Response To Hugh Ross’ Objections To The Cosmic Temple View Of Genesis 1

Response To Hugh Ross’ Objections To The Cosmic Temple View Of Genesis 1

 

Recently, I wrote a blog post defending an interpretation of Genesis 1 called “The Cosmic Temple Inauguration View” which you can read about by clicking here. In this blog post, I will be addressing some objections to this view from an article written by Dr. Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. I have a deep respect for Hugh Ross and have benefitted greatly from his writings and the work he’s done at RTB. I learned a lot about Big Bang cosmology and the cosmic and local fine-tuning come from books such as The Creator and The Cosmos, Why The Universe Is The Way It Is, and Improbable Planet. That said, I disagree with his approach to Genesis. I find John Walton’s The Lost World Of Genesis One to be more accurate than Hugh Ross’ Navigating Genesis. 

Let’s look at Ross’ objections to Walton’s book. Because Hugh Ross’ article is so lengthy, I will not address every point in the article, but I will address what objections I think really need to be dealt with.

1: Walton Doesn’t Distinguish Between Hard and Soft Concordism

Ross begins his article by articulating accurately (for the most part at least) the view that John Walton argues for in The Lost World Of Genesis 1. He goes on to say, accurately, that John Walton opposes a concordist approach to Genesis. On page 19 of The Lost World Of Genesis 1, John Walton says this about concordism: “Concordists believe the Bible must agree–be in concord with–all the findings of contemporary science”

Ross takes Walton to task by saying that no biblical scholar, including those at Reasons To Believe, holds to concordism as defined by Walton. Ross said “Hard concordists look to make most, but not all, discoveries, new and old, in science agree with some passage of Scripture. Soft concordists seek agreement between properly interpreted Scripture passages that describe some aspect of the natural realm and indisputably and well-established data in science. RTB holds the latter view.

RTB’s soft concordism agrees with Walton that a literalistic hermeneutic does not apply to all Bible passages. It also agrees with Walton that we must always guard ourselves from reading more into the biblical text than what the text actually warrants. When we overreach, we set ourselves up for possible embarrassment and the church at large for possible ridicule. Scientific and/or historical research could prove our overreaching interpretation incorrect.

On the other hand, to read less into the biblical text than what the text teaches can also be a problem. Secularists often interpret such responses as believers conceding that Scripture cannot withstand objective testing. Either way, the Bible’s truth claims are damaged. Furthermore, by reading less into the text, believers lose out on truth that they can apply for Christian living and for Christian witness.”

I agree that there is a difference between soft concordism and hard concordism. Hard Concordism tries to find a biblical passage that corresponds to all of what modern science says about the origins of the universe, earth, life, and how the solar system functions, et. all. While soft concordists read The Bible and try to find scientific correspondence to biblical passages in only some places. Ross and many other concordist Christians would agree that The Bible and Science do not overlap in many different areas, such as germ theory, atomic theory, whether black holes exist, etc. However, soft concordists would say, for example, that if the scientific evidence establishes that the universe began to exist 14 billion years ago in an explosive like expansion event, then that beginning must be the same beginning mentioned in passages such as Genesis 1:1, John 1:3, and Colossians 1.

John Walton doesn’t make a distinction between hard and soft concordism because, frankly, there is a hermenuetical issue with all branches of concordism. Namely that they don’t interpret The Bible’s passages about nature in their cultural, historical context. Concordists of all stripes assume that The Bible wasn’t inspired simply to record salvation history, teach us how to live a godly life, and the nature of God, but they believe that, in addition to these purposes, God inspired The Bible to give us scientific truths as well. This is the issue with concordism (hard or soft) that Walton argues against.

What reason is there to believe that Genesis 1, or any other biblical passage for that matter, is trying to convey scientific truth? By scientific truth, I mean how the world really functions as described by overwhelming scientific evidence?

If The Bible intended to teach us how the universe works and how it came into being, then once you interpret The Bible in it’s Ancient Near Eastern context, you inevitably must come to the conclusion that The Bible contains outdated and therefore, the inerrancy of The Bible is undermined. I held to the assumption of Ross’ that The Bible meant to reveal scientific truth for years, so when I discovered that the ancients conceived of the universe as a flat disk covered by a dome, supported by pillars, with waters above the solid dome sky and waters beneath the flat Earth,1 I was deeply disturbed. I sent an e-mail to BioLogos about this, and they calmed my fears in their blog post “From The Mailbag – Why Would God Allow Scientific Errors In Scripture”. 

