Depending on who you talk to, creation is either total garbage or the blessing of God, what God called good throughout creation.
What does God think of creation? Well, that probably depends on what you think God is up to.
Part of the problem is many Christians see creation as being two worlds. The world we know and touch and move about in. And the spirit world of the kindom, of heaven, perhaps up in the clouds with angels and harps.
And the hard part is that we get the two worlds talk from Jesus. That whole “I’m not of this world” line of thinking. World vs. Heaven. Our way vs. God’s way. But we don’t really get the sense from Jesus’s theology that he believes there are two literal worlds.
In fact, aspects of this dualistic sense of the physical world vs. the spiritual world were condemned as gnostic.
And yet it’s Jesus’s own rhetoric which seems to describe this sense. The modern theologian Stanley Hauerwas is one of the most staunch advocates for understanding Jesus through a lense of world vs. kindom. His writing, particularly his commentary on Matthew has greatly influenced my thinking in this way. You certainly can catch it in my preaching.
But this is only part of the question.
What About Sin?
Perhaps the most influential theological choice of them all came from Augustine. I can’t think of another teaching as pervasive after the 1st Century than the doctrine of original sin.
Augustine decided that God’s interaction with human history was predicated on one bad decision a long, long time ago.
Well, first, that two people made a decision which we have decided was bad. That in itself is another decision. But anyway.
Two people made a decision to disobey God, so then everything that happened after was their fault. They sinned and ruined the whole deal. Everything was perfect. Now it’s dung. Thanks, Adam and Eve!
We don’t need to spend time on the contours and effects of this choice. But I do want to highlight what making this choice to believe in original sin does to us and to creation:
It makes it apart from God.
That’s the most insidious thing about it. That God made it and walked away. God let two people screw everything up. Then condemned the world to corruption and dysfunction for thousands of years, ultimately needing Jesus to come clean it up.
But even this choice is a mixed bag because it only explains how the world was screwed up for the millennia before Jesus. But it doesn’t explain why we have the same habits today Jesus is supposed to have came to break us of.
That requires another choice, this time about Jesus.
So then is it something in us, some virus in our bodies causing us to be evil? A defect from a single choice, we’ve inherited for millennia?
Or is it something else?
Why I Embrace the Good
Much of our theology has suffered from focusing on the sexier ideological bits. We’re more interested in the question of “why do bad things happen to good people?” than on “why do good things happen to bad people?”
We’re confounded by a creation which seems so messed in one sense and so beautiful in another.
Some of that comes from deep pessimism. A sense that we can never do it right. Or a deep optimism, which says, yeah we screwed up today, but tomorrow’s a different story!
But neither embrace the idea that God not only created the world and all its parts and called them good. But even these first humans and called them “very good”.
Or that God, in the other creation story, comes looking for these two friends. Walking through the garden, like a child looking for her playmates.
In A New Kind of Christianity, Brian McLaren argues that this moment isn’t an expression of God’s punishment for grave sin, but an example of mercy after human mistakes. The crux of the argument, was that the two first humans were told they would die if they ate the fruit, but they didn’t. God didn’t kill them. God was merciful.
It is further poignant because Cain isn’t killed for murdering Abel, and this succeeding story shows not only restraint on God’s part, but also reflection.
Reflection that maybe genocide in a flood wasn’t the best idea. And a death sentence for the blasphemy of a tower is just too steep.
Creation of Love
Perhaps Occam’s Razor ought to be applied to our theology of creation. Given two options, the simpler is probably best.
If God loves the world, then…
…he would punish it forever and constantly with some microbug infestation of original sin which causes humanity to keep screwing up, giving God even more anxiety about its sin nature and proving how much it constantly needs to be punished and in the end, all of the world is dung and, by the way, let’s leave it in a pile because in the end, nature will take its course and it will become compost and a new garden will grow once all of humanity is wiped out or raptured up.
…God created friends to live and love and hope with; cheering them on and lifting them up when they fall. And still creates.
I don’t know. Such a hard choice.
The choice about sin and God’s creating the world doesn’t end at the first moment of creation. It extends to God’s ongoing view of creation.
What does God think of creation today?
The dark side of the sin/nature view is that it seems to also tie in with an excuse to abuse creation or neglect it. That creation, despite being called good and named as an essential part of our existence and of God’s character, has been reduced to a bit player in the narrative. Or worse. Something we can destroy with impunity.
But if we choose to see God as love, and therefore as lover, then we see a God who weeps over the demise of our forests, and the oppression of the creatures expelled from their natural habitats so we can build some new suburbs.
We can see God loving all of creation in the way we love our own homes and gardens. As expressions of love in delicious dinners and in social gatherings. Not as an opportunity for exploitation, but of mutual health and growth.
If God thinks all creation is good, then I choose to love not only who God loves, but everything else.
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Check out more choices we’re invited to make!