Years ago when I was in college, I invited one of my English Lit. professors to come see a creationist speaker at my church. The speaker was one of the most recognized creationists in the country and was giving a series of lectures to my congregation. As for my professor, he was hostile to a lot of Christian ideas, but I was able to develop some respectful dialogue with him. We had some insightful and sometimes heated conversations after classes, speaking about the Bible, morality, and human origins. He often found Christian perspectives unreasonable, and Baptists were the worst offenders. So when I invited him to my independent Baptist church to hear a creationist point of view, he was more than reluctant. He eventually agreed to come on the condition that I would attend an event of his choosing (he hadn’t “cooked it up” yet, but it would probably be a pro-evolution scientific lecture). I agreed and, in retrospect, that was a stupid decision. If you’re going to make an agreement with someone hostile to your ideas, make sure you know the terms!
Nevertheless, my prof agreed to come to one lecture, and we’d debrief later.The day before the creationist speaker began his lecture series, several pastors from the church took him to lunch; and I, the inquisitive college student got an invitation. While we were eating, I asked my fair share of questions and told the lecturer about my skeptical professor who would be coming to one of the sessions over the next few days. How great would it be if my prof changed his mind about his evolutionary viewpoint! I hoped for a great, life-chainging experience like that. Well, that’s not what happened.My prof missed the first lecture, but came to the second. I welcomed him in, introduced him to my friends and a few pastors, and we quickly found a seat for the next session. Everyone was cordial and polite; it was great! Throughout that lecture, I could see my guest fidget as he heard points with which he could not agree. At one point, he huffed, shook his head in disagreement, and grabbed one of those miniscule pencils from the back of the pew in front of us so he could scribble down some notes. Then it happened. The speaker was wrapping up his lecture, noting the importance of teaching creationism in churches across the country, especially since college professors are hostile against creationist views. “In fact,” he said, “I had lunch with a student yesterday who told me that one of his English teachers constantly attacks biblical ideas!”
My guest scoffed and dropped his head in his hand in disbelief. I turned red as tomato and began to sweat a little. Needless to say, after the event was over he took off, deeply offended and hopping mad; as was I. Obviously, he felt like the speaker just called him out personally in front of everyone (even though no one really knew who he was), and I felt like a fool for trusting any information to the speaker. I had just become a sermon illustration.
It’s been more than fifteen years since that event, and even now it chafes me. Still, I’ve held strongly to my creationist views of Genesis 1-3, at least until recently. The rest of my time in college, I studied English, which made me familiar with how language and literature works. Later, my master’s degree in theology exposed me to how biblical literature works. Finally, my doctorate gave me the chance to concentrate on how Old Testament literature functions. Ironically, I was more of a creationist earning my bachelors at a secular university.
Now, when I say that I’m no longer a creationist, it doesn’t mean that I am no longer a believer in the Bible or Christ.Instead, it means that I no longer prefer a literal reading of Genesis 1-3. I still believe that it is true in what it intends to describe, but it was never intended to be read scientifically. My thoughts are certainly not unique. Many scholars with a high view of scripture take a similar approach. I merely follow in their footsteps. I’d like to take the next few blog entries to describe how I arrived at this view.
Though my views have shifted since I was in college, I cannot agree with my English Lit. professor that the creation story in Genesis is pure mythology and a waste of the modern reader’s time. Genesis is scripture, and important to the Christian! And unlike my prof, I still like Baptists.