Gospel Rhythm: Creation

Here is the Powerpoint presentation from Dr. Bryan Hollon’s sermon this past Sunday. I have also included the outline of his notes that is included in the Powerpoint just in case anyone has trouble with the file or doesn’t have Powerpoint.

After sharing a great illustration from Aesop’s Fables about the importance of context, Dr. Hollon proceeded to give the historical and cultural context for when and why the Creation account was written and the implications of that context for the story as we have received it. What follows is his outline from the sermon. I encourage you to read thoroughly because there are some foundational insights in these notes about our view of Scripture, Creation, Identity/Image Bearers, and God that are crucial to our life together at City Hope and our good future together.

I also hope you will be able to join us as we explore the other three Gospel Rhythms in the coming weeks.

 

  1. Christians do not believe in a “dictation theory”
    1. Muhammad
    2. Joseph Smith
  2. Christian particularity –

Mystery of the incarnation

  1. The question for us is: what particular context lies behind the creation story?
    1. Temple destroyed in 6th century
    2. Must now become a people of the book – OT takes shape
    3. Much of what we see in Genesis is meant to distinguish the Hebrews form others and especially from the Babylonia
  2. This is a picture from the Enuma Elish
    1. Many Gods – sun, moon, stars, rivers, oceans, etc. are all gods.
    2. Gods reflect Babylonian culture
    3. They have very human relations with each other and bear children
    4. They plot and scheme and go to war with one another
      1. In fact the heavens and earth are created out of the murdered body of a Babylonian God
    5. And humans, in the Enuma Elish, are created to be nothing more than slaves for the Gods.
  3. We need to stop and think about this. What does this creation story say about the Babylonian view of the world? And about themselves in it? About where they come from and where they are headed? How does this story shape Babylonian hopes and aspirations?
    1. It says, only the strongest and most violent will overcome.
    2. It says that sin, evil, and violence are written into the very fabric of creation.
    3. It says the world is chaos – it comes from chaos, and it will remain in chaos.
    4. This is not a good world – there is no peace.
    5. And humankind is merely a pawn in the hands of violent Gods.
  1. Now, I think we can see the contrasts between these two stories almost immediately.
    1. In Genesis, there is only one God, and everything that is made owes its existence to him.
    2. There is no violence here – no struggle through which the world is made.
    3. In Genesis, God simply speaks and creation springs forth.
    4. This is an orderly world, and most importantly, it is a good world.
  2. One of the things that we can easily miss in an ancient book like this is the use of numbers as symbols. Like all ancient cultures, the Hebrews believed that certain numbers had important symbolic value. Thus, the numbers 3, 4, 7, 12, 24, etc. signified goodness and wholeness. The number 6 stood for incompletion.

When we read Genesis 1 in the ancient Hebrew language, paying attention to the use of numbers, the message is very clear.

  • 7 Day Framework for Creation
  • The Word God occurs 35 times (7×5)
  • Earth – 21 times (7×3)
  • “and it was so” and “God saw that it was good” – 7 times each
  • Genesis 1:1 contains exactly 7 words
  • Genesis 1:2 – exactly 14 words
  • We should stop and think about this for a moment. The Hebrews had been destroyed. Their world was anything but good. But the God of their ancestors had given them a worldview unlike any other in the ancient world. And they clung to it in hope.

The Number 6 = incompletion

Humankind created on the 6th day

To find completion only in the seventh day of rest in God

 

Again, the contrast between the babylonian and the hebrew account is striking.

  1. The Babylonians believed that humans are made to serve as slaves to the gods.
  2. In Genesis, humans are the pinnacle of creation, and after they have been made, God says – not only that it was good, but that it was “very good.”
    1. Humans have been made in God’s own image, and this tells us a great deal about how we are to treat one another.
      1. According to Genesis, humans are of the utmost value.
      2. If we have all been made in God’s image, then who among us is dispensable? When is it ever ok to be callous about the suffering of another?
      3. When is it ever right to objectify another person, or to commit violence against someone who bears the image of God?
      4. Also, in Genesis, the image of God is shared communally. God doesn’t create the man alone in his image or the woman alone. Rather, it is humankind, both man and woman together, who bear the image of God. This truth is supported in Genesis 2 when Adam is portrayed as incomplete until his companion has been made.
    2. Having been made in God’s image also suggests much about our relation to God’s world.
      1. To be an image bearer of God is to serve in God’s place in the world. We are like vice-regents or stewards, made to do God’s work on his behalf.
      2. Genesis says that we have “dominion” which means not only authority over but responsibility for God’s good world.
      3. We have been made stewards to care for the world that God has made.
      4. In other words, creation care is written right into the fabric of the biblical story from the very beginning. Creation care is one of those no-brainer issues for Christians, or at least it should be.
    3. So why have humans been made, according to Genesis?
      1. We have been made for worship – on the 6th day.
      2. We have been made to give and receive from one another – to love, in other words.
      3. We have been made to obey God and to serve as his stewards in creation.

And, of course, we have been made to flourish and to enjoy peace – this is the point of all the 7s.

 

  1. Context helps us avoid missing the point.
    1. The Hebrews were not concerned about our scientific questions.
  2. Context can also help us to see just what the point is:
    1. Our world is not so different from the ancient world.
      1. Violence, Sin, Suffering.
      2. And all kinds of ways to justify our behavior.

Genesis opens our eyes and reveals what we know deep down as creatures made in God’s image:

  1. The world was made by a good and benevolent God.
  2. Humans are made in this God’s image and are endowed with great dignity and worth.
  3. We have been made stewards over this world.
  4. In this world, sin and violence have no place. Sin is not natural – it is an aberration and the consequence of human rebellion.
  5. But our God is entirely sovereign – he spoke creation into being. And with this same word, he will remake and redeem what he good in the beginning.

 

 

Creation Sermon

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