Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The 2.5% Doctrine


My good friend, Not Very Bright, (whose bloghandle is ironically self-deprecating, since he's one the smartest bloggers around) has a great post about the beliefs of some of our South Carolina legislators regarding evolutionary biology. No surprises here: most of those who responded claim that they believe that the Genesis story is to be understood literally and that humans were made in a single, special act of creation in a Middle Eastern garden, on a Friday afternoon 6,000 years ago. Thank the God of Abraham for Bill Cotty and Mick Mulvaney who express their belief that God is indeed quite capable of designing a universe and populating it with billions of life forms in a graduated process that science calls "evolution." (Rep. Mulvaney is a bit confused about the difference between "deism" and "theistic evolution" but at least the man can think. I promise to spend some time in his office giving him a brief on theological schools of thought...)


The more we discover about the grand design of the universe, the more we see the hand of a Creator in it. (At least I do, you're entitled to be an agnostic or an atheist if you like. At least until such beliefs are listed as threats to national security and we ship you off to Gitmo.) But belief in a Creator in no way presupposes that the Genesis stories (there are two creation stories there, one in chapter 1 and another in 2 and 3) are to be taken as a scientific inquiry into the origin of life. In fact, genetic research has established the basic outlines of Darwin's theory as fact.


The April 13, 2007 issue of Science magazine reveals that the tiny spider macaque, chimpanzees and humans share at least 97.5% of their DNA. This means that only very tiny variations in the genetic code produced the vast diversity of primates and humans. It's wonderful, heady, exciting news. It also strengthens the faith of those who refuse to check their brains at the bright red door of their parish church.


Instead of viewing this news as another scientific validation of theistic biological origins, most creationists either ignore it or deny it. Why? Because it does not fit neatly into their "literal" reading of Genesis. If the events of the Genesis stories are to be understood literally, goes the creationist line, then there was no "fall" and no need for redemption, thus no atonement brought by Jesus' death. No resurrection. No Pentecost. No Second Advent.


In this, the creationists make themselves the unwitting accomplices of the Richard Dawkins band of reactionary atheists who belive that knocking over the straw man of a literal Adam and Eve knocks over the whole basis for Christianity. Unfortunately for both of them, Christianity is dependent, not on a literal reading of Genesis, but on Jesus of Nazareth, the radical Jewish rabbi who came to free people from their enslavement to the traditions of human superstition, including those based on a flawed reading of Genesis or other ancient texts.


And it only takes 2.5% of our DNA to help us figure out that the entire 100% got here in an entirely miraculous process of slow motion creation over 15 billion years. It's the little things that count.


4 comments:

Silence Dogood said...

Excellent post Deacon Tim, for those who insist on a 100% literal reading of the Bible then what do they do with Jesus's saying that he will come again within the passing of a generation? As a person of faith with a strong belief in the teachings of the Bible, I agree the purpose is not to ignore where things in the Bible might conflict with the logic of current science or human logic, but to consider them and ponder them in depth. Faith grows stronger through thinking about it, not weaker. Thanks for writing this post, and consider the important yet often overlooked aspect that science can diminish faith in anyway. I tend to agree with you that mystery we unlock with science tend more so to show us the majesty of God not make His existence more unlikely.

Deacon Tim said...

Thanks, SD. The literalists get really unliteral when faced with things like Jesus' "this generation" prophecy and interpret that away to mean something like "he meant the destruction of Jerusalem" in 70 AD or "he was talking about Pentecost." But it's pretty clear that Paul and other NT writers expected Jesus' return in a literal generation. This is the main problem with literalism: it employs a contradictory hermenuetic when faced with the facts of the Bilical record.

JMC said...

Seems that most, if not all, of the Christian religions "pick and choose" what to take literally. For example, Roman Catholics don't take creation literally, but do take Jesus' saying, "This is my body," and "This is my blood," literally. I think (and I'm often wrong, so I may be here), that Episcopalians are the only Protestant religion that believes God is literally present in the bread and wine, but differently than Catholics, in that they believe in a duality (both God AND bread [or wine]) of the bread and wine. But I digress...

Anyway, there can't really be a completely literal viewpoint that is sustainable. My only credential here by the way, is that I once took a God, Faith and Reason course in college many years ago. :-)

Deacon Tim said...

Actually, JMC, the doctrine of the "Real Presence" of Jesus in the Eucharist is not the exactly the same as a "literal presence" of God in the bread and wine. What we believe is that the gathered congregation (priest and people) during the Eucharist really experiences the presence of Christ in its midst.

We don't mean that the bread is the "literal" body of Christ, but we do mean that the Eucharistic celebration is a very real presence of Christ for us. That's why we say "The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving."

It's not transubstantiation-lite, it's a mystical experience of Jesus in our midst.

Thanks for dropping by. I hope you'll stop again soon.