In one thing at least, Walton is right on the money: Genesis 1 is about life, not about trivially universal physics. Most YEC’s are just acting the mob by being happy to claim that certain parts of Genesis 1 is mainly or even even exclusively about such physics.
And my argument against the anti-Material Origins position that Walton takes is as much an argument against that status quo in YEC.
On what hermeneutic basis do those such as the YEC Morris clan make a life-indifferent interpretation of the first part of the text? The answer, which I explain in this post, is that it is made on a polemics-centric hermeneutic as applied to the material-origins approach to the account, and for which a life-indifferent interpretation is a bi-product.
When Adam and Eve acquired the Creation account, they had not yet inherited any culture that involved cosmological atheism or any other superstition on origins. Most to the point, they had not yet been surrounded by the kinds of sophisticated unbelievers that functioned for Theophilus and Basil to define the outer boundaries of that scholarly pair’s own hermeneutic envelope. Theophilus and Basil, in the early Centuries A.D., respectively wrote:
God[, in His] foreknowledge (…)understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth come from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth [of God’s creator-hood] might be demonstrated, [God was polemically motivated to cause] plants and seeds [to come] into existence [prior to that of] the stars.
[I]n order that those who live in ignorance of God may not consider the sun as the origin and the father of light, or as the maker of all that grows out of the earth[, God created and formed the Earth and plants prior to creating the sun.]
Theophilus does not explain how this admittedly odd order should discourage the unbelieving turn of mind. And Basil, for his part, gives no indication of knowing how a mere record that he supposes teaches such an oddity can even begin to correct those who live and die without ever hearing it.
So, if Theophilus and Basil felt that this interpretation accomplishes anything, they did not spell out how it accomplishes it. Instead they seem to have taken for granted that God was motivated to what can only be described as a kind of tit-for-tat: God would naturally have created the luminaries prior to creating the Earth. But, because He had foreknowledge that humans would become superstitiously in favor of the luminaries, even to denying that God exists as Creator, God ‘turned the tables’ on such humans. This is essentially what Theophilus and Basil reasoned.
But Theophilous and Basil do not even explain how such metaphorical table-turning actually was turned. On whom was it turned? And did those on whom it supposedly was turned care that some Theistic religion’s sacred account of Creation turn it on them? Again, Theophilus does not explain how this admittedly odd order should discourage the unbelieving turn of mind. Did he assume this would be accomplished only when they died and realized that (according to Theophilus) God really did create Earth prior to creating the luminaries? If this assumption was that which Theophilus was making, then Theophilus was rendering God to have the same shallow angst against unbelievers that Theophilus apparently had. Either way, this polemic-centric pragmatic interpretation is unprecedented to any fully systematic Theology of all of the Bible’s key portions.
So, if that polemic-centric pragmatic interpretation of the explicated luminaries of Genesis 1 is correct, then it would seem that God, in His preemptive creational reversal of the admittedly God-ordained hierarchy of immediate material dependencies, accomplished only one dubious effect: engendering an arrogant kind of polemicism on the part of those who, in espousing loyalty to that Creation text, also happen to espouse this ostensibly most normal interpretation of it. Specifically, this is the interpretation according to which every crucial detail to understanding every basic part of the account is spelled out in the account for every idiot. In other words, every basic part of the account is 100% explicit in terms of every one of that part’s own basics.
Yet this singular fixation on a 100% explicit kind of ‘plainness’ in Genesis 1 is that self-same ‘plainness’ according to which Genesis 2 ever is perceived, mistakenly, to materially contradict Genesis 1! Popularizers such as Sarfati (2015) realize the verb form issue for Genesis 2: Biblical Hebrew has no past-tense form of verb for such words that correspond to the English ‘had’.
Sarfati 2015, talk on ‘The Genesis Account’, youtube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f6PTiBZB7dk (time code 16:29-17:04)
But all such popularizers keep failing to apply that same fact to Genesis 1. They fail this because they have inherited the polemic-pragmatist tradition rationalized by Theophilus and Basil. Therefore, according to such status quo YEC’s today, there simply is no such problem in Genesis 1: every last word and phrase in the account is meant in the present tense of the actions therein listed. This means that, despite the normal way of understanding the particular unexplained details of any account that has those of Genesis 1, those of Genesis 1 are included in the presupposition that Genesis 1 consists in nothing but a blow-by-blow, utterance-by-utterance self report on the part of God: It is 100% God’s reporting what He said and did at the particular points in the Creation Week itself at which He said and did it. This may be the most neurocognitively easy presupposition upon which to argue from the account. But it is admittedly ignorantly premature, as best.
