28 October 2009

Land of the Lost, part 7

As we start in on Propositions 11–13, Walton begins to wrap up his exegetical arguments on how to read the creation narrative of Genesis 1. In so doing, he moves on to discuss a few things that many people like to spend time arguing about (age of the earth, etc.). This brings to mind a recent post over at Bring the Books on this very subject. Its content doesn't bear on our current discussion so much, but I thought it interesting nonetheless. Adam does a good job succintly setting out the epistemological reasons for affirming an old earth. On to the props:

Proposition 11: “Functional cosmic temple” offers face-value exegesis
  • This is the most “literal” reading, for the ancient author intended the ancient text, Gen 1, to be read as his own view, the view that God created—assigned functions to—the cosmic temple during a seven-day inauguration period.
  • Theology, polemic and literary shape all are important facets of Gen 1, but they are not main; this is reductionistic and unnecessary anyway.
  • Concordist approaches (young earth, old earth, whatever) are ruled right out. They read modern ideas back into the ancient text, thereby doing violence to its face-value meaning. Confessing that God is the ultimate author leads them to look for scientific theory in the text, because they (rightly) deem all truth to be God’s truth. So, if some scientific theory or another (e.g., big bang) is held to be viable, then it “must” be in the text somewhere (presupposing that the text is about material origins). Others simply rewrite science to make it fit with the biblical picture cobbled together (again presupposing material origins, i.e., young-earth creationists).
  • This, ironically, elevates scientific theory (which is always subject to change) to inspiration, binding the Word to it. Rather, the author’s words in Gen 1 are inspired and carry authority and cannot be just cast aside. If “divine intention” is to be found in the text, then only another authoritative source can back that up (i.e., another author of scriptural work).
  • Yet there’s not a single instance in the biblical text where God gives “scientific information that transcended the understanding of the…audience” (106).
Proposition 12: Other theories of Gen 1 either go too far or not far enough
  • Young Earth Creationism: goes too far in (1) its belief that the Bible is to be read scientifically and (2) too far in its attempt to provide an alternative science
  • Old Earth Creationism: goes too far, same as (1) above
  • Literary/Theological Framework: doesn’t go far enough, but the “functional origins” reading comports with it easily
  • Gap Theory is simply exegetically and theologically untenable
Proposition 13: The difference between origin accounts in scripture and science is metaphysical in nature
  • Gaps in scientific knowledge are not proofs of God’s activity…(see Walton’s pie illustration, pp. 114–15). A distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” does not comport with the worldview of the biblical writers (see prop. 1).
  • Science, by its very nature (as is currently understood), must bracket the metaphysical (with apologies to all my presuppositional friends). It cannot explore divine causation, for it concerns itself only with empirical data. Thus it deals with the demonstrable and falsifiable, and not with divine activity (science, therefore, cannot prove or disprove the existence of God—hold on, questions and answers about ID are coming). This is the “lower layer” in Walton’s layer cake illustration (p. 115).
  • Divine activity is represented by the “top layer” of the cake, but, importantly, it covers the bottom layer “because everything that science discovers [and I’d have to place historical inquiry in here too, though it’s obviously not a hard science and thus its results cannot be measured with mathematical precision] is another step in understanding how God has worked or continues to work through the material world and its naturalistic processes” (p. 115).
  • Thus, lower layer = secondary causation; top layer = ultimate causation. Maybe a marble cake analogy would prove better, Walton quips, so as to not create the illusion that too much of a divide exists between the layers (n. 3, p. 184).
  • Still, empirical science is not designed or able to define or detect telos. It must remain silent on matters regarding purpose (and thus on ultimate causation). This is not to say that purpose cannot be deduced rationally as a logical explanation of a given artifact; it just cannot do so beyond reasonable doubt one way or the other.
  • Genesis clearly depicts a teleology of the cosmos, even as it leaves open the descriptive mechanism for material origins (p. 117). In other words, Genesis is almost exclusively a top-layer account. Thus whatever empirical science has to say about the mechanisms of material origins (secondary causation—bottom-layer account) can hardly contradict the Bible’s statements about ultimate causation.
  • So, it will come as no surprise to the reader that Walton thinks the functional orientation of Gen 1 comports with the teleological nature of the creation account. “Instead of offering a statement of causes, Genesis 1 is offering a statement of how everything will work according to God’s purposes” (p. 118; and note the emphasis on the future—the creation account is, in essence, eschatological).
Has any of this changed your mind? Confirmed anything? Speak up.

