Book Review: The Genesis Debate, Edited by David G. Hagopian

TheGenesisDebate2The Genesis Debate: Three views on the Days of Creation
Edited by David G. Hagopian

The Genesis Debate is a balanced look at three views of the Genesis days of creation. The presentation is balanced because it combines descriptions of each view with responses from the other two views. The unusual approach works well to develop aspects of each that might normally have gone untreated. Overall, I found the book to be a helpful introduction to some popular views.

The three views are the literal 24-hour view, the day-age view, and the framework view. As such, the book gives a fairly broad range of perspectives, but falls short of the full range that one might encounter, because none of the views accept macro evolution or any of its implications. But despite that, it’s a generally readable book that gives a lot of useful and interesting background for anyone seeking to understand these views in more detail.

The discussion of each perspective starts with an essay explaining it, followed by responses by the other two camps, which are then followed by a rebuttal from the authors of the original essay. The format serves well to explore each perspective, but still managed to leave me a little unsatisfied because there were several times when a response would raise a strong point, but the rebuttal simply ignored it. Explicit examples of this were fairly rare, but still left me feeling that the authors were often missing each other’s points. However, the overall treatment of the issues made this a good book for an introduction to each view, especially so they can be compared.

The first perspective to be covered is the traditional view that Genesis 1 describes six 24-hour days. Although the authors include some analysis of Scripture, their main argument is the strength of tradition. They describe many devout Christians, over a great span of time, who believed in the 24-hour view.

The second perspective to be covered is the day-age view, as championed by Hugh Ross. They stress an interpretation of Scripture that allows it to align with their particular interpretation of science. I found some of their observations of Scripture to be interesting, but a bit stretched. Similarly, their view of science is strained in order to get it to align with their view of Scripture. All in all, they seemed to go to great lengths to build a structure that supports natural alignment between the two.

The last perspective to be covered is the framework view. In this case, the authors describe in detail various features of Genesis 1 that point to it being a highly structured piece of literature — a framework. Some of the things they point out are very interesting, and difficult to believe they were not designed into the account. Based on these observations, they argue for a figurative interpretation of the six-day narrative. While the initial observations are interesting and point to additional richness beyond just the narrative, they never really deal with the obvious question of why that negates a literal account. Even though I don’t hold to a literal interpretation, I don’t think the existence of a literary framework is enough on its own to negate six 24-hour days.

Overall, the book is moderately easy to read, with little technical jargon or sophisticated arguments. This also helps it work as an introduction.

There was little or no spiritual content; generally the arguments were natural. No reference to God’s voice, His nature, personal testimony, the reality of God at work today, or similar. The focus is on secular analysis and historical perspectives.

Overall, I think this is a good book to have in one’s library if interested in creation. And it’s useful as an introduction to the particular themes represented. But it leaves some details untreated, so the interested reader will still need to explore other sources. And if one is interested in theistic evolution and related views old-earth views, then this book won’t be very helpful.

Note: This post was updated on January 2, 2015 to correct an error about Exodus 31:17 being misquoted. The confusion was cause by use of NIV, which translates that verse much differently.

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6 Responses to Book Review: The Genesis Debate, Edited by David G. Hagopian

  1. Michael Snow says:

    It should be noted that the noted OT scholar Gleason Archer held the day-age view..
    It seems that, whatever the view of days, the first two verses get side-stepped.

    • jim0211 says:

      Hi Michael, thanks for pointing that out. I mentioned Hugh Ross specifically because he contributed to the book, and the day-age views described there presumably matched his particular version. I didn’t mean to imply he invented day age thinking, though.

  2. bruce r bloombeerg says:

    I’ve briefed hundreds and hundreds of similar Genesis accounts and find nothing new here, just the same old, same old, trying to make the Bible conform to what we think it means, instead of making an honest exegetical effort. I am surprised at the darkness even the pros exhibit in trying to perpetuate that Aristotelian-Catholic view of scripture. However, a wrinkle of hope would emerge if they would use the literary- framework method honestly. If it is viewed as having single authorship, as the book itself claims, the term ‘light’, which means understanding, (and the proof of this idea is overly abundant in the Bible), and that ‘understanding’, was commanded to ‘be’, in Gen.,1,3, then why would the two previous verses be about natural science, ex nihilo my eye. A man’s life is what he thinks, because his thinking is manifested through the actions of his life. A dishonest man is ‘not’ the image of man God had in mind. That is what Genesis is about, anybody writing about that ?

    • jim0211 says:

      Hi Bruce, I agree the book doesn’t bring anything new; by design it is a summary (or set of summaries) of existing thinking. If by literary framework you mean the singular Author of the Bible, then I agree that aspect is under-represented in much creation writing. However, from the simple standpoint of typical literary framework arguments, I see no reason why that is incompatible with the typical 24-hour view (although I don’t hold to that myself). Regarding the claim that “light” refers to understanding, that’s an interesting idea. But I’m not sure how one tells that a particular reference is non-physical. Although other things point to the passage being figurative in general, so your perspective would certainly fit that.

  3. bruce r bloomberg says:

    Jim ! Is this our forum ? I can do that. It is extremely difficult to conduct a truly honest exegesis, our minds have been so predisposed to a certain view of the Bible by earlier teachings that we almost cannot escape it, plus, because of the ‘fear factor’, also imbedded into our thinking, we tend to withdraw any questioning that may seem ‘irreverent’, or disrespectful, and thus attach meanings to words because that is what we think the author means, and thereby spoil our honest exegesis. If we are to cite references to light in the ‘letters’, the book of John, and the Psalms, as pointing to the word light as the idea of understanding, not only do we find proof of single authorship, or at least a central idea shared by the ascribed authors, we must also assume that all applications of that word are of that idea. This in turn broadly hints at the ‘genre’ of the book as a whole. Whether we understand every application is another matter. In the parable, the sower and the seed, the word falls on good ground, (earth in Greek), and prospers. Now we all have heard of the “germ of an idea taking root”, (the germ being the active part of the seed), and the subsequent dialog based on it, but this does not mean that the ‘word’ is planted in our minds, not yet. However, this does follow the general theme of the Bible. All I can say at this point is that based on my study the ‘earth’, is the place where our thinking dwells, where the inward man dwells. There is much, much, work to be done still, but given this, I, can affirm that the Bible ‘is’ literal, in the language of the Bible, and we can say for now, that the whole Bible is as some say ‘figurative’, But personally I find that term to be a misnomer at best, and slanderous at worse, e.g., if the Bible is figurative then too is Jesus and that is Gnosticism. It might be better put to say that the Bible seems to be about thinking, the conceptual, and the actions that occur as a result of the spoken word. This is where the evidence seems to point.

    • jim0211 says:

      Bruce, I agree that it’s tough to work past our preconceptions, and you make a good point about casual use of the term “figurative”. In some ways, it does imply a lack of substance, or even truth. It would be better to clarify that one is talking about a style of communication. A truth can be communicated in many ways, some harder to understand than others. It’s still possible to become confused, of course, so we’re always better asking the Author what He was talking about.

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