As I’m sure you’ve now all heard, I will be leaving St. Anne’s this summer. Next month I will write and tell you a little about the parishes I’m going to and in September’s magazine I shall write a few final words. But for now, I thought I would give one last thought on the creation story in Genesis 1.
In my experience people seem to take one of two attitudes to Genesis 1:
- It’s what is written in the Bible, so it must have happened like that – I don’t care what science says.
2. Science has shown the world wasn’t made like that so the passage is silly and has nothing to tell me.
I find both points of view ridiculous. I think the question of whether or not God made the world in 6 literal days is just a way of avoiding what the passage actually says. In recent magazines I’ve tried to show two other things that the passage tells us. I could write lots more! So, before I go, here’s one more look at Genesis 1.
What word would you use to describe the Garden of Eden? Forget for a second whether or not it really existed – that’s beside the point. Instead ask yourself, what do you picture when you hear the phrase ‘Garden of Eden’. I suspect many people naturally go for the word ‘perfect’. Now the idea of perfect is a Greek idea, and means something that is without flaw. It means something that cannot be improved. It makes us think of things that are static, fixed, unchanging. But Genesis wasn’t written from a Greek perspective, it was written from a Hebrew perspective. Read the story again, it doesn’t say that the Garden of Eden was perfect – does it? No! It says that it was ‘Good’:
‘God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.’
This comes from the Hebrew word “tov”, and it doesn’t mean perfect and static. It means something that is moving in a particular direction. Something that is dynamic and changing and growing and evolving!
Please notice this, in Genesis the world that God creates is not finished! In Genesis there are stars and fish and birds and animals and they are not fixed, but moving. The plants are called to grow and make new plants (Gen 1:11-12). The animals are called to increase and grow and make more animals (Gen 1:25). Adam and Eve are told to subdue and take care of the earth – to harvest the plants and look after the animals (Gen 1:28-30). This is not a perfect, static, picture. Instead it is a world exploding with life and vitality, with everything changing and growing and evolving to that every tomorrow will be different from the day before. The world is heading somewhere. The creation is pulsating with possibility. And this is the world God declares ‘very good.’
Now, the name Adam means “the human one” and the name Eve means “the mother of the living.” In other words these people are supposed to represent the whole human race. And they find themselves in the centre of the beautiful, exotic, unfinished and evolving world and are basically told – “Make something! Do something with this world I have made! Enjoy it!!” In other words Genesis is telling us that God creates humanity to be his partners, his co-creators in the world! (That’s the point of Genesis 1:28-30 by the way).
If you read Genesis 1 for the first time the questions you would have are : What will humans do with this world? What kind of world will they make?
Which leads us to now! What are you doing with your life? What are you using your energies doing? What kind of world do your actions help to create? Are you working in the world the way God would want the world to go? Or are your actions pointing in another direction?
Now I find that way more interesting than whether or not the world was made in a literal 6 days!