4 September 2021 |
These are important questions because Adventists that are scientifically well educated often recognize that the scientific evidence does not support the existence of a worldwide flood, and if the church insists all must believe in a worldwide flood, or their salvation is at stake, they are put in a bind. Dualistic thinking like this can lead to a crisis of faith. If a literal reading of scripture is made essential to one’s salvation, and incontrovertible scientific evidence shows that the story cannot possibly be historically accurate, believers are left in the position of either renouncing the Bible entirely or ignoring what appears to be objective reality. Many rational individuals in such a quandary will just leave the church, and maybe even Christianity entirely.
What if, however, instead of insisting that a literal reading is the only valid approach, the church used the new scientific evidence to reexamine our interpretation of the Biblical story? What if the church allowed for some diversity of belief around the interpretation of the flood story? Those whose faith allows them to accept the literal interpretation, despite the scientific evidence to the contrary, can continue to accept the traditional interpretation. Those who find the science so compelling that they must reinterpret the flood story more figuratively can be allowed to do so. Whether interpreted literally or figuratively, the flood story retains its basic message of God’s justice and mercy.
An added benefit of allowing for more flexibility in interpreting the flood story is preservation of the church’s intellectual reputation among outsiders and potential converts. Retaining a rigid hold on the literal interpretation of the story makes the church look ignorant of scientific realities. What well-educated person would want to become a member of a church that would not only close its eyes to such truths, but would also actively persecute those members who accept what science has to say?
Raj Attiken is a former Ohio Conference president, now adjunct professor at Kettering College.
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