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Genesis 1.1 – 2.3  &  Romans 8.18-15

When my daughter Alison announced the acquisition of her first tattoo, I was a bit taken aback.

Taken aback, not by the fact that she wanted a tattoo – part of being a parent these days is about getting to expect the unexpected – no, I was taken aback by her choice of subject matter for the tattoo.

She didn’t want any words – love, joy, peace; mum, dad, Milo.
She didn’t want a heart, or a star, or a butterfly.
She wanted an image of Darwin’s First Tree of Life!  










(She’s studying zoology!)

This ‘branching out’ of different species from a common ancestor lies at the heart of Darwin’s theory of evolution.  One species will, as it were, split into two, one going one way and developing in its own way, the other going another way and developing in its own way.  So the natural world diversifies, and the myriad different forms of plants and animals emerge.

This accords perfectly with the biblical reflection on creation in Genesis!  Each of the six days of the story are about a ‘branching out’ of creation, a separation of one thing from another, the beginnings of ‘diversification’ within the natural world…

1.     light & darkness
2.     water & sky
3.     sea & land
4.     days & nights
5.     ‘swimmer’ & ‘flyers’
6.     animals & humankind

This is not, of course, where the problem lies for those who don’t accept the whole evolution thing.
It’s not the description of what happened that is a problem, but how it happened, what caused it to happen.

Evolutionists would say it was due to ‘natural selection’; and creationists would say that it is  ‘the will of God’ (To simplify things greatly!).

My problem with the creationist’s view is that it is fine if we are talking about bunnies and butterflies, about spider’s webs and crystals formations…
– but what about the cancer cell or the mad dog?
– or the terrorist or the earthquake?

Why would God create (or allow to be created) all the destructive things we so often come across in life?
Are they meant to be a test? …or a challenge? …or a punishment?
Are they a reflection of humanity’s ‘fallen’ nature?

You could begin to think that this creator God may not be the kind of God we would want as a friend (never mind an enemy)!

Leaping forward to Romans 8, we can see some of these contradictions being aired by St Paul:

  • the ‘sufferings of this present time’ being contrasted with the ‘glory about to be revealed’
  • the ‘subjection to futility’ and the ‘bondage to decay’ contrasted with ‘obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God’
  • the ‘groaning in labour pains’ contrasted with the ‘first fruits of the Spirit’ and the ‘redemption of our bodies’

There is an acknowledgement here that the process of creation might not yet be finished and that the story has still not yet ended.

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them.”

This does not mean that we look like God, or that God looks like us!
It means that we share with God that thing that makes God God; – that that ‘God thing’ is reflected in us.

But what is the ‘God thing’?  What is it that makes God God?  What is it about him that is most typically God-like?

Power?  Wisdom?  Remoteness?  Invisibility?  Knowledge?  Love?  Strength?  What do you think?

I think it’s ‘freedom’.  I think that it’s God’s ability to ‘do what he wants’.  I think that the most God-like thing about God is that he answers to no-one else, and that there is nothing else anywhere that can stop God being God.

This is reflected in the Biblical creation story in the words: ‘And God said…’

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”
And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’
And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’
And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night;
And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’
And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’
Then God said,‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;

God ‘said’, ‘And it was so’.

What God says, happens!  And nothing can stop it from happening!  Total freedom from any restraint.

And that, I think, is his ‘image’, his defining characteristic.

And it’s that freedom that he imparts to his creation, the freedom to ‘be’, the freedom of a human body cell to be cancerous, the freedom of a person to take another’s life, the freedom of the earth’s tectonic plates to shift, and cause earthquakes.

Now that would be scary, if it were the end of the story.  But we’re not at the end, we’re just partway through the process.

And the process is driven, not by randomness, not by whim, not by accident, but by love.

God’s word is spoken in love – his will is achieved by love – and creation is perfected through love.

So, I’m with St Paul on this…              (Rom.8.18-21)

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.  For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”











So runs the strapline for William Paul Young’s ‘The Shack’.shack

I wouldn’t have dreamt of reading it – had it not been the subject of our local clergy book club.  But I’m glad I did.

Eugene Peterson writes that “This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress did for his.  It’s that good!”  I’m not sure about that – but it was good.

It’s a book about God, and the Trinity, and suffering, and judgement, and forgiveness, and sacrifice, and above all about relationships: God’s with him/her/themselves (you have to read it!), our’s with God, and our’s with one another.  I don’t think it says anything new about any of that – but it does use some novel and interesting metaphors and images to convey it all.  And you can ready it all in a day!

The author uses the quote from the book: “If anything matters…everything matters” as the strapline on his website. 

My own ‘keynote’ quote would be: [Papa (God), to Mack (the central character)] “…just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn’t mean I orchestrate the tragedies.  Don’t ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes.  That will only lead you to false notions about me.  Grace doesn’t depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”

I got a flyer through the door a couple of days ago – from my local Evangelical Church – inviting me to a meeting entitled:’Creation or Evolution? How did we get here?’ led by a Dr Steve Taylor Bsc(Eng), MEng, PhD, AGGI, FIEE, Reader of Electrical Englineering and Electronics [I think they mean ‘in’ rather than ‘of’!], of the University of Liverpool.  Wow!  Strange, though.  When I was studying for my BSc(Eng) in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, there was nothing on the syllabus that included either evolutionary biology or theology – although the unit on quatum mechanics came quite close to theology.  Is this part of the (long dead?) science v. theology debate?  Hey, look, an engineer who believes! But who may or may not know anything about evolution or theology.

Strangely, too, I am, at the moment, in the middle of re-reading ‘Wonderful Life – The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History‘ by Stephen Jay Gould, an oldish book (1989), but still gripping (if a little difficult to my engineering/theologically trained mind) – and perhaps becoming increasingly relevant today.  Based on the discovery, in 1909, of a mass of fossils in British Columbia dating from the Cambrian ‘explosion’ of life 570 million years ago, and providing the basis for Gould’s discussion about the nature of life and evolution.  Gould is an evolutionary biologist, who sticks to what he knows as a biologist and does not enter into that ‘creation/evolution’ debate – but between his lines about that great blossoming of life all those years ago I read a subtext (mine, not his) that shouts ‘God did this!’  I really cannot get my head around this ‘creationism’ thing.  I would welcome comments from any others who have read ‘Wonderful Life’ and are similarly inspired/bewildered.

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