Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint
Today’s Passage: Genesis 1
On the drive to work Monday morning, I put in my old Revenge of the OC Supertones CD, and there’s a stanza from their track “We Shall Overcome” that’s stuck with me for the fourteen years since its release: “There’s a land of the dead called Planet Earth / Where a race called Man walks dead from birth.” I’d be hard-pressed to give a more succinct and potent statement of the human condition than that. But it wasn’t always that way, here on the blue planet. There was a time when there wasn’t any death here, nor any humanity. There was a time when there wasn’t any here. And that’s where the entire Bible starts.
Before I got into the car and put on the Supertones CD, though, I was worrying about how to approach this chapter. I do think Genesis 1 is meant to be enjoyed, and when I read it, I typically enjoy it. But I couldn’t enjoy it this time. As I started thinking about this post, I was concerned with how to address the issues surrounding this chapter. As modern human beings, we ask: are the seven days of creation literal 24-hour periods? Just how literally are we intended to take this account? How does it square with modern scientific claims? And there are no shortage of modern human beings who offer up answers of all sorts to these questions. Perhaps you’re just such a modern human being. What do I say about this chapter that will speak to you, the plural you, with your varied perspectives on this chapter, your degrees of confidence?
And that question matters to me because while the chapter is meant to be enjoyed, it’s not meant to be merely enjoyed. We’re not just throwing Pacific Rim into the DVD player here; this chapter has something to say to us. But what is it intended to communicate? What is the truth that it’s trying to get across? And when we might further ask who the author is, whether it’s Moses, and for how many generations the account might have been told and retold orally before getting transcribed as part of the Torah, you’re starting to get a glimpse of just how much iceberg lies under the words here. I haven’t even touched on the fact that we’re reading a translation here, much less that we may not even be reading the same translation.
But then, like I said, I listened to the Supertones, and I found myself able to start. There’s poetry in this chapter, and it’s using its poetry to tell us things. Here are two of those things.
First, it’s painting a picture of that world before death. The very first thing that God commands to exist, light, is observed to be “good” (3). And isn’t light good? Without adequate light, you take as much as a -9 penalty to your vision rolls, and without any light you’ll automatically fail your vision rolls automatically. God commands the earth to be organized into dry land and bodies of water, and that’s good too (10). You can stand on the land and drink the water, after distilling it. God makes plants (12), which can be eaten, he makes nighttime (18), during which time things that sleep can sleep, and he makes animals (21, 25), which are capable of all sorts of things. It’s all good. None of it’s bad. And do you see where this is going? God is making a world that is ready for people.
And that brings us to the second thing Genesis 1 is communicating: that people are created in God’s image. What does that mean, exactly? It might mean a number of things, and I think Thrice does a good job of enumerating them in their song “Image of the Invisible.” But there’s one aspect of being created in God’s image that I want to call attention to: we humans are creators. We make things! We make music, as Thrice and the Supertones have. We make paintings and sculptures. We make tools, machines, complex devices to help us achieve our goals. We make neat stuff. And while only God can make Other Things exist when previously only God existed, while we require pre-existing stuff as material or media for our creations, we can still make stuff exist that wouldn’t exist otherwise.
We are created creators. We are the image of the invisible. And after God creates us, the world he’s brought into being isn’t just good: it’s very good.