The Flood As Re-Creation

Writes Gary V. Smith in his article “Structure And Purpose In Genesis 1–11” [JETS 20:4 (1977), 310-11]:

When Genesis 1 and 2 are compared with 8 and 9, one begins to perceive the extent to which the author uses repeated phrases and ideas to build the structural relationships within the units. The following relationships are found:

(a) Since man could not live on the earth when it was covered with water in chaps. 1 and 8, a subsiding of the water and a separation of the land from the water took place, allowing the dry land to appear (1:9–10; 8:1–13).

(b) “Birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” are brought forth to “swarm upon the earth” in 1:20–21, 24–25 and 8:17–19.

(c) God establishes the days and seasons in 1:14–18 and 8:22.

(d) God’s blessing rests upon the animals as he commands them to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” in both 1:22 and 8:17.

(e) Man is brought forth and he receives the blessing of God: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in 1:28 and 9:1, 7.

(f) Man is given dominion over the animal kingdom in 1:28 and 9:2.

(g) God provides food for man in 1:29–30 and 9:3 (this latter regulation makes a direct reference back to the previous passage when it includes the statement, “As I have given the green plant”).

(h) In 9:6 the writer quotes from 1:26–27 concerning the image of God in man.

The author repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the world is beginning again with a fresh start. But Noah does not return to the paradise of Adam, for the significant difference is that “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen 8:21).

Do It Again

G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4:

“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

Words and Relationships

The word is the basis for our relationships. Without words we form no connections, no closeness, no self-disclosure, no knowing. Without words there is no relationship. A picture of my face will not build a relationship with you (it will more likely repel you!). But words like these can begin to do so. Self-disclosure is the first step in a relationship. Ellul makes the point from Genesis: “God is not only creator; he is creator through the word, which means that he is never far from, never foreign to, his creation. God speaking means he is in relationship” (Humiliation, 59). The word forms the basis of our relationship with God, or, rather, God’s relationship with his creation.

This point is taken to another level in the Gospel of John, a book that opens by echoing the creation event as we are introduced to the Savior as the self-disclosure of God. The theme of word and relationship returns. God’s children, his flock, listen to the Shepherd’s voice. Jesus came into the world to speak and His children hear his voice (10:16, 27; 18:37). But they do more than listen. When God speaks his children recognize their Shepherd, are drawn into relationship, and are moved to follow Him. Whenever words are spoken directly at us we are invited to respond, normally it would be odd not to respond, even of those words come from a complete stranger on the street. Or to illustrate it in a different context think of a time when you drove a car past a friend in another car and waved but got no response back. The immediate thought is “Maybe that wasn’t my friend.” A lack of response makes us question our relationship. Words are like that. Words, like the voice of the Shepherd, invite us into relationship.

If words are the foundation for our relationships, lies destroy those relationships. The one seeking to destroy man’s relationship with God–Satan–is the one who has busied himself in seeking to distort and twist the truth into lies from the beginning of God’s creation. He did this to sever man from God. And he succeeded. But it gets worse because to be a liar is to be a murderer (8:44). When truth is twisted into lies a world of relationally-networked sinners becomes a very bloody place and a war breaks out between God and the people he created. The only hope for this severed relationship between a holy God and sinful man (each of us) is through the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus the Father of Lies can be defeated–and our relationship with God can be restored–only through the ultimate murder, the severed forsakenness of our Savior on the cross. For us to know God the Word of God must be murdered by lies.

The connection between word/relationship and truth/lies has profound implications for just about every sphere of life. But the simple point of these musings is to see the connection between our Bibles, our God, and our relationship and response to Him. Scripture is more than a book. It’s the voice of our Shepherd and therefore is the foundation of our relationship with Him. Those words are God’s invitation for us to know Him, to respond, to enter an eternal relationship with Him. He speaks truth so we can know Him.

Waltke on Waltke (on the evolution video)

Robert C. (Ric) Cannada, Jr., Chancellor and CEO Reformed Theological Seminary, has distributed this statement from Bruce Waltke:

I had not seen the video before it was distributed. Having seen it now, I realize its deficiency and wish to put my comments in a fuller theological context.

1. Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.

2. Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.

3. I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position. I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.

4. Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy. The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.

5. Science is fallible and subject to revision. As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux. My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.

6. God could have created the Garden of Eden with apparent age or miraculously, even as Christ instantly turned water into wine, but the statement that God “caused the trees to grow” argues against these notions.

