Archive for the ‘Gleanings from Genesis’ Category

The Lonely Man

August 21st, 2014

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:18

We men are funny creatures, often spurning the very provisions God sends to meet the needs of our hearts. We too often choose our loneliness by shutting ourselves off from others, withdrawing into our own cave of isolation, and shutting out those who would help and comfort us. Let’s look at what this story tells us about ourselves, about human contact, and about intimacy.

Here Adam began his life alone, and initially he knew no other possible reality was available. To the other animals God did not need to make such a point – they were and remain creatures of instinct, and not of a cognitive process. But we people think, but our minds are not perfectly tuned instruments and often our thoughts run counter to logic, even against our own best interests. But in the beginning it was not so. Adam in his innocence thought clearly and here we read of the first learned realization of Adam – actually the first learning moment for the entire human race: among all that God had created there was no suitable companion for him.

God caused Adam to sleep, and there is a picture in this of God’s independent activity to provide for our needs. While we sleep He works, and when we are hopelessly unable to help ourselves, God steps into the picture to provide for us, His creation, what we need. We see the loving Creator heart of God in this act, and the first picture of the Redeemer heart of God as well. Not only, we learn, does he love us in our innocence, not only is He moved to meet innocent needs of innocent people, but His love extends to us when we are guilty, and He is the Provider of the means of our salvation as well.

God created woman, and He blessed them both, male and female, and gave them to one another. Women are normally more sociable than men, and they as a gender need very little convincing that they need others. Men, on the other hand, are on the whole much more isolated and withdrawn, but the need is still there deeply embedded within us. God answers the need for loneliness with His presence, but also with the gift of marriage and family.

In our day and age a phenomenon has developed in Western societies that is unseen in history, that a new stage of life has begun in the last sixty years that human society has done without in all the previous millennia. Prior to the mid-way point through the Twentieth Century the vast majority of people left the home of their mother and father and entered into marriage. Very few adults lived by themselves, less than 10%, and those were mostly widows and widowers. But since the 1950’s onward a new stage of life has begun in the West, the stage of being a single adult, living alone. In 1950 9% of American households were people living alone. By 1970 it was 17%, and by 2012 that had become 28%. One in seven Americans live alone, and 50% of adults are unmarried.  Statistics are very similar for Western Europe.

What this means is that we are facing an epidemic of loneliness in coming years. We have lived alone and we will die alone. And as computer technology has increased more and more people are losing or failing to develop personal people skills necessary for intimacy and fulfillment. We choose digital means of communication rather than live ones. We humans are made first for God, but second for one another. Prior to this point in time, the vast majority of people went from their family of origin into marriage, from their parents to their marriage relationship, but now our society has invented a period of independence, and even idealized it, as a time when drinking, partying, and brief and meaningless sexual encounters are supposed to be the “best days” of our lives. And some have even chosen artificial, impersonal, digitalized means of sexual experience over true and meaningful intimacy with one special life-long mate.

God met the need of loneliness not with the gift of community only, not with the chance of brief sexual encounters with virtual strangers, not with the possibility of seeing others in good relationships, and not with fame and adulating crowds, but He met this need through marriage and family.

There have always been single adults among us – and we should remember that our Lord was a single adult – and to some God gives the gift of celibacy. Matthew 19:10-12 provides the Lord’s teaching on the matter. It is not everyone’s gift, or even the majority of people. But singleness alone is not a curse, neither need it be unhealthy. Yet even those with the gift of celibacy need community, friendships, and human intimacy. We are not made to be alone – not even alone with God.

Our greatest need as a race is intimacy with God, to know Him and to experience Him, but in this experience He also brings us into intimacy with others. It is interesting that in John 14:23 Christ spoke to the individual’s experience and said that He and the Father with make their home in the individual (“make our home in him” – it is singular in the Greek), so there is a personal, individual experience and relationship we need with God through Christ. But in the next breath Christ also spoke of the community when He said in the plural, “Peace I leave with you (plural)” (John 14:27), and there are experiences we have with God through Christ that we need the community of believers to experience.

This is our great need today – to be in intimate relationship with others, to have a close group of trusted and loving friends, to have those who respect us and love us, and to share our love and respect with them as well. All life is empty and unfulfilling until we have resolved these two matters: our relationship with God through Christ and our relationship with our fellow human beings, especially our spouse, family, and closest friends. Nothing is a suitable substitute for these.

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…And It Was Very Good

August 20th, 2014

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Genesis 1:31

The final words of chapter one of Genesis beautifully and simply describe the work of the Creator. The week of creation ends and the world has come into existence.

Proverbs 30:5-6 says, “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” These verses warn us of two great errors – subtracting from or adding to the words of God. My commitment is to let the Word of God speak where it speaks, and let it be silent where it is silent, and here there is plenty of both.

