Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunday Scripture: Genesis 1

I'm toying with starting a new Sunday series. No promises, but the idea is that each Sunday for the next three years I would explore a different part of the Bible as Christian Scripture. I would follow some pattern of narrative, instruction, and expression that crossed with the themes of creation, redemption, and Christian living.

Not sure how it would all play out, but I think I know where it might begin. :-) Again, no promises I'll show up next week. Can't justify too much time each week, just some notes.
I jotted down three notes on reading Genesis 1 as Christian Scripture:

1. God was first.
2. God makes order out of chaos.
3. Christ is the agent of creation.

1. God was first.
Christians believe that before there was anything else, there was God. Since about the year AD200, we have firmly believed that God created the world out of nothing. There is nothing in the creation that is not under His control, no working of the creation that He does not understand. Indeed we believe He knows not only all the possibilities of the world but all the actualities before they happen.

2. God makes order out of chaos
The most likely grammatical and historical reading of Genesis 1:1-2, however, is not yet to this understanding in the flow of revelation. Like the world of its day, it sees God creating order out of primordial chaotic waters whose existence was a given. And though as Christians we believe we understand the nature of creation a little better in the light of later revelation, we see the truth of God's absolute ability to make order out of chaos at work. If He could do it out of "formless and void" chaos, He can certainly do it out of the chaos of our lives.

It is often said that Genesis 1 served as a kind of introduction to the Pentateuch, one that would have immediately evoked the creation stories of other peoples like the Babylonians. But there are no gods fighting each other here. There is no Tiamat the salt water sea monster goddess. There is only God, whose voice of authority is unopposed and instantaneous in effect.

A truly literal reading recognizes that in Genesis 1, God was speaking to a particular day and age in their categories. Of course! He wants to be understood. To speak in our categories would be absurd, not only because no audience would truly understand Him until the scientific revolution, but because our categories are not the absolute ones either.

3. Christ is the agent of creation.
The New Testament seems to stop just shy of saying that Christ gave the command for the worlds to come into existence, although there are a couple places, in John and Hebrews, where one might make a case. But the language of the NT is much more than God created the worlds through Christ, perhaps pointing to something a little more subtle.

Christ, who is the consummate embodiment of the word of God, is the one through whom God made the worlds. Christ is the embodiment of order out of chaos. That person of God that the world came to know as Jesus Christ is the one through whom God makes things that do not exist to exist. Christ is the great Redeemer, the one through whom the new creation also comes and who makes eternity possible for humanity.

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