Genesis, The Cosmic Tabernacle and Jesus
This week we focused primarily on the Fall in Genesis Three. But, I’d like to go back and ask some questions about creation since fall and creation go together.
If we’re going to talk about creation, we have to ask the following question: was the universe designed by an intelligent creator? Although some vehemently object to this idea, a simple look at the scientific evidence sure makes it seem that way. Consider the following “coincidences” which theoretical physicist Michio Kaku describes in his book, Parallel Worlds:
- Earth has just the right amount of oceans, oxygen content and heat content to sustain life.
- Our moon is just the right size to stabilize the earth’s orbit. If it were any smaller, the earth’s orbit would wobble disastrously, leading to massive climate change and making life impossible.
- We are just the right distance from the sun. If it were any closer, Earth would be like Venus which has temperatures which soar to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The planet Jupiter has immense gravity, just enough to keep most meteors from crashing into Earth.
- If the proton were just 1% heavier, it would decay into a neutron and all nuclei would disintegrate, making matter impossible.
- If the strong nuclear force were just slightly weaker, nuclei would fly apart, making the formation of the elements impossible.
- If the amount of hydrogen that converts to helium were .0006 instead of .0007, the atoms in our bodies could not have formed.
- If the density of the universe were just slightly smaller, the universe would collapse on itself.
- If the cosmological constant, which governs the acceleration of the universe, were just a bit larger, antigravity would blow apart the universe.
In other words, life requires the fine-tuning of hundreds of variables. If any one of these variables were off by even a tiny amount, life would be impossible. Yet, we’re here. Doesn’t that suggest design?
The notion that this can’t all be a coincidence is sometimes called the strong “Anthropic Principle,” which is the idea, once again according to Kaku, that “the constants of nature are tuned to allow for life and intelligence.” Although some (including Kaku) would say that given enough time, almost anything is possible simply by chance, our universe certainly appears to have been designed.
Thus the “argument from design” has been a favorite way for Christians to demonstrate the likelihood of the existence of God. Note this doesn’t “prove” the existence of God; it simply suggests the existence of a designer is not a fantasy. Yet, since Christians believe that the statement “God created the heavens and the earth” is true, we rightly see the design of the universe as evidence of God’s handiwork.
However, some Christians want to take this further and argue that Genesis 1 demonstrates scientifically how God created the universe. This is a grave mistake and one that has brought significant embarrassment to Christian witness over the past two hundred years.
But, why? If the Bible says the universe was created in six, twenty-four hour days, (and by the way, since the text employs the Hebrew Word “yom” for day this seems to require they be 24-hour days, not long periods of time), then why not defend young-earth creationism no matter what the consensus of the scientific community claims?
We ought to reject idea that the world was created in six twenty-four hour days because this is not what the text of Genesis 1 is trying to communicate. In his book, The Lost World of Genesis One, John Walton, an OT scholar at Wheaton, makes the argument that the creation account in Genesis has little to do with material creation.
In fact, ancient readers would not have understood materiality the way our current world does, influenced as it has been by the scientific revolution. Instead, ancient readers would have understood creation to be about God’s bringing order and functions to unformed chaos. Thus, when God separates light from darkness (day 1), separates the waters above from waters below (day 2) and separates the waters from dry land (day 3) and then assigns beings such as birds, sea monsters, cattle and humans to fill and rule these newly ordered entities, these are activities of order and function. God is assigning functions and functionaries to the creation, not focusing on material entities.
So, what’s the point of the creation account? The climax of Genesis 1 occurs on day 7 when God rests, a part of the story that usually gets comparatively little attention. According to Walton, what God has created is a cosmic temple. God’s resting is an indication that his presence has come to reside within this temple, the cosmos. For ancient readers, rest meant presence. Genesis 1 is about the entire Trinity bringing order to the cosmic temple. Genesis 2 is then about Adam and Eve acting as priests within the temple on earth, the Garden of Eden.
Hence the remarkable order that we observe in the creation is no coincidence. This is what God was telling us he did in the creation account. What mechanisms he used and over what time period are modern questions that would have concerned few ancient readers.
Thus God is with us. This is the point. God both creates and sustains this remarkable universe, his tabernacle. He delegates the responsibility of its care and maintenance, to us, his creatures.
In fact, this same idea resurfaces in the NT with Jesus. When John describes the incarnation in John 1.14, he writes, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The Greek word which we translate “dwelt” is “skenao.” “Skenao” here means to “spread a tent” or “to tabernacle.” Hence, in the NT the source of sacred space becomes Jesus himself. And Jesus’ Spirit comes to reside or “tabernacle” within us.
God is with us both in the cosmic tabernacle and in our hearts via the Spirit. Thus the same God who brought order to a chaotic universe can bring order and meaning to us in our chaotic lives through his spirit that dwells within us.
Kevin Dodge is the author of several books on the spiritual life, including Confessions of a Bishop: A Guide to Augustine’s Confessions and Reading Dante: A Theological Paraphrase of the Inferno. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School and a ThM with Highest Honors from Dallas Theological Seminary.