Theology

In the Beginning.

God created.

This takes place in the book of Genesis, an area which is sometimes largely overlooked by liberal middle-class Christians who don’t like to draw attention to the creation account for fear of being drawn into a debate about its factual accuracy, the age of the earth and the potential contradiction of it by the theory of evolution. Some Christians will say the answers to the questions presented in Genesis are unimportant; it is Jesus’ sacrifice that should be the focal point of a Christian’s life. Their argument is sound, but their reason for using it (to avoid getting too deeply into the Bible’s first and, along with Revelation, most misunderstood book) likely is not. In giving this answer they risk doing an injustice to the story of Genesis, and that, I would argue, is of utmost importance. It is the story of Genesis that makes Jesus’ sacrifice necessary, and it is the beginning of the greatest story ever told.

When it comes to this area, scientists and theologians alike think not of the story. People say they want facts and figures; those in authority feel inclined to try giving them. Facts and figures may be what you want from this blog post, but who am I to say that I have them? I can give you my estimates and opinion; these things fill in the gaps for the best of the ‘theories’ that explain our universal origins and the meaning of life. Theologians argue over it; scientists argue over it. Both are more qualified than myself, yet neither can give an answer that everyone agrees on, even within their own fields. Perhaps there may be a reason why, after all this time, we still don’t really know any answers for sure?

The ‘evidence’ presented for evolution and young earth creationism is one man’s proof and another man’s lies. Personally I prefer the latter, if only for the reason that it has ‘creation’ in its name and above all I think that’s the most important part of any Christian’s theory. I won’t say there are no strong arguments in favour of the former. I just think it’s harder to line evolution up with the Bible, because we don’t see God referencing creation in that way. If He didn’t, you’d have at least thought Genesis’ author (considered to be Moses) might have tried describing it as well as He does the six day creation, if it were true.

This presents to us two interesting lines of thought. First that, from an evolutionist’s point of view, the insertion of a detailed description of the process may (possibly) have gone a long way to proving the Bible’s validity for them. The fact that it (evolution) is not present leaves open the possibility that the book was written by human authors who simply made it all up at the time; a time when, of course, the scientific theory wasn’t on the radar. If the Bible is God’s word, why wouldn’t He put it in there so that we may believe in Him? (This line of thinking assumes that our opinion of what’s important is also God’s opinion, and therefore if He doesn’t fulfil it, He does not exist).

I believe it is this kind of potential pitfall that Christians who accept the theory and try showing it in scripture are trying to avoid. (They can, of course, argue that scripture doesn’t need to reference it in order for it to be true, but I feel you’d be getting yourself into rough waters there, as we’ll see). Could God have used evolution to gradually create us into the way we are now? Yes, I suppose he could have done it by that method. He works in mysterious ways and evolutionary creationism would certainly qualify as that. But there is a clear problem with this theory. It risks making Genesis 1 look almost (if not totally) contradictory in its account of the creation story. Hence, we have our second issue in this debate; the question of whether creation was a six day process.

Depending on what kind of scientific knowledge you’re bringing to the table here, you may already be prepared to argue. You could say our interpretation of this section of scripture is dependent on our contextual understanding of the words ‘literal’ and ‘day’. What do they mean, and when Genesis speaks of a day, does it really mean a day how we think of a day? Or is God so much greater than us that when He says ‘day’, it actually means something else?

Now, I wholeheartedly agree that when we read the Bible, we must do it through a contextual understanding of the times in which we live, and the time in which the scripture was originally written. There may be necessary changes in how we need to read it, not because we want to change what God has said, but because our culture has changed. When the Bible was written, people didn’t have cars or mobile phones or the internet. In order for scripture to resonate with a contemporary unbeliever, we have to be able to discern what can be applied, and how to apply it.

However, when Genesis 1: 5 says “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day”, I don’t see how God is making it hard for us here. It seems pretty straightforward to me. He’s telling us that a period of light (which we still refer to as ‘day’) followed by a period of darkness (which we call ‘night’) is a day by His definition, and He created everything in six of them. While there are sections of scripture that need to be studied and interpreted appropriately, I don’t see how this one was left open for us. God is absolute in what He is saying here.

