The Secret Means of Faith
Christopher B. Harbin
Genesis 1:9-23; Ps 20; Mark 4:26-34; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17
The Aztecs and Maya made human sacrifices to urge the sun's return from winter. The Druids celebrated the winter solstice with similar purpose. The Lakota, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Babylonians all were involved in special rites to call on or celebrate the sun's return. They were afraid that the sun might remain on a permanent winter holiday or keep traveling northward, condemning life on earth. Genesis paints a very different picture. Here, the sun, moon, and stars are objects in the sky, set in the firmament to mark off times and seasons. They are not entities controlling seasons at a whim.
Genesis never explains how God created, but it establishes a very distinct theological premise: God has created the world in a system of order, whereby the seasons are not subject to flights of fancy by the deities the nations worship. Patterns of season, night, and day were established in the framework of Yahweh's created order far beyond the reach of such gods or the fear motivating their worship. It is telling that the text calls the sun and moon "two great lights." This gives them no sense of persona and robs them of the common mystical associations made to them. God set them in their places, not as beings, but as physical structures in the realm of creation.
More than that, the earth was created fertile, filled with self-replicating life. God engineered plants and animals to reproduce after their own kind, not requiring any special action to bring fertility. God created a fertile earth. Fertility is in its DNA, as we might say. Fertility practices of the Ancient Near East and witch doctors preying on albinos are thus set aside in Genesis as pointless. There is no need to anxiously worry over processes we do not understand, yet are established by God. Genesis does not tell us how, it just tells us who set it all in motion. Yahweh is th ...
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