BEFORE “IN THE BEGINNING”

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  —Genesis 1:1

I loved these thoughts by Dr. Francis Schaeffer, from “Genesis In Time and Space,” addressing two of the four possibilities concerning the “Problem of our Being.” (The other two of four possibilities having very little acceptance.)

“Jean Paul Sartre well pointed out the basic philosophic problem that faces us: the fact that something—rather than nothing—is there.  This is the incontestable and irreducible minimum for beginning to move as a man. I cannot say nothing is there; it is quite plain that something is there.  Furthermore, it is also clear that this something that is there has two parts.  I am there and something in contrast to myself is there.”

POSSIBILITY # 1—THE IMPERSONAL BEGINNING: “(The) impersonal beginning, the notion that everything began with an impersonal something, is the consensus of the Western world in the twentieth century.  It is also the consensus of almost all Eastern thinking.  Eventually, if we go back far enough, we come to an impersonal source.  It is the view of scientism, or what I have called elsewhere modern modern science, and is embodied in the notion of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system.  And it is also the concept of much modern theology if one presses it back far enough.”

  • TWO PROBLEMS (WITH IMPERSONAL BEGINNING):  “In short, an impersonal beginning explains neither the form of the universe nor the personality of man.  Hence it gives no basis for understanding human relationships, building just societies or engaging in any kind of cultural effort. It’s not just the man in the university who needs to understand these questions.  The farmer, the peasant, anyone at all who moves and thinks needs to know.  That is, as I look and see that something is there, I need to know what to do with it.  The impersonal answer at any level and at any place at any time of history does not explain these two basic factors—the universe and its form, and the mannishness of man.  And that is so whether it is expressed in the religious terms of pantheism or modern scientific terms.”
  • Problem two —QUESTION OF PERSONALITY:Second and more important (than no explanation to “form of universe”), if we begin with an impersonal universe, there is no explanation of personality.  In a very real sense the question of questions for all generations—but overwhelmingly so for modern man—is ‘Who am I?’  For when I look at the “I” that is me and then look around to those who face me and are also men, one thing is immediately obvious: Man has a ‘mannishness.’  You find it wherever you find man—not only in the men who live today, but in the artifacts of history.  The assumption of an impersonal beginning can never adequately explain the personal beings we see around us, and when men try to explain man on the basis of an original impersonal, man soon disappears.”

PERSONAL BEGINNING: “But the Judeo-Christian tradition begins with the opposite answer.  And it is upon this that our whole Western culture has been built.  The universe had a personal beginning—a personal beginning on the high order of the Trinity.  That is, before “in the beginning” the personal was already there.  Love and thought and communication existed prior to the creation of the heavens and the earth.  Modern man is deeply plagued by the question ‘Where do love and communication come from?’  Many artists who pour themselves out in their paintings, who paint bleak messages on canvas, many singers, many poets and dramatists are expressing the blackness of the fact that while everything hangs upon love and communication, they don’t know where these come from and they don’t know what they mean. 

The biblical answer is quite otherwise: Something was there before creation.  God was there; love and communication were there; and therefore, prior even to Genesis 1:1, love and communication are intrinsic to what always has been.”

Can’t wait to read some more tomorrow, in Genesis!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.