Bible Review – “The Memorization Study Bible” by Thomas Meyer

MSB main

I love various study Bibles.  I also love memorizing the word and looking at different techniques and methods people use.  When I found out that fellow Wordsower Tom Meyer was releasing a Bible that could help guide people through methods on memorizing God’s word, I was excited for an opportunity to review it.

Tom Meyer is a great person to put together a Memorization Study Bible, as he has personally memorized over 20 books of the Bible.  He has also studied memorization techniques used over Jewish and Christian history.

Meyer establishes his techniques on what he calls the “three pillars of memorization”: Seeing the text in 8 words or less, reading out loud/hearing, and writing the text down.  He has explained that one can use any or all of those pillars, though he personally uses all three as he commits Scripture to memory.

The Memorization Study Bible is a (King James Version) KJV New Testament, but it has a unique layout, which I will discuss later in the review.

MSB Back Cover

There are notes from the author before the Bible text.  These notes include the following (all information in parentheses is mine): Memorization Matters (quotes from other Christians about memorization); a Quick Start guide; Timely Tips; A Word of Encouragement; The Memorization Method; Why It Can Make a Difference; The Process (a breakdown of how the Memorization Study Bible is set up); and Simple Science of Memorization — You Can Do This!  This initial section is very encouraging to read and builds the memorizer’s confidence.

The books of the Bible are next, followed by 7 appendices (all information in parentheses is mine): Seven Short Scriptures (to memorize); Sin to Salvation in Ten Verses; Popular New Testament Chapters (to consider memorizing); Important New Testament Verses; Historical Development of Bible Memorization; Techniques Used to Memorize in Judaism; Techniques Used to Memorize in Christianity.

MSB TOC

Each book of the Bible has an introduction that includes a breakdown of how many chapters and verses are in the book, some basic background to the book, specific aspects of how the book contributes to our understanding of the Bible, and a few quotes from others (such as commentaries) about the book.

MSB Book Intro

The key difference between this Bible and others is its layout.  This Bible is double columned (like most Bibles, although some are single-column Bible now).  Most Bibles, however, either have a verse-by-verse format (each verse is its own paragraph) or a paragraphed layout.  This Bible, in keeping with the author’s goals, breaks verses down into lines of 8 or fewer words.  Each new line attempts to begin with a preposition or conjunction.  Numbers mentioned in the Bible stand alone as their own line.  The goal is to present the Scripture in more memorable lines, lines short enough that the eye can take them in quickly and the mind can retain them.

These lines are what Tom Meyer encourages people to focus on when memorizing; one small bit at a time.  He encourages memorizers to read the line, copy it by hand, and say it out loud repeatedly until they have it, then move on to the next line.

MSB Sample Page

I think the Memorization Study Bible is a great tool to help people memorize Scriptures.  It will be especially useful to those who read the King James Version of the Bible.  Those who use another translation, however, have a few options if they would like this Bible: They can memorize the KJV, even though they do not read that version; they can use this Bible for the intro, book information, and appendices only; or they can use the ideas in this Bible to try to divide up the version they prefer so they can apply these ideas in order to memorize it.  I have not personally tried dividing up another version this way, but it seems like it would work as long as you keep the number rule in mind and try to find prepositions or conjunctions to use to divide the verses up.

The Memorization Study Bible retails for $19.99, and I think it is definitely worth the price.  I, for one, am glad to have another tool to recommend to other believers when they ask me for tips on committing more Scripture to memory.  If you want to be encouraged to memorize more and if you are looking for some techniques that have been tried and successfully used, look no further than this Bible!

You can purchase a copy from the publisher here.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.  

Advertisements

Book Review – “Satan and the Problem of Evil” by Gregory A. Boyd

Satan and the Problem of Evil

*To read my review of the first book in this two-book set, please click here.

I am going to preface this review as I did the first one:  Boyd’s book is both large and complex.  No review I could write would be able to do it justice, and I do run the risk of misunderstanding or misrepresenting something he holds to, though I will certainly try not to.  While I will try to give enough insight to guide anyone’s choice on whether or not to read the book, I am sure any review I write will seem to be overlooking or oversimplifying quite a bit, and there is no way not to.  Boyd’s writing is very deep.

