Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Beauty from violence

On the earth's creation.

'When I first saw the Earth from space I thought about how something so incredibly beautiful came from something so violent and destructive.' - Astronaut Nicole Stott

Watching a documentary on the creation of planet Earth I was struck by those concluding comments.

Throughout the episode there was a regular repetition and emphasis placed on the violence and chaos that surrounded the creation of our planet. Rocks 'smashed' into each other 'collision upon collision'. The narrator described our planet as a tiny droplet of calm in a massive surging 'storm', 'raging' all around us.

It made me think of the creation myths from antiquity. Unfamiliar with the details of any particular story I'm told that in almost all creation stories, the world is created amidst a battle between the gods, with war and violence as their themes.

Increasingly I'm interested by the process by which many of our early human ancestors created those stories, and I have come to believe that they arrived at them in large part simply by observing a lot about the universe and the way it functions. If careful, meditative and lived experience of the world was all you had to go on one would expect theories of monism and dualism to emerge; they seem in keeping with our observation of things.

It is the Bible's creation account that needs an explanation, not the others.

Referring back to the concluding comments of the documentary there seems perhaps to be an insight for Christian living and a hint of a fuller and thicker reality in the universe, a reality that can only be gleaned either from hindsight over billions of years and the latest in scientific research, or through some sort of revelation given by some being from outside the system.

This indeed is the message that Jesus' life, death and resurrection offers us and it is the message that offers comfort to believers all over the world. The storm is not our friend if the storm is all there is but as with the creation of our planet, so with the story of our lives; if God is at work in the storm to bring out incredible beauty, it can indeed be our friend. This is what the apostle Paul sees when he writes: and we know that in all things God works together for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. What's he doing when he says that? Where does he get that idea from? From heaven? No, I think he's merely extrapolating out from Genesis's creation account and from the profound activity of God in the gospel. In doing so he arrives at a conclusion that is not only comforting but also full of hope and beauty. It is something with far reaching implications for our lives. As Christians it would seem that this, and not the modern prosperity and comfort gospel, is our proper modus operandum.

Charles Spurgeon was right when he wrote:
Happy storm—that wrecks a man on such a rock as this! 
O blessed hurricane—that drives the soul to God and God alone! When a man is so burdened with troubles, so poor, so friendless, so helpless that he has nowhere else to turn—he flies into his Father’s arms, and is blessedly clasped therein! Oh, tempest-tossed believer—it is a happy trouble which drives you to your Father! 
Or as the documentary concluded:

'The storm has been our friend,'

Yes it has and it can continue to be only because it isn't the product of random forces (or warring gods) but of the guiding hand of a loving and awe inspiring heavenly Father. A Being who brings beautiful things from the dust and rubbish heaps of life.

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