We are in the midst of a very exciting season of dialogue regarding the opening chapters of the book of Genesis. Recent discoveries, for example, from the ancient Near East, fresh reading perspectives of literary genre and style, and significant engagement with Second Temple and Jewish literature all provide an opportunity to “take up and read” afresh the creation account in Genesis. Evangelicals in the church and the academy are involved in a robust conversation on how to read Genesis in its ancient Israelite context.
The early chapters of Genesis are foundational in constructing the framework and contours of a distinctly Christian understanding of origins and reality. As such, the doctrine of creation is critical for explaining the design and telos of the natural world and history. It provides the basis for a coherent view of the universe from beginning to end, allowing for a unified sense of truth and meaning. And it explains why the universe is intelligible at all, facilitating the ability of human beings to probe and study it as rational beings fashioned in the image of God. Interpreting the Genesis creation narratives raises intriguing challenges for both epistemology and textual authority, as well as for the nexus of biblical and scientific claims. How we approach the text has profound implications for theology, philosophy, and science.
The Bryan Institute for Critical Thought & Practice is representative of the community of Bryan College, whose collegial faculty enthusiastically teach and live under the authority of the Scriptures. As confessional believers who are deeply indebted to the ancient creeds, the confessions of church history, and the church fathers of any era, we encourage a congenial conversation among Christian people as they read, interpret, and practice what God has revealed in the opening creation story of Genesis. Amidst a number of honest and sincere interpretations by thoughtful confessional scholars and lay people whose ideas are represented in the ancient traditions of church history, we believe and confess that God has created all that exists, and that everything which constitutes the material and immaterial world was made and designed by God.
As part of a Christian liberal arts institution, we do not adopt a particular interpretation concerning how the divine activity of creation occurred or how long it took in process. At the same time, we do affirm, with the mainstream of the Judeo-Christian tradition, the historical Adam and Eve, according to which disobedience to God introduced sin into the realm of space-time and human experience.
Although this account of creation is communicated through human language that is poetic, artistic, and theologically rich, the fact that this literary account is set in an ancient Near Eastern context in no way diminishes the authoritative and trustworthy character of divine revelation. It is essential that we do not foreclose the discussion of creation for either the church or the academy; thus, we encourage a robust conversation among Christian communities which through theological studies, the humanities, and the natural sciences seek consensually to interpret the biblical text and are devoted to God and His Word for His world. For this reason, a discussion of “reading Genesis” is one that must take place, and do so in an atmosphere of reason, calmness, and Christian charity. To this end the “Reading Genesis” symposium is being convened. We hope that you will join us for this significant event.