Nazarenes Exploring Evolution

Take Scripture Seriously

"You don't take Scripture seriously."

I was a junior in college when I heard those words spoken by my favorite professor in a class on some of my favorite books of the Bible, and I was instantly offended. I didn't take Scripture seriously? How anyone could say such a thing was beyond me. This man clearly knew nothing about me. Come to think of it, neither do you.

I was raised in a Christian home, where the Bible was a part of daily life. My family was very committed (probably overcommitted) to our local church, my father read the Bible aloud every night, and in a given year I probably went to half a dozen Bible-centered events. The only test I ever failed was in 7th grade.Every question on the test was about evolution, and every answer I gave was from the Bible. I wasn't a scientist but knew what Scripture said was sufficient for me. By the time I graduated high school, I had memorized more Scripture than most people do in a lifetime, and along the way I had read dozens, probably hundreds, of books about spiritual warfare, the end times, and the mountains of evidence which proved the Genesis creation account was absolute fact. And in my sophomore year of college, I had made the ultimate sacrifice: I had given up on my intended lucrative career in psychiatry to pursue the thankless, penniless life of a minister, because I was certain that's what God was calling me to do.

So there I sat in a class on the prophets, giving a brilliant (in my estimation) explanation of how Daniel's 70th week and Revelation fit together, when my professor leveled that unforgivable charge, "You don't take Scripture seriously." Perhaps you can understand now why the very thought offended me. He asked me to turn to 2 Timothy 3 and read verses 16 and 17. I did him one better and quoted them without hesitation.

"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

He was not impressed by my instant recall, and pressed on making his point.

"Can you tell me where in the Bible it says Scripture is useful for telling the future?"

I could not.

"Where does it say Scripture is a primer on the end times?"

It doesn't.

"How about Math, or history, or geography, or science?"

No, I didn't know those passages either. He continued.

"The problem, Shea, is that you are asking Scripture questions it's not meant to answer, and not bothering with the questions it does. How does your analysis of these prophecies equip people to do good works? How does it teach, rebuke, correct, or train them in such a way that they can be righteous? If your interpretations can't do any of these things, then what's the point in having them?"

I couldn't bring myself to say it at the time, but my professor was completely right. I had spent so much time using the Bible as evidence to prove my point that I hadn't bothered to consider its intended purpose. It was as if I had been given a nice new pair of shoes, but instead of wearing them and letting them take me where I needed to go, I had been using them to kill bugs, prop open doors, and fix wobbly table legs. Shoes can be made to do all of those things, but that's not their purpose. There are other items out there that do those jobs a whole lot better. I hated to admit it, but I knew that I had to reconsider everything I thought I knew about Scripture.

So I began studying in earnest once more, but this time instead of trying to gather facts and evidence, I would ask myself "what is there about this passage that helps me to be prepared for good works?" Sometimes it changed my understanding a little, sometimes a lot, and sometimes not at all. But when I finally decided to tackle Genesis, everything changed. I half-read, half-remembered the seven day creation account. As I read, asking how this passage fulfilled the purpose of Scripture, I was amazed. This was the story about a God who cared about everything in the universe. It was a story about a God who looks at the world, at living things, and even at humans, and calls them "good." But they weren't just good. Those humans were a reflection of who God was. They bore in themselves an image of the Divine. It was a beautiful, intimate story about God's special love for and relationship with humans, which included me. It was then that I realized I could no longer read this, one of the greatest love poems ever written, as though it were a list of facts whose only use was to prove others wrong.

I am still not a scientist. I have read a lot on the subject, but I can't really tell you with absolute certainty the age of the earth or the timeline of how humans came into being. What I can tell you is what I learned the hard way: to really take Scripture seriously, we have to let Scripture do what it was meant to do. Scientists may find indisputable evidence tomorrow that this or that story in the Bible didn't happen as written, but that won't matter one bit for those who take Scripture seriously. We need not plug our ears or drown out the voice of the scientists because we know the right question to ask of Scripture, and it is not "did that really happen?" Scientists will do what they do best, proving and disproving this or that theory. We will be able to accept that with ease because we take Scripture, and its purpose, seriously.





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Comments (15)

  1. Marty Alan Michelson:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 11:31 AM

    A great, personal reflection that drew me in!

    " . . . to really take Scripture seriously, we have to let Scripture do what it was meant to do."

    Thanks!

    Reply

    1. Shea:
      Feb 25, 2013 at 11:58 AM

      Thanks, Marty! Glad you found it useful.

      Reply

  2. Charles Carrigan:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    Great post. Really enjoyed the shoe analogy.

    "It was as if I had been given a nice new pair of shoes, but instead of wearing them and letting them take me where I needed to go, I had been using them to kill bugs, prop open doors, and fix wobbly table legs."

    Reply

    1. Shea:
      Feb 25, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      Thanks, Charles. I enjoyed that analogy as well- which is why I used it :).

      Reply

  3. Pete Hohmann:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 02:29 PM

    What a concept... "...let Scripture do what it was meant to do." Thanks Z.

