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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Genesis 1 & 2

How are we to read the book of Genesis? When we hear all the raging controversies and all the claims made what are we to think?

I shared yesterday about the message(s) of Genesis 1. I believe God reveals, in and through that majestic text, some core, foundational truths about the world in which we live.
In the middle of chapter 2, however, there is an additional story about creation. It is a different version of teh creation of human beings. In Genesis 1:12 the earth brings forth vegetation on the third day and humans are created on day six (1:26). On the other hand, in Genesis 2:5 "there is no plant on the earth and no herb when the Lord God (in Genesis 1 it is simply God) makes the man. The Hebrew words are a pun with man/adam and dirt/adamah. It is a reminder that human beings die and disintegrate and return to dust. The beginning of man's existence includes work. He is to till the ground and to keep the garden. Work is part of the deal. Man is also in need of companionship. So we are communal. The foundation of marriage is God's plan for a man and woman to live together as one and produce new life. Lastly, the original state also implies some innocence and openness (they are naked but not ashamed).

Some people see the contradictions between story elements in Genesis 1&2 and reject the bible as untrue. Others, having already decided that because the word of God is true it must conform to their specific standards, deny there is any contradiction. They read the biblical text with the intention to make it all fit. Sorry, but neither approach is terribly helpful. If I read other sacred texts with a critical eye then I must apply the same standard to the sacred text which I hold dear. God's message is on His terms, not mine.

The creation of human beings in the bible is not about a scientific or biological explanation. It is about God's power and plan. The different order of details was known to the ones who originally compiled the literature we read. Ancient people were very adept at seeing logical inconsistencies. Clearly it did not bother them, in fact there is good reason to believe they set the two stories side by side, in spite of some inconsistencies, because they held both the stories to be sacred and true. It is no service to Scripture or Truth to deny what is before us. It is an act of trust and humility to embrace the message. God used the planet we live on to mold and shape us. Is that not what the developmental theories of biology also claim? Our task on earth is unique. We are responsible for the planet. Is that not what we all believe, secular or religious? Human relationships are needed to reach our potential as humans. Is that not what social sciences teach? A family is a man and a woman in committed relationship producing children. That is a biological actuality and social science is very clear that statistically when that breaks down it is not good for children. So, I can hear God's message here and be stunned by the beauty of words written so long ago which still resonate in my heart!
The authority of God's revelation in and through human language is my core belief. The truth of the message is believable. Time limited assumptions about truth dating to the Rationalist movements of the Enlightenment are not infallible, nor are they accurate. So read the bible for what is there and dig deep to uncover all the riches.

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