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Monday, 7 March 2016

In the Begining God Created... or Meadow?
Tragically, these five words have become a battlefield, when their purpose was to be a meadow for the soul.

The conflict has been caused by different schools of interpretation. Some who are scientists first and Christians second, buy into every contemporary theory of science, believing that present science is final science. Then they don their Christian hats and go about trying to fit the Bible to those theories.

Others, professing to be Christians first and scientists second, believe that the Bible is a science text book, from which can be read a full account, a full theory, a full history of the material universe. They proceed to do exactly what the scientists do and develop extensive scientific theories from the data of the Bible.

These two camps can so often turn the soul-nourishing words of Genesis 1-3 into a battlefield.

If the mistake of the former is to be scientists before they are Christians, the error of the second group - with whom I have by far the greatest sympathies because they are committed to the primacy of Scripture - is to believe, wrongly, that the Bible is a science text book. The God who wrote the Book of Scripture also wrote the book of creation. And we must consult both together, not the one without the other, to understand God's wonderful material world. The Bible is sufficient but not exhaustive.

If for a moment we lay aside arms, wonderful truth emerges from these opening five words.

God is first
First of all, God comes first. Not even yet, God the Creator - as if he was only defined by what he created, but simply God, the great Almighty Being. Before any material or immaterial thing was, God was. He alone is the Everlasting Self-existent One, the fount of his own existence. At one time there was nothing but God. He did not need something to be glorious. And surely He ought to be the great object of our thoughts and worship. Instead of allowing our minds to drift into worry or to be filled with the small things of this passing world, let us turn our minds to God, the Supreme Reality, who has through his dear Son become our Father in heaven.

Spirit comes first 
"God is Spirit" we read in Scripture, and so we learn from the opening words of Scripture that spirit comes before matter. Our world is pre-ocupied with matter - and matter is good for God created it - but there is more to living reality than matter. There is spirit, there is soul, there is the invisible world. A pre-occupation with matter leads directly to an idolising of things and time. Things are what count most. This world is everything. Make sure you are putting away enough for a good pension so that you can live a comfortable life in old age. Buy your own home. Keep up with technology. Download FitBit.

But spirit came before matter, and our souls will outlive our mortal bodies. We are not arguing for the priority of soul over body like the Greeks did, just a rebalancing of our priorities in a matter-mad world. "Is it well with my soul?" is the pre-eminent question for every human being.

Mind comes first
This may seem like a more philsophical point, but it needs to be understood: a thinking mind came before matter. God was before the universe was. The implications are vast and make perfect sense. There is no way you can end up with this amazing wonderful complicated beautiful world without a planning mind before it and behind it. In spite of all the protestations to the contrary, a great Mind planned and created the world. But secondly, you cannot move from matter to mind. Mind can give birth to matter, but matter can never give rise to mind. Matter + the laws of physics + chance cannot produce complexity. Even the pagans are beginning to see this. Thomas Nagel - a prominent atheist philosopher - has endured much criticism for pointing out this ABC truth.

Standing outside these hot debates, for us this simple point - mind comes before matter- makes simple common sense. We look at the beauty around us and it points to a glorious Creator with an amazing mind. What a mind has God! What a Planner, what a Designer!

When I think, for example, just of the amazing spacesuit I am "wearing" as I write. Spacesuit? Everywhere else in the universe I could live only with the help of a very extensive life-support system (and remember the rest of the universe is basically 100% of the universe).  But here in this thin shell that surrounds the earth, a few miles below sea level to a few miles above it, I can leave the house, breathe, walk around and live. The bisophere is nothing short of a miraculous spacesuit.

Genesis doesn't tell us everything, we must go further, we must move to John 1, the Genesis account of the New Testament. An old Russian hymn, translated by Stuart Kline helps us to end this meditation:

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
consider all the works thy hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
thy power throughout the universe displayed:

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God; to thee,
How great thou art, how great thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God; to thee,
How great thou art, how great thou art!

When through the woods and forest glades I wander,
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,
and hear the brook, and feel the gentle breeze;

But when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
sent him to die-I scarce can take it in
that on the cross, our burden gladly bearing,
he bled and died to take away our sin;

When Christ shall come with shout of acclamation
and take me home-what joy shall fi1l my heart!
Then shall I bow in humble adoration,
and there proclaim: My God, how great thou art!