The God Who is There: Part 1 – The God Who Made Everything

Genesis 1-2, Genesis 1-2

Listen or read the following transcript from The Gospel Coalition as D. A. Carson speaks on the topic of Biblical Theology from Genesis 1-2.

Hello. My name is Don Carson. You are watching the first in a series of 14 talks given in Minneapolis in early 2009. These talks are designed to help you find out what the Bible says. More accurately, they’re designed to introduce you to God as he is talked about in the Bible as he discloses himself in events, in narrative, in worship, in love, in holiness through the pages of this book.

If you know nothing about the Bible but would like to learn, this series is for you. If, quite frankly, you are, in principle, skeptical about whatever the Bible says, your first step ought to be finding out what it says, so this series is for you too. If you have become a believer in Jesus only recently and worry that you know far too little about the Bible, this series is for you as well.

Some of you will watch the video series or listen to the corresponding audio series, perhaps, in your car and nothing more. That’s fine, but some may want to dig a little deeper, but before you start, let me warn you. Whether you are beginning this series out of the mildest curiosity or are embarking on it out of a passionate hunger to know and trust and worship the God of the Bible, I am quite sure at least some of you will find yourselves strangely drawn to this God. You may find in delighted and shocked astonishment that you can no longer push him away. Some of you he will capture.

You’ll probably find it easier to follow this series if you have a Bible at hand. I’ll explain in the series how the Bible is organized and how to find things in it as we go along, so sit down and let me have your undivided attention for a few minutes as we begin at the beginning and think about the God who made everything.

It is an enormous privilege for me to be with you for this series, The God Who is There. Before plunging into the first talk, it might be helpful if I tell you where we’re going in this series. There was a time in the Western world when many people had read the Bible reasonably thoroughly; therefore, they knew how it was put together.

Even those who were atheists were, shall I say, Christian atheists. That is to say the God they disbelieved in was the God of the Bible. Their understanding of the God whom they found incredible was nevertheless in some measure shaped by their reading of the Bible, but today, of course, there are a rising number of people who really don’t know how the Bible works at all. They have never really read it, so the first place to begin in trying to understand what Christianity ought to be, who Jesus is, is to start again by reading the Bible.

There are lots of ways in which we could, in theory, talk about Christianity. We could, for example, do a brief survey of the history of the Christian church, or we might start analyzing what Christians in various parts of the world believe, but the best way to get at it is to examine Christianity’s foundation documents.

There are 66 of them. They vary in length from one page to small books. They were written over a period of 1,500 years in three languages. The biggest part was written in Hebrew, a very tiny part was written in a language like Hebrew called Aramaic, and the last part was written in Greek. So all of our Bibles today, the Bibles we hold in our hands and pick up and read at leisure, of course, are translations of what was originally given in these languages.

These 66 foundation documents are astonishingly diverse in form, in literary genre. Some are letters. Some are oracles. Some are written in poetry. Some are laments. They have genealogies. They have sections that are said to be oracles from God himself. Some are horrible wrestlings as believers try to understand what on earth God is doing. Some are written in a genre we just don’t use anymore. We call it apocalyptic literature (we’ll come to that next week) with astonishing symbolism that is visually striking.

On top of that, they are astonishingly varied as well in terms of accessibility. Some parts you can read and anybody with an ability to read a novel today can make sense of the text, and other parts are full of symbolism that is archaic, no longer used today, and out of date because it is located at a certain time in history.

All of these foundation documents have been put together, and when they’re put together they form the Book. That’s all Bible means. It’s the Book. It’s the book of Christianity’s foundation documents, and we who are Christians insist God has disclosed himself supremely in the pages of these documents.

In this series, I shall sketch in what the Bible says so as to make sense of what Christianity means, what Christianity looks like if it is constrained by its own foundation documents, because truth must be said, very often Christians themselves have abandoned those foundation documents and betrayed the very heritage they have received. The Christian claim, however, is this Bible discloses the God who is there.

In this first session we reflect on the God who made everything, and we begin by the first book in this collection named Genesis. These books are put together with chapters and verses. That is, if you open the Bible anywhere you’ll find a break with a big number (that’s the heading of a chapter) and then some small numbers.

