Walton – Proposition 14

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by John H. Walton.

What it says

Proposition 14 is that God’s Roles as Creator and Sustainer Are Less Different than We Have Thought.

Walton begins to talk about the doctrine of God.  God as creator means one thing if you think of creation as an event in the past.  It means something different if you think of creation as as something that takes place all through time moment by moment.

Walton wants to take a middle view.  So he outlines the extremes that his view falls between.

Creation in the past (whether near past or far past) can lead to deism, the idea that God just set the universe going and now it develops on its own.  One form of this is the kind of theistic evolution that says God jump started evolution and then stood back.  Some modify this by saying that God intervened at major turning points in evolution.  Young earth creationist also distance God from management of his world by seeing an end to creation after the six days and not being clear about how it continues to operate.  This leads to a practical deism.

Ongoing creation can lead to a kind of process theology where creation consists in evolution itself.  Creation, in this view, is not an actual event but a process within the universe.  The beginning is not an event.  The end is not an event.  So there is no place for a purpose set forth at the beginning to get fulfilled at the end.

Systematic theologies have distinguished the ideas of God as creator and God as sustainer. Creation was in the past, so the ongoing aspect of God’s work is a maintenance operation. Walton brings these two things closer together by recalling his idea that creation meant that God gave functions to aspects of the cosmos.  These functions, although established in the past, mostly concern maintenance.  They insure the continuing stability of the world in the seasons, the fertility of the land, and the reproduction of animals and man.

Purpose, which Walton stressed in the last chapter, also applies.  God’s purpose for creation was established in the beginning, but that purpose works itself out in future events.  God is not withdrawn, but in the Genesis 1 view,  he is in his temple (control room) guiding events to fulfill his original purpose.

So you really cannot separate God’s work as creator and sustainer.


I guess some of this is the fault of systematic theology in distinguishing things that are not really distinguishable.  Only Genesis talks about creation as originating the world “in the beginning”.   Other creation texts like Psalm 104 and Job 38 do not divide the origination of the cosmos from God’s pervasive involvement in every weather event and every birth.

When I have discussed this with more conservative folks the hang up seems to be the relation of creation and the fall.  There is no fall in Genesis 1, but Genesis 2 and Romans 5 get read back into Genesis 1.  So God made a perfect world with no sin and no death.  But then Adam and Eve screwed it up.  Romans 5 makes Christ the direct answer to this.  So salvation history does not have anything to do with the origination of the universe. What has gone on since the days of creation is not ongoing creation.  It is, instead, a remedial action to save the world from sin.

But what if we emphasized Romans 8 at least as much as Romans 5?  Creation, from the beginning seems to have been in bondage to death and decay.  Creation is like a woman suffering the travails of child birth.  There is pain but there is hope.  The whole creation waits with eager longing for the resurrection day.  There is no mention of the fall in Romans 8:18-25, but of entropy existing from the beginning.  If you think Paul’s theology developed and that he wrote Colossians, it looks like Romans 8 won out over Romans 5 in the end.

Obviously this view allows more diversity within scripture (and maybe Paul’s thought) than some are comfortable with.  But my question is why we have allowed Romans 5, rather than Romans 8, to be read into Genesis 1.  Probably neither passage perfectly reflects the intent of Genesis 1.

Anyway, I don’t see ongoing history as all about fixing Adam’s sin in the Hebrew Bible or most Jewish thought.  Romans 5, with its idea of Christ as Adam in reverse, has its place in Christian thought.  But Iranaeus’s idea that Christ recapitulates Adam, based as much on Philippians 2:5 ff. as on Romans 5, seems more in tune with the whole Bible than Augustine’s idea of Christ breaking the line of original sin.

Ok.  I am getting well away from Walton here.  I am just thinking about some discussions I have had on this subject over the years.


About theoutwardquest

I have many interests, but will blog mostly about what I read in the fields of Bible and religion.
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