Jesus, we cannot dismiss the Old Testament narrative, but we do need to always remember where it fits in the progression of God’s relationship with humanity. We also need to remember where we fit in that progression.