The Silence: Perhaps, the silence of Genesis 1 is louder than the speaking. Whatever specific information about creation we seek in Genesis 1 – the means of God in creation – they are not given in detail here. If we would like to know exactly how the atom was formed, how molecules, cells, flesh, bone, sinew came into existence, or if we ask, “Why carbon-based life?” or “Why photosynthesis?” or “What of the Dinosaurs?” – none of those questions are answered in specific details.

Many ideas have been injected into this first chapter of the Bible, possible suggestions that “explain” what the latest scientific theories have suggested. When science has finished turning its head around with this hypothesis or that theory, we can only hope that its face is still connected to the front of its torso, but often it seems that they have gone wild with theories and have produced numerous monstrosities, distorted thoughts and ideas that do not match scientific reality that we know today. But for the sake of heading-off some objections, let me mention some of the suggestions – some good ideas, some possible ideas, and some, at least to me, more unlikely scenarios – that have been recommended through the years to answer the concerns raised by some scientists.

  • Theistic Evolution: Some have taken these “days” of Genesis 1 and seen them as evolutionary ages. They have taken verses 20, “Let the water teem with living creatures,” and 24, “Let the land produce living creatures,” and seen the seeds of evolutionary thought. This is not my position, and I see very little benefit to this, and furthermore it is contradicted with the second part of verse 24, “…living creatures according to their own kinds.” The greatest hurdle for the evolutionist to overcome is our current physical reality, that things breakdown, that in this world things move from complex to less complex, and not the other way around. Here is a case where the face is looking in the opposite direction from the torso, for there is no modern day scientific evidence to suggest that things could or would ever evolve upwardly. The world is winding down, and clearly not winding up. But, nevertheless, I have known some sincere Christians to believe that evolution happened precisely because the Creator made it happen. The “Day-Age” theory of interpretation, however, does not match up to any suggested stages of evolutionary process, so they would understand this chapter as poetry – a simple and beautiful description for our dull minds to perceive the beauty and balance of God’s work. Another problem the evolutionist will have to overcome is the existence of Adam and Eve, for theologically, as Romans 5:12-21 teaches, “Sin entered the world through one man.” Adam could not have been merely a large race, but he must have been a specific individual.
  • Gap Theory: Many conservatives have held to the theory that there is a gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, that after the world was created something happened which made it chaotic and uninhabited. They point out that the Bible says “God is not a God of disorder but peace” (1 Cor 14:33), therefore God would not and could not create a world that was formless and void. So, they theorize, what we have in Genesis 1:2 and following is an account of “Re-creation.” Into this time gap they place the ancient things that archeology has discovered – dinosaurs, etc. They theorize that it was the fall of Satan from heaven to earth that destroyed the original creation of God (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-19; Revelation 12:7-9). This theory has something to recommend it, in that it has sought to deal with the fossil record. Yet, again, this theory is not without its problems – namely that God pronounced the world “good” which seems to suggest that it was not the home of Satan’s kingdom, and that “creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Rom 8:19), which also does not seem to make allowance for this gap that is suggested. Yet in my opinion, there is nothing of false doctrine in this theory, provided it is held as just that – a biblical theory, a possible interpretation.
  • Poetry: Many conservative scholars resolve the entire matter by simply saying that Genesis 1 is a poem, a unique body of biblical literature that is not to be interpreted literally – no more than we believe that Isaiah 55:12 requires trees to have hands. It is inspired of God, but it is to be taken figuratively, as we do with Psalm 23, for example. None less than the great conservative scholar J.I. Packer holds to this position.
  • Young Earth Advocates: There are numerous people who hold to a literal six-day creation, 6,000 year old earth, interpretation. They have some scientific evidence on their side, and they are not all idiots, and should be treated with respect. The atheistic evolutionists are always seeking to make the earth as old as possible for this helps their formulas work – the more time they have the better. But there are many archeological and scientific reasons to consider the earth to be much younger. To see this interpretation as an option is very acceptable to me. Yet many of the advocates of this position see it as the only true option, and are quick to condemn all others as heretics, and there in lies the problem. Clearly, also, this position has scientific challenges, for the age of the earth and of the universe do appear to be much older.
  • The Appearance of Age or the Omphalos Hypothesis: And now to my own position. For many years I rejected this position as untrue to the intent of scripture, but after careful consideration I realized, much to my surprise, that this is really where I am. Omphalos is the Greek word for “navel” and the name of this hypothesis came from the question, “Did Adam have a navel?” As silly as that question sounds, it seemed to be the rallying point to question all things related to creation and its apparent age. This position simply says that there is the appearance of age to the creation, while still holding to a six-day creation account. Just as the trees from their creation would appear to have age – height, rings, leaves, etc. – so would the soil and the ground appear to have been built up over millennia by fallen and rotting vegetation enriching the soil for plant growth and animal life. In other words, the world would appear much older than it is, and would, in fact, appear to have had an ancient history. Just as the earth sustains itself today, so there would have appeared to have been an archeological and biological record of life on earth.  So this position removes the scientific burden the young earth advocates feel to prove a young earth. It also leaves within the creation account itself such matters as the forming of mountains, the developing of species of plant and animal life, the mineral content of oceans, lakes, and rivers, and the mystery of the forming of life on the earth. It has all the advantages of conservative position – that God created the earth out of nothing – and none of the burdens of the Gap Theory and the Young Earth position. The only argument against this position is that God has thereby given false witness to His own creation, breaking His own commandment, but to this objection I contend that creation is by itself a mysterious act – not a false witness so much as a mystery.

