Monday, September 17, 2012
In Search Of Truth, Genesis 1:1 (The "Weirdness" Of God)
Today marks the beginning of a new investigation as we search for truth in the Bible. We're going to take a journey through some significant passages of the Old Testament, or Tanakh, that deal with God and his relationship to humanity. We'll look at and "unpack" some of the ceremonies and sacrifices of the Old Testament and see what they reveal about the nature of God and humans.
This won't be an exhaustive exploration of any one book of the Bible, but will instead highlight passages relevant to our search for truth and understanding about the nature of God and his relationship to ancient Israel.
The ultimate aim of this investigation is not just to gain some "head knowledge" about God or ancient biblical history. What we explore and discover will have direct application to our moment-by-moment experience of and relationship with God today.
I'm of the opinion that this kind of study is an ideal one for many Geeks. Especially the kinds of geeks that love exploring strange new worlds, learning about their cultures and histories. Or geeks that love reading RPG campaign settings and stories that explore the limits of science and beyond.
"Theology" can be a scary word for some people. But theology just means "the study of God". Something all Christians should engage in. And I think the best theologians employ minds that are both ruled by logic and fueled by imagination. It's this combination that makes me suspect that the greatest Christian thinkers of tomorrow may rise up from the geek community. In fact you might just be one of them! So let's dig in and get started!
Normally, we'll look at several verses at once, but to start out we're going to look at just one.
Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
This brief statement, although short and seemingly simple, has major ramifications for our understanding of God's nature.
The Hebrew word used for "heavens" here encompasses not just the clouds and atmosphere of the earth, but the celestial bodies that move outside of the earth throughout the universe. God was the cause of the universe coming into existence.
Time itself, as we know it, came into existence at the same moment the universe came into existence. This means that God, who is the cause of time, must be independent of time. Without beginning or end, and not subject to change.
Since space came into existence with the universe, we can also conclude that God is independent of physical measurement. He is infinite and immaterial, rather than finite and physical.
We can also note that all natural laws originate with the appearance of the universe, and so God, who existed before the appearance of the universe, must not be bound by natural law. He is "supernatural" in nature.
So from this single sentence that begins the Bible, we can learn (just for starters) that God is independent of time, unlimited by any laws of nature, immaterial, infinite, and unchanging. And a key concept we should take from this is as follows: Although God interacts with humans, on the level of humans, he is completely different from any person we can imagine.
The Bible describes God using numerous techniques, including metaphor and allegory. The Bible also exists in written form. So from the start we should anticipate some careful thought required of us, given that we are learning about an infinite, timeless God from within the confines of time and a document composed of a finite number of words and ideas.
How does a timeless, infinite God break through the obvious communication limitations humanity has in order to reveal himself to us? The short answer is, "in stages". As we move through the Old Testament and reflect on its implications for the New Testament, we'll see that, rather than reveal his infinite being to us all at once (and destroy our minds in the process!), God has been revealing progressively more and more of himself to humanity since the creation of the first human life.
We'll encounter some things that may seem strange or even contradictory to how we typically think of God, and we'll attempt to wrestle through those difficult passages. In many cases, we'll have the benefit of additional knowledge that God revealed about himself later in time, such as Old Testament writings that fall later in history, or writing from the New Testament. But we'll also run into some things that will remain part of the mystery that naturally comes along with trying to understand an infinite, timeless, unlimited, immaterial, unchanging God.
Because of God's nature, we should expect to run into some things that seem "weird" on the surface. But the closer we look, the more we'll also see how these "weird" things we encounter reveal how privileged we are and how loved we should feel, given that this same, wonderfully "weird" God desires to have a closeness to us unlike any relationship we can imagine.