Friday, August 04, 2017

Adam and the Genome 8: 12 Theses about Genesis

I'm reading the book, Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture after Genetic Science, by Scot McKnight and Dennis Venema.

Previous posts
Personal Preface
Forward and Introduction
1. Evolution as a Scientific Theory
2. Genomes as Language, Genomes as Books
3. Adam's Last Stand?
4. Intelligent Design?
5. Four Principles for Bible Reading

Chapter 6
1. Chapter 6 is titled, "Adam and Eve of Genesis in Their Context: Twelve Theses." You find different angles on things out there, sometimes they come at things from different angles, but they are working toward the same destination. McKnight's angle in this chapter is:

"The Bible's opening chapter is an ancient Near Eastern form of science" (111). But his point is not thereby to dismiss it. His point is to understand it in dialog with other ANE (Ancient Near Eastern) creation stories. This approach, he argues, is most respectful of the text because this is the way of reading the Genesis text that reads it for what it actually meant in context. "These [ANE] texts express the kinds of ideas 'in the air' when Genesis 1 and 2 were drafted" (113).

McKnight has a hermeneutic that says, we read biblical texts both within and as critiques of cultural context. Or as I have put it, revelation begins with where a culture is, but it doesn't stay there. God meets us where we are, but he doesn't leave us there. So we should expect the biblical creation stories both to resemble and yet to push against the other ANE creation stories.

2. What are these ANE creation stories:
  • Enuma Elish -- Marduk creates humanity so that the gods can rest and stop working
  • Gilgamesh -- the Babylonian flood story
  • Atrahasis -- A god creates humans from clay and his own flesh and blood, so that humanity can work for the gods
  • Assur story -- Sumerian story, gods give birth from the blood of gods
McKnight discusses both similarities between these stories and Genesis but, more importantly, he notes key differences. For example, God is the unopposed creator in Genesis, while none of the gods in the other creation stories are completely in control.  It is here that we get his "twelve theses" in this chapter.

I might add that he is bracketing in this chapter concerns about whether Adam and Eve are "historical" or "fictional." He is treating them as they appear in the text of Genesis without addressing these questions now. He is exploring the "literary Adam and Eve" (118).

The Twelve Theses (in my words)
1. There is one God, the creator who is outside the cosmos.

He is not part of the universe but created it. Hear Bill Arnold of Asbury fame: "Ancient religion was polytheistic, mythological, and anthropomorphic... while Genesis 1 is monotheistic, scornful of mythology, and engages in anthropomorphism only as figures of speech" (119). Also, McKnight adds, God creates through the Son of God, who is his Wisdom.

2. Adam and Eve are not the result of cosmic battle, but of God's design.

3. God orders creation into a temple.

Jon Levenson writes, "The concern of the creation theology is not creatio ex nihilo, but the establishment of a benevolent and life-sustaining order" (124). McKnight writes, "To 'rest' in that world is to enter into a temple" (126). "The earth is not designed as a scene of conflict but a scene of worship" (127).

I'm not as clear on the temple/worship theme being present myself.

4. All humans are made in God's image.

Humans "are called by God to mediate God's power and authority in the world" (129). I'm less clear about the intention of statement: "Humans are not given the responsibility to rule other humans but to rule creation" (131).

5. Humans are distinct from the rest of creation.

6. Humans are gendered for procreation and are tasked with governing and nurturing the earth.

I wouldn't want to take this statement too far: "They image God whenever each separately or whenever both together rule, subdue, or cause any element of creation to flourish in God's design for it" (133). McKnight warns about both extreme individualism (Thomas Paine) and collectivism (Mao Tse-Tung).

7. Humans are called to work the earth.

8. Humans name creatures, showing understanding of them and how they fit and function.

"To name is to know and understand by observation, and then to assign oneself a relationship to and a responsibility for that which is named" (137). Helper is used of God in the OT, he notes, BTW.

9. God gives humans the freedom to grow as well as to disobey him.

McKnight quotes Brueggemann: "In God's garden, there is mutuality and equity. In God's garden now, permeated by distrust, there is control and distortion" (141). McKnight sees this as descriptive of the consequence of sin, not prescriptive of how it should be.

10. Humans are called to undo the curse.

"All humans, male and female, remain images of God" (142). The mission remains.

11. Adam and Eve  represent both Israel and everyone.

"This text is far more about Adam and Eve as Israel than about the historical, biological, and genetic Adam and Eve" (144). It is a foreshadowing of Israel's entrance into the land in Joshua, by many accounts.

12. Adam and Eve are presented as "genealogical" Adam and Eve.

That is to say, the Bible does present Adam and Eve as the genealogical parents of all the people in the Bible.

No comments: