Ben, Matt







Great discussion of a controversial topic and a book that is iconic to the show.


Both Ben and Matt wrote papers on Genesis 1 in grad school. This book was recommended to them by a professor.

Matt used the following books for his paper:

  • The Lost World of Genesis One / John Walton
  • Inspiration and Incarnation / Peter Enns (he was fired because it was so controversial)
  • The Genesis Debate / Ronald Youngblood
  • Three Views on Creation and Evolution / Zondervan

Main Topic

Both believe the Bible is infallible.

We can't read read the Bible from our cultural viewpoint without causing misunderstandings.

God communicated to ancient Israel in a way that they would understand without correcting their scientific understanding. For example, the firmament is the ancient belief that the sky was a solid dome.

Our current understanding of science isn't complete. So the question isn't 'why didn't God correct the scientific inaccuracies', it's 'why didn't God write the Bible to conform to 20th century Western understanding', which is a self-evidently flawed question.

Ben believes the Bible is inspired, and believes we determine what inspiration means by studying the Bible. We can't decide on our own what inspiration means and then demand that from the Bible.

Walton's Cosmic Temple Inauguration view is that Genesis 1 creation is not material, but functional: instead of material objects coming into existence, it's a symbolic description of God preparing the earth to function for mankind.

Though Walton believes God did create the universe materially ex nihilo, that's not what Genesis 1 is about. For example, earth and water already exists on day 1.

Walton looks at parallels between Genesis 1 and other Ancient Near East creation accounts.

Matt points out that the days of creation parallel each other:

  • day 1 (light) and day 4 (sun, moon, stars)
  • day 2 (sea, sky) and day 5 (fish and birds)
  • day 3 (dry land) and day 6 (land animals, man)

He believes this points to a poetic interpretation (the framework hypothesis).

In Walton's reading, God sets up the earth as his temple.

Functional creation is taking existing material and giving it purpose.

Genesis 1 doesn't make a claim on the age of the earth. You can believe the earth is old or young with this theory.

Thomas Aquinas's five proofs for God as creator do not rely on Genesis 1. We can still believe God created materially, that's just not in Genesis 1.

Matt says God is outside of time so it's odd that God took 6 days to create. He thinks "yom" isn't necessarily a 24-hour day. Ben and Walton think 24 hour day is the best reading. But it's poetic and not necessarily a timeline.

Genesis is 100% true but not "historical" in the way we understand modern history.

Ben says history as we understand it didn't exist until the Enlightenment.

The central truth of creation is that creation is a temple where God dwells. He takes up residence on day 7.

The heart of the gospel is that God is in covenant with creation, so this theory brings the gospel into focus more.

Implications of this view:

  • 6-day literal creation is not required. All origins theories, including those of the Creation Museum are compatible.
  • Clarifies covenant theology in the rest of the Bible
  • We can be agnostic on material creation. Big Bang and evolution are compatible

We shouldn't say "unless it happened exactly this way" God could not be involved. Fundamentalists and atheist critics are both in agreement and wrong on this point.

Matt believes Genesis 2 is historical. Ben thinks Genesis 1-11 is mythological and becomes more historical in Genesis 12. (Mythology doesn't mean untrue, means an ancient way of expressing truth).

Matt thinks Adam and Eve were real people. Ben believes the Fall and original sin are historical but the story of Adam and Eve are how ancient Israel understood and communicated that truth.

Similar with Noah and the Flood. Ben thinks it's irrelevant if the people existed; that's not what the stories want to tell us.

Matt lists differences between Genesis 1 and 2 creation. He says this proves that 1 is mythological and 2 is historical.

Ben does not believe in Mosaic authorship of the Torah. He thinks the editing was inspired, and the editing process explains the differences between Genesis 1 and 2.

The most obvious example of the editing process is "Moses was the most humble man" and the passages after Moses died.

The gospels were an oral tradition before they were written down 30-40 years after the Crucifixion. The writing process was different than a modern writing process.

In Genesis 1, God enters into covenant with all of Creation. Man breaks it at the Fall, God rescues it after the fall, man breaks it and God rescues it at the Flood, man breaks it the Tower of Babel. The covenant is at its weakest point. God blows it up and establishes the covenant with Abraham. When we get to the gospels and the Gentiles are included, we can look back at Genesis 1-11 and see that God has always been in covenant with all of Creation.

Matt thinks Genesis 2-11 are historical. He believes there was a literal Adam who sinned. It's part of Paul's theology of the first and second Adam.

Ben also believes there was an original sinner, but he might not have been named Adam or literally eaten a fruit in a garden.

Ben challenges Matt: why does he read Genesis 2 with a 21st century understanding of history when he doesn't for Genesis 1? Matt thinks with Genesis 2 you have people, names, genealogies (to which Jesus is traced back) and that makes them historical. Ben claims the original authors of the Bible understood genealogies differently.

Similarly in the gospels, the point is that Jesus literally rose from the dead. Kings is not a blow by blow account of "what actually happened". Abraham was a real person but the stories of him might not have literally happened, but God wanted to communicate something through the story.

Matt doesn't believe in evolution. Ben says Matt's view on Genesis 1 and 2 are compatible with evolution: homo sapiens could have evolved but not become people until God gave them that function when he gave them his image.

Ben believes in evolution because the Bible is silent on the issue.

When someone says evolution happened by chance, they are making a physical and a metaphysical statement: evolution is a scientific theory, by chance is a metaphysical theory.

1:16:30 Sci-Fi Christian Story Time: CS Lewis: Sci-Fi Catholic?

1:19:06 Ben realized the scene on Ramandu's island in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is symbolic of Eucharist. This entire section from them getting to the table, through the water, is Catholic Eucharist through and through. Let me explain. OK. I'm looking at you in stunned silence. As if you couldn't make people more mad. 'Now you're taking CS Lewis from us!'

Archivist Note

I had already planned to read the book as I try to figure out what I believe on this topic, and made sure to read it for this episode. You can read my Goodreads review. Basically, I think Walton's theory is a great possibility, expected to be convinced by the book, and was not convinced. I don't really like the other options though, so I'm still leaning toward this or the framework hypothesis.