Letter to the Editor


On Clouser's Interpretation of Genesis 

David F. Siemens, Jr.
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 852132340

From: Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 43 (September 1991): 210-211. 

Roy A. Clouser, "Genesis on the Origin of the Human Race," March 1991, makes an assumption that leads him to make  'literal'  mean 'metaphorical'.  He rightly notes that Genesis 1 should not be read as answering a modern question: In what order did God create everything? (pp. 4-7) He applies this insight consistently to both one-week and day-age views. He also dismisses mythological readings. But he assumes either creative sequence with
"days" XOR covenantal basis with 'day' only as a literary device. This arbitrarily excludes the possibility that yom is literally a day even though detached from questions of creative order. I have argued this point earlier (38:128-131 (1986)). That the week involved six days of God-given revelation and a day of rest meets his criterion of 'literal' better than his merely teleological interpretation. Yet it loses nothing relevant from the structural-teleological viewpoint.

Second, Clouser oversimplifies when he makes religious consciousness the human characteristic (pp. 9f). This view, in its usual manifestations, makes recognition of dependence and the need to worship primary. The biblical view of the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26f) makes this secondary. The divine declaration is that of dominion, with the created pair appointed God's viceroys (v. 28). As every viceroy recognizes the will of the sovereign in whose name he acts, so human beings ought to recognize the Ruler of the universe. But God, to be God, cannot be religious, except as he emptied himself in the incarnation.

God is, to the orthodox, outside of space and time. The creature is within both. Yet, in order to rule, the race must be able to understand, to anticipate. Human language transcends space and time, something that the communications of other creatures cannot do. We can invent: devices to accomplish something; scenarios that
may include every part of the range between realized and totally unrealizable; the language to communicate it all, even though no one may even have thought it previously, let alone uttered it. Thus we emulate the Creator.

Because Clouser makes the human essence simply God-consciousness (or even belief in any sort of self-existent ultimate), he can hold that many proto-humans may become human. All they need is a sense of the numinous, supplied as well by animism or polytheism (or materialism) as by worship of the one true God, by dreams of totems (or atheistic philosophical speculations) as by divine revelation. So I do not see that his view meets the requirements of biblical anthropology and soteriology.

Reading the Scriptures, I get certain minimum requirements. First, God declares himself the ultimate source of all that is (Gen. 1:1). Second, he declares that He creatively transformed what he had produced to make animal life (vv. 20-23). Third, a separate creative act, again using what he had produced, made human life (vv. 26-31; 2:7). Fourth, everything else, though not declared an act of creation, is his handiwork. Consequently, there should not be a theological problem if one holds that God transformed plant life into animal life, or that he transformed inanimate matter; or whether God transformed animal life into human life or went directly from the nonliving. But there is a problem if any one of an indefinitely large class could become human simply by accepting a notion of the numinous, for this is merely an act by a creature. All such acts are, for the theist, within the Almighty's
providential care. But they are not acts of divine creation.

Finally, Clouser confuses some relationships. Even on his view, we are all biologically related. But he makes only some of us descendants of Adam. The rest are descendants of Adam's close cousins, not such distant cousins as Pan troglodytes. But he holds that these creatures did something that made them human, whereas Scripture says that God acted creatively. On Clouser's view, it seems possible to lose humanity by never developing, or by losing, awareness of the numinous.

To continue Clouser's implicit analogy, human beings must do something to become children of God. This has a Pelagian smell. There is nothing we can do (see Romans 4:1-8). Even faith is declared God's gift (Ephesians 2:8f). The new life in Christ is the result of God's creative act (II Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10;
4:24). So I am constrained by Scripture to believe that I am human by virtue of God's creative act, and then his providential care through all the generations since. I am similarly his child by his later creative act and providential spiritual care.

Clouser has presented some relevant information clearly. But, I believe, there are places where he has overlooked alternative possibilities or biblical declarations. I thank him for his thoughtful analysis, and hope that I have done as well.