What should we do with the kids … ?
What is the religion of our age?
Interestingly the Church Fathers had no problem with the capacity of God to create the World, the Universe and everything in such a short time. Their argument was that six days was too long a time and surely God would have done His work instantaneously. The reason why they said this was fundamentally the same reason that many modern Christians have trouble with a literal Six Days and that is physical evidence. Nowadays it's the Theory of Evolution that provides the stumbling block, but in their day it was human logic and understanding. As Origen said,
What intelligent person can imagine that there was a first "day", then a second and a third "day" - evening and morning - without the sun, the moon, and the stars? And that the first "day" - if it makes sense to call it such - existed even without a sky?
So, let's analyse. Origen is appealing here to human intelligence. But since when has human intelligence brought us understanding of divine motivations? Yes, that did sound a bit clunky and self-defeating, but what I mean to say is that, to human intelligence, many fundamental events in the Bible are impossible. The sun standing still for Joshua and the Red Sea parting for Moses, for instance. How logical are these? When the impossible happens, we move out of the realm of human intelligence, into God's realm of the supernatural. So if God can speak of a "day" before He's even created the sun, moon and stars, then He must have a rather good reason.
It's useful at this point to ask the question that Origen and Augustine should have been asking, why did God choose to take so long to create everything? It's a good question, because God certainly could have created everything in a single moment, but He chose not to. Why?
God speaks to us through His actions. Everything He does has a reason and it is our task to discover that reason. It's not an easy task for us Westernised Christians brought up with a Greek mindset, a way of thinking totally divorced from the Hebrew mindset of those who lived in Bible times.
I will speak of one reason. God wanted to set us a pattern, a model for the working week, six days of work followed by a day of rest.
For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11)
He set the pattern by example and, if we know what is good for us, we follow Him.
Now these Christian philosophers, from Justin to Augustine, had no real evidence with which to re-interpret the first two chapters of Genesis. They had no Charles Darwin rattling his bones at them. Why did most of them think that God couldn't have spoken everything into existence over six days? Were they already analyzing Him, judging Him by the same criteria that they applied to the exploits of man? Did the works of God just seem inconceivable to the mind of man? If so, then the Grand Folly had begun ... the squeezing of God into a man-sized box.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book How the Church Lost the Truth: And How it Can Find it Again)
A Lib Dem candidate who was due to stand in the upcoming election...