There is much more about creation in the Bible than the “seven days” of creation. There are in fact seven ways of creation. That Scripture contains numerous creation traditions is a testament to the nuanced, open-ended view the Bible holds toward the world and humanity’s place in it.
If humanity is created in “the image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27), it is also created from “the ground” (Genesis 2:7), in the image of dirt, as are all the other animals (verse 19). Or as the biologist might say: from organic slime.
In its own nonscientific way, the Bible acknowledges the natural world’s complexity and humanity’s inseparable relationship to it. We are as much born of Earth as we are fashioned by God.
As much as we all need to expand our view of the interconnected world in which we live, which science helps us do, we Christians need also to expand our view of scripture.
Science has done an incredible service to the faithful: it has enhanced our capacity to wonder. That capacity, according to bioanthropologist Melvin Konner, is “the hallmark of our species.”
Wonder drives the best of science. It also inspires the best in religion. “Three things are too wonderful for me,” begins the biblical sage as he recounts the wonders of nature (Proverbs 30:18-19).
The psalmist marvels over the diversity of life in Psalm 104 and trembles before the vastness of the celestial heavens in Psalm 8. Spanning time and culture, the psalmist, sage and scientist form a cohort of wonder.
Sadly, that cohort is dissolving. Today the language of wonder is riddled with the rhetoric of adversity. Is “soulless science” really hell-bent on eroding humanity’s nobility? Not the science I know. Is religion simply an excuse to wallow in human pretension? Not the faith I know.
The faith I know does not keep believers on a leash, preventing them from extending their knowledge of the world. The God of faith is not the God of ignorance or obfuscation but the God of wisdom and wonder.
Faith needs science to understand and honor the world that God has deemed “very good” (Genesis 1:31). With the eyes of science, we have come to know the world more fully in all its delicate, interdependent complexity.
With the eyes of faith, Christians regard the world as the theater of divine glory and seek to “serve it and preserve it.”
As I thank God for the glorious, life-sustaining world in which we live, I also remember with gratitude Galileo and Darwin.
They have revealed a few of the great wonders of God’s “other book.” May it continue to be read with care.
William P. Brown is professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur. He is a founding member of Earth Covenant Ministry and the author of the forthcoming book “The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science, and the Ecology of Wonder.”