In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
- Genesis 1:1-2
So… how did God do it? How did He create the heavens and the earth? In the last blog, the creative and creating capacity of God was discussed, and every time we talk about creation, we are confronted with the knowledge of science and the knowledge of the Bible. Faithful scientists try to find a middle way between the two, but the opposite ends of the argument can be ruthless in their antagonism.
The reason this is such an important issue is because it goes to the heart of ultimate things. If we do not understand how we came to be, we do not understand what we are to be, much less what we are to become. This is the source of so much of the chaos and confusion in our society today – really, what we see in our world today. The inescapable results parade before us and, more often than we realize, within us. Our lives become circles of confusion rather than long journeys to destiny. Indeed, when do we even speak of human destiny anymore?
Since the time of Darwin, we have been told that we are meaningless accidents of process, so we live accordingly. Historically, as creatures made in the image of God, Christians have lived (with widely varying degrees of success) as repentant and obedient children of God, seeking to grow in virtue and the likeness of Jesus Christ. What we believe about our origins instructs us in the purpose and direction in our lives. Thus, we want – need – to know from whence we came, how we got here, who we are. How are we, as faithful Christians in the twenty-first century, to think about creation and all that was involved in bringing everything into existence?
Our language reflects the fall of the creation to some extent, but it’s as if we stop thinking too soon without drawing the obvious conclusion. We talk about God’s good creation, even as we’re forced to watch disease ravage children, ineffective in the face of great sorrow. We speak of the beauty and majesty of creation – and to be sure, there is great beauty and majesty in our world – but fires and hurricanes, volcanoes and tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, all shatter lands and peoples indiscriminately and carelessly. While we know that creation is fallen – and talk about it as such – we don’t seem to ask the obvious next question: fallen from what or where? The Scripture actually answers this clearly, but we no longer have eyes to see.
While studying on the meaning of Genesis for marriage, I came across a long-held Christian teaching from early Christianity. The patristic fathers in the Early Church understood our created order as the shadowed reflection of the “first form” of creation. What struck me about the teaching was how obviously true it was and is. Everything we know about creation is post-Fall. The whole human experience occurs in a fallen creation not God’s good creation. Scientists and biblicists can argue about how creation came to be, but no one can see creation prior to the fall. We only know creation after the fall, not the creation described in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.
I understand the implications are vast, but I rather think that is the point. We live in a far greater reality than we thought. The big bang, the fossil record, all that we are taught is real, are speculations about the creation that fell beneath the weight of sin and death. Arguments about “a day” in Genesis 1 become irrelevant. What is revealed are six enormous acts of creation, and what we know does not begin to encompass all that is hidden from our eyes. This is implied and confirmed by St. Paul, “As it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him – these things God has to us through His Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
We are the descendants of the man and woman in the Garden of Eden. What happened to Paradise? Where is it, and why can’t we find it? The purity and goodness, the innocence and flourishing that belonged to us in our creation are ruptured and corrupted, even though we retain vague and indistinct potentialities for becoming like Christ. Why would creation be any different? As St. Paul wrote, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 9:20-21) The created world doesn’t work the way it was intended to work just as human beings do not function in the manner we are created to live.
Consider the vision of the Apostle John in the Revelation given to him. We use this reading at funerals and memorial services – a reminder of the Kingdom to come. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more… He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And He who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Revelation 21:1, 4-5)
These passages – and others – make no sense in a world ruled by scientism – by the belief that science is supreme and the source of all knowledge, as well as the creator of the future. In keeping with the ethos of modernity, almost all of our belief is diminished to exclude the spiritual realm to our detriment. The teachings of Scripture are taken as metaphorical or mythological, but if God created all that exists, then our knowledge is suspect, not His revelation. Science is dependent upon the laws of nature, laws put into place by the Creator as He created, not laws to which the Creator Himself was ever subject. As darkened minds attempt to defy the laws of nature, increasing chaos will ensue. It cannot be otherwise. What God has put into effect cannot be altered by mortals.
In much the same manner that the Revelation was given in a vision to the Apostle John on Patmos, the Creation was given in a vision to Moses on Mount Sinai, the basis for the claim that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. These are new ideas to us, but they are new only because we ceased to trust – and then even to hear – the treasures of Christian life and faith passed down over the centuries. Our own wisdom seemed so superior, and as time passed, we forgot all that exists beyond ourselves, the Kingdom where our Father reigns and where unseen beings exist as surely as we do but populate the realm we cannot see. What that means is that we can never know as much as we currently believe we do. The act of speaking creation into existence is a description given by a mortal man (Moses) of events beyond words, divine actions of immeasurable proportion. Even if we were granted the same vision of God creating all that exists, we would be like Moses – lacking words sufficient to the reality because the reality is so far beyond our understanding.
The fact that such an idea – the teaching that creation itself had a first form that we cannot now see – shocks us and sounds so implausible to us is an indication of how deeply embedded is the mindset of modernity in us. Our expectations of life, of God, of salvation, of the whole human experience are lowered, and we are unaware of the spiritual world and our own spiritual nature. We cannot grasp how influenced we have been by the anti-God, anti-faith ethos of our time. As a result, we lose the wonder and awe of living in God’s universe, as well as the gift and joy of living in God’s presence. To borrow from Augustine, we stop looking for the city of God and settle for the city of man.
This world, fallen and broken though it be, is imbued with the life and breath of God. The mystery and wonder of God’s creative and creating Being are everywhere, if we know to look. The great minds of the last 200 years thought to know more than God, which is the very definition of pride. Now, as the fantasy of a future without the burden of a Creator becomes the nightmare of human sin aiding and abetting the dark and demonic intentions of the evil one, we are invited – called – to open our eyes to the power, the beauty, and the triumph of the God Who spoke all things into existence and Who continues to sustain the universe with His breath of life.
We can choose to live in this world as citizens of the Kingdom yet to be revealed in full, and thereby, choose to live in the same mystery and wonder of God’s triumphant re-creating anew all that is fallen and broken and plagued by sin. Then, we will become part of the salvation that God has accomplished and is accomplishing, and only from that vantage point can we see that all the human machinations and plotting will eventually come to nothing. Love will prevail – not the facile, deformed loves of human wanting, but the humble, self-sacrificing, and saving love of our Creator and Savior, love that destroys death with life.
Our comfort and ease with materialism and humanism are the cause of our discomfort and fear now. It was so easy to be Christian when we could live like everyone else with just a little bit of Jesus to prop us up. But Jesus isn’t little, and we cannot live as if God’s whole purpose is our happiness and prosperity. Are we so pitiable that we want nothing more than a moment’s delight when we are created for endless glory?
The power, the motivation, and the need for our Lord’s salvation is not diminished in this age. To the contrary, as the modern self capsizes beneath the waves of unrestrained want and unsatisfied hunger, the need for the love and promise of our Savior will be inescapable. We need to know that our God is more than enough for every human doubt or question, and we need to abide in the presence of the One Who is greater than all human pretensions of power and intellect. For the salvation of the world, we need to recover what the Scriptures revealed, but we were taught not to see.
Look again… Seek the unseen Kingdom that is eternal, so you will know how to live today. Orient your life to the whole of reality, to the Garden from whence we came to the Kingdom for which we are destined. Only then will we be witnesses to the truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In Christ -
Rev. Elizabeth Moreau