Creation Stories Evolving

by Rev. Ellie Barrington - October 29, 2013 A reflection on Genesis 1 & 2 Listen to the audio recording

“In the beginning, when God created… the earth was a formless void….And God spoke…” Well, that’s one story. The one positioned first in our Bible, dated about 500 hundred years before the Christian era, composed as a poetic liturgy by the Priests of the Temple of Judea’s Southern Kingdom.

It is a story about the world beginning with God’s voice creating the order of reality…and putting humanity in our place on that cosmic map. The Priestly class understood reality in terms of a hierarchical order of being. The worldview they painted was in its time, a believable and beautiful explication of how God made their world. The ancient Hebrew people, repeating this story, would have been inspired with awe for their all-powerful God, who stood outside the world, mapping their destiny amidst the masterpiece of the cosmos.

But this Priestly story is not the only story. In Genesis it is followed by a very different Creation myth, the Jahwist story, composed three or four centuries further back. God’s work in the Order of Creation was differently interpreted then, in the Northern Kingdom of Judea, where there was no Temple worship and no Priests mediating people’s relationship with their God. This second but older Creation myth is less formally poetic and more relational in its focus, revealing a God with his hands in the mud forming us. A God who is up close and personal, deeply concerned for the loneliness of his created beings.

Here is a storyteller’s version of the Genesis Chapter 2 Yahwist Creation story:

Reading of Genesis 2:4-23

Why did the Hebrews choose to preserve both Creation stories? Perhaps because, taken together, the two stories reveal a Creator God both bigger than the world as we know it, and in this world with us up close. Transcendent and imminent. Awesome and intimate. Together, the two myths show us that we are both small creatures within God’s magnificent universe, and each uniquely special to God. It conveyed to the people that they were both dominant in the world order – and mortals made of mere dust. The two stories read together offer a creative tension that reveals some deep truth about humanity and God.

So we inherited two Creation stories. Almost all cultures have at least one. We looked at a few in our Be-Loving the Bible Again group Monday evening. Creation stories are myths, cultural conveyors of meaning, not factual descriptions of history – although those who determinedly cling to that notion are currently splitting Christianity in two.

These primal narratives of Creation try to answer universal human questions like: Where do we come from? Why are we here? What is God like and what would God like us to do? Such stories serve to unify, inspire and ‘purpose’ a people. Creation stories are meant to lead communities back to our very beginnings, in order to help us understand where we are now – and offer us a spiritual springboard into the future.

Are our biblical creation stories helping us in this way today? This week, one Trinity mom wrote to me: “these ancient creation stories give me the heeby-jeebies.” Thinking people have big problems with the words we hear. A punitive, male God, the blaming of Eve, the dominion of man over all the animals…the conflict between a seven day Creation, as insisted on by the literalists, with evolution and all of science and learning. Ever since Galileo and Darwin, our creation story has been spinning off its axis of believability, and thus losing its power to show us our way forward.

For these reasons, many modern theologians are calling for a new Creation myth, to speak truth through story to our modern minds in this postmodern age.

Maybe it is time to add a third Creation myth to our canon? A myth that grasps at the awesomeness of Creation as we now know it, situating our relationship with God in today’s scientific and cosmic world-view. A story that reveals God as the generative force behind the big bang that is still unfolding our universe – a God-force always co-creating through the natural world. We need a myth that calls us to see our puny and yet critical place today in 14 billion years of evolution, becoming now the consciousness and the conscience of the earthsphere. A sacred story that will inspire us to work in God, taking up our role for the next evolutionary leap, a transformation of humanity to become collectively conscious, co-operating with All, to save the earth’s population from extinction.

For those with scientific imaginations, there is now “The Universe Story” composed by mathematical cosmologist Brian Swimme and the great eco-theologian Thomas Berry. It is an awe-inspiring spiritual and scientific “celebration of the unfolding of the cosmos, from the primordial flaring forth to the Ecozoic era.”

For those looking to experience a more liturgical story, Barbara Marx Hubbard composed “The Evolutionary Communion: Embodying the Sacred Story of Creation.” Monday evening we followed her through a personal embodiment of the creation story, in a meditation on her Wheel of Co-Creation. I wish we had time now to take you through her whole Creation story. I encourage you to go on the net and click on one of her videos.

I’ll just read you the beginning…of a 21st Century Creation story that will perhaps inspire us and give our lives meaning….

We are gathered here together as a deep communion of pioneering souls, from every race, nation and religion, who experience within ourselves the emergence of a universal human, a co-creator of new worlds.

Our crisis is the birth of a universal humanity.

Let us remember and embody our birth story,

Our sacred narrative of Creation:

Out of the mind of God Out of the Cosmic Field

Out of No Thing at All is arising everything that was, is and will be.

The Evolutionary Spiral is unfolding…



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