This post was inspired by a conversation with some friends about a book called The Lost World of Genesis One by John Walton.
What if you could read Genesis 1 and utterly miss the point?
What if someone told you Genesis 1 has a lot in common with other (older) creation tales from the ancient world?
What if Genesis 1 reflected ancient cosmology rather than modern science — hence light which appears before stars do and a heavenly vault that separates waters above from waters below?
What if ancient cosmology was more about the purpose of things and less about how they came into being? What if Genesis 1 was more about God bringing order and function to the cosmos than how it came into being?
To put it another way, what if Genesis 1 is about the why of creation rather than the how?
What if Genesis 1 is a really story about things which had no function, purpose, or meaning until God gave them one?
And what if the pinnacle of creation wasn’t reached on day six, when God made people?
What if Rick Warren is right? What if it’s not about us?
What if the people who added chapter breaks to the Bible got the very first chapter division wrong? What if the first few verses of Genesis 2 are actually part of the first creation story?
(Did you know there were two creation stories in Genesis?)
What if day seven, which comes at the start of chapter 2 but is actually part of the first creation story, wasn’t just an afterthought? What if it’s more than a footnote to the other six days? What if day seven is the whole point of the story?
What if God resting is what it’s all about?
And what if “resting” was ancient-world-speak for when a deity took up residence in his temple?
What if God “doesn’t live in temples built by human hands” because he already has a temple — one built with his own hands? What if the reason the scriptures say that God “is not far from any one of us” is because the earth is his temple?
What if Isaiah was right? What if the earth is God’s footstool, his resting place, his dwelling?
What if that’s the point of Genesis 1, that God made a home and invited us to share it with him? What if that’s the real point of the story, not how old the earth is or how it came into being?
What if getting sidetracked by debates over the age of the earth or evolution is more than just a way of embarrassing ourselves in front of scientists? What if we’re missing the whole point of our own story?
What if the whole rest of the Bible is about God reclaiming his cosmic temple so he can take up residence — so he can dwell with us — once again?
What if that’s what he was doing when he carved out a patch of earth to share with the Israelites? What if that’s what the apostle John meant when he said Jesus “became flesh and made his dwelling among us”?
What if that’s what God started doing on a global scale when he sent his Spirit to fill his church?
What if that’s what he’s going to do at the end of the story? What if that’s why the last book of the Bible depicts a holy city — God’s city — coming down to earth?
Do you get the feeling that if we miss the real point of Genesis 1, we could miss so much else?
If we get the beginning of our story wrong, could we get the ending wrong too?
What if this is really what’s at stake in the endless debate over creation and Genesis 1 — not just our scientific credibility (though that’s on the line too) but our ability to embrace the story the Bible actually wants to tell us?
All of which, by the way, is why we need books like this . . .