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Thank God For Science, Week 1 — The “The Wrong Question” Sermon Rewind

Yesterday’s message …

  • Revolved around genre, history, library, and art in its understanding of Genesis 1;
  • Acknowledged that many people hearing it had left the faith or were considering leaving the faith because of a perceived conflict between Genesis and science;
  • Hinged on a massively small shift in Genesis 1:31;
  • Led to this bottom line:  We want to know HOW and WHEN. Genesis gives us WHO and WHY.
  • Led to our band leading a breathtaking version of So Will I, a musical and visual moment that complemented the message perfectly.  Here it is:

 

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I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of it this way or not, but just because someone is an expert, great, super, the GOAT (you know that, don’t you?  Greatest Of All Time) in one area of life that doesn’t mean they are experts in everything?  Just because they have mastered THEIR FIELD doesn’t make them masters of all fields.  It’s not in their design, not in their wiring.  Like you wouldn’t ask Adele – who, even if she’s not your style, you have to admit she has a pretty smashing voice – to tell you how to design a city storm water system.  Brilliance here doesn’t mean expertise here.  Or you don’t go to Bill Gates – the GOAT of any software not related to Apple – and say, “hey, buddy, I need a new carburetor.  Can you give me hand?”  GOAT over here, a goat over there.

            Or I wouldn’t go to Doug Laney – an electrician at the Monroe Church who could build or fix anything; in my mind the GOAT of all things I can’t do – and say, “Yo Doug, let’s write a sonnet together, OK?”  Or you don’t go to Roger Federer – the GOAT of tennis, how could I not go there? – and say “Hey Rog, can you teach me to throw a spiral football?”  All of those are absurd, all outside of design, all let us know that simply because you’re the GOAT in one place does mean you’re to go to for all places.

            And although we know this is true of every area of life, and putting it in the ways I’ve just put it shows how absurd the attempt is, that is precisely, exactly  what we do with Genesis 1.  We ask it to be something it’s not.  We demand expertise of it in an area where it’s not even trying to be an expert.  We try to read it in a way it BEGS not to be read, and then we get disappointed when it lets us down because it doesn’t do this thing it’s not designed to do.  Instead of remembering that the bible is a library – with an original audience – we think it’s a textbook on life with a science section at the beginning.  We open up the bible at the beginning, treating it like one big book instead on of fabulous library, and we expect it to start with HOW and with WHEN.

            In fact, approaching Genesis 1 the wrong way is why some of you walked away in faith when you were a young adult.  It’s why others are walking away NOW.  It’s why still others who have walked away are actually here today giving it a chance because you’re intrigued that a church is actually doing Thank God For Science.

            Because science has seemed to be the problem, hasn’t it?  As a kid in church or SS or in your living room, you learned a certain understanding of Genesis 1 – six days, one day to rest, maybe as recently as a few thousand years ago – and then in middle school, certainly by high school, definitely by community college, and w/o a doubt for senior college, this sort of harrowing realization emerges: the facts are out there.  The universe is unfathomably old (I find it so interesting that ppl who SCOFF at that science then TRUST the science that gets them on an airplane!), earth is not in the center of things, and you’ve been sold some kind of bill of goods.  And you felt like you had to make a choice: Science or Faith.  A lot of you gave up on faith because science seemed so much more believable.  It’s a large part of the reason why so many in my family would NOT call themselves Xns today and why I considered leaving it shortly after accepting it.

            And yet that choice – Science or Faith? – was, from the beginning, a fake one stemming from an irrational question:  “Genesis 1, will you tell us when and tell us how?”      Because Genesis 1, from ITS beginning, begs you, call out to you, leaps off the page at you to ask a much different question.  And it’s why LIBRARY matters – different types of writing understood in different types of ways populating Scripture.  And the first job of a church or an interpreter is to determine “what KIND of writing is this?”  What is the GENRE if you want to be a bit pretentious (and I always do!).   Because so many of us think automatically that Genesis opens as a science book, reported journalistically – here’s HOW and here’s WHEN.  Well, if that’s what you think, let’s check …

            Check Genesis 1:1-5. 

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.

Ok, ok, ok.  Seeing some things there.  A certain rhythm and cadence.  Now look at 1:6-8:

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.

 Ok, a pattern is emerging.  See it yet?  Let’s see if this next will make it more clear. 

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 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. 12 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. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

The pattern solidifies.  You know what the pattern is? Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus! The verses are what happens on the days and the chorus is “and there was evening, there was morning, the first day.”  If you like one kind of music, it’s like “Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee …” You remember the chorus.  If you like another kind, it’s “They livin’ it up at the Hotel California …”  The verses may be blurry; the chorus unforgettable.

            You see that pattern, you remember that Genesis’ original audience did not READ it, they HEARD it, and it is abundantly clear what GENRE we’re dealing with.  It’s no science text; it’s a poem.  Not journalism; it’s art.  More than a poem, it’s a hymn, it’s an anthem, it’s an EPIC.   And then 1:14-19, the FOURTH DAY, removes all doubt as to what is going on:

14 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, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 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. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Wait, what?  There have already been three days in this Creation Week and just NOW a sun and a moon?  That’s impossible! Everyone KNOWS you can’t have days and nights without sun and moon! 

