Riffing and Resting

Sometimes I wish I were a little more scientific.

The other month when I visited Boston College’s seminary, the admissions rep gave me a tour of the entire campus, even the undergrad bits where I wouldn’t have much to do, necessarily. It was raining and we were standing near the large-footed statue of Ignatius of Loyola when he (the rep, not Ignatius) mentioned to me that one could, if one wished, combine one’s theology Master’s degree with some sort of other degree. He suggested, I think, a combination of an MDiv and some sort of business/economics degree, which, I suppose, might be a good idea, but not for me. He had also pointed out the science building. “You won’t,” he observed, “really have any reason to go in there. Since the theology students don’t have much to do with science.”

“What?” I wanted to say. “Why not?” It was at that point that I wished I were a little more scientific. I know there are really intelligent, theologically savvy, Christians who are also, say, physicists, but I’m not one of them, and at that moment I wanted to be. I wanted to apply to BC and get accepted and become their first MDiv student to also get a degree in one of the sciences and help show them that science and faith are not (or should not be) incompatible. But in that case some time travel would be necessary in order for me to refocus all my energies on the sciences instead of language arts, and . . . well, as to whether that’s scientific, it probably depends on who you ask.

Recently during some Bible-reading, I re-encountered one of the stories where the Pharisees are criticising some good work Jesus did on the Sabbath, the holiest day of the Jewish week. (Do you ever wonder if Jesus rolled His eyes in the mornings when the Pharisees first showed up for the day? He loves everybody, but He had to have wished for at least one day when they were–I dunno–in meetings or something and would leave Him alone, right?) He heals someone, and they tell Him off, and He says, more or less, “Look guys–My Dad hasn’t stopped working all this time, and so I’ve got to keep working, too.”

I’ve read this verse zillions of times, but for some reason that day, I thought to myself, “I wonder why creationists who believe in six literal days of creation seem to ignore this verse?” I mean, I am familiar with the dangers of “proof-texting” and of taking a verse out of context and building a whole theology out of it. That’s not what I’m attempting to do, and anyway, there are other biblical passages (in Hebrews, for example) that hint at something like what I’m wondering right now. I’m just exploring this idea, which was, what if we’re still in the sixth day of creation?

What if Genesis 1 is a microcosmic account of all of the history of the world from the beginning of time (at least Earth’s time) until the end (and what if that’s why it looks like we have two creation accounts in Genesis–because one actually is a creation account–while still potentially not strictly literal–and one is a prologue/summary)? What if it’s got spoilers, one of which is that God rested? What if the creation being designated very good (as opposed to just good) after the creation of humanity was both a statement of the reality of things immediately after the creation of the first humans, and a statement of the reality of things after the redemption of all creation. What if the apostle Paul’s curious assertions about the first Adam and the second Adam are what tie the Genesis 1 account all together? What if our Sabbaths and days of rest are precursors in honour and anticipation and hope of the final rest, with God, instead of simply a reminder that He took a break after making us?

Genesis 2.1-3 (actually the tail end of the story in Genesis 1) is the part that talks about God’s resting on the seventh day. In the NIV translation it says, By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing. Maybe I’m just making it up, but the timing of that (even though it’s apparently in some past tense) doesn’t sound overly definitive–it sounds like it ties in with Jesus’ comment about the Father still working. Especially since I don’t believe God is bound by time. God could have made the world in six literal days and then kicked back for a bit until Adam and Eve ate the mystery fruit, and then gotten back to work so that Jesus would be right when He said that His father continues to work.

But the thing is, Jesus says, My Father is still working. Maybe I’m wrong but it seems like that implies He hasn’t stopped yet. God gave the Sabbath laws, but if they were more a precursor of the act of God than a memorial, no wonder Jesus didn’t flinch from doing good on the Sabbath, or from telling off the people who opposed it. He is the very expression of God, and and He would know what God’s up to, even on our earthly human Sabbaths. If He had any vested interest in “opposing science,” it was by doing crazy things like instantaneously healing people who had been crippled all their lives. But not so much about defending six literal days of creation by kowtowing to the religious establishment.

8 thoughts on “Riffing and Resting

  1. Wow, I think that you’re on to something really important here. Your thoughts at the end of this post have my head spinning.

    As for the earlier part of the post: what a tragic turn of events. While I would not make the claim that Jesus is anti-business or anti-making money, I do think he recognized that there are specific challenges to being the sort of person who ends up with an economics degree. On the other hand, the whole history of science is intimately tied to the history of theology and scripture is full of references to the importance of understanding the creatorion as a way to understand God’s character; folks like Solomon and David were wise in not just Godly but also worldy ways. What a shame that things have gotten so far from where they were.

    • Thanks, Jeff–I appreciate your further thoughts. It just goes to show how culturally immured I am that the potential incongruence of theology + economics degrees didn’t strike me, even if the lack of a tie between theology and science did.

  2. That’s tragic that the rep said that theology students don’t need to go in the science building! What a great thing it would be for someone to combine a theology degree with a science degree. I think we need more Christians in science, who are well-versed in the Book of God’s Word and the Book of God’s Works (i.e. His creation). I don’t think that they are at all opposed to one another, and one of my heroes of the faith is John Polkinghorne, who was a Nobel-winning scientist (co-discoverer of quarks) and then went on to become an Anglican priest. He now speaks and teaches about the interaction between science and faith.

    I do agree that you could say we are still in the “sixth day” – there was no sunset listed in Genesis 1… but then in early Genesis 2 we get to the seventh day, so it’s not really clear. Great post!

    • Yeah–I think it’s pretty tragic, too!

      You are, of course, right that the Genesis creation accounts don’t necessitate some sort of foreshadowing (exclusively), but I don’t think they rule it out, either. I certainly wouldn’t want to make any binding theological statements here; I was just kind of exploring.

  3. Ha Jen, My brain can barely get around this blog…getting really old. Anyway, going to forward to my husband who will love it…lol
    Donna P

    • Obviously I can’t get my head fully around it either, or I would have responded to all these comments a lot sooner . . . 😉 Thanks for trying to tackle it with me!

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