Well, previously I looked at J Janzen’s article and interacted with his contribution to the debate regarding the origin of the universe. Blows were traded, it was ambiguously insinuated that I was a religious fanatic, and God’s word stood unscathed at the end. Today, we’re re-entering the squared-circle with Brian Cooper and his article entitled God saw that it was good: Toward a theology of creation. Shall we begin?
Again, I’ll toss up Cooper’s arguments and choice points in regular font and I’ll provide interaction in italics:
Brian Cooper’s article focused on a theology of creation. He opened well with some good comments about how the scripture clearly articulates that mankind has been created for fellowship and the glorification of God, which he explained through a citation of the MB Confession of Faith as worship. Cooper affirms that Genesis portrays God as the creator of all who made all things according to his divine purpose.
- I definitely give all of that a hearty “AMEN!”
He then shifted gears and said that “As with all Scripture, God inspired the author of Genesis to write the creation account in terms that would have been familiar to the readers of that day”. And commented on how the clear message of Genesis is that the God of Israel is the supreme God, the only God, the one worthy of worship and the sustaining one.
- Again, Cooper said a bunch of good and true things here and I agree, though I would make one observation. I didn’t know where he was going with it, but I always love the subtle rhetoric with the “condescension of language” idea. I am always intrigued at when people suggest that God was limited to express himself due to the imprecise categories and non-technically language of the ancient Israelites, with the subtle implication God could explain creation without much linguistic compromise today because we’re so much more advanced in knowledge and technology. I have a sneaking suspicion that if God really let loose and explained the creation event with a proper “no holds barred” level mechanistic explanation, not a single intellect on the earth would have a clue what he was talking about. It would involve 17 forms of math that we haven’t even discovered yet and would involve concepts and vocabulary that would be so far beyond our collective intelligence that either we’d simply trust him and believe it or not. We’d be in essentially the exact same place as we are now, but with a few trillion more pages of text to be confused about.
Cooper then made several good points about Genesis. He said that Genesis instructs us that God is both transcendent and immanent, uncreated, revealed partially to humanity, and Cooper commented that creation is part of the grander biblical story of redemption and should not be divorced from the redemptive narrative of scripture. Cooper commented that God’s creative work is still ongoing, as is his salvific work.
- Again, I have no significant disagreement here at all and would give a hearty “Amen!”
Cooper then commented on how creation is not meant to be the object of worship, and he attempted to balance those who are skeptical of environmentalism and those who condone environmental abuse and exploitation, making some well stated points about the stewardship of creation. Cooper continued on and said that though creation is fallen, it still reveals the majesty of God and anticipates the coming kingdom and Christ’s return.
- Still good. Good points and well made. Cooper is definitely a good writer! At this point I was wondering if there was another shoe at all, and when it was going to drop.
Then, came the section called “Less concerned with the ‘how”. Cooper made the point that the Bible describes the “how” of creation as “the creative power of God’s word (Psalm 33:6)” and warned that “it’s important to not allow questions regarding the ‘how’ of creation to overshadow the more important revelation regarding the ‘who’ and the ‘why’”.
- Ah, there it is. The shoe clomps on my big toe. I was, and always am, confused by this line of reasoning. Cooper admits that the scripture does include an answer to the “how” question, but he doesn’t explain how he came to the divine revelation of the levels of importance between the “how”, “who” and “why” questions. God thought it was important enough to mention all three and mentioned all three without any clear indication, in any explicit way at all, that there was some sort of divine priority to “who” and “why”.
Cooper further elucidated his position, saying “In the context of Genesis 1-2, we believe that the foundational message – that God is the sovereign creator of everything that is – comes through clearly. We believe that this is the message God inspired the author to convey, and we believe that God’s word correctly imparts that foundational message for all times.”