            Which is precisely the point!  Moses and whoever else helped him put together Genesis were not dummies! They were geniuses.  He knows you can’t have three days and nights before you’ve got a sun and a moon.  Remember how I told you Genesis 1 BEGS not to be read as science text?  This is how?  Because Genesis is not concerned with HOWS and WHENS.  It’s got a much bigger agenda in mind.  It’s telling you something altogether different and doing so brilliantly and beautifully.  We try to turn it into something it’s not and we miss the power and the truth and the impact of what it IS.  Nope those who gave us Genesis 1 were the farthest thing from simpletons & dummies

            And God’s no dummy either.  We believe he’s the one breathing life and truth into these words, after all.  And God – surprise! – know how it all happened. He knew about gasses and explosions and black holes and expanding universes and E = mc2.  But who is the original audience of Genesis?  People who hadn’t discovered any of that stuff!  People whose neighbors believed that the earth was created when the god Marduk killed the god Tiamat because he was making too much noise in the heavenlies.  And those same neighbors further believed that the world was made out of Tiamat’s dead body.  And those folks ultimately believed that people were put here to serve the indulgent gods … gods who could never be fully satisfied up to and including child sacrifice. 

            And so with those kinds of narratives swimming around his chosen vessels the Jews, God – who, remember, not only knew but invented the theory of relativity yet also knew that ppl in 1700 BC or so hadn’t discovered it yet (that hadn’t even flush toiletry) – inspires an epic hymn that they would get and get immediately.  Hear (don’t read, hear) 1:1-4 again: READ.  Ah, no battle with competing gods.  One God is who complete in himself and in control of all there is.  Ordering chaos, not creating it.  God is in charge, present, resting, and on days 1-3 he CREATES REALMS (explain) that he then populates with RULERS on days 4-6 (explain). 

            And all of that is prelude to the apex of the hymn.  Remember us talking about Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus?  Well, when the final realm (land, day 3) gets its own ruler (man, look at 1:26-27 & the word “rule”),

26 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,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

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

The concluding chorus has a MASSIVELY SMALL change to it in 1:31: 

31God saw all that he had made, and it was VERY good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

 And it was VERY good.  Universe: good.  Galaxies: good.  Oceans: good.  Great White Sharks: good.  Mt. Everest:  good. Grand Canyon:  good.  Myrtle Beach:  meh.  Amazon Rain Forest:  good.  Men and women:  VERY GOOD.  You and me: VERY GOOD.  Born in stability: VERY GOOD.  Come from dysfunction: VERY GOOD.  English speaker: VERY GOOD.  ESL Student:  VERY GOOD.  Newlywed: VERY GOOD.  Unwed father: VERY GOOD.  Raise a toast: VERY GOOD.  Recovering alcoholic:  VERY GOOD.  Not just good, you and me.  Very good.  Not the best, the GOAT. 

            And suddenly it’s clear what Genesis is doing.  Not HOW AND WHEN.  But WHO and WHY.  Here it is, all of you who wonder whether or not we can REALLY thank God for scienceWe want to know HOW and WHEN.  Genesis tells us WHO and WHY.  Who?  A God who did not have to battle creation into existence but merely spoke it so.  And why?  So that you’d know the God who made the ever expanding, infinite universe thinks of individual you as not only good, but very good.  He goes to infinite lengths to give his intimate touch.  You are not tolerated.  You’re treasured.  You’re not chided. You’re cherished.  You’re not an afterthought in infinity.  You’re at the forefront of intimacy.  REFRAIN.

            It’s like the difference between this:  AV of old World Book Human skeletons and this Mona Lisa.  Both are pictures of human beings.  One is dry and antiseptic.  The other is art.  Which is more true?  Ask Da Vinci.  That’s Genesis 1.  That’s our God.  We want to know HOW and WHEN.  Genesis tells us WHO and WHY.

            Or, as a Texan preacher friend explained to me, it’s like the ways you could answer the question, “Tell me about your kids.”  And I could say, “Well, they are both humans.  They have inherited certain genes from me and from Julie so they have eyebrows more like me and skin coloring more like her.  They are both healthy specimens of the homo sapien race.  I look forward to the next generation from the same gene pool!”  Well, of course not!  I’d say, “My daughter had me in awe the day I brought her home from a Kentucky hospital.  She continues to be so  smart, so pretty, and wicked funny. My son overcame my own fears that I couldn’t parent a boy and now he walks exactly like me and is in ministry with gifts that so far surpass mine and I could not be prouder.”  Guess which answer Genesis 1 gives you?  Hallelujah, guess which one?  We want to know HOW and WHEN.  Genesis tells us WHO and WHY.

            I just don’t want anyone to defend Genesis 1 as science and in so doing lose it as beauty, as art, as TRUTH. 

            Because when it comes to revealing a God who is in control with no competition and displaying how people are here not as an inconvenience but to be invested with divinity, guess what?  Genesis Chapter One is the GOAT.

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