Friday, September 28, 2007

Creation Stories and Theology in Genesis: Part 5


Static or Kinetic Creation?

It should be briefly noted that in neither creation narrative is creation described as “static”, unchanging, or even “perfect”. In contemporary thought, God’s original Creation/the Garden of Eden is generally thought of as pristine and complete. From this point of view, the problem consisted of Adam and Eve breaking the rules and thus making Creation imperfect. This reading seems to depend more on Greek philosophy than the Biblical narratives. Again, one of the ways that God exercises his creative power in the creation narratives is to empower his creation, or stated differently, to load it with potential. Bouma-Prediger states that…

    “…not all agency resides with God. While God is the ultimate Creator…God’s means of creating often involves the sharing of power…Like a risking parent, God lovingly empowers creation for its own benefit. In other words, creation has the genuine ability to respond.”33

This is by no means a new or radical interpretation of the text. As Gonzalez points out:

    “In the case of Irenaeus—and several other early theologians—the original perfection of creation is not to be understood in the sense that it was absolutely finished, with no room left for growth and development. On the contrary, God’s purpose was that the human creature would grow in such a way as to enable it to enjoy an ever-increasing fellowship with the divine.”34

The Breaking of Shalom

So, what exactly happened when Adam and Eve ate from the tree? Many view the closing verses of Genesis chapter three as the account of an angry God giving humanity the ultimate cosmic spanking. As already noted, I’m not so sure that this is accurate. In his exploration of Genesis 3, Grenz rightly points out that when Adam and Eve hide from God, it reveals to us that their “pristine fellowship with the Creator is broken.” He adds that when they cover themselves from each other, it reveals that “their sense of guilt and shame has marred their former sense of human community,” which is further “defaced” in the curse that the husband would now rule over his wife. Finally, Grenz explains that “through their act, the first humans lose the primordial harmony with creation,” and “in this manner introduce enmity into creation itself.”35 Thus, when human beings partake of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” the original harmony of Creation is broken. McKnight is quite on target when he defines sin as:

    “anything that breaks union with God or communion with others, anything that is unloving, and anything that wants to establish any of these breaks of union as an earthly system.”36

Sin is the breaking of shalom. It is anything that breaks or prevents a return to the harmony depicted in Genesis 1 and 2. God’s desire is that human beings would be in harmony with Him. God’s desire is that human beings would be in harmony with each other. God’s desire is that human beings would be in harmony with all creation. I would contend that all sin can find its roots in the breaking of these kinds of harmony. More that that, I would contend that this is exactly what we see played out in Genesis 3. Bouma-Prediger explains:

    “In [Genesis] 3 we learn that Adam and Eve desire to transcend their creaturely finitude and become, like God, omniscient. But in this attempt they fail to trust in God and thus become estranged. Their relationship with God is broken. They become estranged with each other…They lose touch with their own true and best self…And they become out of joint with the earth. In these four ways they and we are alienated. In short, our lives are interwoven with a contagion called sin, which we knowingly and unknowingly perpetuate.”37

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