Monday, July 03, 2006

questions in genesis

i want to try to do a series of posts on a topic that is deeply important to me, God's creation. i'll try to avoid my typical environmentalist drivel, focusing instead on the genesis account of creation, the fall, and all kinds of other crazy stuff in genesis. i'm not trying to write a mini-commentary or anything. i just want to get some of my thoughts/questions on the book down in this forum and invite to respond anyone who wishes.

i guess my inspiration for this is the struggle and condemnation i've experienced in the last few years regarding how this whole magnificent place came into being. i had been steeped in the rhetoric of the more fundamentalist (6-day, young earth, etc.) folks on the issue throughout most of my early years as a follower of Christ, but i guess i can't say that i ever really believed their theories completely. well, that's putting it too kindly. i actually felt like many of the arguments were just made up in attempt to defend "ourselves" from the mean, pagan darwinists. but i tried...i really tried, to buy into that belief system. but, then i started spending time in creation...i mean, really spending time out there, and my feeble belief in the young earth and 6-day creation just sort of melted away, replaced by a deep and lasting peace that no one but the lord could have created this magnificent place, and that he created it however he wanted to create it.

these ideas, however, led to responses like this:

When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word. Once this ‘door’ has been opened regarding Genesis, ultimately it can happen with the rest of the Bible. (from Answers in Genesis)

so, i would read and study and try to find answers to these questions, only to be met with:

It’s also interesting to note that this verse is found in the same passage where Paul warns that ‘knowledge puffeth up.’ Academic pride is found throughout our culture. Therefore, many Christian leaders would rather believe the world’s fallible academics, than the simple clear words of the Bible. (from Answers in Genesis)

now, if i were to focus my genesis inquiry only on creation stuff, i would run out of material after about 3 chapters. the real nature of my search is: "what is the nature and purpose of genesis?" i am completely open to the idea that every word in the book must be taken literally (a term that needs some unpacking), but i think that even the most superficial survey of the book renders that idea laughable in places, disheartening in others, and just plain perplexing in many others.

i guess what i'm trying to say is that it seems to me that genesis is a collection of oral tradition (history, folklore, etc.) from a certain time (several thousand years ago) and a certain place (mesopotamia) with the purpose of revealing to us the central character of the universe, his dominion over the universe, and his relationship(s) with his creation...primarily mankind. the (s)election of the hebrews is here as well, which i hope to understand better as i go along.

so, i've already likely made myself a candidate for excommunication from hundreds of faith traditions, but i guess i just don't care anymore. if i can't be honest, sincere, authentic...well, then i can't "be". and if i can't be, then what's the point of anything really?

i learn when my current notions on a given topic are challenged and then either strengthened or replaced. if you are reading this and have thoughts/reactions/corrections to any of my ramblings, it would be invaluable to me if you would share them.


Laura said...

Wonderful, refreshing post, Cory. Glad to see you are back to the blog, although apparently out of pure creation, which I am sure was wonderful.

Like you, I spent many years trying to convince myself that all the stories in Genesis could be conceived of in the literal sense expressed in many evangelical and fundamentalist traditions.

I accepted a level of intellectual dishonesty with myself that I did with other things I doubted could be taken literally in the Bible. It was never that I did not believe that God is capable, only that it didn't seem to be the way he actually works in the world, based on the whole experience of mankind since those days. I remember hearing arguments like, "God was more active in the world in those days" and stuff like that, but then another great piece of Christianese asserts that "God never changes," nor does the Bible ever contradict itself.

I think the issue for me is the way we interpret and see the Bible. I am not sure where we get the idea that everything in the Bible needs to be taken literally or else, but that does seem to be the assumption in many circles.

I also see a whole can of worms when we allow mass interpretation of the Bible, because there is so much there that it can really be interpreted for so many subjects in so many ways, but it seems an equally bad choice is to proclaim our one way is the only way.

I guess that's why I gave up trying to figure it out and now live more or less in the shadows of organized Christianity....

cory said...


thanks for the reflective response. btw, what does "in the shadows of organized Christianity" actually mean?

Jared said...

Hey Cory, welcome back to Bloggerdom. I also just took up Genesis again(It took running out of books and being too cheap to buy more, to get me to pick up the Bible, but it's not important how you get there, right?) I've really loved Genesis ever since I read Fox's translation in "The Five Books Of Moses". In it he emphasises the aural aspect of the text; it's use of repetition and word associations. For instance, the word for man and soil are nearly identical and often found near each other serving as a countiual reminder of our orgins (brilliant!). And the near constant use of the name of God in the creation narrative. Where we will use pronouns for readability, in the Hebrew, God's name is connected to every action(It starts to feel like it's used every other word).

The ambiguites in the text, which seem to be enormous and I'm looking forward to seeing them all worked out on your blog, were obvously less when it was first communicated than they are today. At the same time, they didn't have the benefit of a written text (I doubt there was a whole lot of word study going on to reveal the cosmological operations of creation). My point is, no matter what lies between us, or them, and a perfect understanding of the text, the messege of the text, that which cries out in every passage is "God. God. God. By Him, all that we see, all that is, and all that we are is made and sustained"

I know that answers nothing, I'm just saying I really like Genesis. Also, Derek Kidner's commentary on Genesis is awsome.

Laura said...

Cory - translate - no longer involved an any organized form of Christianity - that may change, but I feel like I just can't stomach it at this point in my life.. long story..