O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever.
APPROPRIATELY ENOUGH, some might think, from the state that brought us the delights of The Wizard of Oz, comes the ruling of the Kansas State Board of Education which means that the science curriculum in the local schools has been largely purged of references to evolution and natural selection. If nothing else, it should be a dire warning to us all, especially in the light of the minuscule turn-outs at the recent European elections, of the effects of the vast majority choosing not to bother to vote, and thereby allowing a vocal and energetic minority to achieve unrepresentative power.
In the month of October when Harvest Festivals are very much in the air, we do well to ponder on the Christian understanding of the creation and God’s place in it all. Patently the creationists who now rule the Kansas State Board are on scientifically slippery ground when they maintain the truth is contained in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. No reasonable scientific method can ever begin with such absolute certainty as they would wish to postulate. Also, from the religious point of view, the Bible with its two accounts of the Creation, leaves us with the very real problem of reconciling the details of each story to provide a single comprehensive statement, if we wish to take the whole thing to its literal conclusion. Neither should Genesis be divorced from the rest of the Bible in this way, where myth, legend, folk story and above all poetry are all used as vehicles of the message. Revealed religion is held in an inspired – not an inerrant – book of writings in which God gradually discloses himself and his purposes. In many ways the Bible itself is a testimony to a kind of evolution of man’s understanding of God and the world around him.
And what is the inspired message of the Bible? Surely the message is that God is behind the process of Creation – ‘God said: Let there be . . . and there was’ – and it matters not to this essential truth whether that process takes a week of fast-paced activity or the millions of years of evolution. ‘. . . and behold it was very good’. Here creationists and the more modern minded Christian can agree, that the world is not just neutral, but being created by God is marked, as it were, by the blessing of the pattern of his finger prints. Scripture, then, encourages us to look for and discover the hand of God working in all things, and to value all things because they are possessed by his life-giving grace. Here we can find even more common ground, for the world that has been so created and endowed by God’s care is an environment which must be valued and treasured in its own right. Respect for the world and respect for all aspects of life within it are the only valid Christian responses to the graciousness of the God of the Bible.
This silent testimony of the whole of creation to the God who out of selfless love creates and sustains in being is well described in the poetry of the Morning Prayer canticle, the Benedicite. In the mouth of we humans is formed the implicit praise of all that is – O all ye works of the Lord, bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever.
Christopher Collins is Vicar of St. Aidan’s Grangetown in Sunderland