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This is an ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

Tag Archives: book review

The Lost World of Genesis One

The Lost World of Genesis One

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debateby John H. Walton IVP Academic (2009) 192 pages.

I find it exhilarating when someone picks up an idea and rotates it so that, by looking at it from a quite different direction, I see it with a new freshness. John Walton, professor of Old Testament theology at Wheaton College, does this in this book with Genesis 1.

He argues that we misunderstand ‘create’ (bara) and ‘made’ (asa), interpreting them as being about the material cosmos coming into existence. Instead he sees Genesis 1 as the period of time devoted to the inauguration of the functions of the cosmic temple. He illustrates the difference with a number of examples. At what point is a college created? Is it when the buildings go up? Or when the students and faculty arrive on campus and classes begin? Or when the commencement ceremony begins? His argument is that Genesis 1 is not concerned about the material construction at all.

There are various ways of “reconciling science and religion (and the Bible)”. A friend of mine exclaimed that he would be the first to rejoice if it was shown that Genesis does describe the origin of the universe and life scientifically, but his realisation that science conflicts with the literal reading of the Genesis texts leads him to reinterpret them. My approach is different. I cannot but read the early Genesis texts as ancient myths, collected together by an editor who clearly had no concerns, for example, to alter what was received in order to make some sort of consistent “what actually happened”.

John Walton helpfully delineates an approach that carves out science-religion conflict as a pie (with supernatural and natural slices). As the science bit gets bigger, the god-of-the-gaps bit gets smaller. He distinguishes this from a layer-cake approach (with a supernatural and a natural layer). Science, by definition, stays completely within its own layer. Some of the discussions around this I found (as someone with some competence in science and theology and philosophy) very useful for anyone wanting to intelligently explore the science-religion debate.

Those (“concordists”) who hold to Genesis as if it has contemporary science embedded within it will find this book the most challenging. There is also a good reminder of an error we all see from time to time, of picking an original word, examining its synonyms, and inserting a meaning that fits with one’s preconceived idea rather than allowing the understanding of the word to come from the context in which we find it.

There are issues with this book’s approach, not least for those who follow a sola scriptura approach. John Walton is saying that, open the Bible, and none of us have understood what the first page is about – at least not for a couple of thousand years!

My normal approach John Walton would describe as the “Framework Hypothesis” (page 110). I understand Genesis 1 as akin to a poem of seven stanzas with a particular pattern (“the first three days defining realms of habitation and the second set of three filling these realms with inhabitants”). John Walton sees his approach not as replacing this but as adding further value.

I highly encourage you to read this book.

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Strike the Cloud

Rev. Graeme Watson

Strike the Cloud – Understanding and practising the teaching of The Cloud of Unknowingby Graeme Watson (SPCK) 2011; 82 Pages. I was thrilled to be able to meet the author of this book, Rev. Graeme Watson, at church on Sunday, and to spend time with him last night (photo above). Fellow blogger, Fr Ron Smith,Continue Reading

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Celebrating the Eucharist

Celebrating the Eucharist: A Practical Ceremonial Guide for Clergy and Other Liturgical Ministers by Patrick Malloy [218 pages]. Buy this book. I have no real idea why it has taken six years for me to discover this exists. Then I check – it is not in our local Theology House library; it is not inContinue Reading

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Igniting the Holy daily

Fire Starters: Igniting the Holy in the Weekday Homily Richard J. Sklba Liturgical Press (June 17, 2013) 624 pages The Daily Mass readings (Daily Eucharistic Lectionary) must, by far, be the most-read part of the Bible day by day. When I, today, carry round with me the thought that the Spirit helps us in ourContinue Reading

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Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals [Hardcover]by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Enuma Okoro, and Shane Claiborne. Zondervan 590 pages. The book begins with, “If you love liturgy, this book is for you. If you don’t know what liturgy is, this book is also for you.” This is followed by a wonderful introduction (yes, for those immersedContinue Reading

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The Social Media Gospel

The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways by Meredith Gould (Liturgical Press) 134 pages. Meredith has been my e-friend for many years. I know she knows what she is talking about. She regularly participates on this site, and I’ve reviewed at least one other book of hers. This is how sheContinue Reading

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How to pray

How to Pray: Alone, With Others, At Any Time, In Any Place by Stephen Cottrell (Bishop of Reading) 176 pages. I am not going to apologise for my tendency (on this site and elsewhere) of trying to translate the monastic into the context of the domestic. But I also absolutely want to acknowledge that thereContinue Reading

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