Genesis in Space and Time, by Francis Schaeffer, Downers Grove, IL; InterVarsity Press, 1972, 167pp, paperback, ISBN: 978-0877846369
What is the solution to the dilemmas man finds himself faced with? Everywhere one looks, one can observe man at odds with God, with himself, with other men, and with nature. Francis Schaeffer, in his book Genesis in Space and Time, contends that the answer is to be found in the origins of man, and of the universe itself. “If a man attributes the wrong cause to the dilemma and divisions of men,” Schaeffer wrote, “he will never come up with the right answer no matter how good a will he has.”(160) Genesis in Space and Time seeks to shed light on the cause of man’s dilemma through an analysis of the first eleven chapter of the book of Genesis. Tracing the story through these narratives, Schaeffer’s book recounts the creation of man and the universe (chapters 1-3), the fall (chapters 4 and 5), and the results, (divisions between God and man, between man and himself, between man and man, and between man and nature), and the first steps in God’s plan of redemption (chapters 6-8).
Four main themes run throughout the book.
The first is the historicity of the Genesis narrative. From the very first verse of Genesis, Schaeffer insisted, both the book’s language and structure insist that “we are dealing here with history just as much as if we talked about ourselves at this moment at a particular point of time in a particular geographic place.”(15)
The second theme may be found in Schaeffer’s constant reminders throughout the book that the Genesis narrative, particularly its genealogical elements, while historical, ought not to be treated as strict chronologies. His comment on Genesis 4:11-24 typifies his position on this, reiterated convincingly and often through the book’s latter chapters:
We need to note here, in passing, that verses 11-24 do not constitute a chronology any more than do the genealogies of [Seth’s] godly line which begin at verse 25. Rather, these passages exactly fit the literary form found in all parts of Genesis: The unimportant aspects (in this case the ungodly line) are quickly gotten out of the way so that the more central aspects (the godly line) might be dealt with in detail. We do not, therefore, know how much time elapses before we come to verse 24. It is not necessary that verse 24 contain history that precedes that in verse 25 . . .(114)
This line of reasoning is taken up again in more detail in the final chapter of the book, but it pervades throughout.(150-56)
The third theme is that man’s difficulties with himself, with each other, and with nature, stem from a singular event in history when man fell. Succinctly put, “Eve was faced with a choice, she pondered the situation and then she put her hand into the history of man and changed the course of human events.”(85) Thus, the harmony of God’s creation was disrupted as sin and death entered the equation. The results were not simply between man and God, the author contended, “almost all of the results of God’s judgment because of man’s rebellion relate in some way to the external world. . . Profound changes make the external, objective world abnormal.”(95)
The final theme is that of redemption. In spite of the fall, “man still has tremendous value,” wrote Schaeffer.(100-101) Immediately following the fall was a promise of redemption. The final chapters of the book do more than trace the separations caused by the entry of sin into the world. They recount the revealing of God’s plan, put into place before the beginning of the universe, as the general promise is narrowed to the line of Seth, then through, Noah, and finally, through Abraham.
The book closes with an appeal to the importance of history. Having already made several arguments for the history of Genesis, Schaeffer tied it together with the need for all men to know their history (and, of course, Genesis is all of our history) in order to make sense of their present, and of their future.(158-60)
Genesis in Space and Time is an excellent book, both for its content and its style. It is very easy to read, yet conveys profound truths in its 163 pages. Whether one is a layman or scholar, Schaeffer’s presentation of the origins of the universe, of man, and of man’s great dilemma of separation is clear and concise and, often, profound. I highly recommend this book for anyone considering the origins and nature of man.
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