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Review of John H. Walton's The Lost World of Genesis One

John H. Walton's book The Lost World of Genesis One has (I understand) been very influential among evangelicals in leading them to believe that Scripture is compatible with a full acceptance of whatever mainstream science happens to declare concerning the origin of the world and biological life, including humans. In point of fact, this book says little about human origins; that subject is the topic of The Lost World of Adam and Eve. I have just received a copy of The Lost World of Adam and Eve in the mail and will be reviewing it next.

Since The Lost World of Genesis One (hereafter TLWOG1) gives the foundations of Walton's thinking on these subjects and has been influential in itself, and since there is much to say about the book (all of it negative, I regret to report), I will begin by reviewing TLWOG1. I say "reviewing," though I do not have time to cover all the problems with the book. William Lane Craig has done an excellent job pointing out some of the main problems with the book in three podcasts here, here, and here. Craig goes so far as to say that "there is a deep incoherence in his interpretation" and agrees with the statement from the interviewer that it "doesn't make sense." These are strong words coming from Craig.

An interpretation of Walton's position

A major difficulty is that Walton's view concerning the meaning of Genesis 1 is so unusual that it is difficult to be certain exactly what that view is. The problem is created by the following points:

–Walton is insistent that Genesis 1 is not about the material origins of the entities described. He has an entire chapter entitled "The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins." This whole chapter is addressed to and rejects at length the idea that Genesis 1 should be interpreted to concern both the material origins of things and their "receiving functions."

–Walton interprets the seven days of Genesis 1 as literal, 24-hour days (pp. 91-92). This means that he is not adopting a day-age theory or a theory according to which the events in Genesis 1 take place over the long time periods postulated by modern science. In fact, he sees his literal interpretation of the week of days in Genesis 1 as an advantage of his position.

–Walton nonetheless believes that God did bring all the created order into existence somehow, perhaps in a hidden way not detectable by science (p. 120). It is simply that he does not believe that Genesis 1 is about this process.

With reference to the time prior to the Genesis 1 week, Walton says,

The material phase nonetheless could have been under development for long eras and could in that case correspond with the descriptions of the prehistoric ages as science has uncovered them for us. (pp. 97-98)
There would be no reason to think that the sun had not been shining, plants had not been growing, or animals had not been present. These were like the rehearsals leading up to a performance of a play. (p. 98)

–Walton states that, in the seven literal, 24-hour days of the creation week, God "established functions" and "installed functionaries" for the created order (chapters 5 and 6). This is extremely difficult to understand in the light of his insistence that Genesis 1 is not about material origins. Walton makes a strong distinction between material origins and functions. It is difficult to know precisely what he could mean by establishing functions for things like sea creatures, the sun, the plants, etc., when this has nothing to do with bringing those entities into physical existence or making any physical change concerning them. He states that in the ancient world it would be possible (p. 26) for something already to exist materially but not to exist significantly in the sense of "having a function" and appears to want to apply this analysis to his account of the Genesis week.

–Walton explicitly dodges and refuses to answer the question of what an observer would have seen in those seven literal days when he includes that question in his FAQ (pp. 169-170). (One wonders in that case what the point was of including the question in the FAQ.) However, he seems to answer the question on pp. 97-99 by implying that an observer at least up to the time of the creation of man (about which he says little in this book) would have seen nothing but the world continuing to exist physically (the sun shining, the animals living, the plants growing) as it had been for whatever previous aeons had passed. Having just said that everything would already have been physically in place, possibly for a very long time, prior to the Genesis 1 week, he continues a metaphor he has been using of a college campus:

The observer in Genesis 1 would see day by day that everything was ready to do for people what it had been designed to do. It would be like taking a campus tour just before students were ready to arrive to see all the preparations that had been made and how everything had been designed, organized and constructed to serve students. (p. 99)

Walton also says that the "main elements lacking in the 'before' picture are therefore humanity in God's image and God's presence in his cosmic temple" (p. 97).

Craig also interprets Walton to be saying that an observer would have seen nothing visible happening in the Genesis 1 week, because everything would have already been physically in place and working physically. (Excursus: For reasons which I find somewhat obscure and can only attribute to Craig's scrupulous attempt to quote and use Walton's own confusing wording, such as "functioning in an ordered system" and the like, some hearers of Craig's podcasts, including Walton himself, have gotten the weird idea that Craig was saying that Walton says that the animals were frozen in place or that the world was physically chaotic prior to the seven-day week. Craig is unquestionably saying just the opposite--that he realizes that Walton is saying that everything would have been finished, operating, and would have looked normal in terms of physical function during that week. This is why Craig considers Walton's view to be so strange. Craig makes this point quite clear in the initial podcasts, and I am disinclined to spend more space here showing that, but if that weren't enough, he clarifies the matter yet again here. Lest there be any doubt, I myself hereby declare that I am not saying that Walton's view is that the world was physically chaotic, physically nonfunctional, or physically frozen prior to the Genesis 1 week. I am saying just the opposite, as will be seen below.)

Putting all of this together, it is difficult to figure out what Walton means by God's establishing functions and installing functionaries in a sense that has nothing to do with material origins! Perhaps the most charitable thing to do would be to throw up one's hands and conclude that the book is radically unclear. What could it mean for all the plants already to be growing, providing food for animals, the sun to be shining, etc., but for these entities nonetheless to lack functions prior to a set of specific 24-hour days in a specific week? Throwing up his hands in despair at interpreting Walton is what one scholarly critic, Vern Poythress, essentially does after an exchange with Walton.

I am not sure what the most charitable thing is to do given the extreme oddity of Walton's position taken as a whole, but here is my best shot at interpreting what he is saying, though not in words that he himself uses: Walton is saying that the world was developed by God by some process or other, possibly a very, very long process, the empirical details of that process to be determined independently and entirely on the basis of modern scientific considerations. However, this process, with the possible exception of conferring the imago dei on mankind (more on that in my review of the second book), occurred prior to the literal week of literal days described in Genesis 1. Finally, during that week, God engaged in a purely invisible, non-physical process of deeming, decreeing, or dubbing the non-human entities in the world to "have functions" and deeming or dubbing some of them to "be functionaries." This deeming or decreeing was new and in some sense took place at literal points in time in that week of 24-hour days. Hence, God dubbed the period of light on the earth "day" on day 1 but did not dub the sun "the greater light to rule the day" until day 4, though the sun was there and working in the ecosystem already all along. God deemed or dubbed the plants to have the function of growing and producing seeds on a literal day 3, even though he had already brought that function of plants into the world of physical reality before, possibly long before, by some means or other. God's non-physical acts of deeming or decreeing were performed in this week because he was preparing for the arrival of man in his image and preparing the cosmos as "sacred space," and such invisible acts of deeming (for some reason) were necessary to "give functions" to these entities.

This is a truly strange position, as far as I know unique to Walton, and it sits extremely oddly with many of his own expressions, e.g.

"[O]n the second day, God established the functions that serve as the basis for weather" (p. 58),

"[H]e brought them [the materials] together in such a way that they work" (p. 59),

"Then [on the fourth day] he did the work so that they [the sun and moon] would govern as intended," (p. 66)

These and similar statements are naturally interpreted to mean that the verses in question refer to God's bringing about physical states of affairs on those days, and that this is what the text is about. But that cannot be what Walton means, given his other statements. The interpretation about decrees with no detectable consequences is the only way that I can reconcile all of Walton's explicit statements about what Genesis 1 is and is not about. It seems to be the only possible way to reconcile his repeated insistence that his functional view literally cannot conflict with the findings of modern science because Genesis 1 is not about material origins with his position that the days of Genesis 1 are supposed to be literal 24-hour days. It also fits together well with his and his followers' frustrated response to the idea (which they misinterpreted Craig to be raising) that Walton was saying that things were not functioning just fine in a physical sense prior to God's "giving functions" to them. This "giving functions" and "establishing functionaries" must therefore mean something very different from what we would normally mean by such phrases.

The interpretation of Walton to be saying that God makes only invisible decrees in Genesis 1 is supported not only by the constraints of Walton's declarations and by his statements about what an observer would or would not have seen but also by other positive statements in the book:

"It is the divine decree or divine assignment that dictates the role and function of the various elements." (p. 30)

"Genesis 1 also emphasizes the spoken decrees of the Creator, and these decrees initiate the functions and give the functionaries their roles." (p. 64)

"On day four, God began with a decree (v. 14) that identified the functions of these celestial functionaries." (pp. 64-65)

I strongly suspect that some people who are fans of this book do not realize how restrictive Walton's requirements are and take the book instead to be endorsing a more moderate Framework Hypothesis according to which Genesis 1 is about God's bringing things into physical existence (material origins), possibly over a long period of time, but gives no details about how God did it. On such a view, the days of creation needn't correspond to any particular time periods (and could describe what actually took very long periods of time), and the order of the events need not be taken to correspond to the order in which the entities came into material existence. But this does not mean that Genesis 1 is not about material origins, simply that it cannot be expected to correspond to independently known scientific details about material origins. On that view, Genesis 1 would actually be about the period of time that, on Walton's view as best I am able to interpret it, occurs before the literal week described in Genesis 1.

Replies to several arguments for Walton's position

At this point I am going to reply to several arguments that Walton makes for his own view. Not only is the view highly implausible on its face, but the arguments are quite poor.

Walton says that he was inspired to write this book and to develop this view when he reflected on the place in Genesis 1 where it says that God "called the light day." He reflected that this statement must refer to a period of light, not to light itself, since it is a period of light that is day, not light per se. He then argues that, when it says that God divided or separated the light from the darkness, this must also refer to periods of light and darkness. Then he continues,

Now comes the clincher. If "light" refers to a period of light in verse 5 and in verse 4, consistency demands that we extend the same understanding to verse 3, and here is where the "aha!" moment occurs. We are compelled by the demands of verses 4 and 5 to translate verse 3 as "God said, 'Let there be a period of light.'" If we had previously been inclined to treat this as an act of material creation, we can no longer sustain that opinion. For since what is called into existence is a period of light that is distinguished from a period of darkness and that is named "day." we must inevitably consider day one as describing the creation of time. The basis for time is the invariable alteration between periods of light and periods of darkness. This is a creative act, but it is creation in a functional sense, not a material one. (pp. 55-56)

This argument for Walton's position is incredibly poor. First, even if we took the word "light" throughout verses 3-5 of Genesis 1 to refer to a period of light, and even if we took the entire description of day one to refer in this sense to the "creation of time," this would prima facie be an act of material making on God's part for the very reason that Walton himself gives--namely, that on earth one part of the basis of time measurement is the alternation of periods of light and darkness. Hence, even saying that this entire passage is about God's bringing about periods of darkness and light on earth is prima facie a statement about God's doing something material. Here we encounter Walton's extremely strange, sharp division between "material" and "functional." In the real world, material structure and the function of the material world go together. It simply does not remotely follow that, if these verses are all about God's making alternating periods of light and darkness, they are compatible with a situation in which there already were alternating periods of light and darkness on earth, prior to the beginning of the chapter, and God simply made invisible decrees of "deeming" these periods to be called "day" and "night." That would be an extremely strained and implausible interpretation even if we took it that all of verses 3-5 are about the creation of a period of light rather than light itself.

But even that premise is poorly supported. Walton's entire "aha!" moment seems to rest on the argument that we must interpret "light" throughout verses 3-5, including when God says, "Let there be light!", as meaning "a period of light." But why should we assume that? This is an extremely rigid and unsupported notion of interpretive consistency on Walton's part. Surely both the original readers and we can decide whether "light" means "a period of light" or light itself based on the rest of the verse. Verse 3 could easily mean that God created light itself while verses 4-5 refer, based on their actual statements, to God's making it the case (which would still be a material act) that there are alternating periods of light and darkness on earth.

Walton gives several more arguments for his position with admirable succinctness in a long podcast interview available here. (I have listened to the interview in its entirety.) There (beginning at approximately 1:42), when asked why Genesis 1 could not be about both functional and material creation, he gives two reasons why he believes that it is not. I recognized these as corresponding to things he says in the book, but I find his statements of these points clearer in the interview, so I will use that version here. He says that if Genesis 1 were about material origins, we would "expect that it would start with no material, but it doesn't. The material's already there when it starts in verse 2." Here Walton is referring to the statement in verse 2 that the world was formless and void and darkness was upon the face of the deep. I am not particularly inclined myself to hold out for taking that verse to be a reference to the absence of all matter. In fact, when I read the book but had not heard the interview I was puzzled as to why Walton made such a big deal out of arguing that that verse implies a disorderly but material state. What was the point? Now I realize that he wishes to argue that if the chapter were about God's making things materially the chapter would start with a state of absolutely no matter--a materially empty universe, or no material universe at all.

For the life of me, I cannot imagine why we would expect this. In fact, the text works extremely well if we take it that verse 2 describes a state where there is matter, but where there is no life (for example), no ecosystem, no dry land, etc., and the subsequent verses describe God's materially bringing these things into existence. Walton's statement about "what we would expect" if the chapter were about the material origin of things is just epistemically false, and I cannot think of any argument that would support it.

Moreover, there is an irony here that illustrates the ad hoc nature of Walton's approach to argument. In the book he argues that the word bara (which I will discuss further below) does not refer as has often been thought to creation ex nihilo and that a clue to this fact is that "no materials for the creative act are ever mentioned" (p. 43). Walton points out that this is why the verb has often been thought to refer to creation out of nothing; he argues that instead we should take the absence of previously existing materials out of which things are made to be "better explained as an indication that bara is not a material activity but a functional one." (p. 44 Macrons eliminated from the Hebrew verb for typographical simplification.) So in that place, Walton argues that the absence of pre-existing materials provides an inference to the best explanation that no material creation is taking place when the verb bara is used. But in the interview he argues that the presence of already-existing material in verse two is best explained by the conclusion that the entire chapter is not about material origins! This varying treatment of the presence and absence of preexisting material is a very bad sign for the possibility of either confirming or disconfirming Walton's position.

In the interview, Walton also argues thus, "If it were material, you would expect it to deal with objects day by day. It doesn't. There's hardly any of the days that deal with objects." Now, on the face of it, this is a completely misleading description of the chapter and must rest on a tendentiously narrow concept of "objects." Similarly, he says on p. 94, "Of the seven days, three have no statement of creation of any material components (days 1, 3, and 7)." As I have already pointed out, if day one deals with God's making it the case that periods of light and darkness alternate on the earth, this would need to involve material events and material changes. Moreover, if day one is about God's making light in verse three, then this would have been making something that is part of the physical order. (Let us have no carping about whether the ancient Israelites believed that light was "made of matter" or "a material object" in some technical or scientific sense. Our present-day scientists still debate the precise nature of light. But the ancient Israelites, like ourselves, would have had every reason to think of light as part of the material world--as something that allows sight, makes things grow, and makes things warm.) Day two, as Walton himself acknowledges (p. 56), deals with the making of the firmament. Whatever precisely the firmament is in ancient views, it is, again, part of the material order of things. Walton states that day three has "no statement of any creation of any material component," but in actuality day three describes God's bringing dry land into existence out of the sea and God's calling upon the earth to bring forth plants. These are of course "material components" of the world in any normal sense of that phrase, so unless one uses some tendentiously narrow meaning of "create" or "material components," day three certainly does appear to refer to the creation of "material components."

Day four describes the making of the sun, moon, and stars. A famous crux in the interpretation of the chapter concerns the question of how there could be night and day (day one) earlier than the making of the sun (day four), and various solutions have been proposed. Walton's idea that God made a physically invisible and indetectable decree about the daytime on a literal day one but waited to make such a purely non-physical decree about the sun until literal day four hardly seems to be an improvement on other solutions. E.g. That, during the period represented by day four, God caused the sun and moon to be clearly visible by clearing away atmospheric debris.

In any event, in discussing day four we come to Walton's tendentious use of the term "objects." Earlier in the interview (around minute 27) Walton states that the ancient Israelites would not have understood the sun, moon, and stars to be "material objects." His argument for this concerning the stars is that they believed that the stars were engraved on the sky and did not realize that they were suns that were farther away. But even leaving unquestioned this description of ancient cosmology, that is not an argument that they did not understand the stars to be part of the material world. An engraving is part of the material world! It is only by taking "objects" in an oddly misleading sense that Walton gets from "the ancient Israelites thought the stars were engraved on the sky" to the conclusion that the ancient Israelites would not have thought that the making of the stars in day four was about God's causing material things to happen! Walton's treatment of the sun and moon is similarly confused. He states in the interview (around minute 27) that the ancient Israelites thought the sun and moon were lights and that other ancient peoples thought they were gods. Therefore, he concludes that they could not think that God's making them was God's making "objects" because they "didn't know" that they were objects. This gives the impression that all ancient peoples thought that the sun and moon were utterly outside the material realm (whatever that could possibly mean). Saying that they were "lights" doesn't show this anyway. A lamp is a material thing. Beyond that, a theory of the nature of light is not required for believing that lights are part of the material realm and that making lights is material creation.

Support for this point comes from a very unexpected quarter. In doing some research on the claim that the ancients believed that the stars were engraved on the sky, I came across the following statement:

What they observed led them to conclude that the sun and the moon moved in roughly the same spheres and in similar ways. The sun moved through the sky during the day and then moved during the night into the netherworld, where it traversed under the earth to its place of rising for the next day. The stars were engraved on the sky and moved in tracks through their ordained stations. Flowing all around this cosmos were the cosmic waters, which were held back by the sky, and on which the earth floated[.]

The author of these words calls this a description of "cosmic geography," and it is clearly a description of physical cosmology as the author believes it to have been understood in the ancient world. Who is the author?

John H. Walton!

This description of the sun, moon, and stars, which unequivocally places them within the physical realm, is from Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, p. 166.

So the insistence that the ancient Israelites could not have understood the making of the sun, moon, and stars to refer to "the manufacture of objects" (as in the interview) must rest on some entirely unhelpful use of terms like "manufacture" and "objects" to give the impression that the description of day four could not have been intended or understood to mean that God brought aspects of physical cosmology into physical existence or even physical visibility.

Day five, of course, deals with God's calling upon the sea to swarm with sea creatures and God's making the birds. Sea creatures and birds count as "material components" and even "objects" on any unbiased reckoning.

Day six says that God made land animals. There can hardly be any problem with calling land animals "material." Then day six says that God created man in his own image. I am deferring most discussion of Walton's views concerning the creation of man to a review of the later book, but I will only point out here that man does have a clear material component--a body--and therefore that the description of day six in Scripture can hardly support a generalization like, "There's hardly any of the days that deal with objects." Even if one takes the image of God in man to be a purely spiritual matter with no physical implications (which I do not), the text does not say, "Let us make the image of God." It says, "Let us make man" and also says that God created man. Prima facie, the text describing day six says that God made man materially as well as spiritually, though of course there are those who will argue that it doesn't really mean that God created man materially. But that is a separate argument. My point here is just that the text does not prima facie support Walton's generalization that most of the days do not contain references to the making of physical things "day by day."

In the book Walton makes various ad hoc maneuvers concerning days four, five, and six (p. 95), such as saying that "the text explicitly deals with them [the entities] only on the functional level." Whatever this could mean, the idea that the text gives the impression of not having to do with material origins is simply incorrect, arising from Walton's repeated and unsupported opposition between references to functions and discussion of material origins and structure. (Again, the functions of a thing depend, very often, upon its material structure.) Walton even goes so far as to treat "swarming" as a "function" of sea creatures in day five, which is somehow supposed to support the idea that, when God calls upon the seas to swarm with sea creatures, this could mean that God made an invisible decree about sea creatures that had already been swarming for a long time!

In other words, contrary to what Walton says, virtually every day (except for day seven, when God is said to rest) "deals with objects day by day." This is just one example (another is Walton's argument about the objects of the verb bara, which I will discuss below) of the fact that Walton makes generalizations that are simply not supported by the data, even his own data.

Based upon an analogy that Walton makes in The Lost World of Adam and Eve (pp. 44-45) where he recapitulates his points concerning Genesis 1, I can anticipate a response Walton might make to the foregoing argument. He also uses this analogy in the interview on TLWOG1 beginning at about minute 25. Nick Peters, the interviewer, asks Walton about the fact that the heavens and the earth seem to be material and are said to be created by God. Therefore, why would we not think that Genesis 1 is about material creation? Walton replies with the analogy of our telling the story of how a house was built as opposed to telling the story of how a family came to make it their own home and live there. Walton states that, in telling a story about making something your home, you would refer to "material stuff," because a home story (a discussion of how the house came to function as a home) "presupposes material." However, it would or could still be a different story from the story of how the house was manufactured.

It is difficult to see how one can make an argument out of such an analogy, but I will try to respond to it as if it is an argument. The first response is that this has precisely no force independent of Walton's attempts to argue that, all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, the several different expressions in Genesis 1 that refer to God's making things, creating things, and causing things to be or to emerge are really not about material origins at all! The fact is that one would not normally tell a story that was purely about coming to look at a house or even deciding to buy a house in terms of making, creating, and causing to be or causing to appear. Genesis 1 does not merely "presuppose material." On the face of it, Genesis 1 appears to be, in Walton's terms, a "house story" rather than a "home story," especially if "home story" is taken to have zero material meaning. I will discuss later Walton's unconvincing attempts to argue that the expressions in Genesis 1 mean something entirely different from any concept of material origins.

Second, a "home story" actually does usually contain descriptions of material making, preparation, and decorating. For example, if someone comes to prepare a home to be functional for upcoming habitation, he will engage in material activities such as painting, cleaning, getting the electricity, gas, and water flowing, and making desired alterations. And of course moving day is highly material in nature and often has stories that can be told about it--how we got the big sofa into the living room. Even a sentence that might seem to be the kind of thing Walton has in mind, like, "We made this the study," does not refer solely to a verbal or mental act of decreeing that room to be the study! The story of how you made that room the study will include physically preparing it to be the study--installing a desk and bookcases, making sure that the lighting is right, and so forth. Hence, the very metaphor that Walton uses undermines his attempt to sever functional origins from material origins.

Could Walton's arguments be used to support a different position? (Includes responses to more arguments)

At this point one might ask the following question: Even if my "best shot" interpretation of Walton's view is correct, and even given that Walton's own view of what Genesis 1 is about is highly implausible and unsupported by the arguments just surveyed, does his research into such matters as the Ancient Near Eastern mindset and the meanings of words such as bara (create) and asa (make) lend significant new support to a more moderate and more widely held view than his own? For example, does his research lend credibility to a moderate Framework Hypothesis as I defined it earlier even though that is not his own view? Walton himself defines the Framework Hypothesis in a much looser sense than the one I have given here; he uses that phrase to define a position which merely states that the first chapter of Genesis gives a literary framework for creation. I am talking about a somewhat more definite Framework Hypothesis, which is by no means unknown, and asking whether his scholarly work and arguments can also support something like that (as opposed to, e.g., either standard young-earth creationism or a day age theory such as that held by Hugh Ross) by vagueifying (to coin a term) the meaning of Genesis 1.

I believe that the answer even to this question is no, for several reasons.

1) Walton holds extreme, unargued, and demonstrably false views about the mindset of the ancient Israelites, rendering him an unreliable guide to the meaning of biblical passages or to the mindset of ancient peoples.

Walton is unfortunately given to sweeping, unqualified statements which are not followed by any attempt to respond to obvious counterexamples or counterarguments. The most striking examples of such statements occur in a passage in which he literally denies that ancient peoples, including the Israelites, had any distinction between the natural and the supernatural or between the miraculous and non-miraculous.

...[T]here is no concept of a "natural" world in ancient Near Eastern thinking. The dichotomy between natural and supernatural is a relatively recent one. Deity pervaded the ancient world. Nothing happened independently of deity. The gods did not "intervene" because that would assume that there was a world of events outside of them that they could step into and out of. The Israelites, along with everyone else in the ancient world, believed instead that every event was the act of deity–that every plant that grew, every baby born, ever drop of rain and every climatic disaster was an act of God. No "natural" laws governed the cosmos; deity ran the cosmos or was inherent in it. There were no "miracles" (in the sense of events deviating from that which was "natural"), there were only signs of the deity's activity (sometimes favorable, sometimes not)....[Here follows a brief discussion implying that anyone who believes in a distinction between the natural and the supernatural is on the verge of becoming a deist.] There is nothing "natural" about the world in biblical theology, nor should there be in ours.... As a result, we should not expect anything in the Bible or in the rest of the ancient Near East to engage in the discussion of how God's level of creative activity relates to the "natural" world (i.e., what we call naturalistic process or the laws of nature). The categories of "natural" and "supernatural" have no meaning to them, let alone any interest....The ancients would never dream of addressing how things might have come into being without God or what "natural" processes he might have used. (pp. 20-21)

Note that these paragraphs do not simply say that the ancient peoples were more inclined to view things as the activities of God or the gods than we are or that they were quick to think that phenomena were due to the personal intentions of a deity. The statements are much stronger than that--namely, that they had literally no concept of the natural world and no concept of a miracle, because everything was taken to be an act of a deity. Taken literally, such a claim cannot be an accurate description of even the most superstitious, animist tribesman, who nonetheless must have some concept of the natural order of things in order to hunt for game, make tools, cook food, care for his offspring, and avoid being eaten. Human beings would not survive to adulthood without some notion of what is "natural."

Moreover, there is ample evidence that these statements are false about the ancient Hebrews, specifically. The following is merely a partial list of places in the Old Testament where God performs a miracle and that miracle is seen as a sign because it is not what is expected to happen otherwise. Indeed, it is impossible to see how any of God's wonders or mighty acts in the Old Testament could have the function that they manifestly do have and are meant to have of serving as a sign (to verify revelation, to humble God's enemies, to show God's people that God is leading them, to show that God is the only true God, and the like) if what Walton says is true.

–the miraculous conception of Isaac,
–the burning bush,
–Moses' temporarily leprous hand and other signs given to him to convince the Israelites,
–the plagues of Egypt,
–the parting of the Red Sea,
–manna in the wilderness,
–water from the rock,
–fire from heaven in the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal,
–the healing of Naaman from leprosy

I've only gotten up to the book of 2 Kings, nor is this an exhaustive list of miracles up to that point. If there were no ancient concept of the distinction between the miraculous and the non-miraculous, if the normal growth of plants were as much a sign of the activity of a deity as anything else that might happen, why would Moses have turned aside for a bush that burned without being consumed any more than for a bush growing as usual? If the things Moses was able to do could not be distinguished from what was natural, because there was no conception of what was "natural" in the ancient mind and everything was the "activity of deity," why does the text refer to the people as "believ[ing] the voice of the sign" (Exodus 4:8)?

The conception of Isaac deserves special mention. The text expressly emphasizes the fact that, in the delicate wording of the King James, it had "ceased to be after the manner of women" with Sarah, who had been barren all her life anyway. She was post-menopausal, and both she and Abraham were very old. The text explicitly states that it was because of knowledge of such biological facts that Sarah laughed at the promise of a son (Genesis 18:11-12). This is a clear counterexample to Walton's statements about the lack of a concept of nature and the lack of a distinction between the miraculous and the non-miraculous in the ancient Israelite mind. God's provision of a son to Abraham and Sarah had its force as a sign precisely because they had a robust, intelligent, and empirical concept of the order of nature. They therefore knew that this was a miraculous conception which would not have happened without an explicit act of God, an act different from God's involvement (however one parses that) in the ordinary process of conception.

In his mostly negative review of TLWOG1, Old Testament scholar C. John Collins similarly disagrees with Walton's characterization of the ancient Israelites as having no concept of the natural and the supernatural. Collins uses the example of Balaam's ass to make the same point that I am making here.

Collins also points out that Walton endorses the elimination of the distinction between natural and supernatural in our own theology but that Walton makes no use of the vocabulary and distinctions readily available in Christian theological literature for articulating a more nuanced view of the relationship between God's miraculous and non-miraculous activity and the natural powers God has placed within the creatures.

Nor is it necessary to be especially learned or to have special vocabulary to be capable of acknowledging both God's connection with the world and also the natural/supernatural distinction. I grew up in a Christian culture where God was routinely thanked for healings that, it was understood, had in all probability come about entirely through natural processes. God's work through the natural processes was recognized and gratefully received, while at the same time these laymen had no difficulty understanding that there are such things as supernatural events, which are a different matter. The entire Old Testament, through innumerable passages, indicates that the Israelites thought in pretty much exactly those terms.

If Walton can make emphatic and false statements about the Old Testament mindset, without even attempting to qualify his claims or to account for obvious counterexamples, his expertise at putting us into the mind of ancient peoples is called into grave doubt.

2) Walton gives no cogent reasons to think that ancient peoples were unconcerned with material origins or even with the details of material origins.

Suppose that I wrote a document in which I said that I made a dress "in order that" I might wear the dress to a party. Suppose that the document then went on to state that I first bought the cloth, then cut the cloth, then sewed it together according to a pattern, and so forth. Would the introductory statement that I made the dress for the purpose of wearing it to a party do anything to detract from a material meaning of the statements in the rest of the passage about my making the dress? Of course not. Similarly, even if no details of making were given but if I said that I made the dress on such-and-such a day and also said that I made it for the purpose of wearing it to the party, would the purpose statement mean that I didn't also intend you to understand that I physically made the dress on that particular day? Of course not.

There is no reason to think that an interest in function is opposed to an interest in material origin or that a statement that a thing is made to serve a function should cause us to think that the author didn't mean to say anything about the thing's material origins in that same passage. As William Lane Craig says, function and material origin go hand in hand. This should be obvious. Yet again and again, Walton will take a passage, whether from Scripture or from another ANE source, and use the fact that it shows an interest in the functions of physical things which the passage says were made by God or by a god--functions such as giving food, making months and seasons, and the like--to argue that the ancients were interested in or talking about function rather than material origins! As a non sequitur, this takes the cake.

Moreover, as Craig notes, Walton's own example passages from other ANE sources do show the gods apparently engaging in material making, so they do not support Walton's position. For example, on p. 32 Walton says that in Hittite literature one creation myth talks about "cutting heaven and earth apart with a copper cutting tool." On pp. 32-33 he quotes the Egyptian Papyrus Insinger as stating of the god, "He created food before those who are alive, the wonder of the fields. He created the constellation of those that are in the sky, so that those on earth should learn them. He created sweet water in it which all the lands desire." Perhaps most striking of all, on pp. 33-34 Walton says that the Babylonian creation epic, Enuma Elish, shows Marduk "harnessing the waters of Tiamat for the purpose of providing the basis of agriculture. It includes the piling up of dirt, releasing the Tigris and Euphrates, and digging holes to manage the catchwater."

Walton gives no argument whatsoever, none, to think that the author or audience of the passage about the Tigris and the Euphrates did not believe or mean to say that the god Marduk physically released the rivers and constructed the catchwater holes.

Walton gives no reason to think that the ancients did not believe (and were not interested in saying) that the gods literally separated the heavens from the earth. To speak in Walton's own style for a moment, we may think that such ideas are manifestly false taken literally, but we should try to enter the ancient mindset and ask ourselves whether they thought that such things were true in a physically literal sense.

In other words, we are left just where we were before: Whether or not a passage is making a statement about material origins or is intended to tell us about the details of such material origins has to be decided on some basis other than noting that ancient peoples were interested in functions or that the passage itself refers to a function for the thing made. We will have to look for other clues. There simply is no prima facie tension between being interested in function, or talking about function in a particular passage, and being interested in and talking about material origins. Indeed, one would often talk about both, since a thing's ability to perform a function will depend upon its being made a certain way materially.

Similar problems vitiate Walton's attempted argument concerning the Hebrew word bara, translated "create" in Genesis 1. He gives (p. 42) a chart of all the Biblical uses of this word with their objects. As one might expect, Walton has extra notes in a comments column concerning the purpose or function for which such entities were created. He then tries to imply that, somehow, the existence of a statement about function is evidence that the context of the word bara "require[s] a functional understanding," (p. 43) which of course he will then assume means a functional rather than a material understanding. Stranger still, he says (p. 43), "This list shows that grammatical objects of the verb are not easily identified in material terms, and even when they are, it is questionable that the context is objectifying them." Craig rightly expresses astonishment at such a statement, since the chart itself shows numerous places where the objects of the word are partly or wholly material entities--human beings, a cloud of smoke, sea creatures, the stars, rivers, etc.

This discussion of bara in Walton is intended as an argument for Walton's functional-not-material-creation view, and it should be evident that it does nothing whatsoever to support that extreme view that Genesis 1 is not about material origins at all. If anything, his chart showing the uses of bara supports exactly the opposite conclusion about the meaning and use of that word! It is a sign of Walton's difficulty in seeing what constitutes an argument for what that he goes on in later pages (94-95) to speak as if he has shown that the word bara does not concern material origins: "The nature of the governing verb ('bara', create) is functional" (p. 94). (Macrons eliminated in quotation for typographical simplicity.)

But by the same token, his argument concerning bara does nothing to support a moderate Framework Hypothesis either. Why should it? The objects of bara, both in Genesis 1 and elsewhere, are frequently material entities. As Craig also points out, even when they are not (as in the case of God's "creating a new heart" or creating darkness) God is still being treated in the passage as the immediate, efficient cause of what is created. (Digression: Walton objects in the interview to Craig's using the phrase "efficient cause" on the grounds that this is an "Aristotelian category" which is therefore an imposition of alien categories in a biblical context. Craig's point, however, is to clarify a point at which Walton himself is unclear. Craig is pointing out that even when what is made is immaterial in nature, such as a new heart, the passage implies that God brings it into existence in the sense of being its immediate prior cause. When God creates in me a clean heart, God does not merely look at a clean heart that is already there and make decrees about it! If you don't like the phrase "efficient cause" for this concept, use another. The argument is on point and should be understandable even by those who will not countenance the use of the phrase "efficient cause.")

Hence, we are again back where we started from when it comes to interpreting Genesis 1. We have this word "create" which is applied to various physical entities in the passage, and we have to look at the passage and make up our minds as to whether the passage is meant to contain any literal, physical information and how or whether to try to reconcile it with modern science. Walton's chart of the uses of bara does nothing even to support a loose interpretation of the text of Genesis 1 as containing no empirical information about the order in which things appeared, etc. A fortiori the chart does nothing to support the conclusion that Genesis 1 could be recording invisible divine decrees concerning entities that already existed physically long before!

The same is true in spades of Walton's discussion of asa, translated "made" in Genesis 1 and applied in Genesis 1 to the firmament, animals, man, and the two great lights (sun and moon) and by implication to the stars after the sun and moon. Walton makes much of the fact that asa is one of those multi-purpose verbs that can be translated either "made" or "did" and then tries to insist that it should be translated "did" in Genesis 1. Hence, God "did" two great lights rather than God "made" two great lights. This, in turn, is meant to support his idea that all the references to God's making things using asa in Genesis 1 could mean God's "establishing functions," and we are back again to Walton's own unsupported notion of "establishing functions" in a way that has no material consequences.

