Confusing Teens with De-evolving snakes

Recently we have hosted the Teen group from our church for their weekly bible study on a Sunday evening. I don’t sit in on it, though my wife has chosen to do so to assist the youth leaders.

After the most recent one my wife informed me that one of the Teens had asked a question linking evolution to the Fall in the Garden of Eden. The basic premise was that evidence showed that snakes evolved from a legged animal, this is visible when you examine the skeleton. Its more obvious on some species than others.

The understanding was that snakes had de-evolved (devolved?) and this was part of the cruse put on snakes in the Garden of Eden.

The first major flaw here is that there is no thing as de-evolved. Species evolve from one to another in a constant meandering sequence of generations. Losing limbs is not de-evolving or evolution in reverse, or whatever spin anyone wishes to put on it. A species will evolve to fill a niche and if you have a glut of lizard type animals and no snakes, its pretty likely that a snake will evolve from at least one of the lizard groups. There are circumstances where a snake has an advantage over a lizard.

I can’t recall where the Teen got the information from but I think it was from a Christian source. Well it would have to be to draw the Serpent in Eden link.

My wife didn’t offer an explanation, but I gave her the one above anyway and asked if she’d considered brining me in to answer that question. She didn’t because it was apparently a side comment in a bigger discussion and the subject didn’t stay on the snake for longer than it took to make the comment and acknowledge it. I asked if I should have a conversation with the Teen in question in case there was an issue with evolution. Again, this was seen as not really required.

My wife has very little interest in discussion evolution and certainly not to the depth that I like to. This is not because she disagrees with it, on the contrary, she has always accepted it without question. She just doesn’t have the same (obsessive?) interest that I do. That’s fine.

I do have a concern about the Teen in question though. Are they like the Teen me who struggles to balance evolution with faith and so is teetering on the brink of Creationism? Or are they like my Teen pre-wife, okay with the concept of evolution and will nod at discussions like this but never really take it any further?

I hope it’s the latter because my Creationist experiences do make me concerned that comments like this will confuse Teens and they could eventually default to a position of biblical authority over science. Knowing there are active Creationists in the church only adds to that concern.

I just hope I am wrong.

The Prophesies of Jesus’ Crucifixion

Last week one of the church members preached a sermon on the prophesies of Jesus’ crucifixion. It was an interesting sermon and despite having spent many years as a Christian and been to a quite a few Christian conferences, it is not one I think I have heard before. This made a nice change and, given the Easter period, nicely topical too.

The sermon basically said that there were 33 specific prophesies related to Jesus’ crucifixion and then ran through a list of each source prophesy. Time constraints meant that the fulfilment of each could not be gone into, but the reference for each fulfilment was helpfully out up on the OHP. Certainly a lot of effort had gone into the sermon and for me, it was the first time I’d really sat up and paid attention to a sermon in a very long time.

Is self-reference valid?

A big problem I have with this sort of claim for the fulfilment of prophesy is that the prophesy and the fulfilment and the interpretation is all held within the bible. Prophesies and fulfilments really do need to have reliable external sources to back up both ends of the claim. Using the bible to self-reference its own prophesies has got to be an obvious opening for criticism even from the most ardent of believers. More than that, each fulfilment appears to be retrospectively matched with the prophesy that is deemed to fit best. This is something that I find deeply unsatisfying.

I won’t dwell on this though, so moving on…

Thinking Sceptically

I can’t remember all of the prophesies discussed and I certainly didn’t count to see if there were 33 mentioned in the sermon. What I did do with each one though was run a quick mental check to see if I thought that each prophesy was specific enough and how well I thought it matches the fulfilment without too much call to interpretation.

What I did find was that in my opinion too many of the reported prophesies are not specific enough for my satisfaction. I found that this even applies to the more famous ‘Servant King’ prophesies found in Isaiah.

Back at home after the service my wife asked me what I thought of the sermon and I briefly explained the above and how I found it interesting but not convincing. I found myself being a little surprised when she used the word ‘sceptical’ in her own description of her thoughts about some of the items. This surprised me as I didn’t expect it, her faith is not going through the same crisis as my own, so it was surprising to hear her use that phrase. Maybe my own experience is having an effect on her. Pushing her in the same direction that I have just travelled in matters of faith is not on my agenda so I am not going to pursue it. I guess we’ll just have to see what transpires in that matter.

Striking the Heal and Broken Bones

There is one prophesy that I wish to pay more attention too because it’s the stand out item that I took away from the sermon.

The sermon made reference to the traditional idea that crucifixion involved crossing the feet and nailing them to the front of the cross with a single nail going through both feet. However, recent evidence apparently shows that this is probably wrong and the more likely way of nailing the feet to the cross is one foot either side of the vertical and one nail through each heal securing the feet.

Reference was then made to the Fall from the Garden of Eden and the serpents curse, which involved mention of the serpent striking the heal of man. This is apparently now a prophesy for the method of Jesus’ foot attachment to the cross. This is what I mean my retrospective application of a loose phrase that is not a specific prophesy.

My wife agreed with my concerns over this item but she did also point out that the Genesis phrase used is an odd phrase and why would it be said like that if not intended for future reference? She makes a good point, however one should also consider that this is being taken from the English translation, the original language version should really be used here to see what the actual phrase was and how the English translation fits with that context. This actually applies to all of the prophesies to be honest, so it raises the valid question of why should a sermon such as this be taken seriously when it only refers to the English language version of the Bible?

I then pointed out that surely a nail driven through the heal to secure that foot to a cross would effectively render the heal bone broken, thus negating the no broken bones prophesy. My wife suggested that was being overly picky and that the context of the no broken bones prophesy is specific to the practice of the Roman soldiers breaking the legs of the crucified in order to hasten death. She makes a good point, again.

My own memories of the no broken bones prophesy is that it was a literal and wider prophesy relating to the whole life of Jesus. Now that I am older I am happy to accept that it’s a more specific intention and that the heal bone issue is not covered, however it is another example of how non-specific the wording combined with retrospective application leads to joining up events in a manner that suits the reader. As such, I can’t accept this as reliable prophesy and fulfilment.

After the sermon, I had asked the church member in question the same question about the heal and the broken bone and he said it was a good question and he would talk to a Christian doctor he knows and come back to me. We’ll see what happens on that one.

Personally, the whole sermon was interesting and engaged me, but ultimately I found it intellectually and spiritually unsatisfying and it confirmed for me that my decision to move to atheism is the right one.