Skip to main content

Finding Our Way Through Genesis One

Yesterday evening, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of The American Scientific Association's Wheaton-Naperville chapter. The ASA is an association of Christians in science who take both their faith and science seriously. The speaker for the event was Dr. John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. He spoke on his book, The Lost World Of Genesis One. I have not yet read the book (I hope to do so in the near future), but if the book substantiates the claims Walton made during the talk, it could prove to be, for evangelicals, the single most important book of the decade.

I will give a brief outline of the main points he made during his talk but first we have some matters of definition to deal with. The basic issue is whether Genesis 1 recounts material creation or functional creation. Material creation is God making stuff (e.g.., I created a chair - meaning I took pieces of wood and built a chair). Functional creation is God assigning already existing things function (e.g., 'create in me a pure heart' - purity is not a material item, it's changing the way we function, creating purity in us). Walton's contention is that the account of Genesis 1 is an account of functional creation. I'll hit just a few of his points that I thought were convincing

1. Genesis 1:3-5 describes God creating light. Verse 5 is odd. God names the light day and the darkness night. Why doesn't God name them light and dark? Why name light, 'day?' What God is naming is not light as a physicist would describe it. He's naming a period of light, namely what we call day. Thus verses 3-5 are assigning light and darkness a function; keeping time. Walton makes similar types of arguments for each day of creation.

2. The verb "bara'" - 'create' in Hebrew, never unambiguously refers to material creation. On many occasions it refers unambiguously to functional creation. There are several cases where it is ambiguous, but the lack of clear cases where "bara'" means materially create militates against understanding Genesis 1 as an account of material creation.

3. Another very helpful point Walton brought up was comparisons with Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature. Creation is functional in other ANE texts. For example, in the Enuma Elish, a Babylonian creation account, nothing is physically made. Thus not only does the verb "bara'" not suggest material creation, the ancient Israelites' cultural context points away from it. Ancient people were not very interested in material origins. They were more concerned with functions. Who made things work the way they do? The answer according to Genesis 1 is Yahweh. God gave function to the heavens and the earth so that he could reside in the cosmos, his temple (c.f., Ps. 132:13-18), but the cosmos is created in such a way that it functions that it does not serve him alone, it's set up to be functional for us as we steward his creation.

Why is this so important? If Genesis 1 is not an account of material creation, then no such account exists in the Bible. This means that Genesis 1 does not prohibit Bible believing Christians from accepting the scientific evidence in favor of evolution, for God can work through a long slow process like evolution if he wanted to.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Aquinas and Conclusion

When we reach Aquinas we come to the pinnacle of orthodoxy when it comes to the Trinity and Christology. Christology was important to Aquinas and he dedicated the first fifty-nine questions of Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae[1] to the topic. In many ways it is refreshing because he does not treat solely the more philosophical questions of who Jesus was that preoccupied theologians from the third century on. He also spent extended time on Jesus earthly ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification which was a major innovation.[2] Of course every possible topic of Trinitarian and ontological speculation is also probed. For the sake of space we will only hit some highlights.

Aquinas is clearly in step with the tradition that can be traced from Nicea, through Augustine and the Lombard, to the heart of the Middle Ages. One thing to briefly note is that even in his densest argumentation, Aquinas was not trying to prove elements of his theology via rational argument as that…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Irenaeus

Starting from Irenaeus, Christology, in some respects, moves on. A big part of this would have been due to the “gnostic” controversies. It became increasingly important to clarify the relationship between Father and Son and to minimize their distinctiveness, while still maintaining Jesus’ full humanity. From this point on, clashes over heresy about the nature of Christ and discussions related to Trinitarian theology dominate Christological discussion to the point that the original emphasis on Jesus’ Messianic identity fades to the background.[1] Maintaining the affirmation that Jesus was both human and divine was critical for Irenaeus and those after him because they saw that as the necessary grounds of salvation.[2]

Of particular interest to Irenaeus was the baptism of Jesus. What happened when he received the Spirit?[3] It was not the means by which the Word entered Jesus. He was not merely human before that point.[4] Rather it was a divinization of the human nature of Jesus, a nat…

End of Summer Review/Update

The school year is now upon us and I'll definitely not be posting the next two months. This summer didn't quite go to plan so I didn't get to do the blogging I was hoping to do. Specifically I was planning on blogging through 2 Thessalonians, but that didn't happen. It may happen late in the fall, but we will see. I may instead decide to pick up a different Pauline letter (perhaps 2 Corinthians). This is my last year of school  and by the fall of next year I should be back on a more regular blogging schedule.

A lack of blogging was not from a lack of productivity (although I'm sure my Pokemon Go playing did cut into my reading time a little bit). I've had a interesting summer learning about Medieval Christianity and specifically focusing on Peter Lombard and Thomas Aqunias. They'll both be featured in my next paper in Exploring the Christian Way which I hope to publish here in late January of 2017. 90% of the reading and 80% of the writing is done for that …