What does the conservative church think about the events in the book of Genesis, such as the flood, the fall, and creation? Do they believe these stories have literal or metaphorical implications? 

Professor Mark Muska says that while some conservative Christians have reached a consensus, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the historical events in the book of Genesis.

“It’s been debated for the last 150 years or so; it’s really been under question about the integrity of these stories. They are put in books that appear to be narrative history; they’re reflecting actual, historical events. But they’ve been in question, are they symbolic or are they mythological? Are they teaching spiritual lessons, but not really true?”

To help us gain further understanding, Professor Muska provides context for the book of Genesis, and explains how the conservative church views the events that occurred during this period of time. He refers to Genesis 1, 2, 6 and 11.

“The creation story, itself, in six days; Adam and Eve, the first humans, then you get to the flood in Genesis 6; the Tower of Babel, and the historicity of that. I would venture that the conservative church would lean in the direction of seeing these as historical things.”

Professor Brad Sickler reflects on the differing beliefs among conservative Christians as it relates to the Genesis accounts.

“I would say the majority of conservative Christians would treat all of those as basically happening in the way that they were described.”

“Then I would say the most controversial parts among fairly conservative Christians, evangelicals, would be about whether the flood – not whether the flood happened – but whether it was local or global, or regional versus global.”

“The second one would be about whether the six days of Genesis were literally six days, a long period, or just an unspecified period. But there’s general agreement among conservative Christians that Adam was a historical person, and the one from whom all other people descended.”

Professor Muska points out that we can always look at scripture for ourselves to unpack the implications of these events.

“If you read these Biblical narratives, they read like they’re history and they’re written in that type of form. You can even apply this to the New Testament, the book of Acts, or the four gospels.”

Ask the Professor: On the third Thursday of every month we invite Bible professors from the University of Northwestern into the studio and open the phone lines for your questions on the Bible, faith, and the church. Call in during the live show, or submit your questions via email on Connecting Faith’s show page.

Ask the Professor: The Genesis debate