I’ve come back. Hip-hip-hoorah.
Allow me to kick off my return to blogging with some wildly unsupportable speculation.
About a year ago I was staying in someone’s home while traveling. The guest room had a bookshelf in it, as all guest rooms should, and I took the opportunity to peruse a few titles. I discovered a Baptist Systematic Theology, and leafed through the table of contents to find this:
I didn’t look any closer at the book, and so I can’t say how well the author dealt with the topics he proposed. I do think it’s telling, however, that under the doctrine of creation the author only attempted to answer two questions: “Was the universe created or did it evolve?” and “Are humans the products of evolutionary forces?”
I think this kind of tunnel-vision when it comes to the Christian doctrine of creation is troubling, for a few reasons. First, it leads a strange kind of reductionistic exegesis of the text. Genesis 1–2 just doesn’t deal with the age of the earth. It doesn’t, and the kind of hermeneutical gymnastics needed to make it a text about the age of the earth are not consistent with humble and faithful practices of approaching the biblical text. To be sure, the age of the earth may be inferred from the Scripture, but the Scripture doesn’t address the issue head-on.
Evolution, that’s a bit different. The claims of Darwinian evolution run clean-counter to the claims of the Bible. But is that the extent of what the church has to say regarding creation? “Nope, not that.” The Bible describes the process of creation with breathtaking beauty and majesty; theology, therefore, should endeavor to say a bit more than “I disagree” to modern notions of the origin of the universe.
So I have to wonder: is this why evangelicals have a messed up view of sex and other physical pleasures? Food, drink, sex, music, sleep, play, and other kinds of physical pleasures would, theologically speaking, be dealt with under the heading of creation. But if the lecture on creation consists of “the whole thing didn’t evolve, that’s all the time we have for now,” then where does the discussion of creational good and beauty fit into our teaching? The issues I’ve mentioned—food, sex, etc.—are only brought up when the wrong use of them is employed. So Christian teenagers hear their parents, pastor say “Don’t do anything before marriage!” and then… nothing.
I should note that I don’t think this evangelical silence concerning creational good is formal, but rather functional. If you were to ask most good Christians if they thought God had given them all good things to enjoy, they’d probably respond with some variant of yes, followed by a caveat or two about pot and getting drunk. But functionally, in the every day, there’s a sense that physicality is kind of dirty, and if we can’t help being this way, we should at least have the good sense not to embrace it for God’s sake.
I asked a musician once where he would deal with music if he were to include it in a systematic theology. His answer? The doctrine of sin. How odd and sad.
The fact is that God has created the world as a temple, a mosaic, a garden, stage, a backdrop, and more beside. Creation is a gift, populated with great and varied wonders for our enjoyment and our good. Peaches and peacocks and sunsets and sex and tides and tardigrades—it all is, and there is so much more to be said about its being from God and for us than can be expressed with a few chapters denouncing evolution, or in this brief paragraph.
When we read Genesis 1–2 and understand what is being said, the last question on anybody’s mind should be “hey, how old is this thing?” How about a line from Calvin and Hobbes instead? “Let’s go exploring!”