This is the second book in Greg Boyd’s Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy explanation.  The first book, with the review linked above, was called God at War, and in that book, Boyd sought to establish that the overarching viewpoint the Bible espoused from Genesis to Revelation was one of warfare between God and Satan.  Through this viewpoint, Boyd argued, we would have the best chance of understanding why evil exists in the world.  Boyd set up his view in opposition to what he called the “blueprint worldview” that would be taught most strongly from a Reformed/Calvinistic standpoint and still espoused (albeit less strongly) in a traditional Arminian worldview.  The main goal of Boyd’s first book was merely establishing that the Bible contained a warfare paradigm.  But it did not delve too deeply into how that would play out in the problem of evil, necessarily.

This second book, Satan and the Problem of Evil, seeks to do just that.  In this book, Boyd seeks to explain the finer details of how this warfare worldview would be a better explanation of why evil exists in the world than a blueprint worldview.

The book itself is 456 pages long.  This includes the book itself, 5 appendices, a glossary of terms, a bibliography, and author/subject index, and a scripture index.  There is one major adjustment to the layout of this book that I love, and that is that the notes are throughout as footnotes on each page rather than as endnotes in the back of the book.  Since Boyd uses quite a few notes, I think this was a great publishing choice, as it made it easier to check the notes without having to flip to the back of the book each time.  I appreciated that greatly.

The first part of the book focuses specifically on the issues of God’s sovereignty, God’s foreknowledge, and the free will of personal beings (humans, angels, demons, and Satan), especially as these relate to the problem of evil.  If you have not read God at War, Boyd does offer a much abbreviated overview in the first chapter, but it really helps to have read the first book prior to this one.

As Boyd discusses free will, he sees it as a necessary component of God’s creating people who could truly choose to love Him.  Boyd sees this free will as necessary and irrevocable.  But he does still see the freedom as limited (after all, there is only one completely free being, and that is God; all other freedom is granted by Him to beings).

It is in this first part of the book that Boyd really looks into the contrast between a divine blueprint view (especially as it requires “eternal divine foreknowledge”) and an open view of God’s knowledge.  The open view teaches (as I understand it) that God can fully know the past and present, but cannot completely know the future, as it is not yet determined by creatures with freedom.  God may be able to know all possibilities of what creatures will choose, but until they choose, the future does not exist in actuality, so God cannot know that perfectly.  This is not a limitation on God’s part, but is something God chose to set in place by allowing creatures to have non-compatabilist freedom.  To Boyd (and others who hold to the open view of God’s knowledge), this does not weaken God.  Rather, it shows His strength and power because despite not knowing how creatures will choose, God is so wonderful and sovereign that He will still bring about His ultimate will, and can redeem anything creatures do, even evil actions.

Here is the biggest difference in the trinitarian warfare theodicy Boyd espouses and a blueprint worldview.  A blueprint worldview sees every evil action as being at least permitted by God (with His foreknowledge that it would occur) if not ordained by Him.  In either case, every evil action is a part of God’s larger plan from the very beginning.  The view Boyd argues for is that because we are in a war zone, with God at variance with some evil free creatures, there are some things that happen for no purpose.  Still, God is able (as Romans 8:28 states) to bring good out of every evil occurrence eventually.

The hinge is really that God chose to allow the risk of creaturely evil against His will in order to give personal beings the choice to either love or reject Him, and the only way to guard this choice was to permit the possibility of evil and continue to allow it.

Boyd would be quick to point out that God can, and sometimes does, intervene in situations, but that He does not always do so, and we cannot understand all the various reasons why this occurs.  Many things can impact whether or not God intervenes, from His overall purposes to the prayers of others to even “chance” occurrences (set up, of course, by prior actions).  So while God does not always intervene, He does sometimes, and we cannot fathom all the reasons that go into why the intervention sometimes occurs and sometimes does not.

