Big fat caveat up front; I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s faith, I’m just trying to understand.
Someone I know only online, who I suspect wouldn’t consider herself a particularly religious person, decided to read the Bible. She stopped after Genesis 2. She complained that there were two seemingly contradictory Creation stories. In Genesis 1, the creatures came, then the man and the woman. But in Genesis 2, you get the Adam’s rib version, where the man is seemingly created before the creatures, but definitely before the woman. I say “seemingly”, because the NIV version reads at v. 19 “Now the LORD God HAD formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man…”; the “had” suggests the possibility that the animal had already existed and that the man, hanging out in the garden, simply hadn’t seen them.
The problem, I contended, is that the person was reading the stories as history, as science, not allegory. If you read it as history, and Adam and Eve were in fact the first people, what does it mean in terms of their descendants? Who was Cain’s wife, and who were the people he feared might kill him in Genesis 4? That specific issue confounded me when I was a teenager, and was one of the items that indeed shook my faith at the time.
Once I realized it was not a literal history, it became much easier to understand.
This is why I’m quite puzzled by those who have decided to take Genesis 1 verbatim. The earth and all its creatures, including humans, were formed in six days – possible? Sure, in a “God can do anything” way, but not at all likely. And the order of the creation seems to mesh pretty well with the evolutionary cycle we’ve come to understand, albeit considerably longer. The word “day” may not have meant 24 hours; remember, no one wrote this down at the time, but rather learned it from the oral tradition, transcribing it relatively quite recently, in the last millennium Before the Christian Era. This philosophy, I’ve learned, is called progressive creationism.
What bothers me about the literal Creationists is not that they believe what they believe. It’s that a whole pseudoscience that was created around it, of people walking the earth with the dinosaurs only 4000 years ago, and the planet only 10,000, rather than humans being around for 50,000 to 200,000 years, the dinosaurs having been extinct for 65 million years, and the Earth itself being about 4.6 billion years old. How does this narrative conflict with “some vast eternal plan”, quoting Fiddler on the Roof?
I guess I’m saying that I don’t think science and creation are that much at odds. The shoehorning of a literal six-day earth making – that seems to be a lot more work.
Can someone please explain this to me? Oh, and check out this recent Doonesbury strip, which addresses the issue.