Inspiration Remixed

I had a conversation today with someone about Genesis. I get so tired of the creationism vs. evolution debate. It so misses the point about Genesis 1. People debate the "inspiration" of Scripture and in do so miss the rich experience of actually coming into connection with the inspiring breath of God. Eugene Peterson writes something that I very much resonate with in his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.
Writing about the Christian life (formulated here as "spiritual theology") is like trying to paint a picture of a bird in flight. The very nature of a subject in which everything is always in motion and the context is constantly changing-- rhythm of wings, sun-tinted feathers, drift of clouds (and much more)-- precludes precision. Which is why definitions and explanations for the most part miss the very thing that we are interested in. Stories and metaphors, poetry and prayer, and leisurely conversation are more congenial to the subject, a conversation that necessarily also includes the Other.

Scripture speaks of a God who has a deep relationship with each aspect of his creation and cares for it. When we come to scripture are we asking questions that deepen this understanding or asking questions that completely get us off the intended message? May we search the scriptures to find life rather than endless and meaningless debates.


  1. Wow...powerful words. To find life instead of debates. I agree wholeheartedly. God did not breathe his words into the hearts of men and women throughout centuries just to make his followers argue with each other and certainly not with the rest of the world. He did however, breathe their words into those hearts so that they can in turn breathe them into the lives of the men and women who so desperately need to hear that God loves them and forgives them.

    Thanks for the great reminder and great conversation.

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  3. To add to your discussion check this video out...

    Its a video entitled "Jesus' Birth: Is the Miracle of Christmas True?"

  4. I can appreciate your frustration and I whole-heartedly concur. There are better ways to discuss the scripture aside form debate. Debates have their place with respect to politics and society but not within personal relationships. I suspect that one reason our discussions take on the form of a debate is because our perspective on ecclesiology becomes political or social as opposed to relational.

  5. Challenging thoughts as always Justin...we can read scripture like we are digging in search of treasure...or we can read for the sake of just digging holes, in the end finding nothing, tired, weary and thirsty. I prefer treasure.

  6. Justin,
    I enjoyed your posting, and shared it with a blogging aquaintance of mine. He is in the camp that says the Genesis account must be literal history. When he got my email, he referred me to this quote:

    G. Richard Bozarth, "The Meaning of Evolution", American Atheist, 20 Sept. 1979, p. 30

    Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus' earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of God. Take away the meaning of his death. If Jesus was not the redeemer that died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing.

    Now for the first time every I understand why his viewpoint is so important to him. I don't share it, but I can respect it.

    For me, the debate isn't an issue, the issue is how is the story informing your life and moving you closer to God?

  7. In response to " monk in training ", I found the quote an interesting take, but I think we're talking about to different issues...the creation story and the original sin story. Even the evil Darwin, reflected that the Genesis story of creation, intrigued his scientific mind to look at evolution. If you look at God's creation story...you discover it follows`closely to Darwins scientific " theory "...man the pinacle of evolution, and man the beloved of God's creation. And one would have to have there head buried in sand to deny that creation/evolution is not still ongoing.
    Just as God's word spoke creation into being, and the original sin brought death and curse upon the earth/land...Jesus, God's word comes comes speaking new creation, redemption of a new man and a new earth.
    Creation is God's mystery, truth...evolution is a scientific theory...I think the timing drives literalist christians insane. God's word says a day can be a thousand years or thousand years can be day...well, which is it...which is true. I think yhe biggest problem with christianity is we have reduced it to facts and answers...we have forgotten, and fear being lost in divine mystery.

  8. Great posts everyone. I think it is important to note that this is a situation that we all seem to come up against all of the time-- no matter where we fall on the literalistic or metaphorical thing. I think it is important to remain centered on the heart of the gospel-- who is our God and how is he relating to humanity and creation?

  9. Hey Justin,

    For me, the point isn't wether or not the text is literal, i.e. the earth is young or old. The point is; what is the Spirit breathing into our lives through the Sacred Scriptures? How is it informing our journey, and moving us closer to God?

    What I do see in Genesis are images of God's creative Spirt, His compassion on our fallen nature, and indications of our need to care for this world He has given us. At His command I can see that all things came to be: the vastness of space, stars, moons, the planets, and our own home, Earth. I see that our choosing to decide what is good and what is evil seperates us from God, and I see the first examples of God reaching out to us, as soon as the seperation occurs.

    For me, the Truth in the Bible can be just as profound, regardless of how one stands on the literalness issue.

