January 17, 2008
by: jovial_cynic

image: solar flare (cc) kittykatfish

In previous posts in the cynical theology section, I mentioned that Genesis 1:1 is not just a chapter heading. In that single verse, we see the heavens and the earth created -- quite a powerful statement that places God at the helm of the universe. The event is said to take place "in the beginning," which leaves us without a specific reference to time. The event could have taken place 13 billion years ago for all we know; the text does not prohibit such an interpretation. This is fortunate -- freedom from the often-suggested 7-day timeline (young universe theorists) allows the text to align with what science has demonstrated to be the fundamental laws of the universe.

Age of the universe aside, by the time Genesis 1:2 rolls around, the universe exists. The cosmos, with galaxies, stars, planets, asteroids, comets, catastrophic collisions are all interacting, obeying those fundamental laws. God's laws, if you will. And however long they've been interacting, it is in Genesis 1:2 that we see the beginnings of specific interaction between God and His creation.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

There are themes in the Old Testament that occur over and over, as though God is retelling the same story through many casts of characters. Perhaps this is to drive home a message about His nature, about our own nature, and about how we are meant to relate to one another. When Jesus walked the earth, He spoke through parables -- simple stories that were repeated in different ways, using different metaphors. God, it seems, is a storyteller. And He wastes no time weaving the stories together.

A couple of things to note in the Genesis 1:2 passage:

1. We have land.

While Moses and company have no concept of round planets, the notion of earth exists. The hebrew word for earth here implies land, and the description (formless and void) implies a barren wilderness wasteland, or place of chaos. Interestingly, this is not an inaccurate description of sinful man, prior to conversation or enlightenment.

2. We have water.

Water is first implied when the text states that "darkness was over the surface of the deep," where "deep" is a hebrew word for abyss, or deepest part of the sea or body of water. The verse continues to say that the Spirit of God moved over the surface of the waters. Over, and not in. It's interesting that the abyss is mentioned, because when you read through the account of Jonah, he cries out from the belly of the fish: "the great deep engulfed me." (Jonah 2) The "deep" here is the same one in Genesis. And to add further interest, Jesus hints at His own death and resurrection in His reference to the "sign of Jonah" (Luke 11:27). Jonah, in the fish for three days -- dead, and risen again. There is a symbolic link between the abyss and death. And when you take a look at baptism, the symbolism is maintained: submersion under water represents death, and coming out of the water represents new life.

And at the edge of the wilderness wasteland that is the life of every man, God hovers over the surface of the waters, above the abyss of death. The text states believers, prior to their transformation into new life, were dead in their sins (Eph 2:1-2).

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

We were dead in our sins - a wasteland, and in death... in the abyss, we were unable to reach up to God. How can the dead raise themselves up?

Fortunately, God had a plan. Genesis 1:3 is where we see God reaching out to His creation. More coming soon.


carman niesley said:
Though some may have problems with an old earth theory, we really don't have anything to fear whether it's a young earth or old earth. It's the same God who created it.

True science will never contradict the Truth simply because true science is part of the Truth.

I wonder if some are afraid of the truth because it will expose some false belief systems.

January 17, 2008

Ken said:
Another example of God reaching out to his creation is
Deuteronomy 13:13-15 -

"If you hear that in one of the towns, there are men who are telling people to go and worship other gods, it is your duty to look into the matter and examine it. If it is proved and confirmed, you must put the inhabitants of that town to the sword. You must lay the town under the curse of destruction, the town and everything in it. You must pile up all its loot in the public square and burn the town and all its loot. That town is to be a ruin for all time, and never rebuilt."

This is of course before God sent his only (john 3:16; yadda yadda,)...
Maybe God was a different person in Deuteronomy? Personally; I see the dichotomy of character between directives of homicide VS love and forgiveness to be irreconcilable differences.

Apparently God matured a bit between Deuteronomy and the time he decided to have a son.

January 18, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Bear in mind that the town to which God is referring is a town inhabited by the children of Israel, who are under the Mosaic law. God's command to not worship other gods (that'd be commandment #1) is scoped to the nation of Israel at this point in history, and for Israel, the established agreement was that such activity was punishable by death.

When Jesus submitted to execution at the hand of the Romans, recall that he was charged by the Jewish religious leaders for claiming oneness with God; he referred to himself as the I AM. By Mosaic law, to which Jesus absolutely adhered, this was also punishable by death, as it was considered blaspheme to equate God with a man.

