Reading Genesis

reading genesis icon

This is the fourth of a series of posts introducing Resources on Science and Christian Faith from the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). These blog posts are based on the introductory essays that accompany each of the topics. Today we are using the topic of Reading Genesis.

For some the Bible-Science conflict starts with the opening chapter of Genesis. If one assumes that the account is straight-forward narrative depicting a strict chronological sequence then you end up with a fully formed Creation that was made in the space of six (twenty-four hour) days. If you tie such a view to a historical dating of the David/Solomonic kingdom around 1000 BC and an arithmetic (rather than symbolic) approach to the genealogies of the Bible, you end up with a recent Creation, 6,000 to 10,000 years ago. This is how many evangelicals read Genesis today and is the origin of such young-earth creationist (YEC) organizations as the Institute for Creation Research, the Creation Research Society, Answers in Genesis, etc. In this view the Bible teaches a recent Creation. All other approaches to knowledge (science, history, etc.) must conform to this Biblical teaching.

This YEC viewpoint seems at odds with the conclusions of modern science. Modern cosmology teaches that the universe is 13.8 billion years old, that the earth is 4.54 billion years old, that life originated on earth 3.85 billion years ago, that modern plants and animals developed through an evolutionary process around 500 million years ago, that dinosaurs lived on the earth 230 million to 70 million years ago, that modern humans have been around for 200,000 years, and that worldwide migrations of humans occurred 60,000 to 15,000 years ago. This long history embodies cosmological, geological, and biological processes that occurred over time-scales in the thousands, millions, and billions of years, not six, twenty-four hour days.

There are others who embrace the scientific account and then conclude that the Bible and the religions that use the Bible as their authoritative text are hopelessly wrong. For them Biblical faith is akin to believing in fairies and leprechauns. While coming from totally opposite perspectives YEC and atheistic evolutionists have a fundamental agreement: Biblical faith and modern science are incompatible. Yet, there are some, represented by the American Scientific Affiliation and the BioLogos Foundation, the developers and hosts of the perspectives presented here, who disagree. By and large those who disagree do not reject the conclusions of modern science. Thus, the chronology of modern science stated above is accepted as well as the idea that naturally occurring processes can explain the historical development of the cosmos from Big Bang to present. Accepting the conclusions of modern science can be done from Christian theistic framework. God remains the Creator, Sustainer, Governor, and Provider of the universe.

Those who adopt this middle path claim that it is possible to understand the Bible in a way that does not result in a conflict with modern science. Many wonder whether this is being faithful to scripture. This question is addressed in all of the papers and presentations listed below. While it is certainly true that those who accept the authority of the Bible should not always adjust their interpretation of scripture to fit the results of the latest science, it must always be remembered that our traditional interpretations may be wrong. If a conflict with science arises, there is nothing wrong with using that occasion to revisit our traditional interpretation of scripture to see if we have it right. Most everyone would admit that if the traditional interpretation is not the correct interpretation then we should change our view, and that changing our view is being more faithful to scripture.

Listed below are key papers from the ASA journal (JASA, PSCF) or presentations given at ASA meetings or other works by individuals associated with the ASA that address the proper way of reading Genesis 1. Not all of the authors agree with each other. But there is somewhat a common theme that Genesis 1 must be understood in the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) context and that reading it in that context may mean that our 21st century questions may not be answered.


1. How were you brought up to understand Genesis 1? What did you learn at home, in Sunday School, in church, at school, in college? Is challenging the “traditional” reading of Genesis 1 troubling to you?

2. How does your current Christian community–your church, your Christian school, your Christian college–deal with these issues?

3. How well do you understand modern science and its claims about the origin of the universe, the earth, life on earth, and humanity?

4. Have you ever changed your understanding of scripture based on extra-Biblical information (archaeology, understanding Biblical customs, etc.)? Why did you change your view?

5. How might it be possible to reject Genesis as straight-forward narrative depicting a strict chronological sequence and not reject it being revelation from God and having some kind of authority?


Getting Started in the Evolution/Creation Conversation

Getting Started

This is the second of a series of posts introducing Resources on Science and Christian Faith from the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). These blog posts are based on the introductory essays that accompany each of the topics. Today we use the Getting Started in the Discussion topic.

