Monday, September 12, 2005

Creation and New Creation

The gospel(s) and the creation narrative are completely different genres of literature. Neither are what I would call "allegory", although both contain some allegories. Genesis is what I would call "myth", although this term is used differently in popular English than it is in literary studies, so we need to be careful in delineating that Genesis is myth in a certain sense and not otherwise (the Barthian sense?).

The book of the Bible that is most clearly allegory is the Book of Revelation. It is apocalyptic allegory. One of the largest problems in contemporary American religion (Left Behind, et. al.) is due to a mis-reading of Revelation as "future" history rather than allegory and gospel.

Why are the gospels different? Well, they are eye-witness accounts, or literary performances of collected eye-witness accounts. It would have been impossible for Moses (the "author" of Genesis) to be present at the creation of all things, not to mention Adam and Eve, nor could anyone that we might call an eye-witness have been there- so the Genesis myth is by its very nature going to be different from the historical account we have of Christ's life, death, and resurrection.

I believe in and confess the resurrection of Christ because I have heard it from people who have heard it who themselves heard it from... on down through a chain to the original eye-witnesses. See Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments for an interesting discussion of this issue of believers at first and second hand.

**We might also note that this issue of eye-witnesses and the passing on of the story from generation to generation is of the very essence/reality of the church. The church is that community of people who have heard the good news of Christ's resurrection (and just so participate in it), and are passing it on to future generations.**

It has been popular in some circles (beginning with Feuerbach?) to read the resurrection as allegorical wish-fulfillment, as in- because Jesus now lives on "in our hearts" after his death, he has been "resurrected". This collective belief in Christ living on then emerges, supposedly, as an actual claim by the community to his resurrection.

But this seems patently false. The first eye-witnesses began reporting immediately these things. 1) An empty tomb. 2) Appearances of the risen Christ. 3) An Ascension. 4) Multiple witnesses to the same resurrection.

I think it takes considerable courage and faith to believe that a group could collectively cleverly devise such a "collective unconscious" and then spread it world wide. Nevertheless, to believe thus requires a stubborn self-actualized faith of almost similar magnitude to actually simply confessing the resurrection of Christ, and the promise of our participation with him in it. We can all create our own religion if we wish. I feel no need to do so.

This is finally why the resurrection and the creation narrative are of completely different orders for me. The first is a narrative of God's relation to the old creation, how it was brought about. Certainly, this is important. But it is not of salvific importance to get it "right" or to believe it in certain ways as historical. On the other hand, that Christ is raised from the dead, historically and really, is very faith of very faith, the historical reality that grounds the church as that community that proclaims already the New Creation, Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen.


  1. To address Brian's question, these questions always exist for me. I appreciate and value the careful dissection of the issue.

    However, I am concerned that the general dialogue of our culture is not so nuanced. So while the two of you see very little Christianity in ID, I'm certain that is not the case for those who promote ID.

    In retrospect the questions I ask aren't really particular to creationism, and how we understand the mythical in creation vs. the observed in the Gospel. My question is really to the teachers and the clergy of how do we make such distinction clear to populations and congregations that are less inclined to invest time in nuance.

    The ID debate is part of a political culture that has no interest in secular government. They promote this issues like so many others they champion, without respect for, or at the least regard for nuance. ID does not bring to mind Native American, Buddist or Hindu creation, it quite frankly brings up the Christian. This, besides the fact that it is fundementally scientifically incurious, and thus inappropriate for a science class.

  2. But it also seems that the ID crowd belong to a group of Christians who would claim that Christianity is graspable by reason. And it is... but not without first being inspired by faith. For the ID crowd, they are starting with an assumed Christian worldview, and thus "know" the answer already. (And I will say, there are some ID'ers who would say ID has little to do with religion or at least is separate from it... they at least have some integrity in my book)

    Too many folks believe the radio preacher whom I heard a while back. Becoming a Christian (i.e. being saved) was as easy as ABC. "A - Admit you're a sinner. B - Believe in Jesus Christ. C - Confess your sins." Well... B is really not all that easy, since it requires faith, and faith doesn't just reside in us. The Holy Spirit must actually move in us. Otherwise, Jesus will remain a strange figure, that our reason has no answer for...

    In The Parish