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Further Thoughts on Genesis

Yesterday I preached the first sermon in a series called God's Story: The Drama of Redemption. As kind of a prelude to the main body of the sermon, I made some cautionary remarks about attempting to find answers to modern scientific questions in the text of Genesis, when those were not the questions the original author was addressing. Later in the message, I made a brief reference to John Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One, and said that Walton's view (which I blogged on here, giving Walton's own summary) needed further vetting, but was a position we should consider.

Today, I discovered this interchange between John Walton and Vern Poythress (Westminster Theological Seminary) linked at Justin Taylor's blog. It is worth reading.

As a clarification for those who heard the message, please understand that my aim was not to argue for any particular view on the relationship between science and Scripture, or to articulate any particular position on the age of the earth, the length of the days in Genesis one, or the theory of evolution. The goal was more modest: to simply plea that we not become too entrenched in our positions and that we humbly listen to others. There is room in the gospel for thoughtful Christians of varying positions. For myself, the cement is still very, very wet.

What is tragic, I believe, is to become so dogmatic in a stance that a person either closes one's mind to the careful study of the text of Scripture or the facts of nature, or resorts to (often unconsciously) twisting the Scripture to fit their theories (on either side) or (unknowingly) giving credence to bogus science. What we need as believers is more caution and more humility in both theology and science, and a lot less rhetoric.

Finally, here are the two quotations from Gordon Wenham's commentary on Genesis that I used in the sermon.

“Though historical and scientific questions may be uppermost in our minds as we approach the text, it is doubtful whether they were in the writer’s mind, and we should therefore be cautious about looking for answers to questions he was not concerned with. Genesis is primarily about God’s character and his purposes for sinful mankind. Let us beware of allowing our interests to divert us from the central thrust of the book, so that we miss what the LORD, our creator and redeemer, is saying to us.” (p. liii)

“The Bible-versus-science debate has, most regrettably, sidetracked readers of Gen 1. Instead of reading the chapter as a triumphant affirmation of the power and wisdom of God and the wonder of his creation, we have been too often bogged down in attempting to squeeze Scripture into the mold of the latest scientific hypothesis or distorting scientific facts to fit a particular interpretation. When allowed to speak for itself, Gen 1 looks beyond such minutiae. Its proclamation of the God of grace and power who undergirds the world and gives it purpose justifies the scientific approach to nature. Gen 1, by further affirming the unique status of man, his place in the divine program, and God’s care for him, gives a hope to mankind that atheistic philosophies can never legitimately supply.” (p. 40)

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