The Bible describes the sky as a solid dome. For example, Genesis 1:7-8 “And God made the firmament and divided the waters that were under the firmament from the waters that were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day”. (KJV) Here the author of Genesis describes God creating a firmament (in Hebrew, the word is raqia) and describes God as separating “waters” below it and “waters” above it. Sounds an awful lot like that dome cosmology you can find in ancient Babylonian and Egyptian texts, doesn’t it? Job 37:18 says “can you join him in spreading out the skies, hard as a mirror of cast bronze?” (NIV) Wait, the sky is “hard”? The sky is like “a mirror of cast bronze?” That’s what Job 37:18 says! Exodus 24:10 says ”And they saw the God of Israel and they say under feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone and as it were, the body of heaven and its clearness.” (KJV) Wait a minute, the sky under God’s feet is like “paved work of sapphire stone”? These verses, and others, say either explicitly or at least strongly imply that the sky is a solid dome.

Genesis 7:11, Genesis 8:2, and Isaiah 24:18 all describe the heavens as having “windows”, clearly referring to the rain. The latter says “And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.” (KJV)

The Bible also speaks of the Earth as being immovable. Psalm 104:5 says “He [God] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.” and Psalm 96:10 says “The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved”. 

If The Bible intends to teach us how the heavens go, then inerrancy is untenable. On the other hand,  if The Bible only intends to teach us history (e.g the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt, that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, etc.), theology, and moral lessons, then to state that it inaccurately depicts the universe wouldn’t be problematic as The Holy Spirit never intended to teach us anything about the cosmos. I define biblical inerrancy as “The Bible is inerrant in all that it affirms”. If it doesn’t affirm ANE cosmology, but only utilizes it to make theological points, then we don’t have a problem.

However, did God also intend to teach us science? Did God, when he inspired Moses and the Prophets, update their scientific understanding of the world? We’ve seen in a brief survey of biblical passages that He did not.

God accommodated His word to the scientific understanding of his original recipients to teach truths about Himself. I resisted this view for a long time because I thought to affirm that The Bible contained Ancient Near Eastern Cosmology was to affirm that The Bible is not inerrant. But I now see that’s mistaken.

Now, concordists will try to explain away the plain reading of these passages by something, like, for example, that when Psalm 96:10 says that the world cannot be moved, that this means that it cannot be moved from its orbit around the sun. The Earth will always be the third rock from the sun and it will never drift towards or away from the sun. The planet Earth is where it is and it isn’t going anywhere. Richard Deem does a lot of this in his article “The Bible Teaches That the Heavens Were a Solid Dome, Embedded with Stars?” The problem with this approach is that it is hermeneutically invalid. Most Bible teachers, including some of the most conservative fundamentalists you’ll ever come across, will say that we should interpret scripture in its cultural context.2 As Paul Jordan, my hermeneutics teacher at Five Point Church South Carolina put it in his course that I attended, “we need to get into the shoes of the biblical author” or as Michael Heiser often puts it, “We need to have the Israelite in our head…” when we read The Bible. Hugh Ross’ and Richard Deems’ interpretations don’t do this. As Deem himself put it in the above-referenced article “Although it would seem from this list that many ancients, including Christians, believed in dome cosmology…” he doesn’t conclude from this that this is how we ought to understand The Bible’s passages as referring to it. He says “Although it would seem from this list that many ancients, including Christians, believed in dome cosmology, this evidence does not answer the original question – Does the Bible teach dome cosmology?”

Well, if the original author and audience believed in dome cosmology, and the biblical authors describe the world in ways that sound eerily similar to that picture, according to the hermeneutics principle of interpreting scripture in its ancient context, we ought to conclude that The Bible contains dome cosmology. Notice that I chose my words carefully. I did not say that it “teaches” dome cosmology. The Bible didn’t need to “teach” dome cosmology. The Israelites, as well as the rest of the ancient world, already held to this view of the cosmos.3 God used a pre-existing cosmological belief as a launching pad to teach theological truths. What Richard Deem and other concordists are essentially saying is “Yeah, the ancients would have held to dome cosmology, but there’s no way The Bible’s saying that”. This is essentially saying, we know the cultural context, but let’s ignore it. Why would they do this? Being a former concordist myself, I believe I know the answer; because they think that conceding that The Bible contains ANE cosmology would undermine biblical inerrancy.

2: “I Wasn’t Looking For The Big Bang In The Bible!”

John Walton writes that “They [concordists] might conclude that if the big bang really happened as a mechanism for the origins of the universe, it must be included in the biblical account of the origins of the universe. So concordists will attempt to determine where the big bang fits into the biblical record and what words could be understood to express it (even if in rather mystical or subtle ways)”4 Dr. Ross takes Walton to task by basically saying that he never purposefully searched for Big Bang cosmology in The Bible. As he was on his spiritual search, he was reading The Bible and just so happened to find that The Bible’s cosmological depictions synced with Big Bang cosmology among other scientific facts.

