State of the Origins Debate – Part II: The Response to Walton’s “Lost World”

John Walton, Professor - Wheaton College

Returning to John Walton and his recent contributions to the Genesis debate:    Previously I mentioned that I had picked up Walton’s book “The Lost World of Genesis One” again.  I also have read his more recent book which is a more academic follow-up to that book entitled “Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology.”   There have been many books on Genesis, the doctrine of inspiration and biblical hermeneutics that have strongly affected me.  However, I sometimes come away from a book thinking it was great only to read reviews and continue to critique the book myself and eventually realize that it did not really leave me all that satisfied.  For example, John Sailhamer’s book “Genesis Unbound” struck me like few others have and yet today I am much less enamored with that particular book although his continued work on the Pentateuch has been very helpful to me (see other posts on Sailhamer’s other books).

Many of the side-bar discussions in this book served as the basis of the book "The Lost World of Genesis One."

Since I still found myself intrigued by “The Lost World,”    I thought I should do another round of searches for critiques of his book so I searched blogs and journals and began reading reviews again.  Two years ago I had been stimulated to read quite a few reviews after going to a creation debate between  John  Walton and David Hall (24-hour advocate and PCA pastor) at a college in northeast Ohio (conference podcast HERE).  But other than a review by Vern Poythress’s I was hard pressed to find anything especially critical.  I really found the book helpful in many ways, but again I recognize that very often I am impressed with books only to find that over time I see more problems.  This book is light on references and makes many assertions without backing them up though I have several of his other books (see image to the left and below) and much of his thinking can be seen there even before he published this book.  Nonetheless I’m still intrigued by the overall thesis of the book.   So I thought a year later, I should now be able to find some real solid reviews, since the book has been out a while, that likely would cause me to become more disillusioned with the book.

I have read at least 50 reviews now and very few critical reviews that are substantive.   There is one by Poythress for which Walton has written a detailed, and thought effective, rebuttal.  The only other significant review I found through a link on the “Reformed Academic” which posted a review by John Collins (Professor at Covenant Theology Seminary). This would appear to be the most substantive review and from someone that I do respect (I have read his books on Genesis and Adam and Eve and find them to be very thought provoking).  I haven’t fully worked through this review yet so I don’t know what it’s impact will be on me.  Yes, of course there are several YEC thrashings from CMI and AIG, but having read the book carefully myself,  I have to wonder if the authors of these reviews even read the book since they don’t interact with any of its central theses or even seem to understand what they are, but rather just go right to the rhetoric-filled claims that he didn’t’ deny evolution so you should be careful not to even read this book lest you be tainted, type of talk.  Once again, an author is immediately branded as a compromiser if they don’t go out of their way to deny certain views. It isn’t good enough that they don’t affirm them.

In 2011 this followup to "Lost World" was published.

But what I have found most interesting is the general lack of  discussion by reformed Christian scholars and pastors of this book given its popularity.    Why isn’t it reviewed or discussed on Green Baggins (greenbaggins.wordpress.com), by Wes White (weswhite.net), Reformation21 (www.reformation21.org) or even Douglas Wilson (dougwils.com). The latter makes comment on seemingly everything and frequently comments on creationism but a search of Walton brings back not a single mention on his site.   Is this book really coming from too far outside the reformed circles to merit their notice? I don’t think so since Walton’s other works are very popular and are even read at many reformed seminaries.   This book is getting massive blog press out there and yet seems to be ignored on most reformed lists.  I searched the Puritan board where they talk creation all the time and other than some off-hand dismissals no serious discussion of the book.

I have found reviews on many blogs from reformed Christians that are not among leadership in the reformed community, and in nearly all cases the reviews are highly favorable.  These readers were either not favorably inclined to YEC to begin with or were not persuaded by the book but found the book very thought provoking and recommended all to read it.  For those blogs that are run by hard core literalists (reformed or not) there has barely been a peep about this book.  Maybe there are some academic reviews in some reformed journals that I don’t have access to but I find it strange that a book that seems to be widely read and is making headlines all over a variety of evangelical forums is not being interacted with by the 24-day group to any great extent.  It isn’t that no reformed Christians have read the book, I know, personally, there are many many people that have read it and highly recommend the book. The book is playing well the large, and largely hidden, group within the reformed community that have serious problems with YEC but find it difficult to speak out against a movement that has captured such a large segment of the reformed lay-Christian community.

I will explore a bit of the publishing landscape of the origins debate next.

Comments

  1. John Tomberlin says:

    I’ve been searching for a review of Walton’s book for a while now as well – by the very sites you mentioned. Very odd. I found The Lost World very engaging and persuasive, but I have remained fairly neutral on the OE/YE debate as the last thing I read usually is where I end up until I read something else. Thanks for the thoughts.

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    • Hi John, Thank for your comment. I know what you mean about finding works persuasive on first reading. I felt similarly after readying Sailhamers work. I then swerved away after reading some reviews and reading it a second time. Now I’ve come back and taken what I think is valuable and decided he has a lot going for him when I combine his views with Walton’s. I should probably add to this post that since posting Lee Irons who has full reformed credentials has reviews Walton’s book on his blog.That review can be found here: http://upper-register.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/review-of-john-h-walton-the-lost-world-of-genesis.html. I think it represents a good synthesis of the pros and cons I have seen from the conservative Christians. I think some of the “cons” are addressed is Walton’s follow up book which provides more details on his view.

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