Does the observation that asa can sometimes be translated "did" support either Walton's view or a more moderate Framework Hypothesis? I cannot see how. How the word should be translated depends on context. The word is very frequently used in a way that must be translated as "made" (or as "fashioned" or something similar). For example, it is used for the making of Joseph's coat of many colors, for Aaron's making the golden calf, and for the fashioning of a candlestick, curtains, and numerous other furnishings of the tabernacle (see Exodus 36). To say that God "did two great lights" is an improbable locution since the objects of the verb are part of the material realm of cosmology (see discussion above), and there is therefore no reason to think that the verb in that context should be translated as "did." Walton is depending on a strained translation of the word with no justification other than the attempt to make room for his peculiar view of immaterial making of things. (Ad hoc again.) Indeed, asa, given that it is very commonly used for making in the sense of fashioning, is particularly well-suited for describing material creation. It is a hallmark of the unfalsifiability of Walton's entire approach that he insists on saying something or other to try to move the reader away from the prima facie material creation meaning of asa in Genesis 1. One cannot help wondering, given his treatment of bara and asa and of other locutions ("Let there be light") what the passage could say which Walton could not explain away as still "not about material origins."

A moderate Framework Hypothesis is not particularly harmed by the translation "made." One simply says that God made the two great lights but did not necessarily do so in a sudden way, in a way that would have appeared miraculous, or in a particular order relative to other physical entities. Translating the word "did" does nothing to help that hypothesis.

Walton also argues that, since the other ANE creation stories concerning man are about the creation of man, the race, rather than about specific individuals with individual histories, their statements concerning the materials out of which man was made (such as the blood of a god, divine tears, or clay) should be taken not to have any chemical or scientifically literal significance but to "communicate instead the important issues of identity and relationship" (p. 32). Using this argument to support a similarly non-literal interpretation of the creation of man in Genesis is awkward for Walton, because of course Genesis does talk about specific individuals in chapters 2-5. Walton is mostly avoiding talking about the origins of man in this book, and his views may have not have been fully formed on the subject when he wrote this book. But he does try to argue that the statement that God formed man out of the dust of the ground in chapter 2 has nothing to do with man's material origins because, as in the case of the ANE texts, this initial statement is meant to apply to all human beings, since later verses after the fall imply that all of mankind "is dust" and will therefore return to dust in death. Hence, argues Walton, the statement that God made or created man is meant even in the first instances (in chapter one and in chapter two) to have nothing to do with the the material origins of man.

This is an argument of sorts, but it is an extremely poor one. Why should the other ANE statements that man, the species, was initially made from clay or from the blood of a god not be taken literally to refer to some first group of human beings that were made, from whom others are descended? After all, Christians have generally taken statements in Genesis 1 and 2 about God's making mankind to be statements that God made the first human beings, from whom others are descended. Why should we assume that, because texts refer to the making of the race, they do not literally mean that the first members of the race were made from such materials? It seems to be only because we ourselves do not believe that human beings are literally now made of clay, dust, or the blood of gods. But perhaps the ancients did. Do we know for a fact that they did not think that human beings are in some physical sense made of earth? We know that some people long ago believed that physical things are literally made of the four elements--earth, air, fire, and water, so this is not at all impossible. The argument that the ancients didn't have modern concepts of chemistry tells us little, for having a worked-out chemistry is not necessary for believing that one physical entity is made in part from another physical substance.

Even more plausibly, perhaps the non-Israelites or Hebrews thought that all men are made from the substance of the earth just in the sense that they are descended from the first man, who was literally made from the earth. Compare the statement by the author of Hebrews (7:9-10) that Levi paid tribute to Melchizadek because he was in the loins of Abraham.

Do we know independently that ancient Babylonians did not think that all human beings, by inheritance from the first human beings, are made of the blood of a god? Or perhaps they only believed that human beings were initially made from the blood of a god but that that property (being made of the blood of a god) could not be inherited. There are plenty of possibilities, but nothing in the fact that the the statements are about the making of the race leads to the conclusion that the statements were not taken to have any literal, physical meaning.

In other words, this argument about the making of the race is forceless; it leaves us where we were before as far as figuring out to what extent Genesis is about physical origins or the details thereof.

Conclusion

This post is already more than long enough. It is no exaggeration to say that I have been unable to find a single cogent argument for Walton's conclusions in this book, and I have not even detailed all of the poor arguments the book contains. I have not discussed the additional passages (such as pp. 119ff) in which Walton displays an inability to account for the nature and role of miracles in Christianity and in the world. Nor have I discussed his willingness to adopt, perhaps even to endorse (he is not always clear on this), a rigidly naturalistic concept of science (pp. 114ff, p. 130, p. 154). I have not taken time to go over his discussion of Intelligent Design (pp. 125ff), which is cramped at every turn by his acceptance, at least in practice, of the idea that science is incapable of saying anything about teleology, nor have I discussed his impractical recommendations for the teaching of origins science in public schools in a fashion that is "teleologically neutral" (pp. 152ff). Nor have I discussed his argument for taking the making of the firmament in day two to have nothing to do with material origins (pp. 55-58).

Even the attempt I have made here to see if his arguments can be used in support of a different, somewhat less implausible position has yielded no results.

A fan of Walton's work who is a Facebook friend suggested that I read Walton's second book on this subject, The Lost World of Adam and Eve, which has just become available, and that I would be interested and educated if I did so. I have thus far had time to read only portions of that book (which just arrived) and have listened to a two-hour interview with Walton about that book. (Yes, that makes two two-hour interviews altogether that I have listened to.) Precisely because of the existence of the book on Adam and Eve, I have said little here about Walton's views concerning Adam and Eve. I can already see, from what I have read thus far, that his views about man have changed in one crucial respect between the two books.

By reading and reviewing TLWOG1 itself I have learned that a book that has been quite influential among smart evangelicals depends a great deal on assertion in the absence of cogent argument. One can only conjecture as to the reasons for its influence. Those reasons may include an assumption that Walton's assertions must be correct and backed up by good reasons, since he is taken to be an expert on the mindset of Old Testament people. The reasons may also include a deep-seated desire not to have to struggle to reconcile Genesis with mainstream contemporary science. Walton's complete separation between Genesis 1 and material origins certainly is intended to absolve the reader from any such duty of reconciliation, though one would have thought that a less extreme Framework Hypothesis such as I have outlined would have approximately the same effect on that front. Perhaps what readers hope for from Walton is more ammunition for making Genesis 1 vague, whether or not they adopt Walton's own specific view. In any event, since The Lost World of Adam and Eve attempts to build on Walton's arguments in TLWOG1, it is just as well to have pointed out in excruciating detail that he does not establish much of anything in The Lost World of Genesis One.

This is hardly a good omen concerning The Lost World of Adam and Eve.

Comments (160)

Lydia, I share your concerns and confusion about John H. Walton. While he may have impress a more liberal segment of the academic community, there is a definite, majority consensus who simply finds his theories of Genesis 1 most implausible. He does an excellent job contradicting himself, almost as if he is trying to play both sides of the interpretative fence, to add to his strange hermeneutics, and secure a larger acceptance of readers. I am very cautious in recommending his works to others, as a result. Thank you for this excellent review. You are not alone in your observations.

For the infallible testimony of God's Word,

Dr. David Crews

I drew the same conclusion: explicitly severing functional from material origins results in incoherence. Function in biology, for example, has to do with the material arrangement of parts, and not just the end toward which they operate. It would have been much more coherent to abstract function from form in the manner of form being generated from a functional blueprint, but Walton appears to have it backwards: the material development occurs first, and is only baptized with a function after the fact.

Maybe he mistakenly thinks that function is assigned to a holistic form or whole organism, as a kind of arbitrary mission assignment, instead of inhering in the arrangement of its parts, its physical capacities, etc. But the whole point of bringing order out of chaos is not simply teleological decree, but teleological arrangement.

I do question whether the cosmic temple motif ought to be pressed too much into service for our contemporary questions about material origins. It does seem to be present as a narrative layer in Genesis 1&2, but in terms of being realized, it seems to have far more traction as redemptive history unfolds and culminates in the eschaton. I'm thinking of its more developed handling by the likes of Meredith G. Kline, G. K. Beale and J. Richard Middleton.

1. When I find that I am having trouble understanding what someone is saying, especially when others have understood and found the work helpful, I am inclined to give him/her the benefit of the doubt and try harder to understand what he/she is saying rather than assuming he/she is incoherent.
2. When I feel that a fellow Christian is misguided I would consider it the most charitable and biblical option to talk to them privately and personally rather than to denounce them publicly.

Perhaps that is part of "what is wrong with the world?"

Mr. Walton,

1. Perhaps you could make your written incoherence understandable here with an explanation for the logical, cogent argumentation found in the book by those who found it helpful?

2. Your book was released publically, therefore open to public scrutiny without every book reviewer having to contact you personally. Your work should stand in its own right, if readers find it incoherent there is a reason for that.

Mr. Walton,

You wrote a book, and she reviewed it, and it contained errors which she believed were potentially harmful to other Christians.

Also, seriously? Assuming you are incoherent? You have some nerve considering the in-depth treatment she gave to your work.

This is a childish response, and speaks to an inability to take criticism.

Smart a man as you may be, it is cowardly to cry about criticism when you put the work out there for public consumption. You owe Lydia an apology.

Dr. Walton, I'm simply astonished by the suggestion that a negative review of a scholarly or even popular-level intellectual work is unbiblical. Can you possibly be serious? So it's okay for people to write _positive_ reviews of a fellow Christian's book and publish them outright but wrong for them to write a carefully argued, detailed, _negative_ review without first contacting the person privately, as if the person has "sinned against them"? That is simply...false. I have heard inklings that some people try to apply Matthew 18 to intellectual disagreement in this fashion but have never before encountered anyone actually using such a tactic.

By the way, did you also tell C. John Collins that he shouldn't have published a critical review of your book in a journal without discussing it all with you privately and going through the process of Matthew 18, or does that get a pass because it's a journal and he's a credentialed scholar? Or, wait, I know: C. John Collins only published the journal article after coming to you privately, then with two witnesses, and then "telling it to the church." Hmm, somehow I don't think so.

Of all the attempted responses you could have tried to give to my _arguments_, this one is something I least expected. Wow.

By the way, I've spent many hours already trying to understand you. Many, many hours. So please, do not lecture me on spending more time, trying harder, etc.

Maybe you could try harder to interact with clearly worded arguments against your position and against the cogency of your arguments.

By the way, Dr. Walton, "incoherence" was not a word I used in the review in my own voice. The word I used myself, often, was "ad hoc."

For those who truly want to understand, more information is given in my more extensive monograph, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology (Eisenbrauns, 2011). I also tried to refine the position in the opening chapters of Lost World of Adam and Eve. I doubt that these will satisfy any who are determined to be critical.

When a book is published on a topic as controversial as this the author must expect some negative reviews. That is fair, but one expects them to be even-handed and carried out with courtesy and professionalism. Furthermore, previous reviewers who gave negative reviews (mentioned above), have sought me out and I have been able to give clarification. I believe they understand my position better now, though we still have disagreements. I don't think any the worse of them for that and I hope that they continue to have respect for me.

Any further conversation that I would be involved in would not be in the public sphere of a blog.

Any further conversation that I would be involved in would not be in the public sphere of a blog.

You are a coward. You really think that everybody who negatively reviews your work is obligated to contact you specifically before publishing?

The hubris is stunning.

MarcAnthony, I'm not sure why you felt such a personal attack necessary. Do you really think that Walton is obligated to invest time in any particular forum? Perhaps your own comment illustrates why he seems to have a personal policy against it? That was a terribly harsh display.

Peter Grice, I thank you for your comments about function and teleology. I think you are quite right about "having it backwards."

I didn't get into the cosmic temple issue, because, while it seems to me that Walton leans too hard on that metaphor, that seemed to me less important than the other problems with the book.

I admit to being disappointed by the twin response of Dr. Walton in a) insinuating that I have misunderstood him and that there is something radically wrong with my review while b) refusing in somewhat lofty terms to descend to details. This is frustrating.

Of course he is not obligated to respond, but if he considers the review beneath his notice I think the comments he has made are unhelpful at best. I assume that it is frustration at this combination that has driven the harshness of MarcAnthony's response, which as you see I am not precisely echoing.

I would prefer that the entire thread not "go entirely meta" with discussions of tone and what-not. If supporters of Dr. Walton's perspective (who in my experience tend to be rather ardent) wish to point out my alleged errors and misunderstandings and/or misrepresentations, they are certainly welcome to do so, and we can have a lively discussion.

To paraphrase JW's last response, "Buy my other books for a better explanation".

@ Peter Grice, calling JW a coward is "...terribly harsh"? Maybe not completely accurate, "cowardly fraud" is perhaps more fitting, but certainly not harsh here in the 21st century.

Lydia, regarding what you said in these two quotes below,

"The author of these words calls this a description of "cosmic geography," and it is clearly a description of physical cosmology as the author believes it to have been understood in the ancient world. Who is the author? John H. Walton!

This description of the sun, moon, and stars, which unequivocally places them within the physical realm, is from Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament, p. 166."

And

"To speak in Walton's own style for a moment, we may think that such ideas are manifestly false taken literally, but we should try to enter the ancient mindset and ask ourselves whether they thought that such things were true in a physically literal sense."

It seems this part quoted from Walton's book is relevant..

"Since God did not deem it necessary to communicate a different way of imagining the world to Israel but was content for them to retain the native ancient cosmic geography, we can conclude that it was not God’s purpose to reveal the details of cosmic geography (defined as the way one thinks about the shape of the cosmos). The shape of the earth, the nature of the sky, the locations of sun, moon and stars are simply not of significance, and God could communicate what he desired regardless of one’s cosmic geography. Concordism tries to figure out how there could have been waters about the sky (Gen 1:7), whereas the view proposed here maintains that this terminology is simply describing cosmic geography in Israelite terms to make a totally different point. If cosmic geography is culturally descriptive rather than revealed truth, it takes its place among many other biblical examples of culturally relative notions.

For example, in the ancient world people believed that the seat of intelligence, emotion and personhood was in the internal organs, particularly the heart, but also the liver, kidneys and intestines. Many Bible translations use the English word “mind” when the Hebrew text refers to the entrails, showing the ways in which language and culture are interrelated. In modern language we still refer to the heart metaphorically as the seat of emotion. In the ancient world this was not metaphor, but physiology. Yet we must notice that when God wanted to talk to the Israelites about their intellect, emotions and will, he did not revise their ideas of physiology and feel compelled to reveal the function of the brain. Instead, he adopted the language of the culture to communicate in terms they understood. The idea that people think with their hearts describes physiology in ancient terms for the communication of other matters; it is not revelation concerning physiology. Consequently we need not to try to come up with a physiology for our times that would explain how people think with their entrails. But a serious concordist would have to do so to save the reputation of the Bible. Concordists believe the Bible must agree—be in concord with—all the findings of contemporary science.

JB, in keeping with Lydia's wishes this will be my last "meta" comment. Suffice to say my more objective reference was to a personal attack. If you think personal attacks are appropriate in academic exchange, or that first-century Christian injunctions are lately discarded, then I trust that yours is the minority report.

Clint, thanks for your contentful response. Some points.

1) I believe that Walton tries to have it both ways. He wants to be able to acknowledge places where the text _would_ have been understood by the Israelites to imply an affirmation of something that we no longer believe to be scientifically true, while saying that this is not "authoritative." I cut out of my review a section on this very point in Walton's response to Vern Poythress. (Because my review was already very long.) Walton wants to say at one and the same time that the Israelites would _not_ have understood this text to be saying that God did physical things, like physically making the dry land appear from the water (that was the point Poythress raised), but when the matter is pressed, Walton retreats to more or less saying that they _would_ have understood the text to be saying that, but that it doesn't matter! Because God was just "communicating in their own language" or something like that and therefore this isn't "authoritative teaching." This is not consistent. Either they would have understood the text to be saying that God made the sun and moon as parts of the physical realm and that God made the dry land appear or they didn't. In his interview (and I see again in The Lost World of Adam and Eve) he _definitely_ implies that they _would not_ have understood the text to be saying that God made a physical sun and moon. If you have any doubts on that point, feel free to listen to the interview at the point indicated. If, however, one applies this "God was just accommodating himself to their understandings" response, one is acknowledging that they did think that Genesis 1 is saying that God made these things physically!

2) Walton tends to be very rigid in his statements about "What the ancient people believed." Very often, as you can see in the review, when one doesn't just take these as gospel and actually goes and investigates the evidence that he himself gives for them, they turn out to be flimsily supported. I would suggest caution about taking too definitely the claim that the ancient Israelites literally believed in some strong sense that the seat of personhood was in the kidneys, and I certainly would not take such a statement from Dr. Walton on bare faith. We ourselves hand out candy hearts on Valentines Day, and every love song ever written uses the heart as a metaphor, but that doesn't mean that "Twentieth and twenty-first century Americans believed that the seat of love was in the physical organ of the heart." When the Bible calls on the heaven to bow down its ear, that doesn't mean that the ancient Israelites literally believed that the sky had ears. Perhaps we should give them the benefit of the doubt that they were using metaphors sometimes, just as we do! Therefore, the response that "This is what they believed to be physically true, and God was seeming to confirm this, but he was just accommodating himself to their false beliefs" is often, perhaps always, unnecessary.

3) I think it would be genuinely troubling if in some passage God *actually did* inspire Moses or anyone else to write a passage that literally *would have been taken to confirm* a *definitely false* belief about anything. Here we come to the issue of the firmament. *If* it is true that the ancient Israelites believed that the firmament was a part of the physical cosmology which is not in fact real (a point I do not automatically grant), and *if* Genesis one states that God "gave a function" to the firmament, this is just as problematic as having Genesis one state that God _made_ the firmament. After all, either of these *clearly implies* the existence of the firmament. This is another argument I cut out of my review for reasons of space. Imagine if the category were "fairies." Suppose that a verse seemed to be saying that "God made fairies" and we are told that the ancient people believed in fairies. Would it be helpful to interpret this as, "God made a decree about fairies which was giving function to fairies"? No. That doesn't avoid the theological problem at all!

4) As I believe Hugh Ross has noted, Walton tends to use the word "concordism" to mean "hard concordism" rather than "soft concordism." There are varieties but this nuance is not represented in his use of the term. For example, it isn't always necessary to find the Bible actively _teaching_ true science. One may instead insist that the Bible not have encouraged people to believe _false_ science, and one may see _whether_ there are places where we can make interesting connections between the content of the Bible and true science--these to be evaluated on their individual merits. My impression is that Ross, for example, considers himself a soft concordist.

So, if that last comment was too long, let me emphasize again, more succinctly: Walton is _quite explicit_ in the interview that the ancient Israelites _could not_ have understood the making of the sun and moon to be a making of physical objects. He then, both in the interview and in the book, uses this notion of "objects" or "physical components" to imply that several of the days of creation do not deal with physical entities and to declare that "There are hardly any of the days of creation that deal with objects." These are then used as premises to support his view of invisible divine decrees. Based on his _own passage_ about ancient cosmology in his earlier book, this line of reasoning should be regarded as completely incorrect, since there he clearly treats the sun and moon as physical entities in ancient cosmology.

"3) I think it would be genuinely troubling if in some passage God *actually did* inspire Moses or anyone else to write a passage that literally *would have been taken to confirm* a *definitely false* belief about anything..."

I suspect your stance that Walton can't have it both ways and that you find his ideas on the functional/material distinction to be poorly supported ultimately comes down to the two of you operating on different conceptions of the interaction between authorial intent and divine inspiration.

So what do you mean by genuinely troubling? That if "entrails" and other terms are being used to refer to the mind in the way Walton describes, it is therefore hard to avoid the charge that divine inspiration is falsified?

I should also add that Dr. Walton probably doesn't always realize when an objector or a question is operating on a different conception of the interaction between authorial intent and divine inspiration than himself. This might explain the impression you get of his flip-flop you mentio in your point 1 above I. Your response to me. The part about the materiality of the sun and moon in the Israelites' minds when hearing Genesis 1.

The confusion would ultimately be his fault still, but it also means both involved are missing out on a more fundamental conversation.

I suspect your stance that Walton can't have it both ways and that you find his ideas on the functional/material distinction to be poorly supported ultimately comes down to the two of you operating on different conceptions of the interaction between authorial intent and divine inspiration.

I don't think so. In fact, I think his own stance on the interaction between divine and human authorship does not turn out to be consistent when he is pressed. For example, in the book he goes on at some length about how important it is not to forget the human author, how we need to bear in mind what the human author would have intended and thought. He says something to the effect (this is a paraphrase) that God devolved his authority onto the human author. Words to that effect. Okay, I get that. I think it may be overstated, but I think I get what he's saying.

But then in the response to Poythress Walton leaves the human author out of reckoning! He explicitly says something to the effect that "The ancient Israelites believed their ancient science" but that this doesn't mean that the text is "teaching it authoritatively." Do you see how this clashes with all the statements about the importance of the human author? The obvious question that springs to mind is, "Did the human author intend to tell the people that God physically made the dry land appear?" But Walton doesn't even answer that question clearly. What he says sort of gives the impression that the human author _did_ think that, but that it is unimportant because it's just God's teaching some higher truth via these ancient scientific categories. Yet that would be exactly the position he rails against elsewhere of not vesting the authority of the text in "what the ancient author and audience would have understood."

So I think there is a pretty big tension in his position here. I don't think it's that he and I have different concepts or whatever. It doesn't really matter to this point so much what _I_ think about the relation between divine and human authorship. I just don't think Walton is consistent in his treatment of them.

In any event, Clint, I want to emphasize something: My second, shorter comment above was more clearly and directly to the point in defending what I said in the main post (which you quoted initially), and it goes in a direction somewhat orthogonal to all of this about divine-human authorship. Walton just seems to be talking out of both sides of his mouth as far as *what the ancients would have understood* concerning the sun, moon, and stars, and I think I have shown that very directly.

MarcAnthony, I'm not sure why you felt such a personal attack necessary.

Because he deserved to be called out for his cowardice. He was incredibly disrespectful, and so I wanted to make it clear that I found his comments disgusting.

I'll spell out my distinction here: You are more upset that I called Walton out on his cowardice than Walton's cowardice. That is a problem.

He came into a forum where somebody gave an incredibly in-depth review of his work, expressed annoyance that the reviewer didn't contact him before posting said negative review, then claimed that he wouldn't actually address the reviewer's concerns. He's not only a coward, but an intellectually dishonest one because he had to come up with an excuse to avoid responding to the criticism.

Now, if he does respond, I'll redact the claim of cowardice. But he would still be dishonest for claiming that Lydia was somehow not giving him his due diligence, because he very clearly was. He owes Lydia a sincere apology.

And dishonesty, as well as cowardice, more than warrants my harshness.

Oh, and let it be said that it's not like I'm some blind rah-rah Lydia supporter. I've disagreed with and even called out Lydia several times in the past. But she is in the right here, very much so.

Do you really think that Walton is obligated to invest time in any particular forum?

No. Who cares if he does or not?

Perhaps your own comment illustrates why he seems to have a personal policy against it?

I don't care if he does or not. My comment had nothing to do with his policy on forums. Anyway, he apparently did not have a policy against posting on forums earlier in the thread.

That was a terribly harsh display

It was also warranted. Paul and Christ both had no problem with harshness in the proper context. This was the proper context.

MA, I sincerely sympathize with your frustration and appreciate your support. I agree that a person should either respond or not, rather than doing this in-between thing of implying that the review is wrong but refusing to say why. It's really not a professional way to act. Better to ignore my review altogether than to make insinuations of its wrongness without coming down to brass tacks. And of course the claim about my being obliged to contact the author first is just absurd.

However, I would _really_ like a more contentful discussion rather than a discussion of who was harsh to whom, who was justified in harshness, or what-not.

Absolutely, I'm done with that. I just thought it fair to respond to a comment directed at me. I'm finished on that score.

Lydia,

I'm carefully making my way through this review and while I hate to pick nits, I think it is worthwhile to get the details straight here. You say the following:

In the interview, Walton also argues thus, "If it were material, you would expect it to deal with objects day by day. It doesn't. There's hardly any of the days that deal with objects." Now, on the face of it, this is a completely misleading description of the chapter and must rest on a tendentiously narrow concept of "objects." Similarly, he says on p. 94, "Of the seven days, three have no statement of creation of any material components (days 1, 3, and 7)."

Then you go on to explain why most of the days of creation do indeed involve material components; but if you are quoting Walton correctly than he basically only disagrees with your analysis of days one and three, at least according to his statement in the book. Is that fair?

I've found G.H. Pember's Earth's Earliest Ages an excellent exposition of the Gap Theory which holds that Genesis 1 is mostly about a re-forming of the Earth (giving form to the pre-existing chaos) after a catastrophe on par with Noah's Flood. Pember is careful and aware of his speculations as to the what and why of the first destruction of the Earth. I can't way I was convinced but it is fascinating.

Jeff, I think that (this is no surprise) Walton's _own_ two statements are rather different, don't you? In one statement he says that days one, three, and seven "have no statement of creation of any material components." In the other statement, which I quoted and which anyone can hear for himself, he says that "There's hardly any of the days that deal with objects" (emphasis added). Make what you will of that. Maybe he was waxing hyperbolic in the interview. Or perhaps in the interview he was tacitly accessing some of his _other_ ad hoc maneuvers regarding the sea creatures, the birds, the land animals, the firmament, etc., and summarizing it with this confusing statement, perhaps through some odd intent of the phrase "deal with." But there it is. He has made both statements.

I certainly disagree with him regarding days four, five, and six in the sense that I do not accept his strained attempts to explain these away as "not being about material creation." And I went through each day in response to the statement in the interview that "There's hardly any of the days that deal with objects" (emphasis added). Remember: That statement was part of what was at least a clear argument, though an argument with a false premise:

1. If Genesis 1 is about material creation, we would expect it to deal with objects day by day.

2. Genesis 1 does not deal with objects day by day. (In fact, there are hardly any of the days that deal with objects.)

Therefore,

3. Genesis 1 is not about material creation.

By going through the days I believe that I have shown that it does, precisely, "deal with objects day by day." So even if we grant premise 1 (which I don't know that we should), premise 2 is false.

Let me emphasize that even when, in the book, Walton acknowledges that in some sense a day "has a statement of the creation of a material component," what he means by "creation of a material component" is not (not not not) material creation! I realize that this may be confusing, but he explicitly argues that "creation" means "creating functions," which as far as I can tell means these invisible decrees.

So when it says in day five that God created the great sea creatures, Walton would say that even though that is "a statement of the creation of a material component," it is just God making this "decree of function" about the great sea creatures, not God actually making the sea creatures in the sense that most of us would mean it! This follows from his "functional not material" analysis of words such as "bara" (create) which is used for God's creation of the sea creatures.

So I disagree with him about all of days 1-6. I probably also disagree with his extremely specific theological interpretation of God's resting on day 7, but that isn't a big deal because I have no strong opinions about what "God rested" means, so I'm just not getting into that.

I hope that is clarifying.

Lydia,

Believe it or not, this is clarifying:

Let me emphasize that even when, in the book, Walton acknowledges that in some sense a day "has a statement of the creation of a material component," what he means by "creation of a material component" is not (not not not) material creation! I realize that this may be confusing, but he explicitly argues that "creation" means "creating functions," which as far as I can tell means these invisible decrees.

Now to be fair to Walton, it might be easier to follow your review if I had read the book (and I do have a copy at home of this book or one of his other older books). So I still plan to give him a fair reading. But I must say that based on your analysis, this seems like a very...strained reading of the book of Genesis.

Ms. McGrew, how much experience do you have with the idea that people used to look at the world very differently than we do? A few books have pushed me in this direction:

• Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry
• Alasdair MacIntyre's After Virtue
• Louis Dupré's Passage to Modernity: An Essay in the Hermeneutics of Nature and Culture
• Charles Taylor's Sources of the Self
• Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture
• William T. Cavanaugh's The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict

It is very common for people to assume that people 1500, or even 3500 years ago, viewed reality roughly as we do, except with worse scientific knowledge. This is what pushes many to think that religion used to serve roughly the same function as science does, now. From just the reading list above—especially Dupré's work—this is fantastically wrong. The erosion of teleology alone has had drastic consequences, as MacIntyre incisively observes.

Barfield's book may seem like an odd addition, but I think there is much merit in his description of an "evolution of consciousness". One needn't accept his entire thesis, but I do think that we should respect the fact that he was one of C.S. Lewis' best friends. Anyhow, Barfield's book is probably the most enigmatic, but I'd claim it actually fits quite nicely with the other four. Indeed, they help make it less cryptic.

Anyhow, it strikes me that John H. Walton's book depends on being able to imagine a very different way of looking at reality. What I would like to know is whether you know whether you are any good at doing this. One way to know this is whether you can find writings 500, 2000, and 3500 years ago to be intelligible. A great example of a shift from caricatured unintelligibility to deep intelligibility comes from Edward Feser's The road from atheism; I suggest looking for where he said "listen", in particular.

In my experience, many in our world cannot even get out of their own heads into the heads of people who think a little differently than they do. 1 Cor 12:12–26 can be seen as a critique of this. It strikes me that it is inordinately harder to get out of one's own head and into a head 500, 2000, and 3500 years ago. I would like to know whether you know how good, or bad, you are at doing this.

It's super-confusing, because as you will see (and I gave a few quotes in the main post) he keeps using phrases like "set up the functions" or "created time" or "set things up to work" and so forth, which _really_ sound on the face of it like God is actually, y'know, _doing_ something in the physical world on those days! But then he has this whole chapter called "The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins," and there and elsewhere he insists that God is not engaging in material creation.

I actually find a lot of support for my "invisible decrees" position not only from the fact that other critical interpreters have taken him that way, but also from the fact that Walton himself and his supporters were so annoyed when they took Bill Craig to be interpreting him any other way! Actually, they misunderstood Craig, and Craig is interpreting Walton the same way that I do. But my point is just that, if Walton and co. are indignantly repudiating any interpretation that the world was _not_ already totally set up, everything working, sun shining, animals running around, sea creatures swimming in the sea, etc., *prior to* Day 1 of the creation week, then I guess he really is saying that the world _was_ already totally set up, everything working, sun shining, animals running around, sea creatures swimming in the sea, etc., prior to Day 1. Which strongly supports the "invisible decrees" interpretation of all this talk about "giving functions."

Luke Breuer, your comment is blatantly unresponsive to my post. I don't know how good I am at getting into the mindset of ancient peoples, but I'll tell you one thing: Anybody who says that the ancient Israelites "had no distinction between the supernatural and the natural" is worse at it than I am! Because there is strong evidence from ancient texts--specifically, book after book after book of the Old Testament--that that's completely false. I have made arguments to this effect. See the post itself.

Moreover, the vague statement that ancient peoples thought differently than we do (though trivially true) doesn't mean that John H. Walton's statements about how they thought are true, now does it? If that were enough, then any Old Testament scholar could make up anything he liked, attribute it to ancient peoples, and then huffily respond to criticism by saying, "What's the matter with you? Don't you realize that ancient peoples thought differently than we do?" Yes, they did no doubt, but he hasn't given us good evidence that *his* interpretation of how they thought is correct.

While I'm at it, here is yet _another_ OT scholar (C. John Collins is another, and I have linked his review in the main post) who disagrees strongly with Walton's attribution to ancient peoples of a sharp separation between material and functional origins.

http://lej.cuchicago.edu/book-reviews/lost-world-of-genesis-one-john-h-walton-american-evangelicals-and-creation/

This is Andrew Steinman. Steinman says,

A second problem with Walton’s approach is his proposing a dichotomy between God’s creation of the material world and God’s giving order and function to the world. He never demonstrates that the ancients in the Near East in general or Israel in particular made such hard-and-fast distinctions.

(I thank Steve Hays very much for sending me the link to Steinman's review after my article was posted.)

There has been, as far as I know, no mass conversion among OT scholars to Walton's unique view since his book publishing, and he states himself in the book that it is new with him because other scholars (allegedly) hadn't thought of it!

So it looks like people are going to have to investigate the _arguments_ that this _is_ how ancient peoples thought, not just deal in vague generalizations like, "Ancient people thought differently than we do" and use that as an argument for endorsing Walton's highly unusual individual views on the particulars!

Nor is pure credentialism going to do it for you, here, because the choice of Walton as one's preferred expert is quite arbitrary. Look at the arguments instead.

Luke Breuer, your comment is blatantly unresponsive to my post.

I'm confused; I said this:

LB: Anyhow, it strikes me that John H. Walton's book depends on being able to imagine a very different way of looking at reality.

How is that not very responsive to a critical underpinning of your post?

I don't know how good I am at getting into the mindset of ancient peoples, but I'll tell you one thing: Anybody who says that the ancient Israelites "had no distinction between the supernatural and the natural" is worse at it than I am!

Actually, Louis Dupré addresses this matter for the medievals in Passage to Modernity:

    The term supernatural did not begin to refer to a separate order until some sixteenth-century theologians clearly distinguished a natural human end from humankind's revealed destiny. Thus, Saint Thomas's sixteenth-century commentator Sylvester of Ferrara interprets his master's position as disjoining the reality of nature form that of grace. If God were the person's natural end yet that end could be attained only by supernatural means, he argues, nature would fail to be proportionate to its own end.[8] Aquinas never conceived of nature as an independent reality endowed with a self-sufficient finis naturalis. (171–172)

When it comes to how the ancient Hebrews understood the matter, I would need to make a more careful examination of Hebrew thinking. One of the huge points of Walton's is that if we merely try and transpose our modern way of looking at reality to the ANE, we will encounter serious problems. This is corroborated by Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, in which he argues that the very notion of truth, for the Hebrews, was very different from the still very dominant Correspondence Theory of Truth. I think you see the same conclusion in Padgett's and Keifert's (eds) anthology But Is It All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth.

Moreover, the vague statement that ancient peoples thought differently than we do (though trivially true) doesn't mean that John H. Walton's statements about how they thought are true, now does it?

Of course not. But if you have little established ability to break out of your probably-very-modern way of looking at reality, to explore radically different ways of looking at reality, then it seems reasonable to suppose that if Walton's thesis is even somewhat correct, then you have zero established ability to really grasp it. This isn't a huge stain on your character as far as I can tell, but it's a limitation that does limit what you can competently talk about.

———

As to other scholars disagreeing with Walton, that is not surprising and that is probably very healthy for academia. The matter of how the ancients viewed Genesis 1–11-type material hasn't been on the top of my priority list, so I haven't investigated the matter in great detail. What I will say is that historicism itself is fairly new, and so many people today are very reticent to try to get into others' minds. I am told that Martin Luther thought civilization in his time was not very different from Roman times!

It is very common for people to assume that people 1500, or even 3500 years ago, viewed reality roughly as we do

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth."

I think that we and the ancient Israelites might take "roughly" the same thing from this, that God made some stuff, material stuff. I know about the law of gravity, and they didn't, but they did know as well as I that the apple falls down from the tree, not up, and that when an ocean opens up so that people can walk to other side, or a flaming chariot of fire descends from heaven, the regularities of nature are probably not the cause.

