This week we did some more research on Pluto and the Kuiper Belt. Instead of writing up more Factoids we wanted to give you access to one of our favorite tools for learning more about the amazing universe God has made. Weeding through all the information and misinformation on the internet can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to ever-expanding topics like astronomy. The folks over at Creation Today have done something to help families who want a safe place to send their kids to do research on-line. They’ve created a free search engine that allows the user to access hundreds of thousands of resources from creation-based websites simply by typing in the topic you’re studying. Here is the link, SearchCreation.org. Enjoy!
My first exposure to Vern Poythress was through the “Help Me Teach the Bible” podcast with Nancy Guthrie. Afterward I immediately purchased 3 of his books, “Redeeming Sociology,” “Philosophy, Science and the Sovereignty of God” and “Christian Interpretations of Genesis.” Step 2 was to download every audio file of his I could find, mainly through the Westminster Seminary archives. Step 3 was to regularly haunt the website he keeps with John Frame, where I discovered I could access many of his older books for free, including the ones I had already purchased. Live and learn.
A humbler, more versatile scholar I have seldom encountered. The latter attribute one could expect from a pile of degrees including a Bachelor of Science from California Institute of Technology, a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard, an M.Litt. from Cambridge, a Th.D from University of Stellenbosch, and a couple more from Westminster Theological Seminary where Poythress has been teaching for 40 years. But the humility this learned man exudes must come the indwelling of the Holy Spirit Himself. I also suspect there were seeds of this attribute planted during his upbringing on the family’s farm outside Fresno, California, a place I know well, having lived there myself while studying Philosophy at Fresno State University where Poythress taught math long before I was born.
Poythress’s latest book, Interpreting Eden (Crossway, 2019), and NOT available for free on his website, couldn’t have come at a better time for me as the ladies Bible Study I am involved in is currently going through the book of Genesis. That said, this isn’t at all a commentary on or supplement to any study of the first book of the Bible. Nor is it some fresh, new interpretation of the creation account. Rather, it is an in-depth analysis of the various interpretations already at play, the presuppositions on which they are based, their strengths, weaknesses, and the interpretive strategies they each bring to the text.
Poythress starts big. His first chapter is entitled, “God.” After examining the various substitutes interpreters of creation have set up in His place from Pantheism, to philosophical materialism, to mechanistic scientism, he points out that “when we begin seriously to take God into account, it changes some important hermeneutical principles for interpreting Genesis 1-3. In fact it changes every hermeneutical principle under the sun (45).” Poythress spends several chapters thoroughly fleshing out the ramifications of our presuppositions on the creation account. Even Christian interpretations fall prey to bad presuppositions. Of course, these days, Poythress points out, “the word Christian can be used very loosely (47).” Kind of like Poythress’s description of his own book as a “guide.” Clearly, “guide” is being used very loosely. I would say, this book is to “guide,” what “tsunami” is to ones baptism into the subject of interpretations on Genesis.
Thankfully, about half-way through the book, Poythress throws the drowning reader a life-preserver in the form of a three-page summary of the hermeneutical principles he has applied to the creation account thus far (131). I say linger long over that summery and then once you’ve caught your breath you’re ready for the next wave, “Part 2, Exegetical Concerns.” In this section Poythress builds on the premise that “God’s present-day governance provides a key framework for interpretation, because God knows that readers’ familiarity with his providential governance of nature offers the natural starting point for understanding Genesis 1 (137).” Poythress applies the term providence to “God’s rule in the present world, subsequent to the completion of his creative acts at the end of the sixth day” of creation.” This he contrasts with the term creation which he uses to “designate the acts of God during the six days of Genesis 1 (139).” Unfortunately, I think Poythress builds too heavily on this distinction and subsequent correlations.
Part 3 devotes a lot of time to . . . time, to which he gives due diligence, given its current centrality to modern debates over interpretations of Genesis 1. He then ends with a helpful examination of “Factuality and Literalism” which also serves to tie a lot of loose ends together. After such a tidal wave of material, I feel Poythress’s conclusion ends with a trickle. Even though I agree with his summation, it lacked the force that seemed so present throughout the rest of the book. He concludes this way,
“God really did create the world in six days. He really did create Adam and Eve as human beings, made in the image of God—two individuals whose actions and fall into sin have affected the whole human race. We can be confident about these things, not only because Genesis 1-3 sets them forth, but because they are confirmed by later biblical reflections based on Genesis 1-3. But we do well to respect the sparseness of the account in Genesis and to remain tentative at some points as to how we think these truths are to be connected with modern scientific claims (289).”