If you’re not familiar with the Bible, if you’ve never read it at all, the easiest thing to do to orientate yourself is to open up to the first few pages where you’ll find in the series order within the Bible all the names of the books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and so on all the way through. The whole 66.

Then you’ll get the page number, and you can find the book, and then you’ll see there is a chapter number and a verse number. If I say something like, “Genesis 1:26,” I mean the first book of the Bible, the first chapter, and verse 26. Over the course of these 14 sessions, I’ll be referring to a lot of books of the Bible, a lot of passages (You won’t have time to look them all up, but it’s all recorded. You can look them up later.), and that’s how you find them if you have not become familiar with handling the Bible in the past.

We begin, then, with Genesis 1. I’m not going to read the whole chapter, but I want to pick up parts of it and into chapter 2. This is what the opening line of the Bible says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’ And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” Then in successive days, various things are created by this God who says, “Let there be this,” or “Let there be that.” Occasionally, there is a refrain added. At the end of verse 10: “And God saw that it was good.”

Eventually, you get to day five and the water teems with living creatures, and birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky. “God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds …” The sixth day: “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind.” At the end of the description, “And God saw that it was good.”

“Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created human beings in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’ Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

In the rest of chapter 2, there’s a kind of expansion on the creation of human beings that we’ll come to in due course. Because much of twenty-first century culture is convinced contemporary scientific thought is fundamentally incompatible with the opening chapters of Genesis, I had better say something about the approach I adopt here.

First, there is more ambiguity in the interpretation of these chapters than some Christians recognize. Some Christians are convinced, for example, this pair of chapters read responsibly insists the world is not more than 4,000 years older than the coming of Jesus. Others insist it is entirely compatible with vast ages.

Some think each day represents an age. Others insert a huge gap between verse 1 and verse 2. Some see this as a literary device: “Creation week is a week all right, but it is symbol-laden and full of other things rather than describing a literal week.” Others devote their energy to comparing it with other creation accounts in the ancient world in which it was written.

In the Babylonian era, for example, there was a document called The Enuma Elis, which describes the creation of the world, and they try to say the Christian documents are basically shaped along the lines of those Babylonian myths. There are huge diversities of opinion amongst Christians, let alone amongst those who want to write the entire account off. What shall we do with this?

I hold that this is transparently a mixed genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical details. That is, by history I don’t mean that which has been written down at the time but that which takes place in space/time/reality. Yet, it is full of demonstrable symbolism, and sorting out what is symbolic and what is not is very difficult. How we shall negotiate that I will tell you in a moment.

Secondly, there is more ambiguity in the claims of science than some scientists recognize. Recently, of course, the media has focused on the fresh literary adventures of people like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others. Together their writings comprise what is now sometimes called the New Atheism. Correspondingly, there are robust responses that have been written of various sorts.

All of these books are predicated on the assumption of philosophical materialism. That is, all that exists, all that can exist is matter, energy, space, and time. Nothing else. So that anything that claims to go beyond that or belong to some domain that cannot be reduced to that must necessarily be dismissed, even laughed at, as the trailing edge of an antecedent superstition that was declared foolish a long time ago and should immediately be abandoned.

Yet … and yet.… I personally know many front-ranked scientists who are Christians. I have spoken in many universities, and one of the surprising things I have observed is if I go to nearby local churches and meet some of the faculty in the universities who are attending these local churches and are committed believers, there actually tends to be a preponderance of science teachers and math teachers and the like over against arts and psychology and English literature teachers.

It’s not really that anybody who is a scientist can’t be a Christian. Statistically, that really is, with all respect, nonsense. I’m impressed, for example, by the little book by Mike Poole, God and the Scientists, or another one edited by Dembski called Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing.

There is more debate going on than is sometimes perceived, but even if you allow some understanding of origins that belongs to the dominant modern paradigm in which our entire known universe developed out of a big bang something like 15 billion years ago from highly condensed, unimaginably condensed, everything, a big bang that eventually became our universe.… Even if you subscribe to that, whether under the aegis of God or not, sooner or later you’re forced to ask the question, “Where did that highly condensed material come from?”

Here, some get very, very clever. There’s a book by Alan Guth called The Inflationary Universe, and he tries to work it out that this very, very condensed material which ultimately exploded in the big bang emerged out of nothing, and if you say the physics doesn’t work, he says, “Yes, but at the big bang there is what physicists call a singularity.”

