Thoughts on Creation arising out of my studies

Marc, in a recent post, mentions the whole controversy of evolution /creation. I’m really not up to arguing the validity of creation methods. In fact I think the controversy has diminished our understanding of the first few chapters of the Bible. As Christians, we hardly use these chapters for teaching because we are afraid to get into the various controversies regarding God’s methods of creation.

Recently my seminary studies have included this part of the Bible – the interpretation of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, which Genesis introduces. One of my assignments involved comparing the Creation accounts in Genesis with the Babylonian and Egyptian creation stories. I’ve known for a long time that other creation stories existed but I have never read or studied them so the assignment to dig into them was interesting. (They are challenging reading though since the stories I read are translations of some old, old records.) You can find some of them here and here.

One of the authors of a text we are using likened the familiarity with these stories, which would have been passed down orally in the history of the ancient people of the near east, to the way in which most young people would be familiar with the accounts of evolution today.

In our culture, our understanding of the way things are becomes part of the background which we use to interpret events. Since the writer(s) of the Pentateuch sought to go back to the very beginning of the world in order to show the sovereignty and power of God, they told the story of Creation as they understood it to have happened, not to explain how God manipulated the atoms of the universe to bring it about, but to relate how God was sovereign over it. Thus the creation account explains how God pre-existed his creation of the world, how he created the world as a good thing and how humans were the epitome of his creation and created in order to care for the world as well as to have a relationship with God. I know this is extremely simplified but it does set the theme for the continued action of God in the history of the people through whom he chose to reveal himself to the world.

This is how I expressed it in my paper:
“It is a shame that the accounts of creation have been the source of such controversy resulting in such a perceived incompatibility between science and faith. I have heard many arguments for using the Genesis accounts of creation as a tool for proving young earth and literal six day creation theories and I have heard other arguments that support its compatibility with scientific models of creation. It is rare to hear the story appreciated as literature and as background for the rest of the Pentateuch. In relegating the story of creation solely to supporting various views of creation I wonder if we have not lost touch with the purpose of its inclusion in these books.”

And later I quote an author of one of our texts, Gordon Wenham, “As Gordon Wenham says in his text on the Pentateuch, “What we have in Genesis is a major theological reinterpretation of traditional origin stories.”[1]

Anyway, this is getting to be a long post and long posts are not often read so – I will end. But I think all our arguments about how creation took place do more to distract us from the purpose of the story than to point us to the all powerful God who created this amazing earth and all that is in it, including human life, and who desired communication and relationship with us.

[1] Wenham, Gordon J. Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch. InterVarsity Press. Downers Grove, IL. 2003. P15


Filed under Quotes, Reading, Reflections, Studying

11 responses to “Thoughts on Creation arising out of my studies

  1. Excellent thoughts. I was teaching in Vancouver years ago and stated that, in order to understand the Gospel, we needed to start in Genesis. At one point on the first day I said something like, “You can read the creation account as a literal history AND for what the literary and symbolic meanings represent…” One of the students openly dismissed me and my teaching for the rest of the week for suggesting the story was anything but literal history. So much is lost…

  2. The funny thing was, I thought I was being gracious to the literal reading in my comment. Shows how “far” I’ve “drifted” (wink).

  3. Interesting stuff indeed. I’ve also heard it said that the Genesis account of creation was in response to the “pagan” (in the technical sense) creation accounts. So they took up those creation accounts (which explains the similarities) and reshaped them to reflect God as creator and sovereign.

    But I’m sure you ran into this in your studies.

  4. Linea

    The reshaping of the creation accounts is a bit of what I allude to in my third paragraph. And of course the quote from Wenham.

    I like the concept of the Gospel beginning in Genesis. It surely does and what a way to begin. I love the awe inspiring poetry of the first chapter and especially, “And God saw that it was very good.” Such an affirmation of our value in the eyes of God.

  5. Right. I should have read a little more closely.

  6. You make an excellent point. It fits with a wider pateren of not reading the Scripture as narrative, even when it’s mostly narrative.

  7. Bill

    Can an Evangelical Christian Accept Evolution? –

  8. linealanoie

    Thanks Bill. That is a good link – long to watch but anyone who wants good scientific background should be satisfied.

  9. It seems reasonable to me that all nations should have had, at some stage, some kind of creation account: humanism is a relatively recent invention, and not asking where we came from is nearly unthinkable. Also IF there was a flood then everyone’s creation account should have come from a quite narrow source (effectively 3 families) which would make similarities, and possible adaptation by the Jews both likely and reasonable.

    “The funny thing was, I thought I was being gracious to the literal reading in my comment. Shows how “far” I’ve “drifted” (wink).”

    I suspect you may not have masked this quite as effectively as you thought, and therefore the reaction is not entirely surprising. Maybe you’d have gained more respect if you’d just dismissed a literal creation outright (what I understand your comments to mean) though also quite possibly not.

  10. Toni,

    Actually, I was far more gracious than my quote above would suggest (as most in the room were literalists, but only one was offended- though the others were surprised).


  11. Good man. It’s hard to tell from a typed sentence or 2.