What reality? Evolution—should the data become “overwhelmingly in favor.” So says Professor Bruce Waltke, professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Reformed Theological Seminary, in a video from the BioLogos Foundation, posted by Chaplain Mike at the Internet Monk blog.
Given the resistance to the idea of evolution by many (not all) Reformed folk, this seems like a dicey proposition. But, in fact, there were early, cautious advocates of evolutionary theory in the Reformed camp—B.B. Warfield, known also for his high view of scriptural inerrancy, being one. (Evolutionary theory being something separate from Darwinism as an ideology, it should be added.)
So are we being asked to have Scripture’s account of the beginning of all things judged by worldly wisdom, and thereby opening a fissure in the rock of our assurance that God had spoken to us in his Word authoritatively and perfectly? Only if we insist that we know what the intention of the biblical authors was when enscripturating that Word in the first place.
In other words, what if we’ve been reading Genesis wrong—and what if it’s about something other than the beginning of the world? Then the squabble over creation in seven days vs. evolution over billions of years becomes irrelevant, no?
Check out Peter Enns’ contributions to the BioLogos website, namely, his “Adam is Israel” and “Paul’s Adam” articles. Quick abstract: If the Genesis text was written, as many scholars assume, sometime between 500 and 450 B.C., then what we may be looking at is not an attempt at a literal primeval “history” of universal origins, but rather one of Israelite origins. And the story of the Garden of Eden is but a recapitulation of Israel’s being cast out of their “Eden”—the promised land—during the Babylonian Captivity.
In other words, if we don’t read the Old Testament as first century Jews’ most certainly would have—as primarily about the history of Israel’s birth, death, and awaited resurrection—then we will always be approaching the biblical texts with denominationally colored glasses.
It should be noted that Enns is not offering a definitive exegesis of the opening chapters of Genesis. He is proposing yet one more way of looking at what many scholars already believe is a reinterpretation by the biblical author(s) of Near Eastern creation myths, which is intended to disclose what is unique about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and His promise to redeem his people and obliterate leviathan/chaos—that is, sin and death—once and for all.
What, exactly, is inerrant when we speak of the authority of Scripture? The words must mean something before we can speak of their being true. And the texts must relate one to the other in a certain way, with a certain through line of consistency and intention. They have their own history, intrinsically connected to a history of a people. What did the biblical authors intend when they set pen to paper (so to speak) informed by and rooted in that history? If you don’t have an answer to that question, then defenses of biblical inerrancy become directionless.