NB: These thoughts were shared with Geneva’s upper school students in October. It’s a homily that would have been unnecessary and rather uncontroversial just ten years ago. And while I received more “thank you” comments from faculty than on anything I have ever said at Geneva, these thoughts also stirred up various responses from students (many of the more “woke” expressing to one another that these ideas were stupid and out of touch; and from at least one parental unit that I was giving permission to students to “bully” those who identify differently . . . or something like that. See what you think.
“Creation and Creation Order”
Scripture reading: Genesis 1:1-5, 24-28, 31
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God 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 the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” . . . .
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
Homily: “Creation and Creation Order”
As we walk through this year together in Chapel, we want to lay out for you all the big scope of the Bible, what many people have called “the drama of redemption” from Creation through The Fall, and God’s constant faithful acts of redemption, first freedom from slavery for the people of Israel, with His gracious promises of covenant, and eventually for release from slavery to sin for all mankind through redemption found in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful story from Genesis through the Revelation. And fundamentally, it’s why The Geneva School exists, since, by understanding these things, we can seek to inspire students to love beauty, think deeply, and pursue Christ’s calling in all of life.
In our brief time this morning, we want to start at the beginning . . . with creation. In the poetic lines of Genesis 1, we receive from God a portrait of His work in bringing all things into being. You all are growing up in a world where the original sin of Adam is being repeated constantly through the “sovereignty of science” – in our human pride, humans have come to believe we can control our environment, we can understand all things, in fact we can be gods in our own world. But “science” in the world’s mind too often removes God from the picture. However, before science, philosophy and logic help us.
R.C. Sproul, one of our school’s founders, often said, “For anything to exist at all, something must have the power of being within itself. If there was ever nothing, . . . there would still be nothing. Ex nihil nihil fit – out of nothing, nothing comes. So something had to BE in order for anything else to come into being. Thus, “In the beginning God . . .” It begins there. If there is no primary “Mover” there is no motion. If there is no “Life-giver” there can be no living thing. It’s just that simple.
And the main thing I want you to grasp this morning is that God creates everything with a beautiful, carefully calibrated, and necessary order. In this order all of life can flourish. Without such design and order, we end up in chaos, random meaninglessness, and nonsense. But by the power of His Word, God created light, then the expanses of water, then He separated them into sky and sea, brought forth dry land, brought forth life (in the skies, seas, and on land) all by the power of spoken Word. After all this, we see that God say, “Let us make man” – and this is qualitatively different. Everything else is spoken into being, then God makes us in His image. Thus we can think, we can create (or as Tolkien wisely said, we can be sub-creators, using the things God has already made). And then we get the first commands – what we call the creation mandate: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it.”
Think of it like this: Musicians notice when instruments move slightly out of tune; a good mechanic can hear if the motor is not quite in sync and needs a “tune up”; doctors, based on carefully calibrated blood counts, can tell if someone is well or quite sick. God has made the world, as my pastor recently said, with a “finely-tuned” order in the universe. Change things just infinitesimally, and everything begins to fall apart. If our earthly orbit around the sun were ever so slightly different, life could not be sustained. If the earth’s rotational axis moved ever so slightly, everything would fall apart.
Even the seven-day cycle of creation is part of that order. Only twice in civilized history (to my knowledge) have people intentionally moves away from this simple cycle: in 1789 in France, a revolution against God and His order, and in Maoist communist China in the 1940s. Both cultures banished the 7-day cycle for something man-made. And both were disasters that quickly reverted to an unshakeable human necessity of six days of work and one of rest. Is it possible to survive outside this order? For a while perhaps. That successful driven professional who claims to work 24-7-365 will succeed . . . for a while, then probably die from a coronary heart attack long before he might otherwise.
But creation order involves more than mere astronomical facts, figures, and calendars. It also speaks to how we live as human beings, women and men made in His image. We are made to thrive, flourish, and live within a finely tuned order involving everything from day and night to humans being male and female.
But you live in a world sending you countless messages every day that you can do whatever you wish, live however you wish, be whoever and whatever you wish. YOU, the world says, are sovereign in your own life. This may explain why our country has about 5% of the world’s population but 98% of the world’s psychotherapists – people need desperate help when the world under their control is spinning out of their control, yes?
You see, . . . the Original Sin of Adam and Eve was their seeking to be gods; to know all things and do whatever they wished. As Dr. Brodrecht says, we in the post-modern West, live in a day that seeks to sell us a lie (the original lie!) that we can be autonomous selves – laws unto ourselves, determining our own destiny. But this ends in disorder and chaos.
