Wheaton College and False Teaching in Tennessee

Tomorrow, John Walton, the professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois, will speak in the same church in Johnson City where I spoke last weekend. He is basically speaking on a topic that is related to his book—The Lost World of Genesis One.

I have read the book, and it saddens me to think of the false teaching that is rife in this publication. This teaching is obviously also being taught to his students at Wheaton and will be taught to those who turn up tomorrow to hear the professor speak. However, I believe the detailed teaching Dr. Jason and I—and the ICR speakers—gave this past week in Tennessee will help people to be able to be Bereans like those in Acts 17. They searched the Scriptures to see “if these things were so.” When people compare John Walton’s teaching with the plain reading of Scripture, they will find he is undermining biblical authority and using a form of academia to give an elitist view of how one is supposed to approach God’s Word.

A summary of what Walton teaches includes the following:

Genesis 1 is not history in regard to the material world; it has to do with what he calls God’s ”Cosmic Temple.” He basically insists that a person can only understand Genesis if that person has a understanding of the ancient Near Eastern thinking. And surprise, surprise, this thinking has been lost for thousands of years, and now a few academics like Walton have unearthed this way of thinking so now they can tell us what the writer of Genesis chapter 1 really meant! It is what I would call academic elitism.

Walton tries (unsuccessfully) to insist that he is not coming up with this new idea of his because of the influence of evolution/millions of years. But it’s clear that he is doing just that! He knows that students today often have a conflict between the secular view of origins and the Bible, so his solution is to relegate Genesis 1 as having nothing to do with material origins and thus people are free to believe whatever they want. Though, he is obviously convinced that evolution and millions of years should be believed.

Bottom line, it is just another way of trying to come up with a “solution” to fitting millions of years and evolution into the Bible. Because Walton knows (and admits) that the days of creation are ordinary days in Genesis 1 according to the Hebrew language, he had to come up with a way to allow for millions of years and evolution yet agree that the days of creation are ordinary days. So what is his solution? Relegate Genesis 1 to mean it is the creation of God’s “Cosmic Temple,” and not allow it to have anything to do with material origins. Then he can say that students will have no conflict, and they can believe in millions of years, evolution, or whatever—it doesn’t matter!

And of course, the reason the great church leaders of the past (whether Luther, Calvin, Gill, or whoever) never thought of this is because they did not discover how ancient Near Eastern cultures were thinking! This has now been discovered by an elite few who can now tell us for the first time in thousands of years what Genesis 1 really means. Sound bizarre? I encourage you to read the book for yourself!

Here are just a few quotes from the book:

Were Adam and Eve two real people? Walton says the following:

This archetypal understanding applies also to Genesis 2. An individual named Adam is not the only human being made of the dust of the earth, for as Genesis 3:19 indicates, “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” This is true of all humans, men and women. It is an archetypal feature that describes us all. It is not a statement of chemical composition nor is it describing a material process by which each and every human being is made. The dust is an archetypal feature and therefore cannot be viewed as a material ingredient. It is indicative of human destiny and mortality, and therefore is a functional comment, not a material one. (Location 657–664, Kindle)

Is Genesis 1 an account of material origins? Walton declares the following:

When we thought of Genesis 1 as an account of material origins, creation became an action in the past that is over and done with. God made objects and now the cosmos exists (materially). Viewing Genesis 1 as an account of functional origins offers more opportunity for understanding that God’s creative work continues . . . (Location 723–730, Kindle)

Genesis 1 would be viewed as a temple text-we gain a different perspective on the nature of the Genesis creation account. Genesis 1 can now be seen as a creation account focusing on the cosmos as a temple. It is describing the creation of the cosmic temple with all of its functions and with God dwelling in its midst. (Location 795–801, Kindle)

Was the Garden of Eden a real garden? Walton makes this statement:

The garden of Eden is not viewed by the author of Genesis simply as a piece of Mesopotamian farmland, but as an archetypal sanctuary, that is a place where God dwells and where man should worship him. Many of the features of the garden may also be found in later sanctuaries particularly the tabernacle or Jerusalem temple. These parallels suggest that the garden itself is understood as a sort of sanctuary. (Location 775–781, Kindle)

Does John Walton believe in millions of years? Walton says the following:

The day-age theory and others that attempt to mitigate the force of the seven days do so because they see no way to reconcile seven twenty-four-hour days of material creation with the evidence from science that the earth and the universe are very old. They seek a solution in trying to stretch the meaning of yôm, whereas we propose that once we understand the nature of the creation account, there is no longer any need to stretch yôm. (Location 867–874, Kindle)

Some variation exists as to whether the cosmic origins go back 10,000-20,000 years as some would allow, or only go back about 6,000 years from the present (as promoted at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky). The challenge they face is to account for all of the evidences of great age of the earth and of the universe. (Location 1023–1031, Kindle)

Of course he believes in millions of years, and despite his insistence to the contrary, this is part of his ultimate motivation to relegate Genesis 1 to something other than material history.

So what does Walton say Genesis 1 means? Walton summarizes his thoughts here about Genesis 1:

In summary, we have suggested that the seven days are not given as the period of time over which the material cosmos came into existence, but the period of time devoted to the inauguration of the functions of the cosmic temple, and perhaps also its annual reenactment. It is not the material phase of temple construction that represents the creation of the temple; it is the inauguration of the functions and the entrance of the presence of God to take up his rest that creates the temple. Genesis 1 focuses on the creation of the (cosmic) temple, not the material phase of preparation. IN the next chapter we will track the implications of the idea that the seven days are not related to the material phase of creation. (Locations 867–874 and 874–877, Kindle)

There is so much more. He does not, for example, believe in a global Flood. He believes there was death of animals millions of years before man (however man came into existence).

There is a very telling statement I want to leave you with from Prof. Walton:

This is not a conclusion designed to accommodate science-it was drawn from an analysis and interpretation of the biblical text of Genesis in its ancient environment. The point is not that the biblical text therefore supports an old earth, but simply that there is not biblical position on the age of the earth. If it were to turn out that the earth is young, so be it. But most people who seek to defend a young-earth view do so because they believe that the Bible obligates them to such a defense. I admire the fact that believers are willing to take unpopular positions and investigate all sorts of alternatives in an attempt to defend the reputation of the biblical text. But if the biblical text does not demand a young earth there would be little impetus or evidence to offer such a suggestion. (Location 896–904, Kindle)

Well, he is correct here in one sentence: biblical creationists do insist on a young earth because we “believe the Bible obligates” us “to such a defense.” Of course! But notice he is trying to see his conclusion is not “designed to accommodate science, ” yet as you read the book, you find that is exactly what it is all about.

Why are we seeing more and more bizarre and elitist ideas (e.g., William Dembski—see previous blog post for details) coming out of Christian academia? I believe it is a form of academic pride, largely from academic peer pressure, because these people ultimately “loved the praise of men more than the praise of God“ (John 12:43).

And why do I bother to bring such matters to the church’s attention? I believe we need to be watchmen as described in Ezekiel and warn people about those who are on the attack. And in our day, many Christian academics are attacking God’s Word by such false teaching as that above.

“Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’”

“So you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me.” (Ezekiel 33:2–7)

Over the next few months, we will be doing a lot more to call compromising Christian academics to account, so keep watch.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken