Perhaps the most foundational doctrine in the Christian faith, with the most far-reaching implications, is the doctrine of Creation.
Genesis 1-3 is incredibly well known the world over and has been a contentious passage for many in the scientific community over the years. But when we understand some of its origins, some of the reasons it was written, and the way in which it flows into the rest of the biblical narrative, we may be able to ascertain more of God’s creative vision and in some way let that influence our politics.
There is general consensus among scholars that at least part of the creation narrative was written during the Babylonian exile when Israel was experiencing oppression as aliens in a foreign land.
During this period, the Israelites were beginning to grasp the gravity of their situation. They had not lived according to the law of God and had forsaken their covenant with him, yet only now, dispossessed and far from home, did the reality truly sink in.
They were surrounded by Babylonians, who, like many cultures in the Ancient Near East, worshiped an array of gods. They had their own understanding of how humankind and the rest of the world came to be, their story was called ‘Enuma Elish’. It was believed that the earth and all it contained was a product of a violent feud between the gods, the victorious god Marduk used the dead bodies of the fallen gods to create different aspects of creation. Humanity was created out of dead god blood by Marduk to do all the difficult and demeaning work that the gods did not want to do.
Humanity existed as a result of war, designed for slavery.
The Israelites had a radically different understanding of the nature of the relationship they had with their creator God.
In contrast to Enuma Elish, the creation account in Genesis articulated a belief that although human kind did not take part in the initial creation (and so cannot claim rights of exploitation over it), God did work in conjunction with humanity in his ongoing creative work.
Humanity existed as a result of creativity and love, designed for relationship. This is made explicit in Adam’s task of naming all the living creatures on earth, since the name of something was synonymous with the essence of the being itself; this was rightfully God’s task, yet he delegates it to humanity.
This special function does not mean that we can be excessively domineering over creation (as no doubt we have been), but we have been given the capability and opportunity to work with the creator in bringing about his Kingdom on the earth.
Creation did not cease on ‘the seventh day’; it is a continually ongoing process through out history, encompassing Jesus’ redemptive life and death, and now our story as the Church, as those who want to see God’s Kingdom of justice and freedom become a reality in our society.
God never had a plan B, the creation narrative introduces us to a God who loves his creation and gives it immense value as he continues to sustain it and is intricately involved through salvation history.
This revolutionary way of perceiving ourselves and our relationship to God and to the world around us, grounds us in a story that gives a foundation and direction to our politics.
Grasping more of what creation is all about will not make every political decision easier, more often than not political decision makers already try and work towards notions of justice and freedom, the real challenge for them is what that looks like in reality.
Whatever individual decisions are made, policies informed by biblical creation will be ones that empower people to exercise their creative potential in the cause of combating oppression and alienation and advocating justice and freedom, giving dignity to all humanity and valuing our world.(Author: Sam Buck)
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