So, I’m a little late starting this one, but I can see a two-fold benefit from it. 1) I do theology every day, but am “a little hazy” about the terminology, the core names (or ‘meaty theologians’ as someone put it earlier) 2) I get to see a second online course in action and think what works/what I’d improve:
Intro: Module Rationale and Overview: The premise of this module is that an enriched and engaged Christian life depends on engagement with the riches of the Christian story, a story told in the Old and New Testaments, and in the life of the early Church. This module explores that Christian story and then considers several ways that Christians can creatively and meaningfully live out that story in their everyday context.
Overview: Matthew Lynch – Biblical story in old/new testament, early testament creeds/doctrines, social practices/social justice and in the workplace and ministries.
‘The Drama of Scripture’ – the importance of the ‘name’(s) of God, the understanding that the moon/sun are created by God, so God the creator is to be worshipped rather than the sun/moon itself. Written particularly to help those in the ancient world who were promoting different worldviews.
The importance of understanding the way that the story is told is important, clearly crafted, with an overview of themes (pp10)
- God is the divine source of all that is
- He stands apart from all other things in the special relationship of Creator to creation.
- The fashioning of humankind by God was intended to be the high point of all his work of making and forming.
- God had in mind a very special relationship between himself and this last-formed of all his creatures.
We worry so much about how that we think less about the why, and of our own place in the divine story. The main ‘actors’ in the play are God and humanity, and the relationship between them.
Creation = an amazing piece of art, and Genesis introduces us to the artist. In OT times, there were lots of questions about ‘authority’, and God is introduced as the ultimate authority. There is a relationship between God and his subjects, and we are invited to partake in the task of filling/ordering the world, which is our home.
Whatever questions there are about evolution, etc. the important point is that we are not random products of time/chance. Augustine Confessions would say that we are made for God and ‘our hearts are restless until we find our rest in him’. We are distinct from God, but made in his image. We are not given authority for ruthless domination over nature/tyrannical exploitation, but to steward/caretake it well. It’s like being asked into the studio to finish one of Michelangelo’s designs, and ensure that his reputation will be enhanced by the finished product… God is revealed in work, art, music, life, etc… We are not fully human on our own, but built in a variety of relationships. The world is not something to be looked down upon by those who are ‘saved’, but described by God as ‘good’. We are God’s image bearers, but we are tarnished (unlike Jesus).
Session 1:1 (Introduction)
There are 2 creation stories, which help us understand (according to the Bible), what does it mean to be human? They are also ‘the background music’ to the rest of the Bible.
“God is at work creating a people and a place for his presence so that creation can share in his abundant life.”
There’s a people focus, but there’s also a place.
The Bible has given us 2 lenses through which to understand the stories – a liturgy of creation, and ‘the drama of dirt’.
Session 1:2 (Genesis 1 as Liturgical Poetry)
Genesis 1 is structured carefully/poetically, and therefore that should inform how we should read it.
What existed before Creation is not fit for any form of habitation by creatures. God ‘breathes’ creation into existence. Creation of domains, and the filling of those domains.
¼ Light/Dark // Create heavenly bodies
2/5 Waters above/below // birds/fish
3/6 Earth // humans
7 – Sabbath ‘a day set apart’.
This is to be emulated by God’s people, including animals. All creation is made for a rhythm of work and rest.
Materiality – God declares it ‘good’, it has a goodness apart from its usefulness to humans. Invites rhythm, and meditation upon the story itself, and our fundamental relationships in/within the world.
Other texts echo the idea of the importance of creation (the importance of the creation of the tabernacle), the number 7 is woven into other Biblical accounts. Ensure that creation is not squelched in its use.
Session 1:3 Humanity in Genesis 1
God does not make idols of himself elsewhere, but chooses to be present in “us” – in the Bible, with the exiles. God’s continual movement towards humanity, to be with them.
God shares his power/rule with humanity, which then has an enormous responsibility for both the environment, and to ensure that each human is dignified as an image bearer (OT – special concern for the poor). No such thing as ‘human-to-human’ encounter, are encountering the divine – so to oppress the poor is to oppress their maker.
God shares his abundant life through blessing and provision. It’s not just giving good things, but provisioning for a task, with male/female working together as equals.
Session 1:4 Humanity in Genesis 2
‘The drama of dirt’ – God gets his hands dirty in the creation of the world. This is an earth-oriented story, whereas 1:1 is heaven oriented. There was no human to cultivate the earth, til Gen 2:7, when God could begin to form humanity (unclear whether it was ‘a man’ or ‘a human’.
To be human means to live with ‘bounded freedom’. Eat from every tree (a generous, giving God), except the tree of good and evil. Important to hear that the first command is one of generous abundance, but there are constraints. If the playground is a place where everyone can play ‘freely’ (without rules) then there is no freedom to play within that space.
Humans are deeply connected to the earth – images are made in the image of God above, but formed from the ground below. Humanity has a God-given task, of work – not as cheap labour, but to tend the divine garden (in the OT East, an abundant garden was a sign of wealth).
Man & woman are made for co-equal relationship. There’s a belonging together, serving as partners in the task (not a subordinate). The term ‘helper’ is used elsewhere in the Bible to speak of God. The first words spoken about man/women spoken about how they are alike, rather than how they are different. Loneliness is not seen to be good in creation. The human need for relationship is not threatening to God, or a sign of weakness in human beings. We are made for community with others as well as with God. In the ancient world, women typically left their household to join the man, Genesis encourages the man to leave his household.
Session 1:5: Reading Genesis 1& 2 Together
Being human before God – we share God’s life, power and rule, but we are made from the earth – the two need to be taken together. If we’re feeling down, look up, if we’re feeling superior, look down…
Being human in Creation – we rule/subdue it, but we also serve and steward it. We’re to be kings, but also to be servants.
Being human in community- in relation to other humans. Gen 1 – corresponding to the divine, whilst Gen 2 – corresponding to one another. What does the Bible understand as the ideal purpose of humanity? Jesus is seen to come as the fulfilment of the perfect role model…
Next week: looking at the overall Biblical story, what happens when sin enters?
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.