How is that not very responsive to a critical underpinning of your post?

It's not responsive because it doesn't respond to my arguments. In fact, you still haven't done so, nor tried.

Concerning what Louis DuPre says: The history of the term "supernatural" is obviously only tangentially related to the existence of a generic concept of the kinds of things to which William Luse alludes, which could be called "the order of nature" and "the supernatural." If Dupre is making the radical statement, which Walton does make, that they literally had no notion of the miraculous prior to the sixteenth century (!!), then he could not be more wrong and is easily refuted. But I'm going to guess that, though not entirely clear, he is not saying anything that radical.

But if you have little established ability to break out of your probably-very-modern way of looking at reality, to explore radically different ways of looking at reality, then it seems reasonable to suppose that if Walton's thesis is even somewhat correct, then you have zero established ability to really grasp it.

First, that isn't true. Walton presumably thinks that he is going to help people to understand the ancients better than they did before. It's not as though his words are helpful only to those who already are "good at" getting into other people's mindsets and therefore will be more readily "enlightened" by what he says. He makes arguments himself, he makes assertions. He is a member of my own culture and writes in my own language. What he says can be evaluated, and he presumably meant it to be. If Walton's thesis is "even somewhat correct," he should be able to show us why it is correct and why we should accept it. IF he doesn't do so, it's ludicrous to conjecture that this is just because we lack some occult faculty of ancient-people-understanding which would make us capable of being struck by the wisdom in Walton's book!

Second, *if* I'm the reincarnation of Napoleon Bonaparte, then I conquered Europe in a past life. Playing "if" games is entirely beside the point in any event. I have made _arguments_ that Walton is _wrong_. I have also given _arguments_ that his _arguments_ do not support what he says they support. You should do a little work at evaluating these rather than sitting back and saying that I *might* evaluate them differently if I had more imagination, or whatever the idea is supposed to be.

Thank you for this review. Although I haven't read the book, I share your frustration with people who make a certain kind of argument where they think that nothing ancient people say about the material world can ever in principle conflict with modern science precisely because of (not in spite of) their adherence to an ancient cosmology, which conflicts at many points with modern science.

"having a worked-out chemistry is not necessary for believing that one physical entity is made in part from another physical substance."

Well said. It's astounding how often the opposite is assumed by one side in these discussions.

I write slowly, and I see someone else has taken up the issue of the recent vintage of the natural/supernatural distinction. The claim is rather commonplace among students of ancient thought and hardly original to Walton, and from the quote you gave it looks like Walton is saying the standard thing. Like Mr. Breuer, I'm not convinced that your arguments suffice to undermine that claim. But I think I can explain why in a less question-begging manner.

Your arguments only suffice to prove that ancient people realized that there are ways things usually work, and they could conceptually contrast that with prodigious or unusual events, which they were inclined to read as signs having a special meaning and being attributable to a divine exercise of power. But this isn't sufficient to undermine the claim at issue.

In short, the natural/supernatural distinction (which I claim the ancients lacked) is not the ordinary/prodigious distinction (which they clearly had). The fact that they regarded prodigious events as "readable" as special signs from gods does not show otherwise.

Earthquakes are unusual events. The normal way the earth behaves is to be solid and unmoving. When it does the opposite, ancient peoples were inclined to take it as a special sign and an indication of divine power beyond whatever involvement God or the gods may have in more ordinary events. Similarly for volcanic eruptions, comets and solar eclipses, all things we place definitively on the natural side of the aisle. Even political upheaval was often treated as an expression of divine power with special significance.

On the other hand, meeting the ghost of a deceased relative in a dream, something that we would definitively call supernatural (assuming a real communication with the dead, not a mere fancy), would be regarded by many ancient people as a relatively common event. More common than an earthquake anyway. And what I've read suggest to me that they would have regarded such a meeting as, in a sense, perfectly natural, that is, normal, common, non-prodigious. But in thinking that, they would not be "naturalizing" it in the modern sense.
What I mean by "naturalizing" is this: suppose there is an as yet undetected force field pervading space, a field that is capable of taking different states in a manner that allows it to act as a sort of digital computer. Occasionally, for some reason, people's brain-states get "downloaded" to this computer while their bodies are dying, and, through the physical effects of the field, they are able to influence events on earth, sometimes communicating with their loved ones, and also causing weird events, and this explains many of the reports of hauntings.

So, the point is: while it's possible to have the concepts of natural/supernatural and to believe in ghosts while mistakenly thinking them to be non-supernatural, that's not what the ancients thought. The idea behind the sort of naturalizing I've described is to allow, in a sense, for the possible reality of a "supernatural" event, but to do so only by evacuating all the supernaturalness from it. I claim that the motivation for such naturalizing would be opaque to the ancients precisely because they lack the category of natural in contrast with supernatural in the first place. Which is why a material monist like Thales, who said that all is water, could also say that all things are full of gods. For, just as they could treat paradigmatically supernatural things as in a sense natural (but not in contrast with the supernatural) so they treated paradigmatically natural things as in a sense supernatural.

C.S.Lewis gets the idea across when he writes, "something has to be overcome before we cn cut up a dead man or a live animal in a disecting room. These objects _resist_ the movement of the mind where by we thrust them into the world of mere Nature. But in other instances too, a similar price is exacted for our analytical knowledge and manipulative power, even if we have ceased to count it. We do not look at trees either as Dryads or as beautiful objects while we cut them into beams: the first man who did so may have felt the price keenly, and the bleeding trees in Virgil and Spencer may be far-off echoes of that primeval sense of impiety. The stars lost their divinity as astronomy developed, and the Dying God has no place in chemical agriculture."
Although I'm sure he would reject the idolatry involved as any Christian must, Lewis evidently thinks that the ancient way of looking at things contained an important truth that we have lost in our regarding natural things as merely natural. And I'm inclined to think he is right.

That being said, I fully agree with your and Collins's criticism of Walton's attack on any acceptance of any kind of natural/supernatural distinction, no matter how qualified, as tantamount to deism. I think some kind of distinction between the two will flow automatically (after a few centuries) from any philosophically reflective belief in the Christian God. But I'm also keen to differentiate it from the standard modern understanding of that distinction.

Christopher McCartney, I thank you for your contentful comments. Without challenging what you have said very greatly (though I'm not sure that I agree with it all, by any means), let me go straight to your ordinary/prodigious distinction.

If even that much is granted, and we replace "natural/supernatural" with "ordinary/prodigious," then Walton's argument in the book does not stand. For it would be then sufficient to ask whether the ancient Israelites thought, and would have taken from the text, that God brought, say, mankind, the first man, into physical existence suddenly and prodigiously, as if a mountain were suddenly to rise from the earth or the sea to part. And one could also ask this about other parts of the text: Would they have taken from it that God caused the seas to teem with sea creatures as an immediate, prodigious event? Would they have taken the text to be compatible with an infinitestimally slow process in which one type of thing developed very gradually into another, etc.? And so forth. One could ask this question about the other events in the chapter as well. And the question could be made meaningful in the terms you have given, as far as I can see.

Now, just that is sufficient to undermine Walton's claim, which is that the questions we bring to the text--such as whether or not God miraculously created man--would have been entirely foreign to the Israelites, in the sense that it would have been *literally impossible* for them to formulate such a question or to think of the matter one way rather than another, since they had no concept of the miraculous. The example of the conception of Isaac alone, aside from all the other myriad examples I gave, is sufficient to show that this argument of his simply will not fly.

Luke Breuer:

if you have little established ability to break out of your probably-very-modern way of looking at reality, to explore radically different ways of looking at reality, then it seems reasonable to suppose that if Walton's thesis is even somewhat correct, then you have zero established ability to really grasp it.

I'm not sure that a reasoned argument can be wrung out of that tangled mess; Lydia gave it more respect than it is due. Argument from authority is a fickle thing online. You're just beclowning yourself by insinuating that Lydia McGrew has "little established ability" in anything related to Scriptural studies. Chances are you're far more ignorant of her work than she is of Walton's.

This isn't a huge stain on your character as far as I can tell, but it's a limitation that does limit what you can competently talk about.

Look, Lydia is more than competent to read a popular exegetical book on Genesis and review it on a blog. The review is five times as long and detailed as anything you'd ever see in a popular newspaper, and twice as long as anything in a middlebrow magazine. She also listened to hours of interview material. Walton's honorable choices were to let the review pass in silence or respond to it substantively. He choose neither. Lydia, meanwhile, has proceeded to answer all substantive objections to or comments on her review.

But a first-time commenter who, with a schoolmarmish manner, shows up with ostentatious homework assignments, is right next door to just being an ass. Knock it off.

Here's my quick take on Walton: He wants to claim forms/essences were imparted only during the Genesis week so he supposes God breathed teleology into the “empty-nameless” matter that preceded human culture. This alludes to a weak kind of nominalist mysticism in Genesis, the author's act of speaking or writing a story into existence where naming things asserts control over them.

I know about the law of gravity, and they didn't, but they did know as well as I that the apple falls down from the tree, not up, and that when an ocean opens up so that people can walk to other side, or a flaming chariot of fire descends from heaven, the regularities of nature are probably not the cause.

The point is that ancient peoples thought the regularities of nature were divine acts too. The sun wasn't a mindless natural object following a mathematically predictable path; it was the divine power and will of the sun god that physically carried light through the sky. We had a similar debate on Lydia's thread here:
http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2014/06/if_everything_is_holy_nothing.html
All it boils down to is that there could be different degrees of miracles and there is nothing that is fully and completely natural.

Also, you and Lydia are not reading Genesis in the appropriate context of ancient Near Eastern literature and folklore.
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0015_0_15401.html

"Did the human author intend to tell the people that God physically made the dry land appear?" But Walton doesn't even answer that question clearly. What he says sort of gives the impression that the human author _did_ think that, but that it is unimportant because it's just God's teaching some higher truth via these ancient scientific categories. Yet that would be exactly the position he rails against elsewhere of not vesting the authority of the text in "what the ancient author and audience would have understood."

I've always taken Walton to mean that Moses was desiring to communicate something similar to what he says in his Genesis NIV Application Commentary (2001), where he first developed these ideas in print and what I say in my explanatory notes.

What does the text intend to teach as it concludes its roster of functions? Most of all, it wants to convey that the creation of these functions was deemed "good" by God (1:10, 12)... Did the Israelite experience of these functions of the cosmos suggest they were good? In each case I suspect that they struggled with the concept... they knew that the various meteorological phenomena were in the hands of God... Nevertheless, the climate often seemed to act against them. The agricultural process also could work against them. There are many obstacles to be overcome in the planting-harvesting cycle... Since Israel was largely an agrarian society, these problems did not just affect individual families, rather, everyone suffered. Genesis 1, however, claims that the original creation was not designed to set up a struggle between antagonists (i.e. people and nature).
-pg. 115-116
Other uses of this word associate it with the chaos monsters that were believed to inhabit the cosmic waters. So, for instance, Psalm 74:13-14 puts Leviathan, a multiheaded beast, in the category of tannin. Again the polemic comes to the surface, as these creatures are not antagonists that have to be defeated, but creatures that have been given functions just like any other. It would be important for the cosmology of the ancient Near East to address the issue of chaos monsters of the sea, especially such as Genesis that offers a variant view of the cosmos. As living creatures are put in place on days five and six, the blessing of being fruitful and multiplying indicates that their proliferation is not intended as scourge on humankind.
-pg. 127

The selection of the subjects that are mentioned during the 6 days indicate Moses was wanting to make the point that God is in control and will work for Israel's good to have a harmonious and ordered relationship with nature (hence the later promises in the Torah of agricultural blessing for obedience).

Therefore, in Moses' mind and his audiences, the functional aspect is primary. Even with the audience having having an ancient cosmic geography, it doesn't mean they thought the visual pictures painted by Moses were things that occurred in those 24-hour days. Rather, since the story of God creating functions and functionaries for humans is primary in the authorial intent, we can say it's very possible Genesis 1 didn't set in stone what they would have thought about the timeline of material events.

We could then plausibly say the divine intent was to communicate only the functional aspects, despite the Israelites' cosmic geography. Walton doesn't commit exactly to when these 7 days of declaring functions could have occurred after creation of the universe, as far as I'm aware. It could have been before the solar system was physically in place, or when animals were already running around on the earth.

Walton notes in his commentary that his view can sync with a Day of Proclamation view like John Sailhamer's and others he cites, even though Walton doesn't attempt a synthesis. I personally prefer to in presenting the interpretation. (Also Glenn Morton's online writings provide a good overview of the interpretation. See here: http://erv-faq-for-creationists.wikispaces.com/Days+of+Proclamation--New+Way+to+Interpret+Genesis+1)

Nevertheless, the emphasis is not on the making of these functionaries as material objects but on setting them up in their respective spheres, playing their roles within the operative cosmos. Sailhamer notes this distinction by drawing attention to speaking of God. "So if one asks, 'Did God do anything on the fourth day?' the answer from the text itself is yes. Just as he did on every other day, God 'spoke' on the fourth day. The writer is intent on showing that the whole world depends on the word of God. The world owes not merely its existence to the word of God, but also its order and purpose. It is thus no small matter when the biblical writer shows us that on the fourth day God proclaimed his plan and purpose for creating the celestial bodies. He created them to serve humanity in the day when they began to dwell in God's land.
-pg. 133-134

This could then get us to the point where we can say it's plausible the Israelites could have taken Genesis 1 to be days of proclamations of functions and functionaries, and they thought the actual material organization needed to get things to the point where they were functioning as declared took place over a long period of time.

Step2

"The point is that ancient peoples thought the regularities of nature were divine acts too. The sun wasn't a mindless natural object following a mathematically predictable path; it was the divine power and will of the sun god that physically carried light through the sky."

That may be what pagan Near Easterners believed, but as commentators routinely point out, Gen 1 demotes and demythologizes the sun from a deity to a natural object, one of God's impersonal creatures.

Also, on the point about the natural/supernatural distinction Walton makes, I didn't find that it was confusing or that it would lead us to think the Israelites would have had a hard time conceiving of the miraculous. This is perhaps due to my first introduction to him on this subject was in his Genesis commentary, where he says more about it.

I think an important takeaway from there not being natural/supernatural distinction in the minds of ANE peoples is that the Bible doesn't teach that miracles are violations of the laws of nature.

For instance, J.P. Holding discusses non-Christian historian Aviezer Tucker's thoughts on this in regard to the errors of David Hume (http://www.tektonics.org/gk/hume01.php).

I have also had access to back issues of a journal of professional historians titled History and Theory, which is of interest because it is clear that at least one professional historian does not agree with the arguments of Hume and modern materialists who insist that miracles must be ruled out a priori as possible causes...

Tucker then goes on to argue -- in the same vein I have in other venues -- that Hume's definition of miracles is inadequate. "Ancient Hebrews and Greeks had no concept of a universal immutable law of naturem let alone a concept of events that violate such laws." [375] Tucker proposes instead that miracles be defined with a "method of cases" using descriptions of miracles to decide what they are. He lists several, such as prophecy, resurrections, transmutations, and the parting of the Red Sea, and then points out that "none of these 'miracles' is in violation of the laws of nature, as Hume claimed" [376] -- for indeed, science has reproduced the effects of miracles, and may conceivably come up with ways to reproduce others, such as transmutations.

There is not even a law of nature that "explicity contradicts" resurrections. This, again, has been my own argument for quite some time. In contrast, Tucker notes, science fiction stories often contain the same sort of "violations" of laws of nature (such as faster than light travel) but no one things that sci-fi authors are writes of "miracle tales."

Thus it is that Hume's definition of a mircale is "clearly anachronistic, ahistorical." [377] Tucker opts instead for a definition that matches my own: Miracles are "divine feats of strength" [378] and proofs of God's power. If Hume's apologists do not use this definition, then they are talking about something that has "nothing to do with what Jews and Christians have been talking about for almost all of the past 3,000 years" and "his discussion has no relevance for the philsophy of religion, or as a critique of traditional Judeo-Christianity, or for the way historians and philsophers of history should proceed with claims that a miracle has occurred." [379]

Also, he didn't leave the impression in my mind that the Bible teaches something like occasionalism, but he seems to me to be saying that there is no natural/supernatural distinction because God actively sustains the world in existence moment-by-moment yet is transcendent from it. That is a classical theist way of putting things.

The point is that ancient peoples thought the regularities of nature were divine acts too.

So do I, Step2.

Luke Breuer

"This is corroborated by Yoram Hazony's The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, in which he argues that the very notion of truth, for the Hebrews, was very different from the still very dominant Correspondence Theory of Truth."


What about the OT distinction between true and false prophecy? How did they distinguish the two without a correspondence theory of truth?

Likewise, how did they adjudicate crimes without a correspondence theory of truth? Don't all those Pentateuchal laws distinguish compliant from noncompliant behavior?

How could OT prophets indict Israel for disobedience to the Mosaic covenant absent a correspondence theory of truth?

Continuing with Breuer, it's unclear how, absent a correspondence theory of truth, the Hebrews could distinguish true worship from false worship. Yet that surely looms large in the OT.

This isn't just about completing ideas of the dvine, but different religious practices. Different stated objects of worship. As well as historical actions attributed to Yahweh.

It's unclear how Breuer's objection is even relevant to Lydia's review. Walton drives a wedge between functional and material origins. But if, according to Breuer, ancient Hebrews didn't operate with a concept of truth approximating the correspondence theory, then how is Walton's dichotomy even sustainable? How would Hebrews be able to differentiate functional from material origins, given Breuer's claim?

It seems more like Breuer is taking advantage of Lydia's review as a pretext to advance his own position on Genesis, which has no intentional relationship to the specifics of Walton's position.

His tacit argument appears to be that if ancient Hebrews didn't operate with a correspondence theory of truth, then faithful Christians aren't obligated to treat the narrative as a factual account, for even the original author and the original audience didn't think in modernist terms of veracity.

Acts 17--which I think we can call an "ancient text"--teaches creatio ex nihilo. Whether or not the word "bara" in Hebrew implies that is absolutely irrelevant, since interpreting Scripture is not a matter of etimology. After all, we are talking about divine action, which we cannot hope to capture univocally in human language. Clearly, "bara" does not exclude creatio ex nihilo. But there is simply no way to read the NT on creation--e.g., Acts 17, John 1, Rom 11:36, Col. 1:16-17, etc.--without seeing it as creatio ex nihilo. Hence, the early church fathers are virtually universally agreed on this, e.g., Hermas of Rome (c. A.D. 80-140), St. Aristides of Athens (c. A.D. 140), St.Theophilus of Antioch (c. A.D. 181), St. Irenaeus of Lyons (c. A.D. 189), Tertullian of Carthage (A.D. 197), St. Hippolytus of Rome (A.D. 217), Origen of Alexandria (c. A.D. 225), and St. Cyprian of Carthage (c. A.D. 254). These, if I understand the calendar correctly, are pre-16th century authors.

Clint:

Walton doesn't commit exactly to when these 7 days of declaring functions could have occurred after creation of the universe, as far as I'm aware. It could have been before the solar system was physically in place, or when animals were already running around on the earth.

As far as I can tell, this is false. If you read his discussion of the campus metaphor (just one example), it is quite clear that these things _had_ to be there already, otherwise we could not have seen that all was already in place for the "students" to arrive. Read the quotations I give above. I do not see how it is _possible_ for Walton to be viewing these events as occurring before the solar system is in place. This also fits with his interpretation of day 1. He says in the book that his "functional" (read, invisible divine decree over an existing physical universe) view helps with the problem of how there could be light on day 1 without the sun. In other words, the idea is that the sun was already there _before_ day 1, and day 1 is "creating time" by calling the alternating periods darkness and light. This makes no sense if Walton thought that the events took place or even _could_ take place before the solar system was physically in place. That's day 1!

We could then plausibly say the divine intent was to communicate only the functional aspects, despite the Israelites' cosmic geography.

Again, this makes a split between the divine and human intent that Walton usually _rejects_. If _they_ would have understood that God _made_ the firmament on day 2, then Walton's normal means of proceeding would be to say that we should understand it as _they_ understood it.

Also, on the point about the natural/supernatural distinction Walton makes, I didn't find that it was confusing or that it would lead us to think the Israelites would have had a hard time conceiving of the miraculous. This is perhaps due to my first introduction to him on this subject was in his Genesis commentary, where he says more about it.
Also, he didn't leave the impression in my mind that the Bible teaches something like occasionalism, but he seems to me to be saying that there is no natural/supernatural distinction because God actively sustains the world in existence moment-by-moment yet is transcendent from it. That is a classical theist way of putting things.

Sorry, but that will not do. First of all, I _quoted_ him as saying that the ancient Israelites wouldn't have been able to conceive of the miraculous. It's *right there*. He states that because they had no distinction between the natural and the non-natural, there were no miracles in their minds.

Second, he _uses_ this statement to make a point, an argument, which cannot be made by what you are attributing to him. I pointed this out in the main post, but I guess I have to expect to have to repeat arguments again in the comments. If _all_ he means is that God sustains the world moment by moment, etc., this is _completely_ compatible with asking whether God brought the animals, Adam, the dry land, etc., into existence suddenly, prodigiously, by miracle. In other words, if all he means is what you say is all he means, then all the questions come back again. He is trying to say that it would have been literally impossible for the ancient Israelites to conceive of these questions or to discuss them. But that is *flatly false* if the only point is that they believed that God works through natural processes, that God is intimately connected with everything, sustains everything, etc. His _argument_ from the alleged absence of the natural-supernatural distinction _falls to the ground_ if one takes what he is saying about the natural-supernatural distinction as a mere articulation of classical theism. How much clearer can I make this?

The point is that ancient peoples thought the regularities of nature were divine acts too.

Step2, see my previous comment to Clint, and my comment last night to Christopher McCartney. If that is the only point Walton is making, he can't use it in his argument the way he uses it.

Thomas Aquinas,

Actually, weirdly enough and confusingly enough, Walton says that he believes in creation ex nihilo! It's just that he thinks Genesis 1 is about a completely different process that took place _after_ creation ex nihilo. As far as I can tell, he thinks that God did a first act of creation ex nihilo and then is very open to thinking that these long, long processes followed during which God worked invisibly, etc., but that all of this took place _before_ Genesis 1. When it was all there, then God did these invisible decrees over a period of six days, followed by invisibly giving man a non-physical imago dei.

So he doesn't actually deny creation ex nihilo. He just wants to place it entirely outside of Genesis! This is very confusing.

I hope that this comment, along with everything else, will show any ardent Walton supporter who bothers to read this thread that I actually have knocked myself out understanding him and that I work to defend him against any confusions that might reflect badly on him, which makes any sort of "try harder" comment doubly annoying.

You quote Walton saying:

There were no "miracles" (in the sense of events deviating from that which was "natural"), there were only signs of the deity's activity (sometimes favorable, sometimes not)

the part where he qualifies the sense of "miracle" at issue allows for, yea even suggests, that there may well be other senses of 'miracle' in which the Hebrews could see things as miracles.

You are certainly correct in saying that the absence of the one particular concept of miracle doesn't prevent the author of Genesis from intending to describe a process which, if it happened as he intends say that it happened, would conflict with the way our scientists say things normally happen, and indeed with how they say things did in fact happen. And if Walton thinks he can avoid all of these questions just by saying that ancient authors lacked the categories of natural/supernatural, then he's wrong. And I've seen this sort of invalid move made often enough that I can easily enough believe that he may have been trying to make it.

My only objection is to the part of your argument where you try to undermine Walton's expertise at understanding the mindset of ancient people because he made this obviously false and easily disproved claim that they had no concept of natural in contrast with supernatural (which is a true claim), and because he said, without qualification, they had no concept of miracle (when in fact he said it with qualification).

Not to stick my beak in too far into this discussion, but if I am understanding Lydia correctly and if she is understanding Prof. Walton correctly, then I think I might have something useful to say. Obviously, if I am wrong, then I accept correction, but, given my caveats, here goes...

In the Papal document, Humani Generis, the Pope Pius XII wrote:

36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter - for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith.[11] Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

38. Just as in the biological and anthropological sciences, so also in the historical sciences there are those who boldly transgress the limits and safeguards established by the Church. In a particular way must be deplored a certain too free interpretation of the historical books of the Old Testament. Those who favor this system, in order to defend their cause, wrongly refer to the Letter which was sent not long ago to the Archbishop of Paris by the Pontifical Commission on Biblical Studies.[13] This letter, in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis, although properly speaking not conforming to the historical method used by the best Greek and Latin writers or by competent authors of our time, do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense, which however must be further studied and determined by exegetes; the same chapters, (the Letter points out), in simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people but little cultured, both state the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the chosen people. If, however, the ancient sacred writers have taken anything from popular narrations (and this may be conceded), it must never be forgotten that they did so with the help of divine inspiration, through which they were rendered immune from any error in selecting and evaluating those documents.

In this case, it might be correct to say that the material cause of man evolved up to a point where a radical break occurred and man began to function as man (when the first true man received a rational soul), but there is some subtly that this definition hides.

It seems, as I currently understand his thesis, that Prof. Walton would like to hold something analogous for Genesis 1: that God developed the material matter, initially, but it didn't function in its modern capacity until the Six Days of Creation recorded in Genesis. If this is even close to his thesis, then this is where that subtlety hiding in the schema of Humani Generis for man's creation comes in and why it is a huge problem for trying to extend this to the Genesis account outside of man.

Let me play Ed Feser for the moment (apologies, Ed, if I get this wrong). Whenever God creates, He imbues the Formal, Efficient, Material, and Final Causation for that creation, together, since God is simple in His acts. That does not mean that things cannot develop from that starting point by secondary means, developing secondary functions, but here is the point: God cannot create something without a function already in His thoughts, but if it has a function in God's plans, then it has a function a generis. God cannot create something and later give it a function. Since there are only three types of rational agents: God, the angels, and man, then there can be a hierarchy of functions that express themselves for each agent. Obvious, the proto-matter that existed prior to it gaining its ,"functional sense," can't make any sense from God's point of view, since He cannot create without function already being known, but it can make sense from the standpoint of man. If the last iteration of creature prior to man saw the sun, it would not have a clear rational functional sense, but for the first true man, this would seem like an emergent property - the function of that big thing in the sky would manifest itself to him. This could even get expressed poetically as God said,"Let there be light...", since, from rational man's perspective, light, as a concept or function would have suddenly emerged. What is clear, however, is that the proto-matter prior to this man-centric functional emergence, still had a function, since it was created by God. Thus, in a neutral sense, function can never later be given by God, so Prof. Walton's description of proto-matter being later imbued with function is incoherent in describing it as an act of God. God had to know its function from the beginning and for God to know something it must have that property (even in contingent realities).

So, while there can be a God-function, which is coincident with creation, and a man-function that emerges later and suddenly (or even slowly), what there cannot be is a God-function that emerges later and suddenly. That denies the simplicity of God and His acts. So, I submit that the confusion, here, is due to a lack of specification of persons for whom the function-states are referring. At times Prof. Walton seems to refer the function-states to God and at times to man. Proto-matter, if created by God has a specific function as proto-matter. If God wishes to endow that matter with other properties not arising out of its nature, later, He is certainly allowed to, as a separate act of creation with a new function for those new properties. What Prof. Walton seems not to understand is that proto-light and light both have functions - to deny this, but at the same time to assert that God made them is a subtly distortion of the nature of God and His creative acts.

Prof. Walton could make an analogy to the theistic evolution possibility allowed for man in Humani Generis with regards to the rest of creation, if he wants to define something analogous to the concept of rational soul that gives man his function as man for the rest of the elements of the created order (which seems to be implicit in the idea of functional emergence), but this seems to me to violate Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate - entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.

Thus, it is easier to rationalize a discontinuity with regards to man's creation, from proto-man to man, than it is to rationalize a discontinuity with regards to Creations creation, from proto-matter to Six Days of Creation. Otherwise, it might seem like a distorted slow-motion Platonism, where, instead of form preceding matter, one has matter preceding function.

With apologies to Ed and anyone else who has read this.

The Chicken

I actually have knocked myself out understanding him and that I work to defend him against any confusions that might reflect badly on him, which makes any sort of "try harder" comment doubly annoying.

...and makes smug references to those who "truly want to understand" (as opposed to those who are merely "determined to be critical") doubly insulting and unprofessional.

Christopher,

My only objection is to the part of your argument where you try to undermine Walton's expertise at understanding the mindset of ancient people because he made this obviously false and easily disproved claim that they had no concept of natural in contrast with supernatural (which is a true claim)

Well, I stand by that, because in the context of Walton's book, what he needs that to mean is something much stronger than what you mean, which really should raise red flags about his ability to get into the ancient mindset. _Nowhere_ does he do what you did above and make a distinction with prodigious/ordinary. If he had, as I have pointed out, he couldn't go where he wants to go with it.

Nor am I the only person to make this point. Credentialed OT experts and other scholars have done so as well--that he is wrong that the Israelites had no distinction between the natural and the supernatural.

At the best, he is committing the fallacy of equivocation, which not only calls his logical rigor into question but also, again, creates a problem with his expertise concerning ancient peoples.

and because he said, without qualification, they had no concept of miracle (when in fact he said it with qualification).

He qualified it only *in relation to* the denial of a natural-supernatural distinction, which he did _not_ qualify. So ultimately, the statement regarding miracles is also unqualified in the context of his book.

Masked Chicken, thanks for your comments. Without necessarily using the Thomistic categories myself, I think you are spot-on when you talk about the impossibility of having a function recognized by God only after the thing exists as a physical entity (e.g., a sea creature). And this is what Walton needs, because human society doesn't show up until day six, yet God is supposedly "making functions" for a pre-existent sun on day 4! And so forth. So _God_ is somehow recognizing or dubbing a function for things that _already_ existed--the sea creatures, the birds, the plants, etc.--even _before_ man shows up. These are not just revelations to man or something.

In fact, I have very little idea theologically what in the world this means. It certainly seems to imply (I didn't mention this in the post) a fairly strong sense in which God is in time, because God, all by Himself, is dubbing invisible functions on specific 24-hour days! God is, as it were, making mental motions at particular points in time. It also sits very oddly with divine omniscience. Given that God knew all about the sea creatures, the plants, etc., from the first moment of their existence (which Walton takes to be _prior_ to the creation week in Genesis 1), what could it possibly mean for God _not_ to have considered them to have functions prior to that time?

The entire concept of divine mental function-giving which has nothing to do with material creation is contentless at best and incoherent at worst.

Regarding the creation of man, I have serious theological and ethical reservations about the idea that the imago dei could be a *purely* non-physical matter. I will be detailing these in my review of Walton's book on Adam and Eve, since (as far as I can now tell) he does indeed insist there that the imago dei is purely non-material. To my mind, this is a kind of angelism and very misguided. I have written about the issue of an entirely immaterial imago dei before here on W4. (This is all rather ironic, as I consider myself a Cartesian dualist, but of the interactive sort that takes mind-body interaction very seriously indeed.)

In any event, any attempt to accommodate in one's biblical interpretation _all_ the things that we are now being told are required by mainstream science (e.g., a minimal interbreeding pool in man's past of several thousand or more) is going to suffer from severe theological and interpretive strain. I will get into some of this in the upcoming post. I need to finish reading _The Lost World of Adam and Eve_ first.

Christopher McCartney:

"My only objection is to the part of your argument where you try to undermine Walton's expertise at understanding the mindset of ancient people…"

Let's briefly discuss the expertise of OT scholars. What is their area of expertise? Do they have the inside track on understanding the mindset of ANE people?

OT scholars are expert at reading ANE texts. Reading them in the original (e.g. Hebrew, Akkadian). This extends to ancient artistic depictions.

That, however, doesn't automatically give them a window into the mindset of the author or audience, for that, of itself, doesn't tell us how the author or audience understood the text.

i) Let's take a few examples. There are artistic depictions of the goddess Tiamat as the sky. A giant woman split in two.

That, however, clearly isn't based on what the sky looks like. So that depiction doesn't tell you how the artist or audience understood the physical world.

ii) It's common for scholars like Walton to say the ancient Hebrews believed in a three-story universe. That's what the Hebrews believed because that's what everyone in the ANE believed.

On this view, the sky was a solid dome, supported by mountain ranges. And they took that view because that's what the world looks like to an earthbound observer. The world seems to end at the mountain range. That's where your field of vision terminates, because you can't see over the mountains.

The sky seems to rest on the mountains. Moreover, because you have a 360° field of vision, if you turn around in a circle, it looks like the world is a flat disk. So goes the argument.

There is, however, a basic problem with that inference. Many ancient people traveled. They traveled beyond the local mountain range.

So they knew, as a matter of experience, that the local mountain range didn't literally circumscribe the boundaries of the world. They knew, as a matter of experience, that the mountains didn't support the solid dome of the sky. The world continued on the other side of the mountain range.

That's just one example. Many OT scholars don't really project themselves into the daily experience of ANE people.

iii) Likewise, Eden is a garden in a river valley (or coastal plane). But how many OT scholars have any personal experience living and farming in a river valley? Reading the Hebrew text isn't the same thing as viewing the text from within–from the perspective of a reader who lived in that environment.

The Masked Chicken:

"Whenever God creates, He imbues the Formal, Efficient, Material, and Final Causation for that creation, together, since God is simple in His acts…Prof. Walton could make an analogy to the theistic evolution possibility allowed for man in Humani Generis…"

The obvious problem with that approach is that it superimposes an alien interpretive grid onto the ancient text. The narrator wasn't operating with Thomistic metaphysics or theistic evolution. That's not exegeting the text. Rather, that's on the same level as a ufologist who reinterprets Ezk 1 as a description of little green men emerging from a flying saucer.

Another whole issue about getting into the mindset of ancient peoples concerns C.S. Lewis's words quoted above about the first man who cut down a tree. If we take Adam to have actually been the first man, then very likely Adam was the first man who cut down a tree. Now, Adam didn't think that there was a god in the tree, because Adam would have been a firm monotheist. And why would Adam have thought that it was impious to cut down a tree and make it into logs, boards, or whatever he had the tools to do? He would have been clearly instructed by God that the herbs of the field were for his use.

The idea of a sort of primitive, semi-vitalist, "first man who cut down a tree" who felt so terrible about it does not arise from a robust notion that Adam was the literal first man but rather from a very different view of man, a view of man which is really secular in origin and assumes a gradualistic evolution of human culture.

I am not really convinced that Lewis himself was very good at getting into the mindset of _very_ ancient peoples. Medievals and Renaissance writers, I'm more willing to grant. And the 19th century romantics--Lewis practically _was_ a 19th century romantic born only slightly out of time. But "the first man who cut down a tree"--not so much.

Step2:

"Also, you and Lydia are not reading Genesis in the appropriate context of ancient Near Eastern literature and folklore."

i) To begin with, the article you link to is about Gen 2-3 (and only tangentially Gen 1). But Lydia was reviewing Walton's interpretation of Gen 1. So the article is pretty irrelevant to the issue at hand.

ii) There's an irony in claiming that the appropriate context is folkloric and mythological (Tigay's terms). For that characterization reflects the viewpoint, not of the narrator or his ANE audience, but a modern scholar with a secular outlook. Scholars like Tigay don't think Gen 2-3 even could be true. They operate with a naturalistic worldview, that's antithetical to the worldview of the narrator.

