30 November 2006

Sometime Other Than Meantime

Filed under: Genesis 1 — ktismatics @ 9:33 am


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

So here’s the thing about publishing: the quality of your work doesn’t seem to matter nearly as much as being able to identify a ready-made market for it. The obvious niche for a book about Genesis 1 is the creation-versus-evolution controversy. Although my book takes the creation narrative seriously and literally, it doesn’t fit well with the faith-based community. Why not? Because it implies that maybe God didn’t create or design the material universe after all. So that means I should ally myself with the evolution side of the argument. It makes sense: undermining Judeo-Christian theism from inside the main theistic text really is a pretty cool move. There’s a bit of a backlash against the heavy-handed polemics of Dawkins and Sam Harris; my argument is scriptural, theological, literary, nuanced, cultured. My book is what’s next.

But here’s the other thing: I’m just not that interested in fighting for evolution. Sure I believe that it’s sound science. Sure I believe that evolution can account for a lot of things that traditionally fall within the purview of religion: cosmogony, human nature, morality, both selfishness and altruism, beliefs. But what’s so great about attributing everything I value about humanity to natural rather than divine causes? I’m just replacing one deterministic explanation with another.

We look to origins as first causes. Where did we come from? Why are we the way we are? What has set the course of our development and history? Creationists and evolutionists are equally concerned with origins. One side sees God as the source; the other, random variation and natural selection. Both are asking fundamentally the same question: what events beyond our control determine the course of our lives? Backward-looking, deterministic, ultimately dehumanizing: evolution and providence aren’t all that different from one another.

What defines the beginning for God is a conscious act of creating. To create isn’t to be caused; it’s to be the cause. Everything that’s determined happens “in the meantime”: in the middle time between first cause and final effect. To cause something different to happen, something determined neither by nature nor by God, is to create a beginning. By doing something unprecedented, God created a beginning for himself. If we’re created in his image, then that’s what we need to do too: create beginnings for ourselves. Reducing everything to natural causes or to the will of God is to live in the middle. Every time we create we begin again. The lesson of Genesis 1 isn’t to keep looking back at that particular beginning, but to learn from the creator what it means to begin.

The shrewdest move publication-wise is to position the Genesis 1 book in the middle of the creation versus evolution debate, to take sides, to add fuel to a fire that’s already burning. If I don’t provide my particular fuel somebody else will surely add theirs. The post-Christianization of America is a sociohistorical movement that’s already underway: go with the Tao rather than resisting it. But I don’t really want to go with or against that particular tide. Why takes sides on whether natural or divine forces shape my destiny? It doesn’t really matter which side I choose, just so long as I get myself onto the field of play. But I believe this: there may be no use in fighting destiny, but there’s nothing interesting about going along with destiny either.

Here’s my point, and also that of elohim in Genesis 1: whatever got me to this place, I’m going to set something different in motion, something that might never have happened if I didn’t do it. But here’s the tragedy: if I don’t choose sides and get into the game that’s already underway, whatever else I do will never be noticed by either the players or the audience. The book will never get published.



  1. As much as I appreciate your self-deprecating, woe-is-me commentary, I would have to disagree with your point about a public that is demanding that we take sides.

    I honestly think a lot of people don’t really care, anymore, about whether Gen 1 is creation or evolution. Many would appreciate a perspective that is above the fray of what has become an argument where the horse has been beaten for so long that it has long since disappeared and now the club carriers are beating everything in sight! It gets a little bit old. It is for this reason that I have appreciated your insights into Gen 1.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 1 December 2006 @ 12:05 am

  2. What I hear you saying is that you’re sick of my whining: poor me, nobody reads my stuff, nobody cares, etc. That’s the risk of writing a blog: sometimes you expose your “true self,” and it’s not a pretty sight. In fact I do feel like one of those downtrodden, self-absorbed, bitter losers in a Dostoevsky or Beckett novel. You got a problem with that?

    As to whether people still care about creation versus evolution, clearly you don’t hang out with enough atheists. Half the people in America believe God created man just like it says in the Bible. Probably 90% are theists. The evangelicals have a bunch of books in the wings in reaction to Dawkins and company, ready to take the supposedly high ground of sophisticated co-existence. I think the agnostic side would benefit from a little more finesse — like me, for instance. The post-evangelicals have nothing to gain from my Gen. 1 exegesis, because they’ve already landed on theistic True Myth — so they’re no market for my book. The atheists might find more interesting a literal reading of Gen 1 that pushes theism nearly all the way out of the story. Maybe my version is the “true” True Myth?


    Comment by ktismatics — 1 December 2006 @ 8:00 am

  3. Well, I think my point was that many people see the debate about evolution and creation as having little or no effect on their faith (whether they have faith in God or faith in science or faith in themselves – because, after all, everybody has faith in something!). That is, people have dichotomized their evolution/creation stance from their faith. Hence, you have a crowd of Theistic evolutionists, and scattered groups of academics who believe the cosmos were set in motion by some sort of higher power, but nonetheless do not consider themselves belonging to any sort of religion. Personally, I believe that God created the world, but I’m not sure on those details and I don’t believe that the text of Gen. 1 is conclusive on that issue.

    So, it is to the persons described above that your treatment would have appeal.


    Comment by Jonathan Erdman — 2 December 2006 @ 8:59 pm

  4. I’ve posed this hypothetical question before: if God had nothing whatsoever to do with creating the material universe, would it affect your faith? Besides, evolution doesn’t stop with cosmogony; it delves into psychology, mysticism, etc. You read a well-designed scientific study demonstrating that prayer had no discernible effect on health outcomes except when the sick person knew he/she is being prayed for — and then the outcomes turned out worse than the no-prayer control group. Does this study have an effect on your faith? Or you read some studies showing that little kids have a natural tendency to ascribe intentionality behind inanimate objects: does it affect your faith in a Creator- or Designer-God?

    Empirical research cannot disprove God as prime mover, or God as prayer-answerer. But empirical research can do a pretty good job of wielding Occam’s Razor, making God irrelevant to a lot of presumably natural phenomena. If you believe in the Judeo-Christian God you can dismiss a whole host of findings as irrelevant to the basis of your faith. If, on the other hand, you don’t believe, you’ll find in empirical findings no reason to become a believer. And if you’re somewhere in between… I suppose it depends on what you regard as the relevant source of validation for belief or unbelief.

    With respect to my book, I don’t think it would have much impact on theists, unless they’re prepared to uphold inerrancy at the expense of presupposions. It might have more impact on atheists, agnostics,and fence-sitters to have an interpretation of Genesis 1 that jibes with evolution and either a small god or no god at all.

    The reality of the book-publishing marketplace is that, unless the agent and the publisher can identify a segment of the book-buying public who will want to look at my book, they won’t publish it — regardless of how good it might be. If the only market are the Theistic evolutionists and scattered academics, the book is doomed. I have to emphasize its mass-market appeal: what if Genesis 1 really happened… but the truth is something that’s been hidden by the religious establishment? Now we’re moving into Da Vinci Code conspiracy-theory territory. It’s marketing hype; it’s establishing the parameters of a sizeable and controversial reality in which my book plays a prominent role. Yeah baby, bring on the six-figure advance!


    Comment by ktismatics — 3 December 2006 @ 5:26 pm

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