Genisis means beginnings.
The faith of many millions of Jews, Christians and Muslims around the world has found an inspired root in this one most ancient book. For Christians, the importance of Genesis lies in the many echoes of themes that later build in the law and the prophets, culminating in the life of Christ and in the apostles teaching in the New Testament.
Such themes include the central doctrines of Christianity beginning with the nature and character of Elohim: his omnipotence, his omniscience, his omnipresence, his plural yet one God head, his creation, the fall, (with its explanations of the human predicament,) sin, the law, grace, faith, atonement, covenant agreements, etc...
One lesser recognised, yet obvious theme that I would like to pick up from Genesis is the "glory of diversity". Seen firstly in the whole range of diverse habitats and creatures that Elohim made. Then in the commissioning God gave to Adam when he said in Chapter 1:28, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it;" A paraphrase of Adams commission in the context of Genesis Chapter 1 might read:
"Here is what I have made Adam, Look at how beautiful and ordered it is, yet, know that I have made you in my image and likeness, and so, I want you to go and do your work just like I have. Investigate what I have made, guard its beauty, harness, and cultivate its resources, be creative in your efforts and as you go, know my son that I bless you and want you to be creative just like your heavenly father".
Why did God commission Adam? What was in the mind of God regarding being fruitful, multiplying and subduing the earth?
I believe part of the answer is hinted at in successive chapters. If we turn the pages of Genesis to chapter 11. Babel comes to view. And if we listen for the mind of Elohim we can perceive a portion of his "subduing" plan for mankind in this story.
1* Now the whole earth had one language and few words. 2* And as men migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3* And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly." And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4* Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." 5* 6 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the sons of men had built. 6* And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; and nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7* Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one anothers speech." 8* So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9* Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Gods intervention in Babel centred around mankinds proud refusal to go out across the face of the earth and diversify. It seems that Babel was a threat to Gods plan because mankinds pride and technological prowess had not yet correlated to the cultural diversity he wanted.
OK God may want diversity, but so what? What is the purpose?
Lets stand back to gain a better vantage of the breadth of Gods plan for mankind. Lets ask a different question. What constitutes culture?
Culture in my dictionary is the :
Total inherited shared beliefs, values, and knowledge which constitute the shared basis of social action.
From Babel onwards Elohim sent family groups across the face of the earth placing them in distinct geographical locations, letting each family adapt differently to the climate and environmental conditions. Eventually shaking them together with successive generations of migrants, and blending them all in a great social melting pot to create separate histories, each adapting and acquiring their own solutions to subdue creation.
Using the metaphor of a light house - think about how cultures can provide important vantages of Yahweh and the world around us. Lets say in this example that our lighthouse represents Gods collective peoples here on earth. All light houses must have secure foundations, Our foundation is the rock of Christ and his example of Gods kingdom. Inside this lighthouse exist all the diverse cultural groups that Yahweh has redeemed from the earth. There are windows in this lighthouse. Every single cultural group has its own window in which to view the world outside. What we each see through our own separate window is only a portion of the collective truth. However that window will provide a peculiar vantage of Yahweh and of his kingdom outside. No vantage is more right than another, just different. Collectively all the windows provide the panoramic view of Elohim
Bringing this idea back into the context of New Zealand / Aotearoa. Lets look at examples of some basic paradigm differences that exist between Maori and Pakeha.
The Anglo-Saxon word chosen to represent Yahweh is God derived from the same root word as the stative English good. Good and God can be equated but contrasted with evil and the Devil. Thus without going into great detail, One of the strengths of Europeans is their ability to focus upon abstract duality's: God versus the Devil, good versus evil, right versus wrong. This is important when you are looking for clinical truth as for example a better, more accurate way of describing scriptural doctrine. (However on the negative side we can also see the European tendency for ad infinitum denominational schisms).
Contrast this European vantage with the Maori word used to describe a god which is atua. Atua is closely related to the Maori word Matua which means Father, and without being a rocket scientist you might still see that the Polynesian understanding of Yahweh is not based upon an abstract state of thought. The Maori vantage of Yahweh is rather based upon relationship. (Which is why Maori really dont care too much about what you say you believe, but rather how you relate or live what you believe to them). Thus you might see one of the strengths that Maori may have to offer the body of Christ in New Zealand is a more intimate relational expression of faith.
Isnt it important to know Yahweh as Father? Isnt it important to watch our doctrine closely? Both windows are important.
Which brings me back to my point as to why Elohim commissioned Adam to investigate and subdue the creation. It was for his own glory. His GREAT glory! Elohim in his wisdom looked upon a time when mankind in his cultural diversity would more fully express: his majesty, his greatness, the rich splendour, and diverse wisdom of his glorious being.
Skimming through time we turn the pages of history to view one of the consummate purposes of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice upon the cross in
"and they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy art thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10* and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth." 11:15 "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ and he shall reign forever and ever."
Can we see our purpose in life now. We are called to glorify our God in our cultures. To be shining lights for our Creator in our God ordained cultural spheres of identity. And as we learn to value one another, as we learn to honour one another, a glory is released in the heavens.
Christs words come to mind: "The world will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." I believe that in our generation the world will begin to see such love. Darkness will become darker and so the light will become more obvious for all to see.
"...that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places."
So how can we apply this teaching to our lives?:
1.See the bigger picture - diversity is an enriching of Gods kingdom
2.Try to understand the diverse ways of other people around us.
3.Learn to honour that diversity
4.Listen for Yahweh in others
5.Commit yourself to unity with others that are different than your Cultures (i.e. the shared beliefs, values, etc... of communities) provide distinct paradigms (or windows of reality) that help us define the world around us. One culture provides one paradigm, many cultures provide many paradigms.