The science/faith or evolution/creation discussion is huge. Where do you start? What follows are contributions by members of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) to annual meetings, articles in the ASA journal, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (PSCF), and other resources available on the ASA web site. We have pulled together this set of resources as an introduction covering the areas of reading Genesis, the age of the earth, evidences for evolution, theistic evolution (or evolutionary creation), the first humans (Adam and Eve), and intelligent design.

The ASA is a network of Christians in the sciences and has fostered discussion of faith and science issues over its 70 year history. The ASA accepts the Bible as inspired, trustworthy, and authoritative and thus disagrees with the “atheistic naturalist” who simply disregards the Biblical teaching. The ASA also believes that scientific investigation (and its results) are legitimate because God created and preserves the universe in such a way that it has contingent order and intelligibility. In other words the ASA discussion is among people who take both the Bible and science seriously.

The ASA does not take a position when there is honest disagreement between Christians on an issue. We are committed to providing an open forum where controversies can be discussed without fear of unjust condemnation. Legitimate differences of opinion among Christians who have studied both the Bible and science are freely expressed within the Affiliation in a context of Christian love and concern for truth. Consequently, you will find a range of views, some which disagree strongly with the other.

For the newcomer to the discussion we have arranged the resources in a logical order. In a few cases, there is a audio or video presentation followed by a more detailed written version by the same author With each resource there is a brief introduction of the author/presenter and there are questions for reflection or discussion. Keep a journal of your reflections based on those question and others that may come to mind. Many additional resources from ASA are available If you wish to dig deeper into a particular topic.

The first resource on the list is Richard H. Bube’s 1970’s paper entitled “We Believe in Creation.” Richard H. Bube is emeritus Professor of Materials Science and Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. He was editor of JASA from 1969-1983 and a frequent contributor to the journal. Here is the abstract:

It should be well known to readers of the Journal ASA that the ASA does not take an official position on controversial questions. Creation is not a controversial question. We believe in Creation. We praise the Lord for that faith. But let us avoid either posing creation and evolution as intrinsically antithetical alternatives, the acceptance of one demanding the rejection of the other, or presenting creation as a scientific mechanism alternative to evolution, as though good science must ultimately lead to the verification of fiat creation and a falsification of evolution.

Here are the study/discussion questions associated with this introduction and with the “We Believe in Creation” article.


1. What are your initial thoughts about the relationship between faith and science?

2. Bube asserts that creation is not a controversial subject. What does he mean by that and how can he say that in light of all the controversy?

3. How does he distinguish between fiat creation and Creation?

4. What is meant by “descriptions of the same phenomena on different levels of reality?”

5. What is “evolutionary philosophy” or “evolutionary religion?” Why is it important to distinguish between “evolutionary philosophy” and “evolutionary biology?


Resources on Science and Christian Faith

This is the first of a series of posts introducing Resources on Science and Christian Faith from the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA). Future posts will feature the introductory essays associated with the various topics.

ASA began in 1941 as “a group of Christian scientific men devoting themselves to the task of reviewing, preparing, and distributing information on the authenticity, historicity, and scientific aspects of the Holy Scriptures in order that the faith of many in the Lord Jesus Christ may be firmly established.” [1] Today, with a similar but somewhat broader purpose, ASA seeks “to investigate any area relating Christian faith and science and to make known the results of such investigations for comment and criticism by the Christian community and by the scientific community.” [2] ASA has a 74 year history of dialogue and discussion. Reflection on ASA’s early history can be found in the 50th anniversary (1991) issue of its journal, Perspectives on Science and Faith [3-6].

Anyone interested in learning more about faith/science issues would profit from tapping into the rich set of resources available through the ASA. The most valuable of these resources is the Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation (JASA), now called Perspectives on Science and Faith (PSCF). The ASA also sponsors annual meetings where members and key figures in the faith/science scholarly community present their latest thinking. In addition, ASA members meet in local sections around the country. In recent years these meetings have been audio and/or video recorded and made available on the Internet. There are also monographs, newsletters, and other publications such as the SEARCH series of articles on contemporary Christian scientists and the eZine, God and Nature. Seeing how ASA members have worked through these issues and settled on the various options could be instructive for those currently exploring these questions.

