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Coming to Grips with Genesis, edited by Terry Mortenson, Ph. D. and Thane H. Ury, Ph. D. 

Is the question of the age of the earth too divisive for Christians?  Is your interpretation of Genesis, particularly the first eleven chapters, important?  Are young-earth creationists good Bible scholars or good scientists?  Does Genesis allow for millions or billions of years?  Does the rest of the Bible? 

Comprised of nearly 450 pages written by 16 men dedicated to the literalism, inerrancy, and theological relevance of Genesis 1-11, this book is a resource for scholars and theologians.  Amateur as I am, reading the entire book cover to cover was a challenge.  I learned several new words, my favorite of which is phenomenological – just because it is fun to say!  Most Creationist books are about science.  Some are about the cultural impact of accepting Darwinism.  This book is almost unique in that it addresses the theological reasons for believing in a recent 6-day creation of the Heavens and Earth and life in them, as well as, significantly, a global flood. 

Christians today cannot even be said to be tempted to doubt the authority of Scripture compared to science; it is almost a cultural given that reasonable Christians will submit their interpretations of the Word of God to the supreme truth of scientific evidence as interpreted by a majority of secular and religious scientists.  Coming to Grips with Genesis seeks to show that no compromise on the literal narrative of Genesis 1-11 is based in hermeneutics.  Theologians who promote the day-age, framework, poetic, or gap theories for interpreting Genesis are inspired only by their conviction that “science” has proven an age of the earth billions of years beyond that recorded by the only witness, the God of the Bible. 

Topics include:
– historic interpretations of Genesis and beliefs about the age of the earth from Jesus, the apostles, early church fathers, reformation theologians, and modern commentators
– possibility of gaps in the Genesis 5 and 11 genealogies
– theological implications of death and pain and decay before Adam’s sin
– and discussions of the words, phrases, and style of language in the Creation account of Genesis 1-3, and the Flood narrative in Genesis 6-8. 

Dedicated to Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr., a short biography and bibliography is included at the end of the book along with a personal tribute describing his impact on each contributor opening almost every chapter.  John MacArthur and Henry Morris both endorsed this book with their forewords.  Every essay is covered in footnotes, and there is an extensive resource list in the back of the book for more information.  There is also an index.  Several contributors referred the reader to the Institute for Creation Research’s RATE Project conclusions.  As usual, Master Books has maintained a close relationship with Answers in Genesis, and that ministry is frequently cited in the resource list. 

Chapter 8, “A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Week” by Robert V. McCabe is 38 pages of introduction, discussion, summary, discussion, summary (etc.), conclusion – all about, in my words, the Hebrew word for “and then.”  If you take my advice, you will read the first two pages and skip the rest.  Trust me that this man looked at every possible detail of this “waw consecutive.”  Much more interesting was the work of Stephen W. Boyd in chapter 6, “The Genre of Genesis 1:1-2:3: What Means This Text?”  He included the results of his own statistical analysis of waw consecutives as a sign of historical narrative, with other considerations for determining genre. 

The chapters that included direct quotes (translated) of church fathers were a helpful and interesting survey of early church theology with the different schools of thought (for example, the way in which most theologians related the age of the earth to their eschatology).  One chapter introduced me to Ancient Near Eastern literature.  Another emphasized the importance of context in (especially Hebrew) interpreting a passage.  A phrase often has a meaning more than the sum of its parts.  Page 120 and 121 are a biblical refutation of human empiricism superceding a faith acceptance of the “special revelation” word of God.  Chapter 9’s play by play description of the Flood with a timeline and occasional phrase exposition is one of the highlights (and I learned about inclusios and chiasms!).  My favorite part (more a reflection on my taste for philosophy than the writing or substance of the rest of the book) was the Epilogue, in which the editors contrast young earth biblical creationism with the Intelligent Design Movement (which tends to compromise the statements of the Bible). 

Ultimately, this book is a plea for faithful exegesis of the Bible and a defense of the methods employed and conclusions reached through traditional hermeneutic approach to Genesis consistent with that used on the rest of the Bible.  Coming to Grips with Genesis is an intense work, scholarly and detailed.  Theologians, seminarians, pastors, and Bible teachers – especially those whose view of Genesis is not firmly opposed to all forms of compromise – are the appropriate audience for this book. 

