Creation ….. how ?

Last week, The Telegraph reported that we may have been reading the Book of Genesis wrongly.

Professor Ellen van Wolde, a respected Old Testament scholar and author, reckons that it would be most accurate to say not that God created, but that “in the beginning God separated the Heaven and the Earth”.

The Telegraph’s own blog was quickly filled with responses – not only from militant atheists and Biblical fundamentalists, but also a heady mix of scholarly and off-the-wall insights. Suggesting that God is not the “One Who Creates” but the “One Who Separates” is dangerous territory – for in Greek the word for “Separator” is diabolos, the devil being one who separates humanity from the goodness of God!

It seem to me that there are only two ways we can seek how the Universe came into being, and both require an act of faith. One is the scientist’s faith: that the fundamental laws of the universe are unchanging and if we can figure out what they are now, we can “run the film backwards” and work out how it all began. The other is the theist’s faith: that God was there are the beginning and if God has chosen to speak on the matter, who are we to argue?

Both approaches have problems. The root problem of the scientific quest, as Professor Stephen Hawking poetically put it, is discovering what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?” The theist’s problem is identifying where God has spoken, and how effectively God can express God’s message in the constraints of human language. Professor van Wolde’s contribution is but one more offering in the long line of scholarly opinions on what exactly the Hebrew text of Genesis is trying to say – and to the extent that it is a text shaped by God, what God is trying to communicate to us. As a doctor of astrophysics and a Catholic priest I am content to know that the Universe looks like it was forged in nuclear fires 14 billion years ago, and that God – who has not yet chosen to will the cosmos out of existence – considers it good.

By Father Gareth Leyshon (part of the Chaplaincy Team).

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We are the Chaplaincy to the University of South Wales
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