A singularity is an occurrence in which the normal laws of physics no longer work. That means we don’t really have any access to them. At that point, it’s the wildest speculation, which causes a critic by the name of Berlinski to write, “A lot of stuff that gets into print is simply nonsensical. Alan Guth’s derivation of something from nothing is simply incandescent [horse manure].” He uses another word for manure, but I spare you. “Don’t tell me you’re deriving something from nothing when it’s transparently obvious to any mathematician that this is incandescent nonsense.”

In other words, there are complications in the domain of science that show there is not simply a solid wall, a solid front, that makes it impossible for Christians who want to bow to the authority of Scripture and Christians who really want to learn from science to talk intelligently with each other.

Thirdly, whatever one makes of intelligent design, one of the dominant debates of the day, as a scientific theory, there is a version of it which I find almost inescapable. Let me explain. During the last 25 years, there have been groups of people (mostly Christians but some non-Christians amongst them as well) who point to what they call irreducible complexity.

That is, structures in the human being that are so complex it is statistically impossible to imagine how they could have come to be by chance or chance mutation or mere selection of the fittest or any of the standard appeals that are made in traditional Darwinism. This irreducible complexity demands you postulate a designer. There are some non-believers who argue that point, and of course, there are many Christians who argue that point.

Then some argue back (many unbelievers and believers), “Yes, but that might simply mean we don’t know enough about the mechanisms. If you start filling God in wherever we don’t have an explanation, then you’re putting God into the gaps of our ignorance, but as we learn more the gaps get filled up and God gets smaller. We don’t need a God of the gaps!”

So the debate continues. Whatever you make of that debate.… It’s interesting, and the literature is already voluminous. What I find interesting is many, many writers who are not Christians in any sense by their own declaration sometimes speak of their marvel, almost to the level of what I would call worship, at the unimaginable complexity and splendor and glory of the universe.

There’s a fascinating book by Martin Rees who titles his volume Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. These numbers are bound up with physical realities such that, if the realities these numbers described were just a little higher in number or just a little lower in number, the universe as we know couldn’t exist. Just exactly the right distance between one particle and another particle at the subatomic level. Just six numbers. How did that happen?

Others describe the astonishing complexity of the eyeball, and although they may be completely philosophical materialists in their orientation, they are so impressed by the complexity and glory of it all that they almost begin to treat nature as a god. I would want to say from a Christian point of view their instincts are jolly good except there is a God who has disclosed himself in the glory of what we call nature. I’m not sure it’s right to argue from the complexity and glory of the six numbers or the woodpecker’s tail feathers or the eyeball that you can infer in some demonstrable, powerful way that God exists.

I don’t think at the end of the day God is the end of the argument, the conclusion at the end, but if you begin with this God, the testimony to his greatness in what we see all around us is heart stopping. It’s mind-boggling, and it takes an enormous act of will on the part of the most cynical of scientists instead to look at it all and say, “It’s just physics. Stop admiring it. Don’t do that. There’s no design. It’s just molecules bumping into molecules.”

Finally, let me say where I’m coming as we work through these texts. About 30 years ago, a Christian thinker by the name of Francis Schaeffer wrote a little book called Genesis in Space and Time. What he argued was to get rid of some of these heated endless debates, one of the ways to begin is by asking, “What is the least Genesis 1 and following must be saying for the rest of the Bible to make any sense?” I don’t want to tell you everything I think these chapters are saying. It would take too long in any case. We only have one hour to devote to these first two chapters.

What I want to suggest to you is, whatever the complexities of symbolism and literary genre and the relationship to science and so forth, there is an irreducible minimum these chapters must be saying for the Bible to have any coherence at all. That’s what I want to lay out for you in the next few minutes. What do these two chapters (Genesis 1 and 2) tell us? First, some things about God. Secondly, some things about human beings. Finally, some things about how Genesis 1 and 2 fit into the whole Bible and into our lives.

1. Some things about God

First, God simply is. The Bible does not begin by a long set of proofs to prove the existence of God. It does not begin with a bottom-up approach, nor does it begin with some kind of adjacent analogy or the like. It just begins. “In the beginning God …” If human beings are the test of everything, this makes no sense at all because then we have the right to sit back and judge whether it’s likely that God exists.

