Janice Guthrie
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How does our current understanding of cosmology fit into the Biblical worldview? Do you believe there is such thing as a “Biblical worldview”?  

If anything, there are Biblical worldviews. There are social, cultural, and political contexts underlying what is written in the Bible. There are a number of Biblical worldviews. There are different worldviews in, say, First Isaiah than Second Isaiah or Third Isaiah. Some people may not be aware that Biblical scholars divide Isaiah into three parts because it was written at different points in time. Your position in society changes. If you’re one of the winners, you look on things very differently than if you’re in exile in Babylon and life is totally changed and you feel totally ripped out of your context. If you’re asking me if I believe if the account of creation in Genesis 1 is literally true, no I do not. But I noticed that just in terms of conversation with science, that mostly the order of creation does seem to follow the way that contemporary science talks about the development of the earth and the cosmos and so on.

There’s also selective bias. That could be it too. We tend to pick and choose pieces of evidence that verify our theory.  

What I think though, is that Genesis 1 is not the only story of creation in the Hebrew Bible – and it’s not meant to be science. It’s meant to say something else. It’s meant to talk about the relationship of the people with God. The way that I approach the Bible is to say, “This is a human book written by human beings struggling to understand what was happening to them and what their relationship with something beyond themselves was.” So, I am inclined to believe that there’s evidence that Genesis 1 was written during a time towards the end of the exile in Babylon, which was about 540 BCE.  

Then I look at Genesis 1. It’s a piece of liturgy, and what I noticed is, that they’re depicting God as being in control. The work God does is not depicted as onerous… God simply speaks. “This is what will be.” How amazing that in the chaos of being in exile in Babylon, people could reflect on God, who at one point they thought had deserted them. The Psalms say, “How can we sing God’s song in a foreign land? We hang up our harps of the willow tree; we can’t sing anymore.” But somehow in all that experience, they came to see that God was bigger than this little tribe and was in fact God who created the whole world by simply speaking the word. It’s a very different picture of creation than we get in Genesis 2 and 3.  

So, there are different worldviews. I’m very interested in science because I think that science is a place of human endeavor and knowledge, and it needs to be in conversation with another area of human knowledge, which is apprehension of the transcendent and recognition that some of what is transcendent is also imminent.