The first poem of the Bible concerns the origin of the world- the sweep of creation from formless void to the teeming tangle of animals, vegetables and minerals that make up this wonderful place that we live in. And perhaps most of all, this poem concerns the place of men and women in the order of things – our position in the mind and heart of God, as he unfolds his masterpiece.
This poem of the origin of all life has been one of those battlegrounds that men have argued over for centuries. Modernity, in all its scientific and analytical rigour, pinned the poem to board like a butterfly, and for a while, seemed to destroy its shape by pulling it a part – by measuring its width and depth, and finding no industrial application. From this world view, the poem is an irrelevance – it has no value to our understanding. Like the butterfly, its beauty and simplicity are categorised and filed, at best as a decoration to ornament the progress and rise of mankind.
Some religious people still try to defend the words of the poem. They too have it in a glass case of their own. For them, it has become a sacred artifact. Its words are open for analysis, but only by those who have the looking glass of correct doctrine, and anything that appears to question its absolute truth must be challenged and nullified, lest the power of the words be stolen.
But poems, like butterflies, were never meant to be pinned to boards, or kept in cases – they need to fly. Perhaps the truth of a butterfly can be measured in terms of its constituent parts, but much more than this, we understand the essence of the creature in the light of an early summer day, flickering and dancing in and out of the flowers, seeking nectar and spreading pollen – its flight seeming both impossible and triumphant.
I believe that the poem of life that has been given to us in Genesis is true. I am not a scientist, or a theologian – I am a poet. For poets, truth is given not as a blue print, or a mathematical equation, although these things are wonderful and creative in their own right. Poems bring meaning and beauty in the abstract, in order to make clear the obvious. They are often far more concerned with the why questions than the what, or the how. Poets should have no fear of scientists, who speak a different language.
As for those of us who have faith in the Creator God, I think we should also have no fear as we read the poem of life from the beginning of Genesis. We do not need to defend, or to stand against the scientific community. It makes us look stupid. Think of those folk in an earlier age who found their world view challenged by those who said that the world was not flat, and that rather than the sun turning around the earth, in fact we seemed to orbit the sun. This was the theological dynamite of the medieval age, and as such, was an idea suppressed by the religious powers of the day.
But God is not defined or limited by science – His was the art that birthed the science in the first place!