Evaluate the evidence and come out with a certain probability that, perhaps, a God of some sort or other exists. Thus, we become the judges of God, but the God of the Bible isn’t like that. It just begins, “In the beginning God …” He is. He is not the object whom we evaluate. He is the Creator who has made us which changes all the dynamics.

This is bound up with some developments in Western thought we should appreciate. Before the Renaissance, even right through the early part of the Renaissance and really down to the time of the Reformation, most people in the Western world presupposed that God exists and that he knows everything. Human beings exist, and because God knows everything, what we know must necessarily be some small subset of what he knows.

In other words, all of our knowledge (because he knows everything) must be a subset of what he knows exhaustively and perfectly. That means all of our knowledge, in this way of looking at reality, must come in some sense by God disclosing what he knows, by God disclosing it in nature, by God disclosing it by his Spirit, by God disclosing it in the Bible. That was simply presupposed.

But with the rise in the 1600s of what is now called Cartesian thought under the influence of Rene Descartes and those who followed him, the way of thinking about knowledge changed and the axiom that more and more people based their knowledge upon was the axiom Descartes introduced to us, although others had said something similar earlier, “I think, therefore I am.”

He thought that was a foundation for knowledge. You couldn’t deny you were thinking even if you were thinking. The very fact you were thinking showed you exist. He was looking for a foundation that Christians and atheists and Muslims, secularists, spiritual types could all agree was indisputable, and from this foundation and other approaches he, then, gradually built up a whole system of thought to try to convince people to become Roman Catholics, but notice how his axiom runs: “I think, therefore I am.”

Two hundred years earlier no Christian would have said that very easily because God thinks. God knows everything. If we exist, then it’s because of God’s power. Our knowledge and even our existence are finally dependent on him, but this side of Cartesian thought, we begin with I. I begin with me. That puts me in a place where I start evaluating not only the world around me but morals and history and God, so God now becomes simply, at best, the inference of my study. That changes everything. The Bible doesn’t run along those lines. God simply is.

Secondly, God made everything that is non-God. God made everything else. This introduces an irreducible distinction between Creator and creature. God is not a creature. In this absolute sense, we are not creators. His existence is, thus, self-existence somehow. I can use the word. I don’t really understand it very well. That is, he has no cause. He just is. He always has been. Whereas, by contrast, everything else in the universe began somewhere, whether in a big bang or in human conception or somewhere. God made it all. That means everything in the universe, apart from God, is finally dependent upon God.

Thirdly, there is only one of him. This emerges strongly in the Bible. God openly says, “Let there be this,” and “Let there be that.” God made everything. He saw that it was very good. Later on in the Bible this point is stressed again and again. For example, in verses Jews reverently recite to this day called the Shammah (you find it in the fifth book of the Bible, Deuteronomy, chapter 6) we read the words, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” There is only one of him.

Yet, even in this very first chapter there is a hint of complexity to his oneness. It’s just a hint. It’s hard to know exactly what it means, but it is quite striking. We read through the account of creation, “God said this,” and “God said that,” and “God said the other.” Then when it comes to human beings, we read in verse 26, “Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image …”

That could be a royal “we.” If you listen to BBC Broadcast you might have listened to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II saying we and us where the referent is clearly herself. Even the comics pick it up and picture her saying, “We are not amused.” It could be conceivably a royal reference, a kind of royal editorial we, but it is striking it is introduced here when human beings are made and that it goes on not only to speak of the first person plural when God says, “Let us,” but “in our image.”

You can’t build too much on that yet. It is strange language just the same, especially in a Bible that insists again and again and again that there is but one God. Later on, this will get filled out in quite a variety of ways, as we’ll see. In particular, he makes creatures who bear his image. Let me re-read verses 26 to 28.

“Let us make human beings in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds of the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created human beings in his …” Singular “… own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. And God blessed them …” We’ll come back to thinking through what this language of image bearing means in a moment.

Fourthly, God is a talking God. The first action that is described under this general rubric, “God created the heavens and the earth,” is “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ ” You could understand this to be a kind of metaphorical way of saying God brought it into being by his power and he didn’t utter any words.

