Tuesday, May 1, 2007

There’s Literal and Then There’s Literal

Johan Huibers, described in news accounts as a “Dutch creationist,” which I assume means that he is a citizen of the Netherlands who holds to a certain theory of how the world was created rather than that he is someone who believes that Dutch people were somehow specially made by God, has built a replica of Noah’s ark. You can visit it in Schagen, Netherlands. If you do, you will find stuffed animals, a petting zoo, a wax figure of Noah, a fifty-seat theatre that shows the Noah part of the Disney movie Fantasia, and other exhibits. While Huibers’s ark is big it is still only one-fifth the size of the ark that is described in Genesis.

The model ark is a pretty amazing accomplishment and it will no doubt prove to be a major tourist attraction. What really caught my eye, though, was the line from the Associated Press story about Huibers’s ark that said that he built it “as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible.” (You can read the AP story about the boat here.)

That’s pretty impressive faith in the literal truth of the Bible. I am duly impressed with Huibers’s commitment to showing that such a boat could in fact be built. I am sure that there are lots of folks who will applaud him for taking this stand for the truthfulness and authority of the Bible. Folks have been elevated to hero status for far less. Seriously, though, I do not doubt his sincerity and I admire his determination.

As much work as Huibers put into his project, and it was a lot, his display of faith in the literal truth of the Bible is not the kind that impresses me or that, frankly, makes much of a difference for the cause of Christ in this sin-besotted world. No, Christians will make much more of a difference when some of us begin to take some other parts of the Bible literally.

Let’s try these:

Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.

I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven….

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.

If more of us Christians would take those parts of the Bible literally, then we might exhibit more faith, provide a stronger witness, and make more of a difference in the world than even a fellow who has built a great big boat in the Netherlands.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that….

1 comment:

johnj said...

The wrong kind of Biblical literalism, telling scientists what is science, is damaging our faith. Two responses from the science community are evident. First, evangelism suffers by exposing our ignorance. Second, religion attempting to redefine science opens the way for science to redefine religion.

The Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the premier general science association of the United States has published an interesting book entitled "The Evolution Dialogs". In it, there is a quote from the fifth century bishop, Augustine, which can be paraphrased - if you speak nonsense about something I know, why should I believe your claims about something I don't know?

Evolution is being used to explain the development of traits such as altruism and cooperation that we normally ascribe to religion. In a very real sense such explanations are constraining the realms of thought that we think of as religious.

I echo and endorse Dr. Ruffin's call to Biblical literalism in the area of living a Christian life and hope we will refrain from telling science what is science.