Friday, January 02, 2009

Why I am Not a Fundamentalist - A Brief Look at the Cosmology of Genesis 1

The "fight for Genesis" has been a rallying point of fundamentalists for over a century since Darwin published The Origin of Species in 1859. What fundamentalists have been fighting for is the wrong headed defense of Mosaic or Ancient Cosmology. What such a reading of the text of Genesis misses is that the bible is not intending to communicate the ancient cosmology as a tenet of the faith. Therefore, to make ancient cosmology a creedal belief places the progress of human discovery at odds with faith in Jesus as the Christ. Such a link between Ancient cosmology and faith in Jesus places an unnecessary stumbling block to faith.

Instead, it is better to understand the worldview of the biblical writers as one of the tools the writer necessarily used to communicate the culturally transcendent truths about God's relationship with man throughout history from Abraham to the present.

For example, Genesis 1 states the following:
6 And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.
Moses is stating that God separated the waters, some above in the heavens and some below the air on earth. The expanse between the two bodies of water was called sky. Later, Moses places the stars and the like in the sky. This is the Ancient cosmology. This view of how the universe is laid out was prior to our discovery of the water cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation and was a common sense explanation of where rain came from.

Remember, less than 300 years ago, human beings universally believed that there were four basic elements: earth, fire, water and air. No one had described accurately the idea that one element could exist in the three basic states of air, liquid, and solid. These discoveries which we take for granted today are part of our cosmology.

The key here is that you cannot expect an ancient writer to speak from a worldview that was not possible for him to comprehend. God inspires men to write, but, nonetheless, God uses human instruments to perform His work including writing the Bible.

So when we take into account the worldview of the writer, we must look to discover the BIG revolutionary "aha" that the writer was explaining to his contemporary readers. In Genesis, Moses was not questioning whether there existed two bodies of water separated by the expanse of sky. What he was questioning was the understanding that the different elements and objects of the universe were the creation or eminence of DIFFERENT DEITIES.

Moses the Prophet of Monotheism!!!!
In Moses' world, the Israelites had just come out of Egypt where there was a god of the river and a god of the frogs and a god of the Sun etc. The story of Moses is the story that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the One true God of Heaven and Earth and all that is on the earth and under the earth and in the seas and in the sky and the rain and the sun and everything.

Moses tells this revelation using the tools of his culture and ancient cosmology. To miss the radical proclamation of the Lord Almighty as Lord of All and instead focus on the cosmological understanding of human society of 4000 years ago is to not only miss the point but to place ignorance as a prerequisite to faith in God Almighty.

I do not think that the placing of such a stumbling block between faith and those God loves will be something that will be so easily forgiven.

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