Saturday 30 May 2009

John H. Walton on Genesis 1

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), 192pp., ISBN 9780830837045.

IVP (USA) make available the Prologue and Introduction and Chapter 1 as samples of what looks like an interesting and helpful treatment of Genesis 1 in its ancient Near Eastern context.

John H. Walton (formerly at Moody, now at Wheaton), writing as someone committed to the authority of Scripture, emphasises a reading of the text at ‘face value’ (‘read it as the ancient author would have intended and as the ancient audience would have heard it’, 92) rather than making it ‘speak science’ or play to the tune of contemporary scientific agendas.

He argues that Genesis 1 is less concerned with providing information about the creation of the material structures of the world and more concerned with showing that the cosmos functions as God’s temple.

The book is structured around the following eighteen propositions embracing ancient Near Eastern cosmology and perspectives on creation, the main features of the text of Genesis 1, and their significance for Christian engagement with science.

Proposition 1
Genesis 1 is Ancient Cosmology

Proposition 2:
Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented

Proposition 3:
‘Create’ (Hebrew bara) Concerns Functions

Proposition 4:
The Beginning State in Genesis 1 is Nonfunctional

Proposition 5:
Days One to Three in Genesis 1 Establish Functions

Proposition 6:
Days Four to Six in Genesis 1 Install Functionaries

Proposition 7:
Divine Rest is in a Temple

Proposition 8:
The Cosmos is a Temple

Proposition 9:
The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration

Proposition 10:
The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins

Proposition 11:
‘Functional Cosmic Temple’ Offers Face-Value Exegesis

Proposition 12:
Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough

Proposition 13:
The Difference Between Origin Accounts in Science and Scripture is Metaphysical in Nature

Proposition 14:
God’s Roles as Creator and Sustainer are Less Different Than We Have Thought

Proposition 15:
Current Debate About Intelligent Design Ultimately Concerns Purpose

Proposition 16:
Scientific Explanations of Origins Can Be Viewed in Light of Purpose, and if so, are Unobjectionable

Proposition 17:
Resulting Theology in This View of Genesis 1 is Stronger, Not Weaker

Proposition 18:
Public Science Education Should Be Neutral Regarding Purpose


Evedyahu said...

Did you read it? What do you think?
I haven't had the chance yet!

Antony said...

Hi Evedyahu – No, sorry... when I posted this the book was still forthcoming from IVP (though I think it’s out now), so I’d only read the sample pages they make available on the website. I think Walton may have a more substantial work on the same area coming out at some point soon as well (though I need to check that to be sure). Thanks, and all the best – Antony

Evedyahu said...

I see. I haven't had a chance to read it either. However, it looks interesting. I hope to read it soon!