The Bible is not inerrant, in history, science, and ethics - nor is it inerrant in theology.
And . . . it does not need to be in order to ground, guide, and sustain Christian identity.
~Delwin Brown

In A Perfect World?

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You’ve heard the same shtick, I’m sure. In the beginning, God made everything perfect, then us humans came along and messed everything up. There’s been distress and turmoil ever since, and it is all our fault. Had that “first sin” not come along, we’d still be living in a perfect paradise and all would be well.

Here’s the problem. The Bible never says that God created a world that was perfect. That is a later theology that most of us have been taught and have taken for granted. Actually, the Bible only says that God’s creation was “very good” (see Genesis 1:31). “Very good” is a far cry from our understanding of “perfect.”

This “very good world” is a place of choices, and it is a place of cause and effect. There are consequences (that can be bad OR good) to any choice we make. This “very good world” is also a place where shit happens by no fault of our own, but we, as people created “very good,” have the ability to live life in spite of what happens and have life in abundance.

Think about the implications for this: the world God created was never perfect.

Could God not make it perfect? Or did God choose to not make it perfect, and if so, was (and is) God okay with us not always getting it right every time – even from the beginning? So much for the idea that we spoiled perfection (although we certainly haven’t helped it).

Ephesians 5:1 says we are to be imitators of God. Often people say this is impossible. Yet, if God only created a “very good world,” can it be that God is only asking us to be very good and to do things very good? With this in mind, doesn’t imitating God seem doable (especially with God’s help and the help of other very good people)?

Consider the very different second story of creation found in Genesis 2:4-25 (see a side-by-side comparison of the two stories of creation found in Genesis 1-2 HERE). While you are at it, strip away the theology that God is all knowing and hear this story literally.

God has created Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath / wind / spirit of life into Adam’s nostrils. Then God says something like this, “Hmm. Too bad he’s all alone. Let me make a help mate for him,” and God gets busy making all the animals.

One by one, God creates an animal, takes it to Adam and says, “What do you call this one?”

“Um, how about an aardvark?”

“Aardvark it is. Wanna marry this aardvark?”

“No, I’m not really interested in aardvarks in that way, God.”

Back to the drawing board God goes time and again only for Adam to be disappointed.

Using some poetic license, I can hear God say, “Adam, I think I’m on to something here. Look how cute and cuddly this one is! What do you call it?”

“Well, I think I’ll call it a tree shrew. But although it is cute, God, I’m really not attracted to it either. Thanks for trying.”

Again, no helpmate is found.

Taken literally (without later theologies forced into it), one can easily see that this story does not portray God as all-knowing but as one who creates by trial and error. It’s very good. It’s not perfect, but that’s okay.

As the “bread” surrounding the meat of the story of Noah, we see this theology of trial and error again. In Genesis 6:5-7, God is upset with humanity and decides to wipe them all out. Yet, God’s mind is changed when Noah’s faithfulness is discovered. Then follows the well known story of Noah, his family, a boat, and pairs of animals (unless they were clean, then there were more than 2!). In Genesis 9, we hear God say, “Hmm. Not sure that flood was such a good idea. I don’t think I’ll do that again. As a reminder to myself, I’ll put a bow – as in the bow of a bow and arrow – in the sky aimed at myself. Sorry all of creation.”

That’s a God I can imitate – one who keeps striving, through trial and error, to make something suitable, to make the world a more “very good” place. This is a God I can imitate – one who learns from mistakes and keeps on moving forward.

The problem only arises if, in imitating God, that I fail to learn from my mistakes. Lord, help me.

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