I’ve been preaching on Genesis at Crossroads and recently blogged on “Should We Read Genesis Literally?” While the response from people at Crossroads has been overwhelmingly positive, and we even saw a man put his faith in Christ because the roadblock he had surrounding Genesis was finally removed, the blog post received mixed reviews. This should be expected from a much broader online audience, and I’m definitely okay with it and welcome it.
I was happy to discover the topic at the upcoming Grand Rapids Theological Seminary Talking Points is “Creation in Scripture” and is going to address what I bring up in my sermon head-on. They are bringing in John Walton, whose ministry tagline is “Genesis Through Ancient Eyes.” As I understand it, this is the idea that we should read Genesis through the eyeglasses of its original audience, the Hebrew ex-slaves of Exodus who Moses and his scribes wrote the book to (hundreds and thousands of years after the Genesis events happened). When we do this, it brings alive with incredible freshness the God-breathed theological truths of Genesis. The contemporary historical and scientific debates we are accustomed to in conservative Christianity fade into the background as irrelevant to its purpose.
I invite people to attend this inexpensive, one-day conference on March 18th, as I will be doing. People need to realize you aren’t a heretic and you aren’t unbiblical if you don’t read Genesis as a history and science textbook. In fact a good argument can be made that if you do read it that way, you are reading it wrong. As in, you are ignoring the conservative scholarship of the text and are simply reading it the way you want to, rather than the way the majority of biblical scholarship has deciphered its authorship and audience. It takes a humble person to even open their theological mind up that they could have grown up being taught something incorrectly about how to approach this book.
The problem is we want to keep fighting the battle. We grab our boxing gloves and jump into the ring to fight that the world is 6000 years old and there were dinosaurs on Noah’s ark, and we create museums to back up these theories (calling them truths), and tell people they are throwing out the truth of the Bible if they don’t believe this way, and we start swinging our fists around rapidly…
…only to find that the argument has left the ring and the arena altogether and we are boxing the air. That is not the fight that matters and for me, it doesn’t even exist in my mind. The argument we are talking about is who wrote Genesis and what did they intend when they wrote it. It’s Hermeneutics 101. But many in the 6000-year camp don’t want to talk hermeneutics, they just want to talk science, which is an unfortunate way to approach the Bible. I desire to learn more about the authorship of Genesis, and this is why I’m attending the March 18th Talking Points, because this is what determines how we read Genesis. I’m pretty tired of the arguments (when the Bible is used as the primary source) about the earth being 6000 years old, or it being billions of years of years old and was intelligently designed. To me these are both putting the cart waaay before the horse. What we find when we look at authorship first is that it takes an off ramp onto an east-west highway to a totally different destination (and divine purpose) than the arguments we are having hundreds of miles south of this hermeneutical intersection.
I want my 6000-year-earth bretheren (who I’ve never even tipped my hand on what I actually think the age of the earth is) to understand is there’s a monumental difference between saying, “our culture says XYZ so I’m going to cater what the Bible says to this” versus, “I’ve done the orthodox hermeneutical work I’ve been trained to do, discovered a Moses authorship, and thus realize the emphasis of the book have always meant to be theological and didactic, not scientific or historical, so I’m going to focus on the former, rather than the latter.”
I’m looking forward to the 18th, and also to hearing my former professors Mike Wittmer and David Turner. I wonder if they will be toe the line of teaching I was raised with, or will admit to being heretics like me? (blog note: that’s a joke, this view isn’t heretical, sorry to disappoint you 🙂
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