Back to Genesis (with Science): a book review

Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Story by Karl W. Giberson

The ecclesial tribe which has most contributed to my spiritual formation (American evangelicalism) has been suspicious and dismissive of Evolution and fearful of  the way science  has banished the Creator. We’ve worried that if  we accepted the scientific explanation of our origin, we would be turning our back on God and the Biblical worldview (i.e. ” if Genesis 1-2 is not literally true, how can you trust the rest of the Bible?”).

The interpretation of the Creation story is complicated. While I affirm the truth that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, I find some of the scientific explanations compelling. This doesn’t mean I rend Genesis 1-2 from my Bible, but I do read them differently. Genesis 1 doesn’t seem to be a literal account of Creation as it happened but a poem. There is evidence of Hebrew parallelism in the first three days describing the creation of realms while the next three days seem to be the filling of those realms:

Creation of Realms Filling of Realms
 Day 1: Creation of light and darkness Day 4: Creation of the sun, moon & stars
Day 2: Creation of sea and sky (separation of

the waters above from the waters below)

Day 5: Creation of birds and fish
Day 3: Creation of dry land (and vegetation Day 6: Creation of land animals and humanity

 

Beyond the obvious literary crafting in the Creation accounts, they also appear to include elements of other ancient creation myths and telling the tale in this way subvert the gods of the nations (every created thing mentioned in Genesis 1 was an object of worship in the Ancient Near East).

And so I absolutely love the opening chapters of Genesis, not because I read there a scientific account of creation, but because the pages drip with the Glory of God who creates, sustains and speaks worlds into being.  It testifies to the creativity of God and the sacredness of the created order. It vividly portrays the goodness of all that is.

In Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation Story, author Karl W. Giberson re-presents the Genesis 1 narrative in light of the best scientific explanations of our origins. Thus the seven days are re-written to explore elements of creation through the lens of contemporary cosmogony, astronomy, quantum physics and biology.  Giberson  teaches Science and Religion at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts,  a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation (ASA), a regular contributor to various journals and periodicals and has written extensively on the relationship between science and faith. He is also popular lecturer and author, he has been a presenter (and vice president) of the BioLogos Foundation and the editor of Science and Spirit for the Templeton Foundation.  In this book, Giberson brings together his skill as a scientist and his literary skill as a lay Christian theologian.

The result is a popular level book which culls together the best of human inquiry into Creation and presents it in a warm engaging way. The chief value of this book is not apologetic–I doubt that the young earth creationists or ardent atheists would be convinced by Giberson’s prose; however for those with eyes to see and ears to hear (and other powers of observation) this book is a hymn of praise and wonder to God for our fine tuned universe.   The topics which Giberson covers range from the Big Bang (neither big nor a bang),  the formation of matter at an atomic level, the existence of supernovas and their contribution to the development of the elements in the periodic table, the precise conditions and various factors which conspired to make life possible, and the mysteries of human development. So while his ‘rewriting  of Genesis 1’ is a radical departure from the biblical narrative, he covers significant ground and I found it fascinating. This is not a book which explores in depth the biblical account for its theological import. It’s aim is much more modest: to show how our scientific knowledge bears witness to our Creator.

I liked this book a lot. One of the joys of reading this book is that Giberson does more than present a God friendly cosmogony; he also tells a little of the history of science and the way in which our current scientific knowledge testifies of the remarkable world we live in.  This is a beautiful, worshipful book and well worth reading.

Thank you to Paraclete Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for this review.

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