And today, with the broad advances in physics, the status quo in YEC is content to presume that God had both theological and scientific reasons to create the Earth prior to creating the luminaries. This is just the easiest thing to assume, not necessarily the most effective for understanding the peculiar details of the account.
So the interpretation made by Theophilus and Basil, and conveniently abided ever since, seems to be nothing but a pragmatic polemicism that merely finds post hoc rationalizations. In most recent times this has allowed a physics-chauvinist hermeneutic to presume upon the entire first eight verses of the text. The result is a kind of theft of these verses from their God-given normal, universal interpretation (((((such as DeRemer et al: 2007: DeRemer, Frank, w/ Mark Amunrud and Delmar Dobberpuhl (2007): Days 1-4. Journal of Creation 21, no.3:69-76, https://creation.com/images/pdfs/tj/j21_3/j21_3_69-76.pdf.))))).
According to the physics-chauvinistic hermeneutic used by DeRemer et al, the God-given normal interpretation is both theologically inferior and theologically erroneous: God, in his foreknowledge of atheist cosmologies, was culturally envious of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV show. As if that is not too much to swallow, the ‘grandeur’ and ‘majesty’ of such a rendering of the first eight verses leaves Earth akin to a woman-shaped mannequin (vs. 9-10) that God must arbitrarily and barely dress (vs. 11-12), and then arbitrarily impregnate (vs. 20-25). So as witness of YEC Faulkner, Humphreys, and many others, seemingly most modern YECs today happily devalue the supposedly most mundane, and therefore seemingly most insignificant, member of Genesis chapter one: Earth as life-support system. Apart from its accounting of humans, the text easily is singularly about that system, both in its geophysical and living halves. Humans were given a complete home in the cosmos, not left to wait and watch in a space ship as God went about polemically showing them that He, not an atheistic cosmos, first imbued the ‘atomically unstructured’ ‘prematter’ (h’erets of v. 1) with the atomic structure that emits energy (v. 3).
The best general defense, therefore, that this status quo among YEC has for the particular duration of the Creation act is what the Bible merely spells out about it (Exodus 20:11). And the best special defense thereto (DeRemer et al) is that God wanted to show that He could complete the Creation work much more rapidly, and without flaw, than can the billions of years that ostensibly is sufficient to evolve everything to its current, death-ridden condition. So the only motivation, to speak of, that comes from that status quo is a rush to carefully show how the account is not short on the trivially universal, most life-indifferent kind of physics to which secular-atheist cosmologies ultimately appeal. Adam was made from dust, ‘so we need to show how account, instead, begins simply of dust.’ Except, mere plain dust is not sophisticated, so this first possible effort is ignored. So, when dust is found to be made of atoms, that’s when ‘the account must begin with atoms, instead of the actual planet.’ Likewise for subatomic particles, and so on. This is essentially, and only, a tit-for-tat apologetics. The text allows for any advance in life-indifferent, trivially universal physics. So, when any advance is made, that advance is used to impugn the account’s conceivable concern for Earth as theologically inferior, and therefore interpretively mistaken.
Therefore, many ‘YEC’‘s today (such as DeRemer et al) are blind to the fact that, in a cosmos created for life, there is no—I repeat, no—mutual exclusion between a physics and a terrestrial consideration of the text. This is because The Prime account for humans, given its very explication of concrete origins of that life-supportive Earth, inherently suggests all of the physics details. The cosmos is, after all, a cosmos, with a single central member. It is not a set of mutually alien parts all scattered randomly in space that only happened to evolve life. A created cosmos is how life is central to a life-indifferent conception of physics, but not the other way. Life, and life’s home, is the sole central issue of the Creation account, and only in this way is the first verse explicitly inclusive of the entire universe with all its physics. Even the portion that specifies the luminaries does so not as a matter of astronomy proper, but, rather, as that of the luminaries’ relation to life on Earth.
So even this textually central portion of the account, which is only part of the account that explicates anything about the luminaries, is centrally only about life on Earth. Genesis 1 is not a Christian’s version of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos TV show. Humans’ only God-given central conceptual scheme is life and its supports, and this in their view of everything from the ground. God not only saves the sinner ‘as he is’, God communicates to humans by addressing us where we are made to be. This is Genesis 1. Even as God made the Earth to be inhabited, He made our minds to be centrally in mind of a living planet. Even all of Genesis 1 flows in that direction, as seen in the sequence in which v. 1 presents its two subjects.
