bonhoeffer: thoughts on creation

From last Wednesday's entry in the Bonhoeffer book:


When the Bible speaks of six days of creation, it may well have thought of a day as consisting of a morning and a night, yet it may not have meant the day literally, but may have thought of it as the power of the day that makes the physical ay what it is, as the natural dialectic of creation. When the Bible speaks of "day" here, the discussion does not concern the physical problem at all. It does not matter to biblical thought whether creation happened in rhythms of millions of years or in individual days; we have no reason to value the latter or to doubt the former. But the question as such does not concern us. There is no doubt that the biblical author, to the extent that his words are human words, was subject to his time, his knowledge, and his limitations -- nor is there any doubt that through these words only God himself is speaking to us of his creation. The daily works of God are the rhythms in which creation occurs. 

p. 24 (not an affiliate link)
Your thoughts? Here are some of mine:

I agree. As I grew up in a pretty conservative evangelical Christian environment (church, school, home to a lesser extent) I was told, again and again, that God created the world in six literal days, that anyone who said otherwise was misguided at best and was waging a war against Christians at worst, and if I were ever to doubt the six day thing, it was a slippery slope from these minor doubts about biblical inerrancy into a murky pit of sin and Liberal Christian-ness that would make God weep and jeopardize my soul.

I bought this, for a while. I don't buy it anymore. These days, I more or less hold the stories in scripture lightly. I accept them at face value, knowing it's possible that all these thousands of years and how many transcriptions and translations later, maybe the words aren't exactly the same as they were, and maybe there's some context missing, and maybe there's more to the story than what appears on the page. The God I believe in -- the one I understand to be present in the bible and today -- is certainly capable of creating the world in 6 days, creating man from dust, and bringing a baby to a virgin. Maybe he did, but maybe he didn't and maybe the creation story is a giant metaphor. But this is not the essential matter on which my faith hinges, and I am willing to accept the ambiguity.

And now it's your turn. Am I a loon and Bonhoeffer a heretic for suggesting that creation wasn't six literal days? Or maybe we are loons and heretics for suggesting that creation DID occur in six literal days. What are your thoughts?


  1. We just talked about this yesterday in RCIA. The Catholic position is that everything in the Bible MAY not be FACT, but it is all TRUTH. I like that. When I was confused about the 6 days as a kid, my mom immediately gave me an explanation about God's time not being the same as our time. A difficult concept to introduce to a kid (I was really young, like 5 or something), but I'm glad I had that introduced early. And, yes, my faith does not in any way hinge on these types of things.

    1. Oh, I like the way that's worded. I'm not sure what the Episcopal tradition is. Of course, I'm guessing there's a "stated" position and then a "what people actually think" position.

    2. Much of the Episcopal church atmosphere is "what people really think". I found when I was settling into the Episcopal church last year most of what I found was "if you like coming to church with us, you're good." More or less, no one really cares and there's a wide range of ideas from the more conservative to the more liberal (though heavier on the liberal). I'm going to make an educated guess that the Episcopal tradition does not take the Bible literally and more likely subscribes to the idea that is a "living" text and open to interpretation by the situation. But that's a guess.


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