ASA desires to foster civil dialogue among Christians with differing perspectives. The most controversial debates in ASA’s history have been on the topic of evolutionary creation. As one of the oldest and largest groups of Christians in science worldwide, the annals of ASA document the story of believers grappling with the growing scientific database on evolution. While the ASA throughout its history has remained officially neutral on controversial topics where there is honest disagreement, including evolution/creation, its membership as a whole has moved toward acceptance of the prevailing scientific views, which is reflected in its publications and meetings. Papers, videos, and audio recordings document how this large body of Christians from differing perspectives has moved from hesitation about evolutionary science to widespread acceptance of evolution as God’s process in the natural world.

Although the earliest ASA scientists appeared to find data important to modern science in the Bible (e.g. age of the earth/universe, biological kinds) the general trajectory has been to recognize that the Bible’s primary purpose is redemptive-historical and not scientific and that it was written in the cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East where our modern scientific questions were not necessarily their questions. In other words the Bible is not a scientific textbook. Answers to most of our scientific questions will not be found in the Bible. This is not to say that ASA members do not take the Bible seriously however. ASA members believe that the Bible continues to inform the Christian worldview and the theology of Creation and God’s interaction with the universe. These are both relevant to the scientific endeavor.

A second trajectory is that ASA members have tended to become more accepting of the well-established results of mainstream science. Early ASA scientists tended to be somewhat suspicious of the claims of mainstream science, especially in the area of origins. In part, this is a simple corollary of the first trajectory. Many in the ASA no longer see the Bible as teaching ideas that are contrary to science proper. Thus, while there is seldom unanimity on any scientific issue, the majority of ASA members hold to an old earth/universe, biological evolution, and even human evolution. There is also serious engagement of the multiverse, evolutionary psychology, and the latest ideas of neurobiology. Recognizing the distinction between science as a description of the way God governs the universe and scientism (also known as scientific/atheistic naturalism or scientific materialism), which misuses science to make scientific explanations ultimate explanations, has allowed ASA members to embrace scientific claims without fear of abandoning a belief in God’s role in creation.

ASA received a grant from the BioLogos Foundation as part of the Evolution and Christian Faith (ECF) project. It was entitled “Seeing Evolutionary Creation as a Viable Evangelical Perspective: Seventy Years of ASA Resources.” ASA is seeking to make its resources more broadly available to the general public. Audio/visual materials from recent ASA annual meetings are on the Internet and have now been added to an already existing database of JASA/PSCF. A rich metadata tagging/indexing system allows us to use search tools to present these resources in many different useful formats. We are in the process of developing some guided tours through these resources with introductory comments, background information, and even study questions for individual or group reflection. Since ASA provides an open forum on faith/science controversies these resources can help people work through the issues involved. At this point there are three nearly complete collections: “Getting Started in the Evolution/Creation Discussion,” “Reading Genesis,” and “Adam and Eve and Human Origins.” Preliminary work has been done additional topics: “Age of the Earth,” “Intelligent Design,” “Environmental Stewardship,”  “Divine Action,” “Philosophy of Science,” “History of Science”, “Body and Soul,” “Bioethics,” “ASA History,” “ASA Authors”, “Annual Meeting,” and “Recent Issues of PSCF.”  These are all accessible from the Resources on Science and Christian Faith (RSCF) page at There is opportunity for reader comments and ratings that eventually will allow the most useful resources to be identified by the learning community.

Please join us in this quest that takes seriously both God’s Word and God’s world.


1. From the title page of Modern science and Christian Faith, F. Alton Everest, ed. (1948, 1951)
2. For example, see the 2014 ASA brochure
3. Darryl G. Hart, “The Fundamentalists Origins of the American Scientific Affiliation” PSCF 43:238-248 (1991)
4. John W. Haas, Jr., “Irwin A. Moon, F. Alton Everest and Will H. Houghton: Early Links between the Moody Bible Institute and the American Scientific Affiliation” PSCF 43:249-258 (1991)
5. Mark A. Kalthoff, “The Harmonious Dissonance of Evangelical Scientists: Rhetoric and Reality in the Early Decades of the ASA” PSCF 43:259-272 (1991)
6. Richard H. Bube, “The Future of the ASA: Challenges and Pitfalls” PSCF 43:272-277 (1991)