I don’t doubt Ross’ sincerity for a moment, but the fact that he didn’t have to try hard to see Big Bang cosmology in the text doesn’t mean that he wasn’t committing eisegesis instead of exegesis. Indeed, we are so saturated in our own cultural presuppositions and opinions, that it is difficult to think that like an Ancient Israelite does. Even today, I sometimes read my modern outlook into the text in spite of myself. I have to repeatedly remind myself “How would the original author and audience have understood this?” and if I have no reason to think (or if I have good reasons to the contrary) to think that X is what the author meant, then I have to reject X as a viable interpretation.

Let me step outside the science-in-the-bible issue for a moment and give you a purely theological example of this. In modern evangelicalism we are extremely and rigidly monotheistic. When we read verses like 1 Timothy 2:5 which says “There is one God”, we interpret that as meaning that only one single divine entity exists. To be sure, there is only one Maximally Great Being (i.e an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, necessarily existent, morally perfect divine being who is the creator of everything other than Himself), but that doesn’t mean there is only one god.

As Michael Heiser points out in his book, The Unseen Realm, the Hebrew word for God/god is elohim. And Heiser shows a variety of different usages of elohim which show that it did not always refer to Yahweh, the God of Israel. It was used to refer to powerful supernatural beings who came under God’s judgment in Psalm 82, for example. Heiser writes “I know how difficult it was for me to understand that some cherished notions about the word G-O-D were actually misconceptions. One was an idea dealt with in the last chapter, that the false gods of the Bible were only idols. Another notion that didn’t conform to the reality of the text was that the word G-O-D is only a name, not just an “ordinary” noun. Because I thought G-O-D was exclusively the name of a personal being, and a unique being at that, I tended to assign the attributes of that being, Yahweh of Israel, to the three letters G-O-D. When I came to realize that there were other G-O-D-S in a heavenly council, it seemed (and that’s an important word) as though Yahweh was just one among equals. That bothered me. In the last chapter I explained why this concern was imaginary. Yahweh is inherently distinct and superior to all other gods. Yahweh is an elohim (a god), but no other elohim (gods) are Yahweh. I’m not assuming that the last chapter answered all your questions about the divine council, though. I’m betting that many of you are like I was after first discovering what the inspired text really says—what the ancient worldview of Israel really assumed. You still may be stuck on the idea that there can only be one elohim since Yahweh is called elohim in so many places in the Bible. And if that’s not
true, you might be asking, then what is an elohim?”5

In Deuteronomy 32, Moses is rehearsing how Israel sinned during their wilderness trek by worshipping other gods. When we get to verse 17 we read this statement (note the underlining): “They sacrificed to demons, not God, to gods (elohim) they had never known, new gods (lit., new ones) that had come along recently, whom your fathers had not feared.” The important observation is that the Israelites sacrificed to demons, and those recipients of the sacrifices are also called gods
(elohim). Paul also says that the pagan gods are demons in 1 Corinthians 10:20.

Brian Godawa made use of this biblical fact in his Chronicles Of The Nephillim and Chronicles Of The Apocalypse novel series. Brian has a large number of demon characters working behind the scenes in these two novel series. The demonic entities take on the identity of the gods in the various polytheistic religions of the world such as Apollyon (Satan) the sun god, Zeus the god of thunder, Baal, the Israelite storm god, Asherah, and others. Heiser and Godawa both got me thinking. What if the polytheistic gods aren’t figments of pagan imagination, but demons trying to lead people away from Yahweh? It would make sense. After all, wanting to be God is what initiated the demonic rebellion in the first place. It wouldn’t at all be implausible for the demons to masquerade as pagan gods, inspire all sorts of wild stories about them, and lead people to worship them. Why not? Deuteronomy 32 and 1 Corinthians 10:20 say that there are demons behind idols.

Looking at The Bible in its ancient context leads to this conclusion; there are many gods, there is only one God. There are many powerful supernatural beings, but there’s only one ultimate supreme supernatural being. This ultimately leads to an alternate reading of other Bible passages, such as the first commandment “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) or Jeremiah 46:25 “The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: “I am about to bring punishment on Amon god of Thebes, on Pharaoh, on Egypt and her gods and her kings, and on those who rely on Pharaoh.” How can God punish gods if these gods don’t exist? Well, we don’t need to say that they don’t exist. We can say that they’re demonic entities. Deuteronomy 32 and 1 Corinthians 10:20 tell us this. As for the first commandment, God says that we should not worship these other supernatural beings.

This is not a science bible issue, this is a supernatural-realm bible issue. Look at how our modern, cultural presuppositions have lead us to conclude that the divine council (cf. Psalm 82) does not exist! We read our modern definition into the English word “god” so when we come across Bible passages that say “There is only God”, we read passages about “gods” in that light.