WAIT, there's a Part 8.

14 October 2009

Land of the Lost, part 6

On to Props 9–10. I realize this can be pretty boring stuff, at least the way I've presented it, so thanks for taking the time to read along. (I'm writing a lot of other stuff right now and am feeling a bit lazy.)

Proposition 9: The seven days of Genesis 1 relate to the cosmic temple inauguration
  • Confirmed by the divine rest on the 7th day (and divine rest only takes place in temples).
  • The number “7” is a predominant theme in ANE temple texts and in the Bible; in Gen 1, it implies temple inauguration
  • Creation, only if it’s an account of functional origins, fits like a hand in glove with temple inauguration (88). Just like a temple is made functional at an inauguration ceremony, so too was creation, the cosmic temple, made functional during its (7-day) inauguration ceremony and when God took up residence in his rest. This “creates” the temple (not its material construction).
  • Could Gen 1 have served as liturgy for the temple inauguration (or even used during a yearly reenactment of cultic worship)?
  • Whatever the case, we see that the nature of the days is not very significant if this is not an account of material origins. The days are obviously 7, 24-hour days. “This has always been the best reading of the Hebrew text” (91).
  • The day-age view or any other view that fools with the clear meaning of the days is on thin exegetical ground. Trying to resolve scientific evidence that the earth and the universe are very old with the creation account of Gen 1 is faulty from the start (“concordist”). Fancy interpretations result when this narrative is seen as an account of material origins, for literal 7, 24-hour days of material creation are obviously irreconcilable with scientific evidence.
Proposition 10: The seven days of Genesis 1 do not concern material origins

But why can’t it be both? Functional and material? Well, does the text allow for it?
  • (1) Days 1, 3, 7 don’t mention the creation of any material component;
  • (2) The firmament in day 2 potentially mentions a material component, but no one actually believes today there’s a solid construction up in the sky to hold back the waters. If this was to be taken as a description of material creation, we’d then be forced to explain the material creation of something that does not exist. But the Hebrew word for it had a very specific meaning in Israel’s cosmic geography. This component of “Old World science addresses the function of weather, described in terms that they would understand” (95);
  • (3) Days 4 and 6 have material components, but they’re discussed only on a functional level;
  • (4) Day 5 again only speaks of functions (let them swarm); thus, nothing is left in the text to imply material origins
  • Genesis 1 as a whole has nothing to contribute to the discussion of the age of the earth. “This is not a conclusion drawn to accommodate science—it was drawn from an analysis and interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis in its ancient environment” (95, and see the next few sentences too).
  • It’s important to note that all this isn’t to say that God wasn’t involved in material origins; it’s rather to say that Gen 1 isn’t that story (96).
So, then, the 7 days: before and after.
  • Before: Like rehearsals for a play. Material phase of the cosmos could have been underway. Long eras where life developed. Sun shining. Plants growing. Animals living. Etc.
  • After: The curtain rises; the play begins. Now the sun shines in a different context—the context of the cosmic temple. The cosmos is now God’s place of rest, his temple. “People have been granted the image of God and now serve him as vice regents in the world that has been made for them” (98; clearly this suggests pre-existing “people”; did they not die? did they not have the imago dei?). Each day of the seven days the world was being prepared to do for people what it had been designed to do.
  • But what about Rom 5:12 and death? The verse only talks about how death came to humanity, not death in general, but to us (100). But death in general was all over before the fall (insects eating plants; birds eating insects; seeds dying and sprouting; skin cells dying, etc.).
  • Humans were not subject to death b/c the tree of life gave them life—an antidote to their natural mortality. The punishment for disobedience was to be “doomed to death” (Gen 2:17, being kept from the tree of life). Without access to the tree, humans would be subject to the mortality of their bodies—from dust we were made and to dust we shall return. And so it was that “death came through sin.”

