What the Bible is for me: a Battle with Modernity

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In the first part of my travelogue I described how I got to the starting point of my journey. It is important that you read that part first, otherwise it will be difficult to follow the story. So if you have not read “What is the Bible for me: the Starting Point”, I recommend that you start there.

Are you here again? Then continue on the way.

Modernity

We have left off at the point I realized that traditional Christianity was nearing science rather than the other way around, which I had thought.

Above all, it surprised me that Christianity had adopted the concept of truth as defined in the scientific age: “Truth could be backed by facts.” In addition, of course, they held on to the notion that what the Bible said was true.

This results in a problem wherever the facts contradict the Bible. Interestingly enough, the Church has been rethinking, even though reluctantly, the Bible or at least its interpretation. As we can see in the replacement of the flat earth model in favor of a helio-centric worldview.

But not so in other places. Take the creation story.

The newly accepted scientific concept of truth led to a literal interpretation of the story of creation as a factual account describing the first days of the existence of this universe: the creation in 6 days, the day of rest, the fall of man and its consequences.

Science provides facts for a universe that was 13.8 billion years old. Luckily, science calls evolutionary theory a theory. That seems to express that they themselves did not really believe in it. But of course the word “theory” is used differently in science: it denotes a sufficiently plausible assumption which best describes the facts found so far.

How do you react to such a discrepancy? The difference between 7 days and 13.8 billion years is not so easy to wipe off the table.

Explanations

I am a software architect. I have studied at the university for several years in several attempts, but each without a degree. Similar to the Dr. Faust, I can say, “I studied History, Political Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, Computational Linguistics, Artificial Intelligence and Theology, and I’m as clever as before.”

My professional colleagues and fellow students could not understand how I could hold on to an antiquated belief. Interestingly enough, it was mostly the creation story that they stated as the potential for conflict and reason for not sharing that belief. (Traditional Christians still think it’s the question of suffering in the world that scares people away, but I have not experienced this in my modern working environment, even though it’s traditionally true.)

So I had to explain this conflict to myself and my colleagues. Explain scientifically.

A first approach:

A friend of mine has examined the story of creation using Einstein’s theory of relativity. If God is an observer outside of the universe as a system and the universe expands and passes by with decreasing speed since the Big Bang, then the billions of years will look like a few days to God.

The faster the universe passes, the longer the elapsed time in the system, while the observer only experiences one day. Thus, according to these calculations at the time of David, a day with God was about a thousand years on earth, just as David puts it in the Psalm.

This way, the story of creation pretty much aligns with the “big bang” theory.

A second approach:

Max Plank has proved his Plank constants saying that there is a smallest possible distance and the smallest possible time unit. This means that our universe is not analogue but digital. Thus, the universe could actually be a computer simulation. As such, its programmer may have run through creation in the first six days of the program run. As a participant and part of the simulation, it would not be obvious to us.

I was very creative in trying to reconcile the Bible with science, as you can see.

But lets look at the instance I alluded to. The instance the church could not argue any longer as it had become indisputable that Bible was “wrong”?

A new worldview

As I said before, the Bible had to say goodbye to a geocentric view of the world – it was impossible to deny that the earth was a sphere circling the sun, when astronauts from outer space made a picture of the earth (“Rising Earth”). So they just gave in and re-interpreted some verses.

Still, today, most Christians believe that the earth was surrounded by a dome outside of which there was water. This water, which seems to be missing now, has fallen at the flood – or the cathedral is so much bigger than we thought.

But I came to believe different more and more. It started something like this:

Suppose that the writer of the creation story incorporated his experience into the description. The earth actually looks like a disk to us, the sky like a dome. And everything that is not fixed and anchored falls from the sky, thus the stars had to be hung from the dome. The case of the water was also clear, it was raining again and again after all. That water had to come from somewhere.

However, that would mean that God dictated a creation story that did not fit the facts. At least in modern times, God would be found out to be a liar.

But let extend some grace. God did not want to overwhelm people at that time, and trusted us to understand that. So he simplified the story and adapted it where necessary so that Moses would understand it too.

There is one problem with this explanation: even the big bang theory can be explained very simply and vividly. So why dodge it if the factual truth would work just as well on a simple level?

Maybe the story is not about a historical and factual representation of creation, but about principles that God wanted to communicate to us?

Another understanding of truth

As I indicated in the first article, the writer of the creation story did not have the concept of truth as defined by modernity at his disposal.

He wanted to give life to the listener by telling stories. To give life in the sense of: giving meaning, giving joy, bringing about moral improvement.

If a story did that, it was true.

This results in a completely different interpretation for the creation story. But more about that in the next article.

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By Ralph Rickenbach

Accompanyist | Pastor in Exile | Iconoclast — I am a Gallup certified CliftonStrengths coach and a Spiral Dynamics practitioner.