Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Earth was Formless

Continuing with my study of Genesis today I'm looking at the second verse in the bible. "Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Again, while I don't think that the creation passages are meant to give us a mechanical understanding of the universe, I can't help but find it interesting that our current view of the origins of the universe begins with a similar description: formless, empty, dark. I read a recent article that said "the very early universe was full of atomic hydrogen, a period called the "dark ages" because it was completely opaque, Schawinski said. Some mysterious event "re-ionized," or turned the hydrogen into charged particles called ions, such that light could travel freely." In other words, in the beginning it was dark. Even though we can't conceive of a "big bang" without light, that's actually what happened. There was no light. Check out step 5 of our current big bang theory.

The rest of the creation account is about God changing this state. We move from formless to form, from empty to full, from darkness to light. God brings form and order by separating things. He fills the empty sky with the sun, moon and stars and the earth with countless creatures. He gives the command to multiply and fill the earth. These are themes that will continue throughout scripture and they inform us of who God is. God is one who brings order to chaos, and one who values life and wants life abundantly. God's blessings, as His creation, overflows, nothing is to be left empty or void. 

It's also interesting that creation begins with God's spirit hovering over waters. There are countless creation stories from across the globe that talk about the beginning being from waters. The waters represent the chaos of the beginning that God brought order to. It may refer to the chaotic swirling universe or literal water or both at the same time. How else would you describe galaxies in simplistic terms, without going into mechanical detail? Swirling dark waters sounds about right to me.

Regardless of the mechanics, what's important is that God brings order to chaos. A look at the universe confirms the miracle that the universe exists at all, that antimatter lost out to matter, and even more so that life exists on earth. In a universe that is constantly losing energy and moving toward chaos, we find the earth a moment of extreme order and life. Later this imagery of water is used in the flood when God reverses creation and wipes the earth clean. It's used to represent death, for example Jonah goes down into the waters, down into Sheol. It is death, but also the path to purification (think Red Sea, baptism). 

A lot is setup in these few verses! God likes patterns and He is a master author. One of the reason I'm convinced Scripture is more than just the work of people is the depth and connectional nature of these themes. 

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