“Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” — An Interaction, Part 4

Evolutionary Creation — Chapter 4 — The Ancient Science in the Bible

The fourth chapter of Evolutionary Creation, “The Ancient Science in the Bible,” is without a doubt the most illuminating chapter in Lamoureux’s book. It is this chapter, in fact, that has forced me to abandon John Walton’s position that Genesis 1 was not about the creation of material things. In a previous post, I wrote, “Walton argues that, in [Genesis 1], God is establishing function and purpose. . . . God is establishing order in the universe. Genesis 1:2 states the cosmos was ‘formless and empty,’ that is, not lacking material structure, but rather order and purpose.” As much as I appreciate Walton’s outstanding scholarship, I no longer believe this to be an accurate statement.

Just over a year ago, at the Ancient Hebrew Poetry blog, John Hobbins observed that “Walton’s arguments are receiving a lot of attention, perhaps especially from those who espouse evolutionary creationism (Mike Beidler, for example).” Apparently, Hobbins is concerned about this because he believes that not only does Genesis 1 describe the assignment of functions to things, but that it also concerns the material creation of things. In the aforementioned post’s comments, Professor of Hebrew Studies and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Alan Lenzi also took me to task for “taking Walton’s view as the typical ANE scholar’s view. And that’s simply not the case. Interesting, I thought. I’ll have to check into this a little bit more. It didn’t take long to begin seriously reconsidering my stance on this, and chapter 4 of Evolutionary Creation has (in lieu of Walton’s forthcoming monograph on Genesis 1, which was announced in his response to Hobbins) put me solidly in the camp of Hobbins and Lenzi.

Considering all of the other non-Genesis 1 references to “ancient science” throughout the Scriptures that Lamoureux presents, it also makes sense to interpret Genesis 1 this fashion. Did the ancients not really consider, as Walton suggests, how the material world came into existence? My suspicion is that Walton, despite the evidence, is forced to interpret Genesis 1 as a “non-material” creation account (albeit wrapped up in a genre that mimics ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian temple dedication texts; see this post) because his commitment to a certain brand of biblical inerrancy requires him to do so. In essence, Walton’s brand of inerrancy posits that, even in matters of science, the Bible is without error. (Walton also seeks to anchor the events and personalities of Genesis 2-11 solidly in history.) By reinterpreting Genesis 1 in such a fashion that it does not touch on the creation of material things, he bypasses the “more correct” and “more natural” interpretation for one that is in more harmony with his hermeneutic.

So what was this evidence that made me shift camps from Walton to Hobbins/Lenzi? The first line of evidence was the voluminous amount of biblical references to a 3-tiered universe. Of course, this fact is nothing new to Walton. In fact, he agrees wholeheartedly that Genesis 1’s cosmology contains the three tiers of heaven, earth, and the underworld. But Walton wants to have his cake and eat it too. Because this cosmology doesn’t comport with physical reality (which Walton will readily agree), he believes Genesis 1 cannot possibly be speaking of material creation. However, this ancient cosmology isn’t just restricted to Genesis 1; it extends into the New Testament as well (e.g., Phil 2:10), and it is much more pervasive than Walton either lets on or recognizes. Thus, Walton’s hermeneutic appears to stop at Genesis 2 and fails to work beyond this point.

The Evidence of the Bible’s Ancient Science

Many Christians would claim that descriptions of a 3-tiered universe fall into the category of “phenomenological language,” that is, language that describes appearance from a certain, fixed perspective rather than reality—for example, sunset and sunrise. It is true that we use terms like sunset and sunrise as phenomenological descriptions of the earth’s rotation on its axis, but that is only because our interpretation of Scripture is informed by the fact (taught to us in school and proven with every launch of a satellite or manned space mission) that we do not live in a geocentric universe. Prior to heliocentrism becoming mainstream, a vast majority of ancients took this so-called phenomenological language as scientific descriptions of reality. If this is so, then the Bible is, in fact, scientifically inaccurate. However, this does not bother Lamoureux one bit:

