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Only one God

A journey into the Genesis creation account: part one

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This article is the first part of an ongoing series on the Genesis creation account. Here are parts two and three.

The components of a new worldview

The renowned Oxford mathematician and apologist, Professor John Lennox, often points out that the existence of God cannot be mathematically proven. This is not to say that such evidence does not exist. There is in fact a class of arguments, which taken together, make a powerful case for the existence of God. 

The first and most important is historical in nature: Jesus was condemned to death under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and on the third day came back to life. This historical event is, by far, the most important proof for the existence of God and is at the very origin of the Christian faith. 

Another kind of evidence has to do with several scientific discoveries made in the last century. In this respect, the concept of the fine tuning of the universe must surely rank as one of the most remarkable proofs of the existence of a super intelligent being. 

Fine tuning refers to the exquisitely fine calibrating of about three dozen physical constants that are necessary to support life. 

One of these values is the rate of expansion of the universe. If it was just a little slower (here I mean a barely perceptible smidgen), the universe would collapse on itself. A little faster, and the universe would dissipate too quickly, resulting in what’s called the heat death of the universe. 

Any minute deviation of any of these constants would be catastrophic. The odds that these conditions would emerge by chance are infinitesimally small.  

A third category of evidence is the Bible itself. Among the most remarkable sections of the Bible, we have the Torah, the first five books of Moses. The Torah represents the greatest intellectual accomplishment of all times. Outside of Scripture, everything written before and since pales in significance. The Torah is a fiery sun. Everything else, flickers in the night. 

To assert that it is the Word of God is not just a statement of faith; the text itself speaks with the very authority and the voice of God.  

The creation account (Gen 1-3) ranks as one of the most extraordinary sections of the Torah. It is by far the most innovative, revolutionary, insightful, life affirming, hope filled, and world changing text ever to emerge in ancient history. 

The purpose of this essay and those that will follow is to explore some of the reasons behind this bold claim. 

Before examining the text itself, it is important to clarify the original purpose of the creation account. The story was written to provide the basic elements of a worldview that would compete against the religious ideology the Hebrews had assimilated during their time in Egypt. 

By the time Moses appears on the scene, the Hebrews had become so ideologically colonized that they had entirely forgotten the God of their ancestors. As a people about to begin a new phase of their existence in service to the true God, the Hebrews would need to acquire a new understanding of God, human nature, and the physical universe. 

If taking the people out of Egypt proved to be relatively simple, taking Egypt out of the Hebrews would prove to be infinitely more difficult. The creation story would constitute a critical tool in effecting the theological transformation needed for Israel to partner with God in the implementation of his plan of redemption for humanity. 

The question of worldview is what makes this text so important for contemporary readers. The battle for the souls of men and women is always adjudicated at the level of our most fundamental beliefs about reality. 

Is God good? Do men and women have intrinsic value? Do humans control their destiny or are they subject to cosmic powers that determine their fate? 

How we answer these and other questions will determine the kind of life we will have and the type of society we will build. 

Only one God

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1).

This text proclaims that there is only one God, and that this God created the entire universe. This simple statement contains the seeds of the eventual demise of the Mesopotamian mythical universe. In one swipe, this sentence undermines the world of the gods and their alleged powers. Genesis 1:1 proclaims the absolute sovereignty of God over creation and distinguishes the person of God from the created order. 

Throughout history, humans have believed that the divine is intrinsically entwined with the physical world, a view that is known as pantheism. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis, points out that in pantheism, the divine and the universe are believed to be one and the same. If one could conceive of the universe disappearing, God or the gods would be extinguished with it. 

The first verse of Genesis 1 is diametrically opposed to such a perception of the divine. The text conjures up the picture of a God who imagines and makes the universe in the same way an artist creates a work of art. To quote Lewis, “A painter is not a picture, and he does not die if his picture is destroyed.”

Elohim, the Hebrew word used for God in this passage, is not one god among many. Elohim is the only God and sole creator. The notion of an only God, who is completely distinct from the physical realm, did not naturally emerge in Israel. 

That this idea was as foreign for the Hebrews as it was for their neighbours explains perhaps why Israel repeatedly turned to foreign gods or sought to convert Yahweh into a mutation of Baal, the Canaanite deity. Even if, as the prophets consistently point out, the people of Israel struggled with idolatry, Genesis 1:1 leaves no doubt as to what the great theologian was trying to convey: Elohim is the only God from whom everything proceeds. End of the story!

Well, not quite. If you want to know how this unique story changed the world and why it is critical that we rediscover its most basic tenets in these troubled times, be sure to read the next installments of this journey into the creation account.

1. Historian and philosopher of science, Stephen Myer, examines the idea at length in Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe (2021).
2. Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptural citations are from the New International Version (2011).
3. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001[1952]), 40.

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