  10. Well, I believe in literal 24 hour days because the use of the language is consistent with that through the O.T. and because that's how creation is referenced in exodus 20.11.

    HOWEVER. When people talk about that as the idea behind genesis 1, or even debate it, I think the idea of the chapter is completely missed.

    God is powerful. God is singular. God didn't have to war with other Gods, he simply spoke and it happened. We're not a side effect of that war, we're a direct and intentional invention.

    Now, be a polytheistic mesopotamian living in fear of marduk and tiamot, thinking the idea was to destroy and the earth is just a side effect of that, and that those two gods want to crush you, and it's a much more powerful and incredible thing than how many days it took.

  11. James and "Monk...", I think you both get at the point of Genesis. Two things stand out... 1) who are God and how he relates. 2) how our story compares to the stories around us. I think this is important in thinking about Evolution (I use the capital E because their are some who believe in a comprehensive Evolution philosophy that is a controlling worldvies, this is not to be necessarily confused with little "e" evolution, the scientific theory(ies)that try to explain certain facts, evidences, etc. that may or may not be correct) or a Babylonian creation account. Most stories around the world get some of the ideas right, and they all seek to explain a certain something to make a larger point about their culture, society, knowledge, etc. The Biblical story of course is authoritative. It agrees with some of these stories on some accounts and challenges them on others. It is in this that the message, the larger point, is communicated. Great points "Monk..." and James.

  12. I'm having this same discussion on a mailing list, and I firmly sit in the mythopoetic side of the cmap in regards to Genesis 1 - 10. Having said taht, I see tons of truth in those chapters: truths about God, ourselves, our relationship with God and others, the nature of sin, etc.

    Lots of good stuff there if we can only, as you intimate, get past the debate! :-)

    Blessings & Peace,

  13. I think the bottom line is, people don't connect with scripture, its alot easier to stand from a far and analyze it then get dirty and all up in it.

  14. Do you know God because you study Him? Do you know God because you are in relationship with Him?

  15. Andrew,

    I would say both. I have a relationship with him which leads me to study more about him which deepens my relationship with him.

    Initially thought, I know him because I have a relationship with him. Great question though.

  16. Andrew, "study" might not be the best term. I think of stories of soldiers who receive a letter while at battle, they graciously stare at the words, continually reading them, taking comfort in them, imbibing with pleasure the relationship that the words represent. Language is the beginning of relationship (whether verbal or nonverbal). In the beginning, God spoke-- and relationships were born!

  17. I do know Him because I study Him. That way I know His story and not my own. That way I know how He works and not just how He's worked in my own life. I study because I want to know Him more, not myself. Salvation isn't due to my history, it's because of His. The fact that He died in history is more important than the fact that I will. The fact that he does and Has done the things He's done and will do (in hebrew those aren't differentiated) is more important than that I do or might do the same. He's God, I'm not. People want to know themselves, or they want to know Him. The people that want to know Him don't trust themselves to come up with His material themselves. How often do we hear people argue truths from "my experience" as the basis for making crucial decisions?

    My hope is that one day I'll be able to speak out of the abundance of scripture, the wealth of directions, admonitions, adventures, and consolations of the scriptures. I will very strongly say that someone who doesn't want to learn to handle scripture is not a Jesus Follower.

  18. Whew... James, tone it down. I've studied the scriptures since I was a child. I never said anything about not wanting to "handle the scriptures". Besides, many times, Christ criticized the Pharisees for knowing the letter of the law, but not the Spirit. A total reliance on the letter of the law could cause you to miss the Spirit.

    Is it possible to know God without having a bible?
    If it is possible to know God without having a bible, then is it possible to have a more full knowledge of God by holding these moments of divine revelation in one hand and the Bible in the other.

    (Before someone else points it out I realized that many often equate the two phrases used above "divine revelation" and "the Bible". That just reveals how important I think it is to hold these two concepts in BALANCE.)

  19. You can study someone by taking them out on a date and asking them questions and learning about them. You can also study them by stalking them, learning their schedule, and reading their mail.

    These are two different kinds of studying. Which will you choose?

  20. Andrew, I apologize if you thought I was being heated. It wasn't what I was feeling, I can tell you that. But I'm not jumping on board. I know God because of what He's revealed when I study Him. If the picture that gives you is of a stalker, or more directly, a middle aged white person talking about God like trig or biology quiz prep, I'm sorry. But that's not the kind of studying my heros model. Most of the time what looks ideal doesn't reflect divine reality. I'm not going to make my emotions and experiences equal with God.