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Preached at St. Cuthbert’s Leaside on the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, August 16th, 2015.

Summer Ephesians Series: Ephesians 5:15-20

christ_wisdom

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise,” (Ephesians 5:15).

I want us to reflect this morning on wisdom and what it means to walk wisely. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise people but as wise,” writes Paul. What is this wisdom that Paul refers to? And, moreover, how do we attain it? Well, allow me to give you the answer upfront: “You can’t get the wisdom you need simply by digging up more facts. You get it by worshipping the God whose facts they are,” (NT Wright).

To Paul’s Jewish readers, talk of wisdom would have rung familiar, for it is a theme that runs through the Old Testament. Essentially, wisdom in early Judaism can be summed up as a longing to know the will of God which gives life its true orientation and thus results in blessing. Recall our Old Testament reading moments ago wherein Solomon asks the LORD for, “an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil,” (1 Kings 3:5, 9). To which the LORD responds, “Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind…If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life,” (1 Kings 2:14). Wisdom is this desire to know God’s will, to discern what is good in all areas of life.

One other thing we should know about wisdom in the Old Testament is that it was later personified. From Proverbs: “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” (8:1). In fact, Lady Wisdom speaks: “And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways…For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death,” (8:32, 35-6). Love of wisdom is life; hatred of wisdom is death.

Now let’s fast forward a wee bit to the early Church. Listen to how Paul and the earliest Christians spoke about the risen Jesus: “I want you to have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” (Col 2:2-3). Listen also, how they spoke of the gospel of Jesus: “But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory,” (1 Cor 2:7). And here again, more explicitly: “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God,” (1 Cor 1:24). Here’s the point:

As the early Christians drew together all of these threads of wisdom from the treasure-house of the Old Testament they found, and we with them, that the rich tapestry they form takes the shape of the Crucified One.

Christ is the wisdom of God. We walk in wisdom, then, by becoming like Christ. Or, as Paul put it at the beginning of Ephesians 5, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us,” (1-2). This of course begs the question, how do we become like Christ? Is this a decision we make? Be it resolved: today I am going to be like Christ. I want to suggest rather, to quote St. Clare of Assisi, that we become what we love; who we love shapes what we become. If we’re still tracking together, we can see that the logic works like this then: wisdom begins with worship.

Of course, worship is the primary task of the church. Above all else, we are first-and-foremost a community which worships Jesus Christ in Spirit and in truth. But how do we come to know the risen Jesus Christ, that we might love and worship him? I want to suggest that it is primarily through the Bible that we come to know Jesus in this way. And yes, no doubt, we read the Bible communally every Sunday when we gather for worship—our whole liturgy is steeped in Scripture. But what I want to leave us with this morning is the importance of individually immersing ourselves in the Scriptures as a way of nurturing our faith and love of Christ, and thus as the primary way in which we learn to walk in wisdom.

As it happens, this is one area where Western Anglicans have been traditionally weak in modern times—Biblical literacy. I sometimes wonder why this is? Do we shy away from a life devoted to the Bible because we think that’s reserved for the crazy uncle of the Christian family—fundamentalists? Or, perhaps it’s because we think, rightly, that the Bible is a challenging book to read. Boring, even! Whatever the case, here is the great irony: at the very heart of the Anglican tradition is a desire for people all over the world to have access to the Bible in a language that they can understand. The Anglican church is all about this!

At one point in Ephesians when Paul is talking about the mystery of Christ he says, “In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit,” (3:5). The gospel of Jesus Christ has been revealed to Christ’s holy apostles and prophets. This is another way of talking about the Bible—the teaching of the holy apostles and prophets as handed down to us. And while Paul likely didn’t have the New Testament in mind the point certainly applies: we come to know—and love and worship—Jesus Christ as we read the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit and the whole Church. This is why, about 300 years after Paul, Saint Jerome can say, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

We cannot know Jesus Christ apart from the deposit of faith that we have in the Bible.

