Creation ex-nihilio vs. John Walton

Discussion in 'Exegetical Forum' started by arapahoepark, Dec 5, 2012.

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  1. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Hey I am just wondering what you all think of Dr. Walton's thesis that Gen. 1 doesn't refer to creation ex-nihilo or creation of matter, but causing to function as a cosmic temple.
  2. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Dr. John Sailhamer has offerred a similar theory, but none of these theories have any solid biblical basis whatsoever and in fact undermine the very purpose of Genesis. Moses begins with the creation because it is his intention to establish the authority of God. The fact that God created the world ex-nihilo in only seven days demonstrates that he is the all powerful, creator God and thus is deserving of worship and obedience.
  3. Tim

    Tim Puritan Board Graduate

    Actually, six. :)
  4. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Thanks for catching that, Tim. Yes, it was only six and the on the seventh he rested.
  5. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    There's no principled reason to deny that given passage of Scripture can have a complex intentionality. Moses is not only no exception; he is the prototype for it.

    So, for this Walton or Sailhamer to posit that his cosmic-temple theory is THE intent of Moses, to the exclusion of the straightforward sense of creatio ex nihilo; is just as reductionist as the view that would only allow that Gen.1 teaches (for example) the morality of work of the week and its apex man's Sabbath-with-God, and says nothing specific about how God created the world. And vice versa: it is reductionist to focus exclusively on how God created the world, and miss the idea of Sabbath-as-telos for creation. Or exclude a cosmic temple motif.

    A multi-textured view can appreciate a 3X3 parallel (kingdoms and inhabitants/rulers) shape to creation, In other words, an orderly creation, without sacrificing a more-or-less "literal" description of what happened, even if it is of necessity a rather spare description of an unfathomably intricate cosmos. The efficiencies of multivariable calculus doesn't cancel out the essential truthfulness of basic whole-number addition. The latter runs into limits accurately describing physical reality sooner than the former, but it still suffices to adequately describe it for essential purposes; it tells the truth about the world we live in, and not just by parable.

    We keep being told by the latest experts that our former utility from the text has been totally superseded by new insights, and we must retool the whole enterprise for a new era of understanding. The text doesn't mean what we (or the ancients) thought it meant; in fact it never meant that; we just weren't smart enough to appreciate the truth until this generation; at least those on the cutting edge of evolutionary intellect are smart enough--not the rest of us rubes, stuck in the dark ages.

    There are those who can appreciate a "temple-motif" aspect to studies in Gen.1-2, without abandoning the richness of prior orthodox appreciation and interpretation of Genesis. An exegetical "temple" must rest upon it's foundation, laid deep in the floor of divine-to-human communication of truth. We don't (shouldn't!) tell our kids "lies" about the world they are inheriting from us when they are young (I don't tell my kids there is a tooth-fairy, or the stork brings babies). We may not tell them everything, or speak in rudiments only, leaving the details for later. But telling them half-truths now will only require a fundamental restatement in the future, to disabuse them of false-notions that we ourselves fostered.

    The idea that Gen.1-2 imparts abstract truths mythologically, or foists a parable or fable on our fathers, strikes me as basically against the grain of biblical revelation. How much more satisfying is the conclusion that longer we read the texts, the better and clearer we see both parts and whole, always working toward one harmonious and glorious apprehension, that is essentially understandable but eternally incomprehensible. Meant to convey to our minds the truth, but always with more of that truth yet to encounter.

    The Bible's view of history contradicts the prevalent "enlightened" consensus that man begins primitive, ignorant, and without even the processing capacity needed for high-level rationalization. Instead, the Bible says that man began as a sinless, uncorrupted processor of sophisticated revelation from God. And from there he fell, and kept falling. "Primitive" men are those who have lost their rich heritage, lost genius, often lost their moral compass, gone into or driven into isolation, into a freedom that is ultimately as tyrannical as despotism. Myths are the relic bones of a shattered past, interpreted by rational human minds that are trying to put a puzzle of the past together with a handful of pieces, and no boxtop.

    Genesis--including the first chapters--is no myth.
  6. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Very nice replies! Common sense too that apparently I had overlooked...
  7. J. Dean

    J. Dean Puritan Board Junior

    "Cosmic-temple" theory?
  8. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Not sure how to explain it other than to him, it's not creation ex-nihilio but God ordained, in seven literal days, functioning things and God entered his temple. So he sets up a dichotomy of function vs. actually creating in doing this.
  9. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I haven't read Walton's work, but I know from other studies that I will agree with his thematic focus while I reject his immaterial findings.

    It should be pointed out that those who deal with the text in this manner are deliberately restricting themselves to the biblico-theological framework and are leaving dogmatic questions to the side, so it is unfair to impute dogmatic theses to them. At the same time, their dealing with the biblico-theological framework has a direct effect on dogma, and so they can't be left entirely unaccountable for dogmatic conclusions which others choose to draw from their work.

    As far as I am aware, Walton accepts matter is a divine creation which owes its existence entirely to God; it is just that he does not see that as finding any place in the focus of Genesis 1. To be fair, it must be accepted that whatever might be the thematic purpose of Genesis 1, its original intention was not to teach us about matter. On the other hand, it is impossible to remove the material element from the teaching of the chapter without significantly limiting its "theology." Any attempt to alienate the importance of matter in space and time from the account effectively confines the "theology" of the chapter to the realm of the "idealogical." We might then ask ourselves, Just how does Genesis 1 differ from the "propaganda" which was prevalent in the cultures of the time? Is it really the case that the God of Genesis 1 just happens to be the true God, and that is what makes this account different? That seems quite an inadequate way to conduct a polemic against the false worldviews of other cultures and to bring Israel to a firm and full belief in Jehovah as the one true God that they must love with all their being.

    The reason why I can accept the temple theme (more correctly designated a tabernacle theme, as it is closely connected with Moses and Israel in the wilderness), and still maintain the materially historical significance of the passage is simply because matter matters. Man is material; the earth is material; and so any theology (exegetical or dogmatic) which stamps the absolute claims of God over man and the earth must of itself include the material element of man and the earth. Otherwise the religion which emerges from such theology is nothing more than mysticism and has little to no relevance over the way man acts in his material environment.

    Finally, it is somewhat obvious for those who know the history of exegesis that an immaterial reading of the passage too conveniently accommodates the wholesale takeover of material investigation which has been accomplished on the part of empirical science. Just as empirical science divorces the unseen from the material in order to arrive at its conclusions, accommodation requires the material to be divorced from the unseen in theological formulation. This is all too convenient. The theologian must ask himself, At what cost? Is God really "our God" if there is some sphere of our existence from which He must be excluded, and over which His demands cannot be impressed upon us?
  10. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritanboard Commissioner

    Seems like Walton has drunk deeply of the koolaid popular in broad evangelical circles. He used to teach at Moody where a six day creation was mandated by the statement of faith. Then he went to Wheaton, the citadel of broad evangelicalism, where such ideas are not only fashionable, but seem almost required. In fairness to Walton, he left Moody after something like 20 years because he did not want his research notions to hurt the school.
  11. arapahoepark

    arapahoepark Puritan Board Graduate

    Apparently he also holds to NCT in his book Covenant: God's plan and purpose, seeing both strengths and weaknesses from Dispensationalism (via moody no doubt, make sense now) and covenant theology.
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