What is the Relationship Between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?

It’s been over two months since I’ve posted a new blog here.

Life has just been too busy. Besides the fact that my Seminary is in the midst of a major overhaul of their curriculum, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking and writing during the Fall and just didn’t have the time.

So, let’s see if I can turn over a new leaf in 2018.

As some of my readers know, I’ve been working with BioLogos, an organization that aims to help Christians think more deeply about the relationship between biblical faith and science, especially evolution. That deeper thinking is meant to be accompanied by gracious conversation about these issues, even among those who disagree.

A New BioLogos Post

My most recent BioLogos article was posted today.

It is entitled “What is the Relationship Between the Creation Accounts in Genesis 1 and 2?”

This one doesn’t explicitly address evolution.

The article begins by listing the evident contradictions or tensions between the accounts of creation in the first two chapters of the Bible, such as the different order of creative events.

This suggests we aren’t supposed to read these chapters as conveying scientific information. If we were committed to a scientific reading, we’d have to choose which chapter we thought was more scientifically accurate.

The rest of the article tackles the question of how we should read Genesis 1 and 2 together, in a manner that makes theological sense.

You can read the article (and comments from readers, including my responses) here.

You can download a PDF of the article here.

My BioLogos Posts from 2017

BioLogos recently announced their most read blog posts written in 2017.

Two of my blogs made the top ten list; one was number 3 and another was number 7.

Number 3 was my blog entitled “Evolution and the Historical Fall: What Does Genesis 3 Tell Us about the Origin of Evil?” (they did reverse my first initial and middle name in the listing, but I’ll let that pass and receive the honor).

Number 7 was my blog entitled “Humans as Imago Dei and the Evolution of Homo Sapiens” (there they got my name right).

My Earlier (2016) Blog Posts for BioLogos

If you’re interested, you can read my first two BioLogos blog posts (from 2016).

The first is called “Why Christians Don’t Need to Be Threatened by Evolution” (the title is pretty self-explanatory).

The second is entitled “The Ancient Universe and the Cosmic Temple.” it addresses the perceived tension between modern cosmology and the ancient biblical view of the world, with a focus on what the ancient view can teach us theologically.

New, Multi-Authored BioLogos Blog Posts

I’m also working with BioLogos to edit and revise some new and existing posts (on topics like the days of Genesis, whether Genesis is history, and the proper approach to interpreting Scripture). My contribution is to help them deepen the biblical and theological aspects of the posts, as well as some style editing.

The multi-authored post called “How Long Are the Days of Genesis 1?” has now been published. This article was originally drafted by Tremper Longman III and was edited with input from John H. Walton and myself.

You can read the article online here or (if you prefer) you can download a PDF here.

When the other articles (on Genesis and history and how to interpret Scripture) are posted, I’ll make a note of that.

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My Recent Participation in the Science-Faith Dialogue

I recently participated in two separate events of science-faith dialogue. Both were sponsored by evangelical organizations with Trinity in the name. And both had a significant BioLogos presence.

EVENT #1: The Dabar Conference on “Affirming the Doctrine of Creation in an Age of Science” (June 14–17, 2017)

Two weeks ago I participated in the Dabar conference of the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, near Chicago (Dabar is Hebrew for “word”).

This was the second Dabar conference that I attended. These conferences are part of a three-year research project on creation that I’ve been involved in. The Creation Project aims to help the evangelical church develop a robust creation theology that can interact fruitfully with contemporary scientific understandings of the world.

Last year (2016) the topic was interpreting Genesis; this year (2017) the focus has been on the doctrine of creation; and next year (2018) it will be on what it means to be human.

The Dabar conference is held each June as the highlight of the year’s theme, and is attended by about 80100 theologians, biblical scholars, philosophers, scientists, and pastors.

The keynote papers weren’t read at this year’s conference, but were circulated to the participants in advance and we were expected to have read them all and to come with our questions.

The author of each keynote paper gave a five minute summary of their paper, which was followed by two short response papers, then by the author’s reply. After that it was open to the audience for Q&A. To see the list of speakers and topics, click here.

Each afternoon, we met in small groups to discuss the ideas raised in the papers and to see what the range of our opinion was on matters of creation theology and the science of origins.

There was a lot of very engaging discussion.