Moreover, the only way to make sense of the Christian life is to be ever more deeply rooted and grounded in Jesus. And we become just so deeply rooted as we immerse ourselves in a prayerful reading of the Bible, both communally and individually. Those of you who know the Book of Common Prayer will be familiar with Cramner’s exhortation to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the Holy Scriptures. We simply cannot attempt to inhabit the divine wisdom which overcomes the world apart from this.

A friend of mine wrote recently, “Your responsibility to your own faith, your own cultivation of it, your own openness to its vigour and truth, your life with God, is your greatest gift of love to another person, to any person, to all those around you,” (Ephraim Radner). Here we see that our own cultivation of our own faith is not just for our own good but for the good of our neighbour, for the good of our child or our spouse, for the good of the world. That is to say, our life as a people immersed in the Scriptures is always for the sake of mission.

“Look carefully then how you walk,” writes Paul, “not as unwise people but as wise.” Wherever you are and whatever it is that you put your hand to, when it comes to walking in wisdom, when it comes to understanding the will of the Lord and discerning what is good and beautiful and true, we cannot do this as Christians apart from discovering Jesus Christ in Holy Scripture. Would you consider committing yourself, in whatever capacity you are able, to the reading of the Bible consistently over time? With the help of the Holy Spirit you will be challenged, prodded, made uncomfortable and at other times comforted and encouraged. You will know that from birth to death your life is in the hands of God and thus every single aspect of your life is filled with His presence and divine purpose—and you will learn what to do. You will discover that your faith is actually part of a much larger story, beginning with Israel and culminating in Christ Jesus and his Church. Most of all, I hope, you will come to see Christ in new and fresh ways as his light and love penetrate your heart and mind.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” writes the Psalmist. Indeed, may the light of God’s word lighten our path as we learn to daily walk in wisdom with Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The-last-supper

Reading through Hosea last week for our parish bible study I was struck anew by the significance of the marriage imagery.

Clearly, marriage is a central image as far as understanding Hosea goes, and not just any marriage: “When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, “Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness”…So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son,” (1:2-3).

Indeed, marriage is a central image throughout both Old and New Testament. The Bible begins with marriage in Genesis:

“So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it,” (1:27-28).

“But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took part of the man’s side and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man…For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh,” (2:20b-22, 24).

It ends with a great wedding feast in Revelation:

“Let us rejoice and be glad and give [the Lord God Almighty] glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready,” (19:7).

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” (21:1-2, 5).

In Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus he writes at one point to wives and husbands (5:22ff) regarding the sort of sacrificial love that ought to define their relationships. Paul points back to Genesis quoting 2:24 (5:31, “For this reason…”). And yet, just here, Paul confronts us with a great mystery: “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church,” (5:32).

***

There were a few occasions while reading through Hosea that my mind leaped back to Genesis and the account of the Fall there in ch.3, as well as to various points of Israel’s sordid history. For example, consider some of the language that is used to describe Israel’s sin in Hosea: “They set up kings without my consent; they choose princes without my approval,” (8:4); “My people are determined to turn from me,” (11:7). The language of “unfaithfulness” that permeates the book gets at the same idea. The point is that Israel’s sin had to do with a turning from their God, forsaking his ways for their own ways apart from him.

Was this not the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden? Not a simple act of disobedience but the assertion of the self apart from God. The creature forgetting their creaturely dependence upon (and loving responsibility to) their Creator. The chasm of creation (to borrow a phrase from Ephraim Radner), that is the distinction and separation between Creator and creation, is exaggerated by sin.

A second instance when my mind went to Genesis: “Though Ephraim built many altars for sin offerings, these have become altars for sinning,” (8:11); “Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen,” (13:2).

