Is a literal reading of the Genesis creation story required of us?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Peter Enns analyzes an elderly pastor’s passionate defense of reading Genesis literally.
In this post for his blog on Patheos, Dr. Peter Enns critiques an article by a minister who has served as a pastor for more than six decades and who, believing he might not have many years left before God calls him home, wanted to write a strong defense of biblical literalism. The pastor, Rev. G. I. Williamson, believes it is a mark of orthodoxy to accept the Genesis account of creation as an actual event that occurred exactly as written, including the idea that God made the heavens and earth in six literal 24-hour days.  Dr. Enns says he does not want to ridicule the pastor’s views or “pick holes” in his arguments. But, says Enns, “I want to make a few observations on what lies below the surface of Williamson’s plea, because this same general posture is repeated in one way or another in virtually any such defenses of biblical literalism, regardless of one’s denominational or ecclesiastical commitments.” Enns’s observations take the form of 12 characteristics that make up this “general posture.”  The characteristics include such things as holding the line and “maintaining boundaries at all costs rather than a willingness to examine them,” emphasizing “insider-outside distinctions as the top priority,” and insisting that the biblical account of creation must be read literally, simply because that is “how common people read things.” Enns’s list includes nine other items as well; and taken together, they provide useful tools that we may also want to apply to other examples in which there is an insistence on reading and interpreting the Bible in a particular way.

Letha Dawson Scanzoni
Letha Dawson Scanzoni (1935-2024) was an independent scholar, writer, and editor, and the author or coauthor of nine books. In 1978, she and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott wrote Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, one of the earliest books urging evangelical Christians to rethink their views on homosexuality (updated edition, 1994, HarperOne). More recently, Letha coauthored (with social psychologist David G. Myers) What God Has Joined Together: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage (HarperOne, 2005 and 2006). Another of Letha’s most well-known books is All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, coauthored with Nancy A. Hardesty (Word Books, 1974; revised edition, Abingdon, 1986; updated and expanded edition, Eerdmans, 1992). Letha served as editor of Christian Feminism Today in both its former print edition (EEWC Update) and its website for 19 years until her retirement in December 2013.


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