Saturday, April 26, 2008
I encourage you to read Father Stephen's meditation on God's Great Sabbath. He writes, "One of the most immediately puzzling passages in Genesis is in the creation story where we are told that God 'rested on the Seventh (Sabbath) day.' It obviously cannot be taken in the literal sense that God needed rest. There is a deeper mystery. In the interpretation of the Christian Fathers and in the life of the Orthodox faith, God’s Sabbath is fulfilled in Christ, who rests on the Sabbath (Saturday) in the tomb, after His death on the Cross from which He said, 'It is finished.' But the Sabbath of God, His rest, is not a non-fruitful cessation of activity. As Adam slept and God removed from his side his rib and fashioned Eve, so too, Christ 'sleeps' in death on the Cross, and from His pierced side flows blood and water, the Eucharist and Baptism, from which God forms Christ’s bride, the Church."
Read it all here.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Augustine recognized that we should be willing to reconsider our ideas about creation/reality as new information becomes available, but he appears never to entertain the idea that new information might contradict the biblical revelation. Augustine holds that scripture is to be interpreted according to four sensible functions:
- the eternal truths that are taught
- the facts that are given
- the future events that are foretold
- and the precepts or counsels that are given.
Augustine didn’t envision original sin as bringing structural changes to the God-ordered universe. The sun would still appear to rise in the east. The lands and the seas would still have boundaries. Augustine's analysis of Genesis is based on Plato’s idea of eternal unchanging Forms. He describes how God created the Forms in The Literal Interpretation of Genesis.
Augustine believed that everything in the universe was created simultaneously by God. He is explicit that God did not create over the course of six consecutive 24-hour days. He writes, "The sacred writer was able to separate in the time of his narrative what God did not separate in time in His creative act." In his view, the six days of creation convey the logical order of and relationship of created things, rather than a passage of time. He wrote, "But in the beginning He created all things together and completed the whole in six days, when six times he brought the 'day' which he made before the things which He made, not in a succession of periods of time but in a plan made known according to causes."
Augustine’s ontology and interpretation of Genesis are thoroughly Platonic. He regarded the metaphysical as more real than the physical because it is the realm of the eternal, while this world passes away. This is why he believed that the bodies of Adam and Eve were created mortal. The Fall meant not the loss of immortality, since the soul is eternal, but the loss of enjoyment of God.
While St. Augustine recognizes the great philosophical and theological challenges of the first chapters of Genesis, he never loses sight of the miraculous nature of God's self-revelation. The very fact that the material resists intellectual dissection reminds us that this is the testimony of God's faithfulness in bringing the creation to fulfillment in Him. In other words, the authority of Genesis does not rest in what a human writer has produced.
Emile Durkheim hypothesized that religion is the basis of math, science and technology, because it forced humans to think in dualistic terms: sacred-profane, good-evil, etc. This represents the view that the Bible was authored by humans in response to the sacred, but the Bible has no absolute authority if it is something written by humans in response to religious impulses. Further the dualistic view is an inaccurate representation of the binary structure observed in creation (but that’s another matter.)
The Manichees and pagans mocked the Genesis creation stories. St. Augustine met their challenge by asking a fundamental question: “Why did God create?” The whole of the Bible addresses that question and reminds us that God created time. God, being without beginning or end, is the One who calls the shots. The Bible is God’s story, like it or not, accept it or not. Whatever one decides, it is wise to remember who the real Author is.
Watch for St. Augustine on Genesis, Part II, coming up soon.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
There is an interesting post at Stand Firm on this subject. I encourage you to read it and the comments.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
As I’ve read your work on your website, I’ve started to take another look at Genesis and have some thoughts I wanted to share.
Reading the creation account in chapters 1 and 2, I believe the story could not have been written without revelation from God. I do not think that creation can be comprehended by an observation of nature without the accompanying explanatory revelation from God. The revelation explains the observations of man. Relying on observation only can lead to a false understanding of creation and does not reveal the true nature and purpose of creation.
