Is Genesis merely scientific proof-texting?

As Trinity Sunday comes upon us, one of the lectionary readings for that day includes the first chapter of the Bible. Genesis 1 is typically looked through the lens of the modern debates over the age of the earth; the famous creation/evolution debates. Unfortunately, what is missed in these discussions is a careful look at the text itself. In order to jump to our scientific conclusions, we associate those initial words of authority with a certain scientific interpretation.  a But what about the language of the text? If one is looking at Genesis merely as proof-text for the particular means and time used by God to create the heavens and the earth, then one is undermining the full effect of the text to our personal reading and to its redemptive implications.

Walter Brueggemann asserts that what is important to consider in Genesis 1 and 2 is the nature of God’s speech. Speech is the mode used that binds God and his commitment to his creation together.

God and his creation are bound together by the powerful, gracious movement of God towards that creation. The binding which is established by God is inscrutable. It will not be explained or analyzed. It can only be affirmed and confessed. This text announces the deepest mystery: God wills and will have a faithful relation with earth. b

If we simply dissect the text looking for scientific clues, we miss the true poetry of the Triune God.  We miss the awe-inspiring movement and images that the text provides. Before such passages are preached and discussed, we need to “allow the Spirit to sweep into us, much as the Spirit swept over the face of the waters.” c God’s speech cannot be overlooked. His speech gives life. The Triune God not only speaks to us as intellectual beings, but also as complete beings made after the image of a poetic God whose words create and make all things new.

  1. My friend Peter Jones deals with the nature of the word day in his article  for those who wish to look into these subjects  (back)
  2. Brueggemann, Genesis, Interpretation, 23-24  (back)
  3. http://gmcelroy.typepad.com/desertscribblings/2008/05/may-18-2008-tri.html  (back)
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