In John Walton’s (professor at Wheaton) new book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, we have yet another proposition to discuss:
The difference between origin accounts in science and Scripture is metaphysical in nature.
Many folks, Walton argues, think of the “origins” question as a pie: some pieces are “natural” and some pieces are “supernatural.” The more we learn, one needs to observe, the fewer are the number of supernatural pieces. The problem: the ancients did not distinguish between primary causes and secondary causes, between God at work and between nature at work.
Instead of pie, we need to see it all as a cake with layers. Lower layer: science. Top layer: God. The lower layer then represents secondary natural causation and the top divine causation. Science cannot explain the top layer.
Ultimate causes cannot be determined by science. “Empirical science is not designed to to be able to define or detect a purpose, though it may … theoretically … deduce … that purpose” (116). And “biological evolution can acknowledge no purpose” but neither can it contend that there is no purpose.
Genesis is a top layer account, concerned with teleology (purpose), yet open to all kinds of explanations of the bottom layer. In Walton’s view, what is the teleology of Genesis 1?
But this is like a fish saying there is only water and that there is no such thing as mountains or air or trees. There is a difference between naturalism (natural explanation) and materialism (that only the material exists).