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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Genesis 1: How Should We Interpret It? --Part 1

I have been looking forward to writing this post for some time. I can't remember how I discovered this book, but I find its "solution" to the question of how to interpret Genesis 1 extremely gratifying.

The book's title: In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood . . . by Johnny V. Miller (former president of Colombia Bible College [which became Colombia International University during his tenure as president]) and John M. Soden (professor of Old Testament at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School).

I have urged my acquaintances at Sonlight to incorporate this book into the Sonlight high school curriculum—and at least some of its basic insights and perspectives into earlier grades’ teaching notes. Hint: Miller and Soden take a strongly non-concordist view of Genesis 1-3.

As I wrote on this blog two years ago:
The concordist interpretations seek to show how modern scientific teaching is well in line with what the Bible teaches about creation and the early history of the world. ("See, if we reinterpret this word as meaning _______, and if we recognize that this word means _______ [etc.], then there is no conflict at all between science and Scripture!")
The non-concordist interpretations, by contrast, say, in essence, "Look, the biblical record in Genesis 1-11 has no relation to modern science or history. Don't even look for evidence that tries to tie the Bible's teachings in Genesis 1-11 to modern science or history. It doesn't. It 'teaches' everything obnoxious to modern science and history that the young-earthers claim . . . and more. Except . . ." . . . 
The non-concordists suggest various ways by which evangelicals ought to understand Genesis 1-11--ways that, they say, honor the Bible as God's inerrant, infallible Word (as per the standard evangelical statements of faith) while also containing statements or teachings that don't even come close to according with the truth of history and science as we know it. 
My view: In the Beginning . . . We Misunderstood is the first book on a generally POPULAR level that seeks to address the topic of Genesis 1-3 in a way that honors the legitimate intentions and concerns of both old- and young-earth creationists while also--and more importantly and fundamentally--seeking truly to honor the text of the Bible as written and the context in and for which it was written.

As  Miller and Soden note, the concordists on both side—the Ken Hams of the world on the young-earth side and the Hugh Rosses of the world on the old-earth side—all read into the text modern scientific “insights” that were never there in the first place . . . and, therefore, they try to make it say what it obviously doesn't say.

Meanwhile, however, all of the non-concordists I have read prior to Miller and Soden tend to note the problems with concordist interpretations [“so,” they conclude “therefore, we must adopt a non-concordist interpretation”], but/and, then, they immediately “get on” with “the science” of the age of the earth . . . and jettison any concern with or attempt, properly, to interpret the biblical text. I.e., they leave us with an open question as to what was the Bible meant to say? How should we interpret it?

Miller and Soden provide what I find to be a rather satisfying answer.

It is an answer that will shake up most fundamentalists’ and/or evangelicals’ perspectives on the Bible. But I believe Miller and Soden have gotten to the deepest roots of my discomfort with both the old- and young-earthers’ claims. . . . I sense they honor the text as written, the Bible as God's inerrant Word. They also leave modern science to do whatever it will do.

And in case you are wondering: they say, YES, the Bible--"even" Genesis 1-3--is authoritative. But/and it is authoritative and speaks authoritatively in a way that doesn't happen to have anything to do with the age of the earth or scientific evidence concerning the age of the earth.

--More in my next post . . . found here.

1 comment:

  1. Can't wait to read the next post. I heard Dr. John Walton from Wheaton College on the Phil Vischer Podcast several months ago talking about a book he's written on Genesis. Though I don't know where Miller and Soden are going yet, your post reminded me of Dr. Walton's ideas. He talked about how the creation stories of the people of that time had to do with bringing order out of chaos. It was very interesting, and I intend to read his book some day when I can afford it! :)