Coming to Grips with Genesis

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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Over the past decade or so, several scientists, authors, and speakers have joined forces to promote their observations that indicate life originated with a designer. Cells are just too complicated, they say, to have arisen by chance. Spontaneous generation, disproven centuries ago, remains the naturalist’s only option for the origin of biological life. Yet the odds against even a simple single-celled organism arising by chance are astronomical. The molecules have to line up all at once to form proteins, which have to line up quickly into the cells. DNA is a complex code for building life: made up of simple proteins, the series communicates a baffling level of information. Intelligent Design usually rests their case for an original designer at this point, picking back up after life has begun to debate Darwinism’s explanation for the variety of life we witness on earth.

But they could take the matter farther. Even if the remotest of far-fetched chances (this is before mutation or natural selection or heredity can have any impact on the process) came true and all the chemicals and molecules lined up, the language DNA writes still had to come from somewhere. It has no meaning without an Author. That age-old question, “Why?” asked by every two year old since humanity began, remains: both inside science and in the realm of philosophy.

According to the theory of evolution, mutations and natural selection account for increasing complexity and increasing variety among living creatures. (Evolutionists have precious little to explain the acquisition of new information in the DNA; all observable speciation, mutation, and variation consists of loss of information, reduced parameters for variety in future generations.) Evolutionists usually posit that all life arose from a single simple organism (which found sufficient nourishment, reproduced, and gave us the definition of life as we know it). Intelligent Design scientists point out that among the known species, there are many examples of features too complex, too perfectly adapted to be attributed to chance. The advent of each of these mechanisms would have been almost as miraculous as the first life, according to the mathematics. Take vision, wings, migration instinct, sex. Some creatures demonstrate irreducible complexity: all the new parts have to be present and perfect immediately to be functional. In some cases, the slightest difference means death for the creature in whom the feature was derived, and we know that dead creatures don’t pass their genes to future generations.

Complexity, information, and observed natural processes and their limitations are the data. Statistical probabilities are the analyses. Impossible is a logical conclusion. But life exists whether we can explain it or not. So some, purely on scientific grounds, conclude that there may be a designer. If we include this intelligence in the list of natural phenomenon; in other words, accept it as an observable* part of our world, humans can keep studying this marvelous, orderly world, drawing conclusions allowing for design and occasional if not constant intervention by a creative and powerful force.

*Scientists observe evidence for design in other fields (outside of ‘natural science’) all the time. Forensic science, for example, searches for clues that will tell an investigator whether a crime was committed. We not only judge whether there was intelligence, but degrees of intelligence using science. Consider archaeology. We may find a rustic clay pot, or a ziggurat aligned with constellations. Both represent intelligence, but of varying degrees.

Nor does it take a scientist to observe evidence for design. You are walking on the beach. Lying in the sand is a watch. With its gears and correspondence to what you call and measure as time, you conclude that the watch was designed, intelligently. Here most people explain our conclusions using a contrast with something “obviously” not designed, like the sand on the beach. The casual observer can see nothing about the form of the sand that stands out, that indicates someone intentionally smoothed it out and drew in ripples. In fact, we can even explain the tiny size of the particles, their smoothness, and the ripples by natural, consistent, observable events.

Here’s where I differ. Just as we have no explanation (using forces exclusive of a designer) for life, so science cannot explain the origin or structure of these tiny rocks. Under a microscope these crystals and substances reveal a mastery of molecular architecture. Each different rock is functional and unique from other kinds of rock. We’re taught that everything is composed of atoms, those busy bits whirling and attracting and repulsing with a reliability that we need every moment. What keeps the atoms together? What gives them weight? Why are there so many different substances? Even if “naturalists” are right, and the universe began with a big bang, what exploded, why and how? Where did the “what” come from, or the energy for the explosion? Why are there laws, and why are they repeatable? Taking our illustration of the sand, how did it get in the sea to be beaten into fragments, smoothed along a beach, and shaped by the waves breaking on the shore? Why do waves break, and how?

I argue that there is no such thing as naturalism without a designer, because every bit of nature is inexplicable without a designer. The laws of the universe represent order and harmony and intelligence. A cell may be more complex than a grain of sand, but only as the ziggurat is to a clay pot. Both are designed. And everything “natural” is so elegantly structured that its aesthetic far outweighs the clumsy pot made by man.

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

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