Sunday May 24, 2015 | Greg Boyd
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.
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?
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.