Monday, April 14, 2008

Creation and Science - Genesis 1 - Dr. John H. Walton - WOW

Through Google Alerts I get updates on my favorite professor ever (Dr. John Walton – Old Testament professor in the Wheaton Ph. D program; formerly of Moody). I found a lecture (his voice with his PowerPoint) that he gave on Genesis 1-2 and creation. I had the privilege of eating breakfast with him every day for about 2 years in college. My love for God’s Word was brought to new heights (it had already been elevated just by being at Moody, but Dr. Walton is a man of the text – not of trends or presuppositions). A friend of mine who I believe is currently in the Ph. D program at Wheaton told me that Dr. Walton is ranked in the top ten in the world when it comes to Old Testament scholars. I say all this hoping you’ll at least listen to the first 15 to 20 minutes of the lecture – I believe it’s about an hour. It’s amazing and will really make you think. One of the many things I adore about Dr. Walton – he teaches 6th grade Sunday School – to help him continually work at communicating to young people. He’s a stud (in a very OT professor type way).

A simple summary (very poor summary) – Israelite and ANE (Ancient Near East) literature focused on function, not on form or scientific theory. He looks at the text (he’s very Bible driven – and as intellectually honest as anyone I’ve ever met) and takes you places you may not want to go – but it’s very well done. So the 6 days of creation are not trying to teach about how long days were or how things were done scientifically, but were really there to show that God put in place time, weather, and vegetation (which are as important as just about anything for anyone living in the ANE). I’m blown away – don’t know what to think. For some reason, the little box I’ve put God in doesn’t really dig a potential change in my worldview. He’s not liberal by any means, but it’s definitely a different approach (different than any theory you’ve heard). This is not a very good summary – but listen and give the man a chance.

I should mention that my approach to OT (and even NT) hermeneutics is radically shaped by Dr. Walton. His OT Survey book is the best out there. His commentary on Genesis is superb.

Hope you’ll check it out.


At 1:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've struggled with that. I used to be old earth, but changed my mind on the matter. One the Hebrew word yow is translated day everywhere else in the Bible, but we say it could mean era in this text. Translating that way in any other text in the OT it wouldn't make sense.

Also, and this is what tipped the scales for me - how can disease and death be explained before the fall of man? I haven't heard a reasonable explanation for that one other than... it didn't because yow means day and the earth is younger than we think it is.

I'll listen to the lecture with an open mind though. Maybe he addresses the last question.

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. He still didn't address my main question. I do like the fact that in the Q&A time that he affirms that God created "structures" and "material", and that creation ex nihlio is referred to in Colossians 1 and Hebrews 1.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger John said...

Sorry, but I found Walton just another liberal in sheep's clothing. I listened to the full lecture and found his arbitrary insistence on function over structure not supported by the biblical text.His idea is eisegetical and is not an exegetical approach, the method he insists he is using (i.e. what the words mean in SCripture). His use of the computer analogy was tendentious. You cannot have function without structure. If I gave you a lump of iron ore and said drive it you'd think I'd be mad. However, if you apply intellect, understanding and wisdom to the piece of rock, you could form a car and thus have a function. These qualities are the same attributes God's uses in creation. Genesis 1 states that God put fully fully formed stars, animals etc into the cosmos and they functioned. That is, because they had perfect structure, they had the function intended for them.

Walton in his question time also said that the age of the earth was not relevatory. Then why did God in Exodus 31 say to Moses that He created the earth and the heavens in 6 days ansd rested on the 7th! When God speaks I take this as revelation.

As I said, Walton is just another liberal in a long line of modern faux conservatives.

BTW, I've read several of his ANE books and did enjoy them.

At 3:13 PM, Blogger Emiliano M said...

Thanks for the link! good stuff

Paz de Cristo

At 1:07 PM, Blogger KBC said...

You wrote: "Dr. Walton is a man of the text – not of trends or presuppositions."

I am sure even Dr. Walton would tell you that we all operate under various presuppositions. No one approaches the text of Scripture without them.

One of his presuppositions is that we need to view Genesis 1 from a modern scientific standpoint. I am not saying this is wrong. I only say it to point out that Walton,as every other human being, approaches the text with presuppositions.
On another topic....I do not believe Walton is a liberal in sheeps clothing. That characterization is simply misguided and naive.

At 2:38 AM, Blogger Steve said...

It is simply chronological hubris to assume that the audience of Gen. 1 held the same concerns as us today. We have to understand the text in the way it would have been perceived by those who it was directed towards first and foremost. This is basic hermeneutics. Yom contains a multiple of meanings from day, lifetime, to an unspecified amount of time. If God was concerned with communicating to humans how to structure their work using the number seven, a significant number in the ancient near east meaning perfect completion, then when Moses is talking about creation he is picking up on God's pattern for their work. I don't think any of us would really demand that God actually needed to rest on the seventh day as if his omnipotence was somehow taxed by creation. Walton is respecting the text rather than trying to shoehorn in modern notions of creation.

