Title: The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate
Author: John H. Walton
Genre: Christian nonfiction
The Big Idea in The Lost World of Genesis One
As complicated and polemic Genesis One may be, Christian professor John H. Walton does an admirable job of explaining how to interpret it and why his proposed approach is the best.
In the first chapter, he contends that rather than try to impose our own modern day cultural interests on the ancient Hebrew text, we should “strive to identify, truly and accurately, the thinking in the ancient world, the thinking in the world of the Bible.” Consequently, his arguments throughout The Lost World stem from the assumption that Genesis One features functional creation (assigning purpose and roles to components of creation ex. sun and moon, animals, plants, man) rather than material creation as mainstream theologians and scholars suppose. As you wind your way through the book, Walton shows how this new approach opens up a whole new yet still Biblically grounded avenue of interpretation.
Structure of The Lost World of Genesis One
Something I appreciate about Walton’s presentation is his generous use of both scripture and ancient Near East literature. Scriptural evidence assures us that he isn’t merely pulling notions out of thin air. He uses examples from Sumerian and Egyptian creation epics to compare imagery present in these texts and the Bible and to demonstrate that functional creation is true to the Genesis author’s original intent.
Walton organizes The Lost World into eighteen propositions, with each one numbering between three and ten pages. The ideas he introduces in each are never superfluous but build up the work as a whole. His straightforward logic binds his ideas together making everything digestible even for a layperson with a hazy understanding of Old Testament theology like me.
Personal Reflection on the Book
One of my favorite propositions that Walton expounds and supports is that creation is intended to be a cosmic temple. That’s why God “rests” on the seventh day—He rests on the throne of the temple and from there begins His day to day rule. It makes sense in light of the verses throughout the Bible that speaks of the “earth being filled with His glory” (Jeremiah 23:24, Numbers 14;21, Isaiah 6:3) like a “temple being filled with His glory” (Exodus 40:34, Ezekiel 43:5, 2 Chronicles 7:1). Such knowledge not only expands my head knowledge of God but also my awe of Him as a believer. It makes me long even more for the day when Heaven and Earth shall join again, when creation is restored, when His people are given new bodies, and the earth shall be filled with His glory.
If you read The Lost World of Genesis One, there’s no doubt you’ll emerge with a deeper understanding of creation, modern day discourse of science and Christianity, and God. Whether you’re a staunch young earth believer, an evolution advocate, or just plain confused about the origins debate, this book has invaluable insight to share with all people.
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