What Hugh Ross denies is that he was sitting in his hotel room flipping through The Bible going “Hmm…I wonder where I can find passages that sound like they’re describing Big Bang cosmology.” I don’t deny that he legitimately found passages that stuck out to him, that seemed (keyword) like they were describing aspects of Big Bang cosmology. That does not mean that he wasn’t misreading the text. If The Bible’s original author and audience had no conception of “the central tenets of big bang cosmology” (and they didn’t), then it’s an interpretive fallacy to say, for example, that “God stretches out the heavens” refers to the expansion of space.

3: Hugh Ross’ Appeal To The Church Fathers and Fred Hoyle 

 

Hugh Ross then says “Walton’s conclusion that the Bible is devoid of scientific content—save for assigning functions to a few components of the natural realm—is an idea that runs counter to how ancient and modern-day scholars, believers and nonbelievers alike, viewed the Bible. We retain from the early church fathers about two thousand pages of their written commentary on Genesis 1, far more than what they wrote on any other chapter of the Bible. Those two thousand pages predominantly describe material origins (see sidebar, Why Genesis 1 Must Be an Account of Natural History) in contrast to Walton’s contention that ‘Genesis One was never intended to offer an account of material origins’ (p. 113).”


As Michael Heiser often says, we need to interpret The Bible in the context that produced it. That context is not the early church fathers, nor is it the protestant reformation, or modern evangelicalism. The context of The Bible is its Ancient Near Eastern context, with respect to The Old Testament, and the classical Hellenistic post-Second-Temple-Judaism Greek world with respect to The New Testament. The fact that, as Ross says, many of the early church fathers held to a material origins view of Genesis 1 is irrelevant. They were living in a post-Aristotelian world in which, by that time, material origins were a big interest, rather than functional origins. A materialistic, Aristotelian world is the context of the early church fathers. I would argue that they were just as much in error as seeing Genesis 1 as an account of material origins as Ross is today. They, like many of us, were reading their context into a passage of scripture that had a different context. As for the functional origins view “running counter to how ancient and modern-day scholars, believers and nonbelievers alike” viewed Genesis, I say who cares? What does biblical evidence indicate? What was the cognitive environment of The Ancient Near East? Ross’ argument commits the ad populum fallacy. Just because a material view of Genesis may be the majority held opinion among modern-day biblical scholars and laypeople doesn’t mean it’s correct. Especially with regards to the latter, most laypeople don’t know the ancient cultural cognitive environment.

I find it odd that Ross goes on to quote Fred Hoyle to make his point. Hoyle said “There is a good deal of cosmology in the Bible. …It is a remarkable conception.” Fred Hoyle is not an Old Testament Scholar. He isn’t even a Christian! Why should his opinion carry any weight?

4: Addressing Hugh Ross’ Arguments For Genesis 1 Being An Account Of Natural History

Hugh Ross wrote “It is extremely contrived, if not impossible, to deny Genesis 1’s description of a sequence of physical events, the passage of time, and natural history if one pays attention to the plain language and grammar of Genesis 1. The creation days are numbered and different components of the physical creation are described on each of those days. The repeated refrain, ‘and there was evening and there was morning,’ which concludes the description of each of the first six creation days, establishes that there was a point in time when each creation day began and a later point in time when that day ended. The fact that the seventh day, God’s rest period, lacks the phrase “and there was evening and there was morning” in addition to other passages in Scripture, (such as Psalm 95, John 5, and Hebrews 4) that refer to God’s seventh day as an epoch proceeding through the present and on into the future, adds more evidence that each creation day sequentially follows after the preceding one.

The grammatical use of the Hebrew Waw-consecutive throughout Genesis 1, decisively argues for the sequential and chronological nature of the creation days.”

First of all, it isn’t impossible or contrived. When you understand the ancient mindset of a Hebrew, I would argue that it’s hard if not impossible to see Genesis 1 as describing material origins. Genesis 1:3-5 says “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that it was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning — the first day.”

 
In Genesis 1, God’s first creative act is “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). This cannot be interpreted as an act of material creation if for no other reason than that the ancients did not consider light to be a material sort of thing. They had no knowledge of photons. For them, light did not consist of anything physical. Therefore, the author of Genesis could not have meant that when “God said ‘let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3) that anything physical came into existence.
 
