“So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good…And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:21, 25).
I’ve been reading Christopher Watkin’s book ‘Biblical Critical Theory’ which was published last year and been highly acclaimed. And for good reason. It’s biblical theology interacting with our modern world filled with the wisdom of the ages. Chris communicates so well and the book is very readable while at the same time stretching my mind in all kinds of directions.
I had just been teaching some children the account of God’s creation in Genesis 1 and then read Watkins comments on the ‘all, every and everything’ theme in Genesis 1:21-31. Here’s his reflection on the ‘Abundance and Excess’:
“The motif of all and every …emphasizes again and again that God’s creation is not minimalist. The land is positively baroque in its proliferation of species and ecosystems, and the oceans are equally profligate in the panoply of life with which they ‘teem’ (v 20). Of all the ways God could have designed for us to gain energy, he created a wide variety of foodstuffs that do not merely sustain our bodies but also to delight our eyes, stimulate our tastebuds, and titillate our noses to boot.
“Why all this superabundant excess? Why not make tasteless, uniform white pills we can pop once in a while? Why not have done with one sea creature, one land animal, and one bird? Yes, of course those questions have evolutionary answers…but my concern here is to take Genesis 1…and follow its emphases down the ‘so what?’ rabbit hole. The writere of Genesis 1 could have chosen not to emphasize all and every, but they chose to make those notions very prominent, and I want to consider why.
“The answer – and what a wonderful answer it is – is that God has not created a world with just enough sustenance, variety, and abundance for survival, but God created a superabundant world fit to foster the flourishing of his creatures. He has not limited supply to the level of demand. Why have one or even one thousand species when you can have an estimated 8.7 million? Why just eat to survive and have sex to procreate when you can experience great enjoyment at the same time? Why create a monochrome world if you can make a human eye that can distinguish between 7 and 10 million colors? And stars: don’t even go there! Astronomers estimate there are around 300 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and perhaps 2 trillion galaxies. Now I ask you: What’s the point of that? What a waste? What a delight!” (Watkins, Biblical Critical Theory, p 71).
I’m reminded of the film ‘The Italian Job’. A decade ago, I wrote about a theme in that movie which echoes the wonder of the creativity of our Creator. Here’s part of it:
The “Norton-type” Christians only seek for their own glory and security and so remain in the darkness. The film also plays upon the lack of creativity which such people have, as Charlie puts it: You’ve got no imagination. You couldn’t even decide what to do with all that money, so you had to buy what everybody else wanted.
This theme captures another truth of Scripture namely that the father of lies is always a poor mimic of the Creator God. The very story of the Bible and the evidence of Creation bear witness to the thoroughly limitless and boundless creative wisdom which marks the living God. (This contrast was drawn out by CS Lewis in the Narnia series – the winter of the Witch versus the flourishing spring life of the great Lion Aslan.) The evil one is always such a dismal alternative, but we are warned by Jesus to watch out for good reason.