Tuesday, October 16, 2012
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 3:1-7 (A Skeptical Approach)
I'm actually going to spend two weeks on this passage, because there are two different angles I felt compelled to approach it from. This week, the angle of approach is that of the skeptic.
I've always got a little skeptic inside of me, constantly bugging me to examine, re-examine and examine again all the things I've come to believe about God and the Bible. My doubts tend to haunt me on a regular basis until I confront them, ask the hard questions and do my research to find answers.
Doubting isn't fun, and I sometimes wish I was like some of the Christians I know who seem content to "just believe" and never ask any questions. But if I didn't have my doubts, I wouldn't confront them. And if I didn't confront them I wouldn't learn and strengthen my faith. And if I didn't learn or strengthen my faith I'd be in no position to share encouragement and truth with anyone else. So with that in mind, I guess I have to be content to doubt now and then.
We're heading into some territory now that is honestly strange-sounding to our modern ears. We've got a talking snake and fruit that changes your perception of reality. Don't these elements scream "myth"? Well yes, but ONLY if you have a predetermined bias against the possibility of the supernatural.
There's no doubt this account contains some things requiring the supernatural. It would be nuts to think this stuff is possible in a "closed system", a completely natural universe. But I don't assume we live in a closed system, because if we rule out the possibility of the supernatural in our investigation of truth, we have already decided what we are going to believe before our investigation has begun.
There is plenty of debate over whether or not Genesis, or at least its early chapters, was considered poetical/symbolic by ancient Hebrews or not. I'm persuaded that Genesis is historical and was understood to be so by its original author and audience, and that the events described in Chapter 3 literally happened as written.
Apologetics on this topic is not a strength of mine, but I'll at least say that a couple of my reasons for confidence in the literal historicity of Genesis include the historical narrative account of the lives of Adam and Eve and their descendents, and the inclusion of Adam as the literal root of later geneologies. (1 Chronicles 1:1, Luke 3:38)
I've not been presented with a good argument for a symbolic interpretation of Genesis that did not have at its core a motivating bias against the possibility of the supernatural. Of course, if you know of one I'm always interested in hearing what others are thinking.
In the meantime, when I look at passages like this and the skeptic in me says, "This is crazy! You really believe this stuff?", I have the same answer. Yes, it does seem pretty wild. But when I cross-reference all the data at my disposal, comparing all the evidence I know of (both for and against the veracity of the Bible) the most reasonable explanation of the total evidence is that the God of the Bible does exist, and now and then he does things that are out and out crazy to think about. When I try to go down the path of believing that Genesis is symbolic and non-historic, the ramifications require me to believe a number of other things that are just plain illogical and even more unlikely in the closed system they promote than the existence of God and a supernatural being of evil that can make himself look like a talking snake.
If you are a skeptic, you're in good company. And if you're interested in learning more about a logical, well-reasoned approach to belief in God and the Bible, one resource I'd recommend is reasonablefaith.org and the Defenders podcast found on that site. Dr. William Lane Craig has a great head on his shoulders and stays on the cutting edge of scientific, theological and historical studies.
Next Time- What does this same passage tell us about sin in our day to day lives?