The fact that Jesus did submit to execution means that He upheld Mosiac law -- nothing changed. By Christian theology, it is the very death of Christ that satisfies the Mosiac requirement of death for sin.

There is no change in God; I think you've got the story scoped incorrectly. That sin is punishable by death has been the story from the event in the garden, and continued up until the time of Christ, and after Christ, the message of reconciliation is possible because of Christ.

January 18, 2008

wonder said:
hey, glad to see you posting on Genesis again.

I was watching this thing on discovery(science) last night about supermassive black holes and it made me think of your interpretations. I don't know how accurate the Discovery Channel-style science programming is, but it was really cool, anyway. What an amazing Creator we have!

As someone who believes that God may well have authored or directed evolution, I wonder if the "difference" between OT & NT depictions of God is not, as sometimes characterized as a change in God's character, but the product of God's interaction with an evolving humanity.

January 18, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
...I wonder if the "difference" between OT & NT depictions of God is not, as sometimes characterized as a change in God's character, but the product of God's interaction with an evolving humanity.

I don't think so. I think that what people view as a change in character is actually a change in scope. Going from macro to micro makes things look different, but they really aren't any different; it's the same stuff. Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun." I'm inclined to agree.

January 18, 2008

Ken said:
I disagree.
There is a change in God. It is quite clear when one is not burdened with the clouding filter of blind faith.

Reconciliation because of Christ's death is possible, made possible by the message of love. Back to John 3:16 again; God LOVED, and so gave his son.

Macro vs micro aside, old testament god is not a nice guy.

"If your brother, or your son or daughter, or your beloved wife tries to secretly entice you, telling you to go and worship other gods, gods of people living near you, or far from you, or anywhere on earth, do not listen to them. You must kill them. Show them no pity. And your hand must strike the first blow. Then the hands of all the people. You shall stone them to death."
- Deuteronomy 13:6-10

In 2 Samuel 24 God tells David to conduct a census, and incites David against Israel. After conducting the census David feels guilty and prays to God to forgive him for taking the census that God instructed him to.
He's given three options "Shall there be three years of famine on your land? Three months of fleeing from your enemies as they pursue you? Or three days of plague on your land?"
David chooses the plague, and 70,000 die.
Mind you, I have read this book before. I don't see the relation to Mosaic law here, unless Mosaic law forbids population counting...

January 18, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
I don't believe I'm burdened with the clouding filter of blind faith either. And for the sake of friendly discourse, let's not apply ad hominem attacks.

What I mean by micro/macro is that, in the case of the Deut. 13 passage, the audience is still Israel. And you'll read at the end of Deuteronomy that Israel agrees to abide by the established law.

Now, it should be made clear that the law lists the punishment for sin, but it does not often require the punishment. The punitive system is similar to the US legal system, where we refer to maximum penalties, and the actual penalty is anywhere from a pardon to the full consequence. For instance, the law states that violation of the command to honor your mother and father is also punishable by death. While the law permits such punishment, you'd be hard pressed to find a parent in the text who takes their kid out to be stoned to death. So mercy has a place in the text, and we see God's mercy on his people throughout the entire Old Testament, except in times of rebellion, which is another topic.

Interestingly, Jesus references that same Deuteronomy passage when He states that he did not come to bring peace, but rather a sword, and that whoever loves his brother, mother, son, etc., more than Him isn't worthy of Him.

Regarding 2 Samuel 24, read the parallel account of 1 Chronicles 21, and see an interesting difference. The NASB reads, "Then Satan (literally adversary) stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel." The NASB also renders the 2 Samuel 24 to state that the anger of the LORD burned against Israel (and this happens during rebellion, as context reveals). There is a punishment here, and so in the same way God later raises up Assyria and Babylon to crush Israel for their disobedience, God appears to be doing the same, but through the sin of Israel's own king.

And it is sin, if you look at the context. The 1 Chronicles 21 passage says that Joab says, "May the LORD add to His people a hundred times as many as they are! But, my lord the king, are they not all my lord's servants? Why does my lord seek this thing? Why should he be a cause of guilt to Israel?"