Thus Walton rightly complains about the interpretation, popularized by YEC Morris, that v. 1 does not so much mean the actual Earth as mere matter. But Walton focuses his complaint on this physics-chauvinistic interpretation of v. 3. If the typical YEC feels that Walton’s complaint in that matter is unjust, then consider how strongly Walton would have complained against it had he grown up under a physics-first model such as that of DeRemer et al (mentioned above). That physics-first model argues that the entire first eight verses make no explicit mention of anything to do specifically with life. Accordingly, it renders theologically inferior the universally normal, Earth-focused reading of the first eight verses. In fact, DeRemer et al employ a hermeneutic that takes simple linear computer programming as the apex of human logical-philosophical fitness. Consequently, their physics-first model presupposes not only a mutual exclusivity between explicit meaning and implicit allowance, but one that favors the physics-focused consideration of the main subjects. So their model not only sees the entire eight verses as explicitly describing only physics, it is a model logically compelled to deny the Earth-focused reading under the impression that that reading, likewise, necessarily excludes physics-focused consideration of the subjects and sequences! By analogy to the most male chauvinist way of thinking, since a man, by definition is better at being a man, the man presumes that a woman most naturally competes against him despite he admits that she is non-competitive in nature. In other, metaphorical terms, who is the wedding for?
So, surely, Adam had no polemic-centric perception of Genesis 1, least of all of the vv. 1-3 and 14-18 set. After all, Adam is the most likely, of all named candidates, to have first understood the life-centric conceptual scheme within which the ancient Hebrew language operates. This is that scheme only according to which is there a complete sense in verses such as Luke 23:44, Exodus 14:20, Deuteronomy 4:11, Joshua 24:7, 2Samuel 22:12, Job 3:5, Job 17:12, Job 22:11, Job 38:9, Psalm 18:11. These verses show how the ‘darkness upon’ in Genesis 1:2b makes the particular specified location of the ‘spirit’ in v. 2c anything more than a inessential, merely ‘theological’ mention.
By contrast, the conceptual scheme of modern English is probably the most ‘secular’ and life-neutral scheme in history. Fortunately for us moderns, the entire Bible in English translation still evinces the Hebrew conceptual scheme when it concerns Genesis 1. For, nowhere does the Bible instruct us to abandon that God-given most humanly normal point of view when approaching the Creation account. For, the textual fact is that Adam and Eve began their existence in the broad daylight, and on Earth.
And Adam and Eve surely understood the ancient language better than did Theophilus and Basil. Did that merely scholarly pair take into view the absence of the past-tense form of verb in Biblical Hebrew? Did that merely scholarly pair account for the one shared terminology of various, textually wide-ranging verses that inform on Genesis 1:2-3? Did Theophilus and Basil, in seeing the account’s initial specification of a location for God’s own activity, see a normal implication as to the particular location of the next pending action? Hugh Ross is wrong in so many basic things, including the fact that the account clearly implies that the Earth’s life-support system is as irreducibly complex as is any biological organism. But that only makes Ross’s essential claim to a dense cloud cover all the more right.
Had Theophilus and Basil not been so concerned for polemic pragmatism, they may have thought better than to render God arbitrarily polemic against what they already intuited was the materially normal sequence of creation. Then they would have understood the text in its own singular universal appeal to its sole normal audience: we humans who need to know how our home in the cosmos functions, not just that it functions.
When his first children were little, what did Adam teach them? Did he tell them of the account of Creation Week? And if so, what were his and theirs’ linguistic conceptual scheme for understanding each of its parts fully, and in sequence?
In regard to the interpretation made by Theophilus and Basil of the creation sequence of light and luminaries, it is felt by many today that my above criticism of that interpretation is ungodly, un-Biblical, etc… And, even of those who admit that my argument above is sound within its own express parameters, many of them will claim that the traditional, light-before-luminaries interpretation is not thereby strictly disproved. Some even will point out that light physically is more naturally prior to any of the luminaries. But that point not only makes my own point, it gets everything mixed up both as to (i) hermeneutic standards being used therein and (ii) the fact that the account cannot rightly be made to bear an inconsistency of subject for sake of universally trivial physics.
So, even if the claim, made by most YECs, that my above argument is not necessarily true to the intent of the account’s author, it must be noted that the very logic of maintaining the tradition begun by Theophilus is strictly unjustifiable within normal God-given standards of epistemology. And, contrary to a certain, admittedly ignorant interpretation of one Old Testament passage regarding Abraham and God, there is no Biblical precedent for the particular hermeneutic according to which that tradition exists.