Creation: God Makes

May 17, 2010 — 2 Comments

[This post is part of the Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe series]

Of all the chapters in this book, this one may perhaps be the most controversial. Certainly among non-Christians, who may at least be open to God’s existence and maybe other elements of the Christian faith, creation is the sort of doctrine that has few, if no takers. This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but even among Christians, this chapter is probably controversial. Christians can and do have varying degrees of understanding of science, and have varying degrees of understanding of the ancient Near East backdrop against which Genesis 1-2 was written. As such, no one will be completely satisfied with the answers they offer. At best, I would say the only essentials are that one affirms God is creator, and that it entails certain attributes of God which are affirmed elsewhere in Scripture (aseity for instance)

Once again, the weak spot of this chapter is in reference to the Old Testament. For starters, it is not current with scholarly, or even popular level books recently written on the nature of Genesis 1 (see John Walton’s for instance). To be fair, I think that book might have come out after Driscoll had turned in his manuscript, but this book has been readily available for several years. Mistakes such as stating that the Hebrew “bara” means “creation from nothing” could have been easily avoided if books like these had been interacted with and relied on further (I would affirm creation from nothing, but lexically, the word doesn’t just mean that on its own). Some may feel the weakness is its interactions with current scientific literature, but we’ll leave that alone since the chapter’s focus itself is centered on Scripture.

The more obvious discrepancy is that this chapter treats Genesis 1-2 as almost the exclusive statement that the Bible has on creation. Or in other words, no mention is made of the other creation accounts in the Old Testament. Certainly these are the only two narratives (which some may wish to synthesize as one account from two different angles), but little use is made of the 9 creation poems: Job 26:7-13; 38:4-11; Proverbs 3:19-20; 8:22-31; Ps 8:1-10; 33:6-9: 74:12-17; 89:5-12; 104:2-32. Of particular interest in that list might be the Proverbs 8 passage, but one that is never mentioned is Psalm 74, where Yahweh slays a sea monster and then creates the world from its carcass. All of this is to say, the chapter is almost exclusively focused on a kind of mini-exposition of Genesis 1-2, not necessarily the full Biblical teaching on creation, as seen by the questions it addresses:

  • What does the Bible say about creation? (only focuses on Genesis)
  • Where did creation come from?
  • What does creation reveal about God?
  • What are the various Christian views of creation? (6 are listed)
  • Are the six days of creation literal 24hr days?
  • How old is the earth?
  • How does creationism differ from naturalism? (where most of the scientific discussion is located)
  • What difference does the doctrine of creation make for your life?

It is somewhat apparent as you work through these questions that “creation” is in this instance being treated as shorthand for “mode or process of creation.” In other words, the first question above is really “What does the Bible say about how everything was created?” which is why the poems I mentioned are not referenced. Nobody considers them as offering a legitimate answer to a “how” question. Therefore, in answering the question, Genesis 1 is focused on almost exclusively, the implicit assumption being that it is the closest statement the Bible has concerning “how” the universe was created.

I hold a somewhat different perspective, and it is not one that is addressed in the various Christian views Driscoll outlines. You can read my angle on it here, which is the result of thorough studies of the ancient Near East cognitive background, as well as the historical setting that Moses would have authored Geneis 1 in.

As far as the chapter as a whole though, Driscoll and Breshears do a good job, don’t get me wrong on that. This is certainly a touchy subject, and is sometimes something that is used to make general mockery of Christian beliefs in light of scientific advancement. Driscoll and Breshears avoid embracing young earth creationism, wisely noting that the Bible does not specify an age to the earth, but still hold that Genesis 1 is conveying the idea of creation at some level happening in 6 literal 24hr days. Given a good understanding of the Egyptian background, as well as the ancient Near East mindset, I do not think this view is tenable, only that the author is clearly depicting literal 24hr days, but for a different literary purpose than to convey that that is how the earth was created.

In conclusion though, this chapter is not a weak spot of the book as a whole, but was unfortunately faced with the task of outlining a doctrine that has many different viewpoints among Christians would otherwise agree on many things. This is certainly a topic that needs to be addressed in further studies, and 10 years from now the shape this chapter took may be altered as our understanding of science and the Bible and its background grows further.

Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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