Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

My Thoughts on the Doctrine of Creation




Creation

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Having a solid perspective on the doctrine of creation is vital if we want to meaningfully engage with those who are not in union with God, especially scientist and eco-friendly people. When it comes to origins, all must have faith. While I trust the creation accounts in Scripture at the beginning of Genesis, we must exegete the creation text(s) according to their literary genre, recognizing that Genesis 1 is a liturgical psalm speaking to metaphysical realities, as opposed to being a scientific treatise speaking to our modern curiosities. The creation story makes it clear that God is the creator of all, and people are made in his image. It was written as a “vigorous protest against the then-accepted notions of creation” stated in the Enuma Elish. With Pannenberg and other theologians, I believe we need to engage Theistic evolution theory in appreciative and critical ways, understanding that all truth is God’s truth and both science and theology are evolving.

It is also important to have both a “Creation” Christianity and a “Redemption” Christianity, for the Father created everything through the Son and for the Son by the Spirit, so creation and redemption are linked together, and as Pannenberg reminds us, the completion of creation happens at the eschaton. Understanding the continuity between creation and new creation reminds us that we must be good stewards who take care of our home by taking only our share, cleaning up after ourselves and keeping the house in good order for others, without mistaking the earth as God’s body.


4 Responses to My Thoughts on the Doctrine of Creation

  1. Callaway says:

    JR,

    Can you cite reference as to how Genesis 1 is supposed to be a liturgical psalm? All of my study has shown that Hebrew scholars say that Genesis 1 is written as historical record, with the same grammar and tone as all the following chapters. All the arguments that I have seen for Genesis 1 being poetry are based on interpretation of or someone’s feeling about the English-translated text. I would like to know if there is a better pro-poetry argument than those that I have found.

    Maybe I’m reading more into this, but you seem to suggest that we need to bend theology in some areas so that “scientists” will accept Christ. Aside from there being a great deal of non-Christian scientists that actually believe in “intelligent design”, isn’t this backwards to how God’s truth is supposed to work? Aren’t people supposed to come to the realization of God’s truth, not have God’s truth bent to naturalistic views so that someone may accept it on those terms?

    I would like to make some argument for Creation being in 6 literal days with a 7th literal day of rest. Genesis 1:5 literally states, “there was evening [ereb] and there was morning [boqer], day [yom] one…” and so forth for every day. Throughout the rest of Hebrew scripture, both ereb and boqer always refer to a literal evening/morning of a literal day. Additionally, wherever days are given a number, it is clear that it is always a literal day. This seems to me that God inspired extra qualification in the text as to conveying the meaning of “yom” being a literal day.

    I will leave with one last point concerning theistic evolution: was there death of animals or man before the fall? If so, then sin isn’t the problem, thus Christ’s death and resurrection are not the answer. If there was not death before the fall, then clearly any evolutionary hypothesis cannot be true.

  2. JR Woodward says:

    Callaway,

    Hey man. Thanks for your response. I’m in Portland now. I will reply to your thoughts when I get back to LA and give you some resources to check out. I’m surprised you never found something on this as it is a prevalent view among many theologians. Nonetheless, I reply when I’m back in LA.

  3. Callaway says:

    JR,

    I should clarify what I meant about what I’ve heard for the pro-poetry argument. I have read many, many different takes on the text being poetry on the basis of parallelism, etc. What I mean is that it all seems such a huge stretch to me, because the parallelism is unlike the parallelism in any other poetry (Psalms, for example), where the parallelism is right there in almost couplet-like lines. Further, Genesis 1 is written with the grammatical structure of Verb-Subject-Object, whereas all the other examples of Hebrew poetry I have seen are Subject-Verb-Object. It appears to me that the poetry argument was created out of the desire to make scripture comply with naturalistic science.

    There’s a common saying that “the Bible isn’t a science textbook.” I hear this primarily as a reason to say that we need to then interpret the Bible in light of science. True, Genesis 1 does not say, “God set electrons in random motion around a nucleus of protons and neutrons.” But if the Bible does indeed contain accurate historical record, any “scientific” theory that clashes is clearly inaccurate.