 
But, moreover, it is interesting that God does not call the light light nor does He call the darkness darkness. He calls the light “day” and the darkness “night” (verse 5). Why is this? “Light” and “day” are not synonyms, even in Hebrew. Professor John Walton argues that the figure of speech known as “Metonymy” is being employed here. Metonymy is a figure of speech that substitutes the effect for its cause, mentioning the cause instead of the effect. “Light” is substituted for “Day” and “Darkness” is substituted for “Night”. What God is referring to is the period of light and the period of darkness (i.e daytime and nighttime). What this suggests is that what God creates is time. Time is what is created on Day 1! Day and Night! This is further supported by what Genesis says in verse 4, the verse immediately preceding verse 5 “God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness”. If these were material objects scripture was talking about, verse 4 would make no sense as darkness and light cannot be joined together. They can’t co-exist. Since they can’t be together, they cannot be separated. Now, if it’s the period of light and the period of darkness (time) that scripture is talking about, then Genesis 1:4 makes a lot more sense. What God separates is the period of light and darkness, not physical light from physical darkness.
 
 

From looking at scripture alone, we can see a good basis for affirming that God created a function on day 1, not anything material. Instead, God created time! 

On day 2 of Genesis 1, we read that God created the “firmament” (in Hebrew, raqia). If Genesis 1 were meant to be an account of natural history (i.e a material view of origins), then Hugh Ross has to either (A) try to explain why there isn’t a solid dome up there since that’s how the original audience would have understood the term raqia or (B) Re-interpret raqia so that it doesn’t refer to the solid dome. Ross, of course, opts for the latter option. But B is not interpreting scripture in its cultural context, therefore B is hermeneutically fallacious. But notice that he takes raqia as just a generic term for the sky (which we know is not material), then Ross has to admit that God did not create anything material on the second day. God did not create anything on Day 2. On his view, the planet Earth was formed during the “in the beginning” section and was present in verse 2. And you can’t have a skyless planet.

On day 4, we read “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights — the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the fourth day.” (Genesis 1:14-19, NIV)

God is installing functionaries which carry out their own functions delineated in the first 3 days (Time, Weather, Food). The text offers no material nature of the celestial bodies. All it says materially speaking is that they exist in the heavens. This is not problematic if this is an account of functional creation. The function of the heavenly bodies is clearly stated “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.’ And it was so.” (Verse 14, emphasis mine). The purpose of the sun, moon, and stars are to mark time “seasons, days, and years”. Now, by “function”, I do not mean scientific function, but an anthropologically oriented function. That is to say, functioned for humanity.

If anthropological functional ontology is the purpose of Genesis 1, then the fourfold description of the sun, moon, and stars (signs, seasons, days, years) are pertinent only to homo sapiens. The one that seems to be the odd one out is “seasons”. However, we shouldn’t conceive of seasons here in the sense of winter, spring, summer, and fall. Rather, seasons here most likely refers to festival celebrations, and obviously, festival celebrations are something carried out by human beings. This conclusion is drawn from the fact that the Hebrew word in other places in The Bible refers to precisely that. In other places in The Bible, the Hebrew word translated “seasons” designates the festival celebrations that are associated with the sowing season, the harvesting season and so on.

So if Days 1, 2, and 4, have God not materially manufacturing anything, but instead assigning functions to time, the sky, and the celestial bodies, then on what basis can we deny that the other two days don’t also have a functional and not-material focus?

Secondly, neither I nor John Walton would dispute that “The repeated refrain, ‘and there was evening and there was morning,’ which concludes the description of each of the first six creation days, establishes that there was a point in time when each creation day began and a later point in time when that day ended.” On The Cosmic Temple Inauguration View, each day can be viewed as chronological 24 hour days with a definite beginning and ending points. Genesis 1 describes a period of 7 days in which God assigned functions to various things of creation (i.e decreeing how they would function in service to humanity) in the process of inaugurating His cosmic temple (i.e the universe).

Thirdly, we need not dispute that “The grammatical use of the Hebrew Waw-consecutive throughout Genesis 1, decisively argues for the sequential and chronological nature of the creation days.” what Walton and I dispute is that material creation occurs in these 7 days.

Hugh Ross says that “Another decisive point in favor of Genesis 1 as a chronological description of nature is the use of the word ‘beginning’ in Genesis 1:1 and the words ‘completed’ and ‘finished’ in Genesis 2:1–2. In addition to the numbering of the creation days and the implication of the repeated evening–morning phrases (indicating that each day has a start time and an end time), throughout Genesis 1, we also find the repetition of the phrases ‘and God said,’ and ‘it is good.’ Reading Genesis 1, whether in the original Hebrew or in the English translation, it seems like Moses, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is doing everything he can possibly do to communicate the fact that Genesis 1 is a chronological account of natural history.”

I’m not sure how “completed” and “finished” in Genesis 2:1-2 is supposed to negate a functional, temple understanding of Genesis 1. No one who holds to The Cosmic Temple Inaguration view would deny that God’s creation (i.e the assigning of functions) came to an end at the end of the week. Indeed, as Walton points out in his book, the 7th day is the most important of the creation days. This is the day God ceases assigning functions and comes into His temple to “rest”, as gods did in temples in the ANE.

