DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Creation, Mythology, Action, and Faith

Written by: on February 13, 2020

I’ve always loved the creation story. Most cultures of the world begin with a creation story.[1] Any good biblical exegesis should first ask the question as to why an origin story is needed. What do people need to know about how the world came into existence, and what did the author(s) of Genesis really intend for us to learn from this specific story?

 

In the first 11 chapters of Genesis, we see God creating the world and everything in it which is described over and over as good, as well as sin running rampant in the world, and the need to start afresh. These chapters are significant, and they show a world never seen before and interject humanity, which God deems as very good. The distinction we see of God creating all things into existence is made that much more radical when we see that God, unlike Marduk from the Enuma Elish, created things he enjoyed! The God of Genesis didn’t create to offload the heavy burden of work onto humanity. Rather he worked to create a world for humanity to dwell in.[2] Furthermore, we see that when God creates, it is God’s work to make things ordered and beautiful. God brings life where there is no life, and nature into being. God made himself known to Adam and Eve and God was knowable in ways he has not since.

 

Because of my interest in creation accounts, I was intrigued by Jordan B. Peterson’s chapter on Mythological Representation from his book, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. When you look at the creation account in Genesis against other creation accounts, like the Enuma Elish, there are a lot of initial correlations. First, the role of both accounts is to explain order our of chaos which creates and separates the earth from the cosmos and also helps to give hierarchical order to all things.[3] In this chapter, Peterson in clearly circling around the concepts of creationism and the Genesis account, and tying it to mythology in order to give credence to creation stories as the foundation for society at large.[4] In fact, Peterson has gone so far to give an 11-part video series on Genesis, which I would have loved to watch if I had an additional 30 hours to spare (each video is about 2 hours and 30 minutes). Peterson argues that there is much more that humanity agrees on, rather than disagrees on and this is found most poignantly in mythology and the creation accounts of the world.[5] He says, “As mutable, limited social beings, we are all engaged in a massive, cooperation and competitive endeavor.”[6] This endeavor is to understand who we are and how we came to be.

 

As Peterson writes about the Sumarian creation account, he says, “The mythic tale of the Enuma Elish, describes the nature of the eternal relationship between the (unknowable) source of all things, the “gods” who rule human life, and the subject or process who constructs determinate experience, through voluntary encounter with the unknown.”[7] We know these explanatory processes to be found in the personhood of Jesus. But I wonder if Peterson isn’t willing to take the step of moving beyond a creation account into the lived experience of Jesus a step further. Is Jesus the bridge-builder between the unknowable source of all things? If what Peterson states is true, that we have more that links us than divides us, and the role of creation accounts are to bring order out of chaos in order to understand who we are, it is action that demonstrates a lived theology of faith, rather than just belief. Peterson even argues that it is not just belief that is enough, but it is an action that moves us to understanding.[8] But where does that leave faith? Where does that leave us as finite beings in relationship to an infinite God? Can we know that what God created to be very good from the beginning was then completed in the personhood and divinity of the word becoming flesh? Is it enough to have faith that Jesus was indeed the one who volunteered to give us an encounter with the unknown?

 

I’m nowhere near having the answers to these existential questions, but I’m not convinced Peterson does either. Maybe in that way, we too are more similar than we are different.

__________

[1] Donald E. Gown, Genesis 1-11: From Eden to Babel (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1988), 10.

[2] John Mark Comer, Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 37.

[3] Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York, NY: Routledge, 1999), 90.

[4]Ibid., 94.

[5] Ibid., 95.

[6] Ibid., 94.

[7] Ibid., 123.

[8] Ibid., 153.

About the Author

mm

Karen Rouggly

Karen Rouggly is the Director for Mobilization in the Center for Student Action at Azusa Pacific University. She develops transformational experiences for students serving locally, nationally, and internationally. She completed an MA in Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about community development, transformational service and helping students understand vocation and service. Karen is also an active member at the Vineyard Church Glendora where she is a small group leader and serves on the teaching team. She is also a mom to two sweet boys, wife to an amazing guy, and loves being a friend to many.

7 responses to “Creation, Mythology, Action, and Faith”

  1. mm Rev Jacob Bolton says:

    First off Karen, LOVE your closing couplet. Poetic, prophetic, perfect.

    Second, I too wonder about Jesus’ role and have to imagine that the first section of John’s gospel is somehow tied in to the mystery.

  2. Love it Karen. Yes, we need the great hero in Jesus who can unite the known and the unknown. I take Peterson to be at the threshold of salvation’s door. He’s not knocking yet, but he’s thinking hard about it. He’s a careful thinker and I’m just praying that God illumines his heart unto salvation. To me, this is testimony of an intellectual person who “thinks” his or her way into salvation but just can’t get there unless and until the Holy Spirit does his transformational work.

    He actually admits Christianity is hard and yet there is an attractiveness to it he can’t deny. He reminds me of the struggle Martin Luther when he couldn’t reconcile God’s goodness and grace against his own wretchedness. It was grace all along.

    • mm Karen Rouggly says:

      YES! This idea of him knocking at the door is so good. That’s how I imagine it too. A few times, I envisioned him kind of like circling a house trying to decide if he wants to get in!

      Thanks!

  3. mm Harry Fritzenschaft says:

    Karen,
    I am so glad you enjoyed reflecting upon and sharing your thoughtfulness surrounding the Creation narrative. Thanks so much for sharing your insights.

  4. mm Rhonda Davis says:

    Thanks for your post, Karen. I was listening to one of Peterson’s podcasts, and I found his discussion of the Genesis “myth” very interesting. You ask excellent questions here.

  5. Thank you Karen for this great post. It helps me to relate the creation story Peterson’s maps of meaning book. There are many unknowns but we can rest in the assurance that The God of creation provides the most important answer of the unknown through Jesus Christ.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *