|"Fish with Legs" by Ellen Marcus © 2011|
According to Walton, a responsible reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3 will approach the text as ancient literature, not modern science. In so doing, we will understand that the author's original intent was "far different from what has been traditionally understood" (p. 162)—not least since the days of flood geology. The original intent has to do with the functions of the cosmos (why it was created) as opposed to the material structure of the cosmos (how it was created). Walton calls the ancient view of creation the "cosmic temple inauguration view." This means that the events of Genesis 1 describe how "the cosmos was given its functions as God's temple, where he has taken up his residence and from where he runs the cosmos. This world is his headquarters" (ibid.).
The Genesis 1 account can therefore be seen as a literal seven-day inauguration period of the cosmos, in which God set up its functions for the benefit of humanity (key point), "with God dwelling in relationship with his creatures" (p. 163). We cannot, on the basis of Genesis 1, object to any description scientists offer as to how the universe came to be (we can object, but we can't use the biblical text to do so). Walton thinks then that any view proposed by scientists that is deemed substantial can be met with, "Fine, that helps me see the handiwork of God." This includes biological evolution, but we must keep in mind that it's teleological, that is, evolution with a purpose, as opposed to standard neo-Darwinism. Seeing evidences of design in the material world should therefore come as no surprise.
Do you jive with this reading? Why or why not?
At once, for those of us concerned that all of Scripture be accurate no matter what topic it touches upon, we're met with this dilemma: if the ancients held certain views of creation that touch upon how God created, and these views were naturally a part of the thinking of the author of Genesis 1, then wouldn't Genesis 1 be teaching something false regarding how God created? Granted the focus may be on functional origins, but is it really true that there is no information whatsoever being conveyed, or at least assumed, about how God created? In order to protect the infallibility of Scripture (at least how the doctrine's articulated today), we have to say that the text does not, in any way, convey anything about material origins (which Walton does). The author of Genesis 1 could assume (and did, naturally so) false scientific information without writing it down, and thus the Spirit protected God's Word from error.
Does our doctrine of Scripture have to change in order to accommodate this "cosmic temple inauguration view"? Does Walton want to have his (layered) cake and eat it too?