Summary: A look at what Genesis 1 has to say to us about God as creator, sustainer and soveriegn of the universe.
A doctor, an architect, and a lawyer were arguing over who had the oldest profession. The doctor said, "Well the first operation was performed on Adam, so the medical profession is the oldest."
"No," said the architect, "Architectural planning and design was needed to create the earth and the universe out of chaos, so I represent the oldest profession." "Where do you think the chaos came from?" asked the lawyer.
Genesis 1-3. The bain of my existence as a teenager. The reason I took technological studies for SCSE (basically Scottish GSCE’s) rather than biology. I was convinced that Genesis 1-3 ruled out the theory of evolution. Creation all happened in 6 days roughly 6,000 years ago. I went through High School, undergraduate and postgraduate physics degrees holding on to those truths. Then I started studying the Bible in more detail and found that maybe those things I had thought were true weren’t. Suddenly I could accept all those dodgey consequences of relativity I had struggled with throughout university, like how light for stars millions of light years away could reach earth, or how all the evidence pointed to big bang 15 billion years ago. And so science opened up to me in a new way. And yet in all my years of studying Genesis, of buying and reading dozens of books, I have a whole bookshelf of books on just the first 10 chapters of Genesis, had I missed the point? In fact I know some people were a wee bit tired of hearing me on the subject.
It seemed that nearly every time I heard or taught about Genesis 1:1-2:3 it was in the context of the evolution debate. You could be forgiven for forgetting that Genesis was written thousands of years before Charles Darwin and wasn’t written as a polemic against Evolution. And so I’ve entitled this sermon What does Genesis 1 have to say to those who are fed up with the creation/evolution debate (and to those who are not)?
Therefore for the rest of this service I want to go back to a time before Charles Darwin and see why Genesis 1 was written in the first place and what we can learn from it, rather than trying to use it for a scientific inquiry of origins. Its not that I disagree with investigating the relationship between science and religion, nor that either science or religion is obliged to accept without question what the other offers as truth, in fact I am actively involved in researching for a PhD in this area, but rather to say, that we can get so caught up in that search that we miss the other truths the passage has to offer. It is these other truths that I wish to explore this morning.
It is polemic but against what?
Let’s start by agreeing that it wasn’t written as a polemic against evolution so why was it written? Some people involved in the creation evolution debate will say something like, evolution/science is the how, Genesis 1 is the why? But when I read Genesis 1 I can’t find anywhere where it says why God created. If you get board during the sermon, or if you already are, then have a look at Genesis 1 and see if you can tell me afterwards where it says why God created. For the why you have to look elsewhere in the Bible and even there its only hinted at. So if Genesis 1 wasn’t written to say why, then why was it written?
I think it was written as polemic, just not against evolution. The question is against what? Firstly it was a polemic against the worship of astronomical objects. In many ancient religions the people worshiped the Sun and Moon, but Genesis speaks against this. You notice that the Sun and Moon where not created until day 4 and are not even named but just referred to as the greater and lesser lights. If I was to write a history of British football from the 1960’s till present and did not mention the 1966 world cup till chapter 4 out of 7 and then only to mention that it was won by a European country. It would be obvious that I was writing from a Scottish point of view. In the same way to describe creation and relegate the sun and moon to day 4 and not even mention them by name, is clearly speaking against their importance and in the culture that Genesis was written a clear warning against the worship of them.
But it is more than just a polemic against worshiping the Sun and Moon. In a time when the Jewish race where in exile in a foreign land where people worshiped foreign gods, who for the moment seemed to have won. Genesis 1 is a reminder that God is not merely the local tribal God of the Jews, one amongst many and currently not doing very well at taking care of his people but rather He was the creator, the one true God who claims sovereignty over the whole world. He not only created mankind, but the animals, the fish, the birds and earth, the universe and the heaven. It was all made according to his will and purpose, by him and at his command.