Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Creation in rewind

Have been thinking a bit about creation lately. The Genesis stories talk about an unwinding process in which God creates the universe, fills the earth and places humankind together with a responsibility to care for our world. It seems to me that we're really struggling with this task.

Firstly, we have difficulties living with each other. Positive stories about human community seem to be far less common than stories about tensions, fractured relationships, prejudice and violence. Though there is some effort going towards helping endangered species, extinction is a increasing reality for too many living creatures at the hands of humankind. Our planet is polluted, rainforests have been decimated and the consequences are only just beginning to become clear.

I think it's time to take a sabbath and consider how we might be able to get things going in the right direction again.


David said...

What does the Bible creation story really say beyond the trite "God created the universe"?

How can a myth be more informative than a scientific theory based on evidence and reasoning?

What importance do you give the Genesis creation myths and why?

JDK said...

Hi David,

I don't agree that the statement 'God created the universe' is trite, but I do think that it's a theological statement rather than a scientific one. I don't know if you've read any of Paul Davies stuff on cosmogenesis but I'm not sure that science has a total lock on this subject either.

Myths have informed humanity for millenia. They reveal fascinating anthropological data, as well as much about the human struggle to come to terms with the transcendent. Who are we? How should we relate to each other and the rest of the world? Is there anything beyond us? These questions are fundamental to religion and philosophy but only tangential to most scientific pursuits.

The Genesis stories tell me that creation is an essential aspect of the divine nature. God can be found in acts of creation, new birth, the enhancement of life, perhaps even resurrection. We still see signs of the sacred in creation, which is why so much of our natural world continues to be awe-inspiring.

Hope this helps to clarify.

Regards, JDK

David said...

Perhaps I could have reworded with a statement that the Genesis account is a rather elaborate expansion of the belief that "God created the Universe". A lot of text with little information.

I disagree with you that science can say nothing about questions such as who are we, is there anything beyond us, etc. Rather,
I am suggesting that science is the best method we have of answering these type of questions. That it better informs us. One reason is that it is based on more than mere imagination (unlike myths which are a response by ancient people who had little means to gain evidence and real knowledge).

I suppose I'm also saying that we have no other source of knowledge. Special revelation from God just boils down to subjective feeling. Furthermore, there is no reason to believe in special spiritual entities like "God" to expand our explanatory tool set.

Believing in God is a way of giving up on the hard task of objective investigation of reality; it is like an impoverished belief system that doesn't recognise or ignores the intricate complexity of the universe.

JDK said...

Hi David,

Thanks for your comments. Firstly, let me say that I don't think you give human imagination enough credit. It is the foundation for both mythology and science. It's our imagination that inspires us to find out more about who we are, where we came from and how the universe fits together. I think these questions have both theological and scientific aspects for investigation.

Secondly let me say that I think the 'God of the gaps' is long dead. I don't know anyone who can sustain their faith by pushing God into the spaces that science hasn't yet figured out - but you could say I'm selective about my friends...

Finally, let me reiterate that mythology is critical to who we are. Human beings need to tell stories - these are the common vehicles of inspiration, challenge and critical reflection upon our existence. You don't even have to invest yourself in the ancient myths - modern storytellers are recreating mythology in current mediums (film, television, the arts) all the time.

The question is what stories are going to make this world a better place? My own answer is that I find the story of Jesus to be transformative. It calls me to be a better person, to be more compassionate, to refuse to give up in the face of apparent hopelessness. What's the story that inspires you?

Regards, JDK

David said...

Stories that make the world a better place? That sounds delusional.

After 2000 years, I think the evidence is in that the Christian faith does not make the world a better place.

I choose to look at facts and evidence. That's different from getting inspiration from fictional stories.

The last 50 years or so of film-making provide more interesting stories than what is found in the Bible. There are many authors whose books I would rather read than the Bible. God is not a particularly interesting author.
Most of the world has moved on from ancient desert scribblings. Why don't you?

JDK said...

Hi David,

I'm not sure how you judge whether Christianity has improved the world or not. I don't doubt there have been many failures but I'm also confident that there are many who would say that their lives are better because of the impact of a concerned Christian upon them. I guess I'm one of them. Being a Christian has made me a better person - not perfect by any means, but doing my best to improve the small patch of the world in which I live.

As for the new stories, my point was that there are certain archetypes that continue to be reinvented - the Matrix movies are just one example that have quite a few resonances with the Christian story. I'm not concerned about whether you think the new stories are better than the old - they should communicate better or they're not worth telling. Personally I find Shakespeare hard work, but that doesn't mean that he's not worth persevering with.

I continue to read the 'ancient desert scribblings' because I still find much of them inspirational, thought-provoking and challenging.

Regards, JDK