A Theological Phrasebook entry.
Creation is the name Christians give to the idea that the universe we live in contains music and not just noise. Or, it is more than that: what we see around us doesn’t just contain music, but is fundamentally musical, deep in its bones. There is a harmony and a beauty to the cosmos, a creativity and an order. It is not simply random. We are ourselves creatures, part of the song. We participate in it, can even echo it at times in derivative ways, plunking out simple tunes on toy xylophones in imitation of the symphony that surrounds us. Tragically, we are partly tone deaf and we struggle to catch the tune. In fact, on our own, we have a tendency towards creating discordant noise rather than joining in with the music.
In the eighth chapter of the book of Proverbs, Wisdom speaks (sings?):
When he established the heavens, I was there;Proverbs 8:27-31 (ESV)
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man.
Rejoicing runs through the foundations of the universe, if we have the ears to hear it (Proverbs 8 starts off: “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice?”).
It is perhaps tempting to veer into some vague, woo-woo territory here; to interpret this metaphor of cosmological music as an invitation to wander into a field and stare at a blade of grass and “feel the music, man.” Or, alternatively, the language of order might be interpreted as a narrow claim about the ability of human reason to identify connections through the exercise of the scientific method. I’m not opposed to poetry or science (and the poets might challenge my characterization of their task as staring at a blade of grass), but when speaking about the fundamental character of the universe, of all that is, I’m aiming at something slightly different. The Christian claim is that the source of the rejoicing at the heart of creation, the shape of the wisdom that runs through all things, is the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ. The composer of the song is the God who brought Israel out of Egypt and raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In the New Testament, the gospel of John makes this connection explicit. The first verses describe Jesus as the Word, the Logos, who “was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Centuries later, the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from his Gestapo prison cell, would describe the revelation of God’s love for us as a cantus firmus to which creation, and we, as God’s creatures, respond. Creation is polyphonic, says Bonhoeffer, a call and response, with human beings responding to the fundamental melody of God’s love, Jesus crucified and resurrected. To understand creation, we must understand that Christ is at its center, its creator, and the source and goal of its rejoicing.
- Genesis 1-2
- Proverbs 8
- Psalm 104
- John 1
- Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
- “Infra 1” by Max Richter
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