Fine. It could be, except that once Adam and Eve are made, then he actually addresses them and gives them some responsibilities. “This is what you are to do. This is what marriage will look like.” He speaks to them, so the God of the Bible in the very first chapter is not some abstract, unmoved mover, some spirit impossible to define, some ground of all being, some mystical experience. He has personality and dares to disclose himself in words human beings understand. Right through the whole Bible that recurs and recurs and recurs.

We’re told, in the fifth place, everything he makes is good. Very good even. As the account unravels, you discover here there is no hint in chapters 1 and 2 of death or decay, of butchery, of malice, of hate, of one-upmanship, of arrogance, of pride, of destruction. There is no hint of any of this. It is very good. Constantly, regardless of all the complexities about God’s sovereignty in a world where there is suffering and the like (we’ll come to more of that as we progress in this series), the Bible insists God is good, and the foundations of it are already here in the first chapter.

Finally, he comes to an end of his creative work and he rests. That is, he stops doing it. It doesn’t mean he’s saying, “Am I tired! I really have to sit down and put my feet up.” That is rather misreading the text. He comes to the end of his week of creation, however we understand this week, and at the end of his creative work he stops, he rests, and designates this seventh day in a special way. These are some of the things about God these opening two chapters say right on the surface of the text.

2. Some things about human beings

First, they were made in the image of God. In one sense, human beings are creatures, and thus, they have in common the attributes of other creatures. We know this today from genetics: what percentage of my genes is shared with a chimp or a piglet. When the piglet dies and returns to the dust, he does exactly what I do. I return to the dust too. We’re part of this created order.

If you keep stressing the continuity and keep stressing the continuity, then eventually you might come out with a kind of position Peter Singer adopts at Princeton University who wants, in effect, all animal life to have, so far as it’s possible to work out at all, exactly the kind of rights human beings have because, after all, we’re genetically the same stuff. We are physical beings. They’re physical beings. They are born, they live, they die; so also is our course.

Genesis doesn’t see things quite that way. It insists human beings and human beings alone are made in the image of God. As you can imagine, that expression image of God has over the millennia generated endless discussion of what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Philosophers and theologians have written long tomes saying, “It has something to do with the facility of language,” or “It has something to do with our self-identity, of our reasoning processes, of love that might be altruistic, of our capacity to know God, and so on and so on and so on.”

But if you were picking up this book for the first time and read it and didn’t know anything about all of these debates, I suspect your approach to this image of God language would be a little simpler. It becomes a kind of master concept which is filled in as you go along. That is, we reflect God and the ways in which we reflect God will get filled in as the Bible unfolds.

From this first chapter, God is a talking God. He speaks to human beings, and they speak back to him. There is a commonality of speech, of propositions, of knowledge that is not merely felt but that can be articulated. There is also something of creativity. Of course, our creativity is not like God’s, but God makes things.

He makes things out of nothing. We don’t do that, but there is implanted in human beings as a reflection of God because we are made in his image a certain creativity. We work with our hands. My wife does spectacular needlepoint and silken metal thread and quilts and things like that. My daughter does the cooking. My wife does this sort of thing. I like working with my hands with wood. Some write.

Some are remarkably creative in their physicality. I have a son who just looks at every new physical challenge that comes along and plunges in, and he is almost an artist as he learns scuba diving or spelunking in a cave or whatever the new challenge is. He’s in it and he’s almost artistic in his creative ability to explore some new challenge. Where does that come from? By and large, that is not characteristic of elephants, black widow spiders, or rocks.

Then there is the capacity to work. God is said to work all of this creation week and then come to the end of it. What he gives to the man and the woman are certain responsibilities to work in this world, to tend the garden, which is teased out across all of Scripture as something honorable. Christians should never descend to the place where working at the manufacturing floor or working as a secretary or working driving a bus or doing research chemistry is secular.

“I do that to pay the bills, and then I’m supposed to be spiritual on Sunday, but what I do on Sunday and spirituality is just for Sunday. On Monday I go back to my reagents as I try to develop a new chemical that will fight cancer.” Rather, if it’s God’s universe and we are made in his image, as we work our work, too, reflects him and is offered back up to him with integrity and gratitude. It is significant because we are made in the image of God. It changes our perspective about who we are.

Although we have to recognize there are differences between God and us, there are other things where we are similar where we reflect him. Later on in the Bible God will say things like, “Be holy for I am holy,” so proper image-bearing ought to reflect God’s holiness. We’ll come to what holiness is a little later on.