Joab is aware of some violation, as is David (else he would not have repented), and while the specific sin is not mentioned, the previous chapter of 2 Samuel lists a psalm of David that seems awfully prideful, which may reflect David's attitude towards God.

That God weeds out the wicked from among His people who are in covenant relationship with Him doesn't seem like that big of a pill to swallow.

January 19, 2008

M. Hyland said:
There are other examples of this Yahweh character being cruel and capricious in contexts other than the establishment and maintenance of mosaic law. I don't have my Old testament on hand to make a reference with however, but you all are pretty versed on your verses right?

Anyway, a lemma; If "man in god's image" is true, And;
If Humans experience changes in personality and temperament when they become parents;
Then; God's sudden niceguy act is related to his sudden change in parental status.

But this lemma falls to a few short problems, and needs patching I can't do first thing in the morning. I.e. If you like the idea of the trinity, or if you don't like modern psychological theory, or if you don't like extending the metaphor "in god's image" to such lengths. But it works for me.

January 20, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
Max - God's/Yahweh's interaction with particular Old Testament nations does often appear cruel and capricious. I agree. But when I get to Genesis 9 and 10 (it may be a while), I think you'll agree that it's a bit less capricious than it appears on the surface, and that "cruel" might not be the most accurate way to describe Yahweh's actions.
January 20, 2008

Ken said:
Josh, to insult you was never my intent. I hope you are aware of how much I value you as a friend. On to the friendly discourse...

We're regarding a book accepted as truth by you. A book that you are well aware does not fit the definition of "fact."
Even though current scientific methods of observation will not confirm the existence of the invisible man in the sky, you believe not only is he real, but that he spoke to many hebrews, told them to write things down, and they did.

I said "burdened with the clouding filter of blind faith" not as an insult, but to quantify how some statements by or of God can and will be slipped under the radar of logic.

1 Chronicles 17:9
"I will establish a place for my people Israel, and they will not be disturbed anymore. Violent men will not oppress them again. I will subdue all your enemies." Was God wrong here? Or did he just get mad at Israel again? He must have known about that whole Germany thing.
God made this statement, if we are trust in the infallability of the Talmud/Torah/Bible and the people who passed it down to us, then God made this statement. According to Mosaic law, the jews must have been misbehaving again, and as punishment the reich runs roughshod over 6 million of them.

Jesus was persecuted by the Jews for claiming that he was the "I AM."

Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called — one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
Deuteronomy 4:39 "know this day, and lay it to thy heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and upon the earth beneath; there is none else."

I can see why anyone could read that and understand that everyone and everything is a part of the I AM... unless their paradigm does not allow for it.

We discussed once a passage from the book of Thomas. There are many perspectives on why this text; attributed to Thomas the apostle, and about Jesus, was not canonized.

A quote by Jesus from the gospel of Thomas - "He who finds the interpretation of these sayings shall not perish."
We discussed this, my interpretation being that there is no ONE correct interpretation, your interpretation was that there was ONE correct way.
I remember us arguing this, and years later being pleased to hear that you were learning to read the hebrew scripture. The complexity of the semitic languages; specifically hebrew is astounding. How each letter in a word can contribute to the overall meaning of the word.

i don't even know where I'm going. I've lost my ability to debate effectively. too many years since I was actively using my brain.

I just think a warning bell should go off, when during the creation of the universe; there are fruit bearing trees and vegetation growing, sans photosynthesis, because 4 days have gone by, and he hasn't even created the sun.

January 23, 2008

jovial_cynic said:
I know you weren't attacking. It's just that your statement could be taken that way by other readers. ;)

Anyhow, regarding Israel, God, and Germany -- the text actually states that Israel is "on hold," in a manner of speaking, until the fullness of the gentiles has come into salvation, after which comes the end of days, which reinstates Israel.

Regarding Genesis, I trust that you'll find my next few posts on the creation account quite satisfactory. I think we'll come into reasonable agreement.

As for the I AM texts... I'm not quite sure what you were saying there, but that's a bit of a side discussion we can have over e-mail, perhaps.

January 23, 2008

add comments. you are limited to 5,000 characters:

<< your name
<< your email (won't be displayed)
<< your website / location
<< type these numbers: 755804 (plus 0NE)

(html -enabled- / no scripts)

<< Comments temporarily disabled >>

Rules: Don't spam. Don't harrass. Don't be a jerk. Your IP address ( will be logged.