Believing the book of Genesis

Aw Swee Eng

Professor Aw Swee Eng was the Associate Professor of Biochemistry of the University of Singapore. He was also the Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET (Positron Emission Tomography) of Singapore General Hospital.

He has been teaching a Sunday school class in Wesley Methodist Church Singapore since 1958. The class had to move to a bigger hall to accommodate the growing numbers so popular was he as a teacher. 

 His most well attended class was on the Book of Genesis, the first book in the bible, being foundational to the study of the whole bible.  We asked him how he can remain a medical scientist academician and yet teach Biblical Creation. Here is his answer, covering the main points which he taught in his class.

By Dr. Aw Swee Eng

Right mindset
We read a book with a background of world views and personal opinions gathered over a lifetime. If I wish to understand Genesis I need to approach it with an open mind.

One common difficulty is that Genesis says God is the Creator. If God is who He is, His creative power is not limited and the account of what He did, or said, is consistent with that power. Those who come to Genesis must face a truth which the Bible points out: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Hebrews 11: 6

Order of creation
Beginning with the heavens and an Earth full of water, light is then created. We know today that light besides dispelling darkness is the basis of life. We receive it from the Sun which drives photosynthesis in plankton, plants and trees. This fundamental form of energy sustains the whole web of living things.

However, Genesis also says that Sun, Moon and other astronomical bodies were not created till the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14). But if we let God be God we have to conclude that the light of Genesis 1:3 was also part of His initial creation.

The Bible informs us that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5). He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:15). The Sun and Moon have been objects of awe and worship. Genesis puts them in their proper place as creation of God, who alone is to be worshipped.

The logic of the creative acts of God is evident. Dry land from water, sunlight, followed by vegetation, creatures in the water and air who navigate by the Earth’s magnetic field as well as sunlight (created on the fourth day), insects and other pollinators now that flowering plants abound. With a garden-like Earth prepared, God now climaxed His creation with Man to tend the land and be its steward. (Genesis 1:26) I think it is all very logical and not at all unscientific.

Detailed history
Genesis has all the hallmarks of a detailed history of mankind. For instance, chapter five begins with, “ This is the book of the generations of Adam”. Written records were available from the beginning and formed the basis of what we have in the New Testament as the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Luke was a painstaking author, as is evident from his introduction to his Gospel. 

It seems fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1 : 3,4)

In the third chapter Luke gives the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. He starts from Jesus being “the supposed son of Joseph, the son of Eli” all the way back to “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.” Luke 3: 23 – 38. This would not have been possible if Luke did not have access to written family records of some sort. And he would not have mentioned Adam if he did not really exist.

By the way, the Jews were traditionally meticulous in keeping historical records of the twelve tribes and their lineages. This became useful in the allotment of landed property in Palestine.

The flood
There is a difficulty concerning the Flood of Genesis 7. Was it an overflow of a local river or worldwide, as the Bible states ? Reading the account from a historical viewpoint it is more logical to believe the Bible.

If the flood was local why was Noah instructed to build an ark of such size as to preserve the various kinds of animals. He could have been advised to move to higher ground and return when the water level subsided. Rain over forty days with the bursting of the underground fountains, the year-long wait for the waters to subside point to a deluge which Genesis affirms covered the Earth to fulfill what God said was the purpose of the Flood. (Genesis 6 : 12 – 14)

It has been pointed out that the volume of water needed to cover even Everest is inconceivable.

This assumes that the Earth of Noah’s day was like the Earth today. The early Earth was relatively flat.

The Bible gives us the explanation for the change in its surface features. As the waters drained from the surface of the Earth and collected in oceans, there were adjustments in terms of surface weight bearing. The collection of water in oceans had to be balanced by the rising up of land masses, a process known as isostasy.

The Bible puts it this way: “The mountains rose and the valleys sank down to the place which Thou didst establish for them.” (Psalm 104:8)

Genesis is also the seed plot of the Bible. Many of the themes of the New Testament have their roots here. For instance, disobedience of God and of His commandments is worldwide. Greed, lust, and power struggles that lead to sorrow and tragedy both personal and nationwide are all too evident.

The origin of sin stems from the initial act of disobedience recorded in Genesis 3.

The sin principle entered the world of men as we are descended from our first parents Adam and Eve. Exercising our freewill we can, of course, choose not to disobey God. But we do the opposite, we want to do what we want to do, knowing full well that our actions will hurt our health or our relationships.

God has dealt with this problem of man’s guilt and disobedience by sending His Son to take the punishment on our behalf so that we might be forgiven. We can humbly acknowledge our sin and accept that gift of forgiveness.

Paul the Apostle writing in his letter to the Romans says:

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of one man (Adam), how much more did God’s grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many.” (Romans 5:15)

Note the reference to the historical Adam and to the historical Jesus.

In view of what I have written, I find Genesis eminently believable not only as a truthful historical record of man’s history on Earth, but indispensable for the proper understanding of the New Testament. END



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