Was this not the created destiny of Adam and Eve, only here disfigured and unrecognizable? Were not Adam and Eve, and all human creatures through them, placed in the garden as priests to tend it and work it and offer it all back to their Creator in thanksgiving so that God might be all in all? Is this not the priestly offering of love that human creatures were created to participate in? Yet, what is the LORD’s charge against Israel through Hosea? The altars that were built for sacrifice have become altars for sinning. The human hands which were meant to work the garden and offer it back to God have become twisted up and now take the earth and form it into idols. Priestly hands became whorish hands. Hands meant to offer became hands that take and hold.

And, of course, the result is what? A lack of fruitfulness: “Ephraim is blighted, their root is withered, they yield no fruit. Even if they bear children, I will slay their cherished offspring,” (9:16).

***

Eve is born from Adam’s side. So too the church is born from the side of Jesus Christ (“One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” John 19:34). Eve was created out of Adam’s side. A distinction. A separation, but a separation for the sake of a union (“one flesh”). And, union for the sake of fruitfulness (“increase in number”). So too with Christ and the church: a separation, an initial movement away, for the sake of a union, a second movement towards. And this union for the sake of life.

This is the gospel, that in Jesus Christ God has come near to that which is totally other than himself, has sacrificially given himself in love to that which is totally other, has taken upon himself that which is alien to him (i.e. human flesh) so that that which is other might be united to him. And why? For the sake of life. Real life. Eternal life.

***

God has said no to unfaithful Israel. He has cast them off. God has said no to us. He has cast us off. But how? How has God said no to Israel and to us? How has he cast both them and us off? Is God’s ‘no’ to unfaithful Israel not God’s ‘yes’ to Israel? Has God not cast off Israel in her unfaithfulness precisely in his embrace of Israel in her unfaithfulness (ex. Hosea)? And has not all of this happened in the very person and work of the living Jesus Christ? And has this living and reigning Jesus not grasped us by the wrists and pulled us up out of the pit of despair along with him? Indeed he has!

May we return to the LORD as Hosea exhorted Israel (14:1ff), that we might be united with him in love for the sake of life (14:8, “fruitfulness”).

Over the last couple of years I have developed a great interest in the figural reading of Scripture. There have been a number of influences for me here. Individual scholars/priests such as Ephraim Radner and John Behr. (I once heard Radner describe figural reading thus: “The temporal explication through the juxtaposition of her multiple texts, of scriptures’ divine “allness”.) A growing familiarity with the way in which the Church Fathers read and exegete the Scriptures. The Biblical emphasis in the NT on Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension being “in accordance with” the Scriptures (by which the NT writers mean the OT). Also, this last year we’ve begun a Bible study at church whereby we’re reading through the Bible in one year. We started with the gospels, and then jumped from there right into the OT beginning with Genesis 1:1. It’s been really fascinating to observe people in the group making connections, and seeing Jesus in the OT in light of the gospels which we began our study with.

At the moment we’re reading through Jeremiah. In my study this morning I read through a portion that included Jeremiah 25 that contains this fascinating image of the cup of God’s wrath being poured out, not only on Israel but, “upon all who live on the earth.” It can all appear rather confrontational and fierce, and indeed it is. However, right there in the middle of this section the reader stumbles upon this:

The LORD will roar from on high; he will thunder from his holy dwelling and roar mightily against his land. He will shout like those who tread the grapes,* shout against all who live on the earth. The tumult will resound to the ends of the earth, for the LORD will bring charges against the nations; he will bring judgement on all mankind and put the wicked to the sword,” (25:30-31).

Pretty terrifying stuff, yeah? When I read this portion, I thought of another place in the Scriptures where the Lord roared from on high and it resounded to the ends of the earth:

“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”…And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split,” (Matthew 27:45-46, 50-51).

The cup of God’s wrath has indeed been poured out upon Israel and upon all who live on the earth. It was done so as it was poured out on Christ Jesus, the true Israel, who takes all nations and all humanity up into his own human flesh and bears out the consequences of human sin on behalf of all humanity. As the prophet Isaiah proclaims, “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand…my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities,” (53: 10, 11).

