The Theology of Only Genesis
John C. Rankin (2013)
It is my conviction that the uniqueness and power of the biblical order of creation, in Genesis 1-2, can leverage the nations for truth and beauty in every aspect of life, for understanding any given issue or conflict. It is the only complete foundation for a genuinely liberal arts education.
It fullest written exposition in in three books (located at teibooks.com): Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions and The Six Pillars of Biblical Power; with further outworking in The Six Pillars of Honest Politics and Jesus, in the Face of His Enemies.
In Genesis 1-3, the Bible sets forth the storyline defined by creation, sin and redemption, or to put it another way, goodness, descent into broken trust, and rescue. The order of creation is entirely good and trustworthy, and defined in Genesis 1-2, in what I call Only Genesis. In Genesis 3, the brokenness of this goodness and trust then enters by an act of the human will. Also in Genesis 3, the promise of redemption is given to restore the promises of Genesis 1-2, fulfilled ultimately in Jesus the Messiah. Jesus literally buys us back from the slavery of broken trust.
Thus, only when we understand the heights of the goodness of the order of creation, can we then understand the depths of the injustice and evil that breaks it. And only then can we grasp the height of being rescued from the depths, and receive the good promise of the resurrection.
The original goodness of Only Genesis involves eleven positive assumptions:
1. Only Genesis has a positive view of the Creator’s nature. The Hebrew language for the one true Creator is Yahweh Elohim, and it uniquely defines the One who is greater than space, time and number. His power is unlimited, his nature is good and his purpose is to bless all people fully. In being greater than space and time, this means Yahweh Elohim is also great enough to come into our human world and relate to us. In being greater than number, Yahweh Elohim is not numerically restricted in himself, and this leads to the triune understanding of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. From this point, as manifest in human community, checks and balances on power are derived, in tripartite forms of government, e.g., co-equal branches of the executive, legislative and judicial. This equals diversity in service to unity, and thus a healthy social order.
2. Only Genesis has a positive view of the heavenly court. In Genesis 1:1, Elohim creates “the heavens and the earth.” This refers, at a deeper level that just the physical imagery, to the domain of God in the heavens, and of man and woman on the earth. The “heavenly court” equals the political and economical order and freedom of God, and his angels before creation and thereafter; and the “abysmal court” is the political and economic tyranny, of disorder and slavery of Satan and hos fellow fallen angels, they who rebelled from within, and were cast out of the heavenly court at the outset. The freedom to say yes or no to the heavenly court and the good creation is in place at the outset, and given to man and woman later.
3. Only Genesis has a positive view of communication. The first words spoken by the Creator in Genesis are “Let there be light.” This is the nature of revelation or communication – where by definition, light reveals what is truly there. Part of Yahweh Elohim’s communication in the Bible is that it is a dialogue – he invites us to ask him questions as we learn his ways. Yahweh Elohim communicates this way with Abraham and all the biblical prophets, many others in the Bible, and likewise to the present through the Holy Spirit, in accord with what has been revealed in the Bible. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares himself to be the “I AM,” to be Yahweh Elohim, the one true Creator in human form, to communicate with us as the living Word, as the Light of the world. One of the names for Jesus in the Hebrew, Immanuel, means that Yahweh Elohim is “with us.”
4. Only Genesis has a positive view of human nature. The whole structure of Only Genesis is designed to highlight the creation of man and woman as the image-bearers of the one true Creator, as Yahweh Elohim breathes the breath of life into Adam and Eve. The creation is made for us, and to bear his image means that in our finite nature we reflect the Creator’s infinite qualities of communication and creativity. We are made to govern the good creation and take care of it with satisfaction in building families and nations. Or as it declares in Psalm 8, we are “crowned” with “glory and honor” as the highest purpose of the creation. In other words, central to the greatness of Yahweh Elohim is his joy in making man and woman to share his glory.
5. Only Genesis has a positive view of human freedom. In fact, it is the only proactive definition of human freedom in history. The first words spoken by Yahweh Elohim to Adam in Genesis 2 are, in English translations, “You are free …” More dynamic is the Hebrew language itself, a metaphor translated “in feasting you will continually feast” (akol tokel). In other words, an unlimited menu of good choices in all of life is presented, so long as the forbidden and poisonous fruit is not eaten. To eat the forbidden fruit means “in dying you will continually die” (moth tamuth in the Hebrew). Thus, feast on what is good, or eat poison and die – the sovereign Creator gives man and woman dignity and honor in giving us such a freedom to choose. Unless we are free to say no, we are not free to say yes. There is no coercion in the Gospel. We are free to choose between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, between life and death, between freedom and slavery.
6. Only Genesis has a positive view of hard questions. When Yahweh Elohim gives man and woman stewardship over creation, an endlessly delightful learning process is put in place. We are made to learn in his presence, a central part of which is asking questions. Even after the broken trust of sin, the power to pose hard questions in the presence of Yahweh Elohim and one another is seen dramatically, for example, in the persons of Abraham, Moses, Job, David, Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Jeremiah, Habakkuk and Paul, and supremely in Jesus as he modeled the rabbinic teaching method. No questions are ever prohibited. Yahweh Elohim allows himself to be directly challenged, and Jesus also invites the same in the face of his plotting enemies.
