Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

TX 24/01/2010

The first in a series of films on Channel 4 expressing famous people's beliefs on the Bible.

Jewish-ish novelist Howard Jacobson loves the Biblical account of creation, but he doesn't believe that it's literally true.

I haven't asked them all, but I'd speculate that maybe 50% of my church-going Christian friends agree with him.

Unfortunately the backbone of this film depends upon the old straw-polarisation of religion and science into two irreconcilable camps, which Jacobson then seeks to reconcile. When, in the closing ten minutes, he finally interviews a Christian who considers the first chapter of Genesis to be poetry, I had to wonder just why he had left such a common perspective until so late.

However Jacobson's (general) respect for the people of both leanings is refreshing, as is his commitment to his search for truth.

"Where's the point in attacking religion for thinking it has all the answers, when you think you have all the answers yourself? Blind faith is fatuous, but so is blind doubt."

That said, Jacobson's pre-existing beliefs rob him of some of the open-mindedness necessary for a search for truth. Hence, when it comes to his opinion on natural history, evolution is understandably assumed to be true throughout this, while creation is not.

One creationist – Greg Haslam – objectively challenges the fossil record:

Haslam: “Fossils aren’t formed gradually over time, because dead animals rot or they’re eaten by predators. How could a whole dinosaur be preserved without sudden catastrophic burial.”

Jacobson discards this reasoning without addressing it.

I found the theory that the first thirteen books of the Bible were an enormous historical retcon a fascinating one, although tough to swallow without equally doubting today's similar retcons, such as evolution and the big bang.

This programme's modern CGI images of what we imagine Earth and gigantic starfields to look like really ought to emphasise the extent to which our perceptions today are informed by our faith. We only know what space looks like from here - we use science to calculate what we think it looks like from elsewhere, and then faith to believe it.

Similarly, we use science to calculate natural history, and then faith to believe that too.

My own stance on the debate is that you can't conclusively prove - using science or written records - that any event definitely happened before your life began. Sure, we can speculate with reasonable certainty events from within the lifetime of those contemporaries older than ourselves, and maybe even within the lifetime of people who they used to know, but beyond that history gets muddy. We can't really be sure of any alleged event based purely upon the testimony of people we've never met, and certainly not of any supposed event from before records even began.

It's very easy to be wrong about a thing that you can't check, and as man cannot travel in time, both evolution and creation remain very, very unchecked. Maybe we should all just get over ourselves and accept that we don’t, and can’t, know.

At the close of the programme, Jacobson seems to agree with the Christian who believes the creation account to be a beautiful work of fiction constructed from the author's (or authors') present-day world.

Disappointingly, he doesn't equally apply this perspective to test evolution.

But then Jacobson's journey is not about discerning which version, if either, is true, but about how he can embrace them both.

I have to admit that, although I believe creation, I do see some beauty in the evolution theory too.

Click here for review of programme 2 - Abraham.
Click here for review of programme 3 - Moses and the Law.
Click here for review of programme 4 - The Daughters of Eve.
Click here for review of programme 5 - Jesus.
Click here for review of programme 6 - St. Paul.
Click here for review of programme 7 - Revelation - The Last Judgement.

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