Thursday, June 30, 2011


if we aren't willing to
let our perspectives be shaken, we'll never
really learn to see

The two creation accounts in Genesis have largely been read as separate stories; but the fact that they are next to each other demonstrates that someone thought they should go together. Rather than arguing over the differences, we would do well to consider why they have been treated as they have, what this paradox of placement reveals about how the texts are meant to be read and experienced.

What if the first story is vertical, emphasizing the relationship between God and the cosmos? The second story, then, is lateral, focusing on human existence in God’s creation. Notice how the two stories hinge on Sabbath, a point at which the first story of “the heavens and the earth” is flipped and projected into a future story of “the earth and the heavens.” The ending, then, of God’s creation – Sabbath – offers a transition into a new beginning, a new creation, a time in which human work and God’s plan coincide to start the long-term work of cooperatively creating.

The problem with this reading – as seductive as it is – is that the texts don’t present a unified view of humanity. In Genesis 2, the relationship between man and woman is unequal, a major difference from Genesis 1 in which God creates both man and woman in God’s image. In Genesis 2, inequality of the genders is demonstrated in the order of creation (man first, woman second), the quality of creation (woman derived from a man-part) and the purpose of creation (woman created as “a helper”).

The two texts were put together. But why? Maybe there’s a question left un-answered in the first, a problem that has to be solved. Maybe it’s a question we can’t see because of the cultural expectations (and assumptions) we bring to both texts. We do have a key, however, and that key is the work of P. A. Bird, work that makes clear the terms used for male and female in Genesis 1:27 are “biological, not sociological.”

What if, instead of reading these stories as poetry or historical narrative, we try the genre of mythos? What if these two accounts are meant to be read as potentially fantastical stories that answer questions of identity, purpose and morality? The fantastical part, according to Jennifer Wright Knust, the part we miss, is the possibility that “male and female” is referring to one, not two. If she’s right, then like the Native American story about how the chipmunk got its stripe, the second creation account answers, among other questions, why we are no longer androgynous.

Crazy? Only in that it controverts the way we're used to reading the stories. And if we aren't willing to let our perspectives be shaken, we'll never really learn to see.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I think of playful creativity as one of humanity's greatest gifts, so it makes sense to me to consider that gift a reflection of our Creator. But I've taken it for granted. I haven't considered whether it's true. Or what it might mean.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I find that much of my work as a youth pastor involves helping students to live in rather than evade the tension of authentic living. Within my own denomination, for example, there are emphases on both simplicity and stewardship. Should I carefully steward what I have for the future? Or give away everything, taking a vow of poverty in order to live simply?

It's human to want to resolve the tension, to want to move in one direction or the other. But that kind of resolution almost always ends in an extreme (making me an extremist). It's much harder to live in the tension, to daily struggle with balance, with paradox, with the between-ness of never quite getting it right and never giving in or giving up.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

On Hell

What if there were no punishment and destruction outside of what we call "natural" consequences? What if our conception of hell is just a concept? Is it useful? Does it work? What if the purpose of God's "barking" against sin is to draw me away from danger, to draw me into relationship and community? Does that bark need a bite?

Friday, June 03, 2011


The Image of God

my attitude toward the
name of God reveals the integrity
of my relationship with God

Do I worship God, the giver of all good things? Or am I beholden to an idea, an image, a concept? How might I know which it is? How might I study my own actions and thoughts, my comings and goings and doings? How might I discern whether my worship is real?

In “Unsaying the Word ‘God,’” David James Duncan suggests that the way in which I use the name of God reflects on my relationship with God. Do I love God’s name? Or simply use it as an object of power (threatening power)? Duncan further suggests that my attitude toward the name of God reveals the integrity of my relationship with God. Am I in awe? Am I humble? Or do I simply seek to humble others? Finally, Duncan claims that my experience of Creation reflects my experience of God. Do I bask in the warm sun? Or am I prone to spend my energies calling others from a sunny spot, futilely striving to get them inside my own circle of sunlight? Do I truly enjoy what God has made? Or do I set aside enjoyment in order to advertise what I’ve yet failed to appreciate?

And what is the source of this enjoyment (of my very being)? Olivier Clement insists in “God, Hidden and Universal,” that God is love. That God is life and light and breath. That God has always been and always will be. That God is mystery.