Many reject God and the Bible when insisting the Genesis story must be considered a historical account. Many would rightly argue science doesn’t necessarily agree with the age of the world suggested by the Genesis and evolution could have been a process used by God to create. We must admit that the writers or editors weren’t there and God didn’t dictate information.
John Walton and Tremper Longman III in The Lost World Of The Flood suggest the writers used accepted literary practices in the Near East such as hyperbole in writing about historical events to convey spiritual insights. A local flood could have been used to illustrate global human problems. God can use the Bible to speak to us personally. We can disagree what the exact historical facts may be but all agree that Genesis was at least written to convey spiritual food for thought.
When I read Genesis the applications I consider for my own life:
- The writer(s) suggests there was a Creator in the beginning. God didn’t have to create, but apparently God desired relationships with humans. It takes faith either way to believe there was or wasn’t a Creator. If there was a Creator, they would know what is best for their design to continue to run smoothly as a car designer would. A Creator of human beings can be a source of wisdom in our relationships.
- The writer(s) suggests we were created in God’s image (1:27), suggesting we are God’s representatives here on earth. It is reasonable to assume God has given us intuitively a sense of how to represent or act like God toward others. God’s love is surely the same as perfect human love which we all strive more. God’s morals are surely the highest of human morals.
- The writer(s) suggests our need for companionship. Some translations say “a helper suitable for him.” This is an example of where it is critical to not insist on one’s interpretation as the infallible truth. In referring to Eve the English implication of the word “helper” translated from the Hebrew word ezer is nowhere to be found in the Bible (2:18). Ezer is used of God and implies or often is translated as “strength” (Deut. 33:29). It is best to err on the interpretative side less prone to abuse. One-sided rather than mutual submission can create environments conducive for atrocities women have faced at the hands of men throughout history.
- Things obviously went wrong in the garden when the first couple didn’t take God’s advice to trust God’s guidance. One could see this as a deliberate attempt on God’s part to tempt humans (3:5). A good God – why else would we even believe in God if not perfect humanly-speaking – surely only wanted to warn Adam and Eve that decisions exist that may be harmful in a free world. Freedom was clearly important to God. God obviously knew what human parents know. There is no greater feeling than your partner, child, or friend loving you out of choice than obligation because they know you have their best interest in mind. “Controlling love” is a contradiction in terms.
Read the Bible reflectively and for personal application. Consider the genre. We may not always know for sure the intentions of the writers. Relax! Literature can’t mean anything. Extremists’ interpretations feed their hunger for power and control rather than love and freedom. Uncertainty isn’t always bad. Certainty can lead to threatening or forcing opinions on others. Uncertainty expressed in discussion doesn’t have to lead to chaos but possible new understandings and creative solutions. Try it in your relationships!
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