The first few weeks of college have gone by now and I’m starting to settle into things. The first time being sick on my own has come and passed and knowing I can survive the terrible cough, fever, and sore throat combo without mom’s homemade vegetable soup is almost as reassuring as knowing that team up north lost to Utah in Game 1. This semester I’m taking the typical freshman approach to college and knocking out as many GenEds as possible – one namely is Literature. Fulfilling my Literature credit is a class called The English Bible or English 2280, and I can already guarantee you’ll see me post about this class more than a few times in the near future. Recently we wrapped up the impressive book of Genesis. After debating various topics and examining the unique stories, there’s a few points I think I would like to make about the first book of the greatest and most influential piece of literature ever written. A quick foreword: I recognize the debate about the subjects I’m touching on, and I accept that many people may have different views, these thoughts are just what I have found as I read more and more about the subjects – so here goes nothing.
1. People tend to have a pretty big issues with all of the moral dilemmas that present themselves in Genesis. Whether that be the slaying, or the slandering, or the slavery, or the sex, or the scheming – it all seems pretty dark in comparison to what we would expect the gospel of light and life to present itself as. There’s an upfront feeling of disgust when Dinah is defiled or even when her brothers Simeon and Levi kill the men of Shechem assumedly to avenge her. There’s some slightly sketchy actions some of the fathers of Christian faith take: Jacob deceiving Isaac and taking Esau’s birthright, Joseph imprisoning his brother, etc. These events, these feelings, these justifiably wrong things that are presented to us to open the Word of God can be off-putting and can leave us wondering ‘Why on earth did they include this? How is this in here?’
To answer that question we must start back a little bit and remember that at the time these stories were written they were simply recording history. What happened truthfully and wholly. They had no idea that a couple generations later Moses would be standing on the mount with his tabernacle putting in action the law of the Lord. They also had no idea what the Messiah was let alone that he would be coming because prophets like Hosea and Jeremiah weren’t around for at least another six hundred years. They weren’t writing “The Bible,” in fact they weren’t even writing a holy book, in their mind they were simply and honestly recording their history.
You might be asking, ‘Why is this important? It still doesn’t justify the killing and raping and unnecessary, unholy violence of these biblical leaders,’ and my response to that is you’re right, it doesn’t. They were God’s chosen and holy people and they lived in ways that seemingly spit in God’s face. It seems familiar though, doesn’t it? God’s chosen people living according to their sinful, worldly values instead of God’s will. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 says,
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth,”
showing that we aren’t so much unlike these men and women in Genesis in two ways.
- We are all God’s chosen people now that Jesus came and died for all of our sins, both the Jew and the Gentile.
- We constantly and consistently do what is against God’s will.
In the world today there are 20.9 million individuals known to be in sex slavery (International Labor Organization). Currently there are 42 recognized armed conflicts and wars going on with over 12 million refugees caught in the middle of them (Armed Conflict Database). Worldwide there are nearly one billion people living on five quarters or less per day (Our World in Data). On average, every 107 seconds an American is sexually assaulted (RAINN). Large numbers of Americans are addicted to all sorts of substances: 17.6 million to alcohol; 20 million to drugs; almost 68% of men and 18% of women watch pornography once a week. (NCADD;Covenant Eyes). While yes, Joseph and his dad and grandad all had their issues (some more questionable than others), so do we and we’re both equally chosen and highly regarded by God. With that, I’ll pose my next question:
Doesn’t that make them more believable?
In English courses you’ll find that there are three basic components to any great argument: logos, pathos, and ethos. Ethos means credibility and character of the author and is often built by the admission of weaknesses in themselves and their argument. By explaining all stories that happened to the author and not just the good, upstanding ones that paint him or herself as a hero, suddenly the story becomes more convincing as an account of truth, rather than folklore – because in real life it rarely happens that people are completely good and upstanding – that is except for Jesus. In reality, the best truth tellings are those that include all the shameful wrongdoings of the main characters, because we can humanly relate on a real, genuine level. So instead of looking at the wrongdoings of holy men as blasphemy and discrediting evidence, look at it is an honest and holistic account of their lives, selflessly opened up to the world for a higher purpose than themselves.
