Archive for category Bible
In honor of the King James Version’s 400th anniversary, Koinonia was giving away an Old Testament Commentary or New Testament Commentary. All you had to do to was:
To enter just comment below by Thursday evening with a common English phrase which traces its origins back to the King James Bible!
My entry: “Out of the mouth of babes.”
I recently taught a discipleship training class at our church entitled The Feasts of the Lord: Jesus Fulfills the Feasts. It was a three week (1x wk.) course.
I know I was blessed by and learned more from the study, preparation and teaching than anyone listening. Even so, I have an opportunity for an encore at the Sweetwater Aglow November meeting. It will be November 13, 10am-3pm at the Holiday Inn Express in Sweetwater. Lunch will be provided free of charge, and everyone is invited to attend. I hope to see you there.
One of these days, I will get around to posting about this.
For the next three (3) Sunday nights I will be teaching a series at our church entitled The Feasts of the Lord: Jesus Fulfills the Feasts. It’s a topic that is absolutely fascinating, and I hope I am able to do it a little justice.
I believe the series will be recorded, and, if so, I will try to post the audio here. At the very least, I will try to post summaries each week.
I hope it goes well. Pray for me.
And if any of you happen to be in the Sweetwater, TX area any of the next three (3) Sundays, feel free to drop in.
I want to thank Adrianna Wright at InterVarsity Press for sending me a courtesy copy of The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John W. Walton.
The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
John H. Walton
Intervarsity Press, July 2009
I’ve been making my way through my stack of books for review on Genesis in, essentially, reverse order of receipt. I’m glad I started on the top of the stack and not the bottom because I would have read The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate by John H. Walton a year ago, and my reading of the other books would have been colored by my reading of this one.
As with many theological questions, I think we tend to develop a theological framework and then read scripture within that framework. It would be very easy to do that with The Lost World of Genesis One because Walton’s propositions are extremely persuasive and his conclusions compelling.
And I in no way intend for this to be a slight, quite the opposite.
Walton organizes The Lost World of Genesis One into a series of eighteen propositions. Admittedly, as a former high school debater, I initially found Walton’s proposition approach somewhat irritating because the organization allows for little reader interaction. What I mean is that Walton breaks his thesis down into so many of its tiny component parts that there is little to no mystery. Again, this is not a slight on the book, it is a confession of my own predisposition to be intrigued by ideas more than details, and Walton constructs the larger idea one detail at a time. By the end of the book, my mind was changed about the effectiveness of the approach because Walton leaves little room for disagreement.
Walton’s initial assertions (and I’m paraphrasing his propositions), our reading of Genesis 1 in terms of material creation is wrong because Genesis 1 was never intended to describe material creation. Instead, Genesis 1 is meant to describe the function of God’s creation rather than the manner and means of creation.
Walton asserts the ancients would have thought and perceived Genesis 1 in terms of function rather than elemental material creation. Walton begins his function analysis using the example of the creation of a computer. When is a computer a computer? Each hardware component is manufactured, but until each component is brought together there is no computer. Software programs are written and installed, but without a power source the computer is not functional. Even with a power source, unless a person uses the computer it remains non-functional. Walton’s question is one of ontology. When does the computer exist? At what stage is the computer created?
Walton maintains that if we think of Genesis 1 in terms of assignment of function, not creation of the component parts, the questions relating to Genesis 1 and scientific accuracy become irrelevant.
We should not worry about the questions of ‘truth’ with regard to the Bible’s use of Old World Science. … Adoption of the framework of the target audience is most logical.
Using other ancient creation accounts as comparisons, Walton concludes that in the ancient world, to create something meant to assign it a function, not create its material properties.
Again I’m paraphrasing, Walton next determines that the creation account in Genesis 1 is a cosmic enshrinement. It is the creation of a cosmic temple suitable for God to take up residence. He terms this view the cosmic temple inauguration view.
Walton also views this reading of Genesis 1 as a literal reading, as it would have been understood in the ancient environment as opposed to a reading that requires reconciliation with modern science.
But most people who seek to defend a young-earth view do so because they believe that the Bible obligates them to such a defense. I admire the fact that believers are willing to take unpopular positions and investigate all sorts of alternatives in an attempt to defend the reputation of the Biblical text. But if the Biblical text does not demand a young earth there would be little impetus or evidence to offer such a suggestion.
Walton also spends a fair amount of time discussing competing creation theories, as does virtually everyone else, so I won’t here, but the excerpt above should fairly well sum up the author’s take on competing creation accounts.