Passages in the Bible referring to the physical world feature both a Message of Faith and an incidental ancient science. According to this interpretive principle, biblical inerrancy and infallibility rest in the Divine Theology, and not in statements referring to nature. Qualifying ancient science as ‘incidental’ does not imply that it is unimportant. The science in Scripture is vital for transporting spiritual truths. It acts as a vessel similar to a cup that delivers “living waters” (John 4:10). However, the word “incidental carries meanings of that which happens to be alongsideand happening in connection with something more important. In other words, the ancient science in Scripture is alongside the more important Message of Faith. (p. 110; emphasis in original)

Lamoureux then proceeds to discuss numerous examples of “ancient geology” that bears absolutely no resemblance to physical reality:

  • The earth is immovable (1 Chr 16:30; Ps 93:1; Ps 96:10)
  • The earth is set on foundations (Job 38:4-6; Ps 75:3; Ps 104:5)
  • The earth is surrounded by water (Gen 1:2; Job 26:10; Ps 24:2; Prov 8:27)
  • The earth is circular, not spherical (Ps 19:4; Ps 104:2; Is 40:22)
  • The earth has ends, or edges (Isa 41:8-9; Dan 4:12; Matt 12:42)
  • The earth has an underside and an underworld (Num 16:31-33; Prov 5:5; Isa 14:15; Matt 11:23; Luke 10:15; Eph 4:9-10; Phil 2:10; Rev 5:13; Rev 20:14)
  • The earth is flat (Dan 4:11; Matt 4:8)

Of course, these descriptions are not unique to the Bible; they are, in fact, similar if not identical to descriptions of the cosmos in other ANE cultures as depicted, for example, in ancient Babylonian maps.
Lamoureux next tackles “ancient astronomy,” in Walton-like fashion, discussing the likes of the daily movement of the sun, the firmament (the apparently firm, blue dome that covers the earth), the waters above the the firmament, the foundations and ends of heaven (including its various levels), and the placement of the sun, moon, and stars in the firmament itself. Like Walton, Lamoureux appeals to the original languages to bolster his arguments quite convincingly. (An eschatological futurist, Lamoureux has some interesting views on how he believes eschatological events might play out in the physical realm, but it is enough to say that Lamoureux believes that “divine judgmental action is filtered through ancient astronomical categories.” I’ll tackle this in a post later down the road.)

And if the Bible’s geology and astronomy weren’t ancient enough, Lamoureux adds “ancient biology” to the mix, proving that the Bible possesses ancient conceptions of taxonomy, botany, human reproduction, and the causes behind suffering, physical/mental disabilities, and disease:

  • Bats categorized as birds (Lev 11:13-19)
  • Cud-chewing rabbits (Lev 11:5-6)
  • Mustard seeds declared (indirectly) smaller than orchid seeds (Mark 4:30-32)
  • Spontaneous generation (Gen 1:11, 20, 24; Mark 4:26-29)
  • The “one-seed” theory (Heb 7:9-10) of human reproduction, which blames the woman for being barren (Gen 11:30; Gen 25:21; Gen 29:31; Gen 30:22-23; Luke 1:7, 36; Heb 11:11).
  • (Lamoureux takes an interesting view on the causes of various physical and/or mental maladies, to wit, that some of these illnesses attributed to demons actually have a natural, non-demonic cause. I’m not quite prepared to comment on this view.)

Conclusion

If the examples of ancient science in Scripture were relegated to only a few instances, one might be able to successfully argue against Lamoureux (and Walton, to a certain extent). However, it is clear to me that, in matters of science, the Bible does not concord with physical reality in a great number of cases. What are we to do with this fact? Lamoureux suggests that

it is necessary for modern readers of God’s Word to separate the Message of Faith from the incidental ancient science, and not to conflate these together. According to the Message-Incident Principle, inerrancy and infallibility rest in the spiritual truths of Scripture instead of its views on the structure and operation of the physical world. (pp. 146-147; emphasis in original)

I’d say this is an excellent place to start for the Christian struggling to reconcile the Bible with science. It is certainly counterintuitive at first to recognize and respect the incidental ancient science, but with practice it becomes natural to separate the “wheat” (theological truth) from the “chaff” (ancient science). It may also help to begin thinking of the Bible as somewhat incarnational, that is, both human and divine, much like (although not identical to) Jesus Christ. Is it really so hard to conceive of the Bible’s purpose as the transportation of divine truth in a fallible vessel? Wasn’t this also the case with the incarnation of the second person of the Triune God, Jesus Christ, who brought ultimate truth via the humiliating experience of becoming a physically fallible human being possessing an intellectually-limited human mind?

