Monday, November 05, 2018

Anonymous Asks (12)

“Where did God come from before he created earth, animals and humankind?”

This is the kind of question that could be asked two entirely different ways. The first is out of curiosity. The second is out of an obdurate refusal to believe anything that can’t be stringently proved on one’s own terms.

Since I have no idea where this anonymous questioner is coming from in his current thinking, I’ll answer it both ways and trust he’ll take it appropriately.

In the Beginning …

Genesis starts with “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The questioner correctly grasps that the “beginning” referred to is our beginning, not God’s. Curiosity about what came before is natural, but there are very few passages I know of that touch on things that might sate that spirit of inquiry. After all, the focus of the revelation we do have seems to be restoring men and women to a right relationship with their Creator, the loss of which relationship is detailed only two chapters further into Genesis. Our Bibles start with humanity’s fall and end with the full and successful application of God’s remedy to a sick race. In Genesis, God says to man, “Go.” In Revelation, he says, “Come.”

Thus, when we inquire about what went on before Genesis 1, we should be clear that we are asking a question outside the intended scope of the only book in the world that we might hope would address it. Nevertheless, we do find within scripture a few hints that help fill in the blanks, though they are provided not in the form of a treatise or history, but as aids to understanding other issues related to God’s sovereign purposes in this world.

The Anointed Guardian Cherub

One such passage speaks metaphorically of Lucifer:
“You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.”
It goes on, and there are other such passages, but what this one makes clear is that before God created earth, humans and animals, he also created angelic beings. We know this because he speaks of “the day you were created”. Using the word “universe” in its primary and largest sense, we can say the human race was born into an inhabited universe; if not physically inhabited, then certainly spiritually inhabited. Lucifer had regular employment (he was a guardian), a place in which he worked (the holy mountain of God), and an impressive array of adornment (sardius, topaz and diamond, etc.). He also existed in right relationship to God (“You were blameless in your ways”) up until sometime before his own fall.

Into an Inhabited Universe

Glimpses of the inhabited universe into which we were brought appear in Genesis 28, Isaiah 6, Ezekiel 1 and 10, and others. These hint at an unspecified spiritual location and an active spiritual society that predates our own and which we exist alongside. The patriarchs and prophets were allowed brief glances into heaven for the sake of informing their own conduct and messages to others.

For the Christian who is curious about such things, there is enough in the Bible you can explore on those subjects that I won’t attempt to detail it all here. I can assure you it will never be enough to answer all possible pre-Genesis 1 questions about God. The wise reader of scripture concentrates on taking out of these passages the moral lessons they were intended to convey to their original readers, rather than attempting to use them to analyze God at arm’s length.

To put a twist a commonly used line, “The absence of evidence about what God was doing prior to creating the earth is not evidence he wasn’t doing it.”

The Conventional Pseudoscientific Method

The other way this question gets asked is not curiously, but defiantly. In this case, the real thinking behind the question is something like “I refuse to believe in a God that doesn’t provide me with sufficient background detail to prove his existence scientifically.” Such a person usually imagines that modern science provides us with a rational, plausible explanation for the origin of our universe and of life in it that does not require the leaps of faith in which Christians are thought to regularly engage.

It doesn’t.

For those unaccustomed to hearing blunt dismissals of established “scientific” theories, and for those who think I’m off my nut, rest assured I’m not alone in my assertion that believing in evolution takes a staggering quantity of misplaced faith. Agnostic Fred Reed does a wonderful job of poking holes in both Darwin’s original theory and modern neo-Darwinism. For a non-Christian, he has a refreshing objectivity about origins and a willingness to dismiss any theory that is less than intellectually satisfying — even if it is overwhelmingly popular. You can find his thoughts on the subject here, here, here and here, none of which take him more than 1,800 words to express.

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