Posted by: jadanzzy | January 16, 2008

This is SO 20th century…

WARNING: this entry may be a waste of your time.

My bathroom reading book is Dan Kimball’s They Like Jesus But Not The Church. The chapter I’m currently on right now deals with literal vs. figurative interpretation of the Bible. In it, Kimball explains that there are many things to be taken figuratively, and there are many things to be taken literally.

Reading it got me thinking about a subject that I’ve come back to dwelling on from time to time: literal vs. figurative creation account.

For the record, I have not read any apologetic documents regarding this subject. Moreso, I believe Scripture should be read, not for factual evidence in God’s hand in the physical order of the world, but as the narrative of God’s mission. I just want to get this out of my system. I’ll never write something like this again…

I know many Christians who believe in a figurative interpretation of the 7-day account. They quote 2 Peter and say, “To the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day.” Well, you’d have to believe a day is like 600 million years if you want to reconcile the biblical account with the scientific community.

I, too, believe in a figurative creation account. I even grapple with the idea that macro-evolution is a divine process. But for those of us who believe in a figurative creation account, I have a disturbing problem.

Figurative creationists, as I’ll call them/us, hold a fairly literal belief in the account of Adam and Eve. How does that make sense? If we hold to a figurative interpretation of creation, shouldn’t we hold to a figurative interpretation of the Garden as well? And where does it end? After Babel? After the flood? And if we accept a figurative account of the Garden, what then of the creation of humanity?

Don’t call Ravi.



  1. I think that the Bible can still be taken for its truth that man and woman WERE created. But I think I heard someplace (sorry, I didn’t come up with this in a vacuum) that the first creation account in Genesis 1 is Hebrew poetry, while the next creation account beginning in Genesis 2:4 is more narrative and perhaps historically sound.

    The Bible should always be read for what it is, though. Genesis is a text of tradition, one of the oldest in human history. But the honest truth is that there were no eyewitness accounts to the creation of humanity. I think rather, as I do still put faith in the Spirit that guided the author, we can glean from the narrative that God DID create the world, that sin DID happen through the temptation and disobedience of humanity, and that there was some point when the world became broken and in need of fixing.

    And while I’m not completely familiar with your terms, I doubt that to read something “figuratively” means to read it with metaphorical dismissal. The story of creation is creation. Adam and Eve were characters in that story. Believing that these were characters in a story doesn’t preclude the idea that humanity WAS created by God in a way that flies in the face of macro-evolution (which, by the way, is a theory that secular science buffs see massive holes in).

    And finally, if we read the Bible as a whole, I don’t think we’ll find anything contradictory to some of the realities of the Edenic story.

    1. We were created by God, with great love and intention.

    2. The world wasn’t always the way it is now; evil is not the way things were supposed to be.

    3. The inclinations in our own hearts and the freedom God gave us to choose to disobey resulted in a pretty big mess, a chasm that arose between God and man. There is an enemy that has something to do with this, a force that does NOT want us to found in God.

    4. There isn’t anything we can do to save ourselves.

    And if you’d like me to be postmodern about it, I believe that from within the context and the sum of circumstances that comprise my life, the Holy Spirit has confirmed all of the above, that my life perceives a resounding echo to the narrative of The Fall, all specifics be damned.

    This isn’t my apologetic for the literal view of the creation story, but I don’t think that a “figurative” view (again, I confess my ignorance to the exact meaning of it) precludes faith what the story teaches. Switching to a mildly figurative or narrative view of the story doesn’t yank our epistemological rug out from under our legs.

  2. i need to make clear that i do not deny the truth of God’s moving in response to our human condition that arises out of the Edenic story. God’s divine act in creation, the fall of humanity and the entrance of sin, God’s revealing to them the product of their actions are truths in the Christian worldview.

    I am merely stating that there was cognitive dissonance on my part regarding the creation account and the Eden account, one being metaphorical, the other historical.

  3. the story of adam and eve… do you (we – Figurative creationists) really read that literally? do you think that somewhere out in the iraqi dessert, we’ll find a gate with some angels guarding it so that we can’t go into eden?

  4. and can an account be both? does it ONLY have to be figurative or ONLY historical? it can’t be historical, with figurative highlights?

    even for us “figurative creationists” we’d say that God created everything. and I would say that it even happened in the order that is laid out (even if it flies in the face of evolution).
    but genesis 1/2 wasn’t written simply to tell us that we need to teach creation in schools and that evolution is wrong.

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