Monday, February 9, 2015

Order from Chaos

Today we begin reading some of my favorite stories in the Bible, the Book of Genesis. The pre-Abram stories are not history book material, but contain a wealth of ancient Jewish theology. They tell us the basic truths about God and God's relationship to the world. The inspired author is also a compiler drawing together material from what scholars know were three earlier sources, traditionally designated as Eloist, Jawist, and Priestly. These are far more than folk tales or legends. In the creation stories we understand what it means to be human.

Today we begin at the beginning. The universe tohu-vbohu, a mishmash, an orderless blackness. God creates the world by speaking. And here we have our theology of the power of words. The best modern image would be that of the photon. Words were understood to be little packets of energy whose power was proportionate to the speaker. Cannot a parent destroy a child with a word? Or your boss or spouse decimate you? The Bible opens by telling us of the power of the particular human gift of language. While other animals may have rudimentary forms of sound communication only the human being as true language. And we must be exceedingly careful how we use this gift.

Second the story tells us that there is order to the universe. The Priestly account of creation divides the act of creation into six days, two groups of three. In the first three the stationary objects( as they understood the world), the second three, days 4-6 contain moving objects that correspond to days 1-3.

Day 1- day and night. Day 4- the sun, moon and stars
Day 2- sky and sea. Day 5- birds and fish
Day 3- dry land. Day6 - animals and humans

There is nothing random or coincidental about the universe.

As Catholics ee don't have a problem with Big Bang or evolution. We just know who was behind it all. The Bible tells us that the world was brought into being in order over long period of time. God days could be millennia. God's time is not our times.

Actually what I find most fascinating is that what science now tells us corresponds to the Bible, the stories are written in different language. Unlike the myths of the pagan neighbors the universe is not the result of waring Gods. And the movements of the world are not capricious. There is order. There are laws that govern. It is predictable.

Tomorrow: where do we fit in this well ordered universe?