Friday, August 22, 2008

The Beginning

So, the Bible starts with the book of Genesis, which roughly means "Origin" or "Beginning"; a fitting book title for what is essentially the first chapter of a larger story. The first words are "In the beginning..." and it goes on to relay the story of creation. I would have said that it goes on to describe creation, but the story isn't terribly descriptive.

There might be a practical reason for this -- that it was written by Moses, a man, tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions of years after the event (depending on how you interpret God's timeline and method of creation). So this is not an eyewitness account. However, the telling of this story is the inspired Word of God. And by inspired of course I mean intimately present and somehow cooperatively penned; an interaction between divinity and humanity. This is somewhat a mystery of spiritual truth. Although, not so mysterious, in that God uses people to speak Truth to one another all the time. The Bible is simply an uncompromised collection of such examples throughout history. So, by divine revelation God could have chosen to provide more detail about creation, but He didn't.

I think God tells us just as much by what He chooses not to say, as He tells us by what He says. This may be exactly the point... read on.

In any case, it begins "In the beginning..." and I find myself looking for the missing details; asking the question "the beginning of what, exactly?" Now of course, millenia later, we know that this is at least the beginning of a book, which Moses would have known as well. I doubt, however, that Moses knew quite the scope and gravity of the book he began; where it would go, or that we would all be reading it today. But it goes on to tell about God's creation, right? Well, the creation of what, exactly? It can't just be the creation of life, because He starts the story before the creation of life. Is it the beginning of all physical matter? Maybe the beginning of purpose and organization for physical matter. If God, by way of Moses, means to tell us of 'the beginning,' I can't help but wonder; what was before the beginning? What, exactly, did not exist until the beginning?

If the spiritual world (in which God exists, along with Satan, heaven, hell, angels, demons, and all beings unencumbered by physical bodies) is not bound by what we know as time, then perhaps 'the beginning' marks the very first moment of measurable, sequential events. Maybe this was the initial foray into an existence organized by sequence; the invention of that construct that makes human sanity possible -- the infrastructure that is inescapable and infinitely frustrating, but by which we organize all human existence. Maybe the creation of time itself is truly God's first known work toward mankind. Perhaps before 'the beginning' there was no such thing as beginning or end, first, second, or third, before or after, early or late. Maybe God was everything all at once and there was nothing else before the beginning. Maybe God simply was.

Now, I understand the Bible to be nothing more than the story of the relationship between God and man. In truth, I believe this to be the very same story that continues today (thanks to the continued success of time), and the only story with consequence. All the other stories that take place in our lives are only relevant to the extent that they relate to this story. Every human life represents a profound story full of daily sagas, decades-long sub-plots and all kinds of recurring themes. Moreover, each human life story is a microcosm of the Human story -- all human behavior across geography, era, and culture. While it all seems so insurmountably vast - the sum total of human experience - the only relevance or consequence toward the purpose of humanity is defined by the story of the relationship between God and man. Even the rise and fall of empires are but shifting sands relative to this one story. A story that starts "In the beginning," and has not yet concluded.

Back to my question; what was before the beginning? Irrelevance.

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