At 3:30 PM, Blogger suantak said...

a liberal in a sheep's clothing? is that it? those who dun agree with ur preferred interpretation (from the lens of a late 19/early 20th century north american and modernistic out of context) are liberals! i wonder why u guys have

no qualms about throwing false accusations eh?

as someone from outside the us (Delhi, India), i can definitely tell u that u guys are among the biggest stumbling block for intelligent and well read hindus to come to Christ. dun imagine just because u've won a few christians and stragglers u r doing an effective apologetic work.

to shanevanderhart

"but we say it could mean era in this text."
reread carefully. don't let your loaded presumption interfere. a hebrew scholar like john (john walton not the john in the comments) is fully aware of the nuances of not only yom but bara and a host of others. day=era is not even hinted at by him here. he goes a whole degree higher and i am sorry that you missed it.

"how can disease and death be explained before the fall of man? "

what john is trying is to help christians abandon the whole package of "concordism" by placing the whole Gnesis story in its ancient cosmological/literary context. it was first a word of God t the ppl of that time and then to us. so let's learn to look from their eyes first. it's only a concordist who'll force a day=24hr or a day=1000yrs interpretational scheme to make it fit....

please reread Genesis 1-3. where in the Bible is given the idea that animal depradation came after the fall of man? even a hint! isn't the picture of adam & eve froclicking with the wild animals more a picture from a sunday school illustration book than a description from the pages of the Bible? aren't we assuming too much with too less (data)?
the passage in romans 5 is about death to all men through adam. insist a wooden literalism here then u end up with a corollary through Christ salvation has come to all men (universalism). i can go on to romans 8....

now if adam and eve eat food as told in the passage, they'll die physically if they don't continue to. conversely, if they're created immortal would they need to eat food or the fruit of the tree of life forbidden to them after the fall?

when an animal behave as an animal we dun mind. some parents even take their children to zoo to make them see snakes consuming rats... it's considered normal. but when a man behave like an animal, the human society doesn't excuse those beastly behaviour. thus to God it is a matter of delight that the ostrich is stupid (Job)! though
it's the same God without whose knowledge not even one sparrow falls to the ground.... which means our anthropocentric thougts are not His thoughts...

so please, u r approaching the bible with the wrong presumptions. the no1 method of abusing the bible is to treat it as an answer book!

finally ask any christian philosopher worth his salt. they'll tell you evil/suffering is a mystery. the Bible tells us not the origin but rather to resist it, fight it giving us the example of Christ our Lord as the no 1 victim. we are not the victims, God is!

At 3:31 PM, Blogger suantak said...

to john

ur lack of literary imagination is appalling, considering u must be a native speaker of english/american or wutevr!

"His use of the computer analogy was tendentious. You cannot have function without structure. If I gave you a lump of iron ore and said drive it you'd think I'd be mad. However, if you apply intellect, understanding and wisdom to the piece of rock, you could form a car and thus have a function....Genesis 1 states that God put fully fully formed stars, animals etc into the cosmos and they functioned. That is, because they had perfect structure, they
had the function intended for them."

dude u missed the gist of what he said coz u r locked on to ur presupposition@wooden literalism. u've not understood the function-structure analogy. may be try "essence & form" of aristotle 1st as initiation and come back. let's clarify a bit. reading genesis 1:16 in the "plainest simplest sense of the word" tells us God creates two kinds of lights viz. lesser light@night and greater light@day. modern physics tell us it's not two kind of lights but the same electromagnetic wave...

now please dun excuse urself and eisegically try to harmonise it with modern science by saying the lesser light is a reflection of the greater light from the moon!!!!!!!!!!!! practise what you preach bro.

At 5:51 PM, Blogger Paul said...

I listened to the whole lecture and what I got out of it is, the earth and universe existed before God started on the earth project, in three days He organized the chaos and in 3 days He created the biology. The book might lead to a different conclusion but I don’t remember any reference to evolution or day age.

I believe he is very text orientated. There is nothing in the Biblical text that says there was nothing and six days later there was everything. Call it the gap theory or whatever you like but, first there is light, then later you have the sun, throughout the Bible the sun and the moon are symbolical of other things. He is trying to stay true to the text and have a reasonable explanation. I have never heard an explanation that made any sense before this. I didn’t get the impression he was worried about the scientific community. The starlight problem and the solution of deception of age should be untenable to everyone.

The Bible is full of people taking literal what was meant spiritual. The death God promised Adam on the day he ate, was that physical or spiritual? The leaven of the Pharisees, was that physical or spiritual? How many times did the disciples misunderstand Christ’s word because he was talking about spiritual realities? When Christ said this is my body broken for you, were any bones broken? Was He missing any digits? Even the disciples understood that one.

I would loosely paraphrase Genesis 1 as; an unspecified amount of time ago God created everything. A few thousand years in the past he started a project on the third rock from the sun, six days later He took a break and liked what He saw.


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