A VINTAGE CHRISTIAN MANIFESTO OF HOPE • 5God Spoke and 'BANG,' There It Was
0—Progressive: Let’s Get Vintage!
1—Manifesto: Resist Progressive Christianity, Reclaim the Fundamentals
2—Vintage Faith: 10 Things to Know About Vintage Christianity
3—The Bible: Did God Really Say?
4—God and gods: The Mars Hill Effect
5—Creation: God Spoke and ‘BANG,’ There It Was?
6—Humanity: We’re Not Talking Monkeys
7—Homosexuality: An Honest Chat About Its Reality & Revelation
8—Sin: We Really Are that Screwed-Up
9—Jesus: Gandhi on Steroids or God Made Flesh?
10—Cross: A Love Note or Butcher’s Block?
11—Resurrection: Better Than a Zombie
12—Church: No Church No Christ, Know Church Know Christ
13—Universalism: Not All Dogs Go to Heaven
14—Hell: For Real and Forever?
15—Heaven: A Place on Earth?
16—The End: Go Backwards to Go Forwards
Genesis 1 vs. Origins of Species; Moses vs. Charles Darwin.
The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes.
Of course that last “versus” is the seminal court trial that catapulted America into one of the more divisive intellectual debates: creation vs. evolution. It’s a debate that’s affected the Church as much as the broader culture asking questions like “Where did we come from and why are we here?” and “Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Progressives and fundamentalists have tended to answer this question in one of two ways: the former has tended to try and fit the Scripture Story with the Science Story, while the later has forced the Science Story to support the Scripture Story
But what if this aspect of the vintage Christian faith followed neither the contours of liberalism nor fundamentalism? What if instead how we understand creation should be something like this:
The Story of Creation
Imagine that you are an Israelite who is lounging around somewhere in the Sinai wilderness post-Exodus. It is dusk and you are sitting around a campfire with the elders of one of the tribes of Judah.
As you are sitting there a boy wanders over and tugs the robe tails of one of the elders. With the random curiosity that can only come from a child the boy asks, “Mister, where did all of this come from?”
“What do mean, young Jada?” the elder replies.
“I mean, can you tell me how the birdies and bugs and my mommy and daddy came to be…how the world was made?”
With the tenderness and care that can only come with age, the elder picks up the boy, plops him on his lap and says, “Ahh, Jada that is a very good question…a very good question, indeed. Let me tell you.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…”
In the beginning God was Michelangelo in front of the unformed slab of marble before David emerged; he was Mozart before the keys of black and white on the verge of a magnificent never-before-heard-of concerto.
Like Michelangelo and Mozart, God created. God breathed all of this into existence by his word. Out of the chaos and blankness of our unformed reality, God brought into existence all that we see and hear and taste and smell and touch. Out of nothing God created all of this.
With a single word, an array of colors beamed across the blank canvas of nothingness and burst forth like a grand Forth of July celebration. Out of the array of colors God separated the light from the dark, declaring what was light day and what was dark night. God looked upon this initial handwork, sat back and declared it good. That was Day One.
Then, across the canvas of light and dark the Creator spoke into existence a vault, a sort of roof that separated water above from water below—the sky. God rolled open the great big sky and called it the heavens. Day Two, complete and good.
On Day Three, the Creator gathered together the waters beneath the heavens in order to form a space of dryness. He called the dryness land and the wetness he called seas. Then at the Creator’s word came lush green grass, seed-producing plants of every kind and magnificent trees. End of the Third Day, a good day.
Light and dark, the heavens, sky and earth. These newly formed vessels now awaited their Creator to fill them with glorious objects and beings.
Next our Creator went back to the sky and filled it with lights of every kind and two great big lights: one to rule the night and one to rule the day, the sun and moon and stars. These two great lights would help keep track of the seasons, days, and years. When he retired his brush for the day, God turned around and saw all that he painted was beautiful and good. That was Day Four.
Now that things were just right, now that our Creator had crafted the perfect environment for living things, he beckoned forth creatures from every corner of the seas and heavens. From the seas bubbled up the most magnificent sea creatures imaginable. Out of the heavens flew birds of great variety and creativity.
Then God blessed these creatures saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas and let the fowl multiply in the earth.” That was Day Five, another good day.
After his great show of creativity in the sea and sky, the Creator turned his attention to the land itself. Onto the surface of the earth came animals of every kind. He made every kind of wild animal, crawly thing, and beast that you could dream.
