Note: This article can be found in its entirety in the December 2005 issue of Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith, the journal of the American Scientific Affiliation. To read the article now in print, click here.
There is a sentiment on university campuses that conversations about religion and science are generally welcome, as long as they do not happen at the same time. Discussions about the Bible belong in the religion department. Discussions about science belong in the science department. And seldom, if ever, the two shall meet.
What may be surprising to some is that this stance is not limited to secularists. Even prominent Christian scholars express deep concerns about deriving scientific content from the early chapters of Genesis. Conservative Old Testament scholars are increasingly adopting a position that Genesis 1 and 2 should not be taken "literally," meaning that it should not be taken as having much, if any, actual historical content. Such a position helps guard the integrity of the Bible by not making it say something scientific that the biblical authors never intended it to say. This posture spares the Bible from ridicule when science eventually overturns a faulty interpretation.
But is this paradigm consistent with how the Bible interprets itself? Do the biblical authors speak about the early chapters of Genesis in a way that indicates they saw these chapters as mythology?
Ironically, these same Christian scholars are willing to grant that the Bible does contain some historical content, at least as it pertains to the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Most clearly accept the idea of miracles, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection.
So then, the question becomes, what parts of the Bible (if any) are meant to be interpreted as myth, and what parts are intended to be understood as history? 2 Peter 3 provides intriguing insight into how the biblical authors may have viewed the early chapters of Genesis.