Creation Genesis 1 & 2

Creation, Genesis 1 & 2, Asking the hard questions

Today in church we are going to do something that doesn’t happen too often: we’re going to read two entire chapters of the Bible. And not just any chapters, but the very first two chapters of the Bible. Usually, we don’t read such big chunks of Scripture, but we need to today to help us explore the theme of creation.

Mixed Photo of Creation Sistine Chapel by Calvin Craig on Unsplash and Evolution Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash
Mixed Photo of Creation Sistine Chapel & Evolution by Calvin Craig & Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

We’ll start with Chapter 1. These words are so familiar to us: many of us would have been taught this creation story from our Sunday School days. Many of us, myself included, would have read these familiar words more like they were from a science or historical textbook rather than ancient poetry.

But today, as we read them, I encourage us to listen to the poetry of the words and allow them to soak into our hearts and minds. Let’s allow ourselves to be opened up to the wonderful mystery of our Creator God who spoke all things into existence and who brought order out of chaos.

Listen to its rhythm, to its beat

As we read it, listen to its rhythm, to its beat. You might even like to close your eyes and visualise its imagery and hear its sounds; let’s enter deeply into this poetic text and allow the Holy Spirit to sweep into us, much as the Spirit swept over the face of the waters in the beginning.

We’ll be reading it as a responsive reading, which is how the ancient Jewish people would have read it. Left side, you are green, right side you are orange, and we’ll all say the yellow words together.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

God saw that the light was good

and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”

And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it.

And it was so.

God called the vault “sky.”

And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”

And it was so.

God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”

And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”

And it was so.

The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds.

And God saw that it was good.

there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.”

And it was so.

God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from the darkness.

And God saw that it was good.

there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind.

And God saw that it was good.

God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”

And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.”

And it was so.

God made the wild animals according to their kind, the livestock according to their kind and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kind.

And God saw that it was good.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God blessed them

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”

And it was so.

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

And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day, he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

Asking hard questions

A lot of prayer and consideration goes into putting together a preaching plan. As I was considering where God was leading for our first series of the year, this idea of asking hard questions came to mind again, where we focus on creation, the fall, heaven, and hell.

This series idea has been in my head for a while. Every time it has popped up, I’ve considered it, thought yeah…nahhh – too hard. I’ve pushed it to the back of my mind and listened for another idea from God.

But it has gotten to the stage where I can’t ignore it anymore. So for better or worse, over the next four weeks we are going to be looking at these four topics that have caused debate, upset and arguments within the Christian church for centuries.

Rick’s advice

As Rick and I have been discussing the different topics, sharing with each other what we’ve been reading and learning, Rick gave me some very wise advice: Jools, we’re walking a fine line here. We want people to continue to embrace their faith and not have it knocked about.

I totally agree with that. As always, I appreciate Rick’s advice. But I also want us all, me included, to have our faith stretched. To be open to asking some questions that we’ve never asked before. Or voice questions that we may have had but kept pushing away. Because the questions felt like we may have been questioning God, our faith or even the inerrancy of Scripture.

So, yes, over the next four weeks, we are going to be walking this fine line together. If you are finding it hard or if you don’t agree with some of the things that are said, please come and chat with me. We’re all in this together to learn together and to wonder together.

Image of the fine line

This image of the fine line reminded me of a video Rick made of me during the 2021 lockdown when the Tokyo Olympics were held.

One of my favourite sports to watch is gymnastics. Looking back I think I was going a little bit stir-crazy through the COVID lockdowns when I decided to try some balance beam, fine-line walking of my own.

Of course, I only used a line in the tiles, not an actual beam.

Creationism versus evolution. Literal six days of creation and young earth versus billions of years of evolutionary change and ancient earth and everything in between.

What are we meant to believe? Especially when there are some well-known Christians such as Ken Ham who heads up Creation magazine. Who says that you can’t possibly be a Christian unless you believe in a literal six-day creation.

What are we meant to believe when there are deeply committed Christian scientists and palaeontologists who believe in a literal six-day creation. When other deeply committed Christian scientists and palaeontologists don’t believe in a literal six-day creation.

Where do we start?