For many, this is a hard concept to grasp. The reason our God, who could have created everything in a moment as if on a whim (like the tone in which Genesis 1: 16 refers to the stars), or equally have spread everything out over millions of years just to show His lasting glory, chose instead to do it this way is baffling to our minds. Consider what Martin Luther wrote, in response to some church fathers in his time who were saying that God created everything in an instant (quite the contrast to what some are claiming today); “When Moses writes that God created Heaven and Earth and whatever is in them in six days, then let this period continue to have been six days, and do not venture to devise any comment according to which six days were one day. But, if you cannot understand how this could have been done in six days, then grant the Holy Spirit the honor of being more learned than you are. For you are to deal with Scripture in such a way that you bear in mind that God Himself says what is written. But since God is speaking, it is not fitting for you wantonly to turn His word in the direction you wish to go.” (What Martin Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Anthology for the Active Christian, 1523)

The underlying problem we can have with this comes from our view of the seven day week, which we see as limiting. Yet, isn’t that exactly the point that God could be trying to make? It is consistent with His empathetic character; later He would become man so He could experience what we experience in a sinful world, placing limits on Himself for our sake, and setting the perfect example in the process. Creation is much the same. As we are limited beings, so our working structure should also be limited. No, I don’t think it’s just ‘written that way’ to show us the example (any more than I think the Gospels are just ‘written that way’ to show us a metaphorical example in Jesus); I think He actually did do it that way to set the example. We’re not the ones who are limiting God by our seven day week; it is God who has given us the limiting factor of a seven day week. It is very important that we make this distinction.

Whatever ramifications this information has for your scientific brain, which may have ‘evidence’ contradicting it, is not something for me to comment on (mostly because we’d be here a lot longer if I went into this topic further). I would like you to bear something in mind though: God will not hold us to account on the answers to the universe. This is perhaps where young earth creationists can go wrong: they consider the facts and figures to be the important part, as if God is going to give them an exam on this stuff when they get to Heaven. We can only know what God reveals to us, and there are some things He never will. Yeah, some people are stupid. God is for them too. The second I march towards Heaven thinking I’ve got all the answers in tow is also the second I’ve taken my eyes off the bottom line, and the bottom line is very simple.

God loves his creation. Like an author loves his own story. As an author (not that I am in any way claiming to be one), you may get some pleasure from reading or seeing what others have made, but there’s few words that can describe the feeling of creating something yourself, your own ‘baby’. Short of having an actual human baby of your own, creating something new with your own hands and mind is the greatest satisfaction one can get from life. Everything pales in comparison.

We were God’s greatest creation; the thing He was most proud of, because we were created in His image. But we decided to rebel against Him. Having been given a will of our own (a soul if that’s how you would refer to it) we came to want more than we were given. Ironically we already had everything we could need, but still wanted more.

Now the one thing many people don’t understand is why God would decide to put up with this at the time. If we went wrong, why not just erase us and start over? But the point is that God didn’t make any mistakes when He made us. We were perfect, and we can be again (more on that part later).

If we think about it on a simpler level, we could say that it actually wouldn’t be such an easy thing for God to simply ‘erase’ us and try again. But God is all-powerful, you might say, nothing is too hard for Him. We’re thinking of different interpretations of hard here. Is it theoretically possible for God to erase us? Yes, certainly, but would that fit with His character? Could He erase us, we should ask, knowing how much He loved us? I would argue He could not. It would be like an author writing his greatest novel, then deciding to erase it from existence because it didn’t achieve the sales he expected it to. Or I could push that one step further and say it would be like an author erasing an entire career’s worth of work because they didn’t reach their potential. Even that is not a full analogy, but I think it at least touches on how God feels about His creation. He worked on it; He personally breathed life into it. To simply erase us after that, it would feel to God like He was almost erasing a part of Himself, at least emotionally.

This is the true meaning of ‘God is love’. When you love something as God loved us, you give a part of yourself to it. We took that and turned away from God, causing Him distress in the process. What this is like is an author writing his greatest novel, then that novel deciding that it wanted instead to be credited to a different, lesser author. This lesser author could then take the credit for everything the original author had done. He could even make the novel believe that there was no author, or that there were many authors.

But God is perfect, and had a plan in place to win this novel back. Not because He absolutely needed to, but because He loves it. It is His creation, His baby, His greatest ever work. He wants the novel to know this, so His plan will show the extent to which He loves it. Two thousand years ago we saw that plan take action, as the author became a character in His own novel, which now belonged to someone else and therefore rejected Him. But God is perfect. Even the rejection was part of the plan, a twist that He wrote into the novel which this lesser author couldn’t have seen coming, because he is lesser than God and didn’t have the skill to counteract it. In the end all the lesser author can now do is keep as much of the novel to himself as possible, and for him it is a losing battle.

I probably overdid the author analogy there, but you see why I used it. God is the author of the universe. He has already finished writing it, but for us it is still being written. If the analogy doesn’t work for you as it has for me, apply a different one: a painting, a musical score, or even bricklaying. You’ll get the same idea.

In the beginning, God created.

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