Lesson 1: Creation

It would be hard to start a series like this (eventually it will be a book) with anything less than the creation. Passing it by would leave a gap that we’d be dancing around for the remainder of the study. And so I’m beginning with the hardest parts: The Creation, Who is God? and Was There Really A Creator? These are fundamental questions, and they have persisted through all of human history. They have to be addressed.

I’ve covered these things in as open and honest a manner as I can. Parents and teachers can modify to suit their needs, of course, but I strongly suggest that we all try to stay with clear concepts, and with the most objective concepts we can. That’s difficult to do with this material, of course, since none of us were there to observe the creation and the creator is not available for a sit-down interview. Still, we must do the best we can; these are foundational questions and concepts.

We should also be mindful of the fact that human knowledge builds, and that people in the future will understand things that we don’t. That is, we simply don’t know which aspects of our creation ideas are entirely right, partly right, or simply mistaken. And I think we should be very open about saying we don’t know. Humility becomes us, dogmatism (of whatever flavor) does not.

It’s also useful to remember that we can frame creation stories as either traditions or firm beliefs. The material itself can be seen either way.

I think it’s helpful to look at the creation story from the perspective of a child: This little being finds itself in the midst of a giant world, and at one moment or another they are bound to ask, “Where did all of this come from?” There are scientific answers, of course, but they can be difficult.

For one thing, scientific theories of creation involve multiple appeals to authority. That is, to believe them, one must accept the word of several scientists, because grasping the fundamental facts is beyond most adults, let alone children. Said another way, the scientific explanations require a lot of faith. (And externally-founded faith.) On top of that, dogmatic scientists (alas, there are many) use the same sort of tricks that religious dogmatists do, stepping quickly past questions that might not help their theories. And as a practical matter, scientific explanations are almost universally unsatisfying to the young.

Ignorance should be accompanied by humility, and we are still primarily ignorant about what happened billions of years ago. And so I recommend that we act that way, especially when putting fundamental concepts into human minds.

What a creation story should do is to get as close as possible to reality, and yet be comprehensible to a child. We want to communicate a model that is general enough to allow for all sorts of new ideas, yet clear enough to convey a distinct pattern.

All that said, I’ve recounted the classic creation story here, edited to eliminate any confusion. It is drawn from the first chapter of Genesis, though it can be found in other places, such as the work of the Roman poet Ovid. It’s of interest that the general outline of this creation story overlays nicely on the most common scientific models, but that’s just a bonus, not an essential factor.

I think this creation story is powerful in its fundamentals, which is probably why it has stood the test of time. It explains the arrival of the world we see in discrete, comprehensible steps. Then, to seal it all together, it keeps repeating that “God saw that it was good.” That’s a powerful concept: optimistic, affirming, and extremely broad. If there’s any single concept to emphasize in this story, that would be the one.

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In the beginning, God made the universe, and our world, Earth. But at that time the Earth was empty and dark, and covered with water. And so God said, “Let there be light,” after which there was light. And God saw that the light was good.

Then God said, “Let there be an open space.” And so our atmosphere and sky appeared. Then God said, “Let the waters be gathered together under the sky.” And so the seas came together and dry land appeared. And God saw that it was good. And on the land grew plants which produced seeds to regrow themselves, and fruit trees whose fruit had its own seeds in it. And God saw that this was good.

And God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living things, and let birds fly above the earth, across the sky.” And so God created the fish, and all the living creatures in the oceans, and every kind of bird. And God saw that it was good, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the seas, and let birds multiply on the land.”

And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds: cattle and creeping things and all the beasts of the earth.” And so God made the beasts of the earth and the cattle, and everything that creeps upon the ground. And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make people to be like us; and let them take care of the fish of the sea, and the birds, and the cattle, and all the earth.” And so God created people in his own image; male and female. And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and use it. Use the fish, the birds and every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

And God saw everything that he had made, and it was very good.

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Paul Rosenberg