The Garden of Eden is an astonishing story. It is the foundation, the starting point for the rest of the Bible. Hidden in the story is an amazing wealth of information. It is also a linchpin of the Bible. Take it out and the rest of theology suffers a major collapse. Knowledgeable people have focused their attacks on this story when trying to undermine the Bible. The defenders response is at best inadaquate and at worst laughable. I as a scientist and a Christian want us to see if there is more that can be said. Come join me on this expedition into one of God's most maligned stories. I doubt you will think God has lost this battle.
Mt Karacadag as seen from near Sanliurfa, Turkey (Abraham's Ur of the Chaldees)
The Garden of Eden has mystified Christians, Jews, and even Muslims for centuries. The fundamentalist and Traditional interpretations conflict with science, resulting in devout people vigorously disparaging science. Many scientists respond by making fun of Biblical ideas of creation including the creation of man in the Garden of Eden. The result is that when many young people from religious families go to college and get exposed to scientific teaching, they reject their faith. Is this because the Bible is wrong or because we have taught them wrong theology?
We need to look at the story again to see if science is true and the Garden is a myth, if it is true and science is wrong, or if The garden is true and science is also right. Some religious liberals, to reduce the conflict, claim the story is a myth but its message is true. It doesn't help much. If it is wrong and just a myth, it shakes our faith in the Bible. If it is true and absolutely differs with science, then we need to state it boldly as the fundamentalists do. But what if an interpretation completely agrees with science. If there is a good interpretation that agrees with science, but we push a bad interpretation that differs from science, then we are teaching millstone theology. Millstone theology drives children away from God. If we refuse to look at the Bible and change our theology where it is wrong, and as a result, drive children away from God, it would be better to tie that millstone around our necks and jump off a pier. Luke 17:2 We need a careful reanalysis of the story.
There are several rules we need to make.
1. Each and every word of the Bible is true and can be used as clues.
2. All the clues in the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden must fit the interpretation
3. Any interpretations must use the interpretations used elsewhere in the Bible, as far as possible. (Not modern usages)
4. Science can be used to inform the statements in the Bible. For example a geological map can be used to find four rivers.
5. Science can't be used to force a bad interpretation of the Bible, but when two interpretations are equally valid, science can be used to choose between them.
6. Whenever possible, the simplest interpretation is chosen.
When we take this wondrous journey, we will discover amazing facts. The end of trail tells us the Bible is much more accurate than anyone believed. "Once you rule out certain theories as impossible, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."