Lesson 1: Creation, Not Accident (Genesis 1 and 2)

An honest reading of the creation stories quickly reveals the authors are not interested in particulars. Once you acknowledge that there are two very different, even contrasting accounts right next to each other, you recognize the editors are not trying to write accurate historical accounts. They are obviously more interested in what the ancient stories of their culture mean for their present life.

For instance, the writers are not describing exactly how God created. In one story, God does it by speaking; in the other by molding. The authors are not even painting a picture of what God created. In one, God makes a world; in the other, a garden. Once we understand the writers are not doing science, we have no need to get bent out of shape like the fundamentalists.

Genesis describes why God created, what was on God’s mind. In both stories, God desires a relationship with humanity. In the first, he creates humans in his image so this is possible. In the second, he enjoys a friend with whom he can converse in the cool of the evening.

Both stories are talking about ethics. That becomes quite evident in the second story when humans disobey the rule about eating the fruit from one tree. It is also assumed in the first story when God steps back and evaluates that everything that was made was good. There is obviously a design in which everything is in proper relationship. That means there is a right way to live in harmony with that design.

In Genesis, the pain of disobedience is not so much punishment for going against the will of a superior as the consequence of not living according to the design of the maker’s creation. The world was made for our enjoyment and breaking its laws leads to suffering. Ethics, then, is living in harmony with the design of the creation. Christians try to say the same thing when they claim Christ was the first created and all else was made through him or that Christ is the Word.

The question has always been what the lifestyle associated with that design is. Today we argue about whether it can accept abortion or homosexuality. We also wonder what is involved when living a Christian lifestyle in a society that operates with very different values. Reading Genesis together might provide a basis for discussing these in a loving manner.

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