In Genesis, the serpent and the trees that grow in the Garden of Eden can be understood as being plot devices that move the story of Mankind’s creation as a perfect creature, who falls and is saved and redeemed by its Creator. The Serpent is symbolic of the cunning wickedness of evil. We are tempted to usurp God’s authority by appropriating what belongs to Him, to become gods by our own power, eating from the tree that holds the knowledge of good and evil.
Science, which expands our knowledge of the world around us, presents us with a vision that can also be considered a literary device. The images that we manipulate are symbols that people may take for reality. They are the means by which we connect with what is physically around us, entities as molecules, quarks, space-time.
In Genesis, human attributes are represented by the concept of trees; the ideas, the symbols and theories of science are all fruits of a tree in the Garden that would represent the reality of our participation in the world. The trees also include art, music, philosophy, sports and festivals, and their fruit are God’s gifts of which we partake and which now cause us suffering in their absence. They manifest themselves in time and space, spiritual in nature and taking physical shape within the relationship that is our being in the world. They too are grown from the dust of the earth, in the very structure of our brains, which when they are intact, may allow for their expression as mental phenomena. As we contemplate such things, we are eating of one such fruit whose origin is the spirit, actualized here and now in the world. What better way to visualize that truth of our existence.
With his first choice and subsequent acts, the serpent, evermore rejecting the eternal Divine Source of existence, has relinquished his arms, his capacity to love, to give and create. He silently slithers in the dust, that to which we will all return and which he is said to eat for his sustenance, the purveyor of transient and illusory goods. As God’s messenger destined to bring us news of the Light, Lucifer cannot but fulfill that destiny in spite of himself; turning from God, he does so by seducing us from that heavenly light, only to reveal the true depth of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
Depending on one’s interpretations, Genesis does not contradict the facts of science.
These facts, however, would not include evolutionary theory as it is commonly understood, asserting that all this diversity and complexity is the result of random physical events selected on the basis of survivability. Although stated as such, Darwinism is not fact, but rather a way to put together facts into a coherent piscture that we can easily understand. While it clearly can explain microevolution and how many genetic conditions have emerged, it falls short in helping us understand how this wondrous world has come into being.
A major contradiction between these two descriptions about our origins is a superficial, marked discrepancy in the timelines. Is the earth is thousands or billions of years old? One should bear in mind that this being the year 5781 according to the Jewish calendar has little relevance to the practice of Jewish faith, which is very much interested in the order of holy days as they occur during the cycle of each year. The date was determined by a Rabbi Yose ben Halafta who made the calculation in the 2nd century, that creation had occurred 4000 years before. It is not revealed truth, but rather an opinion based on an understanding of Genesis, against which science has irrefutable arguments.
There are some minor differences in translations, but essentially Genesis asserts that we were moulded from the slime of the earth. In terms of how we understand the physical world today, we would imagine that at some point God created atoms, and organized them into organic molecules, to then bring them together in the creation of life in its most primitive, unicellular form. From that basis, He created animals and ultimately us. We did not evolve from slime; it did not transform itself into persons. The slime, the dust, the earth was used to form our bodily nature.
As to the six days, we are not distorting the message to consider that Genesis is speaking a collection of activities that comprise a day’s work, rather than the earth measuring time as it spins on its axis. Since it has not been generally revealed, it seems arrogant to claim that one knows what God considers one day. One cycle of creation might be how long it takes the earth to spin full circle, but it could be any, even different lengths of time, from a human perspective, that encompasses His progressive creation of the universe. Each of the six “days” sees the bringing into existence of each successive layer, which constitutes the substrate of the next. It must also be remembered that the division of the day into numerical figures, seconds and hours, although invented 5500 years ago, is something new to most people’s lives, popularized since the coming of train schedules and clocks. And, now we know that even the time that clocks keep varies between them depending on their relative velocities.
At this point, it is important to reflect that the focus on quantitites, strips events of their inherent meaning. The abhorrence that materialism can evoke, has to do with the contemplation of existence without beauty, without goodness, without purpose. The quantifiable is actually merely one small, usually the most insignificant, part of any being. Modern Physics and Mathematics are elements of our spiritual nature, trees in the garden that is the totality of our relationship with the world, bearing much fruit. Consider that our relationship with matter is ultimately a faculty of the spirit, involving material interactions, within and around us, permitted by our physical nature and utilizing our mental capacities. While we try to formulate a coherent unified picture of reality, there does not exist one large physical experiential universe. What we have is a multitude of persons, one in themselves and one with the world, sharing our experiences of the moment. Within the totality of the world about ourselves, each physical process and each living being exists as itself, and as a potential other to which we may relate, through our capacities to perceive, to understand, to feel about and to act upon. Unfortunately, that formal reality, filtered through a mathematical grid, may be experienced as merely a shadow of what is.
What we see in the world around us is a hierarchy of being, each layer existing in its own right, constituted by that which exists below, while participating in what is above. At the bottom lie the subatomic, and at the top, we ourselves, who, in Christ, are destined to meet God in the Beatific Vision, encompassing everything, everywhere and in every time, the infinite Divine Fount from which all springs forth.
Where the term evolution is another, rather poor way, way to speak of creation, then it describes the truth, the successive bringing into creation a hierarchy of being. However, if it is proposed that elementary particles came together solely by virtue of their inherent properties, it goes off-track. Where it would stray into absurdity is to claim that the fundamental properties of nature acting randomly resulted mathematics and what we are doing here, discussing these matters.