Someone asked me elsewhere WHY I would explore Biblical sources, when it might risk hurting someone’s faith. It’s a question worthing answering.
Why explore the historical sources of Genesis?
First of all, it’s just plain interesting. It’s a historical jigsaw puzzle and detective story that is absolutely fascinating – at least to me. And I suspect at least somewhat interesting to a few others.
Secondly, the truth never hurts true faith. Any faith that requires the truth to be actively concealed isn’t worth having. One of the best things that can happen to religion, as my bishop says, is to “get real”. Understanding who wrote the various books of the Old Testament, WHY they wrote them, what situations or events they were responding to, what the historical context was… all these things improve our understanding of the Bible. Ignoring these facts can lead to serious misunderstandings. For example? The two creation stories in Genesis. If you think that this is one continuous story by one author, you scratch your head about WHY the creation of man is described twice. To reconcile this, you may decide, as several churches teach, that the first chapter of Genesis is a story of “spiritual” creation and the second describes the actual physical creation. On the other hand, if you learn that these are two different creations by two different authors describing the same creation from two different perspectives – you don’t fall into the trap of inventing such un-biblical rationalizations.
For every person you think is turned away from God by this kind of study, I can point you to quite a few who are turned away from God because of the rationalizations and special pleadings required to shoehorn the Bible into some apologists own invented traditions of what the Bible really means – traditions not informed by the complexity of its sources.
Some people think the appropriate response to unbelief is to offer a superficial but supposedly faith-promoting answer and then become irate and abusive when it isn’t accepted. I tend to prefer a different approach.