Scripture: Week 2
The First Bible
Sunday, February 28, 2016
The first act of divine revelation is creation itself. The first Bible is the Bible of nature. It was written at least 13.8 billion years ago, at the moment that we call the Big Bang, long before the Bible of words. “Ever since God created the world, God’s everlasting power and divinity—however invisible—are there for the mind to see in the things that God has made” (Romans 1:20). One really wonders how we missed that. Words gave us something to argue about, I guess. Nature can only be respected, enjoyed, and looked at with admiration and awe. Don’t dare put the second Bible in the hands of people who have not sat lovingly at the feet of the first Bible. They will invariably manipulate, mangle, and murder the written text.
In the biblical account God creates the world developmentally over seven days, almost as if there was an ancient intuition of what we would eventually call evolution. Clearly creation happened over time. The only strict theological assertion of the Genesis story is that God started it all. The exact how, when, and where is not the author’s concern. Our creation story, perhaps written five hundred years before Christ, has no intention or ability to be a scientific account. It is a truly inspired account of the source, meaning, and original goodness of creation. Thus it is indeed “true.” Both Western rationalists and religious fundamentalists must stop confusing true with literal, chronological, or visible to the narrow spectrum of the human eye. Many assume the Bible is an exact snapshot—as if caught on camera—of God’s involvement on Earth. But if God needed such literalism, God would have waited for the twentieth century of the Common Era to start talking and revealing through “infallible” technology.
Notice in Genesis that on the third, fourth, and fifth days what God created is called “good” (1:9-25) and on the sixth day it is called “very good” (1:31); but on the first and second days Scripture does not say it was good. The first day is the separation of darkness from light, and the second day is the separation of the heavens above from the earth below (1:3-8). The Bible does not say that is good—because it isn’t! This sets the drama in motion; the remainder of the stumbling, struggling, yet sacred text tries to put darkness and light, heaven and earth back together as one.
Of course darkness and light, heaven and earth, have never really been separate, but “sin” thinks so (sin separates; God and soul unite). That’s the tragic flaw at the heart of everything, what Augustine unfortunately called “original sin” and I‘d like to call “original shame”—or the illusion of separateness. Jesus then becomes the icon of cosmic reconciliation (Colossians 1:19-20, Revelation 21:1-3). He holds all that we divide and separate together as one (which is really the foundational mystery of “forgiveness”) and tells us that we can and must do the same work of reconciliation of opposites (2 Corinthians 5:17-20, Ephesians 2:14-22).
Science is now able to affirm what were for centuries the highly suspect intuitions of the mystics. We now take it for granted, and even provable, that everything in the universe is deeply connected and in foundational relationship, even and most especially light itself, which interestingly is the first act of creation (Genesis 1:3). The entire known universe is in orbit and in cycle with something else. There’s no such thing in the whole universe as autonomy. It doesn’t exist. That’s the illusion of the modern, individualistic West, which tries to imagine that the autonomous self is the basic building block and the true Seer. In fact, all holy ones seem to say that the independent self sees everything incorrectly. Parts can only see parts and thus divide things even further. Whole people see things in their wholeness and thus create wholeness (“holiness”) wherever they go and wherever they gaze. Holy people will find God in nature and everywhere else too. Heady people will only find God in books and words, and finally not even there.
Gateway to Silence:
“The physical structure of the universe is love.” —Teilhard de Chardin
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (Franciscan Media: 2008), 32-33;
and New Great Themes of Scripture (Franciscan Media: 1999), disc 3 (CD).