Category Archives: Genesis

A Challenge to Young Earth Creationists

This is from a guest blogger… 

Young Earth Creationists frequently complain that science can’t really tell us much about the distant past because it relies too much on unproven assumptions. However, whilst some details may be unknown, there are multiple independent lines of evidence that all point to a scientifically undeniable conclusion that the YEC version of the planet’s history (as inspired by the Bible notably the early chapters of Genesis) is utterly incorrect and that Earth is very old. Even if a YEC suggests that scientists have failed to ‘add God’ to the mix, that cannot magically eliminate or disprove the conclusion that the Genesis account – taken literally without any embellishment or ‘reinterpretation’ – of precisely how every major aspect of the natural world came to be has been undermined, probably fatally. That of course does not prove the Bible totally unreliable or Christianity false – though it does I believe raise a question about God’s power, knowledge and truthfulness (assuming he exists).

However YECs still insist that a 6,000 year old Earth (and universe), and a catastrophic worldwide flood inundation around 4,500 years’ ago, both ‘have’ to be true if Christianity is true – which of course they say it is.

My question is this. Could and would ANYTHING falsify your claim that mainstream science is ‘wrong’ over these two issues? If so, can you suggest any examples? Any scientific hypothesis has to be potentially falsifiable. If it is not potentially falsifiable then it is not really science but simply faith-inspired dogma – and therefore it should NEVER be taught to anybody as part of ‘science’ in any school or other formal educational setting (including by parents when ‘home-schooling’ their children).

If there really was a global flood only 4,500 years’ ago I would not expect to find this:

Replies to the above can either be sent to my email box or added here:

Thank you for reading this.

Mr A Haworth-Roberts

The Lost World of Genesis One – Personal Thoughts

This is my third and final post on John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One from IVP-Academic. You can read my posts on the author and contents: here and here. Thanks again to IVP-Academic for sending a review copy.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. First, John Walton is an expert on the conceptual world of the Ancient Near East. His expertise is apparent from the titles of many of his previous works, and it shines through in The Lost World of Genesis One. He displays the breadth of his knowledge most clearly in the chapters concerning the functional, rather than material, orientation of ancient cosmologies and in the chapters concerning divine rest taking place in temples. Readers may disagree with Walton, but I don’t think they can do so because they feel he hasn’t done his homework.

Second, Walton communicates in clear, ordinary language. If you have paid attention to recent posts on this blog, you may have seen Joel mention Walton’s forthcoming academic work on Genesis 1. Academic writers sometimes experience difficulties writing books intended for a wider audience; Walton has avoided this problem. As a result, The Lost World of Genesis One is a book on the first chapter of the Bible that I would not hesitate to recommend to an interested lay person in my parish.

Third, I appreciate the author’s forthrightness concerning Genesis 1, the theory of evolution, and public education. Walton declares:

The concern of this book is neither to tell scientists how they should or should not do science, nor to determine what scientific conclusions are right or wrong. It should be noted that this book is not promoting evolution. The issue I have attempted to approach concerns what scientific ideas or conclusions that the believer who wants to take the Genesis account seriously is obliged to reject … Biological evolution is the reigning paradigm, so we have asked whether this view requires the believer to compromise theology or biblical teaching. We have concluded that there is nothing intrinsic to the scientific details (differentiated from the metaphysical implications that some draw) that would require compromise.

Amen. Now I only hope that Walton can keep his job.

I will conclude with one critique that I did have of the book. I could mention that I would have liked to have seen more discussion of Genesis 1 as polemic, but other scholars have taken on that task elsewhere. My main concern was with the front and back covers. Although I realize words like “new” and “landmark” help sell books, I think they were overdone on this one. While many readers, especially pastors and lay people, will find this book helpful, I wasn’t blown away by the newness of it all. The cultural climate makes the work timely, and Walton certainly adds to the discussion about Genesis 1, but “landmark” (see back cover)? I don’t know. Maybe I have drunk too deeply of Qohelet’s teaching (Ecc. 1.9).

Overall, I highly recommend The Lost World of Genesis One. The combination of Walton’s expertise and his ability to communicate in ordinary language makes for a beneficial, easy read. I also look forward to reading Walton’s academic treatment of Genesis 1 forthcoming from Eisenbrauns.

*** update – I have been informed that the forthcoming title had already forthcome when I wrote this – you can also find it here

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Young Earth Creationists Just Don’t Get Temple Imagery or Theology

I know I have earned a reputation for pronouncing beliefs that I do not affirm about Genesis, especially, with my Questions in Genesis series at Political Jesus.

Here is what I do affirm; my congenial response to Ken Ham on Joel’s Post: More Discrediting of Ken Ham, I advocated this view:

“The clear teachings of Scripture include where humanity was at the time of creation, yes? And since we were not there, we shouldn’t claim to know the whole story. For example, the first and earliest book of the Bible is actually Job, YHWH asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the Earth? Who created its boundaries, it’s dimensions?” (Job 38:4-5) Obviously, this is a rhetorical question, for no one was with with the Creator. So, what creationists and evolutionists both get wrong with their reading of Scripture that Genesis 1 & 2 has anything to do with history at all. What it is about, first and foremost, is about theology, and God ordering creation in 6 days, resting on the Sabbath, and then continuing to create.

I noticed one of your commenters on facebook said that the Bible is the context, and I think they are right. The Bible is the context in which we should examine Genesis. Just how does Genesis 1 -3 fit in with the rest of the Torah? The answer is simple. The same Hebrew verbs used in God’s order for Adam to till (abodah) and keep (shamar) only appear in the divine demands for the Levitical priesthood attend to God’s sanctuary in the midst of the Israelites, the tabernacle (Ibid). Also, like the Garden of Eden’s imagery in Genesis 1-3, God walks (hithallek) and dwells among the Hebrews just as He does with Adam and Eve. God is also accompanied by God’s guardian angels, the cherubim, which coincidentally guard the inner sanctuaries of the tabernacle and temple.

