God at Work

There are lots of problems with a literalistic approach to Genesis, and to the Bible in general. But the biggest is that it denies that God so transcends our human comprehension that God can only be pointed to through symbols.

The final editor of Genesis presumably understood this. He placed side by side two depictions of God creating which have different orders, chronologies, and other details. And so in addition to being a rejection of the God the Bible points to, so-called Biblical literalism also represents a stubborn refusal to pay close attention of the details of what the Bible actually says. And so it is worth pointing out yet again that those who claim to take Genesis 1-3 literally are not actually doing that.

And of course, depicting God at work in an anthropomorphic way becomes even more problematic when you bring science into the picture, as this cartoon from People in White Coats illustrates:

  • TomS

    A creationist could well say that we cannot rule out the possibility that some reason will be discovered that requires ERV insertions in human DNA. Easier examples might serve just as well: Why design the human eye on the same pattern as that of other vertebrates, rather than like eyes of insects or of octopuses? Why design an eye that relies on ordinary chemistry and physics, when God could give us sight directly, without the need of contrivances like other living things have?

  • Adrift

    Hello Professor McGrath, what are your thoughts on OT scholar John Sailhamer’s Historical Creationism theory as explored in his book Genesis Unbound? In it he argues that after Genesis 1:1 the creation account is a record of the preparation of the Garden of Eden, rather than the preparation of the whole earth.

    If you’re unfamiliar with the theory, there’s a very thorough breakdown of it on John Piper’s website here: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/science-the-bible-and-the-promised-land

    Purely from a layman perspective, I find the theory well argued, and it may even be compatible with other views like John Walton’s cosmic temple inauguration theory (as far as I understand that theory).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Since his stance rejects the findings of modern biology, I am not sure why you find it helpful.

      • Adrift

        From my reading, It seems to me that Sailhamer’s view concerning evolution can be dismissed without doing much harm to the overall theory. I find the view helpful because it seems to offer a well argued literalist interpretation of the Genesis narrative, from the perspective of the ancient author/audience, that does not preclude an old earth.

  • Jim

    GAG … :)

  • Ric

    Perhaps, rather than God following a human work week, He was showing us a work-and rest week pattern that was to our benefit to follow.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      Certainly we find Biblical authors arguing from the divine week to the human. But that does not change the likelihood that that is a later step, after the human working week was first used as the pattern for the creation account. Most Christians historically would agree that this has to be anthropomorphism – just as God speaking is and other details are.

      • http://meafar.blogspot.com/ Bob MacDonald

        What! The rest pattern would not be a human invention. A human pattern would be total exploitation of every minute. I think it is much more likely that God intervened in the total exploitation model – so no lighting a fire on the Sabbath – i..e no Iphones, no computers – etc. Boring!