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.
Genesis 1 is Ancient Cosmology
Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented
‘Create’ (Hebrew bara) Concerns Functions
The Beginning State in Genesis 1 is Nonfunctional
Days One to Three in Genesis 1 Establish Functions
Days Four to Six in Genesis 1 Install Functionaries
Divine Rest is in a Temple
The Cosmos is a Temple
The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration
The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins
‘Functional Cosmic Temple’ Offers Face-Value Exegesis
Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough
The Difference Between Origin Accounts in Science and Scripture is Metaphysical in Nature
God’s Roles as Creator and Sustainer are Less Different Than We Have Thought
Current Debate About Intelligent Design Ultimately Concerns Purpose
Scientific Explanations of Origins Can Be Viewed in Light of Purpose, and if so, are Unobjectionable
Resulting Theology in This View of Genesis 1 is Stronger, Not Weaker
Public Science Education Should Be Neutral Regarding Purpose