Part 2 focuses on miracles, natural evil, and even tackles the concept of suffering in the afterlife.  Boyd does argue that supernatural beings can occasionally be behind “natural” evil, as we think of it.  He also tackles the idea of eternal conscious torment versus annihilation in the afterlife, coming up with a combined view that people do suffer forever, but they do so in a sort of self-contained existence, where they cease to exist to anyone but themselves.  He alludes greatly to C. S. Lewis and The Great Divorce for some of these ideas, and, while I don’t know whether I accept them fully or not, I do admit the concepts were intriguing.

There are 5 appendices in the book.

The first deals with remaining objections to his trinitarian warfare theodicy, including arguing whether it works on a practical level; that is, does it provide comfort to those who are suffering.  I was quite surprised to find myself agreeing that it is possible that an open view of God’s knowledge could provide better comfort than a blueprint worldview.  I think Boyd did an outstanding job of explaining his perspective there.

The second deals with philosophical arguments regarding the incompatibility of eternal define foreknowledge and self-determining free will.

The third deals with the idea of incomplete probationary periods and the possibility of salvation after death.

The fourth deals with a theology of chance and how it relates to God and freedom.

The fifth tackles some proof-texts from the Bible often used to support a compatabilistic view of God’s sovereignty and human freedom.  Here, Boyd tackles some of the stronger texts Calvinists and other compatabilists would bring up to argue that God is in control of everything all the time, both good and evil.  He works on dealing with them exegetically to show how they do not necessarily rule out his views of God.  There were a few verses that I’m not sure Boyd argued very well, but overall, I found his arguments very strong.

While I am still not sure where I stand regarding Open Theism, I found Boyd’s book extremely well argued regarding the idea of viewing evil from a trinitarian warfare theodicy worldview.  I suppose it could still work with Arminianism, though I would have to think it through quite a bit to determine how that would work as well as it seems to with an open view of God’s knowledge.

If you have read other books on theodicy, especially those from a blueprint worldview model, I would strongly encourage you to read this book (and Boyd’s first book) to help provide another picture.  Even if you do not ultimately agree with Boyd, I think his argument is strong enough that it needs to be considered.

I highly recommend Boyd’s book, though be prepared for an often deep and complex read.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – God’s Book of Proverbs (CSB)

main proverbs

The book of Proverbs is one of the most-read books of the Bible, and with good reason.  We need wisdom, and there is no better place to get it than straight from God’s word.  But remembering where to go for proverbs related to specific issues is not always easy, as they sometimes jump around in the Bible.

Enter God’s Book of Proverbs by Broadman & Holman.

This is a wonderful little book that takes the Proverbs from the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) and arranges them topically so that one can easily locate proverbs related to whatever issue one is needing wisdom on at the time.

The book is cloth over board with a small dust jacket wrapped around it.  It includes one ribbon bookmark, which I think is a great touch.

Proverbs with cover

Proverbs back with cover

Proverbs without cover

There is a presentation page, if you want to give it as a gift.  (And I think it would make an amazing gift for many situations, such as marriage or graduation.)

Proverbs presentation page

After a brief introduction, there is a table of contents where one can look for and find the section they want to dig into wisdom about.

Proverbs TOC

In each section, the proverbs related to that topic have been pulled together in one place for easy reference.  Below are the first pages for “anger” and “prosperity.”

Proverbs anger example

Proverbs prosperity example

There is also an additional index for finding specific topics.

Proverbs index

At a retail of $9.99, this is an amazing little book!  While I would never say we should replace the Proverbs as they are in the biblical canon, having this handy companion volume is great.  It makes a great quick reference when you know what wisdom you need.  I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of God’s Book of Proverbs.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Bible Review – CSB Pastor’s Bible

I am continuing to dig into the CSB, to read it and compare it with other translations and what (very) little Greek knowledge I have gained.  I am still enjoying what I am reading and finding.

Holman Bible Publishers graciously agreed to send me a few different editions to look over and review, and I hope to get to all three soon.

Today, I am reviewing the CSB Pastor’s Bible.

As far as I know, for the time being, if you want a single-column Bible in the CSB, you only have two options: the CSB Reader’s Bible, which I already reviewed, and the CSB Pastor’s Bible.  I do believe they have another personal size single-column being released later in 2018, but I’m not sure when it will be available exactly.

