GENESIS 1:26-31; 2:4-8
A little girl was sitting on her grandfatherís lap, listening to him read her a bedtime story. She reached up and stroked his wrinkled cheek. Then she stroked her own cheek, and asked, "Grandpa, did God make you?" "Oh, yes, sweetheart, God made me a long time ago." "Did God make me?" "Yes, indeed, honey. God made you just a little while ago." She stroked his wrinkled cheek again, she stroked her own cheek, and said, "Godís getting better at it, isnít he?"
Weíre talking about creation this morning.I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. We are continuing the basic belief series on the Apostlesí Creed. Last week we looked at the word Almighty; this morning we consider Creator of heaven and earth. The current controversy is between Creationism and Evolution.
Creationism is a theory developed by fundamentalist Christians that is taught diligently in Christian schools. In many places, Kansas for example, their goal is to teach Creationism in public schools instead of, or in opposition to, the theory of evolution. Recently Kansas reversed itself and now allows evolution to be taught in public schools.
Creationism seeks to make a science out of the Bible. Creationists believe that God created the world in a relatively short period of time (some say six days) in accordance with their interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis. What is confusing among Christians today is the question: Do you have to accept Creationism to be a biblical Christian? My answer is, "No, you do not have to accept Creationism to be a biblical Christian."
The next controversial question asked is: Can you accept the theory of Evolution and still be a biblical Christian? My answer is, "Yes, the theory of Evolution and the Bible are not mutually exclusive." The theory (and note the word theory) of Evolution is the hypothesis that all living things are historically related through a common ancestry, and that higher forms of life have evolved by modifications of simpler forms over eons of time. Christians who accept the theory of Evolution do not, however, believe that evolution is directed by "blind chance", but by divine purpose. God not only set the process of evolution in motion, but God is in the process. God created and is still creating by working in and through the process of evolution.
Two theories: creationism or evolution. You may believe either. Whether you believe in Creationism or accept the theory of Evolution, what is important for a Christian to believe is that God is the creator. How God created was not really a concern of the Bible. The Bible is a book of faith, not of science. We leave it to scientists to tell us how God created, knowing that theories change when evidence no longer fits the theory.
Creationism is based on the belief that the proper method of interpretation is to take all Scripture in its natural and literal sense, which is what I believe. However, biblical interpretation must take into account what literary form is being used. The first chapter of Genesis is a poem, and poems are not taken literally. Incidentally, the poem is not original with the Bible. It came from Babylonia.
In the second and third chapters of Genesis, the Adam and Eve story is a myth, again not to be taken literally. In fact, when you attempt to take the first three chapters of Genesis literally, you run into problems, because the poem and the myth do not agree. In the first chapter of Genesis, when God created, the earth was a formless void (chaos) and water. In the Adam and Eve myth, when God created, the earth was a desert. Also, another difference: according to the poem in the first chapter of Genesis, humans were the last to be created. But, in the Adam and Eve myth, humans were the first to be created. Such are the problems you run into when you try to make poems and myths say things they donít mean!
What do they mean? The poem in the first chapter of Genesis magnificently proclaims that God is the creator. The myth in the second and third chapters of Genesis tells us what goes wrong with Godís creation when human beings, at the instigation of the devil, use their free will to disobey God and make bad choices.
What the Bible is teaching, especially in the first three chapters of Genesis, is that God is intricately involved in the process of creation. God is not a passive God. The Creator did not create the world in one movement, or even six days, and then sit back to watch what happened. Last week, I used the words transcendence and immanence, outside and inside. Creationists emphasize the transcendence of God, and tend to picture the Creator God outside creation, looking in. "From a distance, God is watching us," sings Bette Midler. How lonely and depressing it must be to believe that God is outside, sending us trials and temptations, testing us, and then, from a distance, watching to see how we do! Yes, God is transcendent, but God is also immanent. God is within the ongoing process of creation, influencing and redeeming.
I find the biblical image of the planet, and of life on the planet, intriguing and helpful. Genesis 1:1-2, "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters." The view of creation ex nihilio where God creates out of nothing is not the Genesis view. In the Genesis view, God created order out of chaos, translated "formless void" in the New Revised Standard Version. The Hebrew word is tohu wabohu (doesnít that have a ring to it)!
In Vermont, we visited friendsóleading Old Testament scholar Bernhard and Monique Anderson. Incidentally, one of his books which has become a classic, Understanding the Old Testament, is in our church library. He gave us a copy of his new book, Contours of Old Testament Theology, in which he writes, p. 88,
"The Genesis portrayal is compatible with a new revolution in science (the Bible is up-to-date!) in which the Newtonian view of a static, ordered cosmos is superseded by that of a complex, dynamic universe in which order and chaos belong together."
What God is doing is bringing order out of chaos. Godís work is not over. Chaos still persists. We are surrounded by chaos. Ask a gardener what happens when you ignore the garden for a few weeks. The weeds take over! Chaos reigns. Have you noticed how the process of deterioration operates so much faster than the process of building up? Destruction is faster than construction. I knew a man who spent his life developing a business, pouring his sweat, toil and tears into it, and then left it to his son who ran it into the ground in a matter of months! Ecclesiastes 18.20-21, "So I turned and gave my heart up to despair concerning all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes one who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave all to be enjoyed by another who did not toil for it." Enjoyed by another, and sometimes destroyed by another. Chaos!
The primeval chaos is symbolized further in the Bible by raging, turbulent water.
Psalm 29:3, 10,
"The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
The God of glory thunders,
the Lord, over mighty waters...
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood."
Image raging water and darkness into which God placed the earth, which according to the science of Genesis, was shaped like an upside down bowl, flat on the bottom, with a dome on top called the firmament. The firmament holds off the chaos. God is protecting us from chaos with the dome, but once in a while, the dome cracks and chaos creeps in. Chaos constantly threatens the goodness and the orderliness of creation. Tohu wabohu breaks through with violence, hunger, injustice, cancer, strokes, floods. Can you see yourself standing protected within the dome of Godís love and creation, with chaos threatening, pounding on the dome, looking for a crack, seeking to enter your life and wreak havoc? When it does, God is there, creating, holding back the chaos, bringing harmony and order. Ultimately, chaos will not defeat the Lord. Tohu wabohu has met its match!
I find it highly symbolic and significant that Jesus began his ministry by descending into water, walking down into the Jordan River where he was baptized. Symbolic of Godís victory over the waters of chaos, when Jesus was coming up out of the water, the heavens were torn apart, the firmament was opened, but chaos did not enter! The Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, and the voice thundered, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased." What a powerful image, meaning that whatever the chaos, Jesus walks into it, continuing the process of creation, and he calls us to follow. Jesus calls us to become disciples and co-operate with God to bring order out of chaos and defeat the forces of evil.
Whenever chaos threatens you, whatever kind of chaos attacks you, whatever the chaos in your career, your family, your marriage, your health; whatever inner doubts and fears you may experience, shake your fist at tohu wabohu. Donít give in! Donít be intimidated! Then, unclasp your fist, reach out and let Jesus take you by the hand, and lead you through the chaos! Become a disciple, and let Jesus use you to bring order out of chaos and overcome evil.ã 2001 Douglas I. Norris