Well, I’d like to suggest that we start with a spirit of humility and love that allows our sisters and brothers in Christ to sit with their own creation beliefs and theology as we sit with ours. Even though they may be different to our own. I know there will be people in this congregation who believe in a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. And there will be others who don’t.

Where do we start?

God was the creative force behind it

Let’s start with the firm and foundational knowledge that however the universe and all that it holds came into being, God was the creative force behind it. The intricacies of our world, the beauty that we see around us and the perfection of where the earth is situated in relation to the sun, didn’t happen by chance. But by an intricate, beautiful, creative, perfect God.

As I have been doing the reading around Genesis 1 and 2, I wish I had heard a message like we are having today when I was young. Because it would have helped me so much in my own understanding of creation and God and faith. You see when I was growing up, I couldn’t believe in the existence of dinosaurs. Because if we believed that dinosaurs roamed the earth millions of years ago, then we must believe in evolution which was anti-God.

In high school

When I was in high school and studying biology, my science teacher, who knew Dad was a minister and I was a Christian, said to me in front of the whole class that I could ignore everything that was said because he was going to be teaching on evolution. So, that’s what I did. I had to protect my faith, so I switched off through biology.

We have a responsibility as a church to enable each other. Especially our young people as they go through their schooling, to walk hand in hand with faith and science. Sometimes easily, sometimes uncomfortably, and always very carefully. And that is not always going to be easy. Because sometimes I think that science displays more faith than Christianity as it tries to keep God out of the creation equation.

Rather than seeing creation versus science as black and white, right and wrong, science-void faith or God-void science. If we learn to read Genesis 1 and 2 as it was written in and for ancient times, by people who understood their world as a domed building. Who lived in a time when there were other awful and frightening pagan creation stories abounding. Then it might help us significantly in finding a way to walk hand in hand with both.

Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

What a majestic, magnificent, marvellous way to open the story of God. There is a wildness and wonder in the first two chapters of the Bible.

And chapter 1 is a beautiful piece of poetry. Perhaps one of the driving problems of the modern evolution/creation debate is that we have confused the genre of the writing of this chapter. We read these words through our modern Western eyes understanding the text as literal or scientific fact. When the reality is that we can’t really place it in such a neat, clean genre.

I wonder what would happen if we saw that the author’s purpose wasn’t to give us a step-by-step, blow-by-blow account of creation. It wasn’t to outline history or a scientific theory in a modern way that we will understand. But to offer a poetic theological reflection on creation. Full wonder and thanksgiving which focuses on God who brought it all into being. From the wild, dark wasteland of nothingness.

And as we see it through this lens, let’s be sure to understand that even though it is poetry, that doesn’t mean it is fiction. God created the world, in the way that God chose to create the world. And it was good.

Science or Cosmology

Creation poetry doesn’t teach us about science or cosmology as we understand those things today. It was never intended to do that. Because even if that was their intent, the ancients’ ideas of science and history would be well out of date by now. Just imagine what people 3000 years in the future will be thinking about our understanding of science today. I reckon they would see it as very basic and wonder how on earth we could believe or understand such things.

It was only 550 years ago that Nicolaus Copernicus worked out that the earth and planets moved around the sun. It took another 100 years for his theory to be widely accepted.

There is only one God

So, what does the creation story at the very beginning of God’s word teach?

This story teaches its readers that, unlike other pagan religions with their many gods and goddesses, there is only one God. It rejects an Ancient Near Eastern creation myth that tells of one of those many gods, Marduk who created the heavens and the earth out of the carcass of the slain goddess Tiamat.

No, the Hebrew people as well as us can be assured that it is God who speaks and all creation obeys. It is God who speaks, and things come into being. These words in Genesis 1 proclaim full trust in God’s power and authority.

Poetry of Genesis 1

The beautiful poetry of Genesis 1 also helps us today to put deep roots into our faith, understanding and worship of God the Creator of the world as we are bombarded with creation myths, many of which are formed on the foundation of God-void science.

Berkeley professor Huston Smith writes in his book “The Soul of Christianity” that many modern academics suggest that science is the only or the best source of reliable knowledge, and the only type of knowledge worth knowing.

