Yesterday, I posted the following tweet:
“I’ll agree that ‘evolution is only a theory’ if you’ll agree that it is the only theory which offers a viable account of biological diversity.”
The tweet received the following response from (what I assume was) a young earth creationist:
“Whether the earth is flat or not makes no difference for any theological issue. However, if we allow the evolution theory to influence our exegesis of Genesis, we are forced to reconsider or reinterpret many theoligical [sic] issues.”
The implication of this tweet is that there is something problematic with using the deliverances of natural science to inform biblical interpretation in a way that would affect Christian doctrines. This exchange is worth highlighting because I regularly encounter Christian conservatives who believe there is something problematic with revising their understanding of passages of the Bible based upon natural science.
The problem with that objection (more correctly, one of many problems with that objection) is that Christians have already adapted their reading of the Bible on many occasions based upon the science of the day, even when that rereading had significant theological implications. Perhaps the clearest and most dramatic example in history is the shift from Ptolemaic to Copernican cosmologies in the 16-17th centuries. The young earth creationist today is probably very comfortable with a spherical earth hurtling through a vacuum around the sun, but this was a shock four centuries ago. And so, I replied:
“Ahh, so you’re okay reinterpreting the Bible based on scientific theories so long as the reinterpretation “makes no difference for any theological issue.” Well, I have bad news for you: Copernicanism required a revision of many “theological issues”: e.g. ascension of Jesus, the interim state and nature of sheol, the relative placement of heaven in the divine economy, etc.”
In short, if you are going to oppose evolution based on the claim that it is wrong to revise Christian theology based on scientific theories, and Copernicanism required the revision of Christian theology, then it follows that it was wrong to revise Christian theology based on Copernicanism.
Thus, anyone who consistently raises this type of objection as a basis to reject evolution needs to consider why they do not consistently revert to the ancient Israelite three-storied universe.
For more on the ancient Israelite three-storied universe, you can read my review of Robin Parry, The Biblical Cosmos.