The Gospel of Creation
An Awesome Universe
The world abounds in wonders, but is there anything more wonderful than that the world exists? Why existence? Why the galaxies? Why sub-atomic particles? Why nature? Why evolution? Why me? Why anything?
It’s not enough to simply say, “It is.” When I ponder this question I join with the overwhelming majority of people from around the world and throughout history who say that it could not have been self-generating. We sense that there is a creative force; no, more than that – existence speaks of a creative will. There is a sense of intention about it.
In But Not Of the World
While we sense this creative purpose in all existence, it cannot be part of it. It is beyond existence as we know it. But how can we speak of anything that is beyond existence as we know it? Our senses cannot perceive it. Our minds cannot grasp it. We can only speak of it by using terms and metaphors that belong to the realm of existence that we know. It’s a bit like this, we say, or it’s not like this. But we cannot describe it directly.
If it is beyond existence as we know it, it cannot be discovered by research or exploration; nor by speculation or reason. That we have an awareness of it depends upon its willingness to be known. This means that we are dependent upon revelation. The Other, the Ground of All Being, the Creator, choosing to be known.
The Rise of Religion
Throughout history people have told stories – myths, legends and interpretations – to capture something of the elusive mystery. They have developed rituals and theologies, practices and theories, religions and philosophies in their attempts to relate to this Someone.
Everyone is born into an already existing interpretative structure. It has been likened to waking up and finding that we are on a ship that is already well on its way. Even if we reject the tradition we are born into and choose another we do so from an initial starting point, a starting point that has been growing and developing maybe for centuries. No one comes to the question of existence with a totally blank slate. We are supplied with theories, myths and metaphors that shape our understanding.
The Christian tradition uses the word God for this Someone. It’s still a mystery. Calling the creative impulse, God, does not change our understanding that the Creator is beyond existence as we know it although somehow present within it.
The Bible, the core collection of literature that continues to shape the Christian perspective, starts off with a great poem about creation. It has been misused and abused, but it gives profound insights into existence. Don’t try to reconcile it with theories of evolution, natural selection, or the like. They deal with entirely different perspectives. One is intuitive, holistic, spiritual, the other is empirical, analytic and material. Neither way of looking rules out the other. They are simply two different ways of looking at reality.
In the Beginning
The Bible starts with the words, “In the beginning“ – in the beginning God created. It means, “This is how things are.” It means this is the first and most fundamental truth about life – God creates. This is not a scientific or historical account of how things started. It does not mean that creation only took place at the beginning of time; God’s work of creation is on-going. God created, God creates and God will create. Existence relates to God as creation to Creator.
From a biblical perspective creation is good: “And God saw that it was good”. Humans have a privileged position within it. Made in the image of God, something of God is reflected in human rationality, creativity, and personhood.
Order Out of Chaos
The second verse of the Bible speaks of a wind from God sweeping over the face of the waters. In Hebrew thinking, the waters, the sea, or the deep, symbolize chaos. The wind represents spirit. God’s creative action involves the Spirit of God bringing order out of chaos. Without this, life would be precarious. Daily life depends upon it. Science and engineering are built upon it.
But chaos and confusion are never far away. The possibility of pandemics, nuclear holocaust, breakdown of society, devastating famines, floods and droughts, earthquakes and tsunamis, lie just around the corner. We know that as safe and secure as we are it all could go wrong. However chaos does not have the last word. The Creator is constantly bringing order out of chaos. See the green shoots after bushfire, see the aid worker bringing clean drinking water to people who live in badly polluted swampland, see the bones knitting after a broken collarbone, see enemies signing a peace treaty, see a community working together after flood has devastated their town.
I believe that in telling us that God is love the Bible gives us another clue to the riddle of existence. Is not love, genuine agape love, the greatest creative force that we know? It is other directed; other enhancing; other creating. The creative force behind and permeating all existence is divine love. Creative love is the basis of it all. We may not know much about the unknown, unseen, mysterious Creator but we know this – love creates and all creation derives from the creative love of God.