What Tigay is doing is actually the polar opposite of sympathetically entering into the thought-world of the ancient text. Rather, his classification (folklore, mythology) projects his own secular Western thought-world onto the text. That's not interpreting the text on its own terms.

"The text is at pains to point out the creatureliness of the serpent, describing it as one 'of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made' (3:1, 14); it is distinguished from the other beasts only by its shrewdness (3:1). Its insignificance is underlined in 3:9–19, where God interrogates Adam and Eve, and both respond, while the serpent is not questioned and does not respond. In view of the prominent role played by serpents in ancient Near Eastern religion and mythology this treatment of the serpent amounts to desecration and demythologization, quite possibly intentional. As a result, the source of evil is denied divine or even demonic status: evil is no independent principle in the cosmos, but stems from the behavior and attitudes of God's creatures."

i) He erects a false dichotomy between creaturely and demonic. But in Scripture, demons are fallen creatures.

ii) It's true that the "serpent" has been "demythologized" in the sense that the "serpent" is not a snakegod.

iii)The "serpent" isn't distinguished from the other creatures only by its shrewdness. It can also speak. So the narrative doesn't treat it as just a brute beast.

iv) To call it the "serpent" flattens out the polysemy of the original designation. To my knowledge, the Hebrew has three different meanings: "snake," "diviner," "shining one."

It's likely that the name of the tempter is a pun which trades on two or more of these evocative connotations. There's more to the tempter than meets the eye.

v) It's hermeneutically naive to think that Gen 3 contains all the interpretive clues to identify the tempter. Gen 3 isn't a self-contained story. It's part of a continuous narrative. We need to make allowance for Pentateuchal angelology and demonology when we read about the "serpent" in Gen 3.

"The location of Eden and its rivers clearly remains an open question."

i) Even if that were true, that doesn't mean Eden is fictional. This is from millennia ago. Rivers change course. Rivers dry up.

ii) In his monograph On The Historical Reliability of the Old Testament, Kenneth Kitchen offers a plausible location for Eden.

iii) And here's a scientific reconstruction:

http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2000/PSCF3-00Hill.html

"Certain details of the narrative seem not to conform to 'classical' biblical religion, but rather to reflect more primitive notions and premises. The very need to withhold immortality from man bespeaks divine jealousy: God and the divine beings are unwilling to have man acquire both of the distinctive characteristics of divinity, "knowledge of good and bad" and immortality (even if they may be willing to have man acquire immortality alone)."

If Yahweh was insecure, he would not have given them access to the tree of knowledge in the first place.

"Critics generally hold that the Eden narrative stems from a different source than the preceding creation narrative (Gen. 1:1–2:4a or 4b). Divergent authorship is indicated, according to the documentary hypothesis, by the two narratives' contradictory orders of creation (ch. 1: trees, animals, man and woman; ch 2: man, trees, animals, woman)."

The sequence is only contradictory on the assumption that Gen 1 and Gen 2 are both global creation accounts. But, in context, Gen 2 is concerned with the original location of Adam and Eve. Preparing a place for them to live. Creating fauna and flora for that immediate purpose. It's very localized. Therefore, it was never intended to synchronize with Gen 1 across the board. That's not a contradiction.

"The primordial absence of produce and standard forms of irrigation resemble the immediately postdiluvian conditions, which presumably duplicate primordial conditions in the Sumerian 'Rulers of Lagās' (in: JCS, 21 (1967), 283). The notion of a divine garden, paradigm of fertility, is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible."

This illustrates a methodological weakness of many OT scholars. They go in search of literary parallels, as if Gen 2-3 could only be a literary construct. But what about the great river valley situations? That isn't a literary convention. "Primitive" people really do cluster around major fresh water bodies.

Likewise, Gen 2 is explicitly situated in a Mesopotamian setting (2:10-14). Therefore, it's entirely consistent with the historicity of Gen 2 to reflect Mesopotamian conditions.

Here are some comments by OT scholar Richard Averbeck, in response to Walton:

"A more controversial point is that Walton sees substantial accommodation to the ANE worldview in the locutions of Gen 1, although not in the illocutions or perlocutions…There is something to this, but, in my opinion, he goes too far with it. The Bible is not only in its world in this regard but also against its world."

"He compares the seven days of the Gen 1 account with this temple dedication pattern in contrast to the material construction of the temple. The difficulty with the latter part of this comparison is that Gen 1 is not just about the dedication of the world as God's temple but the actual fabrication of the material world.

"…in fact, Gen 2:7 makes it clear that God 'formed' the man out of dust from the ground. This is material creation, and so it is in Gen 1:26-28 as well."

"When a person makes a clay pot, he or she makes something material, even though the potter uses preexisting material (original clay) to make it."

"In Gen 2:22 the verb 'build' is used for the making of the woman out of the rib of the man because a rib is the kind of thing you 'build' with (like a board or log) rather than 'shape' or 'form," like clay (dust of the ground) in Gen 2:7."

"Furthermore, it is simply not true that material creation was not a major concern in the ANE world surrounding ancient Israel. We have a good number of examples of material creation in the literature from Egypt to Mesopotamia."

J. Daryl Charles, ed. Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation (Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), 170-72.

"…in fact, Gen 2:7 makes it clear that God 'formed' the man out of dust from the ground. This is material creation, and so it is in Gen 1:26-28 as well."

Yes, I will be getting into this subsequently. The verb there is ysr, yet another one of those Hebrew verbs (like bara and asa) on which I have found Walton's take to be tendentious, requiring only a small amount of leg work, which a layman can do, to call into question.

To clarify: I meant that the verb in Genesis 2 is ysr.

It might help if Lydia told us her interpretation of Genesis 1 and biblical cosmology, so we might be see whether or not she also "wants to have things both ways," because I suspect the difficulties of reconciling ancient Near Eastern (including ancient Israelite) views with modern knowledge remain considerable regardless of whether or not one is a Waltonian. See for instance:

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/03/the-cultural-divide-between-ancient.html

Or

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/01/israelites-and-canaanites-how-different.html

Or

http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2010/10/rise-of-monotheism-israels-theological.html

Or

http://apatheticagnostic.com/articles/meds3/med51/med1061.html

Steve Hays is apparently a young-earth creationist whose main argument for a young-earth consists in adding up the ages of the patriarchs, which of course trumps all manner of scientific research. Neither can he be bothered studying ancient Near Eastern cosmology, since he's always got a handy ping pong table illustration of why the ancients could never have conceived of the earth as flat, namely because the sun would have bounced off the far horizon (Steve remains blissfully unaware that the ancients DID imagine the sun dipping beneath the horizon, even traversing the underworld, in order to return to its place in the east to rise there again: http://war-on-error.xanga.com/2010/11/09/book-review-the-christian-delusion-ch-5-the-cosmology-of-the-bible-part-5/#pingpong )

In short, I doubt any amount of prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit offered up by Walton, Steve and Lydia is going to reveal the one true interpretation of Genesis 1 and biblical cosmology any time soon, including the views lying along the spectrum between Answers in Genesis and BIOLOGOS.

"The obvious problem with that approach is that it superimposes an alien interpretive grid onto the ancient text. The narrator wasn't operating with Thomistic metaphysics or theistic evolution. That's not exegeting the text. Rather, that's on the same level as a ufologist who reinterprets Ezk 1 as a description of little green men emerging from a flying saucer."

No. The attributes of God (not a God, but God) is found in theology 101 and forms the basis for the description of any activity of God, whether the person writing about it knows it or not. Your claim that I am reading into the text is wrong. Rather, you are reading about a different God than the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, if you believe you can find any other God through exegesis than the one understood by proper theology. In other words, I do not have to live on a planet to know that if someone let's go of a rock on that planet that it will fall downward, at least in our universe. It is a property inherent in the nature of matter and is universal. Anyone describing dropping actual rocks on some alien planet in our universe must include that behavior as an a priori (whether they know it or not), otherwise, they aren't describing event of our true universe. Likewise, God is simple. That must affect any description of the action of the true God. It doesn't matter what the nature of the text is. God's simplicity is textually independent. It can be used, however to falsify a text as referring to the true God.

Given this, then God Creates. with a capital C, in the sense that His act is a single simple act. It does not admit of parts except by disjunct, separate new acts. Thus, when God creates, His knowledge of that particular instantiation of creation is complete, including his knowledge of its function. There is no way around this. If you feel otherwise, then you would be misreading the text of Genesis, since to impute any other characteristic to God would be to prove the text, itself, false. Since the text is not false, any interpretation not consistent with the simplicity of God must be defective. If, as I said in my long comment, above, Prof. Walton holds to a separation between creation and function with respect to God, then he has to be reading the text defectively.

The proof that God is simple can be found in any introductory Christian theology text. One of the clearest is in St. Thomas Aquinas's Compendium Theologiae, in particular, articles, 9, 15, 23, and 70.

The Chicken

I don't really want to haggle over Thomistic metaphysics are compatible with Biblical theology. My own not-very-sophisticated take on that is that it depends on what direction one takes one's "Thomistic" metaphysics, so that the answer might be sometimes yes and sometimes no. I have enough respect for St. Thomas himself to hope and guess that the "no" instances occur when someone takes Thomas's name in vain.

Theistic evolution, particularly of man, is a different matter entirely, and either it or the premises that lie behind one's adoption thereof can be very problematic indeed theologically--again, depending on how one fills it out.

It might help if Lydia told us her interpretation of Genesis 1 and biblical cosmology, so we might be see whether or not she also "wants to have things both ways," because I suspect the difficulties of reconciling ancient Near Eastern (including ancient Israelite) views with modern knowledge remain considerable regardless of whether or not one is a Waltonian.

I doubt that Ed Babinski is making the slightest attempt even to figure out whether his use of the phrase "have things both ways" here has the remotest connection to the us I was making of the phrase in criticizing Walton.

In any event, I don't know what he thinks "it would help" with. My goal here is to show that whatever interpretation is accurate as far as the meaning of Genesis 1, Walton's isn't it. In fact, his interpretation is _highly_ idiosyncratic, not to say bizarre.

One of the strangest aspects of all of this is that his followers will engage in blatant arguments from authority to defend him (I have seen it in other forums) despite the fact that he is decidedly not representative of any sort of mainstream interpretation of the passage. From _my_ perspective that doesn't mean he couldn't be right. I'm not much into arguments from authority or from the majority of scholars, etc. But it does mean that the choice of Walton as one's preferred OT scholar makes little sense from the perspective of credentialism. It is arbitrary. Hence, his followers should look at the arguments.

I incline to some sort of old-earth progressive creationism, with special creation involved at various points, perhaps numerous points. I make no attempt to say that Genesis 1 has _nothing whatsoever_ to do with material creation and is just God making mental gestures. Whatever else is right, that ain't it. If that leaves us with a need to do more work and more homework, so be it.

My critique of Walton in this post does not require one to accept any of those positions, and my critique in the next post will be to no small extent one directed to Christians who accept various ideas like the image of God in man, God's setting up human sexuality, and the like.

A major motivation in all the work I am doing here concerning Walton is to pressure those who are currently using him as a "get out of jail free" card to stop that and instead do some actual work studying various scientific issues involved.

edwardtbabinski:

"Steve Hays is apparently a young-earth creationist whose main argument for a young-earth consists in adding up the ages of the patriarchs, which of course trumps all manner of scientific research."

That's an ignorant misrepresentation of my actual position.

"Neither can he be bothered studying ancient Near Eastern cosmology…"

Notice that Ed doesn't begin to interact with the arguments I presented on this thread.

"In short, I doubt any amount of prayer for guidance from the Holy Spirit offered up by Walton, Steve and Lydia is going to reveal the one true interpretation of Genesis 1 and biblical cosmology any time soon…"

I've corrected Ed on that in the past. I don't expect the Holy Spirit to give me the right interpretation.

Ed is simply a copy/paste troll who spams other people's blogs. He has no capacity for analysis. No capacity to learn from his mistakes.

The Masked Chicken:

"The attributes of God (not a God, but God) is found in theology 101 and forms the basis for the description of any activity of God, whether the person writing about it knows it or not. Your claim that I am reading into the text is wrong. Rather, you are reading about a different God than the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, if you believe you can find any other God through exegesis than the one understood by proper theology."

You're filtering the text through an Aristotelian-cum-Thomistic theory of formal, efficient, material, and final causation. That, in turn, is bound up with other bits of metaphysical machinery, like his form/matter, substantial form/prime matter distinctions.

That's not a divine attribute. That's a philosophical theory of causation (and other ontological postulates). And there are competing philosophical theories of causation.

You seriously think an exegete is reading about a different God than the God of the patriarchs if he doesn't filter the text through an Aristotelian/Thomistic theory of causation? You need to open a window and get some fresh air.

In addition, you try to combine that with theistic evolution. Was Aquinas a theistic evolutionist?

Furthermore, one can espouse God's mereological simplicity without buying into the Thomistic version of simplicity.

In addition, you try to combine that with theistic evolution. Was Aquinas a theistic evolutionist?

He certainly wasn't concerning man. Aquinas espoused special creation for man, explicitly.

But I'm not at all sure that the Masked Chicken is a theistic evolutionist. Perhaps I've missed something but he didn't seem to be stating that.

Lydia:

On these two subjects of your response to mine,

I do not see how it is possible for Walton to be viewing these events as occurring before the solar system is in place…

Again, this makes a split between the divine and human intent that Walton usually rejects.

I will say my points you were responding to were descriptions of my impressions I had from his writings. Since of those writings, we only share LWG1, I don't see much more profit in going back and forth on how confusing or clear his explanations of his views are. Especially since I would probably temper his views with a "Days of Proclamation" idea differently than he would.

In fact, I have very little idea theologically what in the world this means. It certainly seems to imply (I didn't mention this in the post) a fairly strong sense in which God is in time, because God, all by Himself, is dubbing invisible functions on specific 24-hour days! God is, as it were, making mental motions at particular points in time. It also sits very oddly with divine omniscience. Given that God knew all about the sea creatures, the plants, etc., from the first moment of their existence (which Walton takes to be _prior_ to the creation week in Genesis 1), what could it possibly mean for God not to have considered them to have functions prior to that time?

The entire concept of divine mental function-giving which has nothing to do with material creation is contentless at best and incoherent at worst.

I make no attempt to say that Genesis 1 has nothing whatsoever to do with material creation and is just God making mental gestures.

It seems in the first quote of you on your point about omniscience, you are using something more akin to the definition of a scientific function, and not a function oriented towards human society. To use Aristotelian categories, yes, their final causes must exist within them from the moment of the material existence, but the functions Walton is speaking about aren't final causes. Rather, Walton is speaking of things imputed to those material creatures and objects, much like some of the kosher laws exist because of God's imputation, and not something inherent to pork and the other non-kosher animals. Of course, these statuses of kosher and non-kosher were not truly imputed until the mosaic covenant was inaugurated, even though God would have already "known" about the Torah after the universe was made but before the Israelites were in the wilderness.

This gets to your point about mental notions being incoherent without matter being manufactured at that instance, or at least some material process starting right then that results in some final material form. I assume when you said "material creation" you are defining it similar to Walton.

Anyway, to that point, while I don't know of anything approaching a consensus on Walton's specific interpretation of Genesis by OT scholars, I do know that on the point of this mental declaration idea, there are numerous scholars who focus on the Jewish background that say similar things. For instance, NT Scholar Richard Longenecker says,

Judaism understood God's Word to have almost autonomous powers and substance once spoken; to be, in fact, "a concrete reality, a veritable cause."
-Longenecker, Richard N. The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity. Vancouver, British Columbia: Regent College Publishing, 2001. 145. Originally found in J.P. Holdings article on Wisdom Christology and the Trinity here: http://www.tektonics.org/jesusclaims/trinitydefense.php

I have actually been reading in the scholarship on Jewish background the last 2 years and have seen other points of confirmatory evidence on this, and not just statements from other scholars, but quotes from primary sources. This discussion also just made me remember what I learned about imputation and the kosher laws, but since I wasn't thinking of Walton's ideas at the time, I didn't make the connection until now.

This also unfortunately means I won't be able to readily pull together all those points of evidence or scholarly agreement with what Richard Longenecker said in my quote above. I wasn't focusing so much on them so I don't have easy-access notes of them.

That perhaps means it's time for me to bow out of the discussion, except for clarifying remarks.

To my knowledge, some Roman Catholics, working within the framework of Humani Generis, believe that God created man by ensouling a subset of primates. Theistic evolution produced prehuman hominids. God then elevated a subset of this preexisting species to humanity through the process of ensoulment–thereby conferring on it the imago Dei. Something like that.

Steve Hays writes: "The narrator wasn't operating with Thomistic metaphysics or theistic evolution."

True. But this road leads to Harnack, and everything that trek implies about a pristine, pre-metaphysical, untouched by philosophy, biblical faith. But such a thing never was, and never can be, you end up with liberal Protestantism and then unbelief.

Read Pope Benedict's Regensburg address.

To my knowledge, some Roman Catholics, working within the framework of Humani Generis, believe that God created man by ensouling a subset of primates.

Yeah, but they probably shouldn't be doing that, since (as best I recall) such belief is not actually "within the framework of HUmani Generis," where the Pope was careful to insist that Adam and Eve be retained as our first parents, as opposed to the Darwinian Just-So story.

I have not read Humani Generis, but I know that RCs are not _required_ to be theistic evolutionists. Most of them think they are _permitted_ to be, to some degree. OTOH, as Bill Luse points out, it is generally taken that polygenism is ruled out by Catholic doctrine, and I know that plenty of RCs who want to be "in with the cool kids" have struggled with that, since now the cool kids are saying there couldn't have been a bottleneck of only two human ancestors. So would that have to mean God "ensouled" a bunch of hominids or that A & E's children mated with non-ensouled hominids, or what? I have often chortled a bit (uncharitable of me) over the way that the evolutionist crowd has hounded those who attempt to reduce the conferring of the imago dei to a purely immaterial act: Now they are told that they also have to deny that Adam and Eve were the first humans.

But I'm not minded to give the Catholics an especially hard time, there. Heaven knows, John H. Walton is allergic to Aristotelian categories, and he's making the same attempts to accommodate science. I'll show what he tries in my subsequent review.

Clint, your analogy to the kosher laws indicates that, indeed, I am understanding Walton quite correctly. Let me point out, however, that the kosher laws were given *to man* whereas these mental motions concerning, say, the sun and moon would have occurred _before man_. The very concept of kosher laws would have no meaning in a world without finite beings to whom they were given as laws. Hence, the analogy to the kosher laws goes only so far. It would have been meaningless, for example, for God mentally to declare eating pork unclean three days before there were any people around to whom to give this rule! And when I say "meaningless," I mean that quite literally. Such a position makes no sense at all. God cannot literally decide on a particular day, "I think that I will make pork unclean today." God knows eternally what he is going to tell the Israelites about pork. Nor is such a concept assimilable to the idea that God acts *in the world* at identifiable times (which of course is true), for God's merely mental acts, with no revelation to man and no material consequences, do not occur *in the world*.

Not only is the reduction of Genesis 1 to invisible mental deemings on the part of God an incredibly strained interpretation of the text, it is simply absurd. It could only be given meaning if we conceived God as a temporal, limited being who sits around and literally realizes things: "Oh, I notice that the plants reproduce by seed after their kind. Turns out they've been doing that for about a million years now. How cool. In fact, I've decided that I think that the _function_ of the plants is to reproduce by seed after their kind. Let it be so! I hereby declare that to be the function of plants."

I am not _attributing_ that position to Walton. What I am saying is that it is something like what one would have to do to give any clear _content_ to the notion of divine mental deemings on certain days before man is even around. Walton just keeps using phrases about God's "creating functions" to physical things but once he has quite deliberately evacuated them of all physical meaning he is left with either no meaning or with something silly like that.

Lydia,

Curse you! I just dug out of my large stack of unread books in the basement LWOG1 -- despite the fact that I'm already in the middle of two good books!!!

John Walton should be thanking you -- your careful and smart criticism of his work (along with his defenders) make me want to check out the source for myself :-)

Also, I'm just tickled that Saint Thomas takes a break from whatever he's up to in heaven to drop by this blog once in a while. This place is fantastic!

Thomas Aquinas:

"True. But this road leads to Harnack, and everything that trek implies about a pristine, pre-metaphysical, untouched by philosophy, biblical faith. But such a thing never was, and never can be, you end up with liberal Protestantism and then unbelief."

I didn't suggest that exegesis is presuppositionless. That, however, doesn't justify plugging whatever extraneous philosophical presuppositions we cater to into an ancient text–then pretending that's what the text really meant.
Keep in mind, too, that there's a trajectory from traditional Catholicism through liberal Catholicism to unbelief. For instance, just compare the views of Scripture propounded by the Pontifical Biblical Commission under Leo XIII with the current status quo to see the inroads that modernism has made within your own communion.

To begin with, it was never my aim to discuss RC theology. I didn't initiate that comparison. I'm responding to other commenters. Since, however, Humani Generis been dragged into the discussion (not by me), I'll make a few brief observations:

i) It was published 65 years ago. It's not the last word on the status of theistic evolution in RC theology. It was more of an icebreaker. It began a conversation. Demonstrated that it was now allowable to consider theistic evolution. It marks a shift from the previous position.

ii) It is not an infallible encyclical. And having opened the door a crack, it's inevitable that subsequent RC scientists, philosophers, and theologians will open the door wider. That's the theory of development in action.
I think Humani Generis is more about what's permissible than what's impermissible. It doesn't set the parameters. It was a first step. A mid-20C pope getting his toes wet. Others wade deeper into evolution.

I believe that Karl Rahner later made allowance for polygenism. From what I've read, this is an ongoing discussion in RC circles.

Jeffrey: All I will ask is that when you read LWOG1, every time he uses a phrase such as, "God established functions on this day" or "God established the weather on this day," you fast forward (at least in thought) to the chapter entitled "Genesis 1 is not about material creation" and read all those locutions *in that light*. Taken at face value, they seem to mean that God did something physical on those days--established the weather or "made things work in an orderly fashion" or whatever. But that _cannot_ be what Walton means given his commitment that this is _not_ about material creation, that material creation took place prior to Genesis 1. Therefore, all such locutions are highly confusing and must be re-translated as, "God made an invisible decree about x."

Now, I know that you will want to see that for yourself, and look at my references above to confirm it for yourself, because it is so weird and so hard to believe. But I just want to say that I _know_ that many of those locutions sound prima facie like material creation. This is what makes the book so incredibly difficult to interpret. In fact, Walton himself says that he finds that people "have difficulty understanding" his notion of functional creation. I can only surmise that he never actually uses a phrase like, "God made invisible decrees" (though he comes close at points) because it might make his view sound dumb even though it is an accurate summary.

Steve, I agree that the RC hierarchy and teaching have not done as much as they could have to rein in theistic evolution. But that just isn't what this thread is about, really. And there are many Protestants who are just as misguided as any Catholic on this topic. The ranks of _dogmatic_ theistic evolutionists who will not even look at, e.g., the evidence for intelligent design, are full of people on both sides of the Protestant-Catholic aisle.

We generally try to keep W4 pretty ecumenical as far as the Protestant-Catholic issues. And I would also call attention to the fact that the Masked Chicken, who brought up Thomistic categories on this thread, was _agreeing_ with me that Walton's views do not make sense.

Jeff, I would say one more thing, when you read through Walton's book: Never assume that he's right, despite his tone of great confidence, when he tells you "how the ancient world thought." Every time that it has been possible to check on this, and sometimes just comparing it with Scripture or common sense, I have found him to be wrong or to be making these statements without justification. Moreover, the ones he makes most stridently (e.g., the ancients weren't interested in material creation) are contradicted by other scholars in his own field. So you cannot take his word for _anything_. I would say, pretty much not _anything_. Word meanings--he is repeatedly giving tendentious summaries of how the words are used, which a modicum of research uncovers.

In the second book, I found a footnote on a controverted point concerning a Hebrew verb construction. The footnote has _zero_ scholarly references (literally, none at all), and it gives a misleading impression of how other scholars say the construction is used. It's that bad.

For that characterization reflects the viewpoint, not of the narrator or his ANE audience, but a modern scholar with a secular outlook.

So you claim to know the ANE audience and the narrator’s motives, very interesting. The ancient Israelites were surrounded by other mythic cultures; but in order to be hermeneutically wise and making allowances I must assume their similar motifs and symbols were uniquely real in order to be sympathetic to it as an origin story that explains certain facts about the human condition.

Therefore, it was never intended to synchronize with Gen 1 across the board. That's not a contradiction.

Some OT scholars have abandoned the documentary hypothesis entirely, they don’t assume the authors and/or editors were attempting to be consistent or avoid contradictions, the divergent accounts may have been an intentional feature instead of a bug. This makes the “inerrant” defense seem a little odd, to put it mildly.

If Yahweh was insecure, he would not have given them access to the tree of knowledge in the first place.

Jealousy is a known trait, in fact a self-designation of God. Exodus 34:14 "For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God"

To call it the "serpent" flattens out the polysemy of the original designation. To my knowledge, the Hebrew has three different meanings: "snake," "diviner," "shining one."

http://biblehub.com/hebrew/5175.htm

God's simplicity is textually independent. It can be used, however to falsify a text as referring to the true God.

For example a text that requires divine simplicity to be a trinity.

Meaningless is probably too strong. If God can act within time for our benefit, uttering audible words, and causing visible signs, then he can surely by like means enact a ceremony in which he decrees functions for things, even if no human is present to witness the ceremony. Why he would do such a thing is beyond me, but that he _might_ do such a thing is conceivable, and the mere fact that I can't imagine what his reasons might be for doing it doesn't prove that he couldn't have any. If he was going to tell us about it later, then it might still be for the same sort of reason -- for our benefit -- even if none of us witnessed it first hand. (I don't remember my baptism, but it is still of real benefit to me to know that it happened as a physically enacted ceremony, even though I know it only second-hand).

But it is still a very weird way of reading the text.

Masked Chicken: As someone who affirms the scholastic-Aristotelian approach to metaphysics and theology, I hope I may be allowed to point out that we who affirm such things can still distinguish between the initial task of exegesis, attempting to understand as best we can how the human author and original audience understood the text, and the secondary task of integrating this into the bigger picture that includes everything we know about God and the world, some of which we've learned in the years since the text was written. Both tasks are necessary, but Walton in focused on the first. So you actually are talking past him when you engage in the second. Surely you recognize that the ancient Hebrews were not conversant with Aristotelian categories, so you can't think that you are engaged in the first task.

When I call them "first" and "second" I hope it's clear that I'm not saying each individual has to figure out the mindset of ancient peoples before he can have any theological beliefs. The church has mandate to teach both, and not necessarily in that order, but in whatever order is most edifying.

Meaningless is probably too strong. If God can act within time for our benefit, uttering audible words, and causing visible signs, then he can surely by like means enact a ceremony in which he decrees functions for things, even if no human is present to witness the ceremony.

Hmm, I take it, Christopher, that you are saying that the decrees, which otherwise do nothing actually to put the physical systems in place (since they are already in place) could be _audible_ decrees? That one might spell out Walton's view (as he does not, but for purposes of giving it content) as meaning that an actual voice made sound waves in the air on earth, saying, in some unknown language or other (human languages not existing yet), "I hereby call the light period 'day'", and so forth?

I grant you that that would give _content_ to the view, but I doubt that Walton himself would want to endorse it. It's really too concrete, specific, and clear to fit with his oeuvre. As you say, it's also very weird. On the other hand, purely _mental_ divine motions, which are somehow "tagged" to a highly specific point in earthly time, and are allegedly _about_ earthly entities, even though they have _no_ empirical consequences and do not consist in revelations to man, are problematic in a different way, as I have discussed.

Step2:
"So you claim to know the ANE audience and the narrator’s motives, very interesting. The ancient Israelites were surrounded by other mythic cultures; but in order to be hermeneutically wise and making allowances I must assume their similar motifs and symbols were uniquely real in order to be sympathetic to it as an origin story that explains certain facts about the human condition."

Your statement is confused at several levels:

i) If you don't think we can know the ANE audience and the narrator's motives, then linking to Tigay's interpretation is self-defeating. Do you or don't you think Tigay can know the ANE audience and the narrator's motives?

ii) If you think the outlook of the narrator was mythological, then you're admitting that the perspective of a modern scholar stands in contrast to the perspective of the ancient narrator. So you just conceded my point–albeit unwittingly.

iii) And, yes, as a Christian, I do think that God corrected the understanding of ancient Israelites.

Your statement about "similar motifs and symbols" is too vague to merit comment.

"Some OT scholars have abandoned the documentary hypothesis entirely, they don’t assume the authors and/or editors were attempting to be consistent or avoid contradictions, the divergent accounts may have been an intentional feature instead of a bug. This makes the “inerrant” defense seem a little odd, to put it mildly."

I notice that you don't engage my actual argument.

"Jealousy is a known trait, in fact a self-designation of God."

Once again, I notice that you don't engage my actual argument. Thus far it seems like you just have a set of prepared objections. You don't interact with what others actually say in response to you.

Finally, linking to a pop Internet source on the meaning of nachash is unimpressive.

i) To begin with, your counter appears to be confused. Quoting a source that says nachash means "snake" doesn't begin to disprove my contention, for I never denied that that's one of the word's meanings. In fact, I explicitly said that's one the word's meanings.

But I went on to say that it has more than one sense. Are you just uninformed about the semantic range of the word?

For instance, both Victor Hamilton, in his commentary on Genesis, as well as standard reference works like the NIDOTTE, support my contention. The latter gives the following definition: "magic curse, bewitchment, omen" (3:84), while Hamilton says "divination."

Likewise, OT scholar Michael Heiser has discussed the "shining one" sense of the word.

Lydia,

I don't think Walton would have to endorse an audible voice in order for his theory to have content. The idea is just that God somehow or other decreed these things. God did something like what humans do when they issue decrees (as God has in fact done in various ways when addressing humans, sometimes in an audible voice, sometimes in a different manner). Exactly how he did this Walton needn't say. One possible way he might have done so is by means of an audible voice: to show the view is not meaningless it's sufficient to give a logically possible way it might have happened, even a highly implausible one. One needn't claim to know that that's how it did happen.

If we ignore the specifics of the actual words found in Genesis 1, it's not even that implausible that an ancient Hebrew text might affirm something like that. The ancient Hebrews didn't, so far as we know, raise the question of whether God is outside of time. They typically thought of God in anthropomorphic terms, by which I don't mean that believed God had a physical body just like ours, but rather ... ok this is going to take a little explaining:

As a child, I read that God predestined us from before the creation of the world, and I take it literally, not in the sense that I raise the question to myself of whether the temporal language is literal or figurative, and decide that it's literal. Rather, I conceive it as if it is literal without taking a position on whether the reason it is appropriate to conceive it in that way is because God made that decree at a literal time "before" creation, or whether it is appropriate to conceive it that way because of an apt analogy of some sort. The condition of my mind when I read the passage as a child is perhaps more like taking it literally than like taking it figuratively, but it's not exactly the same as having a considered belief that it is literal.

Later, as a pre-teen, I read Lewis's Mere Christianity and first encounter the idea that God is outside of time. I immediately accept the idea. Do I then give up my belief that God predestined me from before the creation of the world? Wouldn't I have to give up that belief, if I "took it literally" before? To be sure, I acquire a new belief that I can express using the same words, but the belief I had before has to be given up entirely, doesn't it? Well, no. I may have to modify my belief, but the more sophisticated interpretation is not a wholly different belief from the initial one.

Furthermore, two Christians can _agree_ that God predestined us from before the creation of the world, even if they disagree on whether God is outside of time. Their agreement may not be complete agreement, but it is agreement.

Even today, Christians disagree about how much of the Bible's descriptions of God are anthropomorphic. Whether he is in time, whether is metaphysically immutable, whether he engages in distinct cognitions, whether he is simple in the thickest sense, whether he has emotions or whether he is wholly impassible.

I expect the ancients didn't spend nearly as much mental energy as we do on trying to figure out the exact degree to which the things they said about God were literally true. They certainly didn't crudely and woodenly think that all of it was literal. But they also couldn't have thought that as much of it was non-literal as, say, a Thomist does: they lacked the conceptual apparatus to even articulate a non-literal interpretation of some things. And trying to find out exactly what they thought was literal and what they didn't is probably a vain endeavor, not just because we lack the data, but because there probably isn't an exact answer. Their thought simply wasn't that definite.

If that's true, then there may have been nothing strange in their minds about the idea that God would issue decrees, in the absence of humans, in which he inaugurates the cosmos as officially functioning as his completed handiwork. They could easily have thought of him doing this in anthropomorphic terms without having considered the question of whether it was literal or not (and if not what exactly made the analogy apt).

So ancient Hebrews could have written such a text. And we have no a priori reason to rule out the possibility that God could have inspired such a text, since we can't rule out the idea that God may have made such decrees in some manner unknown to us. We can believe that he did so without sorting out how much is literal.

Walton's view can only be refuted by adverting to the specific character of the actual text of Genesis 1. Which doesn't seem like a very tall order. I think you've done it.

I agree that there are two different lines of argument going on here, Christopher--one being the concrete ("That doesn't seem *at all* to be what this text is actually saying") and the other being the philosophical ("What the dickens could what you are saying possibly mean_?").

My own take, concerning the philosophical critique and your points about God in time, is something roughly like this: Where the text is highly anthropomorphic (which it certainly often is), it is good, even rather important, to be able to give an explication of what it might allude to (theologically speaking) that is not purely anthropomorphic. One criticism I'm making here concerning Walton's interpretation, which in a sense spans the philosophical and concrete criticisms, is something like this: By deliberately blocking all sorts of perfectly natural interpretations of the text of Genesis 1 that involve material creation or material alteration of the world, Walton has gotten himself into a quite unnecessary philosophical pickle involving a _strongly_ anthropomorphic view of a God who thinks purely mental divine thoughts at particular points in time, without this having any relation either to finite rational beings on earth (that is, it's not like texts where we are told that God _spoke_ to someone at a particular point in time) or to physical events on earth (like causing the sea to part). There is anthropomorphism at various points in the OT text. For example, in Genesis 6, God is dramatically portrayed as saying that he plans to wipe man from the face of the earth *to himself* and *before* he reveals his intentions to Noah. But not only would Walton's view introduce a great deal more anthropomorphism unnecessarily, it would also (and this is a real kicker) block various roads to explaining away the anthropomorphism as metaphor or as put in for dramatic effect or what-not. For example, if it is Walton's view, based on the text, that God *definitely did* make these decrees *on* these definite 24-hour days, then it seems that _he_ is committed to the reality of a strongly anthropomorphic view.

If you don't think we can know the ANE audience and the narrator's motives, then linking to Tigay's interpretation is self-defeating.

