Sunday, July 29, 2007

Genesis 1: the Bible’s authority, God’s sensibility of abundant life

Children and adults alike wonder at how things, good and bad, came to be. Why is the sky blue? Why do we fight wars? Why am I the way I am? While men grapple with these questions and put forth speculative answers, the Bible answers plainly and clearly: “In the beginning God…”

By this concise assertion, the Bible holds itself out as a primal authority on all things. The first assertions of the authority of the Bible did not come when Paul wrote 2 Timothy 3:16 (…all scripture is God-breathed…). The Bible first asserts its authority in the first sentence of its first page when it purports to speak of the beginning of our existence. When one says anything, one implicitly claims authority to say it and the validity of what is said – or else one speaks nonsense. And the nature and extent of the authority is also implicitly asserted by nature of the thing said. If you say a small thing like “take a right to get to the park,” you assert a small knowledge and authority. If a large thing is said, like “the greatest commandment is to love the Lord,” then one implicitly asserts large authority. Here, the Bible presumes to speak on the primary chronological fact, which can only be based on the knowledge of someone who was there – or at least someone who knows someone who was there. By presuming to tell us what happened “in the beginning” the Bible implicitly asserts great authority.

The first character in the story is God. How important of a truth is that? Yet how often do we forget it. This life, this religion, this Bible, is primarily God’s story. Anyone who attempts to take the starring role other than Him is a usurper, and the story will be full of those. Also, those who attempt to take on the role of God, whether it’s the ego-maniacal Satan or simply you or me, will find the role far more difficult than we imagined, and that we don’t have the strength to carry the burden. The role of God is for God alone, and it is both right for us and good for us to keep that straight. Yet, despite this, God seems willing and eager to share the stage. It is not too difficult to imagine a story about God in which nothing of consequence is ever done by anyone other than God. I bet God did interesting things before any of us came around. Yet we know that this Bible God is more than full of stories of other people, even other people doing God’s work as his co-laborers. And even at the very beginning of the story, we’re about to be introduced to our fore-parents.

Note both from the pages of Genesis and also from a glance out your window the type of things God creates. He has a distinct style, wouldn’t you agree? If anyone has a favorite artist, he knows that each work of art by the singer, painter, writer, or whoever always bears the distinct marks of the maker, whether it’s the subject matter, the tone, the sensibility, etc. So, with God’s creation, for example, God’s inanimate works have a tendency toward the beautiful, the majestic, the spectacular, the bountiful. God is also notable as a creator for His range. Many artists can do only one thing well – but God can do the ocean and the desert, the jungle and the meadow. Yet, despite the range and the contrast, there is coherence. Also, in wildlife, one again notes both consistency and contrast, from the tiger to the duck. All of this probably speaks of God’s personality as one of vast range as well, since it is difficult to imagine a creator who is morbid making a light-hearted comedy or someone who is extremely cheerful and kind making a work of sadism. God is probably as fierce as a bear, strong as a mountain, playful as a puppy, and gentle as a breeze. Of course, one can go only so far with this level of interpretation – but nevertheless it generally seems plausible that the vast range of creation suggests the vast range of God’s personality.

When I consider the wondrous creation with all of its liveliness and beauty, I can’t help but find the view of the universe held by a fatalist or a determinist to be absurd. This is just my intuition, but to imagine that blind fate drove the universe to possess sea creatures that create pearls, sunsets that steal one’s breath, and flowers that thrill the eyes and the nose – it just seems really hard to believe. If a universe is really a grim machine running on ‘cause and effect’ and ‘survival of the fittest,’ it just seems you’d have a grim, ugly universe – perhaps full of gray, beastly monsters, or robots like those from the Matrix. But a Golden Retriever? Yes, I’ve heard that if you gave a group of monkeys an infinite amount of time to bang on type-writers they’d eventually write Hamlet…but if that’s the analogy that encapsulates your view of the universe, doesn’t it seem your thinking has perhaps gone to the circus?

(One scientist, Richard Dawkins, who is very hostile to Christianity compares Christians’ belief in God to a belief in a Spaghetti Monster. I’m saying, however, that the view of monkeys writing Hamlet is much more Spaghetti Monster-esque, than believing in a God who created the incomparable universe we live in.)

Also, notice the bounty of creation, the fertility. “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky. God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems...God blessed them and said ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’…God said, ‘Let the land produce living creatures…livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals…” Gen. 1:20-24.

Again, note God’s personality and consider it for application to your life. God creates abundant life. God could have been a minimalist, abstract painter. He could have left the earth formless and void. We often fear what God will do to our lives because we think he has something draconian and inhuman in mind. But look what God did at creation: His sensibility is abundant life.

1 comment:

-Dave said...

On abundant life:

It sounds nice, but drawing the conclusion that God dictating large quantities of life can be used to say that God dictates an overflowing quality of life in a person seems to be a stretch.

If quantity and quality were interchangable, after all, then the broad path that many find would be the path to life.