Educate Truth shares the following article from Memory, Meaning, and Faith as a service to readers.
January 30, 2011
By Nicholas Miller (Department of Church History, SDA Theological Seminary, Andrews University)
Last weekend a scholar from Wheaton College, Prof. John Walton, came to Andrews University to share his thoughts on the question of how Genesis 1 (ESV) should be read and understood. The crux of his argument was a historical one, and thus worth discussing on this history blog. Walton is viewed in the larger evangelical community as a relatively conservative scholar who believes in the authority of Scripture in spiritual and moral matters, as well as in its claims of miracles and the supernatural. For those not at the event, a brief summary of his presentations and claims follows.
Prof. Waltonâ€™s Presentations and Ideas
On Friday night, Walton spoke to students and faculty in a lecture sponsored by the University and the Science Department. He dealt with the question of the general interpretive approach to the Old Testament. He argued that we can only understand the meaning of the stories in the Bible if we understand the worldview of its immediate intended audience. It was written to their worldview, not to that of the 21st century. While its spiritual and moral messages were also intended for today, we should recognize, Walton argued, that its authority does not lie in its claims about the physical world and material reality. He claimed that the Bible makes no scientific claims, i.e., that its observations on the natural and physical world were no different than the existing worldview(s) of the surrounding cultures.
On Sabbath afternoon, Walton spoke to the Adventist Forum group, and applied this model to the issues of Genesis 1. He observed that on day one, God did not actually create light, but rather put it to the use or function of marking off periods of light and dark. From this insight, he posited that the Hebrew mind was actually concerned about the function of things, and not their material origins. He argued that this was the model of all the days of creation, and that while he could accept that they were seven literal days of time, as we know them today, that nothing was necessarily materially created on those days. Rather, the functions of all these itemsâ€”the earth, the sea, the sky, plants, animals, and humansâ€”were instituted, and the whole was inaugurated as a temple, or sanctuary for God.
What was Waltonâ€™s view on when plants, and animals, and humans were actually, materially created? He did not say in his presentations. He suggested that one cannot answer these questions from Genesis, as it was not written for that purpose. In the Q & A sessions that followed both presentations, and from his writings on the topic, it appears that Walton is very open to accepting most of the current scientific evolutionary story. He is not a classic theistic evolutionist, in that he believes that God intervened directly in the evolutionary process, certainly at the development of life, and probably at other critical steps. But his model is essentially a modified version of theistic evolution, and very different from a traditional Adventist understanding of the creation account. Has he presented a package that should cause Adventists to reconsider their opposition to theistic evolution, or a meaningful modification of their seven-day, material creation model? I think not, for the following reasons. (Read more)
Adventist Forum has invited John Walton to speak at their “Genesis & Beyond: Celebrating Faith in a Polarized” conference Sept. 2011.