Some of the basic information for this Bible, from the back of the box, are that it has a smyth-sewn binding, black-letter text throughout (no words of Christ in red), and 11-point type (the Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible has 9.5-point type; a picture comparing the two is posted later).  Unlike the Large Print Ultrathin Reference Bible, there are no cross-references in the Pastor’s Bible. It comes with three ribbon markers (one black, one red, and one white).  The edition I received is a black LeatherTouch, and it has silver gilding on the edges.  It has all the CSB footnotes throughout, and the CSB topical subheadings are included.  As with most Bibles, it has a presentation page, a concordance in the back, and full-color maps.  The perimeter has stitching around it: black on the outside and red on the inside.  But the inside cover liner seems like it is glued on rather than sewn in.

In terms of size and weight, it is certainly not the smallest and lightest Bible you can purchase.  It is, however, still a good size for carrying to church, unlike some of the massive study Bibles out there.  Even if you don’t want to carry this one with you, it is good for keeping at home to read.

Pastor's box cover front

Pastor's box cover back

Pastor's bible cover and ribbons

Pastor's bible table of contents 1.jpg

Pastor's bible table of contents 2

Pastor's Bible inside

Pastor's bible-LPUT compare.jpg

As you can see in the above two pictures, there appears to be a decent amount of margin space in the Pastor’s Bible for those who like to make notes while they are reading.  No, it is not a wide-margin Bible, per se, but it has more space than some Bibles do in the margins.

The Pastor’s Bible is designed to be a CSB resources specifically for pastors.  After the book of Psalms, it includes a section for wedding ceremonies (classical and contemporary, pictured below), information on funeral preparation, and some funeral sermons.

Pastor's bible classical wedding

Pastor's bible contemporary wedding.jpg

The funeral preparation is broken down into a few tips with detailed information under each one: what to do on receiving notification of death, what to do when visiting in the home, what to do when scheduling the service, what to do during the funeral home visit, what to do during the service, what to do when concluding the service, and what to do at the graveside.

The funeral sermons include a basic funeral sermon, one for a funeral for a child, one for a funeral for a student, and one for a funeral for a suicide victim.

At the end of the Bible, there are various pastoral helps.  These include a “where to turn” section with Scripture references to help (pictured below), “A Brief Biblical Theology of Leadership,” “Eight Traits of Effective Church Leaders,” “Pastor, Find Your Identity in Christ,” “Glorifying God in Your Ministry,” “What is Biblical Preaching?,” “Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures,” “What is Doctrinal Preaching?,” “Four Keys for Giving an Effective Invitation,” “Five Ways to Improve Congregational Singing,” “Soul Care: Walking with Others in Wisdom and Love,” “Letter to the Church,” “Five Steps to Start and Keep an Evangelistic Culture,” “How Do You Disciple Others?,” “The One Thing You Must Do as a Student Pastor,” and “Sharing the Gospel with Children.”  The last two articles demonstrate that this Bible is equally valuable for youth and children pastors, as well as senior pastors.

Pastor's Bible pastoral care

While it is geared toward pastors, I have seen many discuss their love for this Bible merely because of the large print and single-column format, so if you are not a pastor, don’t rule out this Bible, thinking it is irrelevant to you.  The layout itself is beautiful and easy on the eyes.

If you are a pastor and are looking for a Bible with many helps and articles of encouragement and advice, this is a wonderful Bible to add to your library.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this Bible from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “Reading the Bible Supernaturally” by John Piper

bible supernaturally

I had previously reviewed John Piper’s A Peculiar Glory, and while it was good, it wasn’t my favorite book by Piper.  His newest title, Reading the Bible Supernaturally, sounded better, and I am thankful for Crossway for providing me a copy to review.

I am always looking for anything that will help me read the Bible better and apply it to my life more.  Piper’s book sounded like a good candidate, and indeed it was!  Piper helps the reader understand why it is so important to read Scripture, what the ultimate goal of our reading should be, and how to be better readers.

The book is divided into three parts.  Part 1 is “The Ultimate Goal of Reading the Bible,” part 2 is “The Supernatural Act of Reading the Bible,” and Part 3 is “The Natural Act of Reading the Bible Supernaturally.”

