Many Christians struggle with science and faith issues. Further, many unbelievers who are open to our faith are tempted to disregard Christianity because of perceived conflicts with science. Since many churches and pastors teach that the only proper way to read early Genesis is as a literal historical account, those who accept the findings of modern science can feel left in the lurch, needing support.

My own faith crisis was triggered by an innocent question from one of my young children about dinosaurs. Of course, dinosaurs existed, a long time ago. Yet the Bible seemed to indicate that they were created, along with humans, only 6,000 years ago. Furthermore, Scripture seemed to tell of a global flood, which I judged to be wildly implausible. Tensions that had been brewing for a long time, between what I hold to be true about the world and what the Bible seemed to be telling me, had now come to the surface. It was time to deal with them.

Fortunately, I am an accomplished research professional and scholar. So I decided to get to the bottom of what is going on with the Genesis 1 creation account and the flood, trusting that I would find no contradiction between God’s Word and his created world. In the end, I did completely resolve my concerns, and my faith was strengthened in the process. My prayer for this book is that it will comfort other Christians who struggle with these topics, and assist seeking unbelievers over a hurdle to faith.

I tackled the Genesis 1 creation account first, devouring Bible commentaries, books by biblical scholars, science textbooks, sermons, and so forth. The first question I explored was whether a literal reading of Genesis and an old earth are compatible. And indeed, many Christians acknowledge that the earth is old, and hold that Genesis 1 accurately describes the direct and progressive creation of life on earth over the course of billions of years. Unfortunately, I don’t think that fits the text. The order of creation in the text is different from that in the scientific record. A key problem with this approach, as I came to see it, is that it expects the Bible to provide modern scientific truths. A key moment was recognizing that we should not expect the Bible to speak the language of 21st century science.

For a number of reasons, including that the Bible is not a science textbook, I came to expect a figurative meaning to Genesis 1. But how to locate that meaning? The second key was learning that Israel’s neighbors had well known creation myths of their own. There are enough similarities (and differences) that it is clear that Genesis was communicating with these myths, using the same basic form but inserting the correct theology.

With this knowledge in hand, I was able to read the text in its historical and cultural context, and I go on to introduce a day-by-day, verse-by-verse interpretation. Finally, I analyze the key Scripture passages that touch on Genesis 1, verifying that they do not contradict an old earth.

One down, one to go. However, the flood was more of a challenge. Fortunately, the tools I gained in tackling creation—figurative frameworks and an appreciation of the Hebrews’ historical and cultural context—could be put to use in assessing the flood account. I came to the conclusion that the Genesis flood account takes a real event—a large local flood—and retells it as a grand epic. Consideration of the flood traditions of Israel’s neighbors, thereby putting ourselves in the shoes of the author and the original audience, was critical to this understanding. As I do with the creation account, I proceed to walk through the flood story, drawing out the key theological themes and lessons. Finally, I investigate the most important Old and New Testament passages that relate to the flood, interpreting them in light of the figurative truth of the Genesis account.

Success. Scientifically minded Christians need not be troubled, wondering why the Bible appears to give inaccurate testimony about the world. It does not. By discarding our modern lenses and approaching the text from the context of the original audience, we see that early Genesis is not concerned with teaching us modern science but, rather, theological truths. And, importantly, we can more clearly see what those truths are.

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