The Story that Defines Us
Friday, January 30, 2015
The first book of the Bible, Genesis, is not the oldest book of the Bible. The Genesis account of creation was likely compiled in its present form as late as 500 BC, and in fact, there are at least two different accounts that you can see in the first chapters. At the time it was written, the Jews were likely in exile, having been conquered by Babylon. There they were exposed to many creation stories, and they were inspired with this very positive account.
Rob Bell described one of the most popular stories of that time, the Babylonian Enuma Elish, at CAC’s CONSPIRE 2014 conference. Within the Enuma Elish, creation happens after a battle between two gods. The male god kills the female god, then tears her body apart and uses half of her to create the heavens and half to create the earth.
Rob points out that the driving engine of this story is violence, carnage, and destruction. The exiled Jews decided to write down their oral tradition, a confrontive narrative to the dominant creation story, in order to stay cohesive as a tribe among all the foreign influences. In the Judeo-Christian story of Genesis 1, God, who is “Creator” in verse 1, “Spirit” in verse 2, and “Word” in verse 3 (foretastes of what we would eventually call Trinity), creates from an overflowing abundance of love, joy, and creativity! Rob contends that the question of whether the engine of the universe is violence and destruction or overflowing love, joy, and creativity is still the question. He says we live our lives according to these deep forces within us, and the engine that drives us is deeply connected to the way we view the Universe. Is our starting point love or is it fear and hatred? How you begin is invariably how you end. And both possibilities are rather visible in our world today.
Our creation story says that we were created in the very “image and likeness” of God (Genesis 1:26) and out of a fully generative love. I love how Rob, and many other evolutionary Christians, say what this means for us: “We are created with a drive to self-transcend, to move beyond oneself for the joy and blessing of others.” It is all positive, an original blessing instead of an original sin, sending us toward a cosmic hope. There is something within us, which Christians call the Holy Spirit, that makes us aware that we are here to co-create with God and make something beautiful of the world. Like the Trinity, the perichoresis (divine dance) of God, we are made to encircle others and creation in self-giving love, generosity, blessing, and service. When you start positive, instead of with a problem, there is a much greater likelihood you will move forward positively too.
Our starting point is totally positive, and not just the sad overcoming of a problem. Blessed John Duns Scotus, OFM (1266-1308) said that the Christ is Plan A, and we got off to a very bad start by making Jesus (or the Christ) a mere problem-solving technique of God—or Plan B. God creates the first premise and meaning of reality, not human sinfulness. The first chapter of the Bible repeatedly says creation is “very good” (Genesis 1:10-31)! Are we really that obtuse? It sure seems so. From such a blessed and unitive beginning, we were given to know the clear direction of the whole tangent—we came from goodness, we are slowly ticking toward goodness, and we will end in goodness. And all this goodness is pure gift.
Gateway to Silence:
Bring creation to fullness.
Adapted from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, pp. 27-28,
and In the Beginning… Six hours with Rob Bell and Richard Rohr on reclaiming the original Christian narrative (CD, MP3 download)