Book Plunge: The Lost World of the Israelite Conquest

What do I think of John H. and J. Harvey Walton’s book published by IVP? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Anytime I receive a book by John Walton from IVP, there is cause for much rejoicing. Ever since I read The Lost World of Genesis One I have been a major fan of Walton. That book answered so many questions I had had about Genesis 1 as it explored it from a perspective of the Ancient Near East. My rejoicing was apparent when I got this latest book.

There have been many books written on this topic and many of them I have enjoyed, but now I have to rethink them. The Waltons bring up problems with hypotheses that we have traditionally used. What if the conquest is not about punishment for sin? What if the wrong approach is to try to look at it from the perspective of if we would call it good or not? What if we’ve been wrong about all of this?

The Waltons want to start by saying that we don’t need to bring in our ideas of goodness to the text. For the ancients, much of what was good was that which was orderly. Something could be said to be good if it helped to establish order to the world. The conquest can be seen as a way of establishing order as YHWH prepares to take the land for the use that he had intended it for.

They also look at the texts that we use to say that God was doing this for the sins of the people. Sometimes, it is for sins, but these are sins usually committed against Israel, such as 1 Sam. 15. In these cases, it is specifically said that this is what it is for.

In all of this, this doesn’t mean that we should accept the Canaanites as just fine people that weren’t doing anything wrong. We cannot justify idolatry and child sacrifice for instance, but those aren’t the main focus of YHWH. It’s different in the NT where in Acts, Paul tells the people of Lystra that God overlooked such things in the past and tells the Greeks that God is now calling everyone to repent.

The problem with many of our approaches is that we act like the Canaanites were under the covenant when they were not. God was indeed calling the Israelites to right behavior, but he was not calling the Canaanites to. There was no conversion effort going on. Of course, had the Israelites managed to convince all the Canaanites to join YHWH, there would be no need of the conquest per se, but that is not what was going on. Israel welcomed people who wanted to convert, but they did not aim for that.

One area that there would be agreement on is that the term for utterly destroy does not mean in a literalistic sense. Instead, it often refers to an object set aside for a specific usage. This also gets into the concept of holiness. Holiness was not something that people earned. It was something that was conferred on to the people and it could be given to inanimate objects as well.

Also, there is relevance for us today with this. No. It doesn’t mean we go grab a sword and kill our unbelieving neighbor. Instead, it shows us how we are to really put something to death, our sinful natures. We are to be holy to the Lord and cut off all that keeps us from being holy. We are to be what God has set apart for His use. We are to identify with the new community.

I’m really still chewing on a lot of what the Waltons say, but it is a great read and one that really does leave you questioning. I would find the Waltons anticipated my questions many many times. Though some will no doubt disagree with what is found here, all wishing to speak on the conquest period should interact with it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 3/7/2015: John Walton

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Back in 2013, we were blessed to have John Walton come on the show and talk about The Lost World of Genesis One. Now John Walton has brought us another excellent book, The Lost World of Adam and Eve. As soon as I saw this was coming, I knew I wanted Walton back on the show again and indeed, he was happy to come back again to what I believe could be the first podcast interview on the book that will be done.

So who is John Walton?


According to his bio:

John’s research and his energized presentations are rooted in his passion for drawing people into a better understanding of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. John (PhD, Hebrew Union College) is a professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School. He focuses his research on the literature and cultures of the ancient Near East and the Old Testament, with a particular interest in Genesis. Before his role at Wheaton, John taught for 20 years at Moody Bible Institute.

John has authored many articles and books, including The Lost World of Adam and Eve, The Lost World of Genesis One, Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology, and Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament. John also served as general editor of the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament and co-author of the IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament.

John’s ministry experience includes church classes for all age groups, high school Bible studies, and adult Sunday school classes, as well as serving as a teacher for “The Bible in 90 Days.

