Saturday, 5 May 2012
In the beginnings
What's your creation story? Surely I mean, what is creation story. But no, I don't. I believe we all have a creation story, Christian or not, people of faith or not. I believe Atheists have creations stories, and I'm not talking about evolution verses creationism here. Just for the record, and allowing for quibbling about a few details, I believe in evolution as the best scientific explanation as to how I happen to be here. But I still have a creation story, and I find it in the pages of the Bible.
The Bible begins with a creation story (Genesis 1:1 - 2:3). This is immediately followed by,.... a creation story (Genesis 2:4 - 3:24). We know these are two stories because the second backtracks on the first, has different elements and places common ones in a different order, and, uses a different Hebrew vocabulary. This in itself poses a problem for anyone who blandly states they believe in the Biblical creation story: they may well do, but which one.
The origins of these stories are lost in the midst of time, but they share much in common with other ancient creation stories in that they use the device of how the world was created to tell the story of why the world is as it is. What's important is that when the leaders of Israel were taken into exile in Babylon and started to formalise the recorded story of their people and their faith they chose to begin their retelling with these two stories. Their Babylonian captors had creation tales of their own, telling of war between gods and the creation of the world from the carcass of a dead god. In their tale humanity is created to be the mere slaves of the gods, and has no value beyond this. That may be a pretty dismal tale but it would have shaped how the everyday Babylonian lived their lives, how they understood themselves, and others, and how they took meaning from their daily grind. It's probably how most of us view things on a bad day.
Now, read the Jewish creation stories in contrast to the story of their hosts. Does it read differently? Here all that there is comes about through creativity and imagination, and not destruction and death. Humanity is the pinnacle of that creation and is invited by the creator to share in a stewardship role alongside the creator. The creator and the creation walk and share together. This world view is presented as how things are meant to be. But as we all know it's not like that, and so we have to encounter a story of a broken relationship and a parting of the ways. The remainder of the Bible simply spells out the implications of this parting and tells of the many attempts at reconciliation; a reconciliation that proves impossible until the creator intervenes personally.
So what is your creation story? We all have one. It's not the one you might feel inclined to lean towards on a particularly bad day, nor on an especially good day for that matter. It's how you would understand the way of the world and your place in it most of the time. Maybe, like the Babylonian story, it is closed. Or maybe, like the Judeo-Christian story it is open; it is aspirational yet recognises the flaws of our world, hold on for a better outcome. So what is your story, and to what does it owe it's inspiration, because that may be where you need to explore further.
Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe everything was created in seven actual days, but frankly that seems so small, so unimaginative, so feeble. Personally, I think God is much bigger than that. To take everything in the Bible as literal scientific fact takes no faith, simply a mechanical world view. I think everything in the Bible is true. I just don't know what a lot of it means.
ps. The photo at the top of this page is of the Dome of the Rock, One of Islam's holiest sites. This is where, according to different traditions, Mohammed ascended to heaven, Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son Isaac, the Holy of Holies in the old Jewish Temple stood, and, is the centre of the world where Adam and Eve were created. Considering the number of different holy sites in this country that demonstrates an incredible economy of scale to my mind. It is also where is will all end apparently! I think that just about covers it.
I like this image because of all those satellite dishes pointing to the heavens (or at least to a satellite offering a bewildering array of channels in a variety of languages, and comprising (from a short and confusing flick through some of the 1000+ TV stations available at the hostel) 45% religious nutters, 45% porn, and maybe 10% news and drama (in Polish)). Should this change my creation story? No, I think it merely confirms it...
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