Monthly Article December 2015 – The author of communication

The author of communication

How we understand Genesis

By Phil Robinson

Communication can be defined as, “The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.”[1] No matter what way we wish to communicate in the world today people generally want to be as effective as they can be to ensure that they are accurately understood. It can be very frustrating when someone just does not understand or deliberately misinterprets what you are saying.
God himself is the author of communication. It was with the power of his spoken word that he called things into being during the creation week, and it was one of the abilities with which he endowed Adam. Adam immediately used this gift to name the various animals and birds that God brought to him in the Garden of Eden. In fact, the first recorded human speech is poetry – a hymn in praise of the first woman and the wonder of marriage. Human language did not evolve slowly from lower to higher forms but was beautifully articulate from the start.

What type of text is Genesis?

The object of communication is a key concept when we come to think about Genesis, and what God intended to communicate to the readers of the text. The style in which Genesis is written, historical narrative, is clear to any Hebrew or English reader.[2] This is clear from key markers within the text such as:
- The lack of parallelisms (Hebrew poetry) in the text. An example of Hebrew poetry is Psalm 119:105 – “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path”. Here a key concept is expressed and then again a second time, but slightly different way.[3]
- The presence of the waw consecutive which transforms verbs into the narrative imperfect form. In other words, special grammatical structures are used so that any Hebrew reader picking up the text would immediately know that what they are reading is historical narrative. The English translation picks this key marker up and it can be identified in all the ‘and’ actions that God makes throughout the text: “And God saw”, “And God made”, etc.
The text of Genesis can also be compared with other books in the Bible; such a comparison makes it clear that the genre of Genesis is historical narrative rather than, for example, prophecy or poetry. In the New Testament Jesus, who is fully God and declared that he was the truth, also clearly regarded the people and events recorded in Genesis to be historical. Jesus referred to Adam, Eve, Abel, Noah and Abraham as real people, and compared the scale of his own second coming to the scale of the flood at the time of Noah.

Challenges to Genesis

Over the past 200 years naturalistic thinking about the origin of the universe has challenged the Biblical account of creation. This challenge includes: Big Bang cosmology; long-age geology; the chemical origin of life; and the unaided evolution of all life. These ideas are part of a naturalistic meta-narrative which attempt to replace the Bible’s history by presenting another. This alternative history rests solely upon a naturalistic philosophy which drives their interpretation of the physical world around them. As the atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse so clearly explained, “It arrived on the scene as a rival to Christian questions about origins….It was not a science-versus-religion conflict but a religion-versus-religionconflict – always the bitterest kind.”[4]
It is disappointing that an atheist understands and is willing to admit the true nature of the debate when so many Christians do not and are not. Rather than acknowledging that the big bang, the chemical origin of life, millions of years and evolution are the result of a purely naturalistic worldview and an attempt to exclude God, and the consequences that come with a creator, they have instead tried to shoehorn these ideas into the Biblical text of Genesis.

What did God actually communicate to us in Genesis?

But think about it! God is the author of communication. If God had wanted to say that, “14 Billion years ago I let nothing explode and from this ‘big bang’ all time, space and matter were created. Then 4.6 billion years ago the sun and the earth came about through the gravitational condensation of dust. Another billion years later the first living single cell organism came about by purely chemical means. From that first single cell all life on earth arose, completely undirected by me, with man ultimately coming from an ape like ancestor. Death and suffering have always been present in the world as necessary driving forces of evolution”, then he could have said so very simply and directly.
However God did not choose to say this, but rather communicated to us a very different account in Genesis, telling us that he created everything in six normal days of twenty four hours.[5] Even the atheistic philosopher Michael Ruse admits, “One can read this tale [Genesis] in many ways, but an evolutionary reading does not come first to mind.”[6] If an anti-creationist philosopher such as Ruse can admit that the Genesis text does not encourage an evolutionary reading, then how do Christians end up with one? It is only by taking ideas from outside of the bible and reading them into Genesis that other interpretations have come about. But if you adopt that sort of “eisegetical” approach to Genesis – where do you stop?
God’s act of creation, as described in Genesis, make much more sense of the world than naturalism. Indeed, belief in a naturalistic origin for space, time, matter and life requires a suspension of rational thought. From what people can freely observe around them in this world it should be abundantly clear that things do not form by themselves, much less become more complex and structured, but rather things breakdown and always tend towards disorder. The second law of thermodynamics indicates that undirected natural processes alone cannot account for the present observable order in the universe. An all-powerful God who created the universe and everything in it as communicated to us in Genesis makes much more sense to the rational mind and leaves the Christian with the ability to be fully engaged with God using all their heart, soul and mind.
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Revelation 4:11

 

References and notes:

[1] https://www.google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=communication

[2] Or indeed any other language into which it is translated. Hebrew and English are referred to here as the former is the original language in which Genesis was written and the latter is the language of the target audience of this article.

[3] The only examples of parallelisms found in the early chapters of Genesis are quotations, for example in Genesis 4:23 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me and a young man for injuring me.” In Genesis 4:23 we can see that an initial statement is then expressed again in a different form twice over.

[4] Ruse, M. (2005) The Evolution-Creation Struggle, London: Harvard University Press, P. 267

[5] As is reinforced in Exodus 20:11.

[6] Ruse, M. (2005) The Evolution-Creation Struggle, London: Harvard University Press P. 10