I have come to understand the binary or polar nature of creation and how this in itself is a revelation of God. The very first line in Genesis shows this. Creation is revealed in opposites. Heaven and earth, light and dark, wet and dry, up and down, left and right, male and female, hot and cold. It is revealed in physics. In magnets, opposites attract and likes repel. In chemistry, there is base and acid, sweet and sour. Theoretical physics proposes anti-matter that opposes matter. Of course, scripture reinforces this by revelation.
Deuteronomy 30:15: See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil…
Romans 1:20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Revelation 3:15-16: I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.
And, of course, the great revelation of Christ as the Author of creation - Revelation 1:8: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
Referring back to Revelation 3, the Lord accuses the church at Laodicea of being lukewarm. One of the lies of satan is to deny the revealed nature of creation, blind people to this distinction and lead them to a lukewarm, muddled “middle way” that leads to nowhere. You hear this in the popular “world views” of today: There is no sin. There is no distinction between male and female. There is no Creator. God is within ourselves and we are God. It’s all good, it all leads to God.
I’m not really sure what Eden was or was really like but I do believe it was a pre-fall communion with God in a form that we, in our present fallen state, cannot fathom. I think that in the post edenic world, man lost that communion with God and for a while lost the revelation that came with it. The post edenic generations mentioned in Genesis up to Noah began to try and reestablish that link. I think this is what is meant in Genesis 4:26: …then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.
Those early generations were trying to reestablish that link to God that had been lost. They believed there was supposed to be some sort of communion with God and the early religions of man were attempts to establish that communion. The different religions that evolved show that the revelation from God was true but men, due to their fallen nature, either received it in error or were deceived by communing with things other than God. Some, like Enoch and Noah, got it right. Because he was faithful to God, Noah became the focal point to continue the revelation of God to the post flood generations up to when God established the covenant with Abram.
According to your accounts of Noah being in Africa, it must have been quite a long period of eastward migration till we end up with Abram in Iraq.
I am also interested in something you posted about Buddhism growing out of the earlier stories and beliefs of the groups that migrated eastward into India from Africa. So, these are my thought and ramblings. I enjoy your site and I still go back and re-read many of the postings. I find it all very interesting and look forward to reading more.
Thank you for your insightful letter. I'm humbled that you have found something of help at Just Genesis.
The ancients noted the binary structure of reality, but many weren't fooled into thinking that the opposites are equals. Most Afro-Asiatics weren't dualists, like the Zoroastrians. The darkness of Gen. 1 isn't the opposite of light, but the absence of the Uncreated Light of God. The light of the heavenly bodies wasn't created until the 4th day. The light of Gen. 1:2 is the Uncreated Light associated with Divinity. So the darkness, as a spiritual and metaphysical reality, existed before God breathed the generative Word.
C.S. Lewis plays with this theme toward the end of his novel "The Last Battle," one of the Chronicles of Narnia. If you haven't read it, please do. One of these days I want to do a series on C.S. Lewis and Genesis.
I entirely agree that it is only by divine revelation that we know anything that can be said to be True. Genesis is no ordinary book! It has been divinely superintended through centuries and it is such that, were we to lose all of the rest of the Bible, but still have Genesis, we would be able to find God's Messiah, the Son of the Woman who crushes the head of Satan and triumphs over death, restoring us to eternal Paradise (His kindgom which has no end.)
As an anthropologist, I do rely on observations, ethnographic studies, etc, but many of these studies, being interpreted by non-Believers, present false conclusions. Usually the data by itself points to the reality of a loving God at work in the world. I try simply to present the facts.
As to migration from central Africa to Iraq taking a long time, that is not necessarily the case when one considers how the chiefs established their territories with wives on a north-south axis. The first-born assumed the territory of the deceased father and all other sons had to move away to establish their own territories. This happened with Abraham, Terah's youngest son. Nahor inherited Terah's territory and Abraham had to move away. The interesting part of that story is that his move was against the flow of migration! He was called to go southwestward, toward the land that would become the kingdom of David.
