We’ve been looking at the question of beginnings from the perspective of the early church fathers using Peter Bouteneff’s book. The post Tuesday concentrated on Basil – and his Hexaemeron. But it is also useful to listen to what contemporary Christian thinkers and biblical scholars have to say about Genesis. This twelve minute clip comes from the new BioLogos DVD From the Dust directed by Ryan Pettey. An abbreviated version of this clip is contained within the film, the entire clip is included in the bonus footage on the DVD. The film is intended as a conversation starter – and is aimed at a Christian audience addressing the questions that many Christians wrestle with when it comes to science and the Christian faith. In this clip a number of different scholars, biblical scholars, scientists, and theologians comment on Genesis. It is a pretty good line up: Alister McGrath, John Polkinghorne, John Walton, Karen Strand Winslow, Chris Tilling, Nancey Murphy, Peter Enns, Ard Louis, and N. T. Wright.
A couple of highlights. John Walton points out the importance of culture in translation (6:18-6:35):
We’re well aware that people have to translate the language for us. We forget that people have to translate the culture for us. And therefore if we want to get the best benefit from the communication we need to try to enter their world, hear it as the audience would have heard it, as the author would have meant it, and to read it in those terms.
N. T. Wright at 8:17-9:05 reflects on the intent of Genesis 1 – he agrees with Walton, but also takes it in a his own direction.
Telling a story about somebody who constructs something in six days … it’s a temple story, it’s about God making a place for himself to dwell and this is heaven and earth and what you do with that is the last thing is you put an image of the God into this temple and suddenly Genesis 1 instead of it being “were there six days?” or “were there five?” or “were there seven?” or “were they 24 hours?”, it’s actually about when the good creator God made the world he made heaven and earth as the space in which he himself was going to dwell. And putting humans into that construct as a way of both reflecting his own love into the world and drawing out the praise and glory from the world back to himself. And that’s the literal meaning of Genesis.
And again at 10:32-11:05:
This world was made to be God’s abode, God’s home, God’s dwelling. He shared it with us and he now wants to rescue it and redeem it. So that we have to read Genesis for all it’s worth and to say either it’s history or myth is a way of saying I’m not going to study this text for all it’s worth. I’m just going to flatten it out so that it conforms to the cultural questions that my culture today is telling me to ask. And I think that is a form of actually being unfaithful to the text itself.
Basil looked at the text of Genesis 1 in the terms of his day. He didn’t read it with a consciousness of 21st century science, although he did have a sense of the futility of reading it in terms of 4th century science. He and Wright are on the same page in at least one respect, and probably more. The point of Genesis 1 is not science. It is not about concordance with science of the 4th century or the 21st century. It is about God, the glory of the creator and his creation.
What do you think of Wrights symphony analogy?
Do we tend to read the notes without experiencing the music when we read Genesis, or much of the rest of scripture for that matter?
A study guide for From the Dust has been prepared by David Vosburg, associate professor of chemistry at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. The guide was developed especially for use with college students, but can be used with a much broader group.
If you would like to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net.