5: Does The Cosmic Temple View Demean The Bible? 

Hugh Ross wrote “To conclude that interpretations of the Bible’s science/creation content were wrong prior to the discoveries in recent times of ancient Middle Eastern literature seems to demean the inspiration of Scripture. If the Bible is indeed God’s message to humanity, would He not inspire the human authors in such a manner that their writings would communicate truth, and nothing but truth, to all generations?”

I see no reason to think Walton’s view demeans the inspiration of scripture. That we didn’t have a fully orbed picture of Genesis prior to the recent recovery of Ancient Near Eastern doesn’t mean Genesis 1 hasn’t spoken to all people in all generations. Anyone who reads Genesis 1 can readily discern the following truths; God is the creator of all things, God assigned each thing its function (regardless of whether a material act accompanied the assigning), and that God crafted the universe for humanity’s benefit, that humanity is made in God’s image. These are the most important truths Genesis 1 conveys. That Genesis 1 is devoid of material creation, that the 7 days represent temple inauguration with God taking up His temple rest on day 7, are truths, but they are in the periphery.

The major points are clear to anyone who reads The Bible, but getting the minor points will require that you do the work of exegesis; examining the original language and culture, and other Bible passages that touch on the subject. Thus, while the major points of Genesis 1 were clear to all generations, the minor points weren’t recovered until recently. Hence, the title of Walton’s book “The Lost World Of Genesis 1″

6: Does Walton’s View Make The Bible Untestable? 

Hugh Ross writes “If the Bible has no predictive power when it comes to science, how can a secular reader of Scripture draw the conclusion that the Bible is anything other than a set of documents inspired by mere men? Walton might respond that the Bible has predictive power when it comes to human history (fulfilled prophecy) but none when it pertains to natural history or the current status of the natural realm. Such a posture seems incoherent and hermeneutically inconsistent with a God who desires to reveal Himself to all people.

…….The loss of scientific evidence for the Bible’s veracity on material origins and material explanations that is inherent in Walton’s model cripples the church’s evangelistic mission. How can a Christian seriously obey Peter’s injunction to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”? Often, questions non-Christians pose about Christianity are scientific in nature, and the scientific questions most frequently asked concern material origins and material explanations. For the Christian to respond by saying that the Bible is silent on such matters makes the Bible irrelevant.” 

While it’s true that non-concordism keeps you from making arguments like “Look at how scientifically accurate The Bible is! It predicted X thousands of years in advance! It must be inspired!”, it doesn’t follow that secularists cannot “draw the conclusion that The Bible is anything other than a set of documents inspired by mere men?” Ross’ Science-Bible comparison argument is not the only argument for The Bible’s inspiration there is. Indeed, as Ross himself indicated in the above citation, there’s predictive prophecy. I wrote about this in my blog post “5 Fulfilled Bible Prophesies That Make Non-Christians Uncomfortable”. 

Not only that, but there is The Divine Identity Argument. What is The Divine Identity Argument? Why, it’s the central thesis of my book The Case For The One True God: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Historical Case For The God Of Christianity available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.

The Divine Identity Argument takes the attributes of “The God Of Natural Theology” (i.e The God proven to exist by The Kalam Cosmological Argument, The Cosmic Fine-Tuning Argument, The Local Fine-Tuning Argument, The Moral Argument, and The Ontological Argument) and the attributes ascribed to the God Of The Bible, and concludes that since both have exactly the same attributes, and there isn’t a single attribute to distinguish them, they must be one in the same. Especially since none of the polytheistic, pantheistic, or Deistic gods even come close to having the same attributes of the God of these Natural Theology arguments.

This conclusion draws its inference from the law of identity The law of identity states If Thing X has the same properties as Thing Y, and if there’s nothing whatsoever to distinguish X from Y, then what that means is that X is Y. If Thing X has properties 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and Thing 2 also has properties 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, and there is no additional property in either to distinguish Thing 1 from Thing 2, then it follows that Things 1 and 2 are the same thing, not 2 separate entities. If there is an additional property to distinguish one from the other, then it would be fallacious to conclude that they are the same.

Now, not only does this argument show that The God Of The Bible and the God of The Natural Theology arguments are the same, but this also provides us with a good argument for The Bible’s inspiration. If The Bible were only a human book written by human men just making stuff up, it is extremely improbable that they would make up a God who is exactly like the God of the Cosmological, Teleological, Moral, and Ontological Arguments. Why didn’t their allegedly made up god fall short like the so-called gods in the rest of the religious writings of the world? The reason is that the God of the Cosmological, Teleological, Moral, and Ontological Arguments (i.e The God of Natural Theology) inspired the writers of The Bible. That’s why they describe Him perfectly. The God Of Natural Theology inspired The Bible’s authors and that’s why they describe Him perfectly.