Genesis 1 and 2 are different and complementary. In Genesis 1, God is creating his tabernacle/temple (the world, creation), and in Genesis 2, God constructed the sanctuary. What creationists and strict evolutionists do not get about the images in the first three chapters in Genesis, is that it has to do first and foremost with YHWH, the God of Israel, and theologies of the temple. Any scientific observation, Christian and/or secular, that avoids this imagery and mystery, is not following the biblical text, but their agenda.

Therefore, from all I have seen from AIG, you are not following your text, but your own agenda and reading that into the Bible.”

Now, in addition, anyone can pick up the Old Testament, yes English translation, and find the very few and rare circumstances in which the imagery of Cherubim arrives on the scene (See 1st Kings 8, for example). When does it happen? In the context of the prophets writing about experiencing God in the temple, as well as King Solomon building a temple. We cannot understand the creation narratives in Genesis 1 & 2, apart from temple theology. Temple theology is not about our modern views of history, but about teaching human beings where our places are in the world. It is not about historic events where we use linear logic to gain access and master the sacred text, but it is about gaining entry into the presence of God, with God ordaining time as sacred. The six-day structure is about God ordering and structuring the world in six-days, as being of great significance theologically and ceremonially.

Far from undermining our faith in YHWH, evolution is compatible with Scripture, but only if we realize that the creation stories are primarily, first and foremost, doxologies of priestly theology, spoken and passed down in times of Jewish rites (as the Bible testifies itself, that the priests lead worship). Young Earth Creationists’ obsession with time and history both does damage to the text, and the Christian understandings of Creation, and the New Creation.

For more on this, please read A Theological Introduction To the Old Testament.

The Lost World of Genesis One – Contents

This is my second post on John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One from IVP-Academic.  You can read my introduction to the author here (and also check out an interesting video of the author). I will follow this post up with my personal thoughts on the book.

Walton arranges the contents of the book uniquely. Rather than extensive chapters developing a train of thought, he divides the book into eighteen propositions. The propositions do follow a logical order, but this means a significant number of short chapters.

I’m ambivalent about the arrangement. On the one hand, I like the fact that I can sit down and read one or more chapters in a sitting. I didn’t find myself having to stop in the middle of a chapter only to pick the book back up and have to try to remember where I was in the overall scheme. I think short chapters also give a reader the feeling that they are getting somewhere. On the other hand, when I had longer blocks of time to read, I felt like this structuring lead to compartmentalization of the propositions. So, I suppose this arrangement will please some readers, while turning others off.

The propositions fall into two different categories.  First, the larger bulk of the propositions deal with the interpretation of Genesis 1 in its original context.  Thus, Walton includes chapters on the Hebrew word bara’, the beginning state in Genesis 1, and the seven days among other topics. Second, after dealing with Genesis 1 in its original context, Walton discusses current debates concerning Genesis 1 and public education.  This discussion is much shorter, taking up only four of the eighteen propositions. Walton bookends the propositions with an introduction and a summary followed by some frequently asked questions.  I like the FAQ section.  When I saw that, I felt like Walton or IVP gave the book to some ordinary people to see what questions they had before putting it on the market.

Overall, the book is a short, easy read, especially for those who are familiar with Genesis 1.  Minus the endnotes, the book is 172 pages. Finally, I’ll include an important link–I didn’t want to mention it first so as to make you reading this post unnecessary–to the table of contents. The full table of contents is available at Google Books.  You can actually read snippets of the book there too.

Stay tuned for my personal reflections …

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The Lost World of Genesis One – Author

This is the first post in a series of three on John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One from IVP-Academic. In this post, I will introduce the author followed by posts overviewing the contents and sharing my personal thoughts. Thanks to IVP-Academic for sending along a copy.

I have high expectations for this book because it comes from someone whose work sits on my desk. The privilege of sitting on my desk is actually a big deal for a book, in case you didn’t know. That means I want the book handy, not wanting to walk the extra five feet to the bookshelves in my office. I have the IVP Bible Background Commentary set on my desk for which Walton was a contributor.  Of course, as a two volume commentary, it is not the most in depth reference work, but I find it helpful if I’m reading daily lectionary readings or something similar.  Otherwise, I’ve read Walton here and there for papers and the like at seminary.

Others of you might remember Walton from, this:

Well, at least we know Walton has a sense of humor.

The back cover of The Lost World of Genesis One lists Walton as a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College. I’m not sure there are many more prestigious Old Testament faculty positions as far as evangelical colleges go. He has also written or edited a considerable number of books on the Old Testament and ancient world, including co-authoring an introduction to the Old Testament with Andrew Hill, a commentary on Genesis, a book on the cultural context of the Old Testament, and now another Bible background commentary.

Considering the Walton’s teaching background and the number of books he has written, The Lost World of Genesis One has the potential for being a good book on the first chapter of the Bible from an evangelical perspective. The timing also works out pretty well for me to read this book since my Old Testament introduction will start Genesis shortly.

I can already see that one of my preconceived ideas about the book emerging from thinking about the author’s background will prove unwarranted. I left the evangelical world a number of years ago, so when considering Walton’s background, I would imagine him taking the discussion of evolution in a particular direction.  And, that certainly doesn’t turn out to be the case. I’m glad. But, for that you will have to wait for the overview of contents and reaction …

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