Going into John H. Walton’s ‘The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate,’ I knew little more about the book than what the publisher’s summary on Audible told me. Recently recommended to me by someone who had not read the book either, I thought the book had been billed by Ken Ham and the Answers in Genesis crowd as a must-read.
As it turns out, Ken Ham has recommended everyone read the book – but not for the reasons one might reasonably assume on the front end.
It was only after some remarks by Walton raised my eyebrow that I double-checked what a search of AIG’s website for the author’s name might yield. And as a brief aside, this is a comfort to me personally since I know now that I was paying attention rather than letting anyone do my thinking for me uncritically.
A Creative Escape
What struck me was where Walton – professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois, alma mater of luminaries like Billy Graham, Mark Noll, Jim Elliot, and Wes Craven – quipped at a certain point that he is saddened by the plight of college students who are raised on a literal interpretation of the origin story in Genesis when they start taking science classes in college.
Seeking to relieve the burden and resolve the conflict, Walton has devised a creative solution to the thorny problem of modern secular science contradicting a literal interpretation of Genesis.
No, Walton does not believe the days described in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible are anything other than literal 24-hour periods. ‘Yom’ means what it means.
But where the word ‘created’ is used, Walton disputes the conventional interpretation as having anything to do with material creation.
What God Created When
Let me say that again.
Walton contends that what the author of Genesis originally meant by “God created” is that God gave purpose to the physical matter which may have existed for any amount of time whatsoever prior to the beginning of the Biblical narrative.
What the author of Genesis is describing is a teleological origin for everything described, not a physical origin. And just like that, we can sidestep and avoid all the now unnecessary conflict and contention.
Apparent contradiction, be gone!
Perhaps also the good professor can also answer Bill Clinton’s question from way back when as to what the definition of the word “is” is.
Another Expression of Liberal Theology?
Methinks that such quarrels about words here in ‘The Lost World of Genesis One’ do no good but only ruin the hearers.
And arguing semantics aside, why would it necessarily follow that God would separate out the act of creating the physical matter of the universe and everything in it from the act of creation of the telos or purpose of the things He created?
The intuitive answer as Walton sees it seems to be that God foreknew we would have conflicts with modern secular scientists who say there is no God.
The good Lord in His infinite kindness wanted to relieve us of the embarrassment of disagreeing with said scientists.
Consequently, God ordained in eternity past that all these decades and centuries and millennia of misunderstanding the face-value meaning of Genesis would be cleared up by Professor Walton with the aid of ancient mythologies outside the Bible.
What a mercy.
Either that, or else this is not a new and better understanding of the Biblical text so much as yet another fatal compromise with liberal theology. My money is on that latter explanation.
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