OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.

Re: Myth and the Scientific Method

Re: Myth and the Scientific Method

I’m glad you’re enjoying the ride down the slippery slide, danielbooy, even if you find it alien to your usual way of experiencing things spiritual.

I don’t think you’re alone in your skepticism regarding scientific discourse. You may be familiar with Lyotard’s famous proclamation: I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives. Lyotard’s next sentence reads like this: This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. In other words, science’s pecking away at the religious metanarrative is itself a fruit of the scientific metanarrative. Arguably the converse is also true: religion launches its critiques of the scientific metanarrative from a position within the religious metanarrative.

The traditional evangelical approach to Genesis 1-3 has been to regard the text as inerrant and literally true. Various interpretive moves have been deployed in an effort to bring these narratives into closer conformity with what seems to be the case; namely, that the universe unfolded over billions of years rather than in six literal days. That’s one way to go, and it poses its own problems. At the top of this post I provide a link to another post called "Genesis 1 as True Myth." In that post we’ve explored a recently-ventured paradigm for reading the creation narratives as true without necessarily regarding them as historically accurate. That’s another way to go.

This post explores a third way: scrap the Genesis creation narratives altogether. The string of comments looks at implications for Christianity of performing this textual excision. All three approaches acknowledge that scientific theories and findings conflict with Genesis 1-3, and that the scientists might be right about the "how" and the "when" if not the "who" and the "why."

It might be worth noting that skepticism regarding the Genesis creation narrative isn’t restricted to the modern age. The Epistle of Barnabas, a text most likely written in the early second century that for awhile looked as though it might be included in the NT canon, says this:

And God made the works of His hands in six days, and He ended on the seventh day, and rested on it, and He hallowed it. Give heed, children, what this meaneth; He ended in six days. He meaneth this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifyeth a thousand years; and this He himself beareth me witness, saying; Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years. Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end. And He rested on the seventh day. this He meaneth; when His Son shall come, and shall abolish the time of the Lawless One, and shall judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then shall he truly rest on the seventh day. (Barnabas 15:3-5)

Origen, a third-century apologist for the Christian faith, wrestled with some apparent impossibilities in Genesis 1; for example, that God created evening and morning on day one but didn’t create the sun until day three. Origen offered an allegorical, spiritualized interpretation for the entire creation story:

What is the beginning of all things except our Lord and “Savior of All,” Jesus Christ, “the firstborn of every creature”? …Scripture is not speaking here of any temporal beginning, but it says that the heaven and the earth and all things which were made were made “in the beginning,” that is, in the Savior.

Writing in the fourth century Augustine acknowledged:

As for these “days,” [i.e., the six days of creation] it is difficult, perhaps impossible to think – let alone to explain in words – what they mean.

And so on — the ancient Church Fathers and medieval Schoolmen offered some very creative "spiritual" readings of Genesis 1-3. It might be worthwhile investigating whether any of these readings can be reinvigorated for contemporary readership — that might be a fourth project, which I probably won’t pursue.

"I simply see no reason for Christianity, theology, philosophy, etc., to
submit themselves to the haughty authority of the scientific method,
author of boring and uninspiring fictions."

Then don’t do it. If you don’t have difficulty believing that the first woman was made
from the rib of the first man, or that snakes crawl on their bellies
because they were cursed by God, then none of these alternative approaches to reading the creation narratives is
going to be of much interest to you. Something like half the adults in America have no problem with the story as written either. The other half of us do.

"The liberty of deconstruction is, for me, the freedom to religion, from positivism and all its bastard children."

I’d say that this post is an exercise not so much in deconstruction but in what Deleuze and Guattari called "deterritorialization" — the effacing of well-worn channels and roadways by which we habitually traverse the world of experience. Scripture, tradition and subjective intuition tend to converge on an "overdetermined" territorialization of Christianity. This post is only one exercise in loosening up the ties holding the structure of the "metanarrative" together — many other such exercises can be imagined. I suspect you’d agree that loosening the structures is often an essential step in re-opening the "formless void" from which the unprecedented emerges.

The Creation Narratives as Thought Experiments By: john doyle (86 replies) 31 October, 2007 - 00:44