I have found John Walton’s viewpoint on the Old Testament to be incredibly eye-opening. Prior to reading the book, I had done my own research project on science and Christianity and came to the conclusion that the best arguments I could find are metaphysical arguments and it does not help to marry our apologetics to science. If some want to do scientific apologetics, that’s fine, but it’s really not something that I prefer to use. Also, N.T. Wright had been a scholar definitely helping with my understanding of the New Testament. For years, I had been working to learn how Jews at the time would understand Jesus and thought “How would Jews at the time of Moses understand Genesis?” John Walton provided the answers.

That’s why I’m thrilled to have him come back on the show again. We’re going to be talking about his views on Adam and Eve and asking the hard questions. We will be asking what role scientific data does play and how much impact should it have on our reading? We will be asking him what the impact is of other human beings besides Adam and Eve being around. Doesn’t that go against what Jesus said in the Gospels? We will be asking about the serpent in the Garden and what was the impact of the event called the fall on humanity?

So be watching your podcast feed! You won’t want to miss this one!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Ham/Nye Debate: Why I Don’t Care

So why did I not even bother watching the big debate? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Awhile back, I first heard the news about how Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis was going to debate Bill Nye, the Science Guy. I had great frustration as soon as I heard about the debate. On Facebook after the debate, someone in apologetics I know posted asking who won. My pick obviously didn’t win, and that was the meteor shower that should have come through and knocked the satellites broadcasting it out of the sky or else the winter snowstorm that could have cancelled the whole event. I replied that I don’t know who won, but I’m sure the loser was everyone on the planet.

Yet a few people did ask me what I thought about it and wasn’t I excited about this debate. Therefore, I figured I’d write something so that those who want to know my opinion on the whole matter could see what it is and why that I hold it.

As readers know, I am an old-earth creationist. I do not hold hostility towards YEC. My ministry partner is a YEC. More importantly, my wife is a YEC. What I have a problem with is a dogmatic YEC. I in fact have just as much a problem with a dogmatic OEC. Someone is not more or less of a Christian because of their views on the age of the Earth. There are people who love Jesus more than I do who are YEC. There are people who love him more than I do who are OEC.

Having said that, part of the problem those of us who are OEC have to overcome is constantly having it be assumed that if we’re Christians, then that means that we believe in a young Earth and we don’t. Too often, YEC is presented as the biblical model. As readers know, I happen to think John Walton has the right model. My review of his book on the topic can be found here and my interview with him can be found here.

I also have another viewpoint that can be considered different from a number of Christians and that is that I do not consider the question of evolution important to Christian truth. That does not mean the question is unimportant in itself, but if you want to know if Christianity is true or not, you do not need to ask if evolution is true or not. Now if matter is all there is, then of course Christianity is not true, but because evolution is true, it does not necessitate that matter is all that there is.

In my own work, I refuse to speak on evolution as evolution and my reasoning for doing such is quite simple. I am no scientist. If evolution is to be critiqued, I believe it should be critiqued scientifically. I do not possess the necessary study and/or credentials to do that. If I fault the new atheists for speaking on philosophy, history, biblical studies, etc. without proper background and/or study, then I will follow the same pattern.

For those who do wish to critique evolution, there is no reason to bring Scripture into it. The claim of evolution is a scientific claim and if it falls, it will fall on a scientific basis. I have no problem with people critiquing evolution. I hold no position on the matter simply because I could not scientifically defend or deny evolutionary theory. It is the same reason I do not use Craig’s Kalam argument for the origin of the universe. I am not a scientist and it is not my language. I will stick to the metaphysical arguments instead.

So when I see the Ham/Nye debate, I see the perpetuating of a stereotype that I do not want perpetuated. I see it being made as again, science vs. the Bible and if you hold to the Bible, well you have to hold to a young-earth.

