Three Myths in Genesis 1

From Austin Storm
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from Vern C. Poythress [1]

Specifically relates to Genesis 1

The Myth of Scientific Metaphysics

The Copernican revolution. Copernicus didn't demonstrate the earth moved, he derived a model. The sun does in fact move in a Newtonian sense. But most importantly and subtlely, the question should be asked, "Moving in respect to what?" From a neighboring galaxy, the sun moves in an orbit around the center of the Milky Way. From the sun, it doesn't move at all. Likewise, from the earth, the earth isn't moving.

Einstein’s general theory of relativity places observers in accelerated systems on the same mathematical “level” with all other observers. An observer standing still on earth is one such observer. From the point of view of this scientific theory, the statement that the earth is moving is not intrinsically “better” than the statement that it is not. Both statements are ambiguous until we specify the observational standpoint. Either statement may be true, depending on what observational standpoint we specify. Equations of transformation allow us to move from one standpoint to the other.

These last two elements are part of our modern mythic framework. If Gen 1 is speaking phenomenologically there is no conflict or great burden to resolve.

This appeal illustrates that the modern approach has still not grasped that it is caught in a myth. It speaks as if we could settle what “really” is the case. But we could do that only if we eliminated what it thinks is the unenlightened observational standpoint of the ancient observer. But, as the theory of relativity has made amply evident, to eliminate the observational standpoint is to eliminate the very ability to talk coherently about motion and rest.

In particular, the grand myth of modern science is that it exposes the way things 'really are' vs. their appearance. The earth moving, a solid object being composed of mostly empty space, etc. This is not to complain about the Rutherford model of the atom. But to say that the scientific metaphysic is still discovering new 'layers' to reality.

The Myth of Progress

The existence of supernatural beings, such as demons. We 'know' this because people around us believe the same thing, because they are incompatible with materialism. It also helps marginalize non-Western cultures. In this single respect, non-Western cultures are closer to the truth than the modern West.

The Myth of Understanding Cultures from Facts

This is the idea that we can understand other cultures by learning facts about them. We have no direct contact with the ancient Near East. It was non-homogeneous, made up of many different subcultures interacting over millennia. We also read back our scientific understanding of the world into the ancients' necessarily non-scientific reading (i.e., a sky dome).

A distinction between God as the primary cause and secondary, physical causes within the world would be helpful here.

There is a 'having it both ways'. Gen 1 can't be scientific, says the ANE enthusiast, because it has factual inaccuracies. It's theological, correcting the polytheistic creation myths. Or that it doesn't correct the surrounding myths, and therefore has inaccuracies.