The first part is the foundation for the other two.  He begins by giving a brief overview of the ideas contained in the previous book, A Peculiar Glory.  This serves to either refresh one’s memory if they had previously read the book (which was my case) or to provide an overview to those who hadn’t so that they would know where Piper is coming from.

After providing this brief overview, Piper begins to lay out the ultimate goal in Bible reading.  Piper defines it this way: “Our ultimate goal in reading the Bible is that God’s infinite worth and beauty would be exalted in the everlasting, white-hot worship of the blood-bought bride of Christ from every people, language, tribe, and nation.” (p. 41)  I like that summary very much, and the rest of part 1 unpacks this proposal in great detail, taking it step by step as Piper lays out his argument for why we should accept his proposal that this is the ultimate goal in Bible reading.

In part 2, Piper emphasizes that apart from the Spirit of God working in our lives to open our eyes to God’s word, we would never be able to receive anything from Scripture as we read it.  He emphasizes that this is not because of any natural lack in ourselves and our ability to read.  Rather, our fallen nature prevents us from seeing God in the Bible, until the Holy Spirit does a work in us to open our eyes.  There is a definite Calvinistic slant here, but overall I don’t think it is anything that most people would disagree with, whether they identify as Calvinists or not.

Part 3 begins to focus on what things we can do as we read the Bible to be sure we are understanding what is written.  Some of the aspects we need to cultivate, according to Piper, are humility, prayer, faith in God’s promises, learning to identify the meaning of the authors, and active reading by asking questions of terms, phrases, propositions, and paradoxes.

Part of the way that Piper says we can read better is by using a method called arcing, and he provides an appendix that very briefly explains and demonstrates how arcing works. He also mentions that there is a Web site that is more interactive to help understand the concept.  I have to admit that I would need something more interactive, as the appendix did not help me visualize how this would work that well.  It may be enough for some people, however.

The back of the book also has a general index and scripture index.

As with many of Piper’s books, Reading the Bible Supernaturally will probably take more than one reading to really grasp some of what he argues for.  But it is a book that is definitely worth more than one reading.  I have to say that it also has caused me to want to go back and reread A Peculiar Glory to try to put the ideas from the two books together into one coherent whole.  I believe that Piper may be working on a third book in this series, and after reading the second book, I cannot wait to see where he goes next.

If you are looking for something to ignite a spark in you for searching the Scriptures, Reading the Bible Supernaturally is one book I would definitely consider picking up.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “God at War” by Gregory A. Boyd

god at war

I want to begin by saying that I don’t think any review I could write would do this book justice.  I will inevitably either give too little or too much information, and I run the risk of misrepresenting what the author is arguing.  But I will do my best to give my thoughts clearly and fairly.

For years, I have been wanting to read God at War: The Bible & Spiritual Conflict by Gregory A. Boyd.  InterVarsity Press agreed to send me a copy.  I am thankful they did, and they have been very patient with me, as this book has taken me quite a while to read, and I still have the companion book to work through.

God at War is no easy or light read.  The book is 414 pages long, including the text, notes, a selected bibliography, and author/subject index, and a Scripture index.  I read through all of the text (293 pages) and notes (101 pages!), and flipping back and forth took me a while.

Boyd’s book is a good and challenging read.  In the book, Boyd is attempting to offer an explanation of theodicy that he feels does a better job of explaining the problem of evil than the traditional (Augustinian) view of theodicy.  To do so, Boyd argues that the Bible contains a warfare view of creation.  That is, there is a war raging between God and Satan (and his forces of evil), and this warfare is the overarching worldview through which we should think.  As a result, we should not be surprised that bad things happen to good people; rather, we should expect them, as we would expect bad things to happen during a physical war.

This requires us to rethink traditional explanations of how God and evil can coexist.  The traditional view sees God as being in sovereign control of everything that occurs, even the evil things that Satan and people may do.  A philosophical result of this view, according to Boyd, is that we must ultimately claim that everything that happens is, in some sense, according to God’s will and part of His good plan, even evil things.  To Boyd, this ultimately makes God responsible for both good and evil.

