Gotta love Genesis stories

Today’s readings: Gen: 6:1-8:22; Luke 3:1-38


© Copyright Nikki Mahadevan

No matter how many times I read them, I love the stories of Genesis: the various accounts of creation, and today’s story of the flood and Noah and all that comes with it.

And every time I read them, I wonder how some people come away and insist on a literal reading of the Bible — you know, how the earth was created in six 24-hour days, how everything on earth was destroyed in the flood, how Adam and Eve were real people — in fact the ONLY real people — on earth.

And, what’s worse, most of those who espouse this interpretation insist that if you don’t agree with them, you are denying the Bible.


The Bible contradicts itself many times, and contains mutually exclusive scenes: if one’s true, the other can’t be. Nowhere is that clearer than in the first chapters of Genesis. There are questions such as where did Cain’s and Seth’s wives came from — a question that every school child will ask as some point.

But I was really struck this time around by the contradictions in the flood narrative:

“I will blot out from the earth the human beings I have created—people together with animals and creeping things and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” (Gen. 6:7)


“I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.” (Gen. 6-13)


“For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.” (Gen. 6:17)

Blot out all. End all. Destroy all.

But what did God really do?

“And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive. Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.” (Gen. 6:19-21)

All flesh. Two of every kind. Every creeping thing. Two of every kind … to keep them alive.

So, okay God, which is it — kill ’em all or save ’em all?

The literalists can’t have it both ways, and yet they do.

In another life, I wrote many religion stories for The Associated Press, and since I spent most of my AP life in Georgia and Texas, a lot of those stories dealt with the Southern Baptist Convention and the fundamentalist takeover of that denomination. Along the way, in about 1990 I think it was, I profiled the Rev. Dr. Morris Chapman, then the pastor at First Baptist Church in Witchita Falls, Texas, who had just been elected the latest in what was already a long line of fundamentalists to be SBC president.

In the course of the interview, I asked him how he reconciled the contradictions throughout the Bible, not only the Genesis stories, but the various accounts of the Resurrection, different accounts of various of Jesus’ miracles, all of those inconsistencies.

His answer, I learned later, was a standard one for literalists. It went something like this: “I believe if we had the original sources, it would all be clear.” I was stunned at the simplistic — and frankly anti-intellectual — response.

You might just dismiss all of this as an academic exercise among people of faith, except…

Except there’s this: Creationism Controversies The Norm Among Potential Republican 2016 Contenders

And at a time when the United States’ failures in producing and educating scientists and mathematicians are well documented, we can’t afford to have our leaders deny science, or just shrug off inconsistencies with, “I’m sure the proof of what I believe exists somewhere, so no need for me to worry about it. Or you either.”

But perhaps the best argument against literalism was made by the fictional Josiah Bartlett, president of the United States in the NBC television series The West Wing.

In case you haven’t seen it, here it is. And if you’ve seen it before, it’s still enjoyable:

It might not be totally fair, but does make the point, doesn’t it?

So, really, the point of all this blather is to encourage those of us who have a deep faith, but who also argue against a fundamentalist, literal approach to the Bible, and the dangers such ideas pose to our society, to stand up just like President Bartlett — except in real life.

Grace and peace.

This entry was posted in Life's challenges, My year with the Bible, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.