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

15 Responses to “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” — An Interaction, Part 4

  1. Good post Mike. It’s funny that I’ve never seen a conflict between Walton’s and Lamoureux’s positions on Genesis. I’m curious if they themselves percieve eachother to be “rivals” in that sense.

    Perhaps I have a bias that assumes concordism between the two, but I’ve always understood DL as saying “the bible only contains ancient science (whether structure, function, or formational history).” — and I’ve always understood JW as saying “Genesis focuses primarily on the act of God organizing the primordial chaos into functions, AND THEREFORE DOES NOT INTRODUCE ANY NEW COSMIC STRUCTURES that were not already known at the time.”

    So while Genesis obviously address cosmic structure such as the firmament, the waters, etc… (does Walton really say that it doesn’t?), it’s focus is clearly on the establishment of function since it only recycles the existing structures and creates nothing new.

  2. Walton’s brand of inerrancy posits that, even in matters of science, the Bible is without errorI had the same question Gordon has. I do agree that Walton seems to be perhaps unduly driven to defend Genesis from charge of error, but as you mention in the post, he articulately describes the shortcoming of the ANE cosmology, biology, etc. seen in Scripture, so if the quote above were fully accurate, I’d be highly surprised.

    As I understand it, Walton’s position is that God doesn’t seek to reveal something in Scripture and fall flat on His face in doing so. If there’s bad science, it could only be because that wasn’t the subject of the revelation. The inaccurate old world science we find in Scripture was only a vehicle for revelation of inerrant truths (such as, chiefly, God’s authorship and command of Creation).

    Mayhaps I’m reading him incorrectly, and I don’t deny that Walton has a more traditional view of inerrancy than you, Lamoureux, and I. But ANE scholarship doesn’t really seem to disagree with Walton that the ANE saw function more as a consequence of purpose rather than of structure. Inasmuch as the Genesis account of creation addresses the formation of physical structures of the cosmos, it was perhaps unavoidable given their necessity as functionaries. Walton’s seminal point, I think, remains. But again, maybe I’m misreading you or him on this.

  3. Gordon & Steve,

    I would really encourage you guys to read John Hobbins' post “Does Genesis 1 describe the creation of things or the assignment of functions to things? A Response to John Walton.” “The obvious answer,” Hobbins writes, “is both. John Walton, however, argues that Genesis 1 is concerned only with the assignment of functions to things. He suggests that the Hebrew verb ברא, translated in the past as ‘create,’ with the object of the thing created following, means instead to ‘establish a function, assign a role,’ with the object of the thing whose function and role have been established following.”

    Although Walton is right on the money regarding the importance of assigning purpose and function, he overemphasizes this feature at the expense of the meaning of the word “create.” Of course, Walton, in his response to Hobbins asked, “So, why can’t Genesis 1 be both functional and material? Of course it CAN be both, but each one would have to be demonstrated, not assumed.” Okay, fine. But notice what Walton writes a little later on: “Day 2 has a potentially material component, but nobody believes that a solid dome actually exists.” Walton betrays his bias here. The ancients DID believe that a solid dome actually existed! I may be misreading Walton here, but it seems to me he doesn’t want the Hebrews to be wrong about this and thus ignores the full import of what ברא means.

