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Creation Matters: En Garde

• Greg Boyd

The Bible can seem to conflict itself depending on how it’s being interpreted, but what if the conflict isn’t with the Bible at all? For example, the story of creation often results in conflicting views and beliefs among people. But what if the conflict isn’t with the story itself, and is instead found in what lies behind the story – the very conflict we are to be standing with God against?

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We were created “in the image of God”, but what does that mean? People have interpreted that in a wide variety of ways over the centuries. For example, if Jesus is the exact representation of God, and he made a whip and drove people out of the temple, then we are just “imaging God” when we get violent against “sinners”, right? But what if the truth is more like this: Jesus was acting aggressively, yes, but not violently. He didn’t hurt anyone. Throughout history, whips have been “cracked” to drive animals where people want them to go, and the temple was full of cattle and sheep that people were selling. Nowhere in the narrative does it imply that Jesus directed that whip at people – in fact, he would have been instantly labeled a heretic if he did because he taught a non-violent Kingdom. So, a different way to understand that Biblical narrative is that Jesus is certainly zealous for accomplishing God’s will, but he still only acts out of love, not violence. Violence, then, is a tactic of God’s adversary, not a tactic of God.

If that’s a plausible explanation for what is really being told to us in John 2:13-17, then what happens when we apply that perspective of an always-loving God and his adversary as being the two key players behind other stories in the Bible that have confused people when they try to ascribe every apparent attribute in the story to God alone? In this message, Greg shares one plausible model that re-frames modern Christianity’s popular understanding of the creation story in a way that doesn’t conflict with a God that is love.

Here is a very brief summary of the model Greg is sharing in this message: In the Bible, there are over 20 passages about creation where conflict is involved – of a fight God is involved in to create His Kingdom on earth. The New Testament tells us that Satan (“the Adversary”) was kicked out of heaven when he fell, but he still had dominion over the earth, where the powers of darkness could now work to “steal, kill, and destroy”. Then, adding further details into that background drama of conflict, the creation story in Genesis tells us: 1) The earth was “formless and empty”, meaning chaotic, orderless, a wasteland; 2) The Spirit of God hovered over “the deep” (which was common language of the day for evil); 3) God put humans beings in “a garden” to “guard” it; 4) God told humans to “subdue” it.

When these elements of the creation story are considered through the lens of an always-loving God who is battling an evil adversary, we see a different model where evil is already at work here, and God is not only interceding for creation, but creates us “in his image” to do that work with him! We are here to stand with God against everything that is still in darkness and out-of-line with God’s character. We are created to be kings and queens who rule over this world as we represent God’s character and carry out his will. In this understanding of the creation story, Eden is God’s “beachhead” where he launched his final offensive against the powers that had been resisting him by creating humans “in His image”, through which he could send his Son to redeem creation, and who were chosen to rule and reign with him over all creation in love.

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Topics: Creation, Problem of Evil

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Focus Scripture:

  • Genesis 1:1-2; 26-31

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

    …Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

    So God created human beings in his own image.

    In the image of God he created them;

    male and female he created them.

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6 thoughts on “Creation Matters: En Garde

  1. markw says:

    This doesn’t conflict much with Greg’s insightful sermon… but I wonder if the six days of creation is an account of God restoring the earth after the affects of an ice age.

    Here is the argument for this, by restating Gen 1:1-19

    Gen 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens (including the sun and stars) and earth.

    2 The earth became formless, or formed by the ice, as it lost its intended form. It became empty of animals and whatever types of humans there may have been living in those times because of the ice age. Darkness was over the surface of the deep water and ice. The darkness was a result of the sun being blocked out by the action of volcanoes, and/or by meteorites hitting earth. There was too much atmospheric dust blocking the sun and its light and warmth.

    3 And God said let there be light and warmth, or let there be a reduction in the atmospheric dust. The sun is not yet fully seen here. Notice the repeated mention of the problems of darkness and (frozen) water in these early verses of Genesis.

    5 God called the light “day” and the darkness He called “night”, because there was a sun, although it was not completely visible as it was intended to be. There was an evening and morning because there was a sun.

    6 And God said let there be sky between the waters, between the oceans (and melting ice) and also the clouds. (Something had perhaps restricted the clouds from giving rain in this ice age.)

    9 And God said let the water be gathered to one place, because the water (ice) had gathered over much of earth in a way not intended by God.

    10 God called the dry ground “land”. Notice the mention of DRY ground, which had been flooded because of the melting ice.

    11 Then God said let the land no longer be empty, or let it produce vegetation.

    13 And there was evening and morning…hello! Another rather strong hint that there was a sun.

    14 And let the lights of the sky be more fully revealed, and let them more clearly separate the day and night.

    16 And God revealed the sun and moon and stars and even some of the planets of the solar system could now perhaps be seen. The atmospheric dust had been driven away perhaps partly by the rain which God enabled in verse 6.

    19 And there was evening and morning. But now one could see the sun in its full glory, with stars and planets.

    I am assuming God didn’t forget science when the Bible was written, but I also appreciate Greg’s arguments (mostly from other sermons) that God was speaking to people according to their level of scientific understanding, which was little in those days.

    God bless!

  2. Dave Pritchard says:

    The Silmarillion has a cool creation story as well!

  3. Manny C says:

    This topic of evil in creation was a really difficult topic for me to reconcile with my faith for two years. The “Warfare Worldview” changed that radically, but I still needed to figure out how this would make sense of the Genesis 1 creation account.

    Wrote some blog posts on this topic about a year ago, and a fair amount of the background information was taken from Greg’s book “God at War”, hence a lot of the same points he’s talking about here: http://wordframedworld.com/2014/02/19/a-problem-for-theistic-evolution-pt-1/

  4. Peter Brock says:

    Enlightening “Creation’ series for the X’ers and Millennials, to be sure. However, parallel to the foundational and sound precedents from George Pember, Robert Govett, George Lang and the late 19th/early 20th Century prophetical giants… (See Pember’s ‘Great Prophecies…’ series, ‘Earth’s Earliest Ages’, et al…)

    Many thanks.

  5. Daniel says:

    I find this sermon quite well put, except for the fact that it seems to put Satan’s fall before the creation of Eden, but in Ezekiel’s depiction of Lucifer, he is in the garden of Eden! I know Ezekiel was talking about the king of Tyre but almost all scholars agree the way he was speaking was about something/someone else. I would appreciate if someone would clarify how that could be reconciled with Greg’s view on this subject.

  6. Denley McIntosh says:

    Hi Mark,

    I think The Creation story is more about God than us (while Genesis 2 has the focus on us humans). I would suggest the days are His days than our days. The days are literal for God in His work and rest as He renovated the cosmos/earth to be His temple, dwelling place. He infuses our creation with a similar pattern. However, experientially, we cannot say that God’s days are the same as ours. No different than human days being experientially or materially different from dog days.

    The literary structure of the Genesis 1 passage serves as mnemonic in its poetic form for the ancient people. Nevertheless, the Genesis 1 account is a literal chronology as it is God that is working.

    That’s what I see in principle is taking place.

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