Spring 2014 · Vol. 43 No. 1 · pp. 2–3 

From the Editor: Genesis and Origins

Vic Froese

Something critical is at stake when people are willing to live with the uncomfortable dissonance of embracing science in most areas of life while rejecting its conclusions about our origins. On many accounts, what could be lost is a story of beginnings without which the story of Jesus Christ seems to lose much of its point.

The question is, must it lose its point, its intelligibility, if we accept the scientific account of how we and the universe came to be?

Most contributors to this issue reject the view (held by both atheistic scientists and Christian creationists) that the Bible and evolutionary science must be at war, that the essential truths of the Bible cannot sit beside those given us by scientific reason without grave discomfort. The church has sometimes been unfriendly to speculations about the earth and the heavens that seemed to deviate from Scripture. But the church’s resistance to Galileo’s heliocentric view of the universe, to use the stock example, has been an embarrassment that few Christians want to relive. So Ken Esau asks us, Is it “Galileo time”? Time to acknowledge that scientists have our origins basically right, before we embarrass ourselves more than we already have? Or is it, as many believe, “Gandalf time”? Time to stand up to the evil Balrog of evolutionary theory before our faith is so badly compromised that nothing can save us? Or is it time for something else entirely? His essay invites us to consider these questions.

Paul Cumin comes at the question of origins from a different perspective, provocatively proposing that we start not with Genesis but with the Gospel of John. What would happen if we took “literally” the Johannine claim that everything that exists was created by and for Jesus, the Logos of God? How would that affect our attitude toward the science of human origins and our reading of Genesis? Cumin’s paper suggests that this is not merely an interesting thought experiment but a challenge that Christians can no longer ignore.

In Mark Wessner’s article, he agrees with creationists that Genesis gives us vital and reliable information, but not about how the world or human beings came into existence. Rather, what it tells us is far more essential—the truth of who our Creator is, what our identity and calling are, and what we are designed to be. Genesis, he says, answers the question of what it means to be fully human as God intended; the question of how he fashioned the human race, not so much. And this makes Genesis 1 and 2 more important, not less.

Pierre Gilbert takes the view that the first three chapters of Genesis provided ancient Hebrews with the blueprint for a liberating worldview, one that contrasted sharply with those of ancient mythologies. Rather than {3} encouraging people to rely on diviners for rituals and magic to escape the wrath of impetuous gods, Genesis, he says, offers a picture of the world that denies the reality of any god but God, and affirms human dignity by declaring that human beings, created in God’s image, are partners with him, not slaves. These remain foundational truths today, with important implications for mission work.

Candice Viddal writes from the perspective of a physicist who is also a Christian. Despite encountering challenges to her love of science early in life, she now finds her faith nourished by physics, as the mysteries it uncovers deepen her sense of the greatness and mystery of God. Her paper is evidence that the book of nature and the book of Scripture indeed originate from the same Source.

Can a close reading of Darwin find support for a less Darwinian, more Christian perspective on life and death? Justin Neufeld, in a longer personal reflection, tries to show that if interpreted through the lenses of Socrates, Jean Vanier, and James Cone, Darwin’s thought emerges as something perhaps more radically Christian than many might expect—or want.

Our Ministry Compass piece comes from Bethany College’s Randy Klassen. He shares how he engages his students in the study of Genesis, teaching them to allow the text to interrogate them even as they ask hard questions of it. The Recommended Reading section offers a classified bibliography of books on creation and human origins for readers of various persuasions. In Book Reviews we have, among others, a review of Peter Enns’s provocative book, The Evolution of Adam. We are also honored that much-decorated Canadian poet and essayist Di Brandt has written a review for us which takes a critical but not unsympathetic look at Mothering Mennonite, a collection of essays on Mennonite mothers and motherhood. The annual Current Research bibliography closes out this issue.

Vic Froese, General Editor