Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Through The Whole Bible: Genesis 2

Continuing through the whole Bible: Genesis 2. If you need a link for the passage, here it is with both NIV and NASB from BibleGateway. Or, if you’ve got a Bible, you can look it up. It’s on page 2 in mine :)

This is the conclusion of the Creation account. A quick note, though, about the Bible in general is due: the original texts were not divided into chapters and verses. Those are later additions. It is a portion of Biblical Studies to try and understand the original divisions that might have been there, but just file this in your mind: the train of thought can run past chapter/verse markings. Originally, you had the “Book” divisions: Genesis ends the same place, Exodus starts, but the chapters are not original to the text.

And don’t get me started on the “headers” added by many English translations: those little summaries cause people to miss the point as often as they help to find it.

Now, back to the text: first off, 2:1 addresses that Creation was completed. A few things that means and doesn’t mean:

  1. Does not mean: no slightly new animals. Consider intentional selective breeding. This happens. Yet dogs are still dogs, except for schnauzers and poodles, which aren’t.
  2. Does not mean: no extinctions. Seriously, plants and animals have been dying out since Eden.
  3. Does mean: the fundamental stuff of the universe remains pretty much unchanged. Sound fishy? Remember the Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy from Chemistry? The one where physicists agree that the universe, while expanding, is still static in the totality of mass and energy?
  4. Does not mean: we know all there is to know.
  5. Does mean: it was done. God left nothing necessary out of Creation.

The chapter then provides some measure of detail about the specific creation of man and woman. There are some good summaries and theologies that address this, so I will mention one specific idea: man is incomplete without woman. I think it also applies the other direction. In general, I see this here: humanity is not complete in a single-gender dominated situation. Various cultures see differing roles for men and women and that’s worth discussing, but no culture has a good future if it oppresses one gender or the other. Neither, I think, do you have a good future if there is no distinction between men and women---not the hard and fast “that’s a girl job!” type of distinction, but simply one where there’s a difference.

Before we get to the creation of man and woman, though, we have the Garden of Eden. Paradise. Flowing rivers, fruitful trees, peaceful critters. A nice place to live. Too bad, though, it’s gone now. (look ahead at Genesis 6, the Flood did some serious damage)

There are many efforts to 'locate’ the Garden of Eden. I’m fairly certain that it’s not going to be found physically on this Earth. For the Christian, I’d point you to Revelation 21 and Revelation 22 and compare the images there back to Genesis 2. Eternity sees that restoration. It would historically interesting, but to what end? Someone would claim we were only seeing what we wanted to see.

I would note this, though: general world history has long supported the idea that civilization thrived among humanity around four river valleys. Those were: The Nile, the Tigris-Euphrates, the Indus, and the Yellow (Huang He) in China. Four rivers watered the Garden of Eden. Four rivers were the cradles of civilization. That might be a stretch, but it might also not be a coincidence.

The final point in this chapter is God’s first unfulfilled words. Throughout Genesis 1, when God speaks, it happens. However you line that chapter up with the calendar, the Christian view holds that God speaks and it happens. All of Creation obeys Him.

Yet God speaks to Adam and we’re left hanging: Is Adam going to obey?

Here we see something important: man is created with a free will. The ability to obey or to disobey, to continue in life or to bring destruction.

At the time, there’s no “experience of human nature” for Adam and Eve to think through. The cows and pigs and chickens are not looking at this and thinking “Well, that was nice, but they’re going to eat the fruit.” They are free to maintain life. God has given them that ability.

But they also have the freedom to choose their future on this earth. I take this as part of the image of God they are created in.

And I think we still have a measure of this. There are, certainly, woven into this universe, laws of existence. Some are physical, some emotional, moral, mental, and spiritual. We don’t live in the Matrix: bullets fired follow physics and do damage, whatever our minds wish to have happen. Sin has consequences for us and others.

Yet we still have options. How much damage will we do? How much good?

That’s the challenge for me: fate is not nearly as strong as force as our decisions. Some things cannot be overcome, but many can. And too often, we sit at the mercy of things that ought to be at our mercy. You may be dealing with many negative things, but are you also letting things you can control hold you down? You didn’t choose your parents, but you choose your attitude. You didn’t choose part a, but can you make decisions about part b?

Do so. Let us all do so, and choose to do what we can to make this life more like it ought to be.

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