Yesterday I saw a headline that really grabbed my attention:
400,000 year old human DNA adds new tangle to our origin story.
It’s not really as big a tangle as the headline would have you believe – it seems that the DNA of Neanderthals in Spain is similar to a different ancient population from Siberian known as the Denisovans.
The family tree is more webbed than science originally thought.
The idea that remains in Spain are genetically connected to remains in Siberia doesn’t bother me. To me it speaks of a single creator and a common ancestor to all of humanity. Hmm…even the Bible talks about that.
Where many Christians will take issue with the article is the age assigned to the remains and DNA. If the remains are 400,000 years old then the stories in the Bible can’t be right…right? But if the Bible is right then the science must be faulty…right?
And once again science and faith collide.
The problem comes when we insist on a rigid, literal reading of the biblical stories. We get lost in the nitty-gritty details rather than step back to see the big picture of what is being communicated.
Simply put – the Bible is not (and never was) intended to be a science textbook. It is a book of faith. It doesn’t teach us how to be forensic experts. It draws us into relationship with God, the Creator of the universe.
The idea of an “Old Earth” doesn’t bother me. Even conservative theologians like Millard Erickson concede that the Hebrew creation stories don’t have to mean a literal six days but could refer to epochs or long periods of time (you can see Erickson’s Christian Theology for his detailed presentation).
So we can go with an Old Earth – but what about humanity? The Bible is clear that humanity has an origin in God, not a spontaneous arrival. Ancient genealogies were not exact for the purposes of record keeping like Ancestry.com is. Genealogies are as much of the storytelling process as any of the narrative portions of the story. They inform the story, but are not intended to be scientific records for all posterity.
In the end I look at it like this: does the Bible fit science’s understanding of an Old Earth? Yes, it does. If humanity is older than a literal reading would have us believe – if there are massive gaps in history that the genealogies don’t cover – is my faith ruined? No, it is not.
The story is till the same. Everything has value because it has been made by God. Out of nothing, God created everything. Does it matter how long He took to do it? Not to me.
In the end the clash between science and faith is not as big as many would try to trick us into believing, and faithful Christians can fully embrace their faith and scientific discovery.
Because the world that God has made is a unique and marvelous thing – and we should learn as much about it as possible.
– Jesus Loves Dinosaurs