Thursday, February 05, 2015

'Death before the Fall': Creation perfected through suffering?

I've been thinking about the creaturely expanse of God's creative and redemptive plans, including the (possible) place of animal suffering within those plans (not least because I'm preaching on 'Knowing God in suffering' this Sunday). If you find yourself wondering about things alluded to here, I do recommend Osborn's Death Before the Fall and David Clough's On Animals.

'As unsettling as it may be for some readers to discover, nowhere in Genesis is the creation described as "perfect." God declares his work to be "good" or tob at each stage and finally "very good"--tob me'od--at its end.... 

In Deuteronomy 32:4, we read that God's "work is tamim" or "perfect" ... [but when we read it] in its full literary context, for example, we find that God's tamim work of creation--his "fashioning" of the children of Israel--is revealed precisely in the long, perilous and conflictive process ...

If the reading I have offered so far is at all correct and God recruits the creation at each stage to play an active, participatory role in what follows, with Adam being charged with an especially vital task of "subduing" other parts of the earth, then there is a very good theological reason why God declares the creation to be "very good" rather than "perfect" ...

There is ... a strong sense that while creation is in one sense "complete" at the end of the narrative, it is not yet finished. God "ended his work which he had made" (Gen 2:2)--that is, he completed what he had completed. But the story of God's creative purposes for his world has in fact just begun....

The fact that God "rested" or "ceased" from his work on the seventh day may therefore represent not a termination point but a deeply pregnant pause. There is more to come, and we must wait to hear God say the words "it is finished."'

- Ronald E. Osborn, Death Before the Fall, pages 28-32
(paragraph spacing altered for blog-readability)


Osborn spends far more of this book contesting young earth creationism than I cared to read, but he does offer a compelling reading of the Bible along the lines indicated above. That said, there are aspects of this which don't quite 'sit right' with me--so you're not alone if this causes you some consternation!---but I think this needs thinking about, and I'm happy to carry thoughts and discussions forward rather than close them off in pre-emptive conclusions. 

2 comments:

David Tooke said...

This is an intriguing prospect. I suspect I will be picking up this book. It seems that the proposed progressive nature of creation would also shape ones eschatology. As well, I've been intrigued by the concept of God as artist. If you know artists, they rarely feel there work is finished.

David Tooke said...

*their