Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Genesis and Creation (3) - Human Words

Human categories of thought are just not up to the job of describing what happens in the spiritual dimension. We get this right through the Bible. When John tried to describe his vision of heaven, he wrote of lightening, rainbows, gold, jewels, glass and crystal. We should not assume that he saw these things. The vision John received was so amazing he could not describe it in human words

The problem is that a word like “rainbow” does not mean anything until you have seen a rainbow. Because very few people have seen what John saw, we do not have the shared words to describe it. Even if we had the words, most of us would not understand their meaning, because we have never seen the objects they refer to. So instead of using heavenly words that no one would understand, John used the words for the most beautiful things on earth to paint a poetic picture of what he had seen. His description of the heavenly realm is not a literal description of what he saw, but a desperate attempt to convey and understanding given the limitation of human words.

The same applies to Genesis One. God has given us the privilege of seeing the creation of the universe from his perspective, but human words are inadequate for this purpose. However, they can be used to paint a limited, but nevertheless useful, picture of what God was doing.

If we took some real gold and jewels and made a model of the New Jerusalem based on John’s description in Revelation 21, we would end up with something quite bizarre. The model would give a totally distorted understanding of what God was revealing through John. The reason is that human words and concepts simply cannot do justice to the heavenly or spiritual dimension of life. We will not understand what John saw by reading his descriptions as we would a blueprint, but instead we should try and catch a glimpse of the wonder of what John saw, a wonder that inspired him to use such amazing words.

In the same way, we should not read the first chapter of Genesis of an historical description of some events that occurred on earth or as a script from which a film of creation could be made. Rather we should see it as a description of what happened in the heavenly realm and how things in the spiritual dimension impacted the physical dimension. Reading the passage through the normal earthly meanings of the words will produce a limited view of what they are describing. Our aim should be to gain a glimpse of the wonder of who God is and what he did, given that such majestic human words are needed to describe it.

Human words can never fully describe God. The best they can do is portray a limited view of his greatness. We should grab every revelation that God gives us, but we should never imagine that we see clearly. Genesis One gives a wonderful description of God’s creative activity, but we should never think that we can fully understand what happened. When reading the chapter, we should expect to be inspired more than we will be informed.

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