    Walton also responds that “he likened Genesis 1 to a cosmic temple dedication account. What would the creation of a temple be? The material phase would only be staging. Even when the material phase was entirely complete, it would still not be a temple. The temple is created in the dedication ceremony when it is made functional.” I see a false dichotomy being posed here: either Genesis 1 is speaking of material creative acts or it’s speaking of assigning function. It’s both. I agree with Walton that the description of the creation is not literal and presented as a temple dedication text, but the subject of the text is the creation of literal objects. That is to say, the ancients likely did not believe the cosmos to have been created in such a literal fashion, but it did concern the creation of said structures.

    I will, of course, purchase Walton’s Eisenbrauns-published monograph when it becomes available and I don’t intend to be dogmatic about this. It’s just that when I read Walton after reading Lamoureux, the tensions underlying the text of Walton’s Genesis commentary are all the more apparent.

  4. So I read as much as Amazon would allow me of Walton’s new book, and the point of chapter 1 (Genesis Contains Ancient Cosmology) seems to be that Genesis only contains ancient science. Of course, the title of chapter 2 is “Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented” – which I think is true as long as you don’t take that to mean “function only”. However, if Walton does go on to say that structure was totally 100% inconsequential, then that would indeed seem to be overstating the case. But I would be surprised if Walton did that.

    If Walton really did say that “nobody really believed that a solid dome existed” I can sort of see his point. In fact, I argued a similar thing in BTF. Think about it like this: supposedly, the sky was a solid dome – specifically, like a steel bowl that has been hammered out (indeed the word firmament means to spread or hammer out). And supposedly there were waters atop this structure that explain why the sky, from earth, looks like the ocean does from a cruising altitude of 30,000 ft. The waters atop the dome were thought to explain the source of percipitation and the appearence of the sky as a distant ocean. And openings in the solid dome provided passage of the heavenly bodies in and out of the sky each morning/evening.

    A modern person would immediately cry foul because how the heck could you see the upper waters if they were blocked by a sold metal structure? Or how did the openings at the horizon work if there were actually waters on the other side? As rediculous as this sounds to us, I don’t believe, and I would assume that neither does Walton, that this obvious material violation would have raised any red flags in the ancient Near-Eastern mind. And why not? Because structure took a back set to function.

    Remember, for the Mesopotamian, the land was literally the lower half of Tiamat’s carcus, and the sky was the other half. For the Egyptian, the land was Geb and the sky was Nut, and the air was Shu, holding up the sky. Did they really believe, in a material sense, that the very land that they walked upon was the re-fasioned body of a deceased god? Did the Egyptians really think that the air was structually the god Shu? Or did the Mesopotamians really think that the Tigris and Euphrates flowed from the eye-sockets of Timat’s skull?

    Perhaps they did, but I still don’t think its wrong to say that material structure took a back seat to functional issues. That’s all I’ve ever understood Walton’s position on Genesis 1 to be.

    Perhaps when I get around to reading Hobbins’ post in its entirety, his complaint will become more clear. But this is probably nothing more than an in-house turf war over who will emerge as the authoritative voice on Ancient Near-Eastern interpretations of Genesis than it is about anything truly substantive (understanding, of course, that “everything” is substantive when it falls into your field of academic expertise :)).

  5. John H. Walton

    I am not really sure what the fuss is about here. DL and I have had discussions at length and there is not much about the ANE that we disagree on.

    As to whether my view of Scripture is more conservative than another person’s, it may well be but I don’t know what that has to do with anything. It is always my intention to try to read the text the way that the ancient author and audience would have read it. I think that is what we are all interested in whatever faith aspects we bring to what it says.

    This is why I do not believe that there is any new science being revealed in the text–because we do not FIND any new science in the text. I don’t differentiate Genesis 1-2 from anything else on that count.

    When I said that nobody believes that a solid dome actually exists, I was talking about in modern times. Of course some people believed that in ancient times and through much of history.

    I am generally pretty consistent about saying that in the ancient world they were much more interested in the functional aspects as over the material aspects. This does not mean that they had no awareness of the material. Of course they refer to material aspects of cosmic geography (seas, raqia, etc.) but the question that I address is whether Gen 1 is intended to be an ACCOUNT of material origins, and my conclusion is that it is not. Instead, as an account of functional origins, it is very much like the ANE creation accounts.