The astrophysicist Carl Sagan famously said that the universe is all there ever has been, is, or ever will be. But in Genesis 1 we see loudly proclaimed that there’s more to our world than just matter and energy. More than purposeless fate. It assures us that we’re not alone. That we’re not abandoned to our own selves. But that ever since “the beginning” the Spirit of God has hovered over all existence like a tender mother.

In his book The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins objects to the idea that the human species deserves any special moral consideration compared with other species. Dawkins writes that “misguided religious zealots might believe that ancient superstition but it has no proper basis in evolutionary biology.”

Humans do have a special place in creation

Genesis 1 tells us that God created humans in his own image. Humans do have a special place in creation. And we have been given a special role in creation. To care for and tend the world that God has given us. And in spite of our shortcomings, in spite of our wilfulness, God looks at us and sees us and the potential within us as very good.

In this creation poetry, we read that every single human being is created in the image of God. This isn’t something that we can earn by being smarter, or richer. Or even more moral or upstanding than the person next to us. It is something that we are created into, and are born with. And no person, for any reason, is not made in God’s image.

As we look around, we can feel confused. How people created in God’s image can act the way they do?

We are given the free will to distort or enhance God’s image by the choices and decisions we make. But we can never lose this precious divine fingerprint on our lives.

Image. Where does this idea come from? Worship has always been an integral part of human practice. The ancients worshipped the sun, moon and stars. They worshipped gods and goddesses of all shapes and sizes. And they would make images of these things, images that were called idols. Believing that somehow that image carried the essence, the very being, of whatever god or goddess it represented.

The images didn’t do what the gods or goddesses were meant to do; they sometimes didn’t even necessarily look like the gods or goddesses they were representations of them. Rather, the gods or goddesses’ work was thought to be accomplished through the idol – through the image.

That’s pretty mind-blowing!

Let’s go back to this beautiful work of God in the Genesis story, where God made humans in his. Or more literally – in our image which can be read as Father, Son and Spirit. We have been created as images of the great Creator, not by the way we look but by the way we live. God’s work is accomplished and is worked out, through us. And as we grow more mature in our faith walk, we grow more and more into the likeness. More and more into the image of God. We mirror more and more God’s incredible attributes of creativity, grace, love, care, and the ability to see the good in things. That’s pretty mind-blowing!

As our minds are blown, we also need to do a bit of a humility check here. Being made in the image of God doesn’t put us at the centre of the universe, as some people may like to think. No! That place is for God alone. Just as he is smack bang in the centre of the creation story.

As we wrap up

As we wrap up today’s message, I want to briefly touch on the differences that can be found in the Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 creation stories. Seeing the differences once again is a great reminder to us. These chapters aren’t teaching us about science but teaching us about God.

Where the genre or style of writing in Genesis 1 is poetic and repetitive, it describes the creation of the entire cosmos and climaxes with God resting on the seventh day. Chapter two is more narrative or storytelling in style. And rather than the big picture of creation that we get in chapter one, chapter two zooms in on humanity. Adam and Eve – in the beautiful garden called Eden that God created for them and placed them in.

The Fall

Rick will be speaking more in chapter two next week as we look at the Fall. But I do want to finish off today by saying that an ancient editor of the scriptures knew the differences between these two accounts found in Genesis 1 and 2. Yet placed them side by side as the opening of the story of God and humanity. And we sit with these differences. Knowing that this editorial work was inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that hovered over the darkness in the second verse of the Bible.

I’ve had a few sleepless nights over this sermon.

I do hope that we have all been able to walk the fine line that the ideas and suggestions have raised.

Over many years I have now landed on these thoughts on creation.

I don’t know how God created this world.

I don’t know how long the creation took.

But what I hold onto most firmly is that God did create the world.

We, humans, have been made in God’s image. We have been given the responsibility to care for this beautiful world – the environment, the animals and of course each other.


As we go out this week, warm in the knowledge that God created this universe and created us in his image, may our eyes be open to seeing God’s presence in all we see, our souls open to sense the Spirit’s presence in all we do, and our hearts open to love as Jesus loved in all we meet. Amen.

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