2. The next Genesis topic to tackle is the conflict of Creationism and Evolution. While others may view this as the largest conflict in the Bible, I don’t see much of a conflict here – hang with me, this may seem a little complicated.
In Genesis 1:1 through Genesis 2:3, the account of creation is given and occurs completely in six days time and God even has a day to rest afterward. To us, it seems highly improbable that the entire world that we know was made in just six days – we can’t even finish building one house or one TV series on Netflix in six days (okay some of us can if we’re on Extreme Makeover Home Edition or just really, really like The Office, but that’s beside the point). Our doubts say there is no way six days was enough time, however, think about this – where did time come from? The scientific answer would be things like gravity and mass and rotational forces, but even then – where did those come from? We end up asking ourselves the same question repeatedly: where did all of this come from? In short, we are always searching for a beginning to it all, but also in short we can’t fathom how that beginning happened. We theorize about a Big Bang, but if we believe in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, we know for fact that the Big Bang Theory isn’t supported in the least bit. A scattered, unorganized mass of particles could never become an organized system of planets and orbits – energy doesn’t flow from low potential to high potential like that – it’s against the accepted laws of space and nature. Scientists yell for evolutionary theory, but in reality they are just searching to answer the same question that theologians are. The issue, however, is when scientists find the original microbe of life on Earth, they still can’t come up with an explanation as to how the events happened leading up to the formation of that microbe spontaneously occurred. They can’t determine and calculate where the first atoms and electrons and protons came from and how they came together to form compounds, nor how there just so happens to be a perfect amount of them floating around our atmosphere to create all the living and nonliving things we have today. They’re searching for the beginning, but it’s beyond their understanding too because it’s incalculable, almost miraculous. Doesn’t that just scream Intelligent Designer?
To those that push the question, “Well if God created everything, who created God?” I also have a relatively simple answer: at some point there had to be a beginning. There had to be some point where there was already an existing creator or designer in order to create all the things that came after Him. Why can’t God be that very beginning?
You may still be asking yourself at this point: I still don’t get how we can believe that everything ever created was created in just six short days? There’s one possible beautifully complex and simple answer I think is worth looking at. CS Lewis details the idea of God’s time versus our perception of time as if He is an author and we are the characters in His book. He says, “Between writing the first half and the second half of that sentence, [the author] might sit down for three hours and think steadily about [the character]. [The author] could think about [the character] as if she were the only character in the book and for as long as [the author] pleased, and the hours [the author] spent in doing so would not appear in [the character’s] time (the time inside the story) at all.” (Lewis, 168). In this context we could read Genesis as if it were happening in God’s time. The author may spend months perfecting one piece of one character’s dialogue on one page of a novel, but the character only experiences this line for one instant; similarly God may have spent an infinite amount of time perfecting the design of the Earth, but to us it all seemed to happen in only six days. Pretty cool, huh?
3. Now I don’t want to simply leave you here, processing all the information and large wordage I threw up before now. I want to leave you with a greater lesson that I pulled from Genesis and that’s that God wonderfully made us and loves us more than anything He ever created in those six days. Something else you learn in Literature classes is the importance of first and last lines – how revealing and representative they are of the story as a whole. Genesis 1:31, the last line of Genesis chapter one, tells us about God’s thoughts after He created men and women and all of creation before that. It reads,
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
For the first time in all of the creation story, the author uses the word very. That one, simple word reveals the magnificent good God sees in each and every one of us – that we are His very good creations above the oceans, the skies, the moon, all stars, all planets, all animals, all plants, and everything else that is good and pure and beautiful in the world. Rather than leave you with a whole bunch of controversy and divide, I wanted to let you know that Genesis isn’t meant to spark fights, it’s meant to make a point. That point is this: regardless of who you are, there is a God that made you perfectly and He sees you as very good in all your ways. He loves you and He wants to know you.