As we continue our look at this pressing objection I’ll examine how another popular variant of the creation account stands with what I proposed in the first instalment. We’ll also examine a couple of objections.
A few days ago I proposed a reading of the Bible in a way that was consistent with the ancient culture it was written in. Through this reading, I proposed that one need not force modern science into a text written by people who simply didn’t have the tools to discover it. Forcing our scientific findings into an ancient text is a dangerous practice known as Concordism and my proposal, based off of Old Testament professor John Walton’s research, was to see the Genesis creation account as an origin of functions rather than material creation. Reader’s can find part one in link one below.
I’ll begin by looking at a response by a blogger who is unconvinced by the proposal. He quotes the first couple of paragraphs from my end before comparing it with a power-point still from Answers In Genesis. For those who don’t know, Answers In Genesis is an apologetics site founded by Christian fundamentalist Ken Ham. Here is the still.
Ken Ham holds to a view known as Young Earth Creationism. He, along with many believers today, claim that Genesis represents six literal days in time and that from the creation account to today spans about 6000 years. To support this they offer various scientific findings but the problem is many of these simply do not convince most people who work in the scientific field and for good reason.
The problem with the YEC view is that it begins with the assumption that Genesis is an account of material origins and chooses to interpret science through that lens. It doesn’t entertain the possibility that there could be another way to read the text. Under our view, we agree with the proposal that the days in the account are literal twenty-four-hour segments, however, where this agreement ends is when we look at the nature of those days. To YEC’s these days represent a specific time whilst to us, it focuses on the inauguration of God’s cosmic temple. John Walton notes that,
“First in line is the curious fact that the number seven appears so pervasively in temple accounts in the ancient world and in the Bible.
Thus the seven days of the Genesis account of origins has a familiarity that can hardly be coincidental and tells us something about the seven-day structure in Genesis 1 that we did not know before and that is not transparent to modern readers. That is, if Genesis 1 is a temple text, the seven days may be understood in relation to some aspect of temple inauguration. What would days of inauguration have to do with creation? What is the connection? If Genesis 1 were an account of material origins, there would be no connection at all. But as an account of functional origins, creation and temple inauguration fit hand in glove. Given the relationship of the temple and the cosmos, the creation of one is also the creation of the other. The temple is made functional in the inauguration ceremonies, and therefore the temple is created in the inauguration ceremony. So also the cosmic temple would be made functional (created) in an inauguration ceremony.”
Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (pp. 87-88). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
The similarities between the Genesis account and temple inauguration elsewhere in the Bible are simply too coincidental to brush aside. I noted in the prior post that material pieces do not make a house unless the builder establishes their functions. Similarly, a temple exists only after the inauguration ceremony when God has entered and rituals are performed by a priest, not when the material creation has finished. Walton provides an example of how temple inauguration works below,
“In the account of the construction of Solomon’s Temple the inauguration includes a seven-day dedication to which is added a seven-day feast/ banquet (1 Kings 8: 65; 2 Chron 7: 9). Solomon’s dedicatory prayer proclaims the functions of the temple:
- Place for seeking forgiveness (1 Kings 8: 30)
- Place for oath swearing (1 Kings 8: 31-32)
- Place for supplication when defeated (1 Kings 8: 33-34)
- Place for supplication when faced with drought/ famine/ blight (1 Kings 8: 35-40)
- Place for the alien to pray (1 Kings 8: 41-43)
- Place for petition for victory (1 Kings 8: 44-45).”
Walton, John H.. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (p. 90). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
It is not the material building that marks the creation of the temple, it is its functions, and this is how the ancients understood creation. We use this language even today when we talk about the church. A church building may stand completed but it doesn’t become a church until the body of Christ and the Spirit inhabits it. Likewise, the context of Genesis strongly suggests that the universe isn’t said to exist until God establishes the functions and His role in ordering and sustaining them.
The YEC position starts with an interpretation of the Bible and uses that as a basis for science. They believe that to “create” means to give something a material shape but the ancients simply didn’t see things that way. It is those who hold to YEC who are departing from a face-value reading, for reading the text scientifically imposes an anachronism that does not represent the thoughts and ideas of the original authors. On the other hand, our proposal that Genesis is an account of functional origins treats the text literally and at face-value, meeting the original authors in their world and seeing things through their eyes.
On a related note, our skeptic poses another possibility,
“Isn’t is much more probable that the reason for this discrepancy between the Bible and science is that the authors of the Bible were doing what people in many other ancient cultures were doing: Writing Creation stories and other folk legends for the simple purposes of trying to make sense of their dangerous, scary world…and…perhaps for a little entertainment?
“Why can’t we view the beautiful folk tales in the Hebrew holy book in the same manner that we view the folk legends of other ancient peoples such as the Babylonians, the Chinese, and the Mayans?”
Here he is proposing that we return to viewing them in light of other texts without realizing it is because we have done so that we have ended up at a reading that deviates from the traditional fundamentalist view (I again refer readers to Walton’s Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament).
Furthermore, our skeptic poses that it could be more probable that God did not have a hand in writing the text and that they were simply crafting folktales. He says,
“I will bet that the original story teller of the original Garden of Eden story had no intention for his audience to believe that the fanciful tale he was spinning was actual historical fact. It was just a good story!”
While “historical fact” is debatable (as argued, someone actually witnessing the creation of the world would not change the concept spoken of in the Genesis account), the ancients had every intent of taking their writings seriously. Jan Assmann’s observation in The Search For God In Ancient Eygpt is true for all ancient culture,
“The theme of myth was not the essence of the deities, but rather…. the essence of reality…. Myths establish and enclose the area in which human actions and experiences can be oriented. The stories they tell about deities are supposed to bring to light the meaningful structure of reality. Myths are set in the past and they always relate to the present. What they relate to in the past is supposed to shed light on the present.” J. Assmann, The Search For God in Ancient Egypt, p. 112.
And that’s the end of the response for now. Unless I see something that needs dire attention this year I’m going to be taking a short break for the holidays. Of course, I’ll still be posting at A Diverse Sound and I may quickly touch on a few anti-Christmas arguments but until then I pray that you will all be blessed this holiday season.