    Much of this will hopefully be clarified in my IVP book, Lost World of Genesis One due out June 12, though the Eisenbrauns book will have more detail (still hoping for the fall, but I haven’t gotten edited manuscript back yet).

    Please don’t read the post on Hobbins blog as representing the full and authoritative statement of my position. It was written off the top of my head to try to answer a couple of questions that were floating around (as this one is), not to build the entire case and explain everything. The full treatment of my position is presented in my publications, not on any blog.

    I was particularly concerned with Lenzi’s comments which I believed misrepresented my position and misunderstood what I was doing in my book on Ancient Near Eastern Thought.

    I hope this clarifies a few things. Perhaps in a few weeks my book will clarify a few more.

    John H. Walton

  6. John H. Walton

    Just to clarify, neither Denis Lamoureux nor I would be content with leaving the impression that we are in wide agreement across the board. But on understanding of the ancient world and the ancient Near Eastern literature, I am not aware of significant differences

  7. Gordon,

    Thanks for the head’s up on Amazon’s “sneak preview” of Walton’s new book. I, too, read as much as Amazon allowed and, from what I read, my criticisms of Walton’s views appear to be legitimate, although not necessarily correct. 😉

    the title of chapter 2 is “Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented” – which I think is true as long as you don’t take that to mean “function only”. However, if Walton does go on to say that structure was totally 100% inconsequential, then that would indeed seem to be overstating the case. But I would be surprised if Walton did that.In Walton’s new book, he writes, “The view offered of Genesis 1 recognizes that it was never intended to be an account of material origins. … if the Bible does not offer an account [emphasis in original] of material origins we are free to consider contemporary explanations of origins on their own merits, as long as God is seen as ultimately responsible” (p. 133).

    Note two things that Walton says (and implies) here: (1) Genesis is NOT an account of material origins, and (2) because it is not, we are free to consider evolution as a means of God’s creative activity. Thus, it is not logical to assume that, according to Walton, if Genesis IS an account of material origins, then we are NOT free to consider evolution as God’s creative process?

    If we admit that Genesis 1 actually describes the Hebrews’ conception of how the cosmos came into being (parallels to temple dedication texts notwithstanding!), this does nothing to the authority of Scripture, for there are plenty of other instances in the Old and New testaments in which ancient science rears its head. If Walton doesn’t mind that Jesus declared the mustard seed the smallest seed in the world (ignoring the much smaller orchid seed), then it shouldn’t matter to him that Genesis 1 reflects ancient scientific categories. Again, if these other instances of ancient science do nothing to diminish the Bible’s authority in our eyes, why should an admission of Genesis 1 as a material creation account make a bit of difference to us? It shoudn’t. Now, it is entirely possible that Walton’s view of the authority of Scripture hasn’t driven his understanding of Genesis 1 and that his “function/purpose trumps structure” thesis is what he has come to understand independently of his faith, but it sure seems that way.

    On a related note, is it Walton’s intention to completely rid ANE scholarship of the “creation myth” genre? Does he wish to see the Enuma Elish be labeled a “function myth” or “purpose myth”?

    … obvious material violation would have raised any red flags in the ancient Near-Eastern mind. And why not? Because structure took a back seat to function.Granted, function and purpose may be the primary concern of Genesis 1, but just because structure takes a “back seat” doesn’t mean that structure still isn’t in the car. Function and purpose underscores the material.

    Remember, for the Mesopotamian, the land was literally the lower half of Tiamat’s carcass, and the sky was the other half. For the Egyptian, the land was Geb and the sky was Nut, and the air was Shu, holding up the sky. Did they really believe, in a material sense, that the very land that they walked upon was the re-fashioned body of a deceased god? Did the Egyptians really think that the air was structurally the god Shu? Or did the Mesopotamians really think that the Tigris and Euphrates flowed from the eye-sockets of Tiamat’s skull?That’s my point. I agree that the ancients didn’t believe, in a material sense, that the land was a dead god’s corpse, but metaphysically it was. (Echoes of transubstantiation, anyone?) Regardless of the metaphysical overtones of ANE creation myths that focused on purpose and function, there is still the material element that is sadly overlooked.

