A while back there was an hour long documentary called “Did Darwin Kill God?” The film advocated theistic evolution (the belief that evolution can fit into the Bible). It also advocated an allegorical or figurative approach to reading the Bible.
This is my response to the claims in this video, research that I have done, and some of my personal opinions on the subject.
First of all, I want to comment on the “problem” presented in the differing stories of plants in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 is a day to day process in which God created everything. It goes from first to last, listing the different parts, stating the God created plants, then animals, and then man (simple version). What the documentary maker is trying to say, is that Genesis 2 conveys a different order to the story, saying God created man before plants. This seems quite horrible, until you actually read the Word of God and not just take a man’s opinion on the topic. Read Genesis 2 right now. Verse five does appear to be saying that no plants were yet created, however, that’s not actually what it says. It says no small bushes had sprung up yet, because it hadn’t rained. This would mean that it was totally possible that there were trees and plants and what not, but not the type of foliage that comes about in fields when it rains. So, does it say that God created man, then plants? No, it says God created man, and that God had created a garden called Eden, in which He placed man. It in no way restates God creating plants.
Even if the Garden of Eden was a metaphor for all vegetation, which it’s not, it would still be okay because it says that God had already created it. This point is quickly dismissed, merely by reading the passage, as is almost every other “inconsistency” I’ve been given in the Bible. This answer is extremely easy to find, and if the maker of the documentary had presented the view I just gave you, it wouldn’t have made any sense to leave the section in his documentary, because it would make his point invalid. He knows the viewpoint I just gave you, he’s a very educated man on this topic, he just chose to ignore it, and also not tell anyone about it.
Now there are a few things that this documentary focuses on to prove it’s point, but there is one over-arching grand scheme behind all of it. Genesis has never been interpreted literally by the Church as a whole. He repeats this over and over and over again throughout the documentary, and does so in an arrogant manner, making you feel stupid for thinking people could have thought it was literal. He presents his reasons, and says that it wasn’t until about 60 years ago that people started looking at it this way. He makes this view appear completely new, totally idiotic, and at one point actually tries to make it look as if it destroys orthodox Christianity. Is it true that historically the Church has not taken a literal perspective?
He gave – quite literally – two historical sources on this topic, and then just kept saying his point over and over to engrain it into your minds( which, off-topic, is how propaganda works). His two historical sources were Philo and St. Augustine.
Philo This man lived right about the time of Jesus Christ. He was a Jew, and a philosopher. His main objective was to fuse Hellenistic philosophy, and Judaism. This means he tried to make the Jewish religion more Greek. He was not a Christian, and wouldn’t be expected to be an ardent defender of the Bible. When the maker of the documentary tried to pass off Philo as a good authority for Biblical interpretation, and representing the Christian Church, I just laughed. He was in no way an authority you would accept for this topic. The film pretends as if Philo represented the mindset of Judaism as a whole, and that because of his opinions it shows that Jews “never” had a literal interpretation of the Old Testament. It’s ridiculous.
St. Augustine First off, let’s look at the quote from St. Augustine in the proper context, by reading the whole passage, rather than one line…
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.”
This passage is not talking about a literal viewing of the Bible. It is talking about Christians who hold to positions that are completely contrary to what we know to be true about the world. This doesn’t show that Augustine took a liberal approach to biblical interpretation, and it obviously doesn’t make him an evolutionist. Why is it brought up as a source? Once again, this man (documentary creator) is not stupid, he has researched these things extensively. He knows you will not look these things up, and thus uses quotes out of context to convince you of something he believes. Now it is typically accepted that Augustine did take an allegorical approach to passages like this, but, he also held a young earth creation viewpoint. He believed the earth to have been created in 5,600BC. In City of God, Book XII, Chapter 10, Augustine writes, “They are deceived, too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give the history of many thousand years, though, reckoning by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed.” This is in reference to humanity. Now I won’t go into all the different models of creation, but at the very least, Augustine isn’t the best person to argue for the film’s perspective.
What are we left with? We are left with no historical sources for a claim he made constantly on an ongoing basis throughout the whole film, and it’s safe to say, a claim that his entire film is based upon. Now as for proof for the contrary, that literal interpretation of the Bible is indeed historical. When I heard his view on this, I was taken aback. Is this true? I’ve never heard someone say that… There’s a reason I felt that way, it’s because it’s proven wrong the second you look into the subject. Just a few people, although there are more, are Basil, Martin Luther, and John Calvin.
Basil Wrote around 370 ad. This means that he was, historically speaking, pretty close to the time of Jesus Christ. He took a literal viewing of the Bible. Just as a side note I’ll give a little excerpt from his writings that are interesting, given the subject we are discussing.