God never says, “Be omnipotent, for I am omnipotent.” That is, “Be all powerful and do anything you choose to do because I am all powerful.” There are some differences between the God who is the Creator and we who are creatures. There are some differences. We’re not God! We’re his image-bearers. We’re made in his image, and we reflect him in certain ways.

God, in the Bible, is not only the Creator; he’s finally the sovereign over all, but the fact that he puts these human beings, this man and this woman, in charge over the rest of the created order, not to rape it, not merely to exploit it, not to become ecologically selfish, but to be God’s own stewards over the good world God has made really makes us (I don’t know what else to call it) vice regents.

We’re made in his image, and as God has made it all and we’re under him and charged with the responsibility of looking after it, we’re reflecting something of God. Even the capacity to know God, to delight in him, is wonderful. There’s a book by Peter Williams called I Wish I Could Believe in Meaning: A Response to Nihilism. That is, a response to the view that we’ve merely emerged from the primordial muck. Where is the meaning in this?

From the Bible’s point of view, meaning in life is bound up with the fact that we were made by God and for God in his image with an eternal destiny. It changes our perception of what human beings are. Otherwise, we slink into what one philosopher has called self-referential incoherence.

What he means by this is we compare ourselves with ourselves, we have no external standard by which anything should be judged, and we cannot find an anchor for our being anywhere. We then drown ourselves in temporary pleasures or pursuit of money or self-promotion, but there is no anchoring that locates us and gives us a meaning beyond ourselves. There’s no scale. Human beings were made in the image of God, and in this connection they were made to work, to rule, to serve as God’s stewards, to be surpassingly God-centered.

Secondly, they were made male and female. In chapter 1, where the creation account is first given we’re told God created human beings in his own image (1:27): “… in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,” but in the second chapter where the creation of human beings is expanded upon, not only their commonality (what they hold in common) but their differentiations are also exposed. Chapter 2, verse 18:

“The Lord God said [when Adam alone lived], ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’ ” Older English versions have “a help meet for him.” Hence, we get our word helpmate, a helper suitable for him. “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.

But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

So while the opening chapters insists human beings, male and female, were equally made in the image of God, it also insists the woman was made as a helper, but they come together in one union, a sexual union, a marriage union which, as the story unfolds, develops a separate unit generation after generation with the man leaving his family, the woman leaving her family, and settling into a new relationship, the two becoming one.

That’s a little different picture of marriage than animals merely doing it, or ancient Near Eastern harems with the most powerful monarch having the most, or woman being nothing more than chattel and possession or a decidedly intrinsically inferior being. She comes from the man. She is one with him. Different transparently, but here there is a vision of marriage which ultimately becomes a model of a whole lot of other things throughout all of the Bible.

Thirdly, they were innocent. We read in the last verse of chapter 2, “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” I’m sure you have seen these line-drawing cartoons of Adam and Eve in the garden where there’s a little snake coming and an apple hanging down from somewhere. In these line diagrams, you don’t want to make them indecent so the woman’s hair covers her breasts appropriately and fig leaves and other branches cover the man at the appropriate slots and so forth. Then there is some one-liner to it and we all giggle.

What does nakedness signify here? Do you know there is a theory to nudist colonies? I know some nudist colonies are merely an excuse for rounds of orgies (I know that), but the best nudist colonies, if I may speak of nudist colonies on a moral scale, had a certain kind of philosophy to them.

The idea was if you could be completely open and transparent in one domain, then sooner or later you could foster openness and transparency in every domain, so we begin with physical transparency (complete openness) and maybe down the road we’ll all become wonderfully open, candid, honest, caring, loving people. It never works, but that’s the theory, and it’s that association that is behind this text. These two had nothing to hide, and therefore, nothing to be ashamed of.

Tell me, you men, would you like your mother, wife, or daughter to know absolutely everything you think and feel? You women, would you like your father, husband, or son to know absolutely everything you think and feel? Even across the same genders we hide all sorts of things, don’t we, because we have so much of which we ought to be ashamed.

What would it be like never, ever, ever to have told a lie? Never, ever, ever to have nurtured bitterness? Never, ever, ever to have succumbed to controlling lust? Never, ever, ever to be burning up with hate? Never to be puffed up in arrogance? Always to be loving God with heart and soul and mind and strength? Always, always to be loving the other as yourself? Then you’d have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You’d be naked. No wonder the very word Eden means delight.