I'm not clear on how you think scholarship is supposed to work if objective explanations accounting for the cultural context are rendered impossible. Simply because the audience believed the story doesn't make the story valid.

And, yes, as a Christian, I do think that God corrected the understanding of ancient Israelites.

Your personal belief makes it objectively true because ???

I notice that you don't engage my actual argument.

You made a claim based on the supposition that the authors and/or editors would be concerned about contradictions. The current state of OT scholarship which partially disputes your supposition is relevant whether you care to admit it or not.

Are you just uninformed about the semantic range of the word?

Have I ever claimed to be educated in ancient languages? Answer: No. However, I would like to know if the range of meanings of the Hebrew word can actually be traced back to its earliest usages or if those other possibilities are of more recent derivation, which would be helpful to supporting your theory.

Step2:

"I'm not clear on how you think scholarship is supposed to work if objective explanations accounting for the cultural context are rendered impossible."

You're attacking a position I didn't take. Rather, I pointed out that being an OT scholar doesn't automatically qualify the scholar to get into the minds of the author or audience. For instance, one must also consider how ancient people experienced their environment. That goes outside the text to consider their interaction with the physical world they inhabited. What were they in a position to know.

"Simply because the audience believed the story doesn't make the story valid."

Once again, you're attacking a position I didn't take. You seem to be conditioned to react in certain ways, regardless of what your respondent actually says.

The immediate question at issue is whether Tigay is imputing implausible beliefs to the ancient narrator and his target audience. That's an epistemological question, in distinction to an ontological question.

"Your personal belief makes it objectively true because ???"

That isn't the topic of Lydia's post.

"You made a claim based on the supposition that the authors and/or editors would be concerned about contradictions."

No, I was simply responding to Tigay on his own grounds. He gave a reason to support the alleged contradiction, and I demonstrated that his reason was dubious.

"However, I would like to know if the range of meanings of the Hebrew word can actually be traced back to its earliest usages or if those other possibilities are of more recent derivation, which would be helpful to supporting your theory."

One could raise the same question about your preferred rendering: "snake." What makes you think the onus is on me rather than you?

Dr. McGrew, (apologies for the "Ms.", earlier)

1)

Note that these paragraphs do not simply say that the ancient peoples were more inclined to view things as the activities of God or the gods than we are or that they were quick to think that phenomena were due to the personal intentions of a deity. The statements are much stronger than that--namely, that they had literally no concept of the natural world and no concept of a miracle, because everything was taken to be an act of a deity. Taken literally, such a claim cannot be an accurate description of even the most superstitious, animist tribesman, who nonetheless must have some concept of the natural order of things in order to hunt for game, make tools, cook food, care for his offspring, and avoid being eaten. Human beings would not survive to adulthood without some notion of what is "natural."

It seems that you are arguing too strongly; all human beings need is some sense of order, of predictability, not everything that comes with the term 'natural'. A person can be quite predictable; one need not bring in the entire framework of thought that is required to distinguish between 'natural' and 'supernatural'. If the gods are happy with your tribe, things will be sufficiently stable for you to prosper; if they are not, chaos will threaten your existence. Humans are quite capable of encouraging stability or chaos around them. And yet, we don't think of humans as a set of laws ('natural') which are sometimes usurped.

Moreover, there is ample evidence that these statements are false about the ancient Hebrews, specifically. The following is merely a partial list of places in the Old Testament where God performs a miracle and that miracle is seen as a sign because it is not what is expected to happen otherwise.

You appear to be importing the conception of a predictable nature which runs by fundamental laws, laws which are occasionally broken by divine action. But it seems that all that the Israelites would actually need is a way to find phenomena to be intelligible as requiring the detectable action of non-human agents. Suppose that I am on a walk with my wife and there is a period of silence. There is simply the rhythm of footsteps. Then she pipes up and says something. This isn't a miraculous event. It is an orderly aspect of interaction between personal beings. So it strikes me that the word 'miracle' introduces concepts which simply aren't required, for the examples you provide.

If there were no ancient concept of the distinction between the miraculous and the non-miraculous, if the normal growth of plants were as much a sign of the activity of a deity as anything else that might happen, why would Moses have turned aside for a bush that burned without being consumed any more than for a bush growing as usual?

For the same reason that I stop thinking about whatever I was thinking about, and if necessary stop doing what I was doing, if my wife starts speaking to me. My wife does not need to perform a miracle to talk to me; why must YHWH perform a miracle to talk to his people? Yes, maybe he has to snap his fingers to get our attention, but people do that with each other as well. Snapped fingers aren't necessarily a violation of the laws of nature.

———

Dr. McGrew, it seems that your view of divine action and communication is that they are quite rare. Would that be a fair analysis? It strikes me that it receives some support from the end of Deut 5, and perhaps special support from Hab 3:3–5. But it's not clear that this is at all God's preferred state of affairs! Are you aware of the etymology of 'apocalypse'? It used to mean "revelation, disclosure", which draws strongly on the concept of alētheia (used 110x in NT). However, in the early nineteenth century, it gained a new aspect: "a cataclysmic event". Why a shift from mere revelation to cataclysm? Perhaps it is because of a belief in a 'natural' order which runs itself apart from God? If God actually wants to be constantly building up his creation, but his creation won't have any of it, then one can imagine the necessity for "a cataclysmic event".

I have taken a particular interest in divine action as of late, reading books such as: (further suggestions would be appreciated)

• Evan Fales' Divine Intervention: Metaphysical and Epistemological Puzzles
• Gregory W. Dawes' Theism and Explanation
Chaos and Complexity: Scientific Perspectives On Divine Action
• Nancey Murphy's Anglo-American Postmodernity: Philosophical Perspectives on Science, Religion, and Ethics
• Edward Feser's The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism
• Edward Feser's Scholastic Metaphysics
• John D. Barrow's New Theories of Everything
• Rom Harré's Causal Powers: Theory of Natural Necessity
• Robert B. Laughlin's A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down
• David Bohm's Causality and Chance in Modern Physics

The idea that reality is fundamentally ruled by a set of universal laws of physics is a very modern idea and is very philosophically problematic. Not only that, but it may well be holding back the progress of science. Not only that, but I suspect that the Humean notion of miracles pervades much of Christian thought, especially lay-Christian thought. Contrast this to Leibniz's theistic case against Humean miracles.

It's not clear that you are respecting what it means to not have our concept of 'natural' vs. 'supernatural' (see my quotation of Louis Dupré), but instead have a very different way to carve up reality and assign agency. It's not that the ancient Israelites couldn't distinguish which agents were responsible for what, but that our conceptions of 'natural' vs. 'supernatural' go well beyond assigning such responsibility. Perhaps you could formally define what you mean by 'natural' and 'supernatural'?

I suppose it depends a great deal on what Walton means when he affirms the "literalness" of the week of creation. If he only means that the the text presents it as a literal week, that the original audience would have understood it (the human author intended it to be taken) as literal, in the sense in which I took Ephesians 1 literally as a child ... that is, without prejudice against the possibility that on a theological level the divine activity described there must be understood as not necessarily taking place during a literal week

But if he's going to insist on literalness up and down and across the board, if he insists that the text demands that, then we're going to want to ask why? An anthropomorphic conception of God could be one possible motivation, but I'm not convinced it's the only one. My suspicion is that his motivations are more sociological than logical. You can probably guess what I mean by that.

On the other hand, and more charitably, I suppose he might be catching hold of a real insight, but inexpertly fumbling in his attempt to work it out. What I mean is this: I believe the seven days of Genesis 1 are literal days. I reject the day-age view precisely because it takes as non-literal what is intended literally. But I don't think there was a particular 7 day week in history in which those events happened. I think we've gotten ourselves into a mess by misusing the word 'literal' as if semantic literalness settled the question of historical referenciality.

When we read in, say, a Jane Austen novel that something took seven days, it's probably a week of literal days. They "days" aren't metaphors for eons or anything like that. They're ordinary days. That doesn't mean Austen is talking about some particular week in history. Her novels have _some_ degree of historical referenciality: they are situated in the early nineteenth century, they describe and criticize the behavior of a real British gentry class really existing at that time; but all of the characters and the particular events of the plot are fictitious. And we know this as a matter of genre: its a novel. The historical referenciality of Genesis 1 also, is likewise something that should be determined at the level of genre, not semantics. To try to make the "days" nonliteral is (I believe) a mistake.

So perhaps he has seen how much there is within the text that makes non-literal interpretation (at the semantic level) difficult if not impossible, but he also senses in some inchoate manner, that the text taken literally really doesn't require what most people seem to mean when they talk about a literal six-day interpretation. (So far, all of this is stuff I would agree with.) But then when he tries to develop and articulate these insights he's unclear in his own mind how to do that, and ends up saying things that sound really bizarre.

(hmm. surely no one will think I'm saying Genesis 1 has no more historicity than a novel. surely its clear enough that my use of the example of a work of fiction has a specific and limited role of demonstrating the difference between semantic literalness and historical referenciality. surely no one will leap to any unwarranted conclusions, when I've actually said very little about exactly how much and what sort of historical referenciality I think Genesis 1 has, so I can omit the tiresome disclaimer to that effect.)

On the other hand, and more charitably, I suppose he might be catching hold of a real insight, but inexpertly fumbling in his attempt to work it out. What I mean is this: I believe the seven days of Genesis 1 are literal days. I reject the day-age view precisely because it takes as non-literal what is intended literally. But I don't think there was a particular 7 day week in history in which those events happened. I think we've gotten ourselves into a mess by misusing the word 'literal' as if semantic literalness settled the question of historical referenciality.

When we read in, say, a Jane Austen novel that something took seven days, it's probably a week of literal days. They "days" aren't metaphors for eons or anything like that. They're ordinary days. That doesn't mean Austen is talking about some particular week in history. Her novels have _some_ degree of historical referenciality: they are situated in the early nineteenth century, they describe and criticize the behavior of a real British gentry class really existing at that time; but all of the characters and the particular events of the plot are fictitious. And we know this as a matter of genre: its a novel. The historical referenciality of Genesis 1 also, is likewise something that should be determined at the level of genre, not semantics. To try to make the "days" nonliteral is (I believe) a mistake.

So perhaps he has seen how much there is within the text that makes non-literal interpretation (at the semantic level) difficult if not impossible, but he also senses in some inchoate manner, that the text taken literally really doesn't require what most people seem to mean when they talk about a literal six-day interpretation. (So far, all of this is stuff I would agree with.) But then when he tries to develop and articulate these insights he's unclear in his own mind how to do that, and ends up saying things that sound really bizarre.

(hmm. surely no one will think I'm saying Genesis 1 has no more historicity than a novel. surely its clear enough that my use of the example of a work of fiction has a specific and limited role of demonstrating the difference between semantic literalness and historical referenciality. surely no one will leap to any unwarranted conclusions, when I've actually said very little about exactly how much and what sort of historical referenciality I think Genesis 1 has, so I can omit the tiresome disclaimer to that effect.)

This. I agree. I think this is part of what I was getting at with my comments...

My suspicion is that his motivations are more sociological than logical. You can probably guess what I mean by that.

No, no, not in the slightest. He could actually ease a lot of sociological pressure if he took a day-age theory, and the YECs can't stand him either! His argument is the meaning of the word "yom"! That happens to be the same as an argument the YECs use, but other than that, their paths diverge _extremely sharply_.

surely no one will think I'm saying Genesis 1 has no more historicity than a novel. surely its clear enough that my use of the example of a work of fiction has a specific and limited role of demonstrating the difference between semantic literalness and historical referenciality. surely no one will leap to any unwarranted conclusions, when I've actually said very little about exactly how much and what sort of historical referenciality I think Genesis 1 has, so I can omit the tiresome disclaimer to that effect.

Well, no, actually, Christopher. I think your example is pretty limited in its usefulness. Since you state that you _aren't_ suggesting that the Genesis account is fictional like a novel, then I don't think your example helps to clarify much of anything. Just being honest.

Well I intended it to be "limited in its usefulness." Or do you mean it didn't even accomplish the limited goal I had: do you not understand the distinction I'm drawing between semantic literalness and historical referenciality?

@steven hays:

sh: What about the OT distinction between true and false prophecy? How did they distinguish the two without a correspondence theory of truth?

Hazony centers his discussion around two words:

• דָּבָר, dabar (Hazony transliterates it as davar), which can mean 'word', 'thing', or be ambiguous
• אֱמֶת, 'emeth (Hazony transliterates it as emet), which means 'truth' or 'reliability'

The correspondence theory of truth makes truth the correspondence between words and reality. Hazony argues that in the Bible, emet has to do with the reliability of objects and persons to be or operate as they ought. Curiously, this sets up a more functional way to think about reality. The correspondence theory seems prone to judgment by appearances, which God famously eschews in 1 Sam 16:7. The correspondence theory gives the idea that one can make point-in-time comparisons between words and the world. Hazony's conception of truth in the OT, on the other hand, says that truth is something that a davar manifests over time. A true tent peg can be relied on (whether holding up a tent or assassinating Heber), as can a true person. We can see a strong connection between 'true' and 'faithful', here.

Example of false davarim can be found at Jer 6:14, Ezek 13:10, and 1 Thess 5:3, when prophecies of peace are unreliable. If one acts as if they are reliable, one will experience unforeseen calamity.

I'm still working through what it really means for the correspondence theory of truth to be bad. One obvious issue is that the very correspondence relation is suspicious. One analysis of this can be found in R. Scott Smith's Naturalism and Our Knowledge of Reality. Hazony lists several resources as well at n13 of chapter 7; I can paste them if requested.

sh: It's unclear how Breuer's objection is even relevant to Lydia's review.

Perhaps the above helps. One's conception of how a person or davar ought to act sounds remarkably like a function, if not a telos. What the davar is made of seems largely inconsequential. I could be totally wrong in connecting Hazony's interpretation of davar and emet to Walton's functional ontology, but my intuition is that there is a very important link. I think we have a hard time dealing with it because of the evisceration of teleology, starting with Francis Bacon and epitomized by the word teleonomy.

We moderns focus a lot on material and efficient causation, disliking even the thought of formal and final causation. My suspicion is that this is very damaging. Our world is currently being held captive to what Aristotle would call 'efficient causation', what Jacques Ellul calls 'technique', and what Charles Taylor calls 'instrumental reason'. People don't think about their ends, their telē. One might call this "being a slave to sin". It lets the environment dictate ends, instead of individual spirits, all synchronized by the Holy Spirit.

sh: It seems more like Breuer is taking advantage of Lydia's review as a pretext to advance his own position on Genesis, which has no intentional relationship to the specifics of Walton's position.

His tacit argument appears to be that if ancient Hebrews didn't operate with a correspondence theory of truth, then faithful Christians aren't obligated to treat the narrative as a factual account, for even the original author and the original audience didn't think in modernist terms of veracity.

Given the above, do you still think this? I suppose that taking a functional view of truth opens up the question of what the purpose is of Genesis 1–3, because according to Hazony's understanding of emet, for a dabar to be emet, it has to function as it ought to. But how was it designed to function? Walton does say this:

    Through the entire Bible, there is not a single instance in which God revealed to Israel a science beyond their own culture. No passage offers a scientific perspective that was not common to the Old World science of antiquity.[2] (Lost World, 17)

It seems to me that a compare & contrast with e.g. the Babylonian creation myth, Enûma Eliš would offer up a purpose entirely different from what the correspondence theory of truth would dictate. As I understand it, one of the major purposes of Enûma Eliš was to validate extant sociopolitical power structures. Humans were slaves to the gods, but the emperor or king was conveniently a divine image-bearer. The function of humans was to serve the gods. If this is the case and works like Enûma Eliš predated Genesis 1–3, then it seems that the most pressing task for YHWH would be to rewrite those functions. Instead of humans being slaves, they are imago Dei. Creation exists for humans to exert dominion over them, as a gardener exerts dominion over his or her garden.

Do you think I've gone off the deep end?

P.S. To whom it may concern: I left a comment earlier for Dr. McGrew with respect to the matter of the 'natural'/​'supernatural' distinction; hopefully it's just stuck in the moderation queue. I saved a copy in case something went wrong.

I understand the distinction *in that context*--saying, "This is how it is in the story." But if you aren't really talking about a story that might not really have happened that way, then the distinction between semantic meaning and historical referentiality no longer means the same thing.

In any event, this is _one_ place where I think Walton just really means it without any dodges. Heaven knows, he can be _incredibly_ unclear, self-contradictory, and dodgy, to the point that I'm nearly tearing out my hair right nowwith the second book and trying to figure out how many of the unclarities, contradictions, and dodges to point out in my second review. But on this one point about the seven 24-hour days, I think he really just means it in a straightforward way--that this is how he thinks it happened. In the second book he insists at great length that Chapter 2 is a sequel to Chapter 1 and even muses on how long the sequel would have been after chapter 1. There is not a hint of "how long would it have been in the story in Genesis." He really discusses when Adam _actually_ might have been created (by which I think he means "ensoulment") in terms of the relationship between the time of chapter 2 and the time of chapter 1. So I think he really means the week to be just a week, and that his theory is that that's when God really made these decrees.

All I'm saying is that semantic literalness doesn't by itself determine historical referenciality. It's a further question. A question to be answered at the level of genre.

Consider the apocalyptic genre. N.T. Wright misses an opportunity when he is discussing the meaning of the term 'anastasis': He argues that in 2nd temple Jewish writings it always means a bodily resurrection, in a sense that is incompatible with the corpse of the resurrected person still being in its tomb. But then when he gets to Revelation 20 (the bit about the first and second resurrection) he feels that he must make a concession (since he rejects premillenialism), and he allows that we have here a spiritual resurrection, but he insists that this is a novelty. But there is no need for any concession. What John sees in his vision is a literal physical resurrection. It's a further question what this vision is meant to correspond to in history. When John sees a beast rising out of the sea, what he sees is literally a beast rising out of the sea. That's how things go in his vision. But what relation does the vision have to historical events? A vexed question, perhaps, but it is clear that apocalyptic genre is not like a novel, nor like a newspaper report. John is making affirmations about events that unfold (or will unfold) in history. But he's not saying that what he saw will occur just in the way he saw it. Semantics tells us what John says he saw. Something further is needed to understand what claims he is making about historical events.

Another example: The gospels are neither novels nor apocalyptic visions. They are a kind of work that claims a rather high degree of correspondence between events as they are described and events actually occuring in history. Now consider Mark 11.12-25 and the parallel account in Matthew 21.12-22.

The way Mark tells the story, Jesus first curses the fig tree, then cleanses the temple, then, the next day, they see the fig tree withered and Jesus comments on it.

The way the story goes in Matthew, Jesus first cleanses the temple, then the next day he curses the fig tree and it immediately withers and he comments on it.

If both Matthew and Mark are claiming that events occurred exactly as they recount them, down to the level of every precise detail, then, if we believe both these texts are inerrant, we have a problem. I've seen some people try to solve problems like this in some pretty strained and ad hoc ways. But it's at least conceivable that an author might write a book in which he intends to report actual events in a manner quite close to how they occurred, without intending that his story match in every little detail with exactly how the events occurred. And if we believe in inerrancy, the very fact that these stories differ in the way they do gives us some reason to believe that that's what the gospel writers were up to.

To some extent evangelicals already believe that this is going on, for they don't think the gospel writers are claiming to record the ipsissima verba of the people they quote. But they do believe in plenary verbal inspiration. So God inspired the precise words Matthew portrays Jesus as saying and God inspired the precise words Luke portrays Jesus as saying, but neither Matthew nor Luke (nor God) are claiming that when Jesus said those things, he used exactly those words. The Gospels don't have _that kind_ of historical referenciality. But saying this doesn't make them mere works of fiction. Far from it.

So there is a broad range of things a text can claim for itself in regard to historical referenciality, and determining what a particular text is claiming for itself is not a matter of verbal semantics. It operates on a different hermeneutical level.

I actually tend to think the accounts of the fig tree do need to be harmonized or to be seen as a counterexample to strict inerrancy. For that matter, _small_ errors on detail tend to confirm the historicity of the events affirmed by accounts, because they show the accounts' independence. That may why such small differences were allowed to remain. But I agree that the gospel writers aren't even always claiming to be recounting things in exact chronological order and would not have been expected to be doing so. The gospels are, in genre, memoirs. Matthew tends to arrange by theme more than by chronology. Mark is extremely chronological. It is one of the most interesting aspects of the synoptic puzzle.

I do not see Walton as leaning on genre considerations to the extent that would be necessary for him _not_ to be saying that God actually made these creation decrees on literal days. In fact, as I say, I think this is one place where he is pretty straightforward and clear, and in general his approach to Genesis, though in my opinion often highly strained, is not primarily a genre-based approach, as I understand it.

For instance, one must also consider how ancient people experienced their environment.

They didn't really have what we would consider science since modern science is largely built on mathematical models and math and its cousin economics were basic and limited in theory and practice for the ancients, although interestingly some non-Jewish mystics refer to the Jewish sacred geometry of the Sephirot as the "Tree of Life".

The immediate question at issue is whether Tigay is imputing implausible beliefs to the ancient narrator and his target audience.

I don't think Tigay is imputing anything to the target audience. His only imputing towards the narrator(s) is that they didn't live in a cultural or political vacuum and were free to adopt, repurpose, and desecrate the cultural symbols and themes of those surrounding cultures. More poetically, the Genesis account didn't spring full-blown from the dust, it evolved in a particular setting.

One could raise the same question about your preferred rendering: "snake."

It's not my preferred rendering, I'm merely disputing the accuracy of yours.

What makes you think the onus is on me rather than you?

A majority of the available evidence.

I have now tried to post two different comments, both of which sent me to the "comment received page", but neither which has shown up.

One comment was to Dr. McGrew on the supernatural/natural distinction, in an effort to engage her actual argument, instead of [partially] recapitulate the beginning of Walton's Lost World (I didn't know I was doing this until I restarted his book from the beginning).

The other comment was to steven hayes, developing Yoram Hazony's use of dabar and emet, and establishing a possible connection to Walton's functional ontology, over against the correspondence theory of truth.

Neither comment is now visible, despite the first being submitted 2015-03-15 around 17:00 PDT, and the second between then and this morning. What's going on? My intent was to more directly address Dr. McGrew's actual arguments, which she criticized me for not addressing previously.

Posted by Step2:

"They didn't really have what we would consider science since modern science is largely built on mathematical models and math and its cousin economics were basic and limited in theory and practice for the ancients…"

Which completely overlooks the fact that the examples I gave don't require modern scientific knowledge. For instance, one doesn't need satellite photography to know that the world didn't end at the edge of the local mountain range. Likewise, that a solid sky didn't rest on the mountaintops. Scaling the mountain or traveling through a mountain pass would reveal that Walton's reconstruction of ancient cosmography was false. That kind of knowledge was readily available to prescientific Jews.

You consistently fail to follow the logic of the argument.

"… although interestingly some non-Jewish mystics refer to the Jewish sacred geometry of the Sephirot as the 'Tree of Life'".

You're interpreting Genesis based on medieval Kabbalism?

"I'm merely disputing the accuracy of yours."

Since you admit that you're uneducated in ancient languages, how are you qualified to dispute the accuracy of the scholars I referred you to?

"A majority of the available evidence."

What are your scholarly sources for Classical Hebrew lexicography?

Luke Breuer, Your comments got caught by our spam filter and sent to the "junk" folder without notifying me, presumably because of the number of links they contained.

Our anti-spam bot takes a dim view of large numbers of links. It was a little surprising that the same didn't happen to your previous comments. They were merely sent to moderation.

I will not have time to respond until tomorrow.

Okay, this one is quick and easy to do: Luke Breuer, I know this is a long thread, but if you search on this page for "prodigious," you will find my discussion with Christopher McCartney in which I say everything that I would say in response to you. In short, no, I am not incorporating a heavy concept of laws of nature when I say that of course the ancient Israelites had a concept of "the natural order." However, for Walton's argument to go through, he cannot afford to acknowledge that they had a concept of the "ordinary vs. the prodigious," for if they did, then the *very questions that he says they could not have understood* become once more understandable and conceivable by them. Hence, such questions are not anachronistic when asked concerning the text of Genesis 1. E.g. Did God make man suddenly, de novo, in a "prodigious" way? Walton wants to block such questions as in principle anachronistic, inconceivable by the Israelites. That is why he makes his statements in so strong and overstated a fashion. It is quite easy to find a formulation of such questions and the relevant distinctions that does not import "the laws of physics" or anything of the kind. That is why God could make signs to his people by mighty works. Which means that it is not anachronistic to ask if Adam's creation was or was not miraculous. (For example.)

My attempt at providing a reasonable metaphysical example of why Prof. Walton's thesis, as I understand it, is inconsistent seems to have been rejected by some on the grounds that it is not an historical interpretive proof (I am an historian, by the way, among other things, but this is not my area of expertise). My point is that Prof. Walton's arguments are not primarily historical (indeed, there is scant history to work with compared to modern times and this leaves many gaps in interpretation open to speculation), but, rather, metaphysical, since they hinge on the meaning of such words as, "create," and, "function." Do these terms apply the same to God and man? The discussion, if it can be cast in historical terms at all, is really an attempt to understand the historical metaphysical interpretation of these and related terms by the ancient Israelites. My point, however, is that their metaphysics cannot be different than ours if there is one consistent truth about God and man throughout history. It may be less developed, but it cannot be fundamentally different or else an inconsistency must occur.

If Prof. Walton is proposing a different metaphysical understanding of the act of creation between God-then and God-now, or man-then and man-now (a point he would have to address), then this would, I submit, make his proposal inconsistent. There is one truth. It must be consistent. I am not a fan of paraconsistent logics.

I do, however, find this discussion interesting and I hope no one takes offense at what I say. The comments are worthy of thought, even in a public forum. I hope that Prof. Walton does not take offense, either. Whether his thesis is true or not, it is a genuine contribution to Biblical thought.

The Chicken

I certainly don't take offense, Chicken. I have been glad for your contribution.

As for whether or not Prof. Walton's thesis (or theses, there are more than one) are contributions in a *positive* sense to Biblical thought...having read what he has to say at great length and listened to him at great length, pondered what he says at length, and having done additional research at length, I'm afraid that I myself cannot endorse that evaluation.

Dr. McGrew,

Christopher McCartney: Your arguments only suffice to prove that ancient people realized that there are ways things usually work, and they could conceptually contrast that with prodigious or unusual events, which they were inclined to read as signs having a special meaning and being attributable to a divine exercise of power.
Lydia: If even that much is granted, and we replace "natural/supernatural" with "ordinary/prodigious," then Walton's argument in the book does not stand.

I'm still not sure this distinction is valid, or at least helpful. It still portrays God as someone who is not constantly interacting with nature, but instead acts specially once in a while. I return to a point I made that I would like you to address head-on:

LB: Suppose that I am on a walk with my wife and there is a period of silence. There is simply the rhythm of footsteps. Then she pipes up and says something. This isn't a miraculous event. It is an orderly aspect of interaction between personal beings.

Surely you don't want to say that the period of silence was "ordinary", and my wife's speaking was "prodigious"? The reason I think this is important is that I suspect we are following in the footsteps of the Israelites in Deut 5, in that we don't want God to speak to us. To be more specific, I'm not sure we want to hear what he has to say. Jacques Ellul captures this nicely in Hope in Time of Abandonment:

    Man wants no word of salvation, nor any true consolation (he accepts all the fictitious consolations, the escapes, the appeasements and amusements), perhaps because the true consolation would make him face up to the fundamental questions of his presence in the world and of his real responsibility, questions which he continually seeks to avoid. He drowns himself in a dreary and disguised despair. He dwells within his anguish, and his most cherished secret is that of his own disavowal. (63)

To get to a meaning of "prodigious" that means anything other than distinguishing divine action from human action, you have to deny that divine–human communication is supposed to be a regular event. Contrast the booming and burning of Sinai in Deut 5 to the still small voice of 1 Kings 19. This culminates in God acting with us, from inside the core of our beings (the New Covenant). What could possibly be called "prodigious" in this divine–human communication and action? By the very use of "prodigious", I worry that you are introducing a dichotomy which distances us from God.

Lydia: For it would be then sufficient to ask whether the ancient Israelites thought, and would have taken from the text, that God brought, say, mankind, the first man, into physical existence suddenly and prodigiously, as if a mountain were suddenly to rise from the earth or the sea to part.

Do you have evidence that the ancient Israelites cared about this matter? My suspicion is that they did not, that instead what they cared about was the imago Dei in Gen 1:27, contrasted against the humans-as-slaves in Enûma Eliš. This contrast is a functional one, not a material one. In my mind, the functional contrast is infinitely more important than the material contrast. It makes perfect sense to me that God would focus on the most important thing and leave other matters (like the state of ancient 'science') alone, knowing that people can only learn so much and change so much per unit time.

Lydia: Would they have taken the text to be compatible with an infinitestimally slow process in which one type of thing developed very gradually into another, etc.?

I would ask this question, but not of material life. Instead, I would ask it of understanding of Torah. There was a distinct evolution here, except it was more like devolution, disintegration, and/or perversion. (See a nadir in Jer 7:8–11, especially as explicated by Yoram Hazony in chapter 7 of The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.) We see YHWH's hope that the Israelites would fear him always in Deut 5:29, and by this it is [partially] meant that the Israelites will always follow the commandments given, instead of slowly distorting them into the kind of thing which is mocked with bitter irony in Amos. This kind of distortion is not material, it is functional. In terms of Aristotle's Four Causes, we're talking formal causation and final causation: a distortion of form and telos. One might be able to connect proper form with righteousness, and proper telos with heart. (Not as direct equivalences, though.)

We see corruptions of form and telos today; C.S. Lewis prophesied it in his 1943 The Abolition of Man, Os Guinness connected this corruption to the sociology of knowledge in his 1983 The Gravedigger File, and James K. A. Smith deals with it intensely in his 2009 Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation. Charles Taylor gets at the avoidance of form and telos in his 1989 Sources of the Self:

From this second side, a moral reaction is an assent to, an affirmation of, a given ontology of the human.
    An important strand of modern naturalist consciousness has tried to hive this second side off and declare it dispensable or irrelevant to morality. (5)

The naturalist wishes to so demote form and telos that they become irrelevant. Mary Douglas and Steven Ney talk about how human scientists attempt to completely ignore an articulated model of human ontology ("what it means to be human") in their 1998 Missing Persons: A Critique of Personhood in the Social Sciences (10). Now, what actually happens is people's prejudices are encoded into their science, but we aren't allowed to speak of this, pretending instead that all is 'objective'. People don't even know how to articulate this. Material and efficient causation are transcendent; formal and final causation cease to be intelligible. Alasdair MacIntyre talks about the moral predicament this puts us in in his 1981 After Virtue. Without telos, all is unstructured, undirected emotion: "I want" and "I fear". (Well, the structure and direction is provided by 'the world', in the Rom 12:2 sense. James K. A. Smith talks about this extensively, in terms of "secular liturgy".)

But let me bring this back to the ordinary/​prodigious dichotomy. As long as that is made, we reject the idea that God wants to constantly, cooperatively work with us (not simply through us) to bring love and excellence and beauty and truth into the world. No, the way he does those things is through signs and wonders! I reject this, as a result of the failure to maintain a proper tension between the transcendent and the immanent. I wonder if God specifically avoided material and efficient causation in Genesis 1–11, so that the kinds of misunderstandings which permeate modernity wouldn't even be options. Or perhaps he sees material and efficient causation as much less important than formal and final causation. I'm not even sure how well-developed material and efficient causation were in the ANE—are you?

In this day and age, we are obsessed with how things work and what they're made of, and not about where we are going and what kind of people we are becoming. It strikes me that your reticence to place the focus opposite to that of modernity is a huge part of your "(all of it negative, I regret to report)", Dr. McGrew.

Lydia: That is why God could make signs to his people by mighty works.

I am deeply skeptical of this focus on power. We are told in Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15 that "mighty works" will be fraudulently produced. It strikes me that we ought to focus not so much on what power looks like, so much as how it is used. See, for example, Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20. We need to be able to see what God is doing (like Jesus did: Jn 5:19), whether it is flashy or not. We need to not be fools, but understand what the will of God is (Eph 5:17). We need to know that the weakness of God is true strength (1 Cor 1:26–2:8, Eph 1:18–20).

The entire Bible can be seen as an effort on God's part to shape us into the kind of beings who can be divine image-bearers. This means we have to learn to act like God does—otherwise we don't actually bear [much of] his image (e.g. 1 Cor 11:7, 2 Cor 3:18). This means that signs and wonders are irrelevant in a crucial sense. We need to be able to see God act in the mundane and not just the extraordinary. Here is precisely where I see the ordinary/​prodigious dichotomy as damaging to proper thinking.

In all this, I do not mean to say that discovering material and efficient causation is irrelevant. I am a software developer by trade and I have also done embedded hardware development: I make a living by turning formal and final causation into efficient and material causation. But I think it is important to avoid majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors. The Israelites had a hard enough time getting form (righteousness) and telos (heart) down right. To add focus on the material seems to be a pure distraction, for them. Arguably, one needs enough social stability (unified telos) to even provide the venue for extensive study of material and efficient causation.

Lydia: Which means that it is not anachronistic to ask if Adam's creation was or was not miraculous.

You've not established that this was an important question for the ancient Israelites. It is made into an important question now, because science is seen as authoritative and science [as currently formulated] doesn't care about form or telos. I claim we should be very careful in trying to answer questions that texts were never meant to answer. Above, I have made a case that it was not important for God to try to answer this question. He had much bigger fish to fry, as the OT attests with the stubbornness, rebelliousness, and general evil of humankind.

No, the way he does those things is through signs and wonders! I reject this, as a result of the failure to maintain a proper tension between the transcendent and the immanent.

Sorry, but if you reject that, you aren't being biblical. The Bible constantly emphasizes God's using signs and wonders as epistemic evidence of what is going on. That is why, when Moses asks God what he will do if the people don't believe he's been sent by God, God doesn't say, "How fleshly of them! They shouldn't do that. They should just be quiet and listen to me speaking in their hearts. I don't speak and reveal myself through signs and wonders but constantly, every moment, intimately. Now you just run along now and go give them my message, Moses." Such a response would have been absurd coming from the burning bush! (Obviously deliberately a prodigious wonder.) And it isn't how God responds. He gives Moses _more_ signs to do as his credentials, his evidence, his bona fides. And the same for the Egyptians--in spades--the ten plagues, etc.

The example of the miraculous conception of Isaac is especially striking. God didn't tell Abraham to believe in the covenant because of the wonderfulness of every flower opening each spring and of ordinary conception. He gives him a sign, which Abraham and Sarah know to be a sign because they know about the ordinary course of nature.

So, yes, I think that the repeated emphasis in the OT on miracles as signs of God's *special* action and attention is strong evidence that the Israelites would have had definite opinions on that subject re. Adam. Indeed, the whole picture of Adam is prima facie of a man _specially_ created by God, and this is the best explanation for the fact that the genealogies only go back to him. On this point, Walton is required to dodge yet again and imply that God was merely "accommodating" their beliefs. (This comes up in the second book, which I have just finished.) Oh, I see, so they _did_ think that Adam was literally the first man! Physically made by God. But I thought they couldn't even conceive of that!