This year two of the main speakers (Deb Haarsma and Jeff Schloss) and two the respondents (Jim Stump and myself) were associated with BioLogos. Deb Haarsma is president of BioLogos, and Jim Stump is senior editor at BioLogos. Jeff Schloss and I are part of BioLogos Voices (the BioLogos speakers bureau).

There were lots of other BioLogos folks at the conference, who often raised excellent questions in the discussions.

This is the second year that I presented a response to one of the keynote papers.

My response this year was to philosopher William (Billy) Abraham‘s paper on “God as an Agent.” I was able to draw on my background in philosophy and my expertise in Old Testament to address the topic of how the Bible speaks of God.

For those interested, you can read my response to Billy Abraham here.

EVENT #2: An Evening Conversation on “Genes, Self, and Soul” (June 26, 2017)

Just a few days ago I was one of two speakers at an evening event in Washington, DC on science and faith, sponsored by the Trinity Forum.

The Trinity Forum was founded by Os Guinness (who had been an associate of Francis Schaeffer), along with others interested in fostering significant dialogue between Christianity and major intellectual issues of our time.

By a strange coincidence, I actually quoted Os Guinness (from his first book, The Dust of Death) in my response paper at the Dabar conference.

The June 26 event, on the topic of “Genes, Self, and Soul,” was the second in a series of four Evening Conversations on “Discovery and Doxology” that the Trinity Forum is currently co-sponsoring with BioLogos.

According to the Trinity Forum website, this series “features renowned scientists, philosophers, and theologians in conversation on the ways that scientific discovery and spiritual knowledge are complementary and together contribute to a greater sense of wonder and worship.”

Both speakers on June 26 (geneticist Praveen Sethupathy and myself) were members of BioLogos Voices.

Praveen, who is is also on the Board of Directors for BioLogos, is associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at Cornell University. For his presentation he drew on his perspective as a Christian who does genome research, to suggest what science can and can’t tell us about what makes us human.

Then it was my turn, as a biblical scholar, to explore how the Bible might contribute to an understanding of our biological nature, which we share with other animals, and to our distinctive human calling or vocation to image God .

Given the topic for the evening (“Genes, Self, and Soul”), both Praveen and I made the same distinction between 1) our biological composition (which includes our genetic makeup) and 2) our human calling as the image of God (which distinguishes us from other creatures). This distinction between biology and the image of God was an attempt to address the words  “genes” and “self” in the title of the event.

But what about “soul”?

While “soul” is often a synonym for “self” in modern discussions, I suggested that what the Bible means by “soul” (Hebrew nephesh; Greek psyche) has to do with what we have in common with other animals, rather than anything distinctive to human beings. Here I drew on the use of “soul” in the early chapters of Genesis and how the apostle Paul uses the term.

I told the audience that if they expected the Bible to mean by what we mean by “soul” they should “get used to disappointment.”

For those in the know, I was quoting the Man in Black (Westley a.k.a the dread pirate Roberts) in The Princess Bride.

As is often the case, here the Bible challenges our received wisdom.

The entire Evening Conversation can be viewed by clicking on this link.  The video includes a brief introduction by Deb Haarsma (the president of BioLogos) and then by Cherie Harder (the president of The Trinity Forum), followed by the presentations by Praveen and myself, and the discussion afterwards.

Event #3: Possible Joint-Lecture at Brown University by Sethupathy and Middleton (Fall 2017)

Praveen and I may be speaking together again in the Fall on the topic of evolution and Christian faith at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Our joint- talk, sponsored by a campus ministry organization called Christian Union, would explore evolution from the points of view of a scientist and a theologian; it would be geared to interested students and faculty, both Christian and secular.

Although the details still have to be worked out (including the date), I am looking forward to this possibility since I have a lot of respect both for Praveen and for the Christian Union; I got to know this campus ministry organization when I gave a talk five years ago for them at Columbia University (in NYC) on what it means to be made in the image of God.

 

 

 

Human Distinctiveness and the Origin of Evil in Biblical and Evolutionary Perspectives

The talk I gave at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion at the University of Cambridge last month is now available online, in both video and audio versions.

There is also a summary of the first part of the talk (on human distinctiveness and the imago Dei) available on the Science and Belief website of the Faraday Institute.

For the follow-up interview I did after the lecture, click here.