This book would be of extreme value for two kinds of people. The first are those who have never given the creation account of Genesis a serious thought but are willing to finally come to terms with the reality of this historical narrative and its universal implications. The second are those who have already given Genesis more than the usual amount of serious consideration and are already so set in their interpretation as to need a good shaking up. In other words, this book is NOT for the faint of heart. If really hard questions about your preconceptions and possible biases might cause you to lose confidence in the authentic exalted divine authority of either the God of the Bible or whatever substitute you’re setting up in His place, then maybe this book isn’t for you.
Although I was provided with a free copy of this book from the publisher, I am under no obligation to give it a favorable review.
“It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom, and by His understanding stretched out the heavens.” Jeremiah 51:15
The Aramaic translation of Genesis 1:1 reads, “From the beginning with wisdom the Lord created and finished the heavens and the earth.”
The inclusion of wisdom’s presence at the time of creation is repeated several times in scripture. Job hints at it in chapter 28. He searches all over creation as a miner plumbs the depths of the earth for treasure but to no avail. Until he considers the source of wisdom itself. “God understands the way to it, and He knows its place.” How so? Because when He weighed the wind and measured the waters God saw wisdom, declared wisdom, established wisdom and searched it out (Job 28:23-27).
So how can man attain this wisdom? Is it by studying creation itself? Only insomuch as one begins with God and a proper fear of Him. Job concludes in verse 28, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.”
Proverbs picks up on this same theme in chapter 3 verse 7 with the admonishment to “Be not wise in your own eyes; but fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” First fear, then wisdom. Verses 19,20 continue on the wisdom at creation riff,
“The Lord by wisdom, founded the earth; by understanding He established the heavens; by His knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew.”
Proverbs 8:12,13 further clarifies what the fear of the Lord is. “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.”
Wow! I never thought of the fear of the Lord in quite those terms before! But it goes right along with the earlier Proverbs and Job passages, doesn’t it? Do you seek wisdom? Then fear God. How? Hate evil and turn from it. That’s the first step, and it’s a necessary one.
I want to quote one more long section of Proverbs 8 and then make a drastic departure from the usual form and function of these devos by way of application. Verse 22 takes us back to the wisdom of God being present at the time of creation,
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth…” And Wisdom goes on describing her presence at each point of creation, the dry land, the plants., etc…
“…When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made firm the skies above…” Until finally, the culmination of all God’s creative activity, a living thing made in His own image. Wisdom was there, too, “beside Him like a master workman, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, rejoicing in His inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.”
How amazing is that! Wisdom rejoices to see God’s world inhabited, populated by image bearers. Wisdom delights in the offspring of those image bearers, the children of man.
And then Wisdom takes on a somber tone, “And now, O sons, listen to me…”. Do want to be wise and blessed and obtain favor from the Lord? Then keep wisdom’s ways, hear instruction, do not neglect to listen, to watch and wait, “For whoever finds me finds LIFE,” but all who hate me love DEATH.”
This passage shed an entirely new light on two recent readings of mine. The first was the book on Christian Education by Ted Newell I did a review of last week, which you can click here to read, and the second is an article on the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act which last week was voted down by 44 of our 47 Democrat Senators. Please take the time to read this important article by clicking here.
The connection of wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding to education is obvious. But what does the wisdom of God in creation have to do with abortion? And what do they all of these have to do with each other?
Let’s start with education. IF the purpose of education is to impart wisdom, knowledge and understanding, and I acknowledge for many that is not the goal, but IF it is, then the beginning of, or foundation for, that education has to be the fear of the Lord. According to the passages we’ve looked at today, the fear of the Lord is, or at the very least must include, a hatred of and turning away of evil. Any truly Christian education has to build up from that foundation.
Now, how does abortion tie into all that? Proverbs 8:31 says that the wisdom of God delights in children, babies made in His image, and verse 35 promises that whoever finds wisdom will find life there. But in the next verse we’re warned that those who fail to find the wisdom of God not only injure themselves but those who hate the wisdom of God actually love death.
When I read the statistics about the products of our current forms of Christian education turning their backs on the doctrine of creation and thus, the very wisdom of God, and at the same time embracing the so called “right” to murder the most defenseless of God’s image bearers, not just in the womb, but now fully emerged, I read a failure to impart in the next generation the fear of the Lord.
The God who in His own power and by His own wisdom stretched out the heavens is INDEED a God to be feared!