Since publishing one of my latest memes last week, I’ve been able to participate in a couple of lively Facebook discussions with two committed young-earth creationists, who insist it really does make sense to believe Genesis 3 is the only instance in the history of the written word in which an ordinary animal, talking on its own, was included in a story meant to be read as a straightforward historical text.
Consider this my response.
Author of Genesis: Excuse me, God, do you have a minute? I have some questions about this latest story you gave me to write down.
God: Ah, you mean the one about the man and the woman and the serpent in the garden? Sure, no problem. What can I do you for?
AoG: Well, you kind of hit on part of the issue right there. I’m a little unclear about this serpent.
G: What about it?
AoG: I mean, it talks, and stuff.
G: … Yeah?
AoG: OK, so the serpent is a symbol, right?
G: Not at all. It’s a historical serpent. It’s a historical story. Everything is historical. Except for the firmament.
AoG: You see, I’m afraid people might get a little confused about that. About the animal talking and all. … Because animals, I guess, don’t normally do that…
G: The serpent was possessed by the devil. Or it was the devil, in the form of a serpent. Either way.
AoG: Yeah, you get that, and I get that, and maybe John Milton gets that, but I don’t think most people will, since that’s not really explained at all in the text. In fact, it’s almost like the story goes out of its way to describe the serpent as an ordinary animal.
G: Hmm… I suppose calling it “one of the beasts of the field which I made” multiple times does create a little ambiguity.
AoG: Yeah. So, what would you think about just clarifying that point?
G: Sure, I’ll take care of it.
AoG: OK, great! What would you like me to add?
AoG: What would you like me to add to the story?
AoG: But you just said—
G: That I would clarify it. And I will. But not in this story. I like this story the way it is.
AoG: … So—
G: Here’s my plan: In a couple hundred years, I will inspire a completely different author to write a completely different story called the Book of Job, and that will introduce Satan. Then, in about a thousand years, I will inspire two other authors to write two other books called the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of John, and in there, I’ll establish that Satan can possess living things and cause them to do stuff that is against my will. Problem solved.
AoG: … Are you sure? Because I still think—
G: Oh, I forgot to mention. See, all of these books will be put together into the same book about 1,500 years from now. So it will all make sense then.
AoG: I’m still not sure that will be clear enough.
G: All right, fine. In a thousand years, I’ll inspire another story, and I’ll fill it with weird, obviously symbolic things like seven-headed leopard-beasts and locusts with human faces and crowns. And it will be so weird it almost won’t be accepted into the biblical canon. And in that book, I’ll make a vague reference to Satan being “an old serpent,” which will obviously link back to this story you just wrote. Happy?
AoG: Wow. OK, uh, that sounds great, God. Really! But don’t you think, you know, just for the time being, we should add a little something to this book?
G: No. I said it’s fine the way it is.
AoG: All right. You’re the boss.
G: Good, I’m glad that’s settled, then.
AoG: Cool. Can I ask you one more question, though?
AoG: Would it be all right if some of your believers did, at some point, interpret this story as allegory rather than history? Just if, they were, you know, hypothetically, confused by the fact that there is a talking animal, whose ability to speak is not explained? Would that be OK?
G: Absolutely not. I would consider those people compromisers of my perfect word, and I would be very angry with them, and I would deem them to be on the side of the atheists and the liberals.
AoG: Sounds fair.