Ad hoc again.

This has precisely zilch to do with whether science has to do with telos, etc., etc. You're going off on every sort of rabbit trail, here, but the fact is that we have so many evidences that time does not permit me to list them all that the Israelites were very interested indeed in God's miraculous mighty deeds. If you feel funny about talk about might and power, they didn't. Yes, they also were thankful for what he brought about in the ordinary course of events--rain to fall on the just and the unjust, etc. But when God wanted to make a special revelation, he made a special sign. It's everywhere. You can scarcely open your Bible without seeing it. If you don't, I suggest that it is you, not I, who are being anachronistic--specifically, importing a modern squeamishness about miracles into your interpretation, which manifests in a desire to downplay their importance. You can decide for yourself who "doesn't want to hear God speak"--the person who is comfortable talking about miracles, prodigious, mighty acts of God, and special revelations, or the person who consistently tries to downplay their importance, biblical evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.

I'm still not sure this distinction is valid, or at least helpful. It still portrays God as someone who is not constantly interacting with nature, but instead acts specially once in a while.

False dichotomy. God can _both_ be constantly upholding or interacting with nature in some sense _and also_ act specially once in a while. In fact, this is precisely what the Bible shows us happening. All over the place.


Surely you don't want to say that the period of silence was "ordinary", and my wife's speaking was "prodigious"?

The period of your wife's speaking was clearly recognizable. Epistemically. God's work "invisibly" through secondary causes is, precisely, invisible and indetectable. We believe in it for other theological reasons, not because we have direct access to it. If God is going to _speak_ in a way that is clear, we're going to have to have evidence for it. That's why theologians distinguish general revelation and special revelation (for example). God's primary causation and God's working through secondary causes. All of this has a long theological history. It's hardly something I'm making up, though theologians disagree on their terminology and analyses. (E.g. Is one a preservationist, a concurrentist, or an occasionalist?)

To say that the questions concerning Adam and the original creation would have made no sense or even been of no interest to the Israelites is, on the evidence, insupportable.

Dr. McGrew,

Sorry, but if you reject that, you aren't being biblical. The Bible constantly emphasizes God's using signs and wonders as epistemic evidence of what is going on.

If this is true in the way you mean (such that what I said is wrong), then do please explain Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15—how can people distinguish between those signs and wonders, and God's signs and wonders? Do you believe God will out-power them, as he did with Pharaoh's magicians and on Mt. Carmel? Suppose you believe this and yet God largely works through weakness and not strength. Those who build their epistemologies on "signs and wonders", instead of focusing crucially on character, are in danger of being utterly deceived. False christs wish to "lead astray, if possible, even the elect". Get your epistemology wrong, and you're no longer worshiping God. Instead, you are worshiping power.

And it isn't how God responds. He gives Moses _more_ signs to do as his credentials, his evidence, his bona fides. And the same for the Egyptians--in spades--the ten plagues, etc.

Oh, I have no doubt that God acts this way when there is no alternative, when humans are so stubborn, so hard-hearted, so unwilling for him to build into them in more gradual ways. This is the pattern of the OT: if people choose to shut God out for long enough, calamity will strike. Jesus reiterates this in Mt 7:24–27. What I have an objection to is an extreme dependence on the exercise of power, as providing too much epistemological warrant. Science is increasing in power as we speak, and I am sad to say that Christianity seems to be decreasing in power. At some point, by your epistemological standards, science will become more trustworthy. The only way I see to avoid this is to focus on character over power. In doing this, signs and wonders become much less important.

This has precisely zilch to do with whether science has to do with telos, etc., etc.

I'm not sure what you mean by "this"; I see Walton's focus on "functional ontology" as being very concerned with formal and final causation, while downplaying material and efficient causation. Do you disagree? I see the methods we use to distinguish divine action from human action as being very important, and I see the supernatural/natural, or ordinary/prodigious dichotomies, as actively harmful to understanding passages such as Phil 2:12–13.

You're going off on every sort of rabbit trail, here, [...]

I think I am actually sticking remarkably close to what I see as one of Walton's core arguments. (Shall we ask him to comment?) I reviewed the first twenty pages of his book, and found that my first two comments—which you claimed were way off-topic—were quite well-represented by Walton's intro, in which he challenges us to look at the world not as moderns, but as inhabitants of the Ancient Near East. My comment explicating Yoram Hazony's focus on truth being something like Walton's "functional ontology" seems also relevant, although we could again ask Walton for commentary.

It kind of seems like you're more interested in finding various bits to quibble about, than the main thrust of being more concerned with form (righteousness) and telos (heart).

But when God wanted to make a special revelation, he made a special sign. It's everywhere.

Actually, God's interaction with Adam and Eve was mundane, and his warning to Cain was mundane. The special signs seem required when humans aren't paying attention, otherwise. Moses' attention was certainly caught by "a special sign", but the vast majority of his conversations with God—in which he received "special revelation"—were "as one man talks to another"—not by special signs!

importing a modern squeamishness about miracles into your interpretation

No, this misrepresents my argument and constitutes a character assassination attempt (basically insinuating I am a liberal Christian, and all that goes with the caricature of liberal Christians). What I have said is not that God does not perform miracles, but he prefers more intimate interaction with his creation. Again, compare the booming and burning of Sinai in Deut 5 to the still small voice, which is explicitly contrasted to booming and burning, in 1 Kings 19. Also look at what I said earlier about the etymology of 'apocalypse'.

To say that the questions concerning Adam and the original creation would have made no sense or even been of no interest to the Israelites is, on the evidence, insupportable.

What is the evidence, that I may examine it directly? You apparently have already looked at it, and can point me to it.

I've given you an enormous amount of evidence.

Oh, and I love the way that, after I have spent literally countless hours reading _all_ of Walton's _two_ books and listening to lengthy interview, doing word studies of my own, and making copious notes, you have the gall to claim that I'm off-track because you read twenty pages. You want a medal? I'm losing patience with your attempt to condescend on the basis of little work other than blowing smoke.

God works by signs to make himself known to his _own_ people, and he identifies himself thereby. You want some more evidence?


Exodus 20:1-3 And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

[B]ut you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 2 Kings 17:36


Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you...Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, Psalm 66

Psalm 114 King James Version (KJV)

114 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;

2 Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.

5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?

6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?

7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;

8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.

Psalm 77:

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
12 I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
13 Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
14 You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
15 You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah
16 When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
17 The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
18 The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
19 Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.[c]
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

I could go on like this all day long. Jesus' own miracles were not merely carried out because of hardness of heart. Indeed, he usually did _more_ miracles when people had faith in him. He carried out his miracles both out of compassion for the people involved and as a spontaneous sign that he was a messenger from God. And he called upon others to take note thereof, repeatedly.

By they way, the idea that formal and final causality can be completely separated from material structure is absurd and contrary to the categories themselves. Multiple reviewers have pointed this out in various terms.

At some point, by your epistemological standards, science will become more trustworthy.

Um, yeah, because then the evidence for Jesus' resurrection will just vanish like smoke. Or something.

This does not show a very deep understanding of "my epistemological standards." In fact, it shows _no_ understanding thereof.

As to how people should distinguish between true and false Christs: They might start by seeing what doctrine they teach and whether it is consonant with what has been previously verified by the super-sign of the resurrection of Jesus Christ--something that, as far as we know, only God can do.

By the way, if you _want_ to discuss or read Walton's interpretation of Genesis 1 in terms of Aristotelian categories, you should know that he has objected strenuously to bringing in Aristotelian categories. I found that out by listening to a long interview. Which took considerably more time than "reviewing twenty pages."

Oh, I have no doubt that God acts this way when there is no alternative, when humans are so stubborn, so hard-hearted, so unwilling for him to build into them in more gradual ways. This is the pattern of the OT: if people choose to shut God out for long enough, calamity will strike.

Insofar as this is meant to _restrict_ God's acts to those times when people hold out or are hard-hearted (which it is, in the context of LB's argument), this is completely false. That is not the pattern of the Old Testament. Yes, God does visit judgement upon the hard-hearted. But that is not by any means the sole or even the main pattern for God's use of mighty acts. They are also used for inaugurating new things, new covenants, relationships, verifying new revelation, etc.

Again (again, again), the conception of Isaac falls into _this_ pattern. Abraham is not hard-hearted! Far from it. The miraculous conception of Isaac, however, confirms the covenant. And it is understood to be miraculous, as I have pointed out, because of _precisely_ that epistemological distinction between the order of nature and what is not in the order of nature which Walton claims ancient people did not have.

To imply in any way, shape, or form that the inauguration of the entire earthly biosphere, of the plants and animals, the sun and moon, and man himself would have been insufficient reason for God to act miraculously, and would have been so regarded by the ancient Israelites, is patently laughable.

Dr. McGrew,

I've given you an enormous amount of evidence.

I'm sorry, I meant extra-biblical evidence, which sets an interpretive framework for what kinds of questions would be important to ANE inhabitants, how they would go about answering them, what those answers would look like, etc.

What you're doing is using your own interpretation of the OT to argue for how people in the ANE interpreted the OT. But how do you know your interpretation is faithful to how the original hearers of the oral traditions understood the OT? You can't, unless you read further than your own, systematic interpretation of the OT. See, I know the OT decently well, and never would have thought of the fact that in modernity, we prioritize material and efficient causation over formal and final causation. It's not clear that you even understand what it means to prioritize one over the other. If you did, I should think you would have said something. But all you can apparently do is say that everything I've said is wrong (or be silent about whatever you might possibly agree with); it would appear that your "(all of it negative, I regret to report)" analysis applies to what I've written, as well.

Oh, and I love the way that, after I have spent literally countless hours reading _all_ of Walton's _two_ books and listening to lengthy interview, doing word studies of my own, and making copious notes, you have the gall to claim that I'm off-track because you read twenty pages.

I'm sorry, my "I reviewed the first twenty pages" was meant as re-view, as in re-read. Had I recently read the first ten pages, I could have told you outright, in the first two comments I made, that I was recapitulating how Walton started his book. Any rational person will see that there are strong similarities between my first two comments, and how Walton started Lost World.

You want a medal? I'm losing patience with your attempt to condescend on the basis of little work other than blowing smoke.

I contest your imputation of evil motives to me. This does not constitute "Outdo one another in showing honor."; instead, it is the antithesis.

Jesus' own miracles were not merely carried out because of hardness of heart.

True, my model does require broadening to account for this. However, I will also point out that the only reason he had to perform the miracles was because of brokenness in reality than humans refused (via being bound to sin) to solve. Recall that Jesus said he was only doing what he saw his father in heaven doing. If anything, the miracles were fast-forward versions of God's agápē of creation, and this agápē of creation was to be emulated by Jesus' disciples, very directly: Jn 15:12–15. Had humans been doing this when Jesus arrived, he wouldn't have needed to do the miracles. So, another purpose of miracles is to play catch-up and show which parts of reality God causes, and which parts evil intentions cause. I still think you give too much epistemic weight to miracles.

By they way, the idea that formal and final causality can be completely separated from material structure is absurd and contrary to the categories themselves.

Did I "completely separate" them, or did I argue for a change in emphasis that really matters? For someone who gets upset when others appear to distort your arguments, you do the same.

LB: At some point, by your epistemological standards, science will become more trustworthy.
Lydia: Um, yeah, because then the evidence for Jesus' resurrection will just vanish like smoke. Or something.

There's no need for the evidence for Jesus' resurrection to vanish. It merely needs to pale in comparison.

As to how people should distinguish between true and false Christs: They might start by seeing what doctrine they teach and whether it is consonant with what has been previously verified by the super-sign of the resurrection of Jesus Christ--something that, as far as we know, only God can do.

I think you have too much faith that science's power is so limited. I think you should trust more in character and less in power. Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15 are real dangers; otherwise they wouldn't be in the Bible. It's not even clear if the first beast appeared to die before its "mortal wound was healed". To assume that this couldn't happen, that the first beast couldn't be resurrected, is completely unnecessary if one judges by character and not merely by sign and wonder.

By the way, if you _want_ to discuss or read Walton's interpretation of Genesis 1 in terms of Aristotelian categories, you should know that he has objected strenuously to bringing in Aristotelian categories. I found that out by listening to a long interview.

Which interview? I'm actually not well-versed in the complexities of Aristotelian categories, and I wonder whether Walton objects to the basic ideas, or the developments thereof. What I am well-aware of is what happens when life becomes all about what Charles Taylor calls "instrumental reason" and what Jacques Ellul calls "technique". These ignore teleology, and I think the world is suffering greatly as a result. Too many care about the material, about glitzy things. Many obsess about efficiency: making the process better. The substance is not in the material nor in the process, but in character and telos. Indeed, I would argue that we need to return to a functional ontology, as far as I understand it. We need to rewrite the function of a person to be a worshiper of God and not a consumer of things. We need to reverse The Abolition of Man.

Insofar as this is meant to _restrict_ God's acts to those times when people hold out or are hard-hearted (which it is, in the context of LB's argument), this is completely false. That is not the pattern of the Old Testament. Yes, God does visit judgement upon the hard-hearted. But that is not by any means the sole or even the main pattern for God's use of mighty acts. They are also used for inaugurating new things, new covenants, relationships, verifying new revelation, etc.

The Exodus follows the hard-heartedness of the Egyptians. Jesus follows the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Mt Carmel follows the pervasive worship of Gods other than him. The invasion of the Promised Land follows the hard-heartedness of the Amorites et al. Ezek 9:3–8 is a pretty direct attack on hard-heartedness. Noah's Flood was clearly a response to hard-heartedness. I think there's a pretty big theme, here. No, I haven't captured every single divine act—the Bible always resists such theological boxes. But to say "completely false" is to say I've established no valid pattern whatsoever.

When I eliminate events like the above, I do find others in the OT meant to authenticate the word of God. But why does is this authentication required, why can't God just non-miraculously speak to people (as he spoke with Moses) and have them recognize what is true, beautiful, good, and excellent, when they hear it? I suspect a good deal of this is residual refusal to be in right relationship with God, and that is a kind of hard-heartedness it seems, although partial instead of full.

The idea that the only way to hear from God and reasonably suspect it is from God, is via sign and wonder, is poisonous. It quenches the Spirit. I hope you don't actually hold this. But when you speak as you do—as if signs and wonders are required, just for the purposes of authentication—I get worried. We're supposed to have the Spirit of Truth in us, guiding us to all truth. King David also had the Spirit, for his heart was for God, very much along the lines of 1 Cor 2:9–16, it seems.

Again (again, again), the conception of Isaac falls into _this_ pattern. Abraham is not hard-hearted! Far from it. The miraculous conception of Isaac, however, confirms the covenant. And it is understood to be miraculous, as I have pointed out, because of _precisely_ that epistemological distinction between the order of nature and what is not in the order of nature which Walton claims ancient people did not have.

Have you asked Walton how he thinks through the birth of Isaac? I think this is a wonderful question to ask him directly. I'm just not convinced that you are representing his position properly. Commonly, when I find what I think was a huge outlier to someone's understanding, it turns out that I hadn't actually properly simulated the person's point of view. Richard J. Bernstein discusses this in Beyond Objectivism and Relativism:

    Kuhn sometimes uses the term "hermeneutic" in a weak sense to mean the type of sensitive reading that has always been considered essential in the hermeneutical tradition. The maxim that he offers to his students is one that we could find in almost any discussion of hermeneutics:
When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them. When you find an answer, I continue, when those passages make sense, then you may find that the more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning.[47]
(21)
[47] Kuhn, Essential Tension, p. xii.

Kuhn, of course, went on to absolutely transform the philosophy of science.

Luke,

You say to Lydia the following:

What you're doing is using your own interpretation of the OT to argue for how people in the ANE interpreted the OT. But how do you know your interpretation is faithful to how the original hearers of the oral traditions understood the OT? You can't, unless you read further than your own, systematic interpretation of the OT. See, I know the OT decently well, and never would have thought of the fact that in modernity, we prioritize material and efficient causation over formal and final causation. It's not clear that you even understand what it means to prioritize one over the other. If you did, I should think you would have said something.

I must admit her analysis of OT miracles is very convincing to me, so it would be useful to have you step in and explain (maybe just using one example) how God's OT miracles "prioritize formal and final causation" over "material and efficient causation." As an aside, this blog has many Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy fans and so we are all quite familiar with these concepts and what Richard Weaver refers to as man abandoning his belief in "the existence of transcendentals." So we don't necessarily reject your philosophy -- I just have a hard time figuring out how you want to apply it to the Bible's story of creation.

I'm sorry, I meant extra-biblical evidence, which sets an interpretive framework for what kinds of questions would be important to ANE inhabitants, how they would go about answering them, what those answers would look like, etc.

What you're doing is using your own interpretation of the OT to argue for how people in the ANE interpreted the OT. But how do you know your interpretation is faithful to how the original hearers of the oral traditions understood the OT? You can't, unless you read further than your own, systematic interpretation of the OT.

Even Walton himself does not say this. He tries to use ANE literature (unconvincingly, in my opinion) to support his case, and I have read his examples and do not think that they support his case. However, even he does not say that one _cannot_ argue from reading the Old Testament. He thinks the Old Testament _also_ fits into his views.

Frankly, your own assertions that I am misinterpreting the Old Testament are not getting very far. You haven't made a clear thesis. If I were to _try_ to summarize or perhaps guess what you think all of this has to do with the creation, it would be something like, "God wouldn't appear to create by miracle, because creation isn't the kind of thing God uses miracles for. He only uses miracles for x, y, and z, and creation doesn't fall into those categories."

If that isn't where you are going, I'm not even sure of the point of some of your (ad hoc, see below) attempts to characterize OT miracles as having to do with "brokenness" or what-not.

The idea that _nobody_ who hasn't read copious amounts of ANE literature is capable of drawing conclusions about what the ancient Israelites knew about miracles is untenable. It would rule out pretty much every Christian from being capable of drawing any such conclusions. I refuse to bow to any such idea. I believe my biblical arguments stand on their own. Even you choke a bit when you get to the conception of Isaac. Your only response is, "Gee, maybe you should ask Walton about that." Which I think shows pretty clearly that it prima facie refutes his overstatements. Look, ma, no extra-biblical literature needed for that argument.

I contest your imputation of evil motives to me.

I'm not imputing any evil motives to you. I just don't think you're making very good arguments, and you don't, unfortunately, seem to realize when your arguments have been decisively answered.

Which interview? I'm actually not well-versed in the complexities of Aristotelian categories, and I wonder whether Walton objects to the basic ideas, or the developments thereof.

The one on TLWOG1, beginning around 1:10. His objection is to applying any such categories to the discussion of Genesis 1, allegedly on the grounds that it is anachronistic to do so, as the ancient Israelites would not have thought in the categories of Greek philosophy. This is apropos of Dr. Craig's use of the category of efficient causation to point out an ambiguity in Walton's use of a phrase like "material creation." (Craig's point is that God is the efficient cause of a "clean heart" even though a "clean heart" is not a material object.) I do not actually agree with Walton on this point to the effect that one can't use Aristotelian categories anywhere int he vicinity of this discussion on pain of anachronism. But he certainly can't be _rescued_ by Aristotelian categories if he rejects, in principle, any _criticism_ (even if the clarity of his own ideas) that is framed in those terms.

The Exodus follows the hard-heartedness of the Egyptians.

This is a facile blurring of the situation. God uses miracles in the Exodus to reveal himself to his *own people*, not just in response to the hard-heartedness of the Egyptians. He uses the burning bush _initially_ to Moses to reveal himself, when Moses has not been hard-hearted. The mighty deeds whereby God brings up His people are clearly connected to his character ("I am the Lord your God who brought you up," etc., see also the Psalms) and are intended to show that his revelation on Sinai is to be accepted as coming from the one true God.

Jesus follows the hard-heartedness of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus uses miracles as a sign to his own followers at the very outset of their relationships, when they have no particular inclination to follow the Pharisees. For example, the great draught of fishes is used to kick off Jesus' call of Peter to be a "fisher of men."

But why does is this authentication required, why can't God just non-miraculously speak to people (as he spoke with Moses) and have them recognize what is true, beautiful, good, and excellent, when they hear it?

Actually, God _doesn't_ non-miraculously speak with Moses. He initiates his relationship with Moses _by means of_ the burning bush and the signs of the leprous hand and the rod that becomes a serpent.

God uses signs to authenticate special revelation. It is a pattern that occurs again and again in Scripture.

Have you asked Walton how he thinks through the birth of Isaac? I think this is a wonderful question to ask him directly. I'm just not convinced that you are representing his position properly.

First, this idea that one has to go around behind the scenes and develop some kind of personal relationship with every author one reviews and "ask him" a personal question of all of one's criticisms is simply absurd. That is not what the Great Conversation of scholarly debate is all about or is like. If you can't get this, I can't help you.

Second, you are welcome to read Walton's book (again?) for yourself. His overstatements are definitely refuted by the conception of Isaac example. Moreover, he _needs_ those overstatements for his argument. The understanding of "the way things normally work" shown by Sarah and Abraham (before Moses, even) would be fully sufficient to _conceive of_ the questions we often ask about whether or not creation of this or that (animals, Adam, etc.) was miraculous. Yet Walton insists that the ancient Israelites couldn't have understood these questions.

As I said to Christopher McCartney, perhaps the most charitable interpretation is that he is committing the fallacy of equivocation--moving from "The Israelites wouldn't have had _our specific_ concepts of natural law" to "The Israelites wouldn't have had _anything like_ a concept of the natural order needed for asking these questions."

I have seen this pattern in Walton's work countless times. I hint at one example and give a couple more in my main post. These include: The Israelites didn't have modern chemistry, so they couldn't really have meant that man was made from dust. The Israelites didn't understand that light is matter, so they wouldn't have thought of a "great light" or the creation of light as the creation of something in the material world. In the new book I have encountered this one: The Israelites didn't know that there are invisible air molecules, so they wouldn't have thought of God's creation of a _space_ in earthly cosmology as a creation of part of the material world!

And so it goes. Define an artificially narrow concept that we have in modern science, point out that the ancient Israelites didn't have _that_ concept, and move from that to something that doesn't remotely follow.

If this is what is happening with "natural/supernatural distinction" it would be nothing but par for the course. And that I can document.

There's no need for the evidence for Jesus' resurrection to vanish. It merely needs to pale in comparison.
I think you have too much faith that science's power is so limited.
Science is increasing in power as we speak

I have no idea what all of this means. Look: Epistemology and probability theory are publication and research specialties of mine, with specific reference to evaluating miracle claims and specifically the resurrection of Jesus. The notions of "science" and "power" and "paling in comparison" that you seem to be using here bear no remote connection with anything I think. It wouldn't even be meaningful for the power of the evidence for Christ's resurrection to "pale in comparison" to the "growing power of science." Science doesn't gradually "get able" to make it the case that Jesus probably rose by natural means! Nobody even claims that. Science doesn't just sort of grow and grow until there are no more miracles left. The evidence for singular events in the past doesn't work that way, nor is there any remotest trend in modern science that makes it gradually more and more likely that Jesus spontaneously rose from the dead. This "march of science" stuff is part of what we have to _realize is false_. An anti-evidential alternative is a form of retreat, unjustified by anything at all.

Did I "completely separate" [formal and final causality from material structure], or did I argue for a change in emphasis that really matters?

Walton (whom I thought we were discussing) would need to separate them completely in order for his argument to work, since he is utterly insistent that Genesis 1 is _not_ about material creation and _definitely is not_ about _both_ material creation and what he calls "functional" creation. It's right there in the book.

Jeffrey S.,

I don't think it's God's miracles which prioritize formal and final causation over material and efficient causation. Instead, I take Walton's argument to convincingly be that Genesis 1–11 itself is more concerned with formal and final causation†. The function of human being is to worship God and manifest God's glory to all of reality, instead of to be a slave of the gods, conveniently ruled over by the emperor, who is a divine image-bearer. All the science in the world cannot establish or disestablish such a claim.

And so, what stuff is made of, how it got made, and how long it took are all unimportant in comparison. The functions of creation, per cosmogonies like Enûma Eliš, was what was royally screwed up and in need of rectification. This could all be done without caring a whit for material and efficient causation. Indeed, from Lost World:

    In the ancient world they were not ignorant of the sense and the level at which objects could be perceived by the senses. They would have no difficulty understanding the physical nature of objects. The question here concerns not what they perceived but what they gave significance to. (25)

As to this focus on natural/supernatural or ordinary/prodigious, I say the entire discussion obscures the kind of creative process I argue God wishes to employ, and obscures the kind of relationship I argue God wishes to have with his creation. If we have the spirit of God and the mind of Christ, we oughtn't need signs or wonders in order to learn more and more about God's will, something we are commanded to learn about (e.g. Eph 5:17, Col 1:9–14). God perhaps even had this kind of relationship with Enoch, and definitely had it with Moses. Then you got the rejection of God's immanence in Deut 5, and the desire for its restoration in Jer 31:31–34 and Ezek 36:22–36.

In my mind, much of my argument is for a change in emphasis, and a request to rethink the transcendence and immanence of God, and how he employs, or does not employ, power. In some senses this is a subtle shift, while in other senses it couldn't be bigger.

† As I note above, perhaps it is better to link form to 'righteousness' and telos to 'heart', and speak in terms of those terms instead of the Aristotelian categories. But until one digs into the details sufficiently far, my guess is that there are a ton of similarities.

I say the entire discussion obscures the kind of creative process I argue God wishes to employ, and obscures the kind of relationship I argue God wishes to have with his creation.

As I will argue in my upcoming review. the Bible repeatedly links God's _special_ creation of man to God's intent for man. "The entire discussion" of whether or not the body of man evolved by secondary causes (guided by God only in an invisible fashion behind the scenes) doesn't obscure God's creative process.

Are you truly saying that you have some kind of a priori argument, or biblical argument, that God's creative process *is* or *would be* by what would appear to be the gradual, natural processes of the universe, and that God "wouldn't" have formed man's by special creation? Good luck with that. Because I think Jesus believed the opposite, and so did Paul.

It behooves me to quote this again, from Walton himself:

As a result, we should not expect anything in the Bible or in the rest of the ancient Near East to engage in the discussion of how God's level of creative activity relates to the "natural" world (i.e., what we call naturalistic process or the laws of nature). The categories of "natural" and "supernatural" have no meaning to them, let alone any interest....The ancients would never dream of addressing how things might have come into being without God or what "natural" processes he might have used.

He goes on on p. 21

All of these issues are modern issues imposed on the text and not the issues in the culture of the ancient world. We cannot expect the text to address them...

Note that this is a _stronger_ statement than the statement that he also makes that the ancients "weren't interested" in material origins or "gave significance to" something other than material origins, though he also makes the latter statement. (Repeatedly. And fails to support it by cogent argument.)

Believe me, I had already marked the statement on p. 25 and simply lacked time in the main post to point out that its apparent implication _contradicts_ the earlier statement that "There is no concept of a "natural" world in ancient Near Eastern thinking" (p. 20). I made that point in my own notes. Such casual inconsistencies come up repeatedly in Walton's work because he is not a systematizer and doesn't try to go back and correct them. He also makes a lot of overstatements.

Of course, if he _really_ acknowledges that the ancients _did_ "understand the physical nature of objects," then of course it would have been possible for them to have a "concept of the natural world" and would have been possible for their texts to address whether the plants (say) or man (say) came about in the first instance by natural means. But he wants to push farther than merely to talk about their interests. He wants to say that these issues would never be addressed in the ancient world because they literally lacked any concepts that would allow them to address those issues. This strong statement is readily refuted.

The weaker "gave significance to" or "were interested in x rather than y" statements he also tries to support, but his arguments tend to rely on the _assumption_ that an interest in function excludes a text's actually intending to refer to material making, which is a question-begging use of his own, artificially sharp distinction between material and functional nature--his own imposition on the text.

I have pointed all of this out already.

Luke Breuer

"Do you have evidence that the ancient Israelites cared about this matter? My suspicion is that they did not…"

i) Strictly speaking, it's irrelevant whether ancient Israelites cared about that. The OT frequently addresses issues which many ancient Israelites would rather ignore. The OT isn't primarily a product of what ancient Israelites cared about. Left to their own devices, they were just like other ANE pagans. That's why God had to take the initiative.

ii) From what I've read, creation stories are pretty common among primitive people-groups throughout the world. There's a natural human curiosity about where we came from. So even from an a priori standpoint, it's to be expected that the Bible would have an account of how the world originated.

One mark of the true God is that he is the absolute Creator of the world. And that's in studied contrast to the pagan pantheon. In heathenism, even the old gods, the high gods, are ultimately the product of an immemorial world process.

"In this day and age, we are obsessed with how things work and what they're made of…"

Seems to me the ancients shared that preoccupation. Take Mesopotamian floodworks, to control and channel the Tigris and Euphrates, in order to limit the damage caused by flooding from untamed rivers, as well as redirecting river water to irrigate farmland. The ancients took an interest in technology. They had to–to survive in a savage environment.

iii) Finally, it's not uncommon for some theologians to downplay Biblical miracles because they don't believe in miracles or the historicity of the narratives recording them. But to maintain pious appearances, they turn their unbiblical skepticism into a theological virtue. That's a a standard offensive move. Bultmann deployed that tactic. "We're justified by faith, not by evidence!"

But in reality it camouflages the loss of faith.

Dr. McGrew,

Even Walton himself does not say this. He tries to use ANE literature (unconvincingly, in my opinion) to support his case, and I have read his examples and do not think that they support his case. However, even he does not say that one _cannot_ argue from reading the Old Testament. He thinks the Old Testament _also_ fits into his views.

I'm sorry, but when I said "read further than your own, systematic interpretation of the OT", I meant reading other ANE literature. I thought that would be clear, but perhaps not. I don't contest that your own interpretation of the OT fits fairly well. I just think that Walton's "functional ontology" ought to be taken more seriously than you are taking it. I think that especially Genesis 1–11 might make even more sense than it does now to you, if you were to take his model seriously. The entire Bible can be seen as God correcting bad conceptions of him; to understand those corrections, one would need to know what it was that was being corrected. The Bible gives hints, but doing a compare & contrast with works like Enûma Eliš gives one much more to go off of.

Surely you acknowledge that modernity is much too obsessed with material and efficient causation, and often even ignorant of formal and final causation? I'd like you to be clear on this, because how one balances the two groups of causation is one of the main points of all my commenting. I think a move back toward a functional ontology (at least: a balance) is desperately needed.

Frankly, your own assertions that I am misinterpreting the Old Testament are not getting very far. You haven't made a clear thesis. If I were to _try_ to summarize or perhaps guess what you think all of this has to do with the creation, it would be something like, "God wouldn't appear to create by miracle, because creation isn't the kind of thing God uses miracles for. He only uses miracles for x, y, and z, and creation doesn't fall into those categories."

No, this is entirely wrong. Instead, to talk about Genesis 1–2 creation, I would say that if the focus is on formal and final causation and not material nor efficient causation, then the materials used are irrelevant and the elapsed time is irrelevant (the time ordering can still be relevant). The focus is functional and moral, not material scientific. You don't have to correct all of a person's thinking at once. Indeed, trying to do that is doomed to fail miserably.

If that isn't where you are going, I'm not even sure of the point of some of your (ad hoc, see below) attempts to characterize OT miracles as having to do with "brokenness" or what-not.

There are really two matters at hand. First, is whether Genesis 1–2 is concerned with matters of science, or whether the science could be quite wrong (that is, matching ANE 'science'), and yet the text accomplish precisely what YHWH wished to accomplish. Second, is the general conception of 'miracle' and how God really wants to interact with his creation, particularly his imago Dei creation. I think both matters are entangled; the first connects most strongly to Walton's "functionality ontology"; the second connects most strongly to your insistence on a natural/​supernatural dichotomy or an ordinary/​prodigious dichotomy, or some sort of dichotomy I'm not sure is actually a dichotomy God wants to exist. The second also has to do with whether we require signs and wonders to receive additional truth from God.

The idea that _nobody_ who hasn't read copious amounts of ANE literature is capable of drawing conclusions about what the ancient Israelites knew about miracles is untenable.

There's a difference between having some conception, and using the text to make scientific claims. Reality generally lets us proceed quite far with very bad models of it. And so, a first-pass, modernist reading of the Bible will still present much truth to the reader. However, the more detailed and intricate you get, the more errors will start truly mattering. So the issue isn't binary in the way you appear to be presenting it.

I'm not imputing any evil motives to you.

Condescending and blowing smoke are intellectual evils. Jesus did neither, and for good reason. (Surely you didn't mean divine condescension?)

This is a facile blurring of the situation. God uses miracles in the Exodus to reveal himself to his *own people*, not just in response to the hard-heartedness of the Egyptians. He uses the burning bush _initially_ to Moses to reveal himself, when Moses has not been hard-hearted. The mighty deeds whereby God brings up His people are clearly connected to his character ("I am the Lord your God who brought you up," etc., see also the Psalms) and are intended to show that his revelation on Sinai is to be accepted as coming from the one true God.

Yes, the Israelites had to be rescued, and God couldn't simply talk to Moses, he first had to get Moses' attention. Both of these facts indicate intense brokenness, and God does use miracles to overcome intense brokenness. I have to believe he would have preferred to not have to rescue the Israelites, kill off most of the Egyptian firstborn, etc. See Ezek 18.

Jesus uses miracles as a sign to his own followers at the very outset of their relationships, when they have no particular inclination to follow the Pharisees. For example, the great draught of fishes is used to kick off Jesus' call of Peter to be a "fisher of men."

Again, had the people been actively following hard after God (instead of just Anna, Simeon, and John the Baptist), this stuff wouldn't have been required. The OT hoped that people would flock to Israel to learn about God; see Deut 4:1–8, as well as several prophecies. This plan failed. It was this failure which required new measures, miraculous measures. If you and I and other believers fail to fight for what is right, enough damage could accrue such that new miracles are required, instead of God working cooperatively with us. See Ezek 34, and how disappointed God was to have to do things on his own, miraculously.

Actually, God _doesn't_ non-miraculously speak with Moses. He initiates his relationship with Moses _by means of_ the burning bush and the signs of the leprous hand and the rod that becomes a serpent.

On one occasion. What about the other occasions? See Ex 33:11.

First, this idea that one has to go around behind the scenes and develop some kind of personal relationship with every author one reviews and "ask him" a personal question of all of one's criticisms is simply absurd. That is not what the Great Conversation of scholarly debate is all about or is like. If you can't get this, I can't help you.

It is curious that you think my single suggestion to ask Walton about Isaac constitutes a request to do the same with "all of one's criticisms". Would you please explain how you logically reasoned from what I said, to this "all"? I also have zero conception of how you think Christians ought to "Outdo one another in showing honor." Your treatment of me and Walton make it seem like you rather enjoy tearing people down. I hope this is an erroneous appearance.

I have no idea what all of this means.

