Who would have believed that in the 21st century there would be Christians who would take this text literally as a scientific explanation of creation? Certainly not itâ€™s authors! Christian groups, mostly in the U.S., but also in Western Canada, build schools and teach children that when the bible says seven days, it means 7 days; and that earth is about 10,000 years old. These are also the most likely people to see this earth as a way station to an after-life. They would suggest that our earthly habitat is merely a â€œvale of tearsâ€ ’til we reach the â€œrealâ€ life, spiritual life, after death so it does not matter what happens to this earth.. In this mythology we can exploit the earth in mining or dams, or shrimp farms that salinate the land of peasants. We can take lands for growing coffee, or tea, or fruit, or flowers or for our consumer culture in the west, doing it in places where we can get cheap labour, and little interference from environmental or labour watchdogs We can grow grain for fuel for our cars while people starve. What matters is US and NOW and profits for investors. Never mind if the tailings from a gold mine in Guatemala will poison the waters and the people; never mind that it takes land from indigenous people without their permission. Creation and people are expendible. Profit margins are not. These attitudes are rooted in a world view of the human relationship to creation. It is held by leaders of nations who see no urgency around climate change, or extinction of species; who have no ears to hear the cries of a suffering creation or of environmentalists and scientists the world over
What a misinterpretation of this very powerful reading! Many scholars believe this Genesis 1 narrative, at least in its present form, took shape during the time that the people of Judah were in exile in Babylon (586â€“539 BCE). In response to their captors, who insisted that their rulers held all power, these exiles told a story about their God and Godâ€™s relationship with humankind that insisted otherwise. Genesis 1â€“2 did not originate as a scientific explanation of how all things came to be. Rather, it emerged as an assertion of the power of God, from whom all things came to be â€“ and in whose hands the past and the future remained.
Exile was a time of chaos for the people. Everything that had been foundational to the culture; religion, temple, kingship, nation had fallen apart, They were strangers in a strange land. Yet out of this time came new and different ways. In the chaos, God was doing a new thing. The synagogue movement rooted in lay leadership rather than a priestly class came from this time, So did many of our scriptures, this creation story being one of them. The message that God creates out of chaos, out of what is formless and void and without light spoke directly and powerfully to the chaos through which they were living. The message that humans, both male and female, were NOT irrelevant to God, but rather created in Godâ€™s image spoke directly to their despair and disempowerment. The message that GOD is the Source of all, not the rulers of their captors, spoke directly to their political reality. The message that God declares creation good, not only just good, but VERY good was a powerful word of hope to a people who felt life was not very good at that point in their journey. These messages required the people of God to think in a radically different way about themselves, about God, and about the earth. Just as I believe we need to do again in our time.
A key issue in this passage involves the meaning of the â€œdominionâ€ bestowed upon human beings. Many associate dominion exclusively with control. That has indeed been the western attitude to creation. DOMINION, however, has a DIFFERENT meaning when heard in the context of â€œimage of God.â€ GODâ€™S dominion does not exhibit itself in exploitation, but in compassion and responsible care. God entrusts dominion to us as a responsibility, not as a license to abuse.
In Jewish tradition, retelling scriptureâ€™s story enables listeners to enter that story as if it were ongoing. Godâ€™s creative activity did not just happen â€œin the beginning.â€ Creation continues. God remains involved in the world. Our fashioning in the image of God is more than a story of long ago. God has not finished with us or with creation. When we really embrace that we are made in Godâ€™s image it is very empowering. We are entrusted with the responsibility of being in a caring relationship with all creation.
This narrative of creation concludes with God blessing the seventh day. We call this blessing Sabbath. Sabbath reminds us that work does not completely or finally define life. It does not for God. It does not for us. Sabbath bears the gift of rest. Remembering Sabbath celebrates the grace of God, something many of us engrained with a Protestant work ethic need to relearn.
It is only recently that theologians have begun talking about the human centric attitude of our theology of creation. As the creation story written 6 centuries before Christ spoke to the experience of those in exile, and gave them a radically new way of seeing themselves, God and the earth, there are those who suggest that we need to hear Genesis story alongside the cosmic creation story emerging from scientists so that we in our own time can have a radical new way of seeing ourselves, our God, and creation. Iâ€ll let you decide.
Hear Roman Catholic quantum theologian, Diarmuid Oâ€™Murchu speak a cosmic Creation story. How does it affect how you see yourself, the sacred, and your place in creation. â€œIn the beginning, the energy of silence rested over an infinite horizon of pure nothingness. The silence lasted for billions of years, stretching across aeons the human mind cannot even remotely comprehend. Out of the silence arose the first ripples of sound, vibrations of pure energy from the nothingness of the creative vacuum. The stillness became restless and tiny bubbles of ether emanated from the space of infinite emptiness, the featureless ferment of quantum possibility.
And a mighty sound ruptured the tranquil stillness as a single point of raw potential, bearing all matter, all dimension, all energy, and all time, exploding like a massive fireball. The temperature exceeded 1,000 million degrees centigrade so hot that even elementary particles like electrons, and protons could not exist. The time, according to human reckoning, was somewhere between 15&20 billion years ago. From that time on, the silence begets the dance and the dance explodes into story.
It was the greatest explosion of all time. An irruption of infinite energy danced into being. It had a wild and joyful freedom about it, and like all dance it was richly endowed with coherence, elegance, and creativity. The earth is still so radioactive from this initial explosion that its core is kept hot by continuing nuclear reactions and many atoms all over its surface, rocks, and trees, Even in our own bodies 3 million potassiuim atoms explode evey minute.
