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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not perfect but good

So, we've come to the end of Genesis 2. Those of you who have been reading for a while might be breathing a sigh of relief -- we're actually making progress! Slow, sometimes tedious progress, but I hope you're seeing a little of the depth that is possible digging into the Bible. Not that this blog has exhaustively covered Genesis 1-2 -- not by any means! No, I feel like we've been skimming the surface, bopping in for a glimpse here and there in the text. There is so much more we could talk about. In chapter 1 we didn't talk at all about the fact that most of the things God creates were represented in the cultures around ancient Israel by various gods. So creation was personified as deity, but Genesis says that God created all the things that are worshipped in the surrounding cultures. So there's a claim about God's sovereignty implicit in the story.

We didn't talk much about what it means to be created in God's image. Oh, we touched on it, but whole books have been written on that topic and we just skimmed it. We blipped over a lot of material in Genesis 2 -- geography and discussions about where "Eden" might have been located, the whole science of RNA that shows fairly decisively that humanity today descends from one ancient woman, probably somewhere in East Africa if scientists have the migration patterns right. We have spent almost no time on the creation / evolution debate that so consumes conversations in our culture that involve Genesis. (That bit o' neglect is intentional on my part, as I have no desire to start a mudslinging match between the six-day young-earth crowd and the 14 billion year Big Bang faction ... if both of them can confess "Jesus is Lord" -- and I'm not including the "evolution-is-a-totally-random-process-and-there-is-no-God" types here because I can't see why on earth they would spend time reading my blog -- what more do we have to argue about? At some point it's like the Catholics and Protestants bombing each other out of northern Ireland. When they treat each other like that, you have to wonder at the foundation of things if their "faith" is really about Jesus at all.)

No, there is a lot of uncovered ground in our romp through Genesis. (Okay, so maybe it's more like a slog or crawl. I write the blog, I choose the words. This morning the sun is out and it feels like spring, so it's a romp.) At the end of Genesis 2, however, we can say a few things:

  • Creation -- whatever the methods God used to make it so -- is the work of a loving, attentive God who is relational and personal and stays engaged.
  • Creation is good. Many many times God says so. Notice that he doesn't say "perfect." We sometimes get screwed up because we think Eden was a totally perfect system except for that free choice thing, and if God could just have found a way around that we'd all be happy robots singing praise and eating papaya fresh from the beautiful trees -- but not that one tree -- to this day. No, Genesis is clear that creation is a beautiful, good place but it has some dangerous parts as well.
  • Creation is orderly. Chaos is the enemy of goodness, except where chaos becomes the raw material out of which God makes goodness. The goodness of creation demands basic order, including some distinction and separation. You are not me and I am not you.
  • Humans are made for relationship. This theme perhaps more than any other (except the sovereignty of God) dominates Genesis 1-2. We read about being created in a relational God's image, about our relationship to creation, about our task of stewarding the earth, and then in chapter 2 about the man's desperate need for companionship, his appropriate relationship with the animals, and the goodness of male and female relationship.
We could certainly say more. Lots more. But suffice it to say for the moment that Genesis 1-2 provides a climb to great altitude where we can peek into God's purpose for creation and for us specifically. Now we have come to that point on the roller coaster where we've reached the pinnacle and we're about to plunge into the abyss. Genesis 3 is the watershed of the whole Bible. Here we go.

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