The debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (president of the Creation Museum) has been in the news recently. The best article about it I’ve seen is by Elizabeth Stoker at The Week and titled “Bill Nye vs. Ken Ham, and Christianity’s misunderstood relationship with science.” The article is subtitled: “Thanks to so-called literalists like Ham, much of the secular world thinks there are irreconcilable differences between Christianity and science. There aren’t.” I really like that statement, it gets right to the heart of the matter: Christianity and science need not be at odds. I’m not a scientist, but as a pastor I can tell you that if you think the book of Genesis automatically and unavoidably rules out evolution then you’re reading Genesis wrong. (I’m not throwing around the term wrong lightly, if you want to know why I think a so-called “literal” reading of Genesis is wrong, I’ll be happy to go into detail.)
Part of the problem is that such “literal” readings are not only relatively recent innovations in the long history of biblical interpretation, but tend to miss the points the Bible is actually making. I agree with Stoker whole-heartedly when she says:
“While Ham’s evidently staunch Biblical literalism is presented to the public as the simplest and most honest understanding of scripture, it is in reality as idiosyncratic and rife with interpretive work as any other reading.”
We all have our own lenses through which we interpret scripture. The problem is that not everyone realizes they read through such lenses and so they assume they are “just reading the Bible.” But that doesn’t happen. We can’t get away from our biases, but we can be aware of them.
Stoker concludes with the statement:
“for faithful Christians who oppose his project, it is paramount that we recognize his aim is to legally declare what real Christianity is, and in doing so render marginal by law all other traditions — many of which are far older, richer, and better established than his own. Christians must resist him vocally, for the safety of our politics and our religion.”
I resist the “literal,” fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible not despite my faith, but because of it. I encourage you to read Stoker’s article in full and to follow the links she provides to The United Methodist Church’s official stance on the issue.