New Stuff

Book Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

In the past, I would post only book reviews pertinent to worship, music in the local church, or general Christian leadership and discipleship. Recently, I've been studying many more general topics as well, such as history, economics and scientific thought, some of which end up as reviews here as well.

Entries in creation (2)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate - John H. Walton (2010)

The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate- John H. Walton

The last 6 years of my life I have been focused on studying history, Christianity, and science, always with an eye to looking at the serious questions of cosmology, anthropogeny and the origins of civilization. In relation to cosmology, I have found no single book more profound and articulate in explaining the Genesis account of creation than John H. Walton's "The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate".

There is a torrid spew of rhetoric accompanying both Christian and non-Christian views on the creation narrative found in Genesis 1. There are as many factions of Christian creationism as there are scientific theory groups whose anti-theist positions demand just as polemic a view point. What normally happens when Christian talk about cosmology (origins) is that they come down into two groups: those who believe the Genesis 1 account is literally true; and those that believe the Genesis creation narrative is allegorical. There are a few other subtler positions that combine features of the two, as well.

What Walton does with "The Lost World of Genesis One" is to revisit the text, the language, the culture and the ancient literature in which the text finds its context, and brings to us a brilliant re-thinking of the entire debate.  Part of the problem with this intensely powerful topic is that the conversation around it has become almost political in its consumption of subtly. We take sides without thinking deeper about the topic. But most of that is hardly our fault. Genesis is written thousands of years ago, into a language and culture we don't know or understand. Walton walks us into that strange world, and expertly explores how the ancient text was written, for whom it was written and how it can be read today in a startlingly satisfying and understandable way.

Because of the intensity and applicability of the topic (especially in today's culture and media) and the landmark approach which Walton synthesizes in this book, this is easily the most important book you read will this year, possibly in the next several.  In the Western world we often believe that the most important questions can be answered by short, simple sound bites. But this leaves us with a truncated mental grid through which to explore complex and profound truths. John Walton takes a lifetime of research and teaching to present a clear understanding of Genesis 1 that doesn't reduce the complex and important details into creationist or evolutionary memes. 

One of the pivotal points made by Walton is that the Genesis narrative, rightly understood, holds together as real and actual creation, but in a way that compliments the setting into which it was written. He says :

In a functional ontology, to bring something into existence would require giving it a function or a role in an ordered system, rather than giving it material properties. Consequently, something could be manufactured physically but still not "exist" if it has not become functional.1

The implications of this statement are vetted out through 18 propositional chapters, along with a summary and much more supporting information which even includes a "Q&A" section to explore the nuances of what such a position means to Christians and the world.  I won't give more details here, since this is a serious book that really states every point well. In my opinion, this is the most important book of the decade.

I implore you- if you read just one book this year, make it this book. This excellent book contains the single best explanation for cosmology and the Genesis narrative I have ever heard. It is because of this that "The Lost World of Genesis One" garners our Editor's Choice Award. I can't urge you enough to consider this profound work. John H. Walton has given the Christian church a brilliant, readable and (most importantly) usable thesis for one of humanities most profound inquiries- the question of Creation.

Amazon Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


  1. Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010) Pg. 26. Kindle Edition.


The Epic of Eden - Sandra L. Richter (2008)

“The Epic of Eden” is a phenomenal, easily read book from Biblical scholar and professor Sandra L. Richter. The core purpose of the book seems to be to present an understandable framework for the story of God through history, as explained and explored by the Old Testament scriptures. Richter does a masterful job of presenting her thesis in a variety of complimentary insights, examples and narratives. Her coup de grâce statement of the book appears unceremoniously at the very center of the volume and highlights her unique ability to make readable statements out of mountains of metadata:

In it’s simplicity...Eden and the New Jerusalem are the bookends of redemptive history. God's original intent is his final intent, and everything that lies between is one extraordinary rescue plan.[1]

There are examples-o-plenty of her constant stream of concise summations of many topics including heaven, redemption, patriarchy, theocracy, idols, typology, covenant and much more. But threaded consistently throughout the pages of this laudable work is an underlying effort to expose Yahweh as the ultimate cosmic God who does not hand Israel practices, covenants, and laws out of a wholly alien vacuum (from somewhere in heaven). Instead, Richter presents the God of Israel who doesn’t just deign to send forth a holy book to his subjects, but enters, instead, into communication with Abram, the patriarchs, Moses, David and others to bring His message to them not by some cryptic code but in their language, culture and understanding. From the friendship and assurances with Abram (later Abraham), to the Law given to Moses, to the covenant and promises made with David, Sandra Richter explores the idea of God being so gracious that He places His will into forms that were already present in the culture of the hearers.

