Ever Onward, Ever Upward
“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 wept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good … God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.
And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” (Genesis 1:1-4a; 31-2:4)
The first chapter of Genesis, the opening theme to the Scriptures, is a song. It is the hymn of creation, a poetic telling of the ways in which God laid out all that is. These opening passages, and indeed most of the Old Testament, has been viewed through the modern lens rather than through the cultural lens in which it was written, leading most folks to assume that Genesis chapter 1 is giving us a science lesson. Critical biblical scholarship has shot back against these claims, expounding on the assumption that because Genesis 1 is a song, it cannot teach anything beyond a theological/spiritual truth, that God is the creator. All else is poetic license.
Maybe both views are wrong. Or, perhaps both are right, but only partially so. We can trust that the Scriptures are shot through with truth from end to end. When the Bible says that God created, we can trust that. He created through the power of his Word and the movement of his Spirit. We have no idea of how to conceive that in physical terms, because Word and Spirit are not physical entities. On the other hand, scientific disciplines have revealed a world that is incredibly old, that has seen successive generations of species completely unimaginable. Fossils tell a story written in stone of monsters ruling the planet, only to be deposed and replaced by later tyrants, evolving out of the ashes of the previous dynasty. We live now in the anthropocene: the time of the human. But there is nothing in the scientific story that indicates that we are the last to rule the world.
Bringing those two views together is not nearly as difficult as it would seem. The key is found in Genesis chapter 1. Read the whole chapter and you will see something incredible. You will discover a progressive nature to nature. God created the most primordial element: light; God created the heavens and the earth, the molecules of air and matter; God separated the sky and the water, then the water and dry land; God created vegetation on the dry land; God created luminaries in the sky to govern the day and night; God created sea-dwelling creatures; God created land-dwelling creatures; finally God created humans in the image and likeness of God.
Do you see the evolutionary nature of creation laid out in this hymn? It’s incredible that in many ways this picture painted in Genesis chapter 1 does indeed parallel the picture presented by scientific inquiry.
We cannot allow wooden literalism or cynical scientific skepticism to steal the wonder and mystery that is found within the incredible story of creation. The wonder lies in the working of God in and through the process, the change, the evolution of creation itself.
Cody Nygard, Associate Pastor