How one starts a story has quite a lot to do with how the rest of the story plays out.
Once upon a time…
A Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
And my personal favorite in fiction:
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Today we start the story of creation, and the first four words tell us quite a lot.
In the beginning God…
Anything and everything that comes next depends on this text and, as such, these words are fascinating.
Apologetics is an art form and a science. Apologetics means, simply, “defending ones faith,” and so Christian Apologetics is about giving reasons for why we believe anything we believe. Why do we believe the Bible is the word of God? Why do we believe Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah? Why do we believe God exists at all? These are good questions and it’s important that you have general answers to them.
But Genesis 1:1 doesn’t answer them. Genesis 1:1 assumed God is. There is no argument for or against him. There is no argument about other gods or goddesses, about how this book is his word versus other books that say conflicting things, nor does it defend the “contradictions”that some non-believers point out in the text.
Genesis 1:1 just says “God created.” Simple. Easy. Plain.
But of course, it is anything but simple and easy and plain.
I could spend quite some time talking about my own interactions with the text, trying to understand it and science at the same time. I could work to show you whether this text is poetry or narrative and how the text in chapter 1 relates to the order of creation in chapter 2. I could tell you that through strong but loving conversations with important people I have worked out the perfect explanation to the text. I could tell you exactly how you should read this text, end of story, done, nice and easy.
I could tell you that, but I won’t.
My own interactions with the text have been difficult.
People smarter than me read this text literally verbatim as the God’s-eye view of what happened in Genesis. Other people, still smarter than I, say “it’s a metaphor and symbolical account of creation and we need to understand how to read this literately.”
I have come to some strong conclusions but truthfully I hold them loosely because I know what a struggle it was to get to where I am, and I could change tomorrow.
The only thing I can tell you with certainty is that this text tells us with all seriousness that God is not a distant observer of space-time, nor one and same with the universe, but a powerful mover-and-shaper of all things by the word of his mouth.
And because the story starts this way, it changes how the rest of the story plays out. God makes light and calls it good, and the metaphor of light is good in the rest of Scripture. God calls for the earth to bring forth plants. He invites creation to participate with him in the creative act, it would seem. God makes the creatures of the ocean, from the great “tanninim”, which could be interpreted as sea monsters, whales, or dragons, worshipped by other cultures. God creates with his mouth the very things that others worship, because all things exist due to his will.
Speaking of the will of God for creation, that brings us to the most important part of Genesis 1 in our reading today.
Humanity is part of but also the fulfillment of creation. God not only makes us, but he makes us in his image. He not only invites us to participate in the creative act, but even invites, empowers, and also demands that we rule over creation. And this is not one man given this role, but humanity, the many as both male and female. We ALL are made in the image of God.
Whatever we think about Genesis 1, what we learn is that humanity is made in the image of God, meaning we have value and worth given by God which cannot be taken away. We learn that God created so that there would be a people who would love him, as Genesis functions are the precursor to the central story of the Old Testament, the Exodus. And we learn that when God looks at his creation, with humans in the midst of a world he lovingly called into being, he says it is
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How do you interpret Genesis One? I encourage you to accept church tradition/theology and challenge church tradition/theology, to accept scientific discoveries and challenge scientific discoveries. In both “church” and “science”, we find truth. But, we need to balance truth with wisdom, and see that much that comes from both “church” and “science” are interpretations and value judgments, rather than simple, plain truths. How will you continually seek to understand God’s word? Who do you turn to listen to about church tradition, theology, science and how to interpret each of those factors?
- Even though Genesis One assumes the existence of God, and doesn’t try to argue for him but just proves him via his actions with his people, how do you answer the questions presented above? : “Why do we believe the Bible is the word of God? Why do we believe Jesus is the Son of God and Messiah? Why do we believe God exists at all?” What is your answer for your friend who might ask you any one of these questions. If you don’t have a ready answer, then are you “prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have”?(1 Peter 3:15)
- Too often we are told that humanity and all life is a cosmic accident brought about by the random chance of amino acids bursting forth into life in a hot pool of water millions of years ago (a bad interpretation of science, see above). However, this is not true. You are not a cosmic accident, but the keystone of God’s creative act. How does it make you feel that you are part of the final creation of God in Genesis One? Do you believe that God made this world and then declared that it is all very good? How can you honor the role to rule over creation that God has given you and how might you enjoy the very good creation of God this week?