This issue of Lutheran Partners is dedicated to "The Challenge of Preaching and Teaching Creation in a Scientific and Technological World." We're looking at origins — the beginning of life — especially as it intersects with our scientific and technological world.
Underlying this issue is an assumption that many of us bring to this issue — the call of God. God calls women and men to the vocation of preaching and teaching in our communities of faith. Part of our responsibility is to declare that God is the creator of heaven and earth.
Also important is the belief that God calls men and women to investigate the nature of life (here on earth as well as the entire universe) as scientists and researchers working in such fields as physics, biology, chemistry, and astronomy.
Start with Ted Peters' article, the "Uses and Misuses of Creation." Prof. Peters, who has worked at the intersection of faith and science, enumerates seven ways people of faith can understand God's creation.
Author Grace Wolf-Chase, a research astronomer and Lutheran Christian, helps us understand the scientific profession and narrative of life's origins in "Science and Faith in an Evolving Creation."
George Murphy, pastor, scientist, and Partners' online "Handiwork" columnist, describes practical ways parish leadership can lift up the findings of science within the context of Christian theology in "Preaching and Teaching in a Scientific World: a ‘Handiwork' Special."
Paul Santmire helps preachers and teachers see how they can include both science's contribution to the creation narrative and Scripture's hard truths about nature in "Preaching in Consonance with Science? The Case of Violence in Nature."
Online exclusives continue the conversation, especially as it relates to working with youth. Kimberlee Eighmy, an associate in ministry, discusses how she teaches creation among children and adolescents. She has designed a curriculum for this age (check out her online sample). Pastor Dana Hendershot shares practical ideas to use among high school youth when they discuss the creation of life.
From Scriptures, creeds, and confessions the issue of creation is integral in our worship, preaching, and catechizing. Here's a brief reminder of this:
Scriptures for Preaching and Teaching: Genesis 1 paints a picture of how God creates the world and transforms a dark, formless void into an abundant and sustainable gift of life. Genesis 2-3 continues the story by focusing on the creation of humanity who have the ability to commune both with God and one another, and who are conscious of good and evil, as well as life and death. The story underscores that man and woman — who are made of "dust" to which God says they will return — also know the disruptive and tragic consequences of not listening to God. As the writer points out, such choices can mar basic human relationships established in marriage, family, and work (3:14-19).
The "heavens are telling the glory of God," extols the writer of Psalm 19 (I think KJV's "declare" delivers a lot more punch). The psalmist says that creation reflects God's glory and speaks with its own "voice." "Day by day pours forth speech...their voice goes out through all the world" (vv. 1-4). We might ask: have we been listening to that voice?
The first lines of John's Gospel ring in consonance with the first lines of Genesis 1:1. "In the beginning," John writes, God spoke life into existence through the creative Word: "[A]ll things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (1:3). The writer of Colossians reiterates this essential belief: "[F]or in [Jesus] all things in heaven and earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him" (1:15-16).
Creeds for Worship: Congregations weekly confess their trust in a creator God who has brought nature into being, both the seen and unseen.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth (The Apostles Creed).
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen (The Nicene Creed).
Through the Athanasian Creed we confess that God is the only reality which is not created: "Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit." The world of nature, including we human beings, is created and creaturely — dependent and accountable to the One who is, was, and always will be, our Creator, the source of all life.
Catechism for Confirmands and New Christians: At its heart, Luther's explanation to the First Article of the Creed in his Small Catechism is the debt of gratitude we owe our God:
I believe that God has created me together with all that exists. God has given me and still preserves my body and soul: eyes, ears, and all limbs and senses; reason and all mental faculties.
In addition, God daily and abundantly provides shoes and clothing, food and drink, house and farm, spouse and children, fields, livestock, and all property — along with all the necessities and nourishment for this body and life. God protects me against all danger and shields and preserves me from all evil. And all this is done out of pure, fatherly, and divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness of mine at all! For all of this l owe it to God to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true.
In the Large Catechism, Luther ties the creation of life inseparably to the First Commandment, "You are to have no other gods" adding "if we believe it, this article should humble and terrify us all."
Thus the Creed is nothing else than a response and confession of Christians based on the First Commandment. If you were to ask a young child, "My dear, what kind of God do you have? What do you know about him?" he or she could say: "First, my God is the Father, who made heaven and earth. Aside from this one alone I regard nothing as God, for there is no one else who could create heaven and earth.
For our church and world, these are most certainly true.
2010 Editorial Themes
The editorial themes for 2010 have been selected; click here to view.
William Decker is editor of Lutheran Partners and Lutheran Partners Online, Chicago, Illinois.
This article appeared in the November / December issue of Lutheran Partners (vol. 25, no. 6).