7. Only Genesis has a positive view of human sexuality. The structures and trajectories of both Genesis 1 and 2 focus on men and women as full equals and complements, as image-bearers of the Creator. They are joint stewards of the creation, and joint heirs of eternal life. Healthy human sexuality is defined by chastity outside of marriage, and fidelity within the marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime. It is within this covenant of faithful marriage that trust is first learned, between man and woman, then modeled for their children, then to the extended family and local communities, and then to the nations.
8. Only Genesis has a positive view of science and the scientific method. In Genesis 1, the sun, moon and stars are treated as inanimate objects, as opposed to being deities as in pagan religion. From there on the Bible views creation as it is, setting the table for honest scientific observation of the world in which we live. The Law of Moses also provides the ethical basis for the scientific method, the principle of falsification, where 100 percent accuracy is required of Hebrew prophets. If there is one mistake, then the prophet is not a true prophet. In science, if an experiment to prove a theory produces the same result 1,000 times, then a different result the next time, it has been falsified, and must be reviewed to find the error. This is science’s most exacting standard, coming from the Bible’s most exacting standard. Thus, the historical, geographical and observational claims of the Bible are relentlessly confirmed by the discipline of archeology and other sciences, from the Garden of Eden, located at the headwaters of the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris and Euphrates rivers in ancient Mesopotamia, through ancient Israel and the capitol of Jerusalem, to the apostle John on the island of Patmos.
9. Only Genesis has a positive view of verifiable history. Beginning with Adam and Eve, the biblical revelation is always ratified by multiple eye-witnesses, rooted in the Law of Moses, all the way to Jesus, along with very detailed genealogies; then from Jesus to the end of the New Testament. Indeed, when Jesus appears, he does so in accordance with millennia worth of recorded history rooted in multiple checks and balances to certify truth. This commitment to verifiable history has informed all Hebrew, Jewish and Christian scholarship across the millennia.
10. Only Genesis has a positive view of covenantal law. Here, Yahweh Elohim first holds himself accountable to being just and fair and loving, before he requires man and woman to obey his laws. The original covenant in the Garden of Eden is that of freedom, and all subsequent covenants aim to restore such freedom, finally fulfilled in the Messiah. Covenantal law on this basis is a bulwark against human despotic governments. Then, central to this biblical witness is the reality that the covenantal people are held to higher standards than are the pagans. The prophets Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Amos and Habakkuk, among others, first hold Israel and Judah accountable for their sins; as does the apostles Paul and Peter for the church.
11. Only Genesis has a positive view of unalienable rights. Yahweh Elohim gives the gifts of life, liberty and property (stewardship of the creation) to all people equally in Genesis 1-2. “Unalienable” refers to rights given by the Creator, rights that cannot be alienated, rights that are above the power of human government to define, give or take away. These unalienable rights are simply to be honored. The unalienable right of liberty means religious, political and economic freedom for all people, regardless of religious or philosophical beliefs. Biblically faithful Jews and Christians celebrate these liberties for all people equally, under the rule of law.
Only Genesis begins with the assumption that all things in creation are made good (tov). The “Gospel” of Jesus the Messiah comes from a word meaning “Good News” (euangelion). In the face of Muslim rebellion against despotic governments, what will follow? And where is any good news to be found for the establishment of a healthy social order?
Below are summaries of what I call The Six Pillars of Biblical Power and the The Six Pillars of Honest Politics. The first four pillars are drawn from Only Genesis, and the last two are drawn from the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – he who restores the promises of Only Genesis.
The Six Pillars of Biblical Power
- The power to give: We believe that the Creator, Yahweh Elohim, the Lord God Almighty, our heavenly Father, employs his unlimited power to give to and equally bless all people as image bearers of God. The power to give is modeled in the faithful marriage of one man and one woman, in parenthood, and is the basis for trust in human society.
- The power to live in the light: We believe that the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As darkness and the prince of darkness flee the light, we embrace the power to live in the light of God’s presence, open and accountable to all people in all we believe, say and do. Jesus is the Light of the world.
- The power of informed choice: We believe that the Lord God gives us all the power of informed choice, to say yes to the good of freedom and life, and no to the evil of slavery and death.
- The power to love hard questions: We believe that the Lord God gives us the freedom and power to pose hard questions of him, and of one another, in Christian community. This is the power of sanctifying integrity.
- The power to love enemies: We believe that the Lord Jesus loved the world when we yet enemies of the truth, drowning in a sea of broken trust. Now, as believers, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love those who are, at present, enemies of the Gospel.
- The power to forgive: We believe that the power to give is restored to the broken world through the power to forgive, purchased in the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Thus, we as believers are called to extend this forgiveness to the broken world, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in celebration of the mercy that triumphs over judgment in the second coming of Jesus.
The Six Pillars of Honest Politics
- The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
- The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
- The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
- The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
- The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
- The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against one another, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.
My agenda is to see such political ethics advanced in every nation, and for all peoples – regardless of our differences in tribe or professed religion.