Current theories state that after 1/1000 second of this Big Bang, the universe had cooled sufficiently for elementary particles electrons, protons, and neutrons to form. 3 minutes later when the temperature had dropped to 900 billion degrees neutrons and protons combined to form stable atomic nuclei, initially those of hydrogen and helium. The cosmic dance of interrelating and procreating was well underway.
The universe continued to expand and cool until after about 700 thousand years, when the temperature fell to about 4000 degrees centigrade, about the temperature of our sun, the first simple atoms came into being. Then the gravitational pull joined the cosmic dance, and atoms began to clump together forming over thousands of millons of years into clusters of primordial galaxies. Within these giant clouds, hydrogen and helium gases continued to gather into ever more condensed masses, eventually giving birth to the first stars 5 billion years ago.
Many of these early stars were intensely hot. They flared up and exploded in brilliant supernovas, each as bright as an entire galaxy. The force of these explosions sent heavier elements spewing out into space, condensing over millions of years into new stars of which our sun is probably a 4th generation progeny dated at 4.5 billion years.
It was about this time that our solar system was formed from a huge cloud of stellar dust. Most of the cloud consisted of frozen hydrogen, helium and ice, but Planet Earth was fortunate to condense out of a part of the cloud rich in a diversty of elements including all those necessary for the evolution of carbon-based life. Over hundreds of millions of years, the Earth developed from dust particles to a large, hot, molten planet with a thin rocky crust. The climate was sulphuric, toxic to life as we know it, and at boiling temperatures, for millions upon millions of years. As steam began to condense the miracle of rain and weather cycles began. The first rains fell. Then torrential rains fell until rivers ran over the surface and pooled into great seas. For 300 million years it rained on the Earth – day and night, cooling the surface. This process created a stable climate structure – and a water cycle- atmospheric processes that connected the oceans, the air, and the land. These are what has kept Earth alive, by containing hydrogen and oxygen and preventing them from drifting into space, as on Mars. The same water that was present at creation, is the water we now have no more, no less.
Some 4 billion year ago with the appearance of the first algae and bacteria, the dance of life reached a more complex level of integration. Molecules clustered together to form the first cell. It was the beginning of biological life as we know it today.
Fish began to inhabit the waters about 400 million years ago and 200 million years aglo the first mammals appeared on earth. Mammal and animal evolution became more elaborate and sophisticated right up to the emergence of humankind, which today we can trace back to some 4.4 million years,
We are part of an awesome cosmic story, which continues. Itâ€™s a story of a remarkable capacity of self-organization an ability which seems to be the result of invisible fields. Fields of several species interact to form ecosystems, Ecosystems interrelate and create bio-regional fields. All visible organization arises out of invisible fields. All of us belong to a web of interrelationships, empowered by an intricate and mysterious life force.â€ Diarmud Oâ€™Murchu, in Quantum Theology
Sounds very like what Aboriginal cultures, Celtic Spirituality, have been saying since the beginning.
Chief Seattle, 1854 said…..
All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons
and daughters of the Earth. Humans do not weave the web of life, they are merely strands in it. Whatever they do to the web they do to themselves.
I donâ€™t know about you, but this feels to me like a very sacred storyâ€¦Part of me wants to cry out. It is good, It is very good. Indeed it is mind-bogglingly good! We are part of a cosmic danceâ€¦We are literally stardust. There is a universal intelligence, a Life-Force, an Aliveness in creation that empowers and animates the whole creative process and our task is to partner with it; to allow it to work through us. The earth, the whole cosmos is sacred.. Humans are not the end goal of creation but rather we are an integral part of a greater whole that confers on us our integrity, our dignity, and calls us to mutual engagement with creation, just as the biblical creation story calls us to be stewards and caretakers of the earth in partnership with the Creator.
Our very existence is dependent upon the healthy functioning of the earthâ€™s biosystems. They are not there for OUR use, but we are part of an integrated creation. And this earth, this creation IS our true authentic home. It is all we have. The afterlife is not something that exists apart from and outside of creation but rather is a different level of being within one cosmos. Our negative regard for the created order, our arrogance in assuming that we are the centre of and end point of creation has caused untold meaningless suffering to the earth and its delicately balanced eco-systems. Our abuse and misuse of creation threatens life as we know it. It is surely an abdication of our call to be co-creators with God in enhancing the growth and development of Godâ€™s creation.
When the biblical creation story was written, only God had the power to Create and destroy. For this twenty first century generation, we hear this story differently. Not only is it possible that this formlessness and void could exist again. It is also possible, as never before, for us as a species to bring this about. We are the first generation who can reverse creation, and many of us do not even know what we are playing with.
As we consider that the Spirit moved over the face of the waters preparatory to calling forth land and a myriad of life forms from those same waters, we are reminded that the oceans of the world are still the essential source and guardian of life on this planet. If the oceans are destroyed, we are destroyed. No wonder the whales, the dolphins have become symbols of the fragility of life…No wonder Spirit has evoked those who remind us that the directions we are going with our earth are very dangerous. We must turn around…We must make other choices.. The creating Spirit still moves over these oceans as an instrument for further creation. Caring for creation is not a political fad. It is Godâ€™s great work for our time.
Creating Spirit blow through our chaos…blow a new beginning for your earth and her creatures….Blow through our minds the transformed thinking that can change our actions so that we and your creation might be saved.