Thursday, January 08, 2009

Review: Coming to Grips with Genesis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coming to Grips with Genesis

To God be all glory.

1 comment:

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