Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Creation Account, Part 1

Today, I want to start a new topical study on the issue of the creation account as found in Genesis, chapter one and two. This is based on a paper that I wrote in 2014 for a class called Old Testament Background Studies in Genesis. In it, I briefly looked at some of the various views of the creation account to point out their weaknesses and strengths, at least as far as I could discern, and which ones we as Bible-believing Christians should reject and embrace. These views consist of Mythology, Pictorial Day, Old Earth Creationism, Young Earth Creationism, Gap Theory, Naturalistic Evolution, and would I refer to as the Biblical View, which is how Bible itself speaks to the issue. 

For centuries the interpretation of the creation account in the book of Genesis was pretty static in that the commonly held teaching that the narrative was to be interpreted literally was accepted by the majority of the church leadership and those in attendance. However, with the advent of the enlightenment and the introduction of rationalism (a belief or theory that opinions and actions should be based on reason and knowledge rather than on religious belief or emotional response) and empiricism (the theory that all knowledge is derived from sense-experience, i.e., experimental science) the historicity of the book has been called into question. 

Specifically, it is the first two chapters of the book that draws the most ire from those who find its account to be on par with such writings as the Epic of Gilgamesh or the stories of Zeus. Others will concede while that upper-story religious truth can certainly be found in the text, but will deny its historical value and the actual validity of the text where it seems to contradict the findings of modern science. However, if indeed the creation account is not a literal account, but simply an upper-story narrative that is only meant to present moral or religious truth, how does that impact the teachings of the Bible? 

The first view to consider is the mythological view. According to John Walton, author of the NIV Application Commentary on Genesis, the mythical approach of interpreting this book is the “most troubling category for those who take the Bible seriously.” The reason for this is because in our modern society the term almost automatically implies a “judgment that the story is not true or at least unhistorical.” However, that is not necessarily the way those in the ancient world saw mythology. Instead, they saw myths as a means of explaining the world around them in the form of a story which usually had religious and moral purposes. Actually, mythology to the ancient world was like science in our own in that both were and are mere attempts to understand cause and effect. C. John Collins, professor of Old Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary insists that with that in mind, it is wise to shy away from triumphalism by arrogantly implying that our modern world is more sophisticated than theirs.   

On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the very word “myth” does by its very nature imply that not every aspect of the story is to be taken as absolute truth even though it is told as such. Millard Erickson, the author of Christian Theology, also points out that myth is a literary device that is used to convey a “supernatural or transcendent truth in earthly form." Those who hold this view will contend that the Bible was never meant to have any authority in regards to empirical issues such as history or science. Instead, the authority of the Bible only rests in issues of religion and therefore serves to only bring men into a “proper relationship with God”  

Ultimately, those who hold this view usually embrace Naturalistic Evolution (the view that new species of life came into being as a result of natural causes) instead of Biblical Creation. However, they do so by ignoring the clear intent of the author. One example is that the writer clearly intended the book to be an actual historical account due to its narrative style, attention to genealogies (e.g., descendants of Adam and Noah), and dates (e.g., the exact date in relation to Noah’s life that the rain began to fall). 

Therefore, I reject the mythological approach to the interpretation of the account and so should you. 

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