It was actually my studies in Developmental Psychology that brought me to this position. Adam would have appeared, from the first day, as a grown man, having passed through all the stages of physical, psychological, and social development, even though he was only a few minutes old. His navel was the least of the matters. That immediately he was capable of logical thought, interaction with God, the capacity for speech, the exclamation of joy about Eve, the comprehension of the warnings of disobedience, and the capacity to care for the Garden – all of these required an instantaneous possession of skills that take many years of development in real life. And it raises a philosophical question also, “If God created the world and universe with apparent age, would not that apparent history have been just as real as our own history?” And truly only God knows what is required for the sustaining of life on earth.

So for better or for worse, these are some of the suggested interpretations that have been used to explain the lack of words about creation. But we should not be afraid of God’s silence. We should all be careful not to seek to find in Genesis what God did not put there. It is one thing to theorize. It is another thing to insist our theory is the only valid theory. Neither should we be afraid of science, for God made us with the capacity to explore and to study. All knowledge is God’s knowledge.

What Is Said: The creation account avers that God created the world from nothing, that He made it carefully, intentionally, with balance, and with beauty. The creation story testifies to God’s attentiveness to detail, to process, and to preparation. The first three days prepared for the second three days. Day 1, the provision of light, prepared for Day 4, the creation of the stars, the sun, and the moon. Day 2, the provision of the division between the water in the atmosphere and the water in the sea, prepared for Day 5, the creation of water-life and birds, those that live in the air. Day 3, the provision of dry ground and plant life, prepared for Day 6, the creation of land-dwelling animals. Whereas we are not given all of the details of the development of each species of life, we are impressed in these short verses with the attentiveness to detail of the Creator, that no animal is left out of His care and concern. And this teaches us that God is a caring God.

The height of creation is human life, whom God made in His own image. Both the man and the woman were created in God’s image and in that sense they both have equal dignity and significance. They are together given the responsibility to fill the earth and to subdue it. A message well testified to in the Bible is here introduced, that position brings responsibility, that the more abilities we have, the more opportunities we have, the higher our position in life, the more responsible we are to use this position for God and for good.

The bounty of creation to sustain life, and for this life to exist in harmony and peace, also bears witness to the kindness of God. Verses 29-30 have normally been interpreted that God made the entire animal life to live as vegetarians. This raises questions that we cannot answer. For example: What of those animals that die? What will happen to their bodies? Many meat-eaters are carrion-eaters, devouring the rotting flesh of dead animals. A careful examination reveals that no being truly is a complete vegetarian – even as vegans eat vegetables, there are tiny animal life forms invisible to the human eye, that they will also ingest, so even in avoiding devouring large animals, there are still many smaller species that are eaten. What is presented is a world that is at peace with itself, that is not in conflict – viciousness, genocide, and animosity, even between the various species, is absent. Harmony is present.

The dog-eat-dog world in which we live today was not the world at the beginning. Rather there was peace, cooperation, respect, and all under the rule of humans, made in God’s image, and still able to function in that image. We should stop long enough to consider what we have lost as a species through sin – what the world has lost. The promise of freedom that Satan tempted Eve with has resulted in our enslavement. We know there are boundaries beyond which we cannot go – we each have our limitations – yet we do not know what these boundaries are or where exactly they lie. Greed, anger, lust, envy, pride – these have corrupted our hearts and God’s creation.

This creation account sets Biblical faith apart from other religions. Many religions have a general belief in a “creator,” in one that brought all things into existence, but very quickly this “creator” abandoned what he had made and treats the world with disinterest. Our God is exactly the opposite – with the same tender care and attentiveness to details that He formed the world, so He attends equally carefully to its redemption and ultimate salvation. The creation account prepares us to see the commitment of God to this world.

The Gospel message encourages us, that in Christ we become new creations, and through us God is making all things new. It should come as no surprise that in the New Testament we read: “Creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed” (Rom 8:19), for human life, male and female, are still essential elements our Creator will use in the redemption of all things through Christ.

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