Mark Kellner (Adventist Review, Dec. 8, 2011) says he makes no apologies for believing the Bible. That’s great. Neither do I. (Jan M. Long responded to this at some greater length than I am on the Spectrum Magazine blog, to whom a tip of my hat.)
I don’t usually pick on my former denomination (I grew up and was educated in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church), but in this case, Kellner seems to make a very common mistake. He fails to distinguish the way he understands the Bible to mean from what the Bible says.
In this case, he’s particularly concerned with the creation story. Now I understand that this is a very controversial issue on which we can quite easily, and even reasonably disagree. (I note that I consider it much easier to disagree reasonably on the meaning of the biblical text than on the scientific evidence.) But here’s how Kellner phrases it:
One of the more popular fallacies being floated these days is that the Creation account found in Genesis is an allegory, a “celebration,” much in the way the ancient Hebrews took seven days to mark the inauguration of a temple.
Nonsense. Either the Creation account is true, or we can all sleep in next Saturday morning.
But believing the creation story is something other than a historical narrative doesn’t make it less true. If that were the case, we would make many of the Psalms less true than the books of Samuel and Kings, for example, and the parable of the trees (Judges 9:8-15) would be a gross deception. Most of us would regard those other passages as quite true, but true in a different sense than a historical narrative.
I regard Genesis 1:1-2:4a as liturgy. Liturgy is not less valuable than narrative history. It is valuable in a different way. It conveys different truths in a different way.
Of course the line about sleeping in next Saturday morning applies particularly to SDAs, who worship on Saturday, and would, based on a number of scriptures, see this as a celebration of creation. On the other hand, an SDA who believed that Genesis 1 was liturgy could celebrate creation next Saturday with every bit as much validity as any other act of worship. I doubt that Jesus was born on December 25th, yet I won’t mind commemorating it on that date. The liturgy may not represent historical detail, but it commemorates a core element of my faith.
So the Bible may be true or not, but the decision as to whether the Bible is true doesn’t guarantee the same result for my interpretation of it—or anyone else’s.