Monday, April 05, 2010

Dr. John C. (Jack) Collins: Understanding the Days of Creation (with Vern Poythress and Jay Richards)

This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute.

C.S. Lewis, Preface to Paradise Lost: "the first qualification for judging any piece of workmanship from a corkscrew to a cathedral is to know what it is--what it was intended to do and how it is meant to be used".

Moses wrote what he did with the people of Israel in mind.

1. Where does the passage begin and end?

Genesis 2:4 - "these are the generations...". Chapter 1:1 - 2:3 is set off as first passage, set apart from the rest of Genesis as a kind of preface. Makes it OK to have a different style than the rest. The style, feel is different than "ordinary narrative". It is "exalted prose", highly stylized, structured.

Chapter 2 fills in details of Day Six.

2. How did the author structure the passage?

God is going through his "work week". God begins each of his work days by saying something, expressing a wish which is then fulfilled. God's initial act of creation takes place sometime before Gen. 1:3 (the first day).

Moses focuses on 2:27 because he wants to stress its importance; all the rest of the narrative serves it -- God made man in his image, therefore, the six days are the days God set up the (already-existing) earth for man to dwell on.

The "kind" of Genesis should not be equated with species. Nomadic shepherds cf. Matthew 13 - wheat and tares. Genesis is not teaching these nomadic shepherds how things work -- they knew how to breed more sheep -- but rather why they work.

Evening and then morning -- in that culture, you worked during the day, then rested at night, so God's activity is presented in the pattern of the Israelite work week. Cf. Exodus 31:17 - God rested and was refreshed. Passage is presenting God's creation by analogy -- it is like a human work week, but also different.

The 7th day has no refrain because it has no end -- see John 5:17 and Hebrews 4:3-11. Conclusion from this is that the seventh day is no ordinary day.

Genesis 2:4-7 ESV eratz -- do we translate "earth", or "land"? (Both Dr. Poythress and Dr. Collins were involved in the creation of the ESV.) Gen. 2:4-7 is a fuller and more detailed description of 1:27.

19th century theologian Herman Bavinck: “The creation days are the workdays of God. By a labor, resumed and renewed six times, he prepared the whole earth….” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol.1 , p. 500).

Not the first six days of the universe or even the earth.

The Sabbath commandment follows God's pattern.

Father --> father
King --> king
Light --> light
Creator/Worker --> Israelite worker
Good --> good

The matter in the universe
a) does not create itself
b) does not order itself.

Someone/something imposed organization, limits, design to the components of the universe.

Maker of heaven and earth:
* Israel's universal calling
* This is God's world
* Celebrate God's fashioning of the world as an impressive achievement
* Israel is going to live in the promised land
* As farmers

Haydn's Creation Oratorio

Leit Motif of this conference - what we mean by our words - Genesis is historical -- but this word does not necessitate bland prose, must make allowances for poetical language

Summary. God made all things:
* from nothing
* by the word of his power
* in six days
* all very good
* bears his imprint
* right kind of place for us

Vern Poythress: Genesis is a verbal communication from God; science is human reflection -- they are not equal.

Genesis 1 is a psalm of praise? See also Psalm 148, Col. 1:15-17; Col 1:18-20.

Jay Richards:

Days --
1. Literal days -- Mars has a day; Venus has a day - there are types of literal days
2. Analogy - God's work week; our work week -- not ours, God's
3. Early Christians - God took Adam's rib - most thought 24 hour days (but this is not the same as saying they were "young earth Creationists"!
4. Clocks are a relatively late invention and innovation. Before clocks, a day was not thought of as a 24-hour, 86,400 second period -- it was a period of activity, work, followed by rest -- in all human cultures.


Q. Jesus said, "in the beginning, he created them male and female".
A. Beginning of their existence, not beginning of the universe, beginning of human life and the created order created and ordered for human life

To say something is a pattern does not mean that it is identical in every detail.

Witnesses are to be weighed, not counted.

Our modern preoccupation with technical measurement vs. pattern of six work days followed by a rest day. Many cultures (prior to clocks) work on the basis of social time, human rhythms.

Gerald Schroeder - employs relativity - different time frames for time.

Q. Do you believe that Adam and Eve existed and were first human beings?
A. Yes.

Q. Biologos website. Genesis is the genre of mythology cf. Ancient Near East mythology.
A. Mythology is a very specific genre. The text does not look that way at all.

The questions to ask are:

a) What was the author trying to achieve? and
b) What did the intended audience, the hearers, hear and understand?

Q. I used to be a YEC (young-earth creationist). Problem I still have is, what about death before the Fall, and the picture of redemption via animal sacrifice?

A. Most serious question. Bill Dembski - The End of Christianity - death retroactively applied based on God's foreknowledge? Genesis 2:17 "shall surely die" -- addressed to the man -- context is human (not animal) experience -- spiritual death which also leads to physical death?

Is animal death in the ordinary course viewed as evil in the Bible? Don't think so -- "lions get their food from God". New heaven and new earth -- even better than the original very good creation

Q. Baker. Case for Old Earth.
A. firmament, expanse -- thought of as hard and firm because of way translated into Greek - term used instead of sky - reflects "high prose" of Genesis 1 - cf. greater and lesser lights instead of sun and moon -- sky, sun, moon, were all terms available to the Hebrews.

Dr. Jack Collins is the author of Genesis 1-4: A Linguistic, Literary, And Theological Commentary.

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"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"