  8. (continued)

    this is probably nothing more than an in-house turf war over who will emerge as the authoritative voice on Ancient Near-Eastern interpretations of Genesis than it is about anything truly substantiveVery possible, but I still see that there is a fundamental difference between Lamoureux’s view of ANE and Walton’s view of ANE.

  9. Dr. Walton,

    I am honored and thrilled to have you interact with me here! Regardless of my critiques of your views, I hold you and your work in very high esteem. This blog exists as a direct result of discovering and reading your commentary on Genesis several years ago. It opened up an entirely new world to me and I am eternally grateful. In fact, your books (along with Gordon Glover’s book) are the first things I recommend to those who are struggling with understanding the place of Genesis 1 in their journey to reconcile their faith with science. I am looking forward to reading The Lost World of Genesis One as well as your Eisenbrauns monograph of Genesis 1. Consider both purchased. =)

    I am not really sure what the fuss is about here. DL and I have had discussions at length and there is not much about the ANE that we disagree on.All due respect, Dr. Walton, I would beg to differ. The material vs. function/purpose debate is a significant disagreement. You even declare as much on p. 133 of your new book, where you write, “The view offered of Genesis 1 recognizes that it was never intended to be an account of material origins. … if the Bible does not offer an account [emphasis in original] of material origins we are free to consider contemporary explanations of origins on their own merits, as long as God is seen as ultimately responsible.” Lamoureux goes beyond your thesis that Genesis 1 speaks only to function and purpose and posits that material creation is ALSO discussed here.

    It is always my intention to try to read the text the way that the ancient author and audience would have read it.I certainly don’t intend to besmirch your academic reputation, Dr. Walton, but I think we can agree that, as fallen human beings, it is extremely difficult to rid ourselves of all bias. This includes me, to be sure. If I may ask, how would your view of the authority of Scripture change if your research strongly suggested a primarily material component to Genesis 1? Is it at all possible that pressures from Wheaton could be wielding influence, possibly unconsciously, on the results of your research? How free are you to explore things? If you were to accept theistic evolution as your cosmology of choice, would your job be at risk?

    To be fair, from reading the preview of your new book, your views on the historicity of Adam and Eve do appear to have “evolved” somewhat. Even before I became an evolutionist, I noticed a considerable amount of tension in your Genesis commentary. While you unwrapped the mythical underpinnings of Adam & Eve and the Garden of Eden, you still attempted to anchor the events of the narrative in history. Now, a number of years later, you opine that the NT authors “regularly treat Adam and Eve in archetypal [rather than prototypal] terms” (p. 71), instead of necessarily historical personalities. This is a significant shift. But how sure are you that the NT authors are treating them as archetypal? What if Jesus and Paul actually believed Adam and Eve to be real historical personalities? Does that affect the truthfulness (and authority) of Scripture in your eyes?

  10. (continued)

    This is why I do not believe that there is any new science being revealed in the text–because we do not FIND any new science in the text. I don’t differentiate Genesis 1-2 from anything else on that count.I don’t quite follow you on this point. What do you mean by “new science”?

    When I said that nobody believes that a solid dome actually exists, I was talking about in modern times.My humble apologies for misunderstanding what you wrote.

    the question that I address is whether Gen 1 is intended to be an ACCOUNT of material origins, and my conclusion is that it is not. Instead, as an account of functional origins, it is very much like the ANE creation accounts.Are there any other ANE scholars who are of one mind with you on this?

    Please don’t read the post on Hobbins blog as representing the full and authoritative statement of my position.Understood.

    Again, thanks for posting your response on my blog. Feel free to return anytime.

