This post is the first guest post in my series on the “Life Dialogue” within Christianity. See other posts in the series here.
This post was written by my dear friend, Matt Moss, who has just returned from studies in England. Here we go:
JW has asked me to write this guest post for a long time now and I have delayed and delayed due to school and general business. So now I begin what he has asked me to do: present an explanation of creation as it is presented in Genesis 1. One reason this post was delayed was because I came across a book by John Walton entitled “The Lost World of Genesis 1,” which tackled Genesis 1 in a similar way in which I had hoped to. I decided to study it before attempting to write my own piece. While I do not agree with every direction he takes, the work is insightful and challenging. In the end it served to be a very formative work in helping me develop what others (professors) were beginning to form in my mind. Namely, that the cosmology of Genesis 1 is not intended to address 21st century scientific debates on the origin of species and to make it address such debates is shoddy exegesis and an abuse of Scripture.
Precisely speaking, the cosmology of Genesis 1 is a Temple cosmology, a religious document that tells us so much more than how the material of this world came into existence. As this post will hopefully show, Genesis 1 goes beyond the pithy question of how and when everything came into being. Genesis 1 answers who brought it about and why! The when and the how are not answered which tells us two things. 1) The ancients might have been smart enough to realize that the important questions are ones of metaphysical importance: why are we here? And/or 2) God did not tie salvation to having a 100% perfect scientific cosmology and therefore did not deem it necessary to provide the ancients (or us) with a fail-safe scientific model for how and when He did what He did.
Given our ever-present desire to know all things, this will hardly be greeted with joyful ears, but hopefully by the end of this post you will see that there are much better discoveries in the Genesis 1 than what the scientific harmonizers try to glean from the text.
Thesis 1: The Bible does not tell us everything we want to know.
I hope this one is self-explanatory, thus I will not waste any more space on it.
Thesis 2: The Bible tells us what it does so that we might believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and have life in His name.
For the Christians who read this blog entry, I sincerely hope that this too is unanimously affirmed and needs no more addressing. (Jn 20:30-31)
Thesis 3: Therefore, nothing on which the Bible is silent will negatively or positively affect your salvation.
The implication being- if the Bible is silent on the mechanics of the material creation (as we will explore below) then modern debates over young earth, old earth, design, and all other scientific cosmologies fall into a level of importance far below what the text actually seeks to tell us. Now, I am fully willing to acknowledge that many in the scientific field will take evolution and other aspects of theoretical cosmologies and use them to offer proofs that deny God’s existence. Thus, apologetics serves a valiant purpose in refuting this and affirming the truth that God is creator. However, this post’s main focus is on Genesis 1, which is the chief text wrestled over by all who place themselves under the large umbrella of “creationists.” If Genesis 1 is truly silent on the how and when of creation by God, then Young Earth Creationists should not use Genesis 1 to brow beat Old Earthers into accepting their 21st century model (and vice versa, et al). Let science do its job with integrity, clarity, and truth and let the Bible say what it says. Unduly harmonizing them does injustice to both. 100 years from now science may have developed a cosmology that is 180 degrees different than anything we have today. Think then of how much time would have been wasted force-fitting Genesis 1 into a 21st century cosmology. We would have nothing to show for it but a need to start all over and try and force Genesis 1 into a 22nd century cosmology. I think the better option is to (1) adopt as best we can an ancient Israelite cosmology while we read the text, (2) take out (exegete) what it is truly saying, and (3) learn the lessons that God communicated to His first audience which is what He still desires to tell us.
Part 2- Coming later this week.