Act 1: Creation
The first act in the grand drama of Scripture is the act of creation. This act, while very important, makes up only two chapters of biblical text. These two chapters contain two back-to-back stories of God’s creation: Genesis 1:1-2:3 and Genesis 2:4-25. The first, in poetic form, approaches creation in broad terms, speaking of phases in creation. The second focuses on the pinnacle of the creation – humanity – including our work caring for creation and our need for relationship. This diversity in perspective is one of the most beautiful things about Scripture. From the two creation stories we can learn about three areas which are still very relevant to us now.
The first lesson from the act of creation is with regards to the Creator. Unlike other Ancient Near Eastern creation stories, the Hebrew story contains only one god, acting in love and unity. We learn that this God has absolute power, but we also learn that this God turned over care of the rest of his creation to the pinnacle of that creation, humanity. This tells us that the Hebraic God is a radically cooperative deity, seeking partnership with his creation rather than dominance. We also see that God proclaims, “Let us make humanity in our image” which implies an inherent relationality to God. Even the fact that he has given us the option to reject him – an option we will exercise in the next act – underscores how central it is to God’s character to seek loving relationship. As 1 John 4:8 so succinctly puts it, God doesn’t just occasionally love, “God is love.”
The second lesson is with regards to creation as a whole. God looks at our world and says that it is “good,” and then upgrades that to “very good” after humanity is added to the picture. Some people throughout history have seen the physical world as a negative with the “spiritual” as separate and positive. This dualism was rejected early in the Church’s history and is consistently opposed by Scripture, beginning right here in the creation account. God then puts us in charge of taking care of this very good creation, refuting any claims that our “dominion” means that we can do whatever we want to the planet. God cares about the world and we are tasked with the same loving care.
The third is about the pinnacle of the creation: us. We are said to be made in God’s image (Gen 1:26), both male and female equally. While the rest of creation is seen as good and important to care for, we are the only elements of creation to earn this extra distinction. What exactly does this mean? At the very least in the context of the passage, it means the aforementioned duty to care for the rest of creation. This image-bearing nature also includes at the very least the fundamentally relational nature that we’ve already seen from the Creator whose image we bear. Throughout history many theologians have suggested a range of other ways in which they believed we bear God’s image.
Here we’ll touch on just one more of these suggestions which comes through looking at other religions nearby. Most Ancient Near Eastern religions used physical objects as representatives of their gods. Later, in the Law given to the Israelites, we’ll see God forbid these practices (e.g. Exodus 20:4). When we look at the text in its original language of Hebrew, however, we see that it is the same word typically translated “image” here as typically translated “idols” when discussing these physical representations used by other religions. Some scholars suggest, therefore, that the reason for God’s banning of “idols” is that we – all of humanity – are meant to serve this function of representing God to the world. This theory is further supported by similar language throughout every act of Scripture.