According to the warfare view that Boyd espouses in the book, bad things happen not as part of God’s overall will, but against God’s will as a result of free creatures (both demonic and human) choosing to do evil.  As such, there are truly things happening that are pointless.  Still, God is so good that He will ultimately bring good out of these things, though Boyd is clear that those things didn’t happen in order to bring about that good; rather, God causes good from inherently evil things that happen.

These claims are very different from what many are used to hearing, and they require a lot of explanation to back them up.  That is the focus of this book.

In God at War, Boyd focuses on understanding evil and how it works with God only as a supplement to arguing for his warfare understanding of the Bible.  He holds off on the explanations of how evil exists in a universe created by a good God for his follow-up book, Satan and the Problem of Evil.

The first part of this book focuses on the warfare view of the Old Testament, while the second part focuses on the warfare view of the New Testament.  I cannot possibly go over everything Boyd discusses in these parts, but I will offer a brief overview.

In the first part, Boyd works through the Old Testament, showing that from the beginning of Creation, there is an idea of warfare as God establishes order from chaos.  He moves on to show how this warfare view works its way out throughout the entire Old Testament, culminating in an understanding of Satan.

In the second part, Boyd turns his attention to the New Testament, arguing that Jesus’ coming on the scene is the beginning of an invasion, for lack of a better word, of enemy territory.  He walks readers through seeing Jesus’ mission being one of overpowering the enemy and taking back the world he has stolen, and Jesus demonstrates this through exorcisms and healings, both of which are direct confrontations with Satan’s minions and activities.  From there, Boyd focuses on the cross and resurrection as being in line most strongly with the Christus Victor view, over and above the penal substitutionary atonement view.  What I like is that Boyd does not set these views against one another, but orders them so that God’s redeeming people is a subset of His restoring creation by giving it back to Jesus as king rather than having forgiveness of sins being the main focus.  He ends by showing how the idea that we are at war (in the already/not yet state of affairs where Satan has been shown to be defeated, though not ultimately defeated yet) continues through the epistles and Revelation.  We see this in the fact that we are called soldiers who need to fight the good fight and put on the full armor of God while being aware of the devil’s schemes since he prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour, whom we need to resist as we stand fast, among other statements.  (I think I fit enough Biblical references in that abnormally long sentence.)

I will say that after reading the book, I can clearly see a clear warfare view in the entire Bible.  Whether that is because I have just finished the book, so it is in the forefront of my thoughts or because it is that clearly present has yet to be determined.  Boyd, however, certainly accomplishes what he set out to do: Show that the idea of warfare runs throughout the entire Bible as the theme that ties it all together.

I am certainly anxious to read his follow-up book now to see how this all works out in theory and practice.

The largest concern I have is with Boyd’s Open Theistic view.  It is clear that Boyd rests his arguments in this understanding of God’s sovereignty and knowledge, though I believe he made a statement that one could see a warfare view in Scripture without holding to Open Theism specifically.  I am still reading for and against Open Theism as contrasted with more traditional views of God’s knowledge and sovereignty, and I am not convinced that Open Theism is the best view.  Readers will want to be aware that Boyd is working out of that Scriptural understanding as they read through this book.

All in all, this is definitely a book I would recommend to those who are interested in spiritual warfare, a warfare view of Scripture, or in understanding theodicy in a deeper way.  Whether you walk away from the book convinced or not, I don’t think you will find a better explanation of a warfare view of Scripture than Boyd presents; at least, I cannot picture how there could be a more thorough one.  (Chapter 1 alone has 88 endnotes!)  You will not regret reading this book.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review – “The Lost World of Genesis One” by John H. Walton

lost-world-genesis

As someone still studying various issues related to science, the Scripture, and how to interpret them both, I have been reading books by authors on various perspectives.  One recent author who has gained some attention is John H. Walton.  He has written a few books now trying to understand Genesis in its ancient context.  The Lost World of Genesis One starts, quite literally, “In the beginning.”

The subtitle of the book is “Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.”  Walton’s view is that we must understand the ancient context of cosmology and creation origin stories in order to better understand ancient thought on the issue of origins and creation.  By understanding the ancient mindset, we can then better understand Genesis 1 and what it is trying to say.