I give Walton a lot of credit for bringing something new to the table (see also my review of The Genesis Enigma). As I’ve written before, the old methods of resolving the Genesis debate don’t work because the debate itself is pointless. And viewing Genesis 1 in terms other than purely scientific terms is certainly a more appropriate approach.
My only real criticism of The Lost World of Genesis One is that the author falls into the same trap as most by (1) entering the public policy debate in proposition 18 which will unnecessarily ostracize young-earth creationists and ID proponents, and to a lesser extent (2) crafting the cosmic temple inauguration view such that is excludes other possibilities. I acknowledge that in the author’s Q&A at the end he acknowledges that Genesis 1 could theoretically be both functional and material, but that we cannot demand such a reading. But Walton doesn’t embrace those possibilities.
Fortunately, my reading of The Lost World of Genesis One has coincided with my intensive study of related material, specifically the feasts of the Lord and the tabernacle (and later temple). And it makes perfect sense to me that the instructions for the construction of the tabernacle would reflect a cosmic temple. So, for that and many other reasons, I would highly recommend The Lost World of Genesis One. I am a slightly less inclined to accept the cosmic temple inauguration view as the theory of everything on Genesis, but it certainly adds another dimension to Genesis 1 that is worthy of study.
Read it and enjoy it!
Regular readers will know that from time to time I write my pastor’s Monday Morning Review on his blog of same name.
It’s typically a recap of the previous day’s sermon and the goings on of our church. However, all of you non-member, iPhone/smartphone users might be interested in my short list of free Bible apps (there’s 5 to be exact) about midway through the post.
Many of you are aware of my preoccupation with Genesis. It is both a blessing and a curse, but a good kind of curse.
Said preoccupation, naturally, results in my reading a lot about Genesis. I am forever grateful to the publishers who have provided books for me to review at my request, and I am especially thankful to those who have taken the initiative to ask me to review books related to Genesis.
From much of this recent reading, several thoughts have emerged (most are obvious):
Efforts to reconcile the “creation” account in Genesis with “science” are futile, if fun to read. There is far too big a gap between the ancient Israelite culture and language and present-day Western culture and English to even know all that is meant by Genesis 1 & 2, much less prove what we cannot know. Absent a Mosaic or Pauline revelation from the Lord Himself (which I am still anxiously anticipating, whereafter I will immediately post all the answers), I’m afraid we will always be left wondering.
We shouldn’t stop wondering. The futility in seeking answers to ultimately unanswerable questions is no reason to stop asking. There are plenty of lessons to be learned short of, but probably more important than, the actual who’s, what’s, when’s and where’s (why’s deliberately excluded because we should know the why’s).
Fighting about it is also pointless. And we should stop that. Honestly, has anyone ever been converted by argument. Christian’s bashing anything or anyone acknowledging scientific evidence as such doesn’t help our cause.
No theory is exactly right, but maybe none of them are entirely wrong either. And isn’t that really the beauty of the Bible, generally, and Genesis, particularly. Do these ideas have to be exclusive of the others? Certainly not. The array of plausible ideas is perhaps the best evidence of a God worthy of our praise and His multi-dimensional Word worthy of our study.
I want to thank Liza Cassity at Penguin Group USA for the courtesy copy of The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate.
The Genesis Enigma: Why the Bible is Scientifically Accurate?
Dutton (Penguin Group USA), October 2009
Regular readers are aware of my fascination with Genesis. I am, however, usually turned off by debate disguised as discourse about the “accuracy” of Genesis. The sides are typically well-defined, immovable, and predictable. Andrew Parker’s take on Genesis 1 is anything but predictable.
I am also skeptical of claims that claim to prove this or that about Genesis. They rarely, if ever, deliver. In The Genesis Enigma, the author makes no such claims. Instead, he takes the creation account of Genesis 1 and compares it with the fossil record with enigmatic results.
