God Behaving Badly 8: “God created genocide”

Yesterday’s Sunday’s Doonesbury strip (July 10, 2011) would have been perfect for God Behaving Badly (perhaps it will go into the next book?).

I think the earth is old (much older than 6000-10,000 years) and I come from a family of scientists (my dad is a gamma-ray astrophysicist), so I don’t see what the conflict is between science and Genesis.  Genesis 1-2 is primarily addressing the questions of who and why, not what and how.  Genesis isn’t attempting to teach science, but theology.

I’d like to say that Doonesbury is making Christians look bad, but in reality I think it’s Christians that are making Christians look bad and Doonesbury is just holding up the mirror.

Two recent books to recommend on this subject: John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis I: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (IVP, 2009) and Richard Carlson and Tremper Longman III’s Science, Creation and the Bible: Reconciling Rival Theories of Origins (IVP, 2010).

There’s almost too much to talk about here, creation versus evolution, divinely mandated genocide, church and state.

What do you think of Doonesbury’s strip? 


  1. The cartoon “hurts” but I appreciate it! I also appreciate your comments! thanks for the book recommendations. I teach Hebrew Bible almost every year and there’s always a small percentage (less than in years past) who insist on a literal 6-day creation and all that might go with that.

  2. Wow the comic strip certainly doesn’t pull any punches! I’ve moved past a strictly literal reading of Genesis along time ago, but continue to wrestle with the implications for what that might mean for theology and witness. Christianity Today recently had a cover story on the debate surrounding “The Historical Adam” that was really fascinating. http://www.Biologos.org is a great resource for those struggling with similar questions. I’m currently reading Peter Enn’s book “Incarnation and Inspiration.” Enns points out that secular people and Biblical literalist are typically united in thinking that the presence of pre-scientific world views in the pages of scripture discredit it as the Word of God. His book has been helpful for me in thinking through why that is not the case.

    One question the strip raises, and one that I have often puzzled over and never found a really satisfying answer to, is what to make of the ages of Old Testament figures. Should we take them at face value? When Sarah was taken into the house of Egypt on account of her great beauty she would have to be like 70! What is with that?! I understand she could have looked good for her age, but the story is a stretch. Of coarse there are much crazier examples for instance the strip points out that Moses was 600! I would very much appreciate your take on this.

  3. Thanks for the comments guys. I did see the CT piece on Adam, which I liked better than their editorial. Enns is writing a book on Adam, which should come out soon. I’ll look forward to that. Ages are difficult in Genesis. It’s hard to take them literally, but some seem so precise that they are supposed to be taken literally.

    1. Dave, I felt the same way about the CT editorial. There may have been an original couple, but if the Genesis stories are mythical, it seems misguided to try to extract historical information from them. I think it is a speculative leap to suggest that both evolution and a historical Adam and Eve are true. It is a stretch to say the creation stories are myth but there really was two people named Adam and Eve who represented mankind. Genesis tells us that humanity rebelled against God. Unless we read the Genesis creation account as literal, there really isn’t anyway to know for sure what happened way back then.

  4. Re: ages, the common reigning assumption, which is attested in other ANE texts such as the Sumerian King List, is that the flood event is a pivotal moment of transition, and that the ages are thus ‘symbolic’ (for lack of a better phrase) and not literal (as though Genesis is actually recounting a literal Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, etc. . . . I realize I may be the only one in present company who holds to such a view, though let me clarify that this does not mean there is not the possibility–or even likelihood–of the remembrance of some figures by those names, whose stories were then expanded . . . but that raises a host of other issues that press too far afield from the current posting).

    Re: science and Genesis, I just today read from my friend Terry Fretheim in his little book ‘About the Bible: Short Answers to Big Questions’ that Gen 1 is PRE-SCIENTIFIC, but this does not mean it is UNSCIENTIFIC. The authors were, most simply, wrestling with questions that fall under the purview of science now, using the resources and knowledge that was available to them at that time.

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