Musings on the Creation Story

Did God create everything from scratch during a six-day period 10,000 years ago, or did God guide the creation process over a long period of time (like, millions of years)? Or did everything develop with no help from God? Typically, about half of Americans take the six-day-creation view.

But a study done through Calvin College (published on Slate) shows that when you drill down, people aren’t as certain about their beliefs. In fact, the number of hard-core Creationists falls as low as 7%. Only 15% of people are confident that the earth was created within the last 10,000 years (a core tenet of Creationism).

Disclaimer: I wasn’t there when God created the earth. But I, along with probably most evangelicals that I know, are in the “God guided over a long period of time” camp. Where are you?

All of this reminds of of an article I wrote 30 years ago, not long after I became associate editor of publications for our denomination. We had a monthly magazine at the time, and I wrote a monthly column called “RandomPokes.” One of my first columns dealt with the Creation issue. I subsequently sold it to probably a half dozen other Christian publications (mostly Sunday school take-home papers). Here it is.


Musings on the Origin of Genesis

Picture yourself as Moses. Off and on for about 40 years, you’ve been sneaking out of the Israelite camp to some vacant piece of wilderness where you won’t be disturbed. It’s just you and God. You pull out your notepad, and the Almighty starts telling you some things, events of the past which 1) you already know, 2) you’ve heard before, but down through the generations the facts got distorted, or 3) you didn’t know happened.

Sometimes you hear tales of courage, of deceit, of mighty faith–even a few love stories. Other times it’s just a bunch of names strung together by endless “begats.” You carefully write everything down. Then, the session finished, you return to the day-to-day problems of leading the Children of Israel.

Could this be the way Genesis came about? Moses wrote Genesis, and he got his information from God. But Moses didn’t bother telling us the details. Did God reveal certain stories through dreams or visions? Did He lead Moses to some engraved tablets buried in the desert? Or did the Almighty just reminisce out loud while Moses scribbled everything on a notepad?

I don’t have the foggiest. But since it was left to the imagination, I prefer the Notepad Theory.

You’ve probably seen the movie “The Ten Commandments,” with its memorable scene where God gives Moses the tablets. Our hero, portrayed by Charleton Heston, Hollywood’s all-purpose Bible character, cringes against the mountain while ten specially-effected lightning bolts strike a rock wall, ultimately forming the two stone tablets. It’s a spectacular scene. But that’s not how I feel it occurred.

I don’t want to limit God’s power; He’s certainly capable of lightning bolts. But on a one-to-one basis, I think God acts in more commonplace ways. He doesn’t need to turn on the theatrics, especially if that person is attentive, like I’m sure Moses was. Granted, the Burning Bush episode was a pretty dramatic way for God to introduce himself to the future Deliverer. But after that, I’ll bet God never had trouble getting Moses’ attention.

So, without a single shred of evidence, I picture a much more peaceful Mt. Sinai than what Hollywood filmed for us. No wind and rain, no thunder and lightning, no angels singing or trumpets blaring. Just God and Moses atop the mountain on a clear, sunshiny day. And when they say good-bye after 40 days, Moses descends with the sacred tablets cradled in his arms.

That’s how I think God revealed the Genesis story to Moses, too. Universal Studios would show us an old man being buffeted by wind and rain, and cringing in fear while lightning strikes all around him. But I see Moses sitting on a rock on a moonlit night with a notepad on his lap, scribbling as fast as he can while God reminisces about In the Beginning.

I suppose some of the stories were familiar to Moses, passed down by Israelites from generation to generation. But a lot of the information had to come directly from God. Some of those stories probably astounded Moses so much that he couldn’t wait to get back to camp so he could tell everyone what he had learned.

I can imagine him exclaiming, “You mean this Methuselah guy lived 969 years!”

Or interrupting the story of Jacob and Esau to say, “I didn’t realize it was Rebekah’sidea to steal Esau’s birthright!”

Or, after hearing about the Tower of Babel, saying, “So that’swhy people speak so many languages!”

Or shaking his head in amazement–“Wow! A boat big enough to hold two of everykind of animal?”

One particular session must have stood out far above the rest.

Picture yourself as Moses again. You’ve seen scores of miracles in your time, some totally mind-boggling, like the parting of the Red Sea, the pillar of fire, the earth opening up to swallow Dathan and his rebellious crew, etc., etc. So the story of your ancestors, though interesting, is pretty believable and maybe not the kind of stuff best-sellers were made of.

But then one day you’re told something completely new, something you’d never really thought about before. You sit down on a rock with your notepad and God says, “Today, Moses, I’m going to tell you how I created the world.”

We’re all familiar with the seven days of Creation, Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden. But until Genesis, not a single piece of Scripture existed, so this was all new to Moses. Maybe he and everyone else back then just assumed the heavens and earth had always existed. Now he learns differently.

Imagine being the first person everto hear how the world–the universe–began. That the earth was once “without form and void.” That God spread His creative acts over a tiny week’s time, with the creation of life alone covering two of those days.

I’m not sure that my little mind could have taken it all in. The fact that the first chapter of Genesis contains so few details may mean that it was even a little too much for Moses. I’m sure I couldn’t have handled it if, at the same time, I had to deal with thunder and lightning.

Like I already said, I don’t really know how Genesis came about. I’m just guessing. Maybe God placed the knowledge in Moses’ head so that when he started writing, everything came out like God wanted it to. Maybe the whole Genesis story was already known, and Moses just went around compiling all the available information, with a large dose of divine inspiration to help him know what to use. Maybe there’s another explanation.

But then, maybe Moses did grab a notepad and sneak off into the wilderness to be alone with God and listen to Him speak. I’d like to think so, anyway.

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