We need ordered lives, ordered society, ordered living.
Here at Geneva we see one small example of the place for order with our own Honor Code – it is an order within which we seek to live and learn together – depart from it and we end up in chaos, conflict, and disorder. But we are living in a tumultuous time when order is being challenge, torn down … with nothing substantial offered as a substitute other than, “do as you please, be happy, think of yourself first and last, whatever make you happy.”
Allow me gently to speak truth in love into just one huge area of confusion in our day. Genesis tells us that God has made us with a beautiful order as men and women, male and female (and the science of chromosomes and DNA confirm that all humanity is binary). But the world says you can be whatever you wish to be and now New York City recognizes some 17 different “gender pronouns” to describe people’s self-identifications. But friends, creation order still says . . . man and woman. Every human being created imago Dei is either male or female. That’s it. Just the two. We cannot change our cellular, skeletal, and muscular systems from one to the other, no matter what the world tells you.
When I say “world” of course, I am referring to that biblical idea of a “rebellious mindset against what God has created and ordered.” This is why we hear the Scriptures say that we are in the world, but we, as God’s people, must not be of the world. We live in this fallen realm, but we live as aliens and stranger waiting for the final redemption of our bodies and souls from the brokenness that surrounds us. As God’s people, as followers of Christ, we cannot buy into a narrative the world seeks to sell us when it is so contrary to the beauty and simplicity of creation order.
You see, Creation Order calls humans to be self-sacrificing for the sake of the creation mandate. Man and woman, in relationship, are designed to fulfill the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply. This is a profoundly counter cultural concept right now. Our culture says any two people can marry – a fundamental change in the meaning of a word that was understood for millennia in every culture. And words are powerful things. Meaning of words matters and when meanings of words become relative, flexible, and changeable, chaos is the result.
WSJ on Monday reported that the word “woman” is no longer considered appropriate in some circles: “Some politicians [House Democrats] qualified the word woman in a September bill by saying the term reflects ‘the identity of the majority of people’ who might seek an abortion: ‘This Act is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others.’ The White House budget’s neutered term for mothers: ‘birthing people.’” What? I’m confused. “Birthing people”? Words matter!
But you see, marriage of a man and woman is self-sacrificing for the sake of the next generation. And that is by design. Tragically, two men or two women, no matter how genuine the affection can never fulfill this creation order to being forth children from love. I know, . . . such thinking is considered hateful in many quarters now, but the Scripture speak truth in love and for the flourishing of humanity and for the fulfillment of the creation order. A desire for personal autonomy and happiness leads many people to pursue a sad substitute for what God has designed for all humanity. There may be sincere love in such unions, but according to God’s creation and His finely tuned order, such love is a disordered alternative to what God gives for our flourishing.
Think of it like this: When the world loves, pursues, and pushes ideas and lifestyles contrary to God’s created order, this is a result of that rebellious, self-motivated attitude as self-gods against what God has given to humanity for life and goodness and human flourishing. And when the world promotes as good something God says is not good, this should warn God’s people against such things. Admittedly, to believe biblical ideas about creation and the creation mandate is to invite hatred and exclusion from some powerful forces in our culture.
But remember, Jesus said, when the world hates you, remember that it hated me first [see John 15:18-20]. Fallen humanity does not wish to bend the knee to God or His beautifully crafted and fine-tuned order for us. God’s people are called to live and thrive freely within the gracious order for life that He gives to us.
Some of us at Geneva recently heard several seniors speak [at a senior dinner] about the joy they found in discovering the harmonies of the universe in the Sci-Rev class – yes! This is discovering facets of God’s creation order. This is why we exist as a school – to help you all discover goodness, truth, and beauty in God’s world, to think carefully and deeply about it – to weigh the messages you hear from the world against the clear, faithful message from God in His Word. And then, knowing you are deeply loved by God, you can pursue with vigor and great joy the calling God has for you in Christ. All of creation . . . and creation order . . . is a gift when we accept it as such.
In the Beginning God said “let there be light” – may He continue to shed light into all of our souls that we might pursue Him as we follow His first commands to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over it. Amen.
Oh God, in the brief time we have had this morning, I recognize that we lack the necessary nuance to address so many related concerns and objections to what I just said – but give us grace to see the big picture – all of creation and humanity (we having been made just a little lower than the angels!) – that all these things are evidence of your goodness and power, and evidence of your love for us. In Jesus name, Amen.