A post or so below I mused a little on the creationism versus evolution debate.
One aspect of that debate is the pitting of an "instantism" versus "incrementalism"; the former being the approach to Genesis 1 which says an awful lot of development of life stuff happened in seven days; the latter being the approach of evolutionary biology which says that life as we know it now is the result of a very, very long process of incremental development of life (with some instantaneous jolts such as (a) the original 'big bang', and (b) the effects of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, meteorite collisions on life).
I sometimes wonder if a problem for creationists accepting incrementalism is a lack of understanding of God's patience!
But I also wonder if creationism arises in intellectual contexts which have little or no understanding of the evolution of Israel's Scripture. A God who dictates Scripture to Moses is compatible with a God who speaks life into instant being. But if God did not dictate Scripture to Moses, if God presided over a long, messy, complex, and somewhat incremental or (as theologians say) progressive revelation to Israel, then God might similarly have presided over a long, messy, complex and somewhat incremental development of life, i.e. evolution.
The Old Testament is widely agreed by scholars conservative and liberal and in between to be an extraordinarily complex set of writings, which include differing lines of theological commitments. Consider:
Genesis to Deuteronomy (the Pentateuch): its origins clearly lie in oral tradition, it has a strong association with Moses as a presiding genius over its writing, yet betrays various clues as to its multiple authorship and final editing during the years of the Babylonian Exile.
Isaiah: the most important book of the OT for the early Christians is written in at least two stages, most likely one before the Babylonian Exile and one after, and thus this book is likely the expression of a school of prophets rather than one lone prophet called Isaiah.
Deuteronomy to 2 Kings (at least) is guided and shaped by the theology of Deuteronomy, that obedience to the Sinai covenant will be blessed and disobedience will be cursed. The perspective of final compilation is that of the Exile: Israel is shattered by the hammer of the Babylonian Empire because of its disobedience. The sequence of post-Deuteronomy history books, Joshua - 2 Kings is often described as the Deuteronomic History.
1 & 2 Chronicles presents an alternative history of Israel, beginning with creation and ending with the restoration from Exile with the decree of Cyrus that the temple in Jerusalem may be rebuilt. Its perspective is shaped by the theology of the Jerusalem Temple: good marks are awarded to kings who honour and progress the worship of Israel in the Temple; the exile is a consequence of defiling the Temple, and its end is marked by the restoration of the Temple.
That the compilers of the Scripture of Israel did not understand this alternative history of Israel to contradict the Deuteronomic History follows from the inclusion of both in the Scripture. (A similar point can be made in respect of alternate creation stories in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2)!
But, in turn, this (brief) explanation of some aspects of the character and the development of the OT implies that God embraces messy, long development of Israel's theology, indeed of Israel's complementary theologies. In short God has presided over the evolution of Scripture.
Can we accept that the God of Scripture presided over the evolution of life?
Book Promo: Jesus and the Old Testament
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