Think of some of the imag­i­na­tive metaphors we have con­sid­ered as we pon­der the mys­tery of God. God is that bril­liant sun that can­not be seen because of its bright­ness but that makes every­thing else vis­i­ble by virtue of that same bright­ness. God is that extradi­men­sion­al sol­id that rel­a­tivizes our flat geom­e­try but that does so pre­cise­ly by estab­lish­ing a high­er geom­e­try that includes and tran­scends the math­e­mat­i­cal laws we grasp. 

Steve and I believe that we are not propos­ing any­thing new regard­ing the mys­tery of God. Rather, we think we have sim­ply tak­en the stan­dard bib­li­cal view of God and spelled out its impli­ca­tions. Let’s take a clos­er look at what the Bible says about the won­der and beau­ty that God is. 

So, what does the Scrip­ture tell us about God? An answer to this ques­tion could no doubt begin in many places, but we can’t go far astray if we begin where the Bible itself begins, with the resound­ing claim that God is, quite sim­ply, the Cre­ator – In the begin­ning God cre­at­ed the heav­ens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). God is Cre­ator” here with a cap­i­tal C. Chris­tians do not say mere­ly that God is a cre­ator, or that God was the first cre­ator, or even that God is the great­est and most sig­nif­i­cant cre­ator. God is the Cre­ator, the source and ori­gin of all things, mak­er of heav­en and earth and of all things vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble” (as the Nicene Creed puts it). What is behind this force­ful lan­guage? To answer that ques­tion, let’s turn to the first chap­ter of Genesis. 

This is not, of course, the place for an exhaus­tive inves­ti­ga­tion of the Gen­e­sis cre­ation nar­ra­tive, or of the many and bit­ter con­tro­ver­sies that con­tin­ue to swirl around it. Suf­fice it here to say that, what­ev­er the text may hold for his­tor­i­cal or sci­en­tif­ic pur­pos­es, it is plain that the the­ol­o­gy of cre­ation embod­ied in the open­ing chap­ter of Gen­e­sis reflects a vision of God and of God’s world that is dis­tinc­tive. It departs in very deci­sive and provoca­tive ways from the con­ven­tion­al out­look of oth­er ancient Near East­ern cul­tures. We can note at least three sig­nif­i­cant emphases that are rel­e­vant for our thoughts about the mys­tery of God. 

First, Gen­e­sis 1 clear­ly pic­tures one absolute and inde­pen­dent God, who exists with­out any begin­ning or sup­port, with­out any rivals or asso­ciates. The stan­dard vision of the divine realm in Mesopotami­an, Egypt­ian, and Canaan­ite cul­tures of the ancient world includ­ed a pan­theon of deities, inter­act­ing and often con­flict­ing with one anoth­er, and the stan­dard vision of cos­mic ori­gins often includ­ed the ori­gins of these deities themselves. 

By con­trast, the Gen­e­sis account begins with God and God alone. It por­trays no one along­side of God, and it gives no hint of any ori­gin” that is fur­ther back than the self-exis­tent real­i­ty of God him­self. This inde­pen­dent self-exis­tence is high­light­ed by the fact that God cre­ates in Gen­e­sis 1 with a sim­ple word of com­mand. There is no dra­mat­ic strug­gle between God and oth­er forces that hin­der the cre­ative act; there are no com­pli­cat­ed rit­u­al­ized incan­ta­tions by means of which the Cre­ator taps into a pow­er greater or more basic or oth­er than him­self. Instead, as the psalmist writes with a sim­plic­i­ty that reflects Gen­e­sis, he spoke, and it came to be, he com­mand­ed, and it stood firm” (Ps. 33:9).

Next week we’ll take a look at the sec­ond insight from Gen­e­sis 1 regard­ing God. Remem­ber that I am often excerpt­ing these blogs right out of Steve’s and my book, The Mys­tery of God, with some adap­ta­tion. Some­times I quote. Some­times I para­phrase. Some­times I add some­thing new. Read­ers who might like to go deep­er can con­sult the book itself. Have a good week!

Catch up with the first 10 install­ments of the Mys­tery of God series and all oth­er blog posts at Con­ver­sa­tions with Chris.

This series has been adapt­ed from Steven D. Boy­er and Chris Hall’s The Mys­tery of God: The­ol­o­gy for Know­ing the Unknow­able. Hun­gry for more? Please vis­it Bak­er Aca­d­e­m­ic for more information. 

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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