Genesis One: The Lost World

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How old is the Earth? Is it 6-10,000 years old, or is it 4.5 billion years old? Most of us have decided the place to go to is Genesis 1 and this has been the battleground for the topic. Each side has been ready to cast out the other and charges of heresy fly around. (For all concerned, I am an OEC who has a ministry partner that is YEC and a wife that is YEC)

The underlying assumption for each side has been that this is what Genesis One is talking about. This Saturday, I will be interviewing a guest that says “No. Both sides have it wrong. Genesis One is not talking about that at all.” My guest is John Walton of Wheaton who wrote the book “The Lost World of Genesis One.”

Walton says that in our scientific mindset due to the enlightenment, we have had an emphasis on the material aspects of creation, but Walton says the ancients didn’t think that way. For them, something wasn’t truly said to exist until it was given a function, and thus the account of creation as we call it is not about the material creation, but the functional creation of the universe.

And what is the whole purpose of all of this? Walton tells us that the main goal of creation was to make a temple for which God would dwell in. The deity’s idol would often sit in the temple as well, which would be that which bore the deity’s image. This means that we are an integral part of the creation. We were made to serve in a temple that reflects the glory of God.

This thesis I find extremely fascinating. It fits in so well with the NT and the writings of N.T. Wright on God wanting to dwell with His people and on eventually the new heaven coming down to Earth. It also has the advantage of doing what I’ve said should be done for some time, getting to the way the ancients would have read the Bible and trying to move away from our modern presuppositions.

Yet this view is not without its critics. There are two especially we will be discussing. One is William Lane Craig who has made a number of statements with regards to Aristotlean philosophy. Has Walton committed a grave blunder in his reasoning? We will be asking him.

Another is Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. I do wish to state upfront that I do respect both Ross and Craig. I am a member of the local chapters of Reasons To Believe and Reasonable Faith, but I am of course allowed to disagree. Ross comes from another perspective.

Ross does believe the Bible contains scientific information in the account and defends a more concordist position. Ross is concerned about removing a scientific witness to the world from the Bible and what it means to tell modern man the Bible says nothing in regards to science. There are also concerns about Inerrancy that have come up. (Not that we’re unfamiliar with the code word of Inerrancy being used to drum up suspicion)

Chances are, you might have your own questions as well for Dr. Walton. If you do, I welcome them. The show time will be from 3-5 EST on June 22, 2013. Our call in number is 714-242-5180. I hope you’ll be listening in for an enjoyable episode of the Deeper Waters podcast.

The link to the show is available here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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4 Responses to “Genesis One: The Lost World”

  1. Darris Brock Says:

    A very enticing invitation to your podcast. My biggest problem seems to be that Walton thinks function is the main thing. I think it is mostly a figment of his imagination, but I would be okay with including it as one potential element just not the main one.

    The view of looking at the text through the eyes of the ancients is nothing new. I learned this in my first class on Genesis in 1991 well before Walton’s book. Genesis 1 is Theo-history. It does purport to tell us the origin of the universe, of matter, animals, humans and such just as it naturally reads. It doesn’t attempt to put a date on creation and that has never, ever been a point of doctrine among Jews or Christians, historically speaking.

    Where Genesis 1 is revolutionary is in its counter-cultural approach to all of creation and even God himself. It is an atomic bomb of theology in its historical setting.

    God has no beginning. This is shocking to most in the ancient world. A theogany often begins creation texts. Enuma Elish begins with the preexistent primeval waters which give birth to the gods and then spends most of its time recounting the war with the gods and how they pantheon came into being. Very different.

    The universe is created ex nihilo, which is again shocking. The ancient accounts usually begin with a watery chaos from which things are formed (Enuma Elish above) or in some cases the body of a slain deity becomes the heavens and earth. There truly is nothing like creation ex nihilo in ancient texts. One Egyptian creation myth begins, “In the beginning, before there was any land of Egypt, all was darkness, and there was nothing but a great waste of water called Nun.” Again, primeval waters exist without creation.

    The creation of all material things: the earth, the heavens, the stars, the animals, the plants – all of these things are created objects and subject to God’s will. None of them bear any anthropomorphic qualities and they certainly are not “gods”. The Egyptians worshiped practically everything that moved – including dung beetles. The sun was always the chief deity for the ancients of the time. The moon and stars are simply created objects – not worthy of worship.

    Humanity is a lowly creation in ANE cosmologies. The Enuma Elish has man created to do the menial tasks for the gods. In fact, in Atrahasis the opening verse is “When the gods were man they did forced labor, they bore drudgery.” Note that the gods were once “man”. So their solution is to make lower gods to do the drudgery, then later to make man to do the drudgery for the lower gods. “Let man assume the drudgery of the god” it says.

    In short, the creation of man in God’s image and likeness is stunning. Man is endowed with attributes of deity and is the highest and best and final creation of God. Instead of man feeding the gods, in Genesis God feeds man. God also provisions rest for man on the sabbath. This is the opposite of what happens in other texts.

    The rest that God observes at the end of creation is a cessation of His creative activity. His creative work is complete and evaluated as very good (appropriate for the divine intentions). God’s creative work is finished.

    Many other points could be made, but the main point is that reading the text contextually with theology and history in mind we find far more rich, intricate, meaning and satisfaction than by restricting it only to function.

    Reading translations of the ANE creation stories is the best way to evaluate Walton’s ideas. Most are available by a simple Google search. Should be a good show!

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