Over the past year or so, I have been hit with a profound (to my limited cranial capacity at least) glimpse of the nature of God. It, in iteself, has been a journey of testing and questioning, which is still going on. However, I find myself explaining it to people I meet (as part of that testing), and maybe they’re just being polite to the nerd, but the response has been positive and receptive. And where it starts, like the Book I love, is at the beginning.
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. (Genesis 1:1-2)
I have known for some time that the opposite of God is not evil or Satan (a common misperception based on Babylonian dualism or Christian gnostacism), but it was only recently that I’ve become familiar with the concept that, in the Hebrew mind (and who wrote the Bible?), the opposite of God is chaos. God is the creator of order, and He creates things from the chaos.
In the opening stanza of Genesis, we are confronted with a God who is “hovering over the waters” of the deep (or, in the Hebrew mind – the abyss). These waters – the chaos of the uncreated universe – are then shaped and created by the Word of God.
(NOTE: Before we go on – I do not intend this to be a discussion on the creation story and whether it was literally 7 days, figuratively 7 days or what. To me, the key to Genesis is not “on the Xth day…,” but on “God created”.)
Genesis Rabba, a Jewish religious text and the Hebrew study of Genesis, supports the idea of God as creator of order working against chaos, and sees God as continually creating – making things better. This is demonstrated in the form of “deep calling out to deep” in the Genesis story, where Days 1 & 4, 2 & 5, and 3 & 6 are set up to show that God is always improving on His creation.
Day 1: Light was separated from the Dark
Day 4: Sun/Moon and stars created
Day 2: Water separated from the Sky
Day 5: Fish in the sea and Birds in the sky
Day 3: Land and vegetation created
Day 6: Animals to roam the land and man to rule over the creation
The parallels are so stark, I wonder how I missed them for so long!
Creation and Chaos
In this mindset of creation and chaos, we see the answer to the age old question of “If God is good and if he created everything, why is there evil/sin/tragedy in the world”? What this question supposes is that evil/sin/tragedy is the opposite of God, when in reality evil/sin/tragedy is a result of the chaos that still exists because it has not been “given order”.
One of our basic needs is to understand our purpose in this world, and God gave it to us at the beginning when He created us in His image. Since we are made in His image, we are able to “create” (bring order to the chaos).
When I used to read the creation story, I always assumed that it was finished and then man just screwed it up. However, the story of Adam & Eve and their fall is also one of redemption, where God initially gave Adam the job of bringing further order to His creation (removing more and more of the chaos), but after they fell, their job didn’t change – it just got a whole lot harder.
In response to the fall of Adam, God’s creation is still going on today – and we have been given the job of helping Him to bring about the order of creation. When sin/evil/tragedy occurs, it is because someone either deliberately chose a path of chaos (sin/evil) instead of a path of order. When tragedy occurs, it is because there is still chaos left in the world which God has not yet ordered into creation. Eventually, though, He will do this.
In the book of Revelation (the book-end Genesis story, where creation is finally completed), He says Behold, I make all things new (21:5), and tells us we will have new heaven, a new earth and new bodies. These will be perfect in creation, and there will be no chaos remaining (Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. (21:1) When John writes there will be no “sea” in the new heaven, this is better translated abyss or chaos, based on the picture John is trying to create).
Here’s the Science…
Having come from an engineering/science background, I’ve often found the laws of science and nature to be helpful in seeing Biblical principles. With this view of creation and chaos, I’m reminded of two examples:
Heat/Cold: When we touch something, and it is cold to the touch, we call it “cold”. However, you cannot measure “cold”, you can only measure “heat” (temperature). “Cold” is just the absence of heat.
In the same way, chaos (vis sin/evil/tragedy) is not something that was created – it is the absence of creation.
Entropy: The Second Law of Thermodynamics demonstrates that over time all systems will move toward a state of entropy (chaos), and that energy/work (order) is required to prevent this decay. And so it is with God and the present creation – without order (God and us, as His image), the world will move toward chaos.
The point of all of this chaos theory is that our purpose in life becomes much clearer, and our view of sin and good works shifts into better focus.
Every time we make a moral choice, we decide to either do the job we were created to do (to bring order to God’s creation) or to undo creation (leading to chaos). God loves us and cares for us regardless of our job performance, and His grace through the sacrifice Jesus made – if we accept it – will lead us to desire creation over chaos, so that we create out of love for Him – not out of a sense of duty – and we do our best to avoid un-doing creation, because we understand how it hurts Him (and us).
To me, this view of creation, in itself, was somewhat profound, because it moved God from being a cosmic accountant of right and wrong to being our partner (the managing partner, so to speak in bringing about the Kingdom of God.
What really blew me away, though, was seeing what the Kingdom of God is…