In his words:
Here, then, is the Genesis Enigma: The opening page of Genesis is scientifically accurate but was written long before the science was known. How did the writer of this page come to write this creation account? (emphasis is the author’s)
Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself by beginning with Parker’s conclusion. In his introduction, Parker outlines his thesis and makes the following comparison (edited for brevity):
Let there be light
The formation of the sun
Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let dry land appear…
The formation of the seas and separation of the land areas
Let the earth bring forth grass and herb yielding seed…
The beginnings of life, including single-celled photosynthetic organisms
Let there be lights…to divide the day from night
The first eye evolved and visual information used. Lights turned on for animal behavior and evolution (emphasis added)
Let the waters bring forth abundantly moving creatures that hath life…
The Cambrian explosion-evolution’s Big Bang. Exclusively marine life (emphasis added)
God created the great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly…
Large animals evolved in the seas (sharks and squid-like animals), and later conquered the land (emphasis added)
And every winged fowl after his kind…
Animals adapted to the vision of predators, except birds, which didn’t have to because of flight. It is fascinating that sea creatures and birds are singled out because they are the main characters and exceptions in evolutionary history (emphasis added)
Generally speaking, I think creationists, who I’ll call “old earth” for lack of a better term, accept some similar Genesis/evolutionary progression. What is unique about Parker’s assertion, and, in my humble opinion, scientifically revolutionary, is the light switch theory and the parallel between the evolution of the eye and “let there be lights…”
The light switch theory, in short, holds that the evolution of vision is what led to the Cambrian explosion (of aquatic life). Parker suggests, “The very first eye on earth effectively turned on the lights for animal behavior and consequently for further rapid evolution, while providing accurate recognition of night and day.” It’s an interesting correlation which Parker attempts to make. In fact, I would suggest his whole thesis depends on it.
Using these heretofore unmade correlations, Parker determines,
In essence, when the Biblical text is taken literally, it is left in the wake of advancing science. But when it is read figuratively, it not only keep pace with the hottest science, it precedes or heralds it.
The remainder of The Genesis Enigma tracks the creation account in Genesis 1 and the correlating fossil and evolutionary record. He concludes:
We have passed from the first stage in the creation account on the Bible’s opening page to the sixth, and found it all remarkably accurate, as if the modern scientific story of the universe and life were being narrated. I don’t know the odds against such a parallel-against making a successful guess at the scientific orthodoxy of three thousand years in the future from a knowledge base of nothing-but they must be extraordinarily long. As I first looked through this sequence of Genesis, I did not think that we could possibly reach the end of an impartial history of the universe and life without finding more than a few obstacles. I thought Genesis would fall at the first hurdle or two. I’m amazed that we have made it to the end unscathed.
It should be obvious, but if not I’ll mention that Andrew Parker, Ph.D., is a scientist, a research fellow at Oxford and a researcher at the Natural History Museum in London. And as expected, the young-earth creationists/ID camp don’t buy it, but neither do the other guys (I read one reviewer who actually called this intellectual suicide, yikes!).
Honestly, I don’t understand the nature of the criticism. In the legal community, some judges hold to the theory that if both sides are upset, the ruling must have been fair. Such wisdom has limited application, of course, but this may be an applicable circumstance: since both opposing camps are critical of the book, perhaps the conclusions reached are fair. There’s no way to know if they are entirely accurate, but perhaps they are fair.
For example, Parker does not adopt or espouse a Judeo-Christian perspective, but he does conclude:
If my inference is right, then the writer of Genesis 1, or rather the announcer of the story-Moses-surely must have received divine intervention. That is to say, he must have been spoken to by God. I would argue that the Genesis Enigma, under this line of reasoning, becomes evidence for God.
Parker is cautious, however, in his approach and confesses that his conclusions took him by surprise. He also confesses:
But I must admit, rather nervously as a scientist averse to entertaining such an idea, that the evidence that the writer of the opening page of the Bible was divinely inspired is strong. I have never before encountered such powerful, impartial evidence to suggest that the Bible is the product of divine inspiration. The Genesis Enigma may provide us with support for this proposition on a whole new level.
This is not exactly a ringing endorsement of the Christian perspective, but it does cross invisible scientific barriers in an attempt to bridge the (perceived) gap between science and religion.
Parker succinctly characterizes the issue he presents:
The possible explanations for this parallel between the Bible and modern science are clear-cut: Either the writer of the creation account of Genesis 1 was directed by divine intervention, or he made a lucky guess.
One thing I must give Parker immense credit for is bringing something new (the light-switch theory vis-a-vis Genesis 1) to the table. I doubt Parker will change any minds that are firmly entrenched in one camp or the other, but he deserves additional credit for extending this olive branch to the competing sides, who have yet to realize there is no reason to compete.
The Genesis Enigma is certainly interesting, it is entertaining, and thought provoking. If you are at all interested in science/religion-related issues , I encourage you to read this book. If you are prone to offense when traditional interpretations of scripture are questioned, perhaps you shouldn’t.