In the Beginning
Creation, Culture, and the Spiritual Life
Marva J. Dawn
IVP Books, 2009, 124 pp., ISBN 978-0-8308-3707-6
Marva Dawn (pen name) is a theologian, author, educator, and teaching fellow at Regent College, Vancouver. In this book she looks at the first three chapters of Genesis, paying attention to what it tells us about God, which leads us to worship. These chapters are meant to ask "Why?" (vs. What? and How?) and the answer is, for the glory of God.
"The Bible is all about God …[but] we often read the Bible imagining it is about ourselves." Alternatively we can ask the text questions about God. (9)
Our culture promotes narcissism, the essence of sin, leading to continual dissatisfaction and self-centeredness. Consequently we bring that focus to our Bible reading and ask what the text means for our benefit instead of what it says about God.
"There is a Law in the cosmos from the beginning of God's creation that relates to human culture, and that is the Law of Worship." (16) Everyone is at worship. The question is whom are we worshipping? "The goal of the Christian life is that for more and more seconds of each day what we think and do and say is to God's glory, that every moment is worship of the true God instead of various idolatries of our making or of our culture's." (17)
"Intentionally, then, the Bible begins with an arresting focus on God--teaching us not only that this is the way we should always read the sacred text…, but also that the purpose of Genesis 1 is to call us into similar worship." (18)
Our tendency to read the text starting from ourselves leads us to problematic questions about the text. "God wouldn't be GOD if we could always understand Him." "We start with ourselves and human accomplishments, and we want God to match up to our image of Him. When a biblical passage shows us new dimensions of God, we think the text is wrong, rather than we ourselves. If while reading we ask what a text teaches us about the Trinity and God's workings, then we will begin with a proper humility and end with the praise that God deserves." (18)
"The first chapter of the Bible wants to woo us into honoring the Mighty One who brought all of creation into existence--namely, 'God'…." (19)
The Bible was not meant to answer the What? How? and When? questions of the sciences and prehistory, but to lead us to the Why? that is answered, 'For the glory of God!' Actually, the questions cannot be too neatly divided, for they all depend on the largest mystery of Who?" (24) "The question of Who? does encompass all the other questions, even the whole world of science, because all the discoveries of that world lead us to worship." (24)
"Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire." (26, quoting Thomas Merton)
"This book is just a beginning to try to get Christians not to fight about Genesis. I pray that you will go beyond it to ask new questions about the texts and their implications…." (34)
Genesis 1:1-2:3 is liturgical, a hymn of praise.
"Prayer is eavesdropping on the Trinity." To imagine listening to the trinity helped me to recognize that God is such a mystery that we will always have more to learn. (41-2)
Gen 1:27. God's image is bequeathed equally on male and female, with no qualifications. God named both male and female as bearers of His image. (42-3)
"This sense of being made in God's image calls us all constantly to look for it in others and to do what we can to help them acknowledge it and to realize it by joining in worship. We thereby carry to others the answer to their inmost longing, a yearning for union with the Trinity, a thirst to respond with adoration to the God who made them. Thus, our Christian lives are formed with a deep desire to reflect God's image in our lives to God's glory and to pass on the gracious news of our creation that image for the well-being of the world." (44)
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