He then followed that with “The Genesis account reveals a number of important details regarding creation, including that God created the world from the formless void (historically, we have interpreted this as meaning creation ex nihilo – out of nothing). We learn that God created the heavens and the earth, including all life on earth, that God created humanity in the image of God, and also that God created humans to serve as stewards of creation. But God does not reveal much through Genesis that gives insight into the way in which he created the world.”
- Let me get this straight. Cooper lists 6 facts that we learn from Genesis, found in Genesis 1:1, 1:2, 1:11-12, 1:20-22, 1:24-25, 1:26-27, 1:29-30, 2:4-5, 2:7, 2:15, (and that’s being generous on the references). Of the 56 verses in Genesis 1-2, around 38 of them teach us no “important details regarding creation”? So God just put 68% of Genesis 1 & 2 in as filler, or what? God sure threw in a whole load of filler. I would have thought that every single word that God (you know, the one who actually created language?) inspired Moses to write down and record for all time would have been important and well chosen. I mean, Proverbs 30:5 says “every word of God is flawless”, 2 Tim. 3:16 says that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” and Moses wrote (and Jesus quoted) “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut. 8:3 & Matt. 4:4). Scripture is without flaw, is profitable in every singular passage, and is life-giving in every word. Cooper only found six “important details regarding creation” in Genesis 1 & 2? Give me a break! There are six important details regarding creation in Genesis 1:1 alone!
Cooper then shifted gears slightly and mentioned how Mennonite Brethren have not made a specific view on creation the test of faith, but MB’s are “committed to the foundational authority of the Bible”, and “affirm Scripture’s depiction of the God of Israel as the only sovereign creator of the world and all that is in it. On this Scripture is abundantly clear”.
- Come ON! The only clear idea of Genesis is that “God did it”? Scripture is clear on that and nothing else? This idea is an outright attack on the perspicuity of scripture. The problem with any passage of scripture is never ultimately one of clarity (though some passages of scripture are certainly more difficult to unpack than others); the problem is ultimately one of implication. The implications of the straightforward truth of almost any passage of scripture are that we look stupid to unbelievers and we don’t get invites over to play (usually in universities or academic associations/societies) because they cannot face the implications of scripture; that’s the impact of the sin nature on unbelievers. They don’t believe because they can’t believe; instead they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. The scripture is sufficiently clear for intellects and imbeciles to get the general message, and Genesis 1&2 says a whole lot more than “God did it”.
Cooper then wrapped up his article saying “This missional fellowship, our participation in God’s redemptive work, is greater than our differences in other areas of theology, and in fact provides the basis for conversation and loving mutual respect among believers. We trust that we can share such a ministry together as Mennonite Brethren, and that as God’s creation, we will fully reflect his glory”.
- I knew the word “missional” was going to sneak in here at some point. Somebody owes me a donut. Beyond that, our fellowship in the great commission is greater than our differences in theology? Well, that may be true…until you start believing in evolutionary theory, which rules out the historicity of Adam, vastly changes the biblical doctrine of sin and then directly impacts the great commission, evangelism, and the actual gospel itself (there’s no naturalistic explanation for the deity, miracles, or resurrection of Jesus Christ). If evolution is true, the gospel can’t be! Let’s just say that when there’s no historical Adam, it’s a lot easier to preach Turning Hurts Into Halos instead of preaching repentance from sin and turning to Christ as the only redemption from God’s coming wrath.
So, on the whole the article was good until the end, where Cooper simply played the same old tune as so many others – Genesis is only clear on the fact that “God did it”, and everyone who worries about other details is barking up the wrong tree. Cooper gives absurdly insufficient argumentation for me to even take that position seriously, and when I actually examine Genesis 1 & 2 and see what the prophets/apostles quote from it in later scripture, I find that there’s a lot more than just six important details in those two chapters.
Next up I’ll take on the biggest article, the main exegetical interaction by Robert J. V. Heibert. That one will likely be up early next week, as I’ve got sermon prep, pastoral work. house cleaning and unpacking to do!
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “6? Let’s aim for 600!” Unger