According to the Oxford dictionary, creation is the action or process that brings something into existence. But what does this mean for Christians for the doctrine of creation? In this first part, I will share my thoughts on the doctrine of creation – what it is and what it is not – and in parts two and three I will explore other aspects of the doctrine of creation.
In nearly all discussions on the doctrine of creation, the question of how to incorporate science into the doctrine of creation seems to be an important question to answer for many. But is this the right question to ask? It is a good question but is it the right question. Regarding the doctrine of creation, the definition from the oxford dictionary given above seems to prompt two further questions – how is creation carried out, and why has it been carried out? Conjoining these two necessary questions attaches the elements of both science of religion (more specifically, Christianity) – science, attempting to explain how creation is carried out and religion, seeking to explain why such creation has been carried out. It seems to me that when we combine the questions that both science and religion ask and then attempt to answer them both within the doctrine of creation, we weaken both the scientific question and answer as well as the religious question and answer. Science is not designed nor meant to answer religious questions, nor is religion designed or meant to answer scientific questions. Interpreting the Bible scientifically indicates that the Bible is meant to be a scientific textbook, at least in part, and interpreting science through the Genesis account indicates that the Bible’s purpose is to answer all questions pertaining to scientific discovery, which does not seem to be the case. The Bible does not answer the question of how old the earth is, nor does it answer whether God used evolution or not, that would be a scientific question and result in a scientific answer. However, Genesis does answer that it was YHWH who created all things and that we are created in his image. Science does not answer why we are here and what our purpose is, that would be a religious question answered within the biblical text. Understanding the nuances of what both science and Genesis are seeking to answer is paramount for being able to understand in their proper context and place within the world.
Therefore, interpreting the Bible scientifically or science religiously and through biblical hermeneutics weakens both since neither are designed to interact with the other hermeneutically in the same way. There are indeed some overlaps, especially within the doctrine of creation pertaining to Christianity, in that both science and religion study and seek to better understand YHWH, the creator of the cosmos and the author of life. However, the Bible is not a scientific textbook, thus within the Genesis creation account we cannot derive a scientific understanding of the cosmos through the text itself. The Genesis account is attempting not to tell us scientifically how God created the cosmos, but rather that it was YHWH who created the cosmos for the purpose of partnering with humanity as co-heirs in ruling his creation with him. So, when seeking to better understand the doctrine of creation, we must indeed ask what conversation we are having – a scientific one or a religious one. The Genesis account does not seem to indicate a desire to explain the ways in which God created the cosmos – via evolution or within a literal six-day period – but rather seeks to show Israel and the Church that all creation sings of YHWH’s glory, YHWH’s purpose, and YHWH’s lordship.
Creation is multifaceted, and it bares many questions, all of which are important, but when we use science in a way that it is not designed while simultaneously using the Genesis account to answer scientific questions, we weaken both important elements within the topic of creation. Therefore, when the topic of science and creation comes up, I think the best question we can ask prior to engagement is to ask – are we seeking to have a scientific or a religious discussion? Separating the conversation does not suggest that one is more important than the other in the general conversation. Rather, it implies that both are uniquely pursuing how to properly understand God’s creation, both his purpose and his design.