Just as a follow-up to my post about crazy things mainstream religious leaders assert about Bible History, I wanted to remind folks of a fundamental philosophical issue. I take an agnostic position about questions of human origins. This business of “Creationism” assumes too much that the Bible itself denies.
Keep in mind that the entire Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) background is first and foremost mystical in assumptions. That means you don’t trust your intellect to accomplish much that matters. You don’t trust your human reasoning and senses to come to a useful conclusion on really important issues. That’s not why God gave us our intellects. Their only purpose is to organize and implement the moral directions coming for a higher faculty. These ANE people assumed a heart-led consciousness and spoke often of how the heart knew better than the mind about moral questions. (Keep in mind that English translations of the Bible too frequently render Hebrew words as “heart” when something else was intended.) ANE writing is loaded with very serious references to the heart as the crown of moral decisions, the highest faculty of human awareness.
And ANE people would never countenance the way Hebrew scripture is analyzed to find detailed descriptions of human origins. They would have called you a fool to your face for trying it. Chasing that kind of analysis is what you might expect from smart-ass teenagers, not serious scholars of the Word.
Consider this: Several of us noticed that reality had shifted sometime in the last year or so. It wasn’t just me; other people said it in other ways. It wasn’t something we sensed with our intellects, but in our hearts. We are still seeing the results, but we agree independently that God is doing something that will change the course of human events. It represents a shift away from a previous path. God has done that more than once; Scripture indicates it happened several times in Bible History. There were major events that completely broke away from the previous path. Given that God works that way, how can you presume to extrapolate backward from current processes to what happened in the past? How can you expect to discern how we got here with any kind of precision? If God is seen as active in human affairs and paying attention, making adjustments to suit His inscrutable purposes, and allowing some of us to catch glimpses of it, how can anyone presume to read the current context back into the historical record?
God is not bound by our academic assumptions about the way things work in this world. All the more so when you consider that He revealed Himself in a cultural and intellectual climate radically different from ours today. Think about two specific events in the Bible: the Flood and the Tower of Babel. Neither of them is described, they are characterized by symbolic references. But the characterization hits us between the eyes with one important point: These were catastrophic changes in human affairs, bringing incalculable changes from what came before. How earth-shattering does it have to be for you to realize that God can do whatever suits His whims, and He doesn’t have to explain Himself. Nor does He have to give us a single clue. He can easily shift the entire archaeological record. The world today is filled with all sorts of inexplicable evidence of things the Bible never mentions, primarily because these other events have no effect on God’s primary purpose in revelation.
And His purpose in revelation is not to account for everything He’s done or that men have done. If you could go back and ask the ancient scholars, they would tell you that what happened in the primordial past may have little or nothing to do with what’s going on right now. If God’s purpose includes humbling us in repentance, then we should expect to find a lot of inexplicable stuff in our world. You should expect that what you see makes no sense in light of what’s going on right now. You should expect Him to confuse things on purpose, and that there is no possible explanation. Indeed, God could have drawn out those Nazca Lines in Peru by His own hand just to make you ask questions. Or maybe He wiped out those people in the Flood because He didn’t want us to poke around in that nasty stuff humans were doing before Noah built the Ark.
Stop assuming God has to make sense on a human level. All the more so when it comes to questions of human origins, don’t assume we have to find some answer in the Bible. Given what we know of how folks thought and wrote back in Moses’ day, we should expect the narrative of Eden to indicate a place not even on this earth. The Fall was by far the most momentous change in human existence ever. The Eden narrative itself is a warning that we cannot hope to grasp it with our intellects.