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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I don't think this is real (a reflection on Genesis 1)

Let me start by saying I've always loved dinosaurs.

Image source.
When I was young, I learned the bible story about how God created the earth. The story covers 6 days and says what God made on each of those days. Great!

And I wondered, what about the dinosaurs? Because, you know, dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago, and dinosaurs did NOT live at the same time as people, and yet the bible says there were only 6 days available before people were on earth. So how's that work?

And when I was little, I just accepted "I don't know" as an answer and went on with my life.

Image source.

Eventually I started reading some stuff about creationism. It said there were 3 ways to interpret Genesis 1:
  1. Young-earth creationism: God really did make the world in 6 days. Literally. So the earth is only like 6000 years old, and dinosaurs and people lived together. And the fossil record comes from Noah's flood.
  2. Old-earth creationism: The "days" are actually eras of time. Maybe millions of years long. (Problem is, the fossil record doesn't really match up with the order given in Genesis 1. Also, the sun was supposedly created on the 4th day, soooo... what's with that?)
  3. Or some people (claiming to be Christians) just don't believe Genesis 1.
So for a while I believed in young-earth creationism, probably because of all the rhetoric about "this is what THE BIBLE says, and anyone who doesn't believe it is on a slippery slope to rejecting Jesus and everything that Christianity says."

Image source.

But this week, armed with some ideas about ancient mythology and the fact that many many Christians don't believe in a literal 6-day creation and they're fine, I reread Genesis 1.

Here's the basic summary:
  • So at first, everything was dark and watery.
  • Day 1: God said "Let there be light" and the light appeared.
  • Day 2: God ordered the sky to appear.
  • Day 3: God ordered the water to gather together into seas, separate from the land. Then he ordered the land to produce plants.
  • Day 4: God made the sun, moon, and stars.
  • Day 5: God made the fish and birds and told them to "be fruitful and multiply."
  • Day 6: God made land animals, then made people in God's own image. Sweet! And he instructed the people to have authority over the rest of creation. And eat plants.
  • Also throughout this whole chapter, God keeps saying that the stuff he created is GOOD.
So I'm reading this and I'm like, "I don't think this is real."

God said "let there be light." Okay let's try to picture that. Who did he say it to? What language did he use?

And what the heck is a "day" if the sun hadn't been invented yet? (The sun was made on the 4th day.)

So the fish and birds were made on day 5, and land animals on day 6. What about ostriches? What about dolphins? What about seals? Sea turtles? Penguins? Bats? There are a lot of animals which don't clearly fit in either day- or even if they do technically count for that category, they aren't really similar to most of the other animals in that category. And what about bugs and bacteria and such?

Hey who wrote this down anyway? God was the only one there for the first 5 days. How did the writer know what happened? I always believed "God told them," but, really? A voice from the sky dictated this story? (To Moses????)

Somebody just made this up, huh?

Who? How? And if somebody just made it up, then why does it matter? Why do Christians nowadays care about this- now that we know that the dinosaurs lived 65 million years ago?

Image source.
Here's another question, a really important question: Did the original audience for this story believe it was literally true? I remember in middle school history class learning about some creation myths from different cultures, and we kinda laughed at how silly they were and that people back then actually believed them. But wait, maybe people back then DIDN'T believe them- not in the way we think, anyway.

I mean, there are so many things in this story that could be incredibly symbolic and full of meaning:
  • The first thing God creates is light. Elsewhere in the bible, light is a symbol of truth and stuff like that. Hmm...
  • Everything was water at first. Why? And God creates the sky and land by pushing water out of the way, rather than creating something new. Is there some significance to that?
  • Why were fish and birds created separately from the other animals?
  • Why was the sun made on day 4 anyway?
  • Why does it say God just gave the command and then stuff popped into existence? Is there some difference between that and where it uses terms like "God made"?
  • Why did God only say they could eat plants?
We could learn a lot about how the ancient writers of the bible viewed God.

But uh, what's the use of that? How does it relate to what God is ACTUALLY like?

Genesis 1 isn't at all about how the world came to be. It's about what ancient Jews thought about God.

And if I researched it some more, I could learn a lot of interesting things, but like, what's the point? Why does it matter what they thought about God? Were they right or wrong? What does "right" even mean here, since God didn't really create the world in 6 days like the story says?

I don't know. Here, have another dinosaur:

Image source.

Discussion question: What's your favorite dinosaur?

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So to my friends from the Psalms Journey community: Last week I said "I guess I need to read the Old Testament all over again" so yeah, I ended up writing about Genesis this week instead of the Psalms. But I know you all will still support me. <3

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This post is part of a link-up on the topic of Psalm 81. To read other people's posts, click here: What worship leaders can learn from Asaph.

4 comments:

  1. Good idea- I should definitely read more about that. Hopefully when I go back to America for Christmas I can get that book. :)

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  2. BTW, my favorite dino is the Triceratops. Not sure why. Maybe because I liked the character of Cera in Land Before Time so much.

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  3. You might be interested in how I explained evolution and God-creation to my child. I believe Genesis is not literally true but contains important metaphorical TRUTHS that can inspire us and spiritually connect us with our ancestors.

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