7. I believe that the Triune God is Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth and that biblical Adam is the historical head of the human race.

8. Theological comments made here are mostly a digest of my chapters on Genesis 1-3 in An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007).

Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary

Shrugging Atlas

Peter O’Brien’s new Hebrews commentary in the Pillar series is delightful and I’ve been reading it straight through. Tonight I have a few moments and I wanted to post his comments on Hebrews 1:3b: “he [Christ] upholds the universe by the word of his power.” This has always been a fascinating text for me (along with Col. 1:17).

O’Brien writes:

Not only is Jesus Christ the agent of creation (v. 2c); he also sustains the universe he has made. This Lord is not like the god of the deists, who, having created the world, then proceeded to let it run on its own. He is personally and continually involved in sustaining it.

Then he adds this:

The immediate context, however, suggests the additional nuance of the Son’s ‘carrying’ all things to their appointed end or goal. The notion of direction or purpose seems to be included. The author, then, is not referring to the passive support of a burden like the Greek god Atlas bearing the dead weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather, the language implies a ‘bearing’ that includes movement and progress towards an objective.

So what is this objective?

Moreover, if this nuance of direction is present,* then the Son’s bearing all things (i.e., time and space) to their appointed ends looks forward to his work of redemption, which is described in the next line (v. 3c). The Son’s sustaining all things is not simply the backdrop to or the precursor of his redemptive work. His cleansing of sins is an important objective of Christ’s providential work.

In other words the picture we get in Hebrews 1:3 is of a Savior who sustains the world for the purpose of dying for the world.


* Some commentators agree (Westcott, P.E. Hughes) but others disagree (Ellingworth). Ellingworth takes “upholds” more along the lines of bearing dead weight or preventing something from falling. O’Brien argues the case contextually by suggestion that “upholds” is in a line of progression that leads to “making purification” and that leads to “sat down.”


As a fan of Bible scholar Bruce Waltke, and especially his commentary on Genesis, I was surprised to see a new video online where Waltke says, “If the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us [the Church] a cult.”

Here’s the full video clip that appears on the YouTubes:

Now, my little brain can come up with at least two definitions of “evolution.”

A: Evolution as in the gradual changes and mutations occurring in the world since creation. In this definition I see no contradiction between the creation account and changes within species of animals since the creation. Changes have happened and will continue to happen even among humans. Read about the Philistine “descendants of giants” (2 Sam 21:15–22) and picture a nation of Shaquille O’Neals.

B: Or evolution as in explaining how man marched from cell to worm to fish to lizard to monkey and finally to man over the course of three billion years. This is a different topic and it’s one that raises a host of theological problems.

A good place to read is Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854–1921). Bavinck was clearly open to A and admitted that the number of animal species has surely increased since creation. He had no problems admitting to gradual changes and mutations in creation.

However, Bavinck saw key theological problems with B, none of which were more important than how B undermines the unity of mankind. Here’s how Bavinck explains it in Reformed Dogmatics:

The unity of the human race is a certainty in Holy Scripture (Gen. 1:26; 6:3; 7:21; 10:32; Matt. 19:4; Acts 17:26; Rom. 5:12ff; 1 Cor. 15:21f., 45f.) but has almost never been acknowledged by the peoples who lived outside the circle of revelation. The Greeks considered themselves autochthonous and proudly looked down on ‘barbarians.’ This contrast is found in virtually all nations. In India there gradually came into being even a sharp division between four castes of people, for each of which a distinct origin was assumed. … On the position of Darwinism, however, the question concerning the origin and age of humanity cannot be answered; the transition from animal to man occurred so slowly that there really was no first man.” (2:523, 525)

And that is the key problem with B. Who was the first man? Evolution cannot answer this. But the Church must have an answer.

Bavinck concludes:

The unity of the human race, as Scripture teaches it … [is] not a matter of indifference, as is sometimes claimed, but on the contrary of the utmost importance: it is the presupposition of religion and morality. The solidarity of the human race, original sin, the atonement in Christ, the universality of the kingdom of God, the catholicity of the church, and the love of neighbor—these are all grounded in the unity of humankind. (2:526)

You can see the problems with B. Scripture makes it clear that the whole of the Christian faith is tied back to the historicity of a single man—Adam—who is the first man, the head of fallen man, and the universal and original ancestor of all people.

For Bavinck, to deny this unity is a theological tragedy. To resist B is not to marginalize the Church into a cult, it is to free the Church to breathe the fresh air of revelation. All while making it possible to embrace A.