For the week of October 6, 2007 / 24 Tishri 5768
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 1:1 - 6:8
Haftarah: Isaiah 42:5 - 43:11


Poetic License

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Bereshit / Genesis 1:1; ESV)

One of the marks of the time in which we live is that people think that a concept is valid solely on the basis that we believe that concept. Whether or not an idea is actually true is thought to be irrelevant. All that matters is whether or not the concept is true to a person's own self. What follows from that is whatever is true for self is not necessarily true for someone else. Self then has become the point of reference of truth and reality.

I think that this way of looking at life is ridiculous. And it's not just ridiculous for me myself, but it's ridiculous for everybody. While this "world according to self" has become the philosophy of choice for many today, it is an illusion. Not only is this way of looking at life not valid, many who claim to live this way, don't really do so, or at least not consistently. Take driving for example. Our society has made certain conclusions regarding what constitutes safe driving. Traffic rules are based for the most part on sound wisdom. Even if there is some disagreement over certain aspects of driving, we can accept that it is necessary for everyone to drive by the same rules. What is true and right for me is true and right for everyone else. If we drive according to "the world according to self," people get hurt and killed. That's just the way it is. Thankfully most people understand this regardless of their philosophical convictions.

Still, the hardcore reality that life is the way it is whatever our personal preferences might be, doesn't seem to diminish the belief that self is the primary point of reference to what is true and right. While we may not for the most part see this way of thinking in action on our roads, it is very active with respect to moral and spiritual issues.

The idea that truth should be based on self has affected Bible believers in a striking way. Because it has become popular to accept concepts that are based solely on personal perceptions and feelings, some people claiming to believe the Bible view the Bible that way. It has become acceptable to claim to adhere to the words of Scripture, while holding to an interpretation that is contrary to its plain meaning. Whether or not there is a reasonable connection between a particular passage and the conclusions drawn from it has become besides the point.

An example of this is found in the attempt to make the biblical creation accounts more acceptable to our culture. Some people try to reconcile the theory of evolution with the Bible by claiming that these passages are poetry. According to their reasoning, if they are poetry, then these passages should not be taken literally.

I do need to state that I don't have much reason to accept that the creation passages are poetical. While the Bible contains quite a bit of poetical material, Genesis chapters 2 and 3 do not read as poetry.

But even if these passages are poetical or metaphorical in some way, do they not assert certain things about God and his creation? Do we not read that God was intimately and personally involved in the various stages of creation including man and woman? Whether or not the writer is writing as if he was watching the process and giving us the precise details, or that these are creative expressions of what happened, we still have before us the truth of life's beginnings.

It is one thing to claim that a passage is metaphorical to prevent us from over literalizing what might be a creative way of expressing something. It is another thing in the name of poetry to deny what the Scriptures assert in order to justify a scientific viewpoint.

As we seek to uphold the validity of the Scriptures in our day, we need to avoid ways of thinking that in themselves undermine the very Truth we are seeking to affirm. As Scripture conflicts with the values of our culture, including the high regard we have for science, we are better off relying on the truth of Scripture than upon the opinions of so-called experts.

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