Thesis 4– Genesis 1 does not address the specific method that God used in material creation, therefore (given T1-3) no specific answer to the questions of how or when is necessary to salvation.
Walton makes an important distinction between material creation and functional creation. Material creation is what modern debates obsess over. How did the material (the animals and people) get here: did they evolve or were they created or both? When did they come about? A quick reading of Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 shows that good, solid answers to these questions are not given. “In the beginning” is hardly a round number. Even those who attempt to date the earth using the various genealogies of the Bible prove their ignorance of ancient Near Eastern family lists which often “telescope” or skip generations of individuals and focus on the most notable. In other words, no one should think that the genealogy from Adam to Abraham is intended to tell us exactly how old the earth is. That was not the purpose of the genealogy and that is not what the genre allows a modern reader to do either.
Now, as for the “how material was created.” Walton argues very convincingly that Genesis 1 remains silent on this. With our modern biases we immediately object, “how can that be!? It says plainly, ‘and God said let there be light.’” Walton backs up to Gen 1:1 and addresses the Hebrew word bara’ (to create). In our understanding we always attach an ex nihilo understanding onto this word. That alone shows how materially minded we are, we have a very material focused cosmology. Walton first demonstrates that all ancient Near Eastern cosmologies were ‘function’ oriented, not material oriented. This means that the neighbouring creation accounts are concerned with the gods assigning functions to what comes about. How and when was not the question they were asking.
Walton then shows a similar mindset in ancient Israel. Even the word bara’ is a functional word. Walton provides a survey (p. 42) that outlines every use of the verb in the Hebrew Bible. The first thing of note is that God is always the subject. The second thing of note is that it nearly always is used in a functional sense, where God is giving something a specific purpose or function. Let’s look back to that light example. Genesis 1 does not stop with, “And God said let there be light.” No, Genesis 1:3-5 says “‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. 4And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5Godcalled the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (italics mine)”
More than making light is taking place. God is assigning functions to the light and the darkness, he is naming them for their functions! This is seen even more specifically when God creates the Sun and Moon. “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons (A more accurate translation is “festivals”- a temple word), and for days and years, 15and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth. (underlining mine)” How and when is not important. Why are they present? That is the question God chose to answer for the people.
Walton does go through these days in detail and then gives brief critiques of the various models out there. The first thing worthy of note is that yom (Day) does mean day… not age. Walton would argue that this hardly seals the deal for Young Earthers since they are completely fixated on material models of creation. Walton seems to take the side that the seven days of Genesis 1 are the seven days in which God assigned all creation its specific function, indeed without function one might hardly say that they exist at all (he uses the analogy of a company- before it is certified it cannot be said to exist even if it has a building and equipment and workers). Thus, Walton, like Genesis 1, remains mute on the hows and whens of material origins before the days when God assigns the functions and Walton sticks with what Genesis 1 does give us, which is the next thesis [coming next week in part 3].