One of the best examples of this concept is in Richter’s examination of Yahweh’s intent regarding the tabernacle and temple. She explores both the reality and motive of temple and tabernacle, helping us to see God’s true intent with them, made meaningful through the lens Israel’s world and culture:

And do you see how Yahweh chooses to live as his people live? Since the Israelites dwell in tents, Yahweh will too. When Israel becomes a sedentary people, Yahweh shifts his residence to a temple and becomes sedentary as well. Here we see the incarnation of the oft-repeated refrain, “I shall be there God and they shall be my people and I will dwell among them”.[2]

Through thorough study of the scriptures and  historical, archaeological and linguistic research, the author draws a picture of God and His story through the ages but remains inviting, questioning and open to the readers own thoughts by not being dogmatic about her own.  A great example of the author’s technique is her exploration of redemption itself. In at least three different ways she explores how redemption was a tribal, familial process and what its specific meaning was to the original writers and readers of the text.  Then, Richter points us to that meaning as it applies today and we find a redemption that is not the cut and dry legal transaction of our most popular interpretations handed down to us from the 20th century.

Redemption was the means by which a lost family member was restored to a place of security within the kinship circle. This was a patriarch’s responsibility, this was the safety net of Israel’s society, and this is the backdrop for the epic of Eden in which we New Testament believers find ourselves.

Can you hear the metaphor of Scripture? Yahweh is presenting himself as the patriarch of the clan who has announced his intent to redeem his lost family members.[3]

From this and other numerous examples, the author makes learning the essential Biblical story (and putting a cogent framework on it for interpretation) a personal experience. It is helpful, clear and I found it personally engaging.

But what is most surprising about this entire book comes in the form of a delightful addendum. Surprising because the author tackles two questions that are scarcely ever addressed anywhere, let alone in print. Tucked in the back of this book is a section called “Frequently Asked Questions”. While it sounds more typical of something you might find on a website blog, Richter asks and answers two firestorm questions: “What Role Does the Law of Moses Play in the Christian’s Life”, and “What About Modern Day Israel”?

Both of these questions might set off a furious debate in almost any diverse or large enough forum, but Sandra Richter has no need to debate or convince you of her premise for chapters and chapters. This is because she has already built 95% of her case in the preceding book that you have just read.  The addendum fits in so perfectly, it obviously was made as an ending extension to utilize the theory already provided by the reading. One can’t really jump into the  “Frequently Asked Questions” section and accept her answers without first having ingested the contents of the book as preparatory support for her conclusions to those dynamo questions.

The reason I so like the ending section is that she takes head on a topic almost never discussed by Christians of profile leadership without some ire being raised - politics. But she does it in a way which sticks so strictly to her thesis of the book that she never edges into any political sectarianism. She states the biblical back-story of Israel’s theocracy and how that political formulation is handled in the old testament, and explores further how Jesus and Paul have interpreted the application of government in light of the new covenant.  No political debate or posturing, yet clear scriptural wisdom and application. Surprising, refreshing and insightful.

If I had to recommend just one book to help a Christian understand and explore the framework of the scriptural Old Testament story, I would recommend The Epic of Eden. It is simply that good. Even the writing style is accessible and inviting. After reading it, one feels as though they sat down with a good friend and got an in depth talk about what the Old Testament is all about, with enough “meat” to allow for further pursuit of details but enough brevity to make sense of the grand meta-story of God’s work on earth, and his master plan of redemption for all.


Amazon Book Link:


Review by Kim Gentes


[1] Sandra L. Richter, “The Epic of Eden” (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic 2008), Page 132

[2] Ibid., Page 180

[3] Ibid., Page 45