Four Revolutionary Words
August 8, 2010
Every once in a while, I get to teach my kids from the Bible. They look at me kinda funny because I almost always read from the book of Genesis, which I consider one of the greatest books ever written. No matter if you think it fiction, history or poetry, the book of Genesis is where the ca-ca hit the fan in civilization.
I start my kids off by preparing them to not be believers in God. I tell them that this book is mocked as false by some people in the world, that they might one day lose their job in a university setting for claiming this book is true, and that it can be a difficult book to believe. I also remind them that while our family observes the Christian religion, that they can never be made into Christians by someone else. Nobody can really explain what makes some people believe Genesis while others doubt, but the answers and explanations for belief I’ve heard so far all ring false.
Dumb people neither necessarily accept nor reject the book. Smart people neither necessarily accept nor reject the book. Both smart and dumb people who reject Genesis are not generally people I want to be like. Most of my heroes (with the exception of Aristotle who didn’t likely have access to the book) all read and enjoy the book of Genesis.
I never tell anyone to believe in the Bible out of hope or wishful thinking. Nobody should make an irrational jump into anything, especially into a world view, religion or philosophy. My kids are treated with the same respect I would offer to anyone else, they deserve an education, not a religious bumper sticker. The Christianity I had been exposed to for most of my life was a form that came from believing Baby Boomers. Like all things Baby Boomer, it was perhaps the most irrational form of Christianity known to man. It’s a deliberately feelings based, illiterate, squishy belief structure that should be rejected whole cloth. Baby Boomers are the gift that keeps on taking.
Back to my kids. I like to think about kids who were around before the book of Genesis was written over 3,300 years ago. I put the Bible behind my back and say, “Let’s pretend that this story didn’t exist. What do you think we would believe about how we got here?”
I get out the whiteboard and start drawing whatever they come up with. I draw little cave men and show them making up stories about where the world came from. We also go over the competing creation stories that Moses would have encountered in Egypt of their sun god Ra rising from the chaotic waters for the first time.
My point is that the best way to prepare my kids for the Paganism and Pantheism they will likely encounter as adults is to educate them about the Paganism and Pantheism of the past. The competing creation stories before Genesis came along would worship deities that were dependent or associated with the material world. The best story going before Genesis came along was to worship creation or a creator that was essentially created.
Fast forward 3,300 years or so and if you remove the Bible from the conversation of creation and you have Materialist scientists saying almost identical things as the ancient Pantheists and Pagans:
“The world was not made by the gods, but instead was the work of material forces interacting in nature.” – Carl Sagan
In short, nothing really changes. There is either a creator of the materials or the materials are all there ever was, is, and will ever be. If the materials don’t require a maker then they essentially are God in that they perform the same acts of creation. The materials are no less miraculous in this cosmology, just more irrational.
Finally, I read my kids those first four words of Genesis, “In the beginning, God…” and I stop. Within four words the Bible has already pissed off most of my employers, most of the philosophers I read, many in the arts community and many of my neighbors here in Los Angeles (come on, you live a city named after angels). There’s little more offensive than to claim that God existed in history, is really there and that this can be known.
I’m not sure if Moses was into debate, but he sure threw it down with those four words. The rest of the world largely deified creation and worshipped it then Genesis comes along and says that man can no longer worship the creation. He had to worship the Creator. Of all the Creators in the world we could have gotten, we had to have a jealous one. “In the beginning, God…” is where it all began. You wouldn’t have Western Civilization if those four words weren’t written. Without them, you and I wouldn’t likely even be here.