Monday, July 12, 2010

Origins

There is, perhaps, no more hotly debated biblical text than Genesis 1. Within the Church, Christians interpret this chapter in at least four ways: 6-day literalism, day-age theory, the gap theory, and literary framework. (For a good look at the strengths and weaknesses of these four views, check out this session {with handouts} from our e4 course.) Evolutionary atheists outside of the church use this text more than any other to attack the authority and veracity of the Scriptures. It is a morass of passion, propaganda, and poor exegesis. Can we possibly hope to find clarity within and direction out of the swirling chaos of the creation v. evolution cultural war?

I just finished reading John Walton’s excellent book, The Lost World of Genesis One. (Review coming on Friday) I highly recommend that you read this book because in it, I believe, Walton points the way out of this mess. I’ll be blogging on this book for the rest of the week, and I’ll start with Walton’s most important point.

When you read Genesis 1, what do you think is going on? Is it the story of God creating the material universe out of nothing in a meager six days? How do you suppose that the people of ancient Near Eastern cultures, including ancient Israel, understood their own creation myths? What was of greatest significance to them?

Since the Enlightenment, material origins has been of greatest significance to the Western mind. When we think of creation, we think of how something came to have the physical properties it now has. Take the coffee table on which my feet are currently propped, for example. What materials is it made of? (Wood and wicker.) How was it constructed? (Probably in a factory somewhere.) These are the questions of origin that we ask.

Believe it or not, these are not the questions of origin that the ancients asked. They were not concerned with material origins. Instead, they gave significance to functional origins. That is, they didn’t necessarily care how the coffee table was built, but rather how it came to function as a coffee table within the closed system of my living room. In other words, the coffee table did not exist until I bought it, placed it in my living room, and then put my feet up on it. It served no purpose in the showroom (and therefore had no significance and no existence), but in my living room it has a great purpose and functions within the closed system of my living room d├ęcor.

When we extrapolate this out to the cosmos, we find that the ancients didn’t write mythologies and hymns about the material creation of the earth, but rather of how the earth (and humanity along with the rest of creation) came to function for the purposes of the gods. In this way, Genesis 1 is no different from the creation myths of Egypt, Babylon, or any other ancient Near Eastern culture. Genesis 1 is a hymn about the functional origins, and not the material origins, of the cosmos.

This may be difficult to understand, which is why you should read Walton’s book. I’m only summarizing here. But I’m looking forward to exploring these themes and their implications more this week.

1 comment:

Herman Cummings said...

For seventeen years, the truth of Genesis has been known to mankind, yet those who claim to believe the Bible still support the lies of evolution. How? By refusing to allow the people to hear the truth. They instead teach such false doctrines as Genesis “being allegorical”, or a “book of faith”. Withholding the literal truth of God’s Word is the same as telling the people a lie. “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all there in them is, and rested on the seventh day:” is the literal gospel truth.

The current doctrines of Creationism either deny scientific reality, or deny the literal truth of scripture, compromising with secular science. Young Earth creationism makes Genesis seem like a myth, saying the dinosaurs and mammoths died in the flood of Noah. But Noah’s Flood was in 2611 BC. The dinosaurs all died 65 million years ago, and the mammoths died out during the Ice Age of 10,000 years ago. When our children are taught such foolishness in church, and they find out differently in school, no wonder we lose youth attendance. They are not being taught biblical realty.

In an attempt to compensate, many of the clergy try to compromise and say that God used evolution, or the text in Genesis is just allegorical, and is not to be taken literally. Do you want to tell God that His Word is not to be taken literally, and can’t be trusted? That is being a hypocrite at best, or an infidel at worst. Old Earth creationism teaches that there was either theistic evolution, age long days, or gaps between the days in Genesis chapter one. This is because the truth of Genesis has been stranded outside the church and seminaries, knocking at the door, but not allowed to come in. Why? Because the world of theology doesn’t understand the text, is too stubborn to admit it, and fails to learn the correct rendition of scripture. All this confusion is unnecessary.

The correct opposing view to evolution is the “Observations of Moses”, not creationism. It explains the first chapter of Genesis, conveying its proper interpretation, which aligns with the discoveries of science. Questions are answered such as “where did the water come from”, “why does the evening come before the morning”, “was mankind first or the animals”, “where are the dinosaurs in Genesis”, and also “why do new species suddenly appear in the fossil record at different ages in geologic history”? These and other questions are answered in the presentation, using correct literal interpretation of scripture, without compromise.

Even the Sanhedrin in Israel was stunned. They had considered Genesis to be allegorical, and didn’t know “how to act” when the truth was revealed to them. The first reaction to it was the use of the word “WOW”. But unfortunately, after they calmed down, they felt it was more important to protect the false teachings of earlier patriarchic rabbis, than to now embrace the literal truth. However they at least acknowledged that they couldn’t find any scriptural error, and that literal interpretation of scripture was presented, but just not as they taught possible.

Yes, the controversy will end, when stubborn creationists wake up the truth of Genesis, and stop trying to propagate false and foolish doctrines. It will end when pastors, priests, and rabbis will allow it to be shown to their congregations and communities, and stop hiding the truth from the public.

Herman Cummings
Ephraim7@aol.com