*evidently those who tread upon grapes shout. Who knew? Which makes me think of this, actually.

Last night at St. Matthew’s we continued our project to read through the Bible in one year (a good portion of it, anyways!). It was, I thought, another fantastic evening of eating and laughing, talking and praying.

At any rate, the portion of scripture we looked at was Matthew 5-11. A lot of really great stuff was drawn out by people in our discussion. Miriam helped to set this weeks reading in the context of last weeks for us quite nicely by recalling for us that Matthew sets Jesus up as the fulfillment of Israel’s story. This is quite clear in the first four chapters of Matthew as we saw last week. So then, the Beatitudes at the start of Matthew 5 are about Jesus first and foremost. These things are fulfilled in Christ before they are ever any sort of “moral imperative” for the people of God. This is an important point, for the Beatitudes are put matter-of-factly: “Blessed are the meek.” There it is, simply put. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Blessed are those who try really, really hard to be meek.” Just, “Blessed are the meek”.

In a similar fashion Jesus simply states: “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world,” (5.13-14). There’s no talk about exerting much energy to be salt and light. It’s just, “you are.” But we’ll come back to this in a moment.

While he was in prison John the Baptist asks a question of Jesus upon which I think much of this hangs: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (11.3). Of course, we’ll have to wait until we begin reading the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) over the summer before we get a better grasp of Israel’s hopes related to “the one who is to come”. However, Matthew’s point to his readers, to us, is simply YES, yes, this is he. It’s interesting to note how Jesus responds to John’s question, though: “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them,” (11.4b-6). Compare this with the start of Jesus’ ministry as recorded by Luke. Jesus walks into the temple on the sabbath, stood up, unrolled the scroll and read from it: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour,” (4.18). Then he rolls the scroll back up and says (#likeaboss), “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” (4.21). Today. In Jesus, this scripture is fulfilled.

“Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” asks John. “Look around, see and hear.”

sermonmountOK, let’s return to this whole thing about us being salt and light. In Matthew 5.1 Jesus, like Moses, ascends the mountain to receive a new law from God. Unlike Moses, however, he does not ascend alone but rather brings the disciples and the crowd up with him. Did the disciples follow Jesus up or did he gather them and bring them up? Yes. They followed, but they did so in response to Jesus’ gathering them up into himself. Their following was responsive. So then, to be a follower of Jesus is not simply to hear and see the proclamation that Jesus is the one we’ve all been waiting for, God-in-the-flesh, the bringer of the kingdom. But to be a follower of Jesus is to hear and see that in Christ a new life is opened up to us, a new life which we are invited (demanded!) to step into and live out of: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven,” (Matthew 5.16). Now, this new law, this new way for God’s people to be, it doesn’t erase or replace the old law, the law of Moses. No, it fulfills it (Matthew 5.17). It is, in fact, more demanding! It demands not simply an outward compliance or mechanistic obedience, it demands our whole selves, our hearts (Matthew 5.21-7.29)!

I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as a hard way. Perhaps this is why the road isn’t all that crowded (Matthew 7.13-14). Maybe this load seems too heavy for you. How could anyone possibly follow Jesus along this way of life? In response to this (very good) question I would say two things: (1) Jesus very closely identifies himself with his people (Matthew 10.40-42). To welcome the disciples is to welcome Jesus. Thus, we can only even begin to journey in this way because Jesus himself is this way and the risen and living Jesus Christ attaches himself to us, grasps us, takes us up into himself and makes us his Body. (2) It is a difficult and challenging way, no doubt. To all those who have tried and are trying to follow Jesus in this way hear his words to you: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matthew 11.28-30). Jesus will give you rest. The way of Jesus may look like foolishness, it is hidden after all. It is by no means apparent or obvious, hidden from the wise and intelligent but revealed to infants (Matthew 11.25). But it is life and it is rest, and the gentle Jesus will give you rest on and in this way.