“Avoid the nonsense of those arrogant philosophers who do not blush to liken their soul to that of a dog; who say that they have been formerly themselves women, shrubs, fish. Have they ever been fish? I do not know; but I do not fear to affirm that in their writings they show less sense than fish.” (Homily VIII:2)
Now this isn’t in reference to evolution, but to reincarnation most likely. But still, it’s funny. Again, this is a Christian theologian that held to a literal interpretation of the Bible.
Martin Luther The reformer himself. People may not know a whole lot about Church history, but you can bet they know this man’s name. Here’s some stuff based on his writings, as we do not have some of them at this point.
He [Moses] calls ‘a spade a spade,’ i.e., he employs the terms ‘day’ and ‘evening’ without Allegory, just as we customarily do we assert that Moses spoke in the literal sense, not allegorically or figuratively, i.e., that the world, with all its creatures, was created within six days, as the words read. If we do not comprehend the reason for this, let us remain pupils and leave the job of teacher to the Holy Spirit. — Martin Luther in Jaroslav Peliken, editor, “Luther’s Works,” Lectures on Genesis Chapters 1-5, Vol. 1 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), pp. 3, 6.
How much clearer can you get? Are we suppose to feel stupid and ignorant for believing that literalism isn’t historical? Wow. This next passage sheds some light on the situation during the time period he lived in.
“For apart from the general knowledge that the world had its beginning from nothing there is hardly anything about which there is common agreement among all theologians.”
And yet the documentary maker tries to make us believe that the Church as a whole has always had the viewpoint of Genesis being allegorical. Why would Martin Luther say something like that if the doc maker’s point of view is correct? Now it’s true that theologians don’t seem to agree on this topic, but that’s not the point he was trying to make. He was trying to say that no one has held the literal view. Which is obviously false.
John Calvin Once again, a fairly big deal. Many Christians base their fundamental doctrines of faith on his writings. Here’s some excerpts from Calvin.
“They will not refrain from guffaws when they are informed that but little more than five thousand years have passed since the creation of the universe.” — Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2:925, ed. John T. McNeill, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, USA, 1960.
In reference to God creating the birds, seemingly coming forth from the waters, this next one is a little harder to understand. In the context of what he’s writing about, he’s talking about people who laugh at the Bible, because they say Christians believe birds came out of the water. Calvin, instead of saying it’s allegorical, or not really true, shows some backbone, and basically says to them, “I don’t care if it sounds unrealistic, we worship a God who’s done amazing things, and can continue to do so if He likes”.
“Why should it not be lawful for him, who created the world out of nothing, to bring forth the birds out of water?” — John Calvin – Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1
Literal interpretation from an exegesis perspective.
Here’s a quote I got while doing my research in this subject.
Prof. James Barr, Hebrew scholar and Oriel Professor of Interpretation of Holy Scripture at Oxford University
“[S]o far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Gen. 1–11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story; (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.”
James Ussher The film also talks about a man names James Ussher, who created a timeline from the beginning of creation to all the events of the Bible. In the documentary, the maker actually says, while talking about James Ussher’s chronology, “despite this, Christianity remained.” You can quote check me if you want, but what he said was that even though James Ussher took a literal viewing of the Bible, Christianity managed to remain. This is as if to say that it was a direct attack on Christianity. This is pretty much a propaganda tool, and does not even make logical sense. To use something like this is proof that he’s like Michael Moore on the subject. Let’s twist this to appear as bad as we can, even if evidence doesn’t support it. Also, other great men made chronologies of the Bible based on a literal interpretation, including Sir Isaac Newton. This was not a crazy person doing something completely outside of the Church. This was actually the view at the time, and was done by a few different people. This viewpoint was actually included in the KJV. That’s because it was the popular opinion at the time. Why would they adopt that into the KJV if it was an idiotic, non-factual, unprecedented way of viewing scripture? I’m not saying I agree with the exact timing of this right down to the evening, but at THE VERY LEAST it was widely accepted in Christianity during the time, which shows that historically Christians have quite often held to a literal view of the Bible.
Scopes Trial The maker of the documentary tells us that history shows that the Scopes Trial the origin of the literal viewing of Genesis. Firstly, I’ve shown this is not the case, but secondly, even if we lacked historical evidence, it still wouldn’t make sense. Why would anyone have a problem with evolution if the Bible is up for grabs factually and historically? If Christians have always taken the Bible as figurative, allegorical, or a bunch of interesting myths, then why should we have a problem with evolution? Why did the people rise up against this event? It’s because Christians have not always been non-literal in their interpretation of the Bible. The Bible has, quite often, been taken literally, and we should take this into account when we interpret the Bible today.