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.