What do I think of Ben Smith’s book on Genesis and science? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I reviewed this book and Jay Hall’s book since I’m hosting a debate between both of them on my show. More can be said from my perspective on Smith’s book since it deals more with the interpretation of Scripture, which is something that I do know about. There are places where Smith does touch on scientific issues, many of which I don’t know much about, but one that is interesting to me is the eruption of supernovas as indication of an old universe. I will not be interacting with science in this review since that is not my area. Smith is also not a theistic evolutionist and he has a separate book for evolution and thus, that will not be covered.
Smith starts with talking about the dispute we have going on today and the many views that are out there on the first part of Genesis which he numbers to be ten, including his own. The book is up-to-date since it includes John Walton’s view, which has also been the view that I hold to and while I’m not sold on Smith’s view yet, he has intrigued me with it. In fact, in some ways, it looks like many facets of Walton’s view could be included in Smith’s view and I do not doubt that Smith would think that many of Walton’s insights are valuable, especially since Walton is often quoted favorably.
Smith holds to a view known as the Prophetic Days View. A similarity this view has with Walton’s is that the days are indeed 24-hour days. The difference is that in this week, God declared what it was that He was going to be doing without necessarily completing it on that day. I find this view intriguing and it could do a good job explaining some of the data, but I do wonder if this is still how the ancients would have seen this. Walton in his work was able to point to corresponding writings that indicated likewise in the ancient world. Smith’s view would be more convincing for me if he could do likewise.
Smith also does write about how he used to be YEC and points out the reason he was one for so long was that he never read anything that disagreed with him, until he picked up a Hugh Ross book and then found out this guy wasn’t the person that he was made out to be and ten years of reading YEC material had not prepared him for that. It was a hard change, but he eventually made the change. Smith rightly points out that this is a problem that we have in our day and age that few people will bother to read anything that really disagrees with them. It’s easy to be convinced your viewpoint is the right viewpoint when you stay in an echochamber of your own thoughts. Reading disagreeing material is one of the best ways you can grow.
I also agree with Smith that there are some on the other side who do accuse OECs of believing in a different god and a different gospel. This kind of language absolutely must stop. YECs should think that those of us who are OECs are missing the truth if they are convinced of YEC, but to say that we are outside the fold is something altogether differently. Fortunately, most do not do this, but the ones that do this tend to speak very loudly.
Smith also does have a section on the question of death before the fall. This is an excellent part of the book where he states that many of our beliefs on animals could arise more from sentiment than they do from the Bible. This is something that our culture must watch for, especially when we live in an age of Disney and we can turn animals into creatures that feel and think like we do and increase our sympathies towards them. Of course, many of us who have this concern don’t really hesitate to go and visit the McDonald’s and get a hamburger so perhaps it is not God that is inconsistent, but we that are.
Also, there are two appendices dealing with meanings of Hebrew words and a look at what is meant by the firmament. Both of those will be helpful.
I can’t say I’m sold on the concordist view yet. There are times that such a viewpoint has got us in trouble in the past because we read a text thinking it was talking about science when really it wasn’t. This is a danger I’m very concerned about so I’m hesitant at this point.
Overall, this is a fascinating book and the viewpoint is intriguing. Anyone who is skeptical of the Genesis account needs to give it a look.