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near (Matthew 4.17)! Let us receive and enter into it, in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

We began a new endeavour at St. Matthew’s this evening. Namely, we started to read through the Bible. The whole Bible (well, most of it). In one year. This is a parish wide project that all are invited to participate in, including neighbours that may want to join us. We read throughout the week and then get together on Thursday evenings to talk about it and pray. This first evening was fantastic. We looked at the first four chapters in Matthew and some things really struck me that hadn’t in the past.

What struck me in these first four passages is the extent to which Matthew goes to root Jesus in the story of Israel. I mean, he really goes at it. For example, the opening line of the gospel is: “An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham,” (1.1). Jesus is the Messiah. Boom. Matthew just begins with this. It’s as if he states his conclusion, so to speak, at the outset.

The genealogy which immediately follows is also interesting, particularly when compared with Luke’s genealogy. Luke, for example, anchors his genealogy (and thus Jesus) in, “Adam, son of God” (3.38). In contrast, Matthew anchors his genealogy in, “Abraham…the father of Isaac,” (1.2). This detail may seem insignificant but I believe it reveals the extent to which Matthew roots Jesus in Israel. Abraham; David; Babylon; The Messiah (1.17). Israel’s story is the story of Jesus.

emmausNote also the recurring phrase, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet,” (1.22; 2.15, 17, 23; 3.3; 4.14 etc). In other words, all of Scripture (and by Scripture I mean the Hebrew Scriptures, or what we commonly call the Old Testament) points to Christ. In the words of the Fathers, the Old Testament is a treasury which contains Christ. Or, as Luke tells us about the resurrected Jesus who met the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures,” (24.27) and how they spoke of his having to suffer (24.26).

The most striking of Matthew’s emphasis on this in the opening four chapters, in my opinion, is found between 2.13-4.17. Here we have Israel’s story parallelled in the life of Jesus:

2.13-15 – Jesus is taken into Egypt by his parents. Thus entering into the enslavement of the Israelites at the hands of the Egyptians.

2.16-18 – The massacre of the innocents. Compare with the Passover (Ex 11-12). Jesus, the firstborn, the lamb that was slain.

2.19-23 – Joseph and Mary return from Egypt with Jesus. The lamb of God leads his people out of Egypt – the Exodus.

3.1-12 – John baptizing in the wilderness. The Israelites led “by the roundabout way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea,” (Ex 13.18).

3.13-17 – The baptism of Jesus in the water. Israel passes through the water (Ex 14).

4.1-11 – Jesus led out into the wilderness to face testing. Israel wanders in the desert post-Egypt.

4.12-17 – Jesus returns from the desert into the land where he proclaims, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near,” (4.17). Foreshadowing Israel’s promised shalom that is to come (in Christ).

All of this to say: Israel’s story is taken up and fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. The imagery is rather astounding, and hit me in a fresh way this evening. We cannot know Jesus apart from Israel, nor can we know Israel apart from Jesus. Who are the children of Abraham? Surely it is those who are in Christ. As with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, may the crucified and risen Lord Jesus open our eyes to see that it’s all about him.

Grace and peace.

Here’s a new series that will no doubt be ongoing. I think it will prove to be a fun one! In it I will simply cut and paste a very small portion of the exegetical work I do to prepare for a sermon. OK, it may not be purely exegetical, it may simply be a note or something else. However, the point is that it will be a “behind-the-scenes” look. A thought or a bit of research that may not explicitly be in the final sermon but has influenced the sermon in some fashion. Enough preamble…

———-

On Philippians 3.21

“He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.”