    I think we need to have a clear understanding of what science is and what it isn’t. For example, science does not say evolution happened. Science also does not say dinosaurs existed millions of years ago. These things are interpretation of scientific observation through the lens of naturalism (whose goal is to deny the existence of a creator). Meanwhile, interpretation of the same scientific observation can also (and more strongly, in my opinion) support a literal interpretation of the Genesis account of creation. There is no conflict with literal creation and the actual *observed* scientific facts. But to say we need to interpret the Bible through the “science” which is actually a naturalistic interpretation of observable evidence is frankly wrong.

    So I can hopefully respectfully disagree. But I would challenge others to consider whether a poetic interpretation of Genesis 1 actually weakens the case for believing in scripture. After all, what if the resurrection account (which is “scientifically” false) that is foundational to Christianity actually needs to be reinterpreted through the lens of naturalism in order to ascertain it’s true meaning? I realize this is not at all what you and others are saying, but you must also realize that by starting with interpreting Genesis 1 in such a way so as to reach out to the “scientific minds” (naturalists), you open the door for them to very easily draw the same conclusion about the resurrection.

    Sincerely and Respectfully,
    Callaway

  4. JR Woodward says:

    Callaway,

    Hey bro. Thanks for your meaningful response. I’ve had a number of deadlines I’ve needed to hit, since I’ve been back. Thanks for your patience. I leave to D.C. on Wednesday, but I wanted to give you a response before leaving, so here it is. I’m focusing more on some great online resources, many which footnote important books you can check out as well.

    In regard to the issues you raise, Tim Keller has a great and balanced article on the First Things Blog, entitled “A Pastoral Answer to the Difficulty of Evolution and Biblical Authority”. You can download the entire paper and you will find helpful resources in the footnotes. In addition there is a link to “Biblical Hebrew Poetry – Genesis 1 as Poetry – The Chiastic Structure. Another series of posts I would encourage you to read is Genesis and The Big Gnab Theory. There are also some excellent articles relating to death before the fall as well.

    You can find links to each of these articles at my Delicious Bookmarks: http://www.delicious.com/DreamAwakener

    I would also note that a number of early church Fathers as well as theologians through the different ages of the church, prior to the theory of evolution, understood Genesis one similarly, and it has never undermined their sense of the authority of scripture. You can find this on Wikipedia with “some” sources quoted: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allegorical_interpretations_of_Genesis

    Frankly, most well read theologians that I know personally and through book, and even strong inerrantist, would have similar conclusions that I have in regard to the primary purpose of the beginning of Genesis, and the nature of the literary genre. The point being – this is not an issue of orthodoxy. But more than that, in my estimation, not only do I think this is the best understanding of the text, but I think it actually strengthens people’s faith in the authority of scripture. At least the majority of people that I connect with day to day. Obviously each person must seek to understand what God is saying to us in the text, hear His voice and respond in faithful living.

    You are right to say that some scientist come to the book of creation (the world) with preconceived notions, which certainly taints their understanding. Certainly scripture does not support naturalism. And there is a big difference between “orgins science” and “classical science”. We all come to the scripture and the world with glasses that shape our understanding. The church in the past has vilified some scientist for supposedly “going against scripture” like Galileo. And some scientist seek to make portray Christians as ignorant. I’m not a scientist and don’t plan on being one. I am a church planter, a budding theologian and missiologist, and one who lives under the authority of God by listening to His voice through the scripture, and I stand by my post. It is not just a personal interpretation I give, but one made by wrestling through the text in community, with the people of God, locally, globally and historically.

    By the way there are a couple of other great posts that I want to mention that are on Scot McKnight’s blog. One is a response Scot McKnight made to Al Mohler, with a recommended book. The other is a 16 part series on John Walton’s book entitled “The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate”. He is a professor at Wheaton. I delicious marked both of them for you as well. Happy reading and peace to you my brother.

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