I think that I am going to start blogging more and more about some of my thoughts on theology and biblical interpretation. My main goal with this blog has been to keep people (especially our supporters) updated on our ministry. This will remain one of my primary concerns. However, I also feel the need to keep my blog active, as people quit visiting a blog once it becomes dormant. I have always stayed away from matter of theology and teaching because I have not wanted to seek out controversy. Yet, what has happened instead is that my blog has been a few things: first of all, it has been forced at times as I've felt as though I "have to say something" versus "having something to say". Secondly, it has not been a true reflection of myself as God has created me to be; I am a teacher and a theologian at heart. Finally, my blog has disappointed some, who have expected it to be more theological and provocative, just based on knowing me personally.
That being said, I will continue to keep you updated on our ministry throughout my postings here. I will also attempt to use much tact and grace in my theological musings. Knowing my history, I will fail miserably and will continue to grow in that.
So, with no further ado -- let's start in the beginning.
"In the beginning, God created..."
The Bible begins with a creation story that we read in the first chapter of Genesis (tailing into the first few verses of the second chapter as well). The story has a few notable characteristics.
The refrain of God seeing the goodness of creation. Over and over again, God sees that creation is good.
This refrain seems to create a crescendo of sorts -- culminating in the creation of man; as God looks out over everything He has made, He sees that it is VERY good.
The first part of this creation poem (this is an ancient, chiastic, Mesopotamian poem) mirrors the second half. On the first three days, God separates (light from darkness, waters above from waters below, land from sea) and the next three days, God fills what He has separated (place of light/darkness is filled with sun, moon, and stars; place of waters is filled with birds/fish, land is filled with beasts/humans). Day One corresponds to Day Four, Day Two to Day Five, and Day Three with Day Six.
As you examine the above paragraph, it becomes strikingly clear that this poem is not about HOW creation happened (evolution v. creationism), it is about WHAT happened and WHO did it. The days are called days; yet we, as a human race, have only measured a day one way -- the movement of the sun -- which isn't made until the fourth day. How then, do we know that the first three days are even days? This leads to another observation...
The other refrain ("it was evening and it was morning") is backwards. Is the author trying to grab our attention? Is he trying to say something about the way we understand a day? Our existence?
Speaking of this latter refrain, it is missing from the seventh day. Why? It's almost as if the seventh day never ends; it just hangs out off the end of the story as if it goes on into eternity.
The story seems to be about creating and resting.
The story starts with a sense of nothingness. "Now the earth was formless and void (tohu va'vohu)" tohu va'vohu in the Hebrew means "chaotic nothingness".
The story ends with a sense of nothingness. God rests and does nothing.
The story is definitely about something being GOOD.
How do we pull all of these problems together? In ancient eastern literature, authors did not have propositions. The western world introduced us to propositional thought. The ancient eastern world told stories as an art form. It was a way of conveying truth -- not through proposition, but through self discovery. They buried truth as a treasure within a story. Finding truth was always work for the hearer/reader. You had to go find it.
In order to lead the hearers on this treasure hunt, the ancient authors used tools to help give clues to the treasure hunter. One of the most commonly utilized tools of their day (especially in the Scriptures) is what we call "chiastic" literature. The story ends up being split in the middle with the first half mirroring the second half. This creates an ABC CBA or even an ABC ABC structure (Genesis 1 happens to be BOTH; in content, as we have already seen, it is ABC ABC [Day 1 corresponds to Day 4, 2 to 5 and 3 to 6]; however, in amount of content, it will be ABC CBA [Day 1 is a baby paragraph, Day 2 is a mommy paragraph, Day 3 is a daddy paragraph, Day 4 = daddy, Day 5 = mommy, Day 6 would be baby, except for the creation of mankind, which happens to be the point of the poem]).
Once one has found the chiastic structure, they are able to find the center of the poem -- this is important, for the center of the poem will be the buried treasure for the hearer. If one counts Hebrew words, they find that the center of the poem happens to be the Hebrew word moad (translated "seasons"; Day 4). This happens to be one of the Hebrew words that we will translate "sabbaths" -- which is exactly what God does on the seventh day.
So, how do we use this eastern treasure to pull together all of our observations from before? Why is moad the buried treasure for the hearers?
Who are the hearers? They are a recently rescued nation of slaves who have, for 400 years, been making bricks. They have been told that their entire value and worth is wrapped up in what they are able to produce (bricks). This God comes and the first story He tells them is a story is an invitation to take a break -- a Sabbath -- and rest.
He insists that creation -- themselves in particular -- is good.
He invites them to stop working and trust that they are loved, valued and accepted just because of who they ARE -- not for what they DO.
He tells them that this seventh day rest has no end, but that it goes on forever.
God invites the ancient Israelites to see the world through a new set of lenses. He invites them to believe that He sees them as GOOD -- made in the image of the Creator. He tells them to quit trying to find their value in what they are able to do and produce. But instead, they should stop working and REST.
He tells them, over and over again, that the story is good.
And He invites them to trust the story.
Quit trying to appease an angry God.
Quit trying to impress and please and become and do and prove yourself.
Why does each day end with "it was evening and it was morning"?
For a Jew, the day begins at sundown -- not at sunrise.
The rabbis teach that this is because God wants your day to begin with REST and not PRODUCTION.
You are invited to trust the story and see creation differently.
It will be incredibly important that we start the story HERE and not with the fall.
To start with God's goodness and not our crappiness.
But more on that later :)
** I am obviously pulling much of my material from Rob Bell in sources like "Everything is Spiritual" and "Beginning in the Beginning". I also pull a lot of thoughts from Rabbi David Fohrman. I am indebted to the work of countless other people that I have researched endlessly over the years. This is not my own. There have been some dominant voices that have given rise to many of my thoughts and I will work hard to give credit to those voices in my posts.