The layout of the book has Walton presenting 18 propositions to help us understand his arguments.  These include propositions such as “Genesis 1 Is Ancient Cosmology,” “Ancient Cosmology Is Function Oriented,” “The Cosmos Is a Temple,” and “The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins.”

From here on out, please excuse any mistakes in my understanding or representation of Walton and his arguments.  The views he presents are very new to me, and I may not be understanding him perfectly.  If so, I fully accept any mistakes on my part.

I was raised understanding the Genesis creation account as explaining “how and when things were created.”  This would essentially be a material origin view.  Walton’s argument is that Genesis is not concerned with material origin (when and how things came into being).  Rather, he believes that Genesis is concerned with functional origin (why things came into being).

As a result, Walton argues that science may present one understanding of how things came about, with Scripture providing the importance of the creation.  This, of course, results in allowing science and Scripture to not be at odds with one another, unless science is saying God is not involved at all.  While Walton argues that his goal is not to defend evolution or any scientific views in particular, one cannot help but wonder if that may not be at least an underlying desire, if not explicitly discussed.  I suppose that crosses into judging motives, however, and we do have to be careful about doing that.

Walton’s central argument is that the Earth is viewed in Scripture as God’s cosmic temple, and that the creation account deals with the establishing, filling, and functioning of that temple.  It is, to say the least, a novel view compared to many I have read.  I cannot, at this point, say whether I agree with him or not, as I still have to think through many issues related to his perspective.

Perhaps the most interesting part of his book was his last proposition that public science education should be neutral regarding purpose.  It almost began to feel a little like the old “non-overlapping magisteria” arguments presented elsewhere.  Science and faith are in different fields, and the two have no contribution to each other.  I’m not sure I can fully agree with that perspective.  Primarily, I would argue that there is no such thing as total neutrality; one’s worldview will always at least partially color one’s perspective, and I’m not convinced we can escape that, although we can try to account for it and minimize it.  At the same time, his view, if adopted, could solve some issues in teaching science as a Christian in a public arena.  It would also have to apply both ways, so atheists could not push a purely materialistic view of science anymore than Christians could push a supernatural one.

Despite Walton’s claims, I think one would be hard-pressed to understand how Walton is not arguing ultimately for evolution, however.  In one proposition, he argues how other theories of Genesis and science either go too far or not far enough.  In this chapter, he argues against Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Literary Framework Hypothesis, and forms of the Gap Theory.  He also seems to explain that since Intelligent Design is concerned primarily with purpose, it has no place in public education of scientific ideas.   At least from my studies, I cannot figure out what would be left, short of some view of Evolutionary Creationism.

Granted, Walton would argue that I am asking the wrong question.  His emphasis is that the Genesis account is not trying to discuss science, as we think of it, since it deals with material origins.  But if all the above views are thrown out, I cannot see any view left other than the current standard evolutionary view of material origins, as far as science is concerned.

Also in his defense, Walton explains that he is concerned primarily with the best way of understanding Genesis 1, regardless of what science currently says.  As a result, his view of Genesis would not change, even if our scientific understanding of how things developed does change.  This provides some sense of solidarity on understanding Genesis that does not require one to argue that science is wrong in what it says, as the two are not even addressing the same questions.

If Walton is right regarding how to understand Genesis 1, it would be a huge relief to many, as it would allow them to let science speak on its own, and however one interprets Genesis it would have no bearing on our pursuit of scientific understanding.  I admit that is an attractive thought.  At this point, however, I am not sure if it stands up to total scrutiny yet.  I admit, I am new to both understanding science and trying to look deeper into the creation account in Genesis, so I am not able to provide an in-depth critique one way or another beyond my thoughts listed here.

I am in no way saying Walton is wrong; for all I know, he is spot on.  The view is so novel to me, however, that I am struggling to reconcile it with the interpretations I was raised with.

If you are a student of the science/religion questions, and if you like trying to see if we can “harmonize” (for lack of a better term) the two and how best to do it, then The Lost World of Genesis One (as well as the follow-up The Lost World of Adam and Eve) are great books to add to your list of books to study.

*Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book from InterVarsity Press in exchange for my honest review.