Tag Archives: john walton

Adam vs. Atoms #2

Are Christians who look for literal scientific revelation in Genesis abusing the Biblical text?  John Walton, in The Lost World of Genesis One, says "Yes",  proposing a better way to interpret and honor the authority of Scripture based on pioneering research from the Ancient Near East.

John Walton understands Genesis to be talking about an archetypal, functional view of creation, as opposed to a scientific, materialistic account of origins.

Many Christians are opposed to calling Genesis One an allegory or poetry. These Christians warn that this threatens to change the clear message of the Bible, watering it down, and thus compromising the Gospel. On the other side, other Christians are troubled by efforts that interpret Genesis too literally. Does not an over-literal reading of Genesis One conflict with modern science, creating an unnecessary obstacle for a non-believer in coming to know Christ? John Walton, an Old Testament scholar at Wheaton College, takes both of these concerns seriously, and he suggests a third alternative.

In the previous Veracity post about John Walton, you were introduced to Walton’s thesis that the first chapter of Genesis is an account of the functional order of the universe, NOT the material origins of the universe. It sounds a little odd, but some refer to John Walton’s perspective as an archetypal view of creation. Walton calls it a cosmic temple inauguration view.

Yeah, just go ahead and try to explain that to your grandmother…. or Joe Friday.

Joe Friday wants to interrogate Moses.. he might just have to settle for Wheaton College's John Walton.

Joe Friday wants to ask Wheaton College professor John Walton, “So, what is the cosmic temple inauguration view, and what does it have to do with the Bible? Have you been spending a bit too much in time in those Ancient Near Eastern texts?

Okay, it does sound a little fancy and nerdy. But just exactly what is Dr. Walton driving at? Let us give Dr. Walton a little room here, shall we? Walton argues that the Genesis was written for us but not to us. It is as though we are reading someone else’s mail when we read Genesis. Walton contends that Bible students today need to understand Genesis from the perspective of those ancient Hebrews who first read the text. If we fail to do that, we risk distorting God’s Word.

Whoa. Do I have your attention now?

In the last Veracity post on this topic, we set out some of the primary points of John Walton’s thesis.  But before doing a “deep-dive” it might be good to consider some of the objections critics have been making to his ideas. Then, as you look over Walton’s presentation, you can evaluate on your own whether he has made a good case or not. Even if you are not entirely convinced, you will be challenged to grow deeper in your faith and understanding of God’s Word.
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Adam vs. Atoms #1

Are Christians who look for literal scientific revelation in Genesis abusing the Biblical text?  John Walton, in The Lost World of Genesis One, says "Yes",  proposing a better way to interpret and honor the authority of Scripture based on pioneering research from the Ancient Near East.

Are Christians who look for literal scientific revelation in Genesis abusing the Biblical text? John Walton, in The Lost World of Genesis One, says “Yes”, proposing a better way to interpret and honor the authority of Scripture based on pioneering research from the Ancient Near East.

When the first few chapters of the Book of Genesis are talking about the origins of the universe, should we read it like a scientific textbook…. or something else?

Many Christians today read the first part of Genesis assuming that God is supernaturally revealing to us the natural history of physical creation. This is a reasonable assumption. The Bible claims to be God’s Word, and we all want to know how it all got started.

So it would appear that God is simply stepping in Himself and giving us “just the facts, ma’am,” as Joe Friday said on the classic 1960’s TV show, Dragnet.  But what exactly does that mean? Before Adam gets created, there are no human eyewitnesses peering over God’s shoulder to see what He was doing. Even if you believe that Moses was the author of Genesis, you have to grapple with the reality that Moses was not hanging out in a tree in the Garden of Eden with a video camera or an iPhone camera app, recording the interaction between Adam, Eve and the Serpent. Joe Friday is wondering what to make of all this! So then, how does that historical information get from God to Moses, and then finally, to us?

Unlike the Gospels that are built on eyewitness testimony, in early Genesis many wrestle with God’s meaning of things like “days” and try to figure out how it all fits in with modern science. Are they 24-hour periods of time, or long epochs of time? How do you get “light” on day one when the sun does not appear until day four? What about the Big Bang?

But these are modern types of questions that today’s Bible readers bring to the text. Have we really taken the time to consider how the ancient Hebrew readers from several thousands of years ago understood the Genesis text? Centuries before NeoDarwinian genetics, the telescope, Google, and… we can not forget, Joe Friday… what did God’s people think when they originally read Genesis One?

Joe Friday wants to interrogate Moses.. he might just have to settle for Wheaton College's John Walton.

Joe Friday wants to interrogate Moses.. he might just have to settle for Wheaton College’s John Walton.

Meet John Walton, professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College (uh, not the guy in this photo… you will see a photo of Walton later). Walton argues in The Lost World of Genesis One that though Genesis was written for us, it was not written to us. It is a subtle distinction, but it emphasizes the reality that we must not pretend that Moses, or anyone else in the Old Testament era, originally wrote for a 21st century audience. Instead we must first understand the mindset of the ancient Hebrews before we try to apply the Truth of Genesis to modern-day concerns.

To put it the way that a William and Mary chemistry professor and friend of mine would say it:  Is Genesis talking about “Adam” or “atoms”?
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