Friday, July 20, 2012

Genesis 1: Post #4: God’s Great Plan in Genesis 1

Proposition #11
“Functional Cosmic Temple Offers Face-Value Exegesis”
This proposition itself is fairly self-explanatory, but it carries a good deal of weight: being able to read the text at face-value, hearing it in much the same manner as the original audience would have heard (and the original author would have intended it be heard) allows us to read the text a new and unique light that takes into account various factors. People have tried to read Genesis 1 as a number of things: myth (but it’s told as factual, not mythical), poetry (but the text simply is not near Eastern poetry at all), polemic (but the author’s intent is not notable polemic), theology (but it makes far more than theological points), literary (it belongs in a certain time and place—and must stay there) or other variations on such themes as these. What all of these lack is the fact that the author wrote the text as an Israelite and for Israelites, so it had a unique purpose for the Israelites
Being able to read the text at face value:
1) recognizes Genesis 1 for the ancient document that it is;
2) finds no reason to impose a material ontology onto the text;
3) finds no reason to require the finding of scientific information between the lines;
4) avoids reducing Genesis 1 to merely literary or theological expressions;
5) poses no conflict with scientific thinking to the extent that it recognizes that the text does not offer scientific explanations.

Propsition #12
“Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough”
Here Walton treats a few of the most popular positions on reading Genesis 1 in light of his findings:
Young Earth Creationism (YEC):
This is the view that the earth was created in all its form in consecutive 24-hour days as recorded in Genesis 1. This view, says Walton, holds the distinction of being willing to take the text at (perceived) face-value and stick by that straightforward interpretation, no matter how much ridicule you may face for doing so, and he has deep respect for those who are able to stick by their Christian guns. His critique is that, while they have a correct reading for yom, which is a 24-hour day, their reading of bara has been to narrow and as a result, they still subscribe to a material understanding, thereby having the wrong face-value reading.
Old Earth Creationism (OEC):
OEC often reads into the text of Genesis 1 scientific theory fitting behind the scenes and between the lines, and so they understand the 6 days of creation to be 6 undetermined periods of time. As previously mentioned, this view does not at all understand the true meaning of the word yom and it is still wholly a material understanding. It also has a tendency to attempt to read modern science (which as noted is a changing filed with mutable ‘conclusions’) into an ancient text, which is not out of the realm of God’s ability but doesn’t seem to be the point of Genesis 1.
Framework Hypothesis:
This view sees the literary and theological truths expounded in Genesis 1 and concludes that those findings are the purpose, a reading of the text that Walton claims is too narrow, not taking into account the fullness of the text.

Proposition #13
“The Difference Between Origin Accounts in Science and Scripture is Metaphysical in Nature”
Before anyone gets scared off by the word ‘metaphysical,’ let me explain this simply: many people in their understanding of creation have relegated anything knowledgeable to natural causes of the God-designed universe and anything unexplainable to the supernatural work of God. But as we get to know more and more of the way the world works, more and more is attributed to God, until we (theoretically) just need God to set off some Big Bang and then things go merrily on from there. However, this distinction between the natural and supernatural parts is a modern, not a Biblical distinction. In Scripture, we see that the natural and supernatural run together in different layers, even interacting in ways at times, running simultaneously. We can see this in 1 Chronicles 14:15, where David is told by God that when he goes to battle and hears marching in the treetops (of the supernatural forces of God’s army) then he can go to battle for God is with him.
A more correct understanding is that the natural and supernatural form two layers, with the lower layer being the realm of the material, the realm in which we see and understand how the world works—the realm where science operates and can only operate, given its current design. The upper layer is the supernatural layer of the work of God, which covers the whole lower layer, since God is the ultimate cause and the material outworking as we see and understand it is the second cause. Our knowledge of the lower layer in no way decreases God’s work but simply gives us glimpses into how God made it happen.
The really important stuff in this proposition and chapter is the claim that science is unable to study the top layer: science has taken it upon itself to concern itself with the matter of the functions of the material world and the understanding thereof. In their intent to study sequences of causes and what causes what, they are missing something—purpose. Science can tell you what something is made of, how the parts interact, the laws the govern the interaction and making of parts, and even how something can be used, but it cannot tell you what the purpose of something is. The reason for this is that the purpose is not provable. Science demands that something be provable in repeatable, controlled, tests, and the purpose of something, at least the ultimate purpose in the greatest scheme, is not provable. For instance, science can determine the purpose of a part within a cell, a cell with an organ, an organ within an animal, an animal with an ecosystem, an ecosystem within a planet, and can determine the causes which that planet has within its solar system, etc. But it cannot answer why it all exists. It simply is not set up to do that. The why of everything existing—the grand purpose which everything feeds into, no matter where it falls in the sequence of causes and effects, is called teleology, a word meaning the study of the telos, a Greek word for end or goal which has come to mean final and ultimate purpose.
Science cannot prove that there is no telos to the cosmos. It also cannot prove that there is a telos to the cosmos. In this way, science is telos-neutral. However, science has in the past tended to emphasize the one and not the other—they have tended to emphasize that it cannot be proved that there is a telos, so there must not be telos. What science has failed to recognize is that they are unable to prove that there is not a telos to the cosmos.
Why this is important to Genesis 1 is this: Genesis 1 cannot be a viable scientific account of creation because it affirms, without a doubt, that there is a telos to the cosmos. In fact, Walton would contend that, because of the functional nature of the account of Genesis 1, the text is concerned only with the upper level—the level of the telos and how all things fit together into God’s grand plan, and it is not at all concerned with the material mechanisms. In fact, it is the extreme teleology of the Biblical understanding of all created things (that all things were created with a very specific purpose in God’s plan) that bolsters the idea that the account of creation would be far more concerned with how things serve to further that great plan, rather than with how they were made.

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, and all creative material work unless I specify it as my opinion, comes from John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.)

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