THIS week sees the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. In a recent TV programme called ‘Darwin and the Tree of Life’, David Attenborough said that the explanation in the Bible of how the world came about was believed literally for the best part of 2,000 years. “No it wasn’t!” I found myself shouting at the telly.
Attenborough’s mistake is to read the Bible as though it had been written by a scientist like himself. In fact the creation accounts in Genesis are far more than 2,000 years old, and for the majority of that time they had been understood not literally but as metaphor – as a way of understanding the purpose and reason behind Creation.
It’s only in the last 300 years or so, since the invention of scientific method, that we have grown used to the idea that if anything is said to be true it must be literally true. So those who wish to maintain the status of Genesis as the true account of how the world came about find themselves having to defend the description of the six days in which God made the world as truth on a par with scientific evidence.
However, the scientific evidence for Evolution is now so overwhelming that it is baffling as to how anyone can make the case for Creationism (a literal interpretation of Genesis). No wonder Attenborough seemed to gain great pleasure from rubbishing the idea in his programme.
The issue is not that we must choose to believe in either Evolution or the Bible. They are two very different things. The debate should be about this: having accepted the reality of Evolution as the explanation for how we came about, is the force lying behind our creation by this method just random chance, or the divine will of God?
Rev Patrick Taylor, Director of Lay Adult Training and Team Vicar of St Alphege Church