Genesis is often a complicated book and many of us are just unsure how to read many parts of the OT. I have decided to interview Brett Dayton, who holds degrees in Theology and has studied Genesis for years now. In fact, he has told me on several occasions that Genesis holds some of his favorite chapters in our Bible.
- Casey Dayton
1. Brett, Should we take Genesis as a science book?
This question of whether or not we should take the book of Genesis as a science book is a complicated question, at best. The word science simply refers to the "knowledge" of something. It's a way of understanding and grasping whatever topic/concept that might be at hand. In this particular case, I'm assuming the word carries over the concepts of cosmology, astrophysics, physics, etc. Many well meaning Christians have come to use Genesis as God's written testimony against the likes of Charles Darwin and those who have remotely built from his work. It usually goes something like this, "I know that the leading opinion among most scientist involved in understanding the age of the universe is that the universe is well north of 10 billion years old but, they're flat out wrong. The Bible, through its genealogies actually tells us the truth... we are no more than 10,000 years old and neither is the rest of the universe." If this is the case, then a hesitant answer of "no" would be in order. The reasons for my hesitation should come in the responses to the following questions.
2. What's Genesis chapter 1 and 2 really about?
Where does one begin with the book of "beginnings?" What is the beginning of the book of "beginnings" about? Confused? So am I. In all seriousness, the first few chapters set the stage for the rest of the chapters of not Genesis but the Bible itself. It sort of sets the tone, if you will. At plain sight, chapters 1 and 2 tell us a few important things: God is a good Creator and His creation is a good thing. God demonstrates control over everything imaginable and everything is under that control. He works through "6 days" to set the stage for His rest, which begins our work, that is, the call of humans to continue "creating". God sets the stage for what He calls "His image bearer." The "image bearer" is designed for the purpose of reflecting the creative nature of God. To be made "in His image" is not simply to have a soul, a mind or the capacity to reason but something more than that. We are made "in His image" in the sense that the two chapters tell us: God exercises control over chaos and makes something out of nothing, and we are called to do the same.
3. Does cultural context help when reading Genesis?
Asking if cultural context helps when reading Genesis is like asking if it is important to have ears before listening to music; without it, it's impossible to remotely appreciate, let alone understand what is being sung or written. Think of it like this, would you find it beneficial to give your grandmother some internet training before letting her loose on the world of Facebook? Of course you would, if you love her. Genesis is similar in that without having any knowledge of the cultural situations from which Genesis derives will leave you in one of two places: You will either think the book is God's manifesto against atheists and evolutionists OR you will get really confused, if not freaked out, and give up and jump to the New Testament. I would actually argue that cultural context is not just helpful for Genesis but the entire Bible.
4. What are some helpful ways the church can move forward in this debate between science and Genesis?
Although there are many ways the church could better engage in a healthy dialogue in regards to science and how it relates to Genesis, one in particular stands out to me: humility. If the church and by the church, I mean church leaders and teachers, would simply drop the necessity to "have it all figured out", there would be less arguments and more dialogue and discussion. We as Christians need to not only be open to the idea that we are wrong or incomplete in regards to our understanding of the Bible but expecting that we are wrong. It is what it means to be human. We are born in a hunt for knowledge/reality and will die in the same state. This includes how we understand the Bible. It will allow us to quit feeling the weight and pressure of "defending God" and allow us to be liberated to "share God". To go back to my first response, Genesis and science can coexist when the reader is seeking to understand and know God, his or herself and the world we find ourselves in.
5. How does Genesis shed light on Jesus?
This is a common question asked about the Old Testament in general. How does this Old Testament book relate to Jesus? To begin, Jesus told two PTSDs on the road to Emmaus the entire Old Testament was about Himself. So we should assume in some way that Genesis is about Jesus, even though it may seem like fitting a square peg in a round hole. This is a discussion that needs to have a book about the subject and am certain there are many so I will point out two things. One, Jesus is everything we were supposed to be. Jesus is the Image of the Invisible or the Image of God. He is exactly what we should be and by the power of God, will grow into becoming. Secondly, Jesus is not going to be found in every chapter or story contained in Genesis, though some try very hard to accomplish this feat. He is found in the sense that when you read Genesis and finish it, you are left with a feeling that there needs to be something to fix this blundering, Jerry Springer-like family of Abraham. Something is clearly wrong after the third chapter and there is a lot more wrong by the end. How will this story find a good ending?
6. What are some helpful books you would recommend?
Honestly, I would recommend reading anything and everything on Genesis. I'm of the opinion that it is important to read anything and everything. Learn as much as possible. Google "Genesis" and a plethora of writings, articles and books will be sure to come up. Don't watch out for anything just read as much as you can.