    Reply

  4. jonathan pelton:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 06:12 PM

    "I had spent so much time using the Bible as evidence to prove my point that I hadn't bothered to consider its intended purpose."

    I really like that idea. How often do we bring an agenda to our reading of Scripture? How often do we approach others simply wanting to validate ourselves by proving that we are right? God never intended Scripture to be an instrument for self-aggrandizement.

    Reply

  5. Daryl Densford:
    Feb 25, 2013 at 07:27 PM

    Shea, you make some good points but as always, there are two sides.

    Certainly there are "creationists" who do take Scripture seriously, though not the same as you do. Undoubtedly, there are "creationists" who maintain the main point of Scripture as you describe it, allowing, however, the possibility of there being other truth as part of the text.

    Anyway, you can see the rest of my disagreements at by blog (DarylDensford -dot- com).

    Reply

    1. Shea:
      Feb 25, 2013 at 09:06 PM

      Daryl,
      Thank you for your reply. A few remarks on your response:

      You will note that nowhere in my post did I use the term 'creationist,' in quotes or otherwise. Neither did I refer to evolution. My sole purpose in this essay was to re-orient us toward the intended purpose of Scripture, as deutero-Paul identifies it (and I think we can agree that at the very least, the pentateuch MUSt be included in any New Testament understanding of Scripture).

      I disagree with several points on your blog, beginning with your introductory characterization of this website. You state that the mission of this project is to 'convince conservative Christians that accepting the Biblical record of creation is an uneducated misinterpretation of Scripture.' This is an inaccurate, unfair, and unnecessarily polarizing depiction of the project, which characterizes myself and other contributors as evangelists for theistic evolution, and paints those who uphold a literal reading of Genesis 1 as somehow being faithful to 'the Biblical record of creation.' With such an introduction, it is clear from the outset who the winners and losers of this conversation are in your mind. To the contrary, I would maintain that we should not be seeking winners and losers, but a mutual respect, and a renewed investment in treating the Scriptures as they were intended.

      1 Tim. 3:16-7 is by no means a proof-text. The text says explicitly that it is talking about all Scripture. If it had said some, or most Scripture, you might say I'm taking it out of context, but it says all (and yes, the Greek there really means all). If a reading of any passage does not contribute to this purpose for Scripture, then that reading can and should be reconsidered. If I read the imprecatory Psalms as a justification for infanticide, I am interpreting them wrong, even though that is the plain meaning. It is pretty simple- if your interpretation does not equip people in righteousness, then you need to rethink your interpretation (this is actually one of the few 'simple' things that can be found in Scripture).

      You reaffirm that the shoe analogy does not preclude the use of shoes for these other purposes... this is technically correct, and where Scripture does coincide with history, mathematics, science, et. al, we should not discount it, but where it does not, we should not feel the need to force such properties into our interpretations based on some a priori assumption.

      Finally, you argue against a theoretical slippery slope, in which allowing science to 'chip away' at our understandings somehow results in denying the Faith. At the heart of the Christian faith are several fundamental mysteries, which are known to be neither provable nor disprovable. The Trinity, the dual nature of Christ, the resurrection, the hypostatic union, the pending return of Christ... in short, the Gospel transcends science, and cannot possibly fall prey to any sort of scientific process. In this particular instance, the slippery slope argument is very much a fallacy.

      I would simply conclude by asking what interpretive principles demand that we require more of Genesis 1 than its literary form and purpose suggests. Why read this particular Hebrew Psalm literally when we read the rest as praise hymns? Why ask poetry to be history text? And if you can explain why it should be read as history, why should this particular form of Ancient Near East history be expected to comply with the standards of Western historical documents which weren't even formulated until after the Enlightenment? There are just so many assumptions which must be made about the purpose of Scripture which one must make before insisting Genesis 1 should be read literally, and very few of them can be defended on the basis of Scripture itself. Nearly all of them are either a priori assumptions, or hermeneutical principles which are foreign to the text itself.

      Reply

      1. Daryl Densford:
        Feb 26, 2013 at 11:49 AM

        Shea, Thanks for taking the time to read my post and reply. It seems, though, we're just going in circles, but there are answers to your comments that are reasonable.

        I don't think that it is an imposition on your essay to suggest that it is an evolution-leaning piece. Clearly it is posted on a site that states that its purpose is to educate Nazarenes on the compatibility of evolution with Christianity.

        Anyway, the comments-responses are much too long to fit into this space, so for that reason and for the fact that it compliments my post, I've put your comments and my responses at the end of it. If you're interested, you can find it at my original response to your essay at my blog DarylDensford -dot- com.

        Daryl

        Reply

      2. Jeremy Hugus:
        Feb 27, 2013 at 12:02 PM

        Keen and articulate both, Shea. Thanks for your cogent insight and your heart for scriptural integrity.

