“I am comfortable with reading the Bible figuratively rather than literally. For instance, I think the six days in Genesis are not literal days, but different periods of creation, so that it took many thousands – or hundreds of thousands of years – to create. It does not demean God; it simply gives Him more time to build this extraordinary world.” – Elizabeth in Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Popular author Tracy Chevalier has gifted us with a fictionalized telling of the real-life, fossil-hunter Mary Anning. In the novel Remarkable Creatures, we learn that Mary and her friend Elizabeth Philpot were pioneering fossil collectors who regularly combed the beaches of Lyme Regis in Southwest England.
Mary, in particular, and her fossils had an enormous influence on paleontology and our current understanding of evolution. This is especially impressive when we consider that she was finding fossils in the early 19th century, when scientists were still trying to figure out what fossils were and before Charles Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species.
Such discoveries and discussions were exciting for the early 19th century British characters, but also incredibly challenging to their strongly held Christian beliefs. Three things really struck me while listening to this audiobook:
- Wow – the idea of fossils and evolution would be scary when it was a brand new thought and contrary to what your religious leaders were telling you.
- Wow – here we are in 2019 with much, much more evidence, but many people still experience the same fears.
- Wow – Chevalier did an amazing job of handling a hard topic with grace.
As a Christian myself, I’ve never felt my faith or the validity of the Bible was called into question by the world taking more than six literal 24 hour days to be created and evolve. Maybe because I understand the power of metaphor to deliver a truth? Maybe because I’m comfortable with the gray, when many people just want black and white? Maybe it’s because I see the world constantly changing around me? I’m honestly not sure.
“[Fossils] are creatures from long, long ago. They remind us that the world is changing. Of course it is. I can see it change when there are landslips at Lyme that alter the shoreline. It changes when there are earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and floods. And why shouldn’t it?” – Elizabeth in Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Yes, I have to also wonder, why shouldn’t it?