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Original Goodness
Original Goodness

Creation Is Very Good

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Original Goodness

Creation Is Very Good
Tuesday, October 26, 2021

God saw all God had made, and indeed it was very good. —Genesis 1:31

In Judaism, there is no concept of “original sin.” Instead of believing humans are born in sin, Judaism affirms our place in a “very good” creation. Rabbi Ellen Bernstein is a leading thinker about spirituality and the environment. Commenting on Genesis 1, she writes of humanity’s responsibility to manifest the “goodness” that is our birthright.

On the sixth day, God designs the land creatures, creates the first human couple, and completes the entire creation. In and of itself, an individual creation may be good, but when it can contribute to a larger interdependent ecosystem, it is very good. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

The goodness of this day is further emphasized through the language used to describe it. While all the other days are referred to as “a” day, the sixth day is referred to as “the” day. This day is distinguished among all the rest: it is whole. Wholeness rests in the complete web of life.

Both from an ecological perspective and from Genesis’ point of view, goodness resides in the community, the web of life, in the relations of the whole biosphere. All organisms interact constantly with their surroundings, in an endless cycle of giving and receiving. No creature, human or otherwise, can live in isolation. “No matter how sophisticated and complex and powerful our institutions,” said Wendell Berry, “we are still exactly as dependent on the earth as the earthworms.” [1] Ultimately our individual happiness rests on the health and well-being of the larger earth ecosystem and the common good. [2]

Author Danielle Shroyer understands the goodness of creation as its and our capacity to grow in potential toward further goodness. The Garden of Eden is not a place of perfection so much a place of wholeness and unfolding life itself. 

Creation is the result not of destruction, but of God’s goodness overflowing. . . . God looks upon creation and says, “It is very good.” It’s . . . a declaration, over and over, of creation’s goodness. . . . If we imagine creation to be something as simplistic as a utopian happy-go-lucky place where nothing ever will go wrong, we disparage the beauty and harmony illustrated in the Genesis stories. God’s goodness is not that shallow and neither is God’s creation. I wonder if there is not something immature about our desire for the garden to be perfect. . . .

A more appropriate view of creation would be not perfection but potential. God designed the world to develop and function in a certain way, while allowing for creation to live freely into its potential. Sometimes creation will live up to and into its potential, while other times it will renounce it. . . . Potential reminds us once again that goodness is both an origin and a goal. It is given to us as a gift, but it is also given to us as a calling. [3]

[1] Wendell Berry, The Long-Legged House (Counterpoint: 2012), 90.

[2] Ellen Bernstein, The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology (The Pilgrim Press: 2005), 119–120.

[3] Danielle Shroyer, Original Blessing: Putting Sin in Its Rightful Place (Fortress: 2016), 66–67.

Story from Our Community:
I remember going to confession as a young boy trembling that I had stolen 6 pennies from my father’s shop. I was told how lucky I was to receive absolution and what would have happened had I died before I got to confess. That was the One Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church we grew up in here in Ireland in the 1940s. Thank you, Fr. Richard, and your amazing ecumenical team in CAC for changing my perception of God. I am not scared of God anymore. —Brian M.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 4 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States.
The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Dr. B as part of an exploration into contemplative photography and she returned this wonderful photo.
Image inspiration: The blues and greens of this tranquil sky speak to us of harmony, wholeness and the invitation to rest. Beginning with goodness and beauty invites our contemplation of the same.
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