Monday, December 7, 2009

Origin stories

Going back to the beginning is something humans have always done. And no matter how much we think our own quest (in contrast to the primitive and misinformed who preceded us) is based on cold, hard facts, the truth is that we are all looking for an answer to the questions, "Who am I?" and "Where did I come from?" and "What does it all mean?"

So it's interesting to read an origin story from a contemporary religious source (National Geographic), peering deep into ancient times to decipher these questions. Read this article and notice the whimsical, even scriptural language, complete with "prophets" going up the mountain to get the straight story on our origins (Moses, anyone?), a mysterious universe of chaos, dark forces beyond our understanding, and poetic language that tells us that our own darkness, our own chaos, our own collisions and difficulties can give birth to brilliant light and surprising stability.

What sets the Genesis accounts apart from this National Geographic article? I think this is a good question, and one we should be careful not to answer too quickly. The temptation is to say Genesis is "fact" and National Geographic (by their own admission) is describing "theories." I'm not sure the Bible would distinguish the two that way.

Here's my knee-jerk answer to the question. The resurrection of Jesus validates, in some sense, the creation account in Genesis. Not that Jesus' resurrection means that Genesis describes the exact "historical" sequence, but that Jesus' resurrection declares, among other things, that the Genesis accounts of our beginnings are the God-given answers to the questions above -- Who am I? Where do I come from? and What does it all mean? At their base, these are questions of philosophy and poetry, not so much questions of science and history.

I realize I'm opening a HUGE can of worms here. (Ever wonder about that expression?) But thinking about Genesis does that.

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