The Christian Bible is a tremendous source of insight on the human spirit. It transcends humdrum human understanding as well. As such, it is a book that is foundational to much of what we call the human condition.
But while the Bible is considered by Christians to be foundational to understanding the role of God in our lives, it is critical to know how the book is intended to be used.
Let us consider, for example, the contention that the Holy Bible is the only source of trustworthy knowledge for the human race. Recently a Tweet by Seth MacFarlane was shared on Facebook. It read like this and received no less than 15,180 Retweets.
The people who also shared this to their Facebook page no doubt got resistance to those Christians that have not updated their personal beliefs to accommodate the idea of evolution. One supposed retort pasted in response contained the following counter-meme:
Roosevelt was a noted conservationist, but it may indeed surprise ardent creationists that his understanding of the origins of the human race included the processes of evolution. Here are Roosevelt’s own words as contained in a 1916 article published in National Geographic. The article was titled “How Old Is Man?” (Source: scienceblogs.com)
“The mammals, which for ages had existed as small, warm-blooded beasts of low type, now had the field much to themselves. They developed along many different lines, including that of the primates, from which came the monkeys, the anthropoid apes, and finally the half- human predecessors of man himself.”
Clearly these are not the words of a man who believes that a thorough knowledge of the Bible transposes what one can learn about science in college. What Roosevelt was implying in his quote is that spiritual knowledge provides on temperance that one may not gain simply through a college education. This temperance and ability to weigh the relative merits of human behavior is indeed valuable. In modern parlance, we might call it emotional intelligence.
But to imply that one should toss one’s college education out with the bathwater and trust only the Bible for information about how the world works is clearly not the intent of what Teddy Roosevelt had to say on the matter of human evolution.
Yet it also turns out that Roosevelt was captive to some dangerous beliefs that were the product of less-than-advanced thinking in his time. Some flirt with a form of religious judgment, while others cast aspersions pre-historical human beings as being inferior. This should be the thing that is most upsetting to Christians, because it implies that people like Adam and Eve or Moses and Abraham were likely knuckle-dragging dolts without intellect, much less divinity coursing through their minds:
“The earliest monuments beside the lower Nile and lower Euphrates, like the earliest monuments on the high plateaus or in the dense tropical forests of the new world, are purely modern — are things of yesterday — when measured by the hoary antiquity into which we grope when we attempt to retrace the prehistory of man, the history of his development from an apelike creature struggling with his fellow-brutes, to the being with at least longings and hopes that are half divine.”
This idea that the earliest humans on record were brutelike and unrefined runs directly in conflict to the Christian narrative that men such as Moses were so full of insight we can scarcely imagine their brainpower. But you see, too many Christians want to own the narrative for themselves, and as such, struggle to possess both science and religion for themselves. They seek to deny the path of evolution that led to human awareness.
The idea that human awareness came from strictly material origins is anathema, insisting instead that human awareness must have burst upon the scene in the singular case with Adam and Eve. Never mind that these figures could just as easily symbolize the point in time when comprehension of God came into being. This was Creation as released through advancement in human culture. It precisely parallels the New Testament narrative in which Christ comes to earth fully formed, and a part of God, to lead human beings to even greater awareness. What’s so hard to understand about that? Well, even the disciples had a bit of trouble grasping the fluid narrative of Christ’s message. So today’s Christians possibly can be forgiven for being stubborn about their fixed beliefs.
The world was essentially born anew into awareness at that moment, and a comprehensive explanation of how the earth was formed through material means was unnecessary to the just as the New World is predicted to come at a future date
The real brutes are those who deny that religion and science can co-exist, and that one can inform the other without implication of falseness. That is where real human progress awaits, at the intersection in history where religion is not used to dumb down the population. The intent of the Bible is to elevate the notion that the human race in all its material force can still be capable of higher thinking. That is where spirituality awaits as a source of wisdom to guide our actions, inform our stewardship and fuel our love of the earth as an expression of God’s creative power and love.
But when Christians only extract the Bible like a brick from the foundations of scripture, and throw those bricks around in defense of a small and narrow-minded view of the great walls of wisdom, it only hurts the faith.