  11. Tom

    Mike,

    Off-topic to the rest of this post, but on the subject of Ch 4, I wonder: If God’s message in using ANE principles was to establish himself as Creator and sustainer, how does that fit into today’s science? By that, I mean, the “science” of ancient times were beliefs built on untested, non-empirical methods. Lamoureux says that God used this incidental vessel to deliver his Message of Faith. In effect, the acceptance of supernatural beliefs was an opportune time for God to reveal that he was the supreme supernatural force. (Or that monotheism was the obvious ultimate stance for believers in supernatural forces).

    On page 110, Lamoureux says, “[I]nstead of confusing or distracting the biblical writers and their readers with (our) modern scientific concepts, God descended to their level and employed the science-of-the-day.”

    Okay. That might have been fine for the ancients, but why does God leave in place the writings and science of ANE history? Why doesn’t he descend to our level today and explain things in modern scientific terms and prevent Christians from splintering and arguing with scientists who are meticulous about discovering truth? What a wonderful vessel science would have been — that we should dream and speculate, develop methods to test our ideas, develop ethical protocols, that we would have accountability, and develop a moral system to demand and deliver truth.

    In human history, 5000 years from Abraham to the empirical method (perhaps less 1000 years if the church hadn’t introduced the dark ages), is not a long time. Yet, God chose to deliver his message to the ANEs. Why then? Why not the Chinese or the Americans, or some other population of the time if it had to be then?

    What was so special about this vessel — these sheepherders around Egypt around 3000 BC — that God chose to use it/them? How do you think it affected and still affects the theology that has evolved?

    (You can reply in different posts, if you like).

  12. Hi Tom,

    Lots of good questions. In one you ask: "If God's message in using ANE principles was to establish himself as Creator and sustainer, how does that fit into today's science?"

    I think what we have to do is separate the Message of Faith (God creator & sustainer) from its incidental ancient scientific vessel, and then apply it to whatever is scientifically true. Thus, we can see God as the creator and sustainer of the evolutionary process. And if evolutionary theory crashes, well bring on the next scientific theory of origins, and use it as a vessel to carry these eternal and inerrant theological truths.

    Best,
    Denis

  13. Tom,

    If God's message in using ANE principles was to establish himself as Creator and sustainer, how does that fit into today's science? … why does God leave in place the writings and science of ANE history? Why doesn't he descend to our level today and explain things in modern scientific terms and prevent Christians from splintering and arguing with scientists who are meticulous about discovering truth?

    I honestly don't have an answer to that question, Tom. It's one that I haven't yet given much thought, although it is on the backburner of my mind.

    I will say this: if God were to accommodate to our current level of scientific knowledge, in another century (if not sooner) He would have to repeat His accommodating acts. But I don't think that's necessary. For millennia, thoughtful theologians have been able to (as Denis puts it) single out the Bible's Message of Faith and find contemporary application. This, I believe, is the more important task at hand, and one for which our intellect is well-suited, regardless of the "science of the day." (Granted, there are times when the Message of Faith is obscured by the Incidental Vessel, but I think that this happens less often than we realize.)

    What a wonderful vessel science would have been — that we should dream and speculate, develop methods to test our ideas, develop ethical protocols, that we would have accountability, and develop a moral system to demand and deliver truth.

    What's not to say we can't do this, or that we aren't doing this currently?

    In human history, 5000 years from Abraham to the empirical method (perhaps less 1000 years if the church hadn't introduced the dark ages), is not a long time. Yet, God chose to deliver his message to the ANEs. Why then? Why not the Chinese or the Americans, or some other population of the time if it had to be then?

    I would venture to say that it was a result of divine timing. In which area and era would the delivered message impact the most people in the shortest amount of time?

    What was so special about this vessel — these sheepherders around Egypt around 3000 BC — that God chose to use it/them? How do you think it affected and still affects the theology that has evolved?

    Wow. Give me some time on that last question. 😉

    Great questions, all, Tom! Keep thinking along those lines and keep us theist types on our toes!

  14. At the end what it is left are theories, but the interesting thing is the genesis of the bible, it said about the beings that were before and after the flood, I think those beings are the answer to our existence.

  15. Pingback: Seeing Evolution Through New Covenant Eyes | Rethinking the αlpha and Ωmega

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *