"I won't be a Christian because Genesis contradicts the fundamental structure of the universe."
He is the scientist between us.
When---in what feels so long ago it may be another life---I decided to not become premed and instead to become political (only later to drop that in favour of literature and spirituality), he had gone on to be accepted into one of the top programs in the country for his undergrad, would go on to John Hopkins for his MD.
We are sitting in the cafe in the middle of town, the one with the shade umbrellas that slant dangerously in midsummer under the weight of the heat. We are sitting in the between place, before he leaves for John Hopkins and before I leave for Scotland. We're splitting a plate of figs drizzled with honey, studded with chèvre, pistachios as green as new vine sprinkled atop.
We are talking around the old argument, which he is always the one to bring up, those things about Jesus and faith and the impossibility of everything being made beautiful in its time.
Between a bite, not quite looking at him, I manage, "You know that there are plenty of Christians who believe Genesis, at least the first eleven chapters, is only poetic, right? They believe that macroevolution is simply part of God's work in the universe, His sovereignty is seen by how evolution serves His purposes."
He studies me for a moment. I have not provided this answer before. "But you don't believe that."
A half smile. I look up from my plate. "I don't."
We debate some of the silliest issues of interpretation and dress them up, parade them around as doctrine.
When I was growing up, in that part of the South where the roots of belief run wild like brambles, the necessity of the historical Adam, of a literal creation account, were as imperative to me as the Incarnation, as resurrection, as the assurance of things hoped for.
But the more I studied the New Testament, the more I did not see much evidence for only a literal interpretation of the creation account.
Jesus references the text, but His reference has to do with the thematic meaning that the account reveals to us, not an affirmation that the word day meant twenty-four hours or that to believe otherwise was to defy the power and authority of God.
The same is true of St. Peter's account of the flood narrative, which he references not for the significance of its historicity but for its sign---as God saw fit to bring eight persons through these waters, so too does God in baptism bring us unto Himself.
Yet some Christians insist that to deny a literal creation narrative is to somehow call the Bible untrue.
Is that what truth means to us? Fact?
Or does Scripture want us to treat the Text with the reverence of its meaning, that perhaps what Genesis is trying to teach us in those opening chapters, whatever their factual basis, is the the true thing that God is in control?
"Some of my friends, back in college, did the math. The earth is only 6000 years old."
I heard this from a small group leader when I was in middle school.
I raised my hand and asked where the fossils came from, then.
"They were planted by Satan to deceive us."
I never asked him a question again.
"You're still a creationist?"
I take a sip of my water, nodding. "Still. Though, I'm an odd sort of one. I recognise the validity of micro-evoluton."
"Then how come you're alright with people who aren't?"
I look at him, slightly puzzled. This question I have turned over more than once in the past few years.
This question that I turn, worry, fiddle, because I think the reasoning so obvious that it's almost profane to speak out loud.
"Because for a thousand years and then some, the Church has not been concerned with a literal creation account as being necessary for a person's faith. What matters is belief in Incarnation, in cross, in empty tomb, in ascension. What matters is belief in Jesus."
And there it is, on the table between us, over the figs of a tree He cursed all those years ago, in the time when men would not hear and those who had would flee.
"Ultimately," I say it slow, "Jesus is the only thing that matters. The rest is semantics. Shades of grey. And I can't help shake the thought that on the other side of this life, we'll find out there were some things that God cared so very little about, that we thought were so important."
We sit in silence for a time, order another plate of figs, talk of Mahler and the reopening of the Metropolitan Museum's Islamic wing; then, we part ways, as usual, with plans to do this again in a year's time.
If creation in Genesis teaches us anything, it is that God is in control.
What that means, how it means it, is not as important as Whom it concerns.
Our swiftly tilting planet turns on.
We are here, we are now, and He is in control.