our first glimpse of tome life in the garden
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters." Genesis 1:1-2
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life and that life was the light of all mankind." John 1:1-4.
Our first glimpse of tome life is given to us in chapters 1 and 2 of the book of Genesis as well as the opening of the book of John from the Bible. A picture is painted of a triune God: God the Father, the Word (the Son or Jesus) and the Spirit of God. Together they are bringing order and life to creation through spoken word. This tells us God existed before anything else in our universe as well as the power he has over creation with the ability to bring into existence incredibly vast yet intricate design with just a word. When we read further into the creation account in chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis it's easy and perfectly rational to become distracted wondering why creation appears to be shown occurring over 6 days rather than over a much longer time period as modern science tells us. If we're not careful, we lose sight of what the text is trying to convey.
If we pause for a minute and unpack some crucial concepts, it may help us as we seek to understand God's word contained in the scriptures. First, when reading the Bible it's important for us to approach it with humility, taking note of the time period, context and setting within which it was written and to whom the verses were written for. The Bible doesn't always tell us every detail we may want to know, but gives us what we need to know. God revealing the intricacies of quantum mechanics and physics to the author of Genesis (Moses) probably would not have been very helpful in the time period it was written and it might have changed the course of history away from the overarching story he is telling to humanity. God is progressively revealing himself and knowledge to the world according to his plans. Second, we need to understand God is not bound by time like we are and exists in a different dimension. This does not contradict modern science since it currently suggests there are between 10 and 26 dimensions. Existing outside the confines of time and space while being the author of creation, God has the ability, like a writer, to see the beginning and the end of this story we find ourselves living in. We don't have this ability so we must observe life as it unfolds and look to the scriptures, as God has revealed them to us, for guidance on what is to come. We believe God chose to reveal himself to humanity in his son Jesus and, through his Spirit, inspired the many diverse authors of the Bible as the different books were written. We embrace science and encourage people to explore and discover the mysteries of God's creation and the universe. We believe an old earth view of the world and creation is compatible with the Christian faith. Many scholars believe, as we do, Genesis 1 is written as exalted poetry and is not trying to give an actual accounting of time. Read through the verses in chapter one and you'll notice the verses are very repetitious and poetic. There are many people we respect who believe in a literal 6 days of creation. A God who is able to create the universe through spoken word is absolutely capable of creating everything we know in 6 days. From what we we are able to observe in the known universe, it doesn't appear a literal 6 days is how he did it. We hope we are able to respectfully land on differing view points and move forward to the message of the Gospel which is the main story the Bible reveals to humanity.
Laying aside the amount of time which passed while the world was formed and came into existence, we believe the author of Genesis wants us to see in these chapters a triune God working together creating the universe in order to share his love with creation and that all of nature sings the praises of our creator inviting us into relationship with God. For insightful sermons unpacking the intricacies of creation, see Mark Batterson's sermon below titled The Creation as well at Tim Keller's sermon The Song of Creation.
In the opening chapters of Genesis we eventually see a garden comes into existence and this is the setting where the story begins to take shape of God's relationship with humanity. The garden was beautiful, filled with everything needed to live and flourish which included God. We see God create man and woman in his image breathing life or a soul (nephesh) into Adam and Eve giving them awareness of their status in his creation as having authority and stewardship over the earth. They were created in God's image, the "Imago Dei", giving every person immeasurable worth and value and priestly status in God's creation. After all of this we are told God rests to enjoy his creation.
In the middle of this garden God placed the tree of life and the significance of this tree shouldn't be missed. Through the Word (Jesus), the tree of life provided eternal life (dzo-ay') to Adam and Eve. John 1 tells us in the beginning the Word, or Jesus, provided life to all mankind and we believe it was Jesus' relationship to humanity at this point in time which made us whole and sustained life in the garden. In the garden we see God walked freely, conversing about his creation with Adam and Eve. Work was a part of life in the garden as well. In Genesis 2:15 we are told “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” This implied God’s creation wasn't finished since he wanted Adam to continue working the soil and to take care of the garden. God was sharing and teaching the joy and goodness of work, creativity and stewardship to humanity. We also see God required obedience through his command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2:16-17 "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden with God. Life was whole and complete. A disciplined life of work, creating, stewardship, obedience, rest and being in the presence of God emerges painting a vibrant picture of wholeness or "tome life" in the garden. In the next section we will see how this beautiful sustaining relationship with God and his creation was fractured through disobedience and rebellion against his teaching and mandate for humanity.