Genesis 1 and 2
I read a funny story in one of those chain e-mails that people send. It said,
What majestic trees! What powerful rivers! What beautiful animals!" he said to himself. As he walked alongside the river he heard a rustling in the bushes behind him. As he turned to look, he saw a seven foot grizzly charge towards him. He ran as fast as he could up the path.
He looked over his shoulder & saw that the bear was closing in on him. He tried to run even faster, so scared that tears were coming to his eyes. He looked over his shoulder again, and the bear was even closer. His heart was pumping frantically as he tried to run even faster,but he tripped and fell on the ground. He rolled over to pick himself up and saw the bear right on top of him raising his paw to kill him. At that instant he cried out "Oh my God!"
Just then, time stopped. The bear froze; the forest was silent; the river even stopped moving. A bright light shone upon the man, and a voice came out of the sky saying, "You deny my existence all of these years; teach others I don't exist; even credit my creation to a cosmic accident, and now do you expect me to help you out of this predicament? Am I to count you as a believer?" The atheist, ever so proud, looked into the light and said, "It would be rather hypocritical to ask to be a Christian after all these years, but could you make the bear a Christian?" "Very well," said the voice.
As the light went out, the river ran, and the sounds of the forest continued, the bear put his paw down. The bear then brought both paws together, bowed his head and said: "Lord, I thank you for this food, which I am about to receive"
We often make jokes about aethiests as I am sure they make about Christians, but at the heart of the debate there are some serious implications. In this sermon series called, “Myth Busters”, we will be examining three myths that atheists hold about religion in general and specifically Christianity. To get at the heart of the myth, I am going to analyze the arguments made by Christopher Hitchens in his book, god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.
The first myth we will explore is that the creation story in the bible is incompatible with science. Hitchens argument can be summarized as follows:
1. We know more about the world today that those who first founded the religions that people follow as a way to explain reality
2. Deists such as Einstein believed that the order and predictability of the world led to a belief in a designer
3. We can now believe that the answers to creation come from the universe
4. If we no longer need god to answer the questions about reality, then we can take or leave god
5. Belief in god actually makes things more complicated because belief in god leads to unanswerable questions.
6. If we no longer need god, belief is simply a private non issue.
Hitchens ends his chapter by saying that believers should actually take comfort in knowing that the answers to the origins of the world can be found in nature,
Thoughtful believers can take some consolation, too. Skepticism and discovery have freed them from the burden of having to defend their god as a footling, clumsy, straws-in-the-hair mad scientist, and also from having to answer distressing questions about who inflicted the syphilis bacillus or mandated the leper or the idiot child, or devised the torments of Job. The faithful stand acquitted on that charge: we no longer have any need of a god to explain what is no longer mysterious. What believers will do, now that their faith is optional and private and irrelevant, is a matter for them.
I do want to suggest that Hitchens’ criticism of religion is not a new one. There are well founded reasons for suggesting that religion is no longer needed because science can now answer the question that we used religion to answer in the past. For many Christians, science is a very scary thing because they see it as a direct challenge to faith and Christianity.
Our culture, at least in the Western world, believes that a person has to either believe science is true and that the Big Bang theory and evolution rule out the belief in God or that the creation story in Genesis is true meaning that science is wrong.
I have to acknowledge up front that I do not know all there is to know about evolution or the big bang theory. I could not argue for one side or the other from a scientific standpoint. However, I do know something about the Biblical creation accounts in Genesis. (Notice, accounts is plural) Some people do not know that there are actually two different creation accounts in Genesis. The first one is in Genesis 1:1-2:4 and the other is found in Genesis 2:5-25.
There are some notable differences in the accounts. (1) In the first account the name for God in Hebrew is Elohim which is the more generic form of God. In the second account the Hebrew word is Yahweh which is the personal God of the Hebrew people. (2) It then follows that the first story seems to point to a God who is entirely sovereign over creation and who speaks with a Word and creation happens while the second shows God as being personal and forming humans out of clay. (3) Notice the differences in order. In the first story everything has been created before God creates male and female. In the second one, while there was no wild thing on earth, God shaped man from the soil of the ground. Man, or adam which in Hebrew means human, is then given the freedom to name the animals.
What do we make of these things from Genesis? I think the stories in Genesis are not given to give us a detailed account of how God created the world, but rather they are there to remind us about the God who created us and to tell us about the world the God created for to live in. The stories are theological in purpose and they explain the realities of the world we live in. Going to Genesis for a scientific explanation of creation is like going to McDonalds for a whopper.
To understand the creation story the way it was written, we must understand the world view of those who were Israel’s neighbors. Those around Israel believed in a plurality of gods who were born out of chaos and struggled with one another for control. Out of their desire for control and power, they created human beings to be their servants.
Compare this over against the stories we find in Genesis. Notice that in the beginning God created the world out of the chaos. God was not part of the chaos, but has complete control over matter. In other words, the creation story shows how God orders and controls the chaos and matter. God shapes something good out of nothing.
In the second creation story we see how God takes great care in fashioning Adam and creating Eve. God cares about the happiness of his creation. God creates out of love, not out of the need for power. These creation stories are not so much about exactly how God created the world, they were stories about the sovereignty and love of the true God who created all the exists.
When I go to the creation accounts, I am not trying to prove the scientist wrong, rather I am trying to find an answer to a question that science can never answer. I am trying to understand “why” I am here and learn about the God who created me. No matter what science learns, it will always need religion and it will always be lacking without God. As Christians, I hope we can encourage science to learn while I hope science will allow religion to help us understand our purpose.
Belief in God Should Change Everything
I want to end this sermon by focusing on Hitchen’s real point in these chapters. While he does not believe the evidence from science supports the belief in a creator, he is really is trying to persuade his readers that a belief in god really does not matter. He thinks god is dead, not because people have stopped believing in god, but because their belief in god is only a person and private affair that really has no impact on the world. Sadly, I think us as Christians often bye into this philosophy with the way we live our lives. We have our personal god in our back pocket for times that we need him, but we choose to live as if god were dead.
CS Lewis once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else." I do believe that science shows the need for there being a creator. When I see into the world, I see the footprints of God. But it is more than that. Because I know there is a God, it should change the way I live.
Melanie and I found out this summer that we are going to have a baby. One of the first things we did was to buy books about pregnancy and read them. In several of the books, it describes each stage of development of the fetus. I remember reading about how this lump of mass suddenly has a heartbeat and then begins to develop all of the major systems in the body. I am sure there is a scientific explanation for this, but in experiencing this I just sit back and think, wow, there has to be a God who sets this in motion.
As great as this is, it does not stop there though. Because I know that God is real and has God’s hand in this, I know that I have to be different because of my belief in God. I know that I have to be the best husband I can be to my wife, even when I don’t feel like it and I know that I have to be the best dad that I can be. You see, believing in God causes us to see the world differently and to live differently.