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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is Reality, June 30, 2010
This review is from: Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation (Paperback)
I so related to this book. I grew up as a Literal Creationist, and it was a slow road to see the Light. I first had to understand that the Bible didn't dictate a literal reading of Genesis, and that there was deeper truth there. Only then was I able to accept the evidence I saw in my biology classes. But what set me on this road was actually the Literal Creationists themselves. I was repeatedly struck with how much they had to bend over backwards and into great contortions to make the evidence fit their preordained beliefs, and the literal words of scripture. And I finally realized that it was just too much work. One did injury to mind and logic to try to create a reading of the Bible that would fit the notions of early 20th century fundamentalists.

This is the first book that fits my personal history exactly. Dr. Godfrey also grew up as a Literal Creationist, and his path to the Light was in learning from the fossils, and learning to accept the truth of science which did not contradict the truth of the Bible. Dr. Smith took the theological path, and left Literal Creationism to embrace a more accurate exegesis of the scriptures, one not dictated by human preconceptions but by the authors' original intents, and the intents of God.

In this mixture, they take that final step, of looking to see how we can understand more of God through evolution. If he is the author of not only general revelation but special revelation as well; if evolution occurred, then surely he is the Original Cause- then by studying evolution, we can learn something of God.

This book is extraordinarily well-written, piecing together the evidence piece-by-piece. It does not attack the beliefs of the Literal Creationists, for these men were once trapped in that understanding as well. It rather is a conversion story, of how God came to them and showed them more fully who he was, and who he is.

I particularly enjoyed some new ideas that both authors introduced. For today, there is a veritable genre of Theistic Evolution books, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a new slant on the idea, and new ideas to incorporate within the theological theory. Dr. Godfrey's discussion of Biblical Meteorology is priceless. We understand that God brings the rain- this is clear in the Bible. It is also clear that he created the world. But there are some among us who insist on "Biblical" Geology and Paleontology- "science" that confirms a young Earth and a Literal Creation. They believe that we must do this because the scriptures say this happened- literally. Yet the scriptures also say that God brought the rain, and the wind, and the storms, and the sun. Why, then, do we accept the idea that the weather has proximal causes? Why is it okay to advocate that hot weather causes winds which cause hurricanes, and then predict the path of a hurricane- and somehow all of this does not deny the power of God behind the hurricane? This discussion by Godfrey reveals how we can accept science as proximal cause and God as original cause.

Dr. Smith's insights were frankly revolutionary. He introduces the concept of "Observational Theology". It is not that the Ancients believed in a videocam view of reality, as if it could be recorded on a machine, for they had no inkling of such a concept. But neither did they reject the literal interpretation. Rather, they had solid "science" for their time- observational science. They observed the world around them, and understood God as present in it. Had God intervened and dictated scripture, as if it were some sort of Qur'anic revelation to Mohammed (pbuh), with modern science, well, then we would have understood it very well- today. And it would have been absolutely irrelevant for every generation before us, with less science, and every generation after us, with better science. Instead, the scripture is interpreted through the understanding of the people of the time. Even Jesus' understanding of science and medicine is limited to his time and culture, such as the concept that spit rubbed on the eyes is efficacious.

So Smith goes through point by point in the scriptures, to prove that they could not possibly be interpreted literally, and never were intended to be, in every instance. And in some instances, they were intended to be interpreted literally, by the Ancients. But here, when we Moderns try to do the same thing, we insist on putting our own framework upon theirs- without even realizing it! As I read, I realized I did the same exact thing, both when I was a Literal Creationist, and even today. When I read the Genesis story, whether I interpret it literally or symbolically, I continue to picture a round Earth, with water in one place and land in another, with sky above and clouds in the sky, with a sun and moon above the sky. But this is not what it says! Dr. Smith, in a series of helpful drawings and explanations, shows us that the Ancients pictured a flat Earth, with water, and then space between the waters, like a hollow egg, and then land floating in the water. Rather than a sun, moon, and stars in outer space, the Ancients actually pictured all of those in the actual sky.

And once he spells it out, you realize, "Oh, of course! How foolish! *This* really is their understanding! How could I have not seen that?" For the whole concept of a round Earth and outer space are extremely modern concepts. And concepts that, even if they could have been explained to the Ancients, would have been completely unhelpful to them.

No, the genius of the two Genesis Stories is that God is powerful and greater than all other gods, and that he is intimate, and walks with us. Plenty of other religions had one or the other. No other people until the Hebrews had combined those two concepts into one deity until that point. And for that to be an effective idea, it had to reach them where they were at- it had to be an observational cosmology, and observational perspective, and observational science.

And so Smith and Godfrey return us to the original intent of Genesis. Not all this unhelpful discussion of origins and what literally happened. No. So much of the attack on evolution and science and insistence on a "Biblical" perspective has ironically removed us from the real Biblical perspective.

It's about God.
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