Now, given that The Bible is inspired by this Being (who is morally perfect, as evidenced by the Moral and Ontological Arguments), then whatever The Bible says must be the truth. Morally perfect beings cannot lie, but will always tell you the truth. This means that we can believe that Heaven and Hell actually exist, that angels and demons actually exist, that Adam and Eve actually existed (provided our exegesis takes us to that conclusion, which I think it does), that believing in Jesus will grant you eternal life, but disbelieving in Him will land you in Hell, and so on and so forth. Get my book for more information. 

Finally, you can conclude that The Bible is divinely inspired by the authority of Jesus. There is powerful historical evidence that Jesus claimed to be God and then rose from the dead! If Jesus claimed to be God, but wasn’t, then God would never raise Him from the dead knowing that doing so would be to vindicate His blasphemous claims. If Jesus rose from the dead, and the historical evidence shows that He did, then God put His stamp of approval on Jesus’ claims. Therefore, we can put a lot of stock in what Jesus taught; including but not limited to; that The Old Testament is the divinely inspired word of God.

In conclusion, Hugh Ross’ contention that a denial of concordism makes The Bible’s truth claims untestable or unverifiable is just fallacious.

7: Everyone Has An Interest In Material Origins?

Hugh Ross wrote “…these views presume that the ancient Israelites had little or no interest in how a particular creation story corresponds with physical reality in terms of its details and chronology.

The truth is that all humans through the ages, from toddlers to the very elderly, from those completely lacking in formal education to those possessing the most advanced degrees, have manifested intense curiosity about such issues. Testifying to this fact is the pervasiveness of creation accounts, legends, and myths evident in all cultures and the ubiquity of attempted explanations of natural history in these stories and in scholarly works throughout the human era.”

But when you look at those creation myths, you see that they all lack material acts of creation. Instead, they focus on the gods bringing order to a non-ordered system. In other words, you see a functional ontology rather than a material ontology. I surveyed some of these creation myths in my original blog post defending The Cosmic Temple Inaguration View, and John Walton has many more examples cited in his book Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology. If everyone had an interest in material origins as Ross says, why do so many of the ANE creation texts focus so heavily on functions and virtually neglect material?

Moreover, that Genesis 1 is not about material origins is evident from the fact that at the beginning of the account, material is already present! Walton gives some arguments in his book (and so do I in my original blog post defending this interpretation) from the Hebrew Bible itself that Genesis 1:1 is a literary introduction to the rest of the chapter, not the beginning point of space, matter, and energy as Ross believes. Therefore, God’s acts of creation do not begin until verse 2. And in verse 2 “The Earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep. And the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” There’s already material present! If this account were about material origins, shouldn’t it begin with no material? Instead, it begins with material, but no functions, which is exactly what we would expect if Walton’s thesis is correct.

8: Can Science Access God? 

In The Lost World Of Genesis One, John Walton says that  “science is removed from the realm of divine activity,” (p. 115) and “neither ultimate cause nor purpose can be proven or falsified by empirical science,” (p. 116) and that “science cannot offer access to God and can neither establish his existence beyond reasonable doubt nor falsify his existence” (p. 116). He adds, “Science is not capable of exploring a designer or his purposes” (p. 127). He continues, “Science is incapable of affirming or identifying the role of God” (p. 135).

Hugh Ross disagrees with this and says that it “contradicts Paul’s declaration in Romans that ‘God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have clearly been seen; being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.'” and that it also contravenes The Belgic Confession which says : “[The] universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.”

Both Walton and Ross are arguing half-truths. In one sense, science can only tell us natural things about the natural world we live in. For example, science tells us that the universe began to exist in a hot explosion-like event which we call “The Big Bang”, and science tells us this based on the evidence from the expansion of the universe, the cosmic microwave background radiation, and the abundance of light elements in the universe. Science also tells us that the laws of physics are precisely calibrated to an extraordinary precision to allow the existence of life, and that if the laws of physics were tweaked in any marginal way, it would be impossible for life forms of any kind to exist.

However, just looking at the raw data alone doesn’t say anything about whether or not God exists. All that science tells us is that the universe began to exist a finite time ago and that the laws of physics are finely tuned in such a way as to permit the existence of life. Science doesn’t go any farther than that. In this sense, science cannot prove the existence of God.

However, I would agree with William Lane Craigs assessment that “Science can provide evidence for a premise in a philosophical argument for the existence of God” So, take The Kalam Cosmological Argument for God’s existence. It philosophically reasons to God’s existence, and science can establish the second premise (i.e “The universe began to exist”). Likewise, the teleological argument can take the scientific fact of fine-tuning and infer the existence of a Fine-Tuner. So, can science prove the existence of God? Not without the aid of philosophy.

