What the Bible is for me: a Battle with Modernity

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 and revised 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 is 13.8 billion years old. Luckily, science calls evolutionary theory a theory. That seems to express that they themselves do not really believe in it. But of course the word “theory” is used differently in science: it denotes a sufficiently plausible assumption or hypothesis which best describes the facts found so far and has not been disproven.

How do you react to such a discrepancy? The difference between 7 days and 13.8 billion years is not easily wiped 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 such an antiquated belief as the biblical creation story. Interestingly enough, it was mostly that 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 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 will the elapsed time in the system be compared to what the observer will experience as one day. According to these calculations, a day with God was about a thousand years on earth just about around the lifetime of King David, just as David puts it in the Psalms.

This is one 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 we are an inherent part of the simulation, this would not be obvious to us.

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

But let’s look at the instance I alluded to, the one 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 universe – 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 in the beginning was surrounded by a dome outside of which there was water. This water, which seems to be missing now, in their interpretation had fallen and formed the flood – or it is still out there and the dome is just much bigger than we thought, encompassing the whole universe.

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

Suppose that the writer of the creation story incorporated his own experience into the description. The earth through observation without additional tools like the telescope actually looks like a disk to us, the sky like a dome. And everything that is not fixed and anchored falls from the sky, as gravity dictates, thus the stars had to be hung from that dome. Why there was water around it all was also clear. It was raining again and again after all. That water had to come from somewhere.

However, that would mean that God inspired the writer to pen down a creation story that did not fit the facts, just perception. At least in modern times, after the invention of the telescope, and certainly after the first space travel, God would be found out to be a liar.

But let’s extend some grace here. Maybe God did not want to overwhelm people at that time, and trusted us today 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.

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