3. Some things about how Genesis 1 and 2 fit in the whole Bible and in our own world.

Finally, here I’m merely going to prime the pump. It will prepare the way for things we do in the rest of the series. Some things about how Genesis 1 and 2 fit in the whole Bible and in our own world. Very quickly.

First, this is a necessary background to chapter 3 that we’ll look at in the next hour. Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Genesis 1 and 2 come before Genesis 3. Without understanding how good everything is, then we cannot speak of what happens in the chapter we sometimes call the fall to show what rebellion looks like.

Secondly, this doctrine of creation (God made everything) actually comes out again in the writings after the coming of Jesus as new creation and, ultimately, a new heaven and a new earth. That is, looking back to the old creation which, by means we’ll see, succumbed to rebellion and hatred and idolatry and sin, what is finally needed is for God to do a new creative act to begin again to create people over again, and that, in the writing of some of the New Testament writers, is called new creation.

We press toward a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. We’ll come to that in our very last session next week. The terminology is all drawn from Genesis 1 and 2. Likewise, Adam becomes the progenitor of the race which falls away in all kinds of ugliness and decay and self-preferentiality, and idolatry. Jesus is called the second Adam. That is, he begins another humanity, a new race that works on quite different principles. Christians must belong to this second Adam or all the Bible speaks about as the gospel (the good news) just makes no sense at all.

This theme of rest will continue, as we’ll see. The theme of a new Eden will continue, as we’ll see. Above all, this vision shapes our worldview. For example, in pagan polytheism (that is, in views of the world in which there are many gods) the gods have different domains of operation. Here’s one God who has made it all.

It’s different from the worldview, for example, of hedonism where the point of the exercise is simply to find as much pleasure as you possibly can and then you die. Here the pursuit of pleasure is bound up with God himself. We were made initially by God and for God, and the best, the highest pleasure is a God-centeredness secular hedonists cannot possibly imagine. Their pleasures are too fleeting, too small, and too narrow.

Then pantheism teaches us all the created world and God are all part of the same thing. There’s no differentiation. Thus, “I am God and you are God and we’re all in this God-existence together. I’m really quite a spiritual person, and it’s the crystals that are vibrating in my system that actually make me feel transcendently other.”

I’m not mocking. This is a frame of reference that many adopt. It simply isn’t the worldview of the Bible. God made everything, which brings us perhaps, for our purposes, to the most fundamental and striking reality of all. It’s these two chapters, what the Bible says about creation, that grounds the notion of human accountability, of human responsibility.

In other words, why should I obey God? If he wants to take me in directions I don’t really like, then I can choose other gods or invent my own. I can sing, “I did it my way.” I can simply declare my independence. Who is he to boss me around? Unless he made me, he designed me, and I owe him everything: life and breath and everything.

Such that if I don’t see it that way, then I am out of line with my Maker. I am out of line with the One who designed me. I am the one who is fighting against myself as God made me. For all of human accountability, all of human responsibility before God is grounded, in the first instance, on creation. He made us, and we owe him, and it’s for our good that we recognize it, not because he’s the supreme bully but because without him we wouldn’t even be here.

And now we’re set up for the Bible’s analysis of what’s wrong with us. Let’s take a break.


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The back-to-school season is stressful for moms and dads. New rhythms of school, sports, and other extracurricular activities can quickly fill up a family’s already busy calendar. Where do busy parents look for resources on discipling their family well? Aside from prioritizing church, what else can Christian parents do to instill healthy spiritual habits in their household?

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Get a FREE eBook to strengthen your family discipleship!

The back-to-school season is stressful for moms and dads. New rhythms of school, sports, and other extracurricular activities can quickly fill up a family’s already busy calendar. Where do busy parents look for resources on discipling their family well? Aside from prioritizing church, what else can Christian parents do to instill healthy spiritual habits in their household?

Matt Chandler and Adam Griffin cover these questions and more in Family Discipleship: Leading Your Home through Time, Moments, and Milestones. And we’re excited to offer this book to you for FREE as an eBook today.

Click on the link below to get instant access to your FREE Family Discipleship eBook now!

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