More specifically to your question, if a man has 5 sons and their territories are contiguous, we find a natural northeastward movement from west central Africa to Iraq, and even to the Indus River Valley, the far eastern boundary of the old Afro-Asiatic Dominion. I present this as a theory, not a fact. Still, it is based on the biblical data more than on anything else.
I enjoyed reading what you have written here. Terrific references from Scripture to illustrate the binary structure of reality. I'd be very pleased if you'd allow me to publish your email at Just Genesis and comment as I have here. Let me know.
Thanks for writing. God is good.
I'm an old Lewisite from way back. I think I know which scene you mean in The Last Battle. Are you referring to the scene between Emeth and Aslan? I love that scene. I think that's John 10:16.
I know about his cautions on dualism and I certainly don't subscribe to opposites being equal. I think the error of dualism is that it attempts to ascribe to the nature of the Creator the binary aspects observed in creation. It limits God and makes Him only half the equation. Creation in it's binary form is an object lesson from God. It shows us the choices that we have in life. We can be with God or not. We can live or die. We can obey or disobey. We can be with Him in Light or separate ourselves into darkness. We can be inside or outside. We can be sheep or goats. We can be wheat or chaff. In other words, free will. Creation demonstrates that free will has only two choices.
Jesus constantly used examples of this in His teachings. Some people, though, want to have it both ways; hold onto their sins AND have heaven. Kind of like that character in The Great Divorce who had the whispering lizard on his shoulder.
The other scene I love in the Narnia books is the one with Eustice & Aslan when Eustice can't remove the skin of his sins and Aslan must do it for him.
I think I understand your example of the chief and his five sons. The territory would expand like cells in a bee hive, if that's an apt analogy.
Onward & Upward!
I was thinking more of the scene involving the dwarfs who Aslan attempts to save through the intercession of Lucy, but the dwarfs' spiritual darkness is such that they can't see that the Great Lion has served them a feast of the richest fare. In their self-made confinement, the gifts taste like mud and straw.
You wrote: "The different religions that evolved show that the revelation from God was true but men, due to their fallen nature, either received it in error or were deceived by communing with things other than God." Isn't this exactly what Aslan explains to Emeth after the destruction of Narnia? Emeth confesses to Aslan that he has served Tash and Aslan explains that He takes as service to HIM, the service of a God-fearing heart.
Your bee hive analogy is a good one.
May this day be blessed.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
“Earthquakes might be detected in the archaeological record, by analysing geological formations, faults, structural movement, human remains, the collapse of pillars and walls, and inscriptions. Nur wonders if earthquakes played a part in the collapse of ancient civilizations. Might they explain the enigmatic and quick disappearance of so many Bronze Age civilizations in the eastern Mediterranean during a mere 50 years around 1200 BC.
Most archaeologists today say that earthquakes have had little to do with historical demises. They prefer to attribute the collapse of civilizations to human agency: war, invasion, social oppression, environmental abuse and so on. The conventional explanation of the Bronze Age collapse involves maritime invasion by the mysterious Sea Peoples, whose identities have long eluded scholars…”
Nur and Burgess point to numeorus recent examples of earthquakes decimating civilizations and cities. They cite the 1755 destruction of Lisbon, an earthquake in 1812 that contributed to the collapse of Bolívar’s Venezuelan republic, and the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake that decimated most of Tokyo.
For more, go here. And here.
Monday, April 7, 2008
How do you think Genesis came to be written in the form that we have it? Leave a comment telling your choice and why. If you have a theory other than those listed below, please tell us.
A. Genesis is the product of an editor or editorial group that brought together different documents. (documentary hypothesis)
B. As part of the Pentateuch, Genesis was either written by Moses or was produced through Moses' mediation.
C. Genesis is the product of a learned editor or editors who had access to sources that tell of a time long before the material was scribed.
D. Genesis represents an attempt to recreate a common history of the Semites living in Canaan during the time of King David's reign.
E. Genesis, the Book of Ruth, and the Song of Songs are the work or a single writer who lived during the reign of King Solomon.