When we are trying to get people to become Christians, our goal should not be to get them to a viewpoint on the origins of old creation but rather on new creation. We want to get them to the risen Jesus and not to a 10,000 year old Earth. Suppose that someone believes in evolutionary theory and a 4.5. billion year old Earth, but also believes Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

Now on the other hand, suppose there is someone, perhaps a Jew, who will stand with Ken Ham and say that the Earth is indeed 10,000 years old and macroevolutionary theory is a fairy tale. Suppose also that this person being a Jew and not Messianic denies that Jesus is the risen Lord. Such a person is not in the Kingdom. No doubt about it.

So which one should we be emphasizing and getting people to realize the most? The age of the Earth and a stance on evolution, or should it be that we are getting them to recognize that Jesus is the risen Lord?

What we do too often is tell atheists that if you want to be a Christian, then you must deny what you are certain of by the sciences. What we also do is tell Christians that if you want to be a follower of Christ, you must believe that the Earth is 10,000 years old. Both positions I am sure will keep people away from the Kingdom.

It is my hope not that Christians will embrace evolution as I do not care about that, but that they will realize that it doesn’t matter and the ultimate hope is to realize that Jesus is the risen Lord of the universe. If you are someone who is capable of presenting every argument you can for the Earth being young, but you are unable to make an argument that Jesus is the risen Lord, then you have made a mistake somewhere along the way.

It is because it feeds a debate then that I do not support in any way that I refused to watch the Ham/Nye debate and so far, no one has given me any reason why I should.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Genesis One: The Lost World

What’s coming up on the Deeper Waters Podcast this Saturday? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

How old is the Earth? Is it 6-10,000 years old, or is it 4.5 billion years old? Most of us have decided the place to go to is Genesis 1 and this has been the battleground for the topic. Each side has been ready to cast out the other and charges of heresy fly around. (For all concerned, I am an OEC who has a ministry partner that is YEC and a wife that is YEC)

The underlying assumption for each side has been that this is what Genesis One is talking about. This Saturday, I will be interviewing a guest that says “No. Both sides have it wrong. Genesis One is not talking about that at all.” My guest is John Walton of Wheaton who wrote the book “The Lost World of Genesis One.”

Walton says that in our scientific mindset due to the enlightenment, we have had an emphasis on the material aspects of creation, but Walton says the ancients didn’t think that way. For them, something wasn’t truly said to exist until it was given a function, and thus the account of creation as we call it is not about the material creation, but the functional creation of the universe.

And what is the whole purpose of all of this? Walton tells us that the main goal of creation was to make a temple for which God would dwell in. The deity’s idol would often sit in the temple as well, which would be that which bore the deity’s image. This means that we are an integral part of the creation. We were made to serve in a temple that reflects the glory of God.

This thesis I find extremely fascinating. It fits in so well with the NT and the writings of N.T. Wright on God wanting to dwell with His people and on eventually the new heaven coming down to Earth. It also has the advantage of doing what I’ve said should be done for some time, getting to the way the ancients would have read the Bible and trying to move away from our modern presuppositions.

Yet this view is not without its critics. There are two especially we will be discussing. One is William Lane Craig who has made a number of statements with regards to Aristotlean philosophy. Has Walton committed a grave blunder in his reasoning? We will be asking him.

Another is Hugh Ross of Reasons To Believe. I do wish to state upfront that I do respect both Ross and Craig. I am a member of the local chapters of Reasons To Believe and Reasonable Faith, but I am of course allowed to disagree. Ross comes from another perspective.

Ross does believe the Bible contains scientific information in the account and defends a more concordist position. Ross is concerned about removing a scientific witness to the world from the Bible and what it means to tell modern man the Bible says nothing in regards to science. There are also concerns about Inerrancy that have come up. (Not that we’re unfamiliar with the code word of Inerrancy being used to drum up suspicion)

Chances are, you might have your own questions as well for Dr. Walton. If you do, I welcome them. The show time will be from 3-5 EST on June 22, 2013. Our call in number is 714-242-5180. I hope you’ll be listening in for an enjoyable episode of the Deeper Waters podcast.

The link to the show is available here.

In Christ,
Nick Peters