9: Examining Creation Verbs 

I was stunned at Ross’ lack of engagement with Walton’s book in this portion of his article. He basically says “How could these lexicons be so wrong?” without noting that on page 42 of his book, John Walton cites all of the instances in which Bara (i.e The Hebrew word that’s translated as “create”) is used and several of them demand the interpretation that no material came into being. Since several instances of bara do not require material creation (let alone creatio ex nihilo), then that at least opens the possibility that Genesis 1 isn’t talking about that. Of course, one has to look at how Bara is used in Genesis 1 to determine whether it is talking about functions, material creation, or something else. I provide several of these examples in my blog post “The Cosmic Temple View Of Genesis 1” 

As for asa (the Hebrew word translated as “make”), Dr. Ross says “Walton tries to make a distinction between two definitions of asa, ‘making’ and ‘doing’ (p. 65). However, doing typically involves making. Furthermore, it would be awkward, out of context with the rest of the Old Testament, and counter to a creative act limited to a functional role only to translate: (1) Genesis 1:16 as God did two great lights and also did the stars or (2) Genesis 1:26 as let us do human beings.”

John Walton actually addresses this objection, not in his Genesis One book, but in the first portion of another book The Lost World Of Adam and Eve.

Walton said that “Doing the heavens and the earth” isn’t a good English idiom, but points out that asa is translated in other places of the NIV as “prepare” or “ordained”. So, you could translate Genesis 1:16, for example, as “God prepared two great lights”.

Conclusion


Hugh Ross has failed to refute The Cosmic Temple Inauguration interpretation of Genesis 1 and he has failed to defend concordism.

————————————————————-
NOTES


1:  For those who might think I’m pulling this crazy cosmic picture out of my booty, all of this information can be checked out in Kyle Greenwood’s book “Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science,” Part 1 of Greenwood’s book walks through each “tier” of the ancient universe, from heaven to earth to sea to underworld. He presents historical and archaeological evidence from the world of the Bible—the “Ancient Near East”—and shows how this cosmology influenced the biblical writers. This ancient understanding of the cosmos is not only talked about in “Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science,” by Kyle Greenwood, but also in “The Lost World Of Genesis One, Ancient Cosmology and The Origins Debate” by John Walton, “Genesis 1 As Ancient Cosmology” by John Walton, “The Firmament and The Waters Above”, by Seely P, in the Westminister Theological Journal, 54, 1992, pages 31-46, and “The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible” by Michael S. Heiser. There are also many BioLogos blog posts on Ancient Near Eastern cosmology at BioLogos.org such as “Ancient Science In The Bible” by Denis Lamoreux, and “The Firmament Of Genesis 1 Is Solid, But That’s Not The Point.”  by Peter Enns. Click the hyperlinks to read those blog posts. Another source includes Horowitz, “Mesopotamian Cosmic Geography”, brief treatment in Cornelius, “Visual Representations”, 198, with citations.
These men are highly qualified to speak on this issue. Kyle Greenwood’s author information on Amazon says “Kyle Greenwood formerly taught Old Testament and Hebrew at Colorado Christian University, and is currently an associated faculty of Old Testament at Denver Seminary. He is an active member of several professional societies, including Society of Biblical Literature, Institute for Biblical Studies, and American Scientific Affiliation.” John Walton is an Old Testament professor at Wheaton College. And Michael S. Heiser’s author information on Amazon says that Heiser “is a scholar in the fields of biblical studies and the ancient Near East. He is Scholar-in-Residence at Logos Bible Software. Mike earned his Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible and Semitic Languages at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004. He also earned an M.A. in the same field at Wisconsin, along with an M.A. in Ancient History from the University of Pennsylvania (major fields: Ancient Israel and Egyptology).” 

2: See “Hermenuetics 101 – Part 3: Understanding The Cultural Context”  posted by Evan Minton on January 10, 2017 –> http://cerebralfaith.blogspot.com/2017/01/hermenuetics-101-part-3-understanding.html

3: Again, see Kyle Greenwood’s book “Scripture and Cosmology: Reading the Bible Between the Ancient World and Modern Science,”,“The Unseen Realm: Recovering The Supernatural Worldview Of The Bible” by Michael S. Heiser, and “The Lost World Of Genesis One, Ancient Cosmology and The Origins Debate” by John Walton

4: John Walton, “The Lost World Of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and The Origins Debate”, IVP Academic, page 105

5: Michael S Heiser, “So What Exactly is an Elohim?
chapter excerpted from Mike’s first draft of his next book” — http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/What%20is%20an%20Elohim.pdf

6:

 
Liked it? Take a second to support Evan Minton on Patreon!

Leave a Reply