What it means is that unless Christianity starts better manifesting the excellence and glory of God, I fear science will provide a better witness. You have established signs and wonders as the epistemic standard. If science's signs and wonders start to compete with the sign and wonder of Jesus' resurrection, then by your epistemic standard, one should switch allegiance to science upon this happening. Do you really think that resurrecting someone after three days will forever be impossible, scientifically? Perhaps you could speak about why we have the warnings of Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15.

I claim that Christianity will become largely obsolete if it is not animated by the Spirit and power of God (see 2 Tim 3:1–5). It will be out-competed, and for good reason. If it doesn't successfully challenge the world's conception of character and the world's telos, then science will be a better job of better satisfying extant character and telos. See James K. A. Smith's Desiring the Kingdom for how the world is already better at shaping character and soul than many Christians. I think Walton's "functional ontology" is desperately needed. We need to spend some time thinking in those terms. Or God help us.

Walton (whom I thought we were discussing) would need to separate them completely in order for his argument to work, since he is utterly insistent that Genesis 1 is _not_ about material creation and _definitely is not_ about _both_ material creation and what he calls "functional" creation. It's right there in the book.

Actually, all I think he needs to maintain is something like: Works like Enûma Eliš had all four causes wrong. The intention behind Genesis 1–11 was to correct the formal and final causation aspects, since these are most important for righteousness and justice and holiness. And so, the material and efficient causal stories can be left at "ANE 'science'"-level for the time being, while the formal and final causal stories are corrected, e.g. from slaves-of-the-gods → imago Dei, from theomachy → shalom, and from many gods → one God.

Dr. McGrew,

As I will argue in my upcoming review. the Bible repeatedly links God's _special_ creation of man to God's intent for man. "The entire discussion" of whether or not the body of man evolved by secondary causes (guided by God only in an invisible fashion behind the scenes) doesn't obscure God's creative process.

I'm not entirely sure what you're saying here. In an important sense, I don't care whether YEC, OEC, ID, theistic evolution, or BioLogos' model obtains. This is because my poiēma, my workmanship in Christ, seems pretty much agnostic to these matters. I am much more interested in imago Dei, in how original sin propagates (I suggest Alistair McFadyen's Bound to Sin for a promising empirical application), in what idolatry truly is (see Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry for intriguing possibilities), etc. etc.

I am deeply concerned with not the science of evolution, but the philosophy (or philosophies) of evolution. I'm concerned with matters that touch on formal and final causation, or really, science's denial that the two concepts refer to ontological aspects of reality. Intentionality magically arises ex nihilo according to these people, and "reason" ≠ "adaptation to the environment", somehow. There's all sorts of incoherence and other nonsense that is poisoning thought and being used to advocate inhumanity.

Are you truly saying that you have some kind of a priori argument, or biblical argument, that God's creative process *is* or *would be* by what would appear to be the gradual, natural processes of the universe, and that God "wouldn't" have formed man's by special creation? Good luck with that. Because I think Jesus believed the opposite, and so did Paul.

I don't know how you can attribute a belief in "natural processes of the universe" to me, given my eschewing of the natural/​supernatural dichotomy. I have repeatedly said that I believe God wants to be intimately involved with his creation, as a lover wishes to be involved with his beloved. This intimate involvement seems to be what the New Covenant is. Someone animated by the Spirit doesn't need signs and wonders to believe more and more truth. So I don't see how I am disagreeing with Jesus or Paul, here. Obviously God kicked everything off, and whatever he did, however long or short he did it, established imago Dei.

Note that this is a _stronger_ statement than the statement that he also makes that the ancients "weren't interested" in material origins or "gave significance to" something other than material origins, though he also makes the latter statement.

I don't read these that way at all. Instead, I say that if the material and efficient causation aspects of the story were wrong, that was irrelevant. YHWH was not interested in correcting ANE science. He was interested in righteousness and justice and mercy and holiness. The 'scientific' errors could be rectified after these more important aspects.

I have pointed all of this out already.

Yes, and from my perspective you are repeatedly ignoring or quickly dismissing my attempts to render Walton's account (i) intelligible, (ii) compelling for those in the ANE, and (iii) compelling for us now. As it turns out, such repetition is common when two people are coming at a matter from radically different viewpoints. If you want you can blame it on my terrible character, or you can admit that this is a fact of life when people try to reach mutual understanding. My observation is that most people these days simply don't want to try that hard to communicate. It is a sad state of affairs; I'm glad you have tried as hard as you have!

My suspicion is that your resistance to even what I've tried to communicate (which is but a fraction of Walton's Lost World) was predicted by Walton and is why he chose not to further engage you. It would have taken a ton of his time, as you are strongly disposed to find nothing of value in what he said—"(all of it negative, I regret to report)". I, however, want to know whether his argument truly has nothing of merit. I find this hard to believe, given the connections I have made to some of the things which are ailing modernity and the West, today, as well as the ekklēsia, today. I have more time for such matters than Walton. Perhaps I have more hope than he does that you and I could possibly reach some greater agreement than we have, so far. And you know what, I might not be 100% faithfully following Walton's argument. I may have made small corrections to render it more intelligible to me. But if that's all it took—small corrections—then your "(all of it negative, I regret to report)" is very suspicious. If.

Luke Breuer:

"Your treatment of me and Walton make it seem like you rather enjoy tearing people down. I hope this is an erroneous appearance."

Given Lydia's superior intellectual firepower, I think it's the opposite: from an abundance of charity she's often exercising self-restraint. She could be a even more devastating, but holds back. Keeps a lot in reserve.

Luke Breuer:

"My suspicion is that your resistance to even what I've tried to communicate (which is but a fraction of Walton's Lost World) was predicted by Walton and is why he chose not to further engage you. It would have taken a ton of his time, as you are strongly disposed to find nothing of value in what he said."

My suspicion is that Walton didn't engage her directly because he can't argue at her level. Pragmatically speaking, it's wiser not to engage an argument which you can foresee that you will lose. Better to quit while you're behind than lose your shirt.

steve hays,

i) Strictly speaking, it's irrelevant whether ancient Israelites cared about that. The OT frequently addresses issues which many ancient Israelites would rather ignore. The OT isn't primarily a product of what ancient Israelites cared about. Left to their own devices, they were just like other ANE pagans. That's why God had to take the initiative.

Do you think YHWH cared about [fixing] ANE science? Yes, or no?

ii) From what I've read, creation stories are pretty common among primitive people-groups throughout the world. There's a natural human curiosity about where we came from. So even from an a priori standpoint, it's to be expected that the Bible would have an account of how the world originated.

When one compares Genesis 1–2 to Enûma Eliš, does one see major differences with respect to material ontology, or functional ontology? I claim the biggest differences are functional, having to do with formal and final causation. I claim that those differences were key to the spread of justice, righteousness, mercy, and holiness. Bad science simply wasn't holding these things back. One of the biggest lies of our age is that we just need more science and lack of justice and mercy will be [appreciably] fixed.

One mark of the true God is that he is the absolute Creator of the world. And that's in studied contrast to the pagan pantheon. In heathenism, even the old gods, the high gods, are ultimately the product of an immemorial world process.

I do not disagree. I just don't think that the material and efficient causal aspects are important; indeed, they could be grossly wrong in Genesis 1–11 and I wouldn't care. Scientists frequently employ models which completely abstract away certain things; they talk about parallel conducting plates extending in infinite directions, or "spherical cows", because spheres are easy to calculate. Nobody cares that nothing is a perfect sphere or that there exist no such plates.

Seems to me the ancients shared that preoccupation. Take Mesopotamian floodworks, to control and channel the Tigris and Euphrates, in order to limit the damage caused by flooding from untamed rivers, as well as redirecting river water to irrigate farmland. The ancients took an interest in technology. They had to–to survive in a savage environment.

"cared about" ≠ "obsessed over"
"cared about" ≠ "considered most important"

iii) Finally, it's not uncommon for some theologians to downplay Biblical miracles because they don't believe in miracles or the historicity of the narratives recording them. But to maintain pious appearances, they turn their unbiblical skepticism into a theological virtue. That's a a standard offensive move. Bultmann deployed that tactic. "We're justified by faith, not by evidence!"

But in reality it camouflages the loss of faith.

I agree, this is not uncommon. Personally, I have never seen an argument like the one I have presented. It is predicated upon a view of power which seems entirely consonant with Mt 20:20–28 and Jn 13:1–20, a view of power which seems rarely heeded by Christians in my experience. Just look at how many read Mt 18:17 as saying "local church elders", instead of "church". Which definition is employed in a given church is probably better indicated by their actions than by their professions. A recent major incident at a well-known church probably escalated to the point that it did via this redefinition of Jesus' words. This redefinition expresses a belief that the congregation will never mature, contra Heb 5:11–6:3 and Eph 4:1–16, among other passages.

One of the results of this view of power, which also draws on 1 Cor 1:26–2:8, gets at God's preferred means of action. I think he prefers the "still small voice" of 1 Kings 19:9–18 to the booming and burning of Deut 5:22–27. I think he preferred that Moses learn to merely talk to rocks to get water rather than strike them, as a movement from coercive power to non-coercive power (Ex 17:6, Num 20:8–12). This view supports the idea of theosis, and understands that theosis will not be advanced by continual reliance on miracles.

Actually, my view is deeply threatening to static social orders. (Peter Berger talks about this in The Precarious Vision.) My view is deeply threatening to complacent Christianity which does not challenge every single believer to be "one who conquers", to pick up a refrain from the letters to the churches in Revelation. My view requires that Christians learn what is true, beautiful, good, and excellence without needing signs and wonders. I am happy for miracles to help us play "catch-up", to fast-forward through dealing with the consequences of sin. But I don't see them playing a permanent role in heaven, for example.

I have no doubt that Jesus had to die for my sins, and then had to be raised, bodily. Just today, I defended why his death had to be so brutal. I could have brought in Romans 8:16–17, a snippet which apparently scares so many Christians that it is rarely preached on. Suffer? But only Jesus really had to suffer! Well, maybe missionaries too, but not us in the comfy West! Now, if you trust that God will miracle us out of this nasty situation, maybe that'll be an excuse not to act as much as a power-through-weakness model would dictate. That is an idea worth exploring.

steve hays,

Given Lydia's superior intellectual firepower, I think it's the opposite: from an abundance of charity she's often exercising self-restraint. She could be a even more devastating, but holds back. Keeps a lot in reserve.

Then this is a formal request for her to exercise no self-restraint, except for the self-restraint required of her in order to speak the truth in love. Let her show what she thinks Paul meant by "Outdo one another in showing honor.", as well as his thoughts in 1 Cor 10:23–24. Let her actions define what these verses mean—or if she thinks they do not apply to Walton or me, then what verses she thinks do apply. Let her witness be that of how a Christian scholar can best emulate Jesus Christ in dealing with issues that really matter.

If Dr. McGrew thinks that I am acting like a Pharisee, let her unleash the fury of the anger of God on me. I have experienced much worse in life. And if her unleashing the most devastating of attacks glorifies God more than what she is doing now, let her do that as well. How could this possibly not be the best course of action for a Christian to take? Let's not play games, here. This is a warn not of flesh and blood, but of principalities and powers. Let is discern between what is καλός and what is κακός. Let us be "ones who conquer".

My suspicion is that Walton didn't engage her directly because he can't argue at her level. Pragmatically speaking, it's wiser not to engage an argument which you can foresee that you will lose. Better to quit while you're behind than lose your shirt.

That is quite a low opinion to take of another Christian. I prefer to hope the best I can, and set my level of interaction such that the other person can rise up to it. I dislike it when people paint a terrible picture of a person, and then are satisfied when that person sinks to it. "Ahah, I knew he was worthless!" Now, how you in general hope for other people, or don't hope for them, I do not know. But this comment of yours set of some alarm bells in my head.

If science's signs and wonders start to compete with the sign and wonder of Jesus' resurrection, then by your epistemic standard, one should switch allegiance to science upon this happening.

Switching allegiance to science. A telling phrase. As if there is, or could be, some conflict in allegiance.

And, no, I don't think raising a man to life again after three days will become possible by technological processes. And if, per impossible, it happened, it still would not be a competing explanation of what happened in 33 A.D., for fairly obvious reasons.

I don't read these that way at all. Instead, I say that if the material and efficient causation aspects of the story were wrong, that was irrelevant. YHWH was not interested in correcting ANE science.

There are a few specific points in each book where Walton falls back on this defense. (E.g. In the second book he uses it for Luke's calling Adam "the son of God" and treating him as literally the first man in Luke 3. In the first book he uses it with respect to the "firmament.") Most of the time, however, he argues with a fair degree of consistency that Genesis 1 was *not at all about* material origins and would not have been understood so to be. He has an entire chapter on it. Indeed, he tries to answer at length (and does this on the interview as well) the question of why the chapter (Genesis 1) could not be _both_ about material _and_ about functional origins. He says that it could be in theory but that in fact it isn't, and he gives arguments for why he thinks this. So, no, he is not saying _only_ what you attribute to him here. He is actually saying that Genesis 1 *is not* about material origins. It's one thing he is clear about and argues for at length. All you need to do is read him. It's there repeatedly.

See, I actually know this material--these two books of Walton's and both interviews on them. I know it extremely thoroughly. I can cite you chapter and verse, again and again and again. I've even read a fair proportion of the footnotes, for crying out loud! I just disagree with it profoundly.

It is curious that you think my single suggestion to ask Walton about Isaac constitutes a request to do the same with "all of one's criticisms".

I knock myself out writing a lengthy, careful critique of a scholar's book. I have no personal connection with him. You archly suggest that one of my arguments, which is *in the review* to which he was *welcome to respond* should have been delivered to him with a personal question as to what he thought about it? Why? Why that one? Why in that way? Was I supposed to have done that before I published the review, or would afterward do?

Really, this whole pretentious attempt to dictate terms, which evidently you make up as you go along, for a *scholarly disagreement* is pretty ridiculous.

Maybe I should have sent him one darned good argument per week in a hand-written letter on stationery, with an accompanying note saying, "I would so very much like to know your opinion about this." That and waiting for the replies would have taken only, oh, about a decade or so. While we're making stuff up.

Luke Breuer:

"That is quite a low opinion to take of another Christian. I prefer to hope the best I can, and set my level of interaction such that the other person can rise up to it. I dislike it when people paint a terrible picture of a person, and then are satisfied when that person sinks to it."

You have an amusingly oblivious habit of faulting others for the very thing you yourself indulge in. You have been imputing disreputable motives/conduct to Lydia.

I'm also not quite sure which Jesus you're suggesting she should emulate. Would it be this Jesus, perchance?

15 Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave[e] and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:15-17)?

I somehow doubt you wish Lydia to emulate that side of Jesus in her exchanges with you. Be careful what you ask for!

Dr McGrew,

Switching allegiance to science. A telling phrase. As if there is, or could be, some conflict in allegiance.

I'm quite aware of the many positions between complete concord and complete conflict. What I see out in the world is that science provides for people's perceived needs and wants, while Christianity tends to be powerless, of the 2 Tim 3:1–5-type "powerless". This deeply concerns me.

And, no, I don't think raising a man to life again after three days will become possible by technological processes. And if, per impossible, it happened, it still would not be a competing explanation of what happened in 33 A.D., for fairly obvious reasons.

That isn't really the point. (The date is irrelevant, unless you assert no aliens.) The point is whether Christianity is seen as providing anything of value. What it has to provide of value, right now, is a fundamental reorientation in something like the terms of formal and final causation.

Most of the time, however, he argues with a fair degree of consistency that Genesis 1 was *not at all about* material origins and would not have been understood so to be.

There are [at least] two ways to take such a statement:

1. Genesis 1 has no material origins content whatsoever.
2. The material origins content of Genesis 1 is irrelevant.

When someone says that X is not 'about' Y, this could mean 1. or 2. It doesn't make sense to me for Walton to truly argue 1. How does one think of function without material? I am not at all convinced that if we see him as saying 2., that his book doesn't make an awful lot of sense.

Is this actually an argument about Genesis 1:0, the state before "God created the heavens and the earth"? That is, between Genesis 1:0 and Genesis 1:1, you have ex nihilo creation of something like 'prime matter'. After that time, you have the giving of form (function) to that prime matter. After all, Genesis 1:2 says "The earth was without form". My suspicion is that if you asked Walton about the Genesis 1:0 → 1:1 transition, he'd agree that this is the creation of material. After that, it's all about giving of form, of function.

See, I actually know this material--these two books of Walton's and both interviews on them. I know it extremely thoroughly.

All I can say is that I seem to be drawing a lot of content out of it, such that your "(all of it negative, I regret to report)" is appearing like quite the exaggeration. I don't expect it to be perfect. Whenever someone advances a relatively new idea, it is bound to not be articulated perfectly. That's just how things work, in my experience. Ripping into people who advance new ideas, because they don't meet one's exacting standards, is a great way to stymie the advancement of new ideas. But again, perhaps despite what I think I've gotten out of Walton's book, it is all trash. Perhaps I'm a complete idiot. Your words certainly push far in that direction.

I knock myself out writing a lengthy, careful critique of a scholar's book. I have no personal connection with him. You archly suggest that one of my arguments, which is *in the review* to which he was *welcome to respond* should have been delivered to him with a personal question as to what he thought about it? Why? Why that one? Why in that way? Was I supposed to have done that before I published the review, or would afterward do?

I gave you the reason, by quoting the bit about Kuhn and finding "apparent absurdities in the text". You're welcome to respect that wisdom or ignore it. Perhaps it does not apply to this situation, perhaps it does. If I have the opportunity to converse again with Walton, I will ask him. I doubt he will respond to emails of mine, but once we hit a standstill, I might try to condense my version of how our discussion has gone, and ask Walton for comments.

You are under no obligations from me to do anything. What you are under obligation to do is obey Romans 12:10, 1 Cor 10:23–24, etc. Your actions will teach others what those verses mean [to you]. And they can test the fruits of your work, per Mt 7:15–20, to see whether your wisdom appears to be from above or below. I honestly don't particularly care what the academic scholarly standards are; I care what God's standards are. I find them out by seeing how people act according to various interpretations of scripture, and comparing the fruit thereof. Your actions and your words transmit to the world what you think it means to "follow hard after Jesus". And hey, maybe you're doing a better job of it than I am. I'm usually treated as the broken one, so I don't need to be viewed as 'right', here. I do take a tiny bit of comfort that Jesus was viewed as ugly and blameworthy (Is 53:1–3); this means that I'm not necessarily in the wrong. But perhaps I am.

Really, this whole pretentious attempt to dictate terms, which evidently you make up as you go along, for a *scholarly disagreement* is pretty ridiculous.

I am not attempting to dictate terms; this is another character assassination attempt, another imputation of evil. For it is evil to "insist on my own way", per 1 Cor 13:5. The Gentiles lord it over each other; it shall not be so among you. Mt 20:20–28. Let scripture judge me, Heb 4:12–13-style, if indeed I am transgressing it. But am I? Is the only valid interpretation of my words, a "pretentious attempt to dictate terms"? I don't think so, for I don't model my own intentions in that way. But perhaps you don't care about what I think of my intentions? I hope not.

I call a preview of Mt 12:36–37 down on both of us, in the here and now, as a foretaste of what is to come. God, teach us what these two verses mean! Let your cleansing fire burn away lies and falsehood and deceit, as well as worthless straw. Let the gold and precious metals of 1 Cor 3:10–15 be left behind. Will you pray this prayer with me, Dr. McGrew? "Where two or more agree..."

Maybe I should have sent him one darned good argument per week in a hand-written letter on stationery, with an accompanying note saying, "I would so very much like to know your opinion about this." That and waiting for the replies would have taken only, oh, about a decade or so.

At this point, I shall merely repeat myself:

It is curious that you think my single suggestion to ask Walton about Isaac constitutes a request to do the same with "all of one's criticisms".

and

    Kuhn sometimes uses the term "hermeneutic" in a weak sense to mean the type of sensitive reading that has always been considered essential in the hermeneutical tradition. The maxim that he offers to his students is one that we could find in almost any discussion of hermeneutics:
When reading the works of an important thinker, look first for the apparent absurdities in the text and ask yourself how a sensible person could have written them. When you find an answer, I continue, when those passages make sense, then you may find that the more central passages, ones you previously thought you understood, have changed their meaning.[47]
(Beyond Objectivism and Relativism, 21)
[47] Kuhn, Essential Tension, p. xii.

steve hays,

You have an amusingly oblivious habit of faulting others for the very thing you yourself indulge in. You have been imputing disreputable motives/conduct to Lydia.

Do please list them. Mt 7:1–5 is always in effect. In particular, I would like to see what I have said, that you see as imputing evil motives to Dr. McGrew. I never intended to do this, but there are always the options that: (i) I chose the wrong words; (ii) I am ignorant of my unconscious intentions.

Do please also indicate whether it matters whether I am transgressing a scriptural standard, as to whether another person is doing so and ought not do so. As far as I understand scripture, my sins do not legitimate another's sins. Whether or not I am obedient to Christ in no way justifies any disobedience to Christ of another follower of Christ. So while tu quoque has some purchase among those who do not profess to follow Jesus, it is absolutely toothless for disciples of Jesus Christ.

I somehow doubt you wish Lydia to emulate that side of Jesus in her exchanges with you. Be careful what you ask for!

Sir, I know precisely what I am asking for. If you, but more importantly if Dr. McGrew, thinks that Rev 6:15–17 is a more correct passage to employ than Rom 12:10 and 1 Cor 10:23–24, then let her follow her conscience, as the NT repeatedly adjures Christians to do.

What you are saying though, by calling Rev 6:15–17 into play, is that I am subject to God's wrath, which means that Jesus' blood does not cover me, which necessarily means that I am not a disciple of Jesus Christ. Did you want to make that claim? I propose to you that you and I also agree on this prayer:

I call a preview of Mt 12:36–37 down on both of us, in the here and now, as a foretaste of what is to come. God, teach us what these two verses mean! Let your cleansing fire burn away lies and falsehood and deceit, as well as worthless straw. Let the gold and precious metals of 1 Cor 3:10–15 be left behind. Will you pray this prayer with me, Dr. McGrew? "Where two or more agree..."

How does that sound?

Luke Breuer
"Do you think YHWH cared about [fixing] ANE science? Yes, or no?"

i) Yahweh cared about correcting false beliefs concerning the origin of the world and its inhabitants–as well as the origin of evil.

Israelites came out of ANE paganism. Pagans were enslaved by fear of high gods, low gods, local gods, tribal gods, patron gods, evil spirits, ancestral spirits, &c. They went to great lengths to manipulate (i.e. witchcraft) or placate (i.e human sacrifice) these many malicious, conniving deities.

It was necessary to set the record straight. There is one true God. One absolute Creator of the world. Everything and everyone else is a creature of Yahweh. There are no other divinities to supplicate or placate. Everything comes from Yahweh's hand.

It was necessary to reassign man to his true place in natural order. To explicate his true relation to God.

ii) You also posit the arbitrary notion that somehow God can't do two things at once. If he "fixes" ANE "science," then he has to wait a while before he can fix injustice.

"When one compares Genesis 1–2 to Enûma Eliš, does one see major differences with respect to material ontology, or functional ontology? I claim the biggest differences are functional, having to do with formal and final causation."

i) You're equivocating. Both are about material and functional ontology alike.

ii) Walton's position is incoherent. If Gen 1 teaches functional creation rather than material creation, then there's no obsolescent science in view. For obsolescent science presuppose a material description.

Walton can't consistently say both that Gen 1 narrates the antiquated depiction of a physical three-story cosmos and that Gen 1 only narrates functional fiats, not material fiats.

iii) I don't know why you take the Enûma Eliš, as a standard of comparison. It's really not a full-blown creation account. From what I've read, Marduk used to be the patron god of what was then a minor city-state (Babylon).

However, with the rise of the Babylonian empire, an earlier creation myth was redacted to retroactively legitimate the city of Babylon as the political and religious capital of the Babylonian empire. The Enûma Eliš supplies the backstory for Marduk's ascendancy to the top god in the pantheon, which serves the political function of making the city-state of Babylon the preeminent power center in the Babylonian empire.

Luke Breuer:

"Actually, my view is deeply threatening to static social orders…My view is deeply threatening to complacent Christianity."

Actually, you sound like a megalomaniac.

"What you are saying though, by calling Rev 6:15–17 into play, is that I am subject to God's wrath, which means that Jesus' blood does not cover me, which necessarily means that I am not a disciple of Jesus Christ."

I was responding to you on your own grounds. You said she should emulate Jesus. Well, Rev 6:15-17 is about Jesus.

Are you now admitting that your previous injunction was a hasty generalization?

Just an fyi for Lydia: Luke is a full-time commenter and as long as he is allowed to post comments, he will get the last word one way or the other - most likely by steadfastly ignoring your arguments while going off on several tangents at once and complaining how everyone is so mean to him, until you give up in frustration and exhaustion.

Luke,

Well, on my own blog, you say that it's obvious that Lydia is really calling Walton a "frickin' idiot" even though she said no such thing.

You are extraordinarily hung up on the idea that Lydia is wrong because nobody can be wrong about everything, and you've leveled all sorts of abstract charges against her. Now what did she actually say that was incorrect?

Do please list them...In particular, I would like to see what I have said, that you see as imputing evil motives to Dr. McGrew.

Okay.

I dislike it when people paint a terrible picture of a person, and then are satisfied when that person sinks to it. "Ahah, I knew he was worthless!" Now, how you in general hope for other people, or don't hope for them, I do not know. But this comment of yours set of some alarm bells in my head.

Oh, but hey, you're not "imputing" evil motives, just saying "Now now, be careful that you don't paint up a terrible picture of a person in order to character assassinate them...not that you'd NECESSARILY do that, but you know, just in case..."

My suspicion is that your resistance to even what I've tried to communicate (which is but a fraction of Walton's Lost World) was predicted by Walton and is why he chose not to further engage you. It would have taken a ton of his time, as you are strongly disposed to find nothing of value in what he said—"(all of it negative, I regret to report)".

She is "strongly disposed" to find nothing of value in what he said, as opposed to simply reading him and ACTUALLY finding nothing of value in what he said.

Your treatment of me and Walton make it seem like you rather enjoy tearing people down. I hope this is an erroneous appearance.

"You really seem to like being a jerk, but maybe I'm wrong. By the way, totally not implying anything here."

Do please list them...In particular, I would like to see what I have said, that you see as imputing evil motives to Dr. McGrew.

Okay.

I dislike it when people paint a terrible picture of a person, and then are satisfied when that person sinks to it. "Ahah, I knew he was worthless!" Now, how you in general hope for other people, or don't hope for them, I do not know. But this comment of yours set of some alarm bells in my head.

Oh, but hey, you're not "imputing" evil motives, just saying "Now now, be careful that you don't paint up a terrible picture of a person in order to character assassinate them...not that you'd NECESSARILY do that, but you know, just in case..."

My suspicion is that your resistance to even what I've tried to communicate (which is but a fraction of Walton's Lost World) was predicted by Walton and is why he chose not to further engage you. It would have taken a ton of his time, as you are strongly disposed to find nothing of value in what he said—"(all of it negative, I regret to report)".

She is "strongly disposed" to find nothing of value in what he said, as opposed to simply reading him and ACTUALLY finding nothing of value in what he said.

Your treatment of me and Walton make it seem like you rather enjoy tearing people down. I hope this is an erroneous appearance.

"You really seem to like being a jerk, but maybe I'm wrong. By the way, totally not implying anything here."

LB, when you write your _own_ extremely influential book, I will consider reviewing it. For now, I'm reviewing Walton's.

By the way, asa and bara both arguably refer to efficient causation all the time (even when asa means "do," as in "do your work" it means efficient causation), so taking it in that realm is not helpful to whatever it is you want to do, and a fortiori to what Walton wants to do.

Now, please stop filling my thread with all of what _you_ think, which you _just conjecture maybe_ is what Walton thinks. You're totally wasting my time. I will now focus on the one small part of your recent comments that has to do with Walton:

There are [at least] two ways to take such a statement:

1. Genesis 1 has no material origins content whatsoever.
2. The material origins content of Genesis 1 is irrelevant.

When someone says that X is not 'about' Y, this could mean 1. or 2. It doesn't make sense to me for Walton to truly argue 1. How does one think of function without material? I am not at all convinced that if we see him as saying 2., that his book doesn't make an awful lot of sense.

Indeed, how _does_ one think of function without material? Many reviewers have asked that. It's not a problem for Walton that I just happened to make up.

I answered this attempt to say that Walton can't be saying what he's saying at length in my review. I almost wonder if you read it. I will answer it again:

1)

–Walton interprets the seven days of Genesis 1 as literal, 24-hour days (pp. 91-92). This means that he is not adopting a day-age theory or a theory according to which the events in Genesis 1 take place over the long time periods postulated by modern science. In fact, he sees his literal interpretation of the week of days in Genesis 1 as an advantage of his position.

2) Walton nonetheless believes that his view is _compatible_ with the consensus of modern science. (Passim, I'll let you find that one for yourself.)

Please note how these two together _alone_ support the invisible divine decrees view. If you can't see that, I can't help you. There's a reason why actual YECs disagree with the consensus of modern science. But there's more.

3) Walton states explicitly that the material phase of creation could have taken an extremely long time, much longer than the literal week he interprets as the creation week.

The material phase nonetheless could have been under development for long eras and could in that case correspond with the descriptions of the prehistoric ages as science has uncovered them for us. (pp. 97-98)

Again, this means not just that "how God did it" in the creation week was irrelevant, but on this scenario, God must have "done it" in these long eras _before_ the creation week.

4) Walton states that it is perfectly plausible that everything was already functioning fully on a physical level _before_ the creation week, which, again, supports the invisible decrees interpretation.

There would be no reason to think that the sun had not been shining, plants had not been growing, or animals had not been present. These were like the rehearsals leading up to a performance of a play. (p. 98)

He likens what an observer would see in the creation week to "taking a campus tour" of a campus already in place. (See page number in op.)

5) Walton and followers have been frustrated when they mistakenly thought that William Lane Craig was _not_ taking Walton to say that the world was _already materially functioning_ at the time of the creation week. Interview on TLWOG1 1:11 Hence, presumably this means that his view is that the world _was_ already functioning *on the physical level* at this time.

6) You, without apparently even _reading_ the section of Walton on Genesis 1:1, baselessly conjecture this.

Is this actually an argument about Genesis 1:0, the state before "God created the heavens and the earth"? That is, between Genesis 1:0 and Genesis 1:1, you have ex nihilo creation of something like 'prime matter'. After that time, you have the giving of form (function) to that prime matter. After all, Genesis 1:2 says "The earth was without form". My suspicion is that if you asked Walton about the Genesis 1:0 → 1:1 transition, he'd agree that this is the creation of material. After that, it's all about giving of form, of function.

Now, this is an example of your modus operandi throughout this discussion. You *make stuff up* without doing the work to *look stuff up* and then you waste my time with it. No, you are wrong. In fact, Walton takes 1:1 to be an introduction which summarizes the entire chapter, _not_ a description of the creation of matter in a materially formless state which is then formed subsequently. He is explicit about his interpretation of 1:1. You just didn't look it up.

If the "beginning" refers to the seven-day period rather than to a point in time before the seven-day period, then we would conclude that the first verse does not record a separate act of creation that occurred prior to the seven days--but that in fact the creation that it refers to is recounted in the seven days. This suggests that verse 1 serves as a literary introduction to the rest of the chapter....Such a conclusion is also supported by the overall structure of the book of Genesis. p. 45

Moreover, Walton explicitly states that the translations "without form and void" and the like are misleading. In fact, he says, "One can see nothing in these contexts that would lead us to believe that tohu has anything to do with material form....Why then has the term been so consistently translated as a reference to the absence of material form?"

In other words, when he talks about absence of functions and the "formlessness" in verse 2, he does _not_ mean _material formlessnes_. You have to read him _carefully_. You are scarcely reading him at all!

So much for "what you suspect" about a "transition" between 1:1 and 1:2.

Now, LB, I'm getting a little fed up with your taking up so much of my time while not actually doing enough work. Some of this stuff was already in my main post, and you could have reasoned it through, followed my argument. E.g. How can Walton take the world to come into existence through long ages of science and also have the "creation" of Genesis 1 take place only in a single week? (My answer: Because the "creation" of Genesis 1 is the giving of invisible decrees, which he calls "giving functions.") You don't bother to grapple with actual arguments being made. You move on far too quickly to saying whatever the next thing is that _you_ want to say, and you do far too much making stuff up.

Stop doing that.

We rarely ever ban someone just for being a goldarned nuisance and a time-waster. Usually it requites a lot more than that. But you're pushing the envelope.

I think the warning from commenter Eusebius sounds extremely plausible concerning your usual modus operandi. And I have better things to do with my time. I have responded at length even in this comment only because Walton's view of invisible decrees _is_ very strange, and I wanted to bring together once more evidence for it for _others_ who might be interested.

Maybe I should make up some kind of test, LB, which would determine whether or not I keep as opposed to deleting your future comments. I'm musing on this. But whether I make this a test for anything or not, in sheer courtesy you should at a minimum acknowledge that I have replied to your baseless conjecture about Walton's interp. of Genesis 1:1 and that I have shown that conjecture to be outright false by actual quotation from the book. You should also apologize for wasting my time by making such a conjecture without looking up the relevant portion of the book. After all, there is an index of Scripture references in the back. It wouldn't have taken you long. You should also show some sign of _pondering_ Walton's _explicit statements_ that tohu (usually translated "formless" or "without form") _does not_ mean lacking material form. In other words, you want him to be doing one thing, which you think would be reasonable, and his words do not cooperate with what you want to impose. When you do this as hastily and casually as you do, with quite obviously so little actual work, it's very tedious and time-wasting. It's also tedious and time-wasting when you refuse to acknowledge that your arguments have been answered and instead hare off after something else.

Well, all the nihil obstat confirms is that the Encyclopedia contains nothing contrary to faith or morals, an extremely broad sentiment.

...And now I'm in the wrong thread. Mea culpa.

Lydia,

I just had to jump in with my own comment while it was fresh in my mind. This is just further evidence of how...confusing Walton can be about the concept of material creation versus function. Here he is in Proposition 2: "Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented", which is his brief review of the ANE creation mythology. He notes the following points from the "Egyptian Papyrus Insinger" (pages 30-31):

He created light and darkness in which is every creature...
He created day, month, and year through the commands of the lord of command.
He created summer and winter through the rising and setting of Sothis.
He created food before those who are alive, the wonder of the fields.
He created the constellation of those that are in the sky, so that those on earth should learn them.
He created sweet water in it which all the lands desire.
He created the breath in the egg though there is no access to it.
He created birth in every womb from the semen which they receive.
He created sinews and bones out of the same semen.

Then he says, "Though this text dates well into the Hellenistic period, the functional orientation is obvious." Really? I mean I do see the emphasis in some lines on function, but creating food and water seems like a straight-forward act of material creation!