        Reply

  6. Marianneke Summerfield:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 03:53 PM

    Thanks for this relatable read!
    I had a few of these moments in my schooling (and I am sure more to come). In university I took a "Religion as Literature" class and was told my understanding of the Bible was too 'Sunday School.' I protested as I was certain I was the only Christian in the class, which should have automatically ensured I knew the Bible better since I knew the author! :)
    When I was in Bible college, I found my understanding of Creation challenged, but in a positive way. I was told that the point is "God created..." This simple teaching has definitely changed my interpretation/application over the years. And now, taking your encouragement in hand, I hope to see how I can be prepared to do good works as I read through Scripture. Thanks!

    Reply

  7. Lisa Michaels:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 08:23 PM

    This is an excellent article. What you describe is actually very similar to my own story, and I am sure countless others'. I find it commendable that when you were confronted with the possibility that you were not taking Scripture as seriously as you could be that you then examined yourself and your understanding of Scripture. Many people will be offended by this, and many will say that it is actually *now* that you do not take Scripture seriously, but keep pressing on!

    Reply

  8. Kim Becker:
    Apr 04, 2013 at 08:54 PM

    Shea, thank you so much for this post. You wrote, "As I read, asking how this passage fulfilled the purpose of Scripture, I was amazed. This was the story about a God who cared about everything in the universe. It was a story about a God who looks at the world, at living things, and even at humans, and calls them "good." But they weren't just good. Those humans were a reflection of who God was. They bore in themselves an image of the Divine. It was a beautiful, intimate story about God's special love for and relationship with humans, which included me. It was then that I realized I could no longer read this, one of the greatest love poems ever written, as though it were a list of facts whose only use was to prove others wrong."

    Fiinally! Someone who said what I was thinking. I've been leading a small group on the Gospels. One of my members wanted to discuss Luke 23:43, where Jesus tells the thief that he will be with Him in paradise. This young man wanted to declare the meaning of the comma in that verse, and stated that had it been elsewhere in the sentence, the whole meaning would be different. In the meantime, he completely missed the real meaning of the point Jesus was making -- the promise of salvation. I've discussed numerous times the nature of God and how we learn what that is by reading through the OT to find out why we needed Jesus.

    It's not about whether creation was 6 days or billions of years; it's not about the anger over the supposed "genocide" of the Canaanites; it's not about where the commas are placed in our English translations. Scripture is the story of our Creator and Nurturer, the story of the love of God for a fallen, imperfect, broken people; the story of the trinity and its power in our lives. The Bible gives us the story of God.

    Thank you for your enlightening essay.

    Kim Becker, MDiv student, Northwest Nazarene University

    Reply

  9. Mark Seitz:
    Jun 28, 2013 at 04:57 PM

    Shea:
    Thank you for sharing your heart and mind here.
    What do you think now regarding the Bible as predicting future events? Did Jesus mean to tell us about His future return, or not? Should we take Jesus' and the apostles' predictions about the future as literal events that will come to pass, or do they simply have a spiritual meaning? For that matter, can we trust that Jesus was literally, physically, biologically resurrected in His body from death? Or is the resurrection just referring perhaps to a spiritual event in the hearts of the believers? And lastly, what of the virgin birth of Jesus, real or not? Was it meant just as a narrative embellishment to point us to the idea that Jesus is a special person? How do we judge which portions of the Bible can be believed and which might not be trustworthy?
    Respectfully curious,
    Mark Seitz

    Reply

  10. Kristen:
    Oct 24, 2013 at 04:20 PM

    Your essay, “Take Scripture Seriously,” brought clarity to me yet spurred many thoughts and questions about creation. When you said, “He [my professor] asked me to turn to 2 Timothy 3 and read verses 16 and 17. I did him one better and quoted them without hesitation,” I realized that many people can so easily memorize scripture but do not fully understand it’s meaning behind it and the message that God is trying to send. It is interesting how, in the past, you used scripture to prove God’s existence and its factuality instead of “soaking it in” and listening to God’s voice throughout the Bible. I found what you said about the book of Genesis, very enlightening: “As I read, asking how this passage fulfilled the purpose of Scripture, I was amazed. This was the story about a God who cared about everything in the universe. It was a story about a God who looks at the world, at living things, and even at humans, and calls them "good." But they weren't just good. Those humans were a reflection of who God was.” That statement made me smile and awe at how great God really is and how He is able to use us to prove that He truly does exists. That passage of writing was helpful for me to identify how I have often been hiding God’s light in me. Just by shining my light on others, I have proved to others that God exists. Christians should be the example of Christ and when others see Godly traits in me, I have shown them God’s beauty and existence.
    In your essay, there wasn’t a lot of discussion about evolution. I would have liked to hear more of your opinion on the Big Bang Theory and other scientific theories about how the world was created and your perspective or thoughts about evolution. Even though you said you weren’t completely sure about the topic of evolution, I would have liked to read some of your biased thoughts and opinions on the subject. Since your perspective has changed after your professor said, “You don’t take scripture seriously,” how have you changed your thought process when you read scripture? Is it difficult for you to talk to others about creation, now, because of your new perspective on scripture?

    Reply

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