Creation and the Irony of Life

By H. Boone Porter

The first chapter of the first book of the Bible expresses the concept of creation in different ways and at different levels. The beginning of a day, the beginning of a week, and the beginning of a year are ingeniously woven in together.

The second chapter of Genesis gives a somewhat different account of creation, but it also speaks of a variety of beginnings. Most notably, it tells of the beginning of man. The first chapter had the brief but noble statement that humans, man and woman, are created in the image and likeness of God (Verses 26 and 27). The second chapter, on the other hand, has a longer, literally earthier, tale, animated by a certain whimsical humor and shrewd insight. Here the earth is first like a bare, dry field (Verse 5). Then God moistens it. Taking some clay, he proceeds to mold it into a vessel. When he is finished, he blows into the snout of it and it becomes alive — to the delight, but later, to the grief, of its Creator! He gives this creature a garden in which to live. Then God makes him a zoo of live toys with which to amuse himself, while God (like a proud parent standing hidden back of a Christmas tree) listens to hear the noises he makes and the names he gives to things. Not content with this, God makes him a sister to be his companion and to fill out the family. 

We cannot really understand the second chapter of Genesis if we think it is a scientific treatise, or a philosophic disquisition. It is a vivid and touching story, a story very much like Pinocchio, for instance, or The Gingerbread Man. One has to see both the humor and the pathos to perceive what this story is communicating. Humor and pathos are both about the irony of life, the good-in-badness and bad-in-goodness of human existence. This is what it is about. It is this unique quality of human life, divind us so sharply from animals, that is being expressed.

So in this second chapter humans come upon the scene — a boy and a girl, naked oriental children. They soon grow up, have an altercation with their heavenly Father, and set out to homestead for themselves, with all the joys and sorrows of working and raising their own family. It is, in a sense, the life of the typical man and woman. 

During the past weeks my reflections upon creation were in terms of a day and of a year. The second chapter of Genesis presents the doctrine of creation, the first Article of our faith, in terms of a human life. You were made by God; I was made by God; everyone was made by God. Yet we only become fully ourselves, fully what he intends us to be, when we know that this is so. The Bible asks us to recognize that we are, after all, odd looking pieces of pottery. On the other hand, we are molded by God himself, he has breathed into us, and it is he who loves us. It is on these terms that we are called to live with ourselves, with one another, and with God.

The Rev. H. Boone Porter was editor of The Living Church from 1977-1990. This article was published in our October 23, 1977.


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