An array of colors and sounds collided from all earth’s corners as sea creatures, heavenly fowl, and land animals all played their part in God’s grand performance, all reflecting the majesty and glory and creativity of their Creator.
At the end of his performance God looked across the spectrum of all he had created thus far and saw it was all good.
But then a hush fell across the entire expanse of creation. An anticipation began to well up within the belly of the universe for all was not yet created. Just when Creation thought all had been formed, our Creator dipped his hand into the earth.
What was he doing? wondered Creation.
Beady little eyes from every corner watched in eager expectation. Wings flapped as they hovered over the earth in wait. The wild beasts could hardly contain themselves and stomped in anticipation for the curiosity the Creator was causing.
At just the right moment, when everything thought they would burst with excitement, it happened: God’s hand retreated from earth to reveal a being not yet seen before, yet all too familiar.
On the surface of earth laid a being that God called Human. It was in an entirely unique category of its own, yet it mirrored the Creator that brought it into existence. Out of the dust of earth, the Creator molded the Human out of the soil in his image and likeness. And bleeeew.
The Creator bent down and gave his very own breath to the Human in order to bring it to life. The Human became a living creature, whom God separated into Man and Woman.
The climax of the story had finally been achieved! The crowning achievement of God’s creative work had been accomplished in the creation of humanity.
After this crowning achievement, God stepped back and looked at all he had accomplished and decided everything was just as he intended things to be. From light to heavens and seas to earth, from plants to fowl and sea creatures to wild beasts, and at last the Image of God. Everything was just right.
After the last work of art in his wonderful world had been crafted, God decided that all he had created was very good.
The next day, the Seventh Day, God was finished. God blessed the Day and hallowed it, because he created everything he intended to create. Then God rested. On that day God set aside his brush and sculpting wheel after he crafted everything he intended to craft. This was Day Seven.
Not ‘How,’ But ‘That’
What a beautiful story!
This is how our elder Israelite and little boy Jada would have understood it: as a story telling us that the world was created and who created it.
That’s not the way many modern Christians have viewed the opening chapters to the Holy Scriptures, though. Many well-meaning Christians have used Genesis 1 and 2 to argue against evolutionism and scientific rational explanations for the origin of species.
They believe these chapters tell us how God created the universe. So they’ve built museums and written books and curriculum that hold to this step-by-step view. In fact, some have even said failing to believe in a six-day literal creation undermines the cross and salvation.
For my money, I don’t see why God would have needed six days—let alone six billion years—to create the universe. But that’s really not the point of the narrative, anyway.
Of course competing with the vintage Christian faith and the Scripture Story is what I like to call the Science Story, which progressives embrace whole hog. As one progressive put it, the creation narrative we find in Genesis 3 “unfolds as a kind of compassionate coming-of-age story.”1 Earth’s story is one of emergence, so too is humanity’s.
Now what do I mean that science is a story? Science tries to explain where we came from, why we’re screwed up, and how we find resolution to our screwed up story. It’s what we call a worldview, just as the Christian faith itself is a worldview.
Both have a view of the world.
So science begins with the assumption there is no God. It begins with the worldview of naturalism, the belief that creation is the product of time, energy, and chance. It believes that this—what we can feel, taste, see, hear, touch—is all their is and came about through certain processes and chance.
The beginning of the Science Story says that BANG—all of this just started and developed and evolved over time under the right circumstances and through a series of mistakes and successes. Accordingly, we humans are merely one kind of animal with peculiar dispositions. And the only hope we have is this life; there is no hope for life after death. One person has called this non-religion a “quasi-religion,” as it “plays some of the same roles as a religion.”2
The vintage Christian faith has understood creation very differently. This Story tells us that when God created the world it was good. It was just as he wanted it to be. Creation was whole. The world was created with care; it was created on purpose and with purpose. It was created by a loving God who was intimately involved in the process.
This part of the vintage Christian faith is a vital piece of God’s Story of Rescue because it reminds us who created all of this. The way the historic Christian faith has understood creation isn’t how the universe was created, but that it was created by a Creator.
So a vintage Christian cares more that we were created and who created us.
Especially because how we understand creation has great bearing on how we understand ourselves—which is next up in our vintage Christian manifesto of hope.
1 McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, 49.
2 Alvin Plantinga, Where the Conflict Really Lies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), x.