Last week I gave a talk at the Nickel City Forum in Buffalo, NY on how to read the creation account in Genesis 1 (specifically Genesis 1:1—2:3) responsibly, for its authentic message, instead of reading it with modern assumptions. You can access my blog post about the talk here.
The Nickel City Forum has just posted an audio of the talk, for the benefit of anyone interested who couldn’t make it to the event.
At the event I gave out a four page handout with an outline of my talk with biblical references and a few visuals. You can download the handout here.
I’d be interested in follow-up discussion with anyone who attended or anyone who listens to the audio and wants to respond.
It took me a few days to get to the audio because I wanted to set aside an entire hour to it. Imagine my surprise when you covered all of Genesis 1 in 34 minutes! Impressive! The following Q-and-A was almost as informative, but just thought I’d let potential listeners know that the “meat” only takes about half an hour. Thanks for making the handout available, too.
On the second page of the handout, you have an illustration of the common biblical/ANE cosmology of the world as a building, with the waters above the firmament, and under the earth more water and Sheol. I have seen many conservative theologians argue that the biblical authors did not actually believe this cosmogony. Instead, they merely were using common figures of speech to describe the world from a phenomenological perspective. I think the fear is that it undermines the authority of the Scripture to say the biblical authors truly believed a “false” picture of the world. Obviously, you don’t agree with them, so I was wondering how you respond to that line of thought?
Of course, the ancients didn’t take the “cosmic geography” of the world as a building in a literalistic fashion; it was, indeed, a phenomenological description of the world. But the point is that they didn’t believe the earth was a sphere, nor that the earth revolved around the sun. So, technically, from our point of view, their cosmology was skewed.
For me, however, this doesn’t detract from the authority of Scripture. It is precisely by taking seriously this picture of the cosmos (this ancient Weltbild or “world picture) that I have been able to see the amazing normative theological claims of the text (its Weltanschauung or “worldview”). The normative claims are communicated through this picture.
Thanks for the clarification. I don’t think it detracts from the authority of Scripture, either, but I was particularly struck by your comments about taking seriously the ancient world picture. Great point. The difficulty, in the case of ancient texts, is not the fact that the past is too remote, but that the present is too “present.” When we allow our present context and concerns — scientific or otherwise — to overwhelm the voice of the past, we fail to hear the text. Rather, that noise filling our ears is merely the echo of our own preconceptions.