Sunday, June 12, 2011

How to Read Genesis

In discovering the writing of James K.A. Smith (Thinking in Tongues) I have found Amos Yong. I've just begun reading Smith and Yong's Science and the Spirit: A Pentecostal Engagement with the Sciences. "Yong," Roger Olsen writes in Christianity Today, "is proving to be a cutting-edge Pentecostal scholar, whose non-Western perspective is offering fresh ways of looking at old theological problems."

In their first chapter Smith and Yong write of new works on the biblical book of Genesis. Here are some points about reading Genesis that I agree with.
  • Genesis should not be read in terms of modern science, but in terms of the literary conventions of ancient Near East literature. See, e.g., the best book on Genesis I've ever read: John Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. To read Genesis from the POV of 21st-century science is to commit the sin of anachronism.
  • There then is no need to find agreement between what Genesis says and what modern science says.
  • The "plain sense" of the Genesis text in its original context does not equate with a literalist modern reading.
  • This alleviates the need to find a one-to-one correlation between the biblical witness and modern scientific data.
  • "At this point conceptual space emerges both for creative theological reflection that is informed by the sciences and for rigorous scientific work that does not ignore theological perspectives and contributions." (K 5%)