  • When Christ was resurrected his physical body was transformed into a spiritual body. This does not mean that Christ no longer had any part in the corporeal, rather, he was freed from the weakness and limitations and humiliation of the flesh, so that the new mode of his existence could be identified with that of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:17; 1 Cor 15.45) – Christ vanishes from the sight of His disciples on road to Emmaus once they recognize him – once knew Christ according to the flesh, now according to the Spirit
    • in Christ’s resurrection, the human project is complete. Humanity is finally taken up to partake in the very life of God. The mortal puts on immortality. This was always the goal for human creatures, to grow up into the fullness of Christ, to become partakers of the Divine life. In Christ this has happened and it happened via suffering and death whereby death itself is swallowed up. Suffering and death are transformed in Christ. Suffering is the glory of the Christian. Life is hidden in death, so that death becomes for us the way to incorruptible life. While all of this happens in Christ’s own person, he will return and raise us up with him, so that what he has done for us will be done in us and we will be transformed. We will become, finally, truly human creatures. We will, in the fullness of our humanity, be taken up into the life of God so that God will be all in all.

I tend to feel a bit out of my depths in matters of Creation and evolution. I’m not an evolutionary biologist, and I’m no Old Testament scholar. So, in both cases, I tend to have to rely on the expertise of others. I have to trust others. May they be wrong? Yes. May I be wrong? Certainly.

How we are to read the first few chapters of Genesis is one of these sorts of matters for me. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how we’re to read it. I do know that the Church hasn’t ever really had “a position” on Genesis 1 (for example). S. Augustine interpreted Gen. 1 literally*. Other of the Fathers interpreted it allegorically or spiritually.

Personally, I’m uncomfortable with a “literal” reading, because I just do not think that is the thrust of the passage. To try to argue that we ought to read Genesis 1 historically, as it were (that is to say, God created in 6 24-hour days etc.), is to impose a particular view on the text. It feels rather uncomfortable to me, like a shoe that fits too tightly. I would take a similar sort of approach to the question of whether or not Adam and Eve were “real” historical figures. Certainly Adam plays a significant role in Paul’s theology for example. But does this mean that Paul must have understood Adam to be an actual historical figure? I may be less convinced than others on this point.

At any rate, I watched this short video clip today:

 

This reminded me of an Orthodox catechism I picked up recently. The authors took what I thought was an interesting approach to these sorts of questions:

[…]

Seeker: Then divine time and human time are not the same?

Sage: Of course not. God does not live in time, because it is He who created time, just as He created space. God exists “before all ages” and beyond time and space. That is why it is impossible to compare the discoveries of science and the revelations of the Bible, as some naive minds have tried to do, imagining that the author of Genesis wanted to write a treatise on geology or paleontology.

Seeker: Then who is right, science or the Bible?

Sage: The truth of the biblical revelation is not the same as the fragmentary and relative truths studied by science. Science studies the world of appearances, of fleeting phenomena, which can be measured in minutes and in meters, and which unfold in human time and space and Biblical revelation rises above time and space to God. For it is He who has created time, space, and everything which science discovers, just as He has created the human intelligence which has invented science itself.

Seeker: Then what is the truth we learn from the account of the creation of the world?

Sage: After studying the biblical account of creation, the faithful see nature with new eyes. We discover with wonder the beauty of the created order, the splendor of the Creator’s work, which is itself only a pale reflection of the ineffable beauty of the Creator Himself…

[…]

Seeker: You tell us that man was created by God in His image. But I am told that we are descended from apes.

Sage: That which God created “in the beginning,” as we said earlier, He created from nothing. But God did not create man from nothing; He created him “out of the earth” and everything which it contains. That is to say that in order to create man, God made use of nature as a whole, including its evolution. The ape and the fish are also of the earth, for man is the culmination of all creation, and in him all creation is summed up and recapitulated. But, in addition, He has given mankind life through His own breath, His own Spirit. It is this presence of God Himself illuminating humanity, making the light of His face shine upon us, which distinguishes human beings from apes and all other creatures. This presence of God, this breath of God, projects the image of God upon us and gives us a beauty and “crown of glory.” It makes us the ruler of all creation and responsible for it (see Gen 1:28-29; 2:19-20).

 

*There are problems with the term “literal”. This point is drawn out a bit in the embedded video.