Friday, September 22, 2017

Biblical Narrative and Geological Theories: Rightly Understanding and Relating Both Using the Paradoxical Logic of Chalcedon

The biblical witnesses state that God created the heavens and the earth around 4000 BC. In contrast, astronomers, geologists, and other scientists believe that the earth came into existence about 4.5 billion years ago. The question for us, as Christians and churches, is how to rightly understand the biblical narrative, geological theories, and their proper relationship.

Church leaders gathered at the fourth ecumenical council in Chalcedon, in 451, show us how. At that council, these leaders rightly discerned and affirmed the paradoxical logic of the Bible. In the Bible, Jesus Christ is revealed as both fully divine and fully human. How to make sense of this? By affirming that he is both, without separation, without mixture, and in that order. We can use this same pattern of paradoxical logic to rightly understand and relate both the biblical narrative and geological theories.
Jesus Christ is the source, center, and goal of the Bible. He was, remains, and will always be its very dynamic subject. All Old Testament witnesses point to his coming. All New Testament witnesses recall it and anticipate his definitive coming to judge the living and the dead. Jesus Christ continues to use the whole Bible today as his normative witness. He delights in speaking to us today through it far more than through any other medium. If we want to understand who Jesus Christ is, and who we unavoidably are in relation to him, to others, and to the rest of creation, then we need to understand our place in the biblical narrative about him.
Jesus Christ is not the dynamic subject of geological theories. They are silent concerning him. Rather, geologists and others have chosen, as their objects of study, meteorites, exposed strata of rocks, fossils, and other quantifiable objects (which Jesus Christ most assuredly is not). They have then used sensate logic to construct theories concerning such topics as the age of the earth, plate tectonics, and dinosaurs.
On the basis of the paradoxical logic of the Bible, discerned and affirmed at Chalcedon, we first want to affirm the existence, integrity, and importance of both the biblical narrative and geological theories which contrast so sharply with it.
Two, we don’t want to separate the two narratives by abandoning one or the other. To begin with, we sure don’t want to dismiss the biblical narrative as a fairy tale. That’s what the painfully Olympian Global Technological System has done and pressures each one of us daily to do. Sadly, too many Christians and churches have agreed to do so. They proudly assert their contemporary Olympian relevance by dismissing the biblical narrative as nonsense defended only by people who are ridiculously ignorant or irrational.
At the same time, we need not be creationists who dismiss geological theories as wholly fictitious because they do indeed conflict with the biblical narrative. If geological data are wholly silent on the existence of Jesus Christ, let alone his significance, the Bible is silent on the question of plate tectonics or dinosaurs.
Three, we don’t want to mix the two narratives. This is what Christians do who want to cling somehow to the biblical narrative, but not deny the legitimacy of geological theories, yet don’t know about the elegance of the Chalcedonian pattern. They try to mix the two by asserting that the word, “day,” in the narrative of the six days of creation, doesn’t mean a twenty-four hour period. They assert it means a period of millions of years, as in the term, “Jurassic Period.” Blending biblical narrative with geological assumptions, methods, and data, however, does violence to the integrity of the biblical narrative.
Four, we need to keep the biblical narrative and geological theories in their proper order. For us, as Christians and churches, and as witnesses to Jesus Christ to Olympians near and far concerning our savior and theirs, whether they know it or not, whether they believe it or not, the biblical narrative remains primary. If we want to know and talk about Jesus Christ, and we want to do so daily with all our heart, then we want to immerse ourselves and find our place in the biblical narrative. If we want to speak about dinosaurs, and we may wish to do so occasionally, then we will want to have some nodding acquaintance with geological theories.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven Farsaci. All rights reserved.