Part 7—almost heaven (but not quite West Virginia).

07 October 2009

Land of the Lost, part 5

Here we go, continuing our walkthrough of Walton's Lost World. I think what follows (unlike the previous post on the days of creation) is fairly non-controversial. My only hope is that it's taken seriously, because this cosmic-temple theme is seriously embedded in the ancient text itself (and, indeed, I think it runs throughout the canon).

Proposition 7: Divine rest is in a temple
  • The true climax: a temple text w/o which the creation would have no meaning.
  • The work of separating and subduing and assigning functions is done; the day of “rest” is the day on which the creator God can begin his providential sustenance of the ordered system w/o any obstacles. Stability is here. From such rest he rules. The temple is his headquarters. This is typical temple theology for the ANE.
Proposition 8: The cosmos is a temple
  • In many ANE texts, the temple is built as a conclusion to cosmic creation; they are distinct but related acts
  • In like manner, Genesis depicts this close relationship; we see how the tabernacle/temple serves as a symbol of the cosmos (and particularly the garden). The courtyard represented the cosmic spheres outside of the organized cosmos (cosmic waters and pillars of the earth); the antechamber held the representations of light (Menorah) and food (bread of presence); the veil separated the heavens and earth (the place of God’s presence from the place of human habitation). pp. 81–82 (see fn. 12 about how “heaven and earth” could be a metonymy referring to the cosmic temple).
  • Tabernacle/Temple share many affinities with the Garden of Eden: the garden in Genesis is viewed as an archetypal sanctuary (82).
  • “The temple is a microcosm, and Eden is represented in the antechamber that serves as sacred space adjoining the presence of God as an archetypal sanctuary” (83). So the cosmos can be likened to a temple (cf. Isa 66:1–2).
  • Thus the premise of Genesis 1: “that it should be understood as an account of functional origins of the cosmos as a temple” with God dwelling in its midst (84).
  • Day 7 is thus so significant because if God didn’t take up his restful residence in the cosmic temple, then the cosmic temple does not exist. This world is a place for God’s presence. While the functions given are anthropocentric, the cosmic temple is theocentric. Prior to Day 1, God was active but not resident; by Day 7 he is, which effectuates the establishment of the functional cosmic temple (85).

Throw Part 6 into the mix.

01 October 2009


Kirk Demarais of JBU ROCK writes:
"A special era in John Brown University music-making took place decades after Sound Generation, and years after Joysong (but prior to the Apocalypse). Students of the early 1990s, inspired by the do-it-yourself garage rock mentality of the time, gathered instruments and assembled in dorm rooms, rented houses and otherwise to create an alternate soundtrack for our college years. The results of our musical endeavors were mixed, but often memorable, and usually fun.

This is a place for collecting, archiving and sharing our music and our memories for all the ages (at least until the Apocalypse). The initial collection of memorabilia featured here is quite Demarais-centric, but I hope this batch of videos and mp3s will inspire you to hunt down more exhibits for this online museum, be it audio, video, photos, etc. …So turn up your speakers and peer into the past by way of cheap camcorders and pathetic microphones. Best do it now because the Apocalypse will soon be upon us."

I highlight this because I was part of this past, and I wanted to link to one of my favorite shows—the Theta Tau Frat House, when a group of angst-ridden grungy Christian kids descended upon an unsuspecting bunch of drunken frat-daddies from the University of Arkansas (note that the first ten minutes have us sifting through some technical difficulites—in fact, fast forward to the 25th minute, to the song titled "Grindy"). Also, I feel my youth and thus coolness slipping away, so I'd like the wider world to know that I wasn't always such a geek. Incidentally, I'm the guy on the drums.

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