Later, after he highlights some passages from the famous Babylonian Enuma Elish (including the "creation of the clouds, wind, rain, and fog") he says:

"In conclusion, analysts of the ancient Near Eastern creation literature often observe that nothing material is actually made in these accounts." Again, "nothing material" seems like a stretch and is then contradicted by one of his later statements: "Would they [ANE people] have believed that their gods also manufactured the material? Absolutely, for nothing can be thought to stand apart from the gods. But they show little interest in material origins. Such issues were simply insignificant to them."

Again, how does Walton know that ANE people made such a distinction between material origins and functional origins? Based on the passages he quotes, this distinction doesn't shine through -- if anything, what is clear is that ancient pagans thought they were at the mercy of the gods who created the world around them and who were responsible for that world staying bountiful, providing mild weather, creating new life, etc. Material and functional origins seem related to one another and therefore important to analyze together.

Exactly, Jeff!! Thanks for noting that. William Lane Craig and others have made the same point--that the ancients appear to be interested in material creation and functional creation together. Indeed, this is just common sense.

It would be _better_ in a sense for Walton to take a standard day-age view or the view I outlined and called a "moderate framework hypothesis" in my main post. This would allow him to admit that God _was_ creating both the physical forms and the functions in Genesis 1, which naturally go together, while merely downplaying the importance of the details as to how that was done. As I argue in the main post, I do not see Walton as providing any _more_ evidence for taking Genesis 1 in this vague sense, but at least the material-but-vague notion of creation in Genesis 1 does not run into the extreme problems with trying to define "giving functions" in completely non-material terms!

Since, in the running commentary, a fair amount of ink has now been spilt on the argument from miracles, perhaps this should be recast in a more systematic context. What is the evidentiary function of miracles? Are miracles just an accommodation to inveterate skeptics who demand a sign?

i) The Bible itself warns about the proliferation of false prophets. People who come speaking in the name of the Lord. They say God spoke to them and told them to tell you what you should do or not do, believe or disbelieve. Some of them are deceivers. Liars. Conmen. They themselves don't believe their own claims. They simply pose as religious figures.

Others are self-deluded. They really think God is sending them messages, even though that's not the case.

So one practical question is how to winow the wheat from the chaff.

ii) Apropos (i), how did ancient Israelites know that God spoke to Abraham? How did they know that God called Abraham out of Ur and made a covenant with Abraham? What's the evidence?

iii) One line of evidence would be indirect. They knew that God spoke to Abraham because they knew that God spoke to Moses. If Moses wrote the account of Abraham's life, then it comes down to his credibility rather than the credibility of Abraham, per se.

iv) And how did they know God spoke to Moses? Because God vouches for Moses by empowering him to perform miracles which mirror divine agency. God's word is attested by God's deeds. That's how the evidential value of miracles functions in the early chapters of Exodus.

v) Likewise, how did 1C Christians know that Jesus was the divine messiah? Same argument.

How did they know that Peter was divinely commissioned apostle?

a) There's a direct line of evidence: if Peter was a miracle-worker.

b) There's an indirect line of evidence: if Peter was chosen by a miracle-worker (i.e. Christ).

Even if, say, Matthew was not a miracle-worker, if he was chosen by Christ, then he is attested by Christ.

vi) One potential objection is that even if contemporaries of Moses or Christ were in a position to witness their miracles, later readers are not.

That, however, involves a chain-of-custody. Historical knowledge is generally based on testimonial evidence. I don't have to personally witness the gunfight at O.K. Corral to know that it happened. That event was vouched for by contemporaries. And we have contemporary records. Living memory of that event lingered for many years. Oral history was committed to writing.

vii) Complementing the argument from miracles is the argument from prophecy, which is a kind of miracle. Moreover, long-range prophecy can be a direct evidence for later readers who live to see the fulfillment. It was future to the original audience, but past to a later audience.

viii) In addition, it's not just a question of believing reports of miracles, or believing reported miracles from the distant past. Miracles aren't just a thing of the past. There's credible evidence for the intermittent occurrence of Christian miracles throughout the course of church history right up to the present.

ix) Another potential objection is that miracles and prophecies are not a sufficient proof of divine authorization inasmuch as evil spirits can empower humans to perform miracles or possess paranormal insight and foresight.

That, however, significantly narrows the range of explanatory options. It eliminates the status of the claimant as a mere charlatan. He's not just a garden-variety liar.

Rather, we've entered the realm of superhuman ability. So that's something to be taken more seriously.

x) Apropos (ix), it then becomes a question of how to distinguish messages from God from messages from evil spirits.

Evil spirits have a very different character than God. By the same token, messages from evil spirits have a very different character than messages from God.

xi) A final objection is that my argument makes assumptions about dating and authorship. That's true, and there's an abundant literature defending those assumptions.

All I'm doing is to sketch the outline of the general argument. The details can and have been penciled in elsewhere.

Maybe I should make up some kind of test, LB, which would determine whether or not I keep as opposed to deleting your future comments.

Feel free to do that; I will take this as a request for me to do a much more rigorous analysis of Walton's Lost World and probably also his Ancient Near Eastern Thought, before commenting further. This includes metadiscussion, unless you OK one more response to each of the various people who have engaged me.

I'm down with this plan; as I've stated repeatedly, I think this is an extremely important issue. I don't know if you're aware of Richard M. Weaver's 1948 Ideas Have Consequences, but he traces a lot of ills in society from the adoption of nominalism(!). It became a smashing success, contrary to Weaver's expectations. I think he got some stuff seriously correct, even if he exaggerated. I wonder if the over-emphasis on materialist ontologies over and above functionalist ontologies is in a similar category.

You should also apologize for wasting my time by making such a conjecture without looking up the relevant portion of the book. [...] In other words, you want him to be doing one thing, which you think would be reasonable, and his words do not cooperate with what you want to impose.

I frequently find that people get their ideas partially right, partially wrong. And so, I spend time trying to separate what is καλός from what is κακός. This means I do employ some amount of flexibility with interpretation, temporarily throwing out some parts to see if that results in the idea making much more sense to me. When I pursue this strategy, what I find is that "(all of it negative, I regret to report)" tends to be quite wrong. Tends to be.

I will apologize if this strategy is shown to be bad after the further research I mentioned above. I judge trees by their fruit, and that includes myself. I will do my best to heed the Holy Spirit. And regardless of what you do, I will pray a foretaste of Mt 12:36–37 and 1 Cor 3:10–15 on all of us. It would be nice if you would second that prayer, explicitly.

The activity of taking good parts and leaving aside bad parts of what a thinker writes must use parts of *what the person actually said and meant*. It can't involve radical reinterpretation. morphing to some view that is at most a distant cousin of the view the person vigorously advocated, followed by triumphantly stating that one "found some good" in his view and that anyone who said that no good was to be found was being uncharitable to the author. Indeed, if the author thought there were _other_ reasons to object to the distant cousin thus morphed from his words, he would be justifiably annoyed at having it foisted on him as "the good that was found" in his view when, in fact, it was not his view! That isn't how I will ever review anything. It would be blatantly irresponsible from a scholarly point of view.

I'm not sure what you mean by "this includes metadiscussion" (really, you needn't trouble to explain). I'm very happy for you to go and spend time on your own reading Walton if that is how you would like to spend your time rather than filling my threads with baseless and readily refutable conjectures about what he _might_ have meant. In fact, I would greatly prefer that. Meanwhile, I am busy thinking and writing about the books he actually wrote.

Luke Breuer:

"We are told in Mt 24:23–25 and Rev 13:11–15 that "mighty works" will be fraudulently produced."

That's a valid consideration in the abstract. But a basic problem with that objection is that few false prophets, cult-leaders, New Age gurus et al. (e.g. Buddha, Muhammad Joseph Smith, Bhagwan Rajneesh, Ron Hubbard, Benny Hinn, Jeane Dixon) even make it to Round 2. Precious few even pass that initial test. Either they don't perform miracles and don't make daring predictions which come true, or they make daring predictions which turn out to be false.

If a claimant can actually avoid being disqualified in the first round, then additional considerations come into play.

Dr. McGrew,

I've done a bit more reading, and think it's enough to say one more thing. Let's work off of this exchange:

Luke: Is this actually an argument about Genesis 1:0, the state before "God created the heavens and the earth"? That is, between Genesis 1:0 and Genesis 1:1, you have ex nihilo creation of something like 'prime matter'. After that time, you have the giving of form (function) to that prime matter. After all, Genesis 1:2 says "The earth was without form". My suspicion is that if you asked Walton about the Genesis 1:0 → 1:1 transition, he'd agree that this is the creation of material. After that, it's all about giving of form, of function.
Lydia: Now, this is an example of your modus operandi throughout this discussion. You *make stuff up* without doing the work to *look stuff up* and then you waste my time with it. No, you are wrong. In fact, Walton takes 1:1 to be an introduction which summarizes the entire chapter, _not_ a description of the creation of matter in a materially formless state which is then formed subsequently. He is explicit about his interpretation of 1:1. You just didn't look it up.

The first thing I will note is that you, Dr. McGrew, misread what I actually said. You appear to have read "Genesis 1:0" as "Genesis 1:1". That deeply distorts what I said; given that you really don't like when others distort what you have said, I should think you'd be careful not to do this to others. Now, let's pull in several bits from Walton's Ancient Near Eastern Thought:

Chaos and Order: The Precosmic Condition
    It is important to be careful with terminology here. Words like "chaos" and even the word I have been using freely, "cosmos," came from Greek and in that language carried certain nuances, which may or may not carry over into English usage. In early classical literature such as Hesiod's Theogony and Virgil's Aeneid, Chaos is personified as the primal state in which earth, sky, and seas were all merged.[10] More specifically, chaos is the opposite of cosmos, which refers tot he ordered whole.[11] It is this latter juxtaposition that is more evident in the ancient Near East. Egyptian philosophers conceived of the precreation state as opposite of the created state. "What lies outside the biosphere of earth, sky, and Duat is not 'nothingness' but a universe that is the antithesis of all that defines the world. It is infinite, where the world is bounded; formless and chaotic, where the world is shaped and ordered; inert, where the world is active; and wholly uniform in substance (water), where the world is materially diverse."[12] (184)

If you were to look up 'prime matter', you will find that it is remarkably similar to this "chaotic matter". In Genesis 1:1, what exists is something very much like 'prime matter'.

    It would perhaps be best to use terminology such as "precosmic" condition (with the earlier Greek understanding that "cosmos" implied order). The precosmic condition was not lacking in that which was material, it was lacking in order and differentiation. Thus the accounts regularly begin with a precosmic, unordered, nonfunctional world.[14] Creation then takes place by giving things order, function, and purpose, which is synonymous with giving them existence. Once established, the order that exists in the cosmos is constantly threatened with being undone. As a result creation is not restricted to a one-time event. Whether the jeopardy derives from the cosmic waters, form what we would term "natural" occurrences, from supernatural beings, from human behavior, or simply from the darkness of each night, the gods are responsible for reestablishing order day by day and moment by moment. (185–186)

This further establishes that 'prime matter' being what exists at the start of Genesis 1:1 makes a lot of sense.

    The interpretation the above analysis suggests is that the text asserts that in the seven-day initial period God brought the cosmos into operation (a condition that defines existence in the ancient worldview) by assigning roles and functions. Though theological belief based on all of Scripture may affirm that God made all matter of which the cosmos is composed (and that he made it out of nothing), lexical analysis does not lead to the conclusion that Genesis 1 is making such a statement by the use of bara'. The origin of matter is what our society has taught us is important (indeed, that matter is all there is), but we cannot afford to be distracted by our cultural ideas. Matter was not the concern of the author of Genesis. The author's concerns were much like those in the ancient Near East. There the greatest exercise of power of the gods was not demonstrated in the manufacture of matter, but in the fixing of destinies. (183)

Here, we see that by the time we're at the beginning of Genesis 1:1, all the material that's going to exist, already exists. And so, any creation of matter needs to happen between Genesis 1:0 and Genesis 1:1. There is zero contradiction between what I have said, and what I have quoted Walton as saying. I'll add one more thing:

    The precosmic condition in the Genesis account is described in Genesis 1:2 with the Hebrew expression tohu wabohu ("formless and empty'").[1] No one suggests that this verse indicates that matter had not been shaped or that the cosmos described in verse 2 is empty of matter. By logic alone the words could be seen to concern functionality, and analysis of the Hebrew confirms the conclusion that these terms indicate that the cosmos was empty of purpose, meaning, and function—a place that had no order or intelligibility. D. Tsumura concludes that "the term tohu seems to refer to a situation which lacks something abstract that should be there, such as worth, purpose, truth, profit and integrity."[2] (187)

Again, this fits perfectly within my representation of Walton's point. There is possible ambiguity with the term "matter had not been shaped"—what does he mean by 'shaped'? But if we look at the disordered, chaotic matter that was regularly seen to form the basis of creation in ANE cosmogenies, it is reasonable to assume that 'shaped' merely is a way of talking about bringing matter into existence. How can there be anything like a geometric 'shape', if the place "had no order or intelligibility"? No, what is in view here is something very like 'prime matter'.

And so, it looks like this particular situation is an example of you failing to carefully read what I have said. Let me narrowly quote to make this clear:

Luke: My suspicion is that if you asked Walton about the Genesis 1:0 → 1:1 transition [...]
Lydia: So much for "what you suspect" about a "transition" between 1:1 and 1:2.

There is at least one other instance where you flagrantly distorted what I said; search for "single suggestion". But there may be others, as well. And yet you make it out that I am the one not basing my arguments on "the evidence", that I am the one distorting, that I am the one forcing you to repeat yourself.

So, what is it I "made up", Dr. McGrew, in that quoted paragraph with which I started this comment?

Good point concerning 1:0 vs. 1:1. I did misunderstand you on that point. Apologies for the misunderstanding.

Nonetheless, you made up the stuff about material formlessness And I refuted it.

It is precisely the point about matter's "not being shaped" which you interpret to mean, wrongly, that he is saying that matter had not been brought into (material) existence. On the contrary, As I said:


Moreover, Walton explicitly states that the translations "without form and void" and the like are misleading. In fact, he says, "One can see nothing in these contexts that would lead us to believe that tohu has anything to do with material form....Why then has the term been so consistently translated as a reference to the absence of material form?"

In other words, when he talks about absence of functions and the "formlessness" in verse 2, he does _not_ mean _material formlessness_.

Tohu (formless) has nothing to do with material form and should not be taken to indicate the absence of material form.

I also have already refuted your interpretation (that the world lacked material form at the beginning of Genesis 1) by pointing out:

1) Walton says that the week in Genesis 1 is a literal week of 24-hour days, but
2) Walton says that his interpretation of Genesis 1 is fully compatible with the consensus of modern science,
3) Walton makes it quite clear (do a little work and see my quotations above) that the long aeons of material formation took place _before_ Genesis 1,
4) Walton and his followers insist that everything _was_ working normally, physically, _by the time of_ Genesis 1. (Hence, "formless and void" does not mean _physically formless_.)
5) Walton explicitly says that there is no reason to believe that an observer would not have seen the sun shining, the plants growing, etc., _already at the time of_ the creation week.

Therefore, matter was not _materially_ formless at the beginning of the creation week.

I have now repeated this refutation multiple times. All of your quotations from Walton are explicable by the fact that he _repeatedly_ uses phrase like "unordered" and "nonfunctional" in an invisible sense.

In fact, I repeat (again, again, again) Walton and his followers have been _annoyed_ at the very _suggestion_ which they misinterpreted a critic (William Lane Craig) of making of *precisely your view*--namely, they have been annoyed at the very suggestion that Walton holds that the world was _not_ already _physically_ functioning at the time of the creation week. This comes up in the interview (on TLWOG1) at 1:11.

I have repeated these points over and over again. You are impervious to argument on them. In fact, you ignore most of them.

I apologize for the misunderstanding concerning Genesis 1:0 vs. 1:1, but there is much other evidence here that I have brought again and again, which you persistently ignore.

Stop doing that or go away, long-term. It's wasting everyone's time, yours included.

For instance, one doesn't need satellite photography to know that the world didn't end at the edge of the local mountain range. Likewise, that a solid sky didn't rest on the mountaintops. Scaling the mountain or traveling through a mountain pass would reveal that Walton's reconstruction of ancient cosmography was false.

Did the world have an edge or did they know it was a sphere? Were the heavens the abode of the gods? Why was Yahweh at Mt. Sinai if mountains and volcanoes were not considered supernatural places?

You're interpreting Genesis based on medieval Kabbalism?

No, it was simply interesting and I like to comment on interesting things.

Since you admit that you're uneducated in ancient languages, how are you qualified to dispute the accuracy of the scholars I referred you to?

Genesis 3:14-15 is nonsensical if the Hebrew word does not reference a snake, so either it's okay to omit sections of the Genesis account or it isn't.

Dr. McGrew,

It is precisely the point about matter's "not being shaped" which you interpret to mean, wrongly, that he is saying that matter had not been brought into (material) existence.

No, this is not what I said! Re-examine:

Luke: Is this actually an argument about Genesis 1:0, the state before "God created the heavens and the earth"? That is, between Genesis 1:0 and Genesis 1:1, you have ex nihilo creation of something like 'prime matter'. After that time, you have the giving of form (function) to that prime matter. After all, Genesis 1:2 says "The earth was without form". My suspicion is that if you asked Walton about the Genesis 1:0 → 1:1 transition, he'd agree that this is the creation of material. After that, it's all about giving of form, of function.
Luke: If you were to look up 'prime matter', you will find that it is remarkably similar to this "chaotic matter". In Genesis 1:1, what exists is something very much like 'prime matter'.
Luke: This further establishes that 'prime matter' being what exists at the start of Genesis 1:1 makes a lot of sense.
Luke: Here, we see that by the time we're at the beginning of Genesis 1:1, all the material that's going to exist, already exists.

How could I have been more clear? It appears that you misinterpreted the following:

Luke: There is possible ambiguity with the term "matter had not been shaped"—what does he mean by 'shaped'? But if we look at the disordered, chaotic matter that was regularly seen to form the basis of creation in ANE cosmogenies, it is reasonable to assume that 'shaped' merely is a way of talking about bringing matter into existence.

Now, carefully recall this:

    The precosmic condition in the Genesis account is described in Genesis 1:2 with the Hebrew expression tohu wabohu ("formless and empty'").[1] No one suggests that this verse indicates that matter had not been shaped or that the cosmos described in verse 2 is empty of matter. By logic alone the words could be seen to concern functionality, and analysis of the Hebrew confirms the conclusion that these terms indicate that the cosmos was empty of purpose, meaning, and function—a place that had no order or intelligibility. D. Tsumura concludes that "the term tohu seems to refer to a situation which lacks something abstract that should be there, such as worth, purpose, truth, profit and integrity."[2] (Ancient Near Eastern Thought, 187)

What Walton is asserting is that matter indeed had been shaped. But what would it mean to assert that "matter had been shaped [by Genesis 1:2]"? That matter had already been brought into existence. Now revisit what I said:

Luke: There is possible ambiguity with the term "matter had not been shaped"—what does he mean by 'shaped'? But if we look at the disordered, chaotic matter that was regularly seen to form the basis of creation in ANE cosmogenies, it is reasonable to assume that 'shaped' merely is a way of talking about bringing matter into existence.

So I see no necessary disagreement between Walton and me. I found a way to resolve the ambiguity such that there is no necessary disagreement.

In other words, when he talks about absence of functions and the "formlessness" in verse 2, he does _not_ mean _material formlessness_.

Tohu (formless) has nothing to do with material form and should not be taken to indicate the absence of material form.

I do not disagree with anything here. I never did. What I slightly dislike is the use of 'form', because what is actually true is that at Genesis 1:2, you have material and perhaps efficient causation (I'm not sure prime matter actually has efficient causation, but I'm not sure it's important), with zero formal causation and zero final causation. The potential for confusion between "material form" and "formal causation" is quite inconvenient. To use Walton's terminology, the material existed, but no function(s) existed. Going further (see the other quotations I gave from Ancient Near Eastern Thought), there may not have been any order, either. It may have been true prime matter. I don't [yet] have a rigorous model for what else it is allowed to be and not allowed to be, and lack 'function'.

I have repeated these points over and over again.

In one post, I repeatedly said that [prime] matter existed by Genesis 1:1, three times, and you ignored those three times, finding the one complex time where I also said that matter existed by Genesis 1:1, but it was a bit convoluted because there was effectively a double negative in play, and ambiguity about what it means to "give form to matter".

So please, don't think that you are the only one who has to repeat oneself. It simply isn't true.

Step2:

"Did the world have an edge or did they know it was a sphere?"

Once again, you have difficulty following the argument.

i) According to Walton, Gen 1 reflects a flat-earth, three-story cosmography–because that's how the world appeared to earthbound ANE observers.

The sky appears to be a dome, which keeps the cosmic ocean from inundating the earth. Rain passes through sluice gates in the dome. The sky is supported by mountains that encircle the flat disk of terra firma. The view he imputes to the narrator presumes that the world had an edge.

It's irrelevant to my argument whether or not the narrator and/or the original audience knew that the earth was a spherical.

The point, rather, is that what they were in a position to know, as a matter of common experience, is inconsistent with the view that Walton imputes to them. They don't need to know that the earth is spherical to know that the view he imputes to them was unrealistic.

You need to work at being logical.

The tripledecker cosmography is all of a piece. If you take away one or two pieces, it falls apart. If the sky is not a dome, if it doesn't physically rest on mountains–like post and lintel construction–then that alone is sufficient to dismantle the entire conception.

"Were the heavens the abode of the gods? Why was Yahweh at Mt. Sinai if mountains and volcanoes were not considered supernatural places?"

i) Once again, that comment reflects your inability to focus on the question at issue. The real point is whether the evidence available to ANE observers was sufficient to disprove the cosmography that Walton imputes to them. It's an architectural conception. Like a building, it collapses if you remove key parts.

ii) In addition to the irrelevancy of your question, your question is also confused. To begin with, if you were to read Exodus with any care, you'd see that Mt Sinai was not Yahweh's dwelling. Rather, there's a theophany that temporarily envelops Mt. Sinai for that special occasion. It's just the opposite of being Yahweh's residence.

iii) Moreover, if you were more attentive to the text, you'd notice that that's just one of many ways in which God manifests himself in the Pentateuch. It may be on a mountain, in a garden, in the Sinai desert. As an angel, a fiery pillar, the Shekinah, &c.

"Genesis 3:14-15 is nonsensical if the Hebrew word does not reference a snake, so either it's okay to omit sections of the Genesis account or it isn't."

i) To begin with, you don't bother to say how you interpret Gen 3:14-15. So there's no way of telling why you think that would be "nonsensical."

ii) Let's take a wild stab at your interpretation. I'm guessing you think it's an etiological fable for why snakes are nonpedal.

If so, it's actually your own interpretation of the curse that's nonsensical. Assuming (ex hypothesi) that the tempter was a snake, it was a talking snake, a rational snake. A snake that overheard and understood God forbid Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge. That's how it knew how to single out the tree of knowledge when it questioned Eve.

But if the curse simply changed pedal snakes into nonpedal snakes, then you'd have nonpedal talking snakes. But I daresay no one in the ANE ever encountered a talking snake, with or without legs. So on the ophic interpretation, surely the bigger question is not how snakes lost their legs, but how snakes lost their capacity to speak and reason. Hence, if Gen 3:14-15 is a just-so story, it fails to explain the most striking development in the history of snakes.

iii) I think the curse is using serpentine symbolism, the way Rev 12 uses serpentine and reptilian (or draconian) symbolism for the Devil.

iv) BTW, it's ironic that we're discussing this in the context of Walton, for he himself doesn't think the curse is about a change in ophic morphology. Rather, he points out that ancient Near Easterners used imprecations to make venomous snakes assume a docile posture (lying flat, head down), in contrast to an aggressive posture (raised to strike).

v) Finally, psychiatrist M. Scott Peck had two patients referred to him. Based on differential diagnosis, he concluded that they were possessed. He organized a team to perform exorcisms. At the height of possession, one patient would take on a reptilian appearance while the other patient would take on a serpentine appearance.

He discusses this in Glimpses of the Devil: A Psychiatrist's Personal Accounts of Possession, Exorcism, and Redemption–as well as a beliefnet interview: 'The Patient Is the Exorcist'.

Breuer is derailing the topic of the post. The original topic wasn't how to interpret Breuer, but how Walton understands and misunderstands Gen 1.

Breuer seems to fancy himself a fixer whose self-appointed role in life is to be a theological peacemaker. The church is too polarized. His mission is to explain one side to the other side. Mr. Spock bringing the Klingons and Romulans into the Federation.

However, I don't recall anyone nominating Breuer to play ambassador. His self-referential comments are just a tiresome distraction from the analysis of Walton and the meaning of Gen 1-3.

steve hays,

The original topic wasn't how to interpret Breuer, but how Walton understands and misunderstands Gen 1.

Well, if I'm attempting to defend Walton, and Dr. McGrew grossly misinterprets me in that attempt, then she damages my ability to defend Walton. She can choose to care about this or not care about this.

However, I don't recall anyone nominating Breuer to play ambassador.

Oh really?

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5:16–21)

Do say if you think Paul meant to exclude the reconciling of Christian with Christian. As to peacemakers:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Mt 5:9)

I'm with those who say that the reason Jesus said this is that people tend to hate on peacemakers, which is precisely what you are doing, right now.

P.S. I did appreciate the Star Trek reference. I wonder if you meant to include the emotionlessness of Spock, or if that came along for the analogy-ride.

LB, quite frankly, I have no time to go through all the "nots" on the times when you were or weren't saying that Walton would have been saying that matter did not exist, etc. This time, I did not misinterpret you. I _know_ you think he's saying that prime matter existed by Gen. 1:1. I'm pointing out that it wouldn't just have been unformed prime matter. It would have been the whole shooting match--birdies, sun, etc., etc., that existed at the beginning, based on plenty of other evidence.

To cut the cackle and come to the horses: Walton _cannot_ be saying that there was "zero formal causation" if the sun is shining, the plants are growing, the animals are running around, the ecosystem is all working, and all an observer would do is "take a campus tour" and see it all already in place and physically working. He has made it _quite clear_ that it is a _misunderstanding_ of him to think that all of this was _not_ happening at the beginning of the creation week. Therefore it was _not_ a physically chaotic situation with no _physical_ functions prior to the creation week. It is not a situation where there is "prime matter" that has to be given formal causation, etc. All that would not be happening and all working _physically_ if, say, the birds had no "formal causation." If there were unformed prime matter at the beginning, then there _would_ be a reason to think that all these things weren't happening, but Walton says there _wouldn't_ be a reason to think that all these things would not be happening. He is actually pretty darned clear on pp. 97-98. He says that God was at work in whatever "long eras" may (according to science) have _preceded_ the creation week, but that the fact that everything (at the beginning of the creation week) is all physically in place is like a "play rehearsal" which takes on "meaning" only through what goes on in the creation week. It is that divine "meaning-giving" that he calls "function-giving" elsewhere and that causes so much confusion (since a reader might naturally take "function-giving" to involve physical change). I have cleared that confusion up again and again by pointing to these clearer passages, the discussion in the interview in response to Craig, and so forth. Your interpretation will not fly, I have made it excruciatingly clear _why_ it will not fly, and you need to _stop ignoring the argument_.

I am quite seriously thinking about whether it is possible to ban somebody for being _this_ dense and _this_ time-wasting. Maybe not. We're pretty reluctant about banning people around here. But you're truly cluttering the thread, because the argument has been _made_ already and is quite decisive, and it's not just that you reject it. You act like it isn't there. Maybe you literally can't understand it. I don't know. But you seem like you should be able to. So stop.

I don't [yet] have a rigorous model for what else it is allowed to be and not allowed to be, and lack 'function'.

Get back to me when you manage to figure out that Walton thinks that it can LOOK JUST LIKE EVERYTHING IS WORKING GREAT IN THE ENTIRE EARTHLY ECOSYSTEM while still lacking "function." Yeah, normally people don't think that would be "lacking function" in any sense at all. Walton does think so. If you cannot understand this by paying attention to the arguments and quotations I have given (and picking up the book itself and reading the passages to which I have directed your attention, and listening to the interview podcast at the point I've directed your attention to), I cannot help you anymore.

Lydia,

I am quite seriously thinking about whether it is possible to ban somebody for being _this_ dense and _this_ time-wasting

Well, the alternative is to just give him the last word. He wants to "win" somehow, and if he can whine a little in his typical holier-than-thou fashion without being contradicted by someone, he´ll probably count that as a win and lose interest in the thread.
IMO, you can give him the last word and it would still be obvious to any rational observer that Luke Breuer has no arguments against your position (or doesn´t even understand it) and is simply wasting everyone´s time.

Thanks for the advice, E.! I may just take it.

Step2:

"Were the heavens the abode of the gods? Why was Yahweh at Mt. Sinai if mountains and volcanoes were not considered supernatural places?"

Once more, that evinces your inability to step outside your conditioning and imagine the experience of ANE observers. Ancient people scaled the local mountains, you know. We're not talking about inaccessible Himalayan peaks.

For instance, there are archeological remains of buildings on the summit of Mt. Hermon. Ancient mountain-climbers didn't find any gods up there when they got to the summit. No mountaintop palace for divinities.

Actually, Luke, I was remarking on your pretensions. Play-acting isn't reality.

It's just the opposite of being Yahweh's residence.

To begin with, if you were to read my comment with any care, you’d see that I didn’t claim Mt. Sinai was the residence of Yahweh. I clearly stated that the ANE view was that the gods reside in the heavens (among the starry skies). There were however supernatural places where the gods were prone to manifest, in a sense acting like a courtroom for a judge where his authority is made manifest.

The Greeks believed their gods resided atop Mt. Olympus since it was considered unclimbable, but there is evidence they traveled to nearby mountaintops where they very clearly saw the barren peak yet they still left offerings to the gods.

So on the ophic interpretation, surely the bigger question is not how snakes lost their legs, but how snakes lost their capacity to speak and reason.

In fables and myths irrational animals frequently speak and use reason. Are you suggesting that all such stories required those narrators and audiences to expect other animal species to communicate in human language? Secondly, you are overlooking a mystical solution already present in the story, the snake could have eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge.

"To begin with, if you were to read my comment with any care, you’d see that I didn’t claim Mt. Sinai was the residence of Yahweh. I clearly stated that the ANE view was that the gods reside in the heavens (among the starry skies)."

No, that's not what you did. Rather, you posed a rhetorical question with an implicitly negative answer: ""Were the heavens the abode of the gods?"

"The Greeks believed their gods resided atop Mt. Olympus since it was considered unclimbable."

How do you know that ancient Greeks considered it unclimbable? From what I've read, even hikers who aren't mountaineers climb Skolio.

"…yet they still left offerings to the gods."

Which doesn't imply that they thought their gods resided atop Mt. Olympus. Rather, that could just as well be a divine visitation.

In any case, you can't simply extrapolate from Greek religion to OT religion.

"In fables and myths irrational animals frequently speak and use reason. Are you suggesting that all such stories required those narrators and audiences to expect other animal species to communicate in human language?"

You suffer from a persistent inability to follow the argument. According to the etiological interpretation, the curse explains the origin of ophic nonpedality. Supposedly, ancient people wondered why snakes were nonpedal.

If, however, you insist that the tempter in Gen 3 is a snake, then the curse fails to explain the origin of mute snakes. So the etiological interpretation fails to explain how ordinary snakes derive from tempter in Gen 3.

"Secondly, you are overlooking a mystical solution already present in the story, the snake could have eaten the fruit from the tree of knowledge."

i) The tree of knowledge doesn't confer speech or reason. Adam and Eve already had those abilities prior to eating the forbidden fruit.

ii) The "mystical solution" is irrelevant to the nature of the curse. You have a bad habit of grasping at miscellaneous notions that have no exegetical basis or explanatory value in reference to the issue at hand.

Rather, you posed a rhetorical question with an implicitly negative answer: ""Were the heavens the abode of the gods?"

You are correct, it was a rhetorical question and for that I apologize. However the implicit answer was positive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religions_of_the_ancient_Near_East#Astrology

How do you know that ancient Greeks considered it unclimbable?

It is likely they thought so but nobody is certain. The first recorded climb to the peaks Pantheon and the Throne of Zeus (aka Mytikas and Stefani) occurred in 1913 after two failed attempts by a French archaeologist and a German explorer in the 1800's. The ancient Greeks also had a legend about a mortal hero Bellerophon who tried to ride Pegasus to the peaks but was instead thrown from the sky and nearly killed, a way to warn potential mountaineers against approaching the gods.

If, however, you insist that the tempter in Gen 3 is a snake, then the curse fails to explain the origin of mute snakes. So the etiological interpretation fails to explain how ordinary snakes derive from tempter in Gen 3.

There isn't an explanation given for why the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs was lost, it just was.

The tree of knowledge doesn't confer speech or reason.

Try to think about how much knowledge you could have without language or reason. See the problem?

Adam and Eve already had those abilities prior to eating the forbidden fruit.

Their (apparent) inability to self-reflect indicated by their nakedness suggests their language and reason were very limited.

The "mystical solution" is irrelevant to the nature of the curse.

Maybe, but it is relevant to the overall meanings of the narrative.

Step2:

"There isn't an explanation given for why the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs was lost, it just was."

That's a specious comparison. As usual, you're not tracking the argument.

The etiological interpretation treats the cursing of the snake as an explanation for why snakes don't have legs. On that interpretation, it is meant to be explanatory. Hence, your comparison fails.

"Try to think about how much knowledge you could have without language or reason. See the problem?"

Adam and Eve already had language and reason without eating the forbidden fruit.

"Their (apparent) inability to self-reflect indicated by their nakedness suggests their language and reason were very limited."

They had no occasion to feel unduly conscious of their appearance until they disobeyed.

"Maybe, but it is relevant to the overall meanings of the narrative."

The "mystical interpretation" isn't stated or implied in the narrative.

Hi Lydia,
It has been awhile since I checked this thread, but after reading all the comments after I first responded to your review of John Walton, I am glad I waited. Apparently, I am not alone in agreeing with you regarding the excessive levels of ambiguity and theological contradiction Walton proposes in his novel theories on Genesis 1 & 2. I remain fully convinced that he has no problem making his opinions public, but surprisingly winces at the thought of public scrutiny, as if he is above that somehow. This makes absolutely no sense at all and is part of the problem "with the world," whether he admits or not. You might find it interesting, but I had a former professor in Seminary who was a Walton fan. I politely challenged his support of Walton and called into question Walton's views on functional versus creative elements, among other things. I nicely asked him for his evidence to substantiate his interpretation and my Professor promptly flew into a rage and sent me a nasty email for which he later had to apologize for. As the adage goes, "where there's smoke, there's fire," and Walton has a special gift for whatever it is he has which stirs the pot of hermeneutics to a frothy boil. I intend to publish a rebuttal to Walton's interpretation sticking with the facts. Please let me know if you would be interested in working on a manuscript. My direct email is davidcrewsphd@gmail.com

All the best,

David

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