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Evangelical Literalism: A Day is a Day Except When it Isn’t

bible literalism

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

All young-earth creationists are literalists, that is except when they aren’t. Let me illustrate this for you.

Six times in Genesis 1 the Bible says, the morning and even were the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth day. Young-earth creationists are emphatic that these days were literal 24-hour days.

In Genesis 2:1, the Bible states that on the seventh day God ended his creative work. According to other verses in the Bible, God rested on the seventh day. So God only rested one literal 24 hour day? I don’t know of any young-earth creationist who believes this.

God gave Adam the following command in Genesis 2:15-17:

And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it, And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Did Adam eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Did Eve? Of course they did. Did they die on the very day they ate the proverbial apple? Nope. According to Genesis 5:5:

. . . and all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

Do you see the point I am making? Young earth creationists are literalists until it contradicts their interpretation of the Bible, then all of a sudden Adam dying on the day he sinned is meant to be taken metaphorically, or the word “day” really means a period of time.

I will repeat what I have said countless times: no one, not even Ken Ham, takes every verse in the Bible literally. Whenever it suits them or whenever it will bolster their arguments, Evangelicals are quite willing to abandon literalism.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Matt Martin

    A few years back I listened to a podcast in which one of the feckless sons of the odious Fred Phelps tried to explain why we should execute homosexuals but it’s perfectly fine to eat shellfish.

    He reasoned that Christ’s death and resurrection (yeah I know) had done away with the obligation to observe Jewish ceremonial law (ham for everyone!) but that the moral law (keep your hands off each other boys) remained in force.

    He was less able to explain how this interpretation of the Holy Writ conformed with Matthew 5:18 :

    For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

    It was amusing to listen as he tried, however.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I think Matthew 5:16-18 is a death blow to Christian who says we are not under the law. Even as pastor, I came to see that YES, we are under the law. Now, how in the hell do I explain this? 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Stephanie

    It’s small mercy that they don’t. Some scary, scary stuff in there. For every time they cite something as in the “old covenant” remember they used to use it when convenient. Take slavery for example, it’s rare to find a person in the U.S. that would defend it openly now, yet they used to use the Bible to defend it. Point is there interpretation has changed ever so slightly with the culture. So if the interpretation was wrong back then how do you know if it’s right now?

  3. Avatar
    Steve Ruis

    Re “Do you see the point I am making? Young earth creationists are literalists until it contradicts their interpretation of the Bible, then all of a sudden Adam dying on the day he sinned is meant to be taken metaphorically, or the word “day” really means a period of time.”

    I am working from memory here, so I may be a bit off. I ask people why Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden and to a person they say because they disobeyed Yahweh. Ignoring for a moment that Yahweh said they would die if they did so, I point out that that is not what the story says. According to the story, Adam and Eve were evicted because they could not be trusted to also eat from the Tree of Life and thus “become like us (Yahweh)” which is become immortal. (Apparently the only attributes to become a god is to know the difference between good and evil and be immortal.)

    Since eating from the Tree of Life would make them immortal, one can conclude that they were not immortal as created. Consequently the “wages of sin” are not death as many people say what happened to Adam proves. The story actually show us that we can disobey Yahweh and live 900 years, if taken literally.

    And why did Yahweh need a gardener (“and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it”)? Why would an all-powerful god need a gardener or really any helpers at all? He could have created the Garden so that it tended itself.

    And why do all of the sentient species that Yahweh creates rebel against him? The angels actually made war in Heaven! Is not the creator responsible for his creations? Why did He create so poorly?

    Read it literally and one gets quite a different picture than is claimed.

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