April Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

“Creativity is our natural state,” says science writer Jonah Lehrer. I think this is a good, solid idea with which to begin reflecting on creation—our ministry theme for April.

I like the word creation. I experience it as an evocative and poetic word. But I also recognize it can be one of those challenging or “haunting” words for liberal religious people. In traditional theological parlance creation refers to the earth and the universe; it implies they were created by an omnipotent, omniscient deity in some long ago divine act. Most of us are familiar with the story of creation in the Biblical book of Genesis: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth . . . .” In the western world this traditional understanding of creation became highly problematic once Charles Darwin introduced his theory of evolution with the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859. If the theory of evolution is accurate (I believe it is) then the world must be much older than the mere 5,000 years the Bible suggests. Many traditional theological assumptions came crashing down as a result of Darwin’s work.

Nevertheless, the traditional understanding of creation has resurfaced in recent decades on the battlefield of the American culture wars: in debates over the teaching of religion in public schools, and in the emergence of so-called “creation science” or “intelligent design.” I don’t put much stock in the latter. I’ve preached on it from time to time. To me, intelligent design is both bad science and bad theology.

But I don’t want to spend the month critiquing traditional understandings of creation. Rather, I want to reflect on the impulse that lies behind the telling of creation stories. What are such stories for? What human yearnings (or anxieties) do they address? I also want to explore the idea that the world and the universe, rather than having been created, are themselves inherently and continuously creative. And since we human beings, like all living things, are intimately connected to the world and the universe, doesn’t Jonah Lehrer’s statement ring true? That creativity is our natural state? Which leads me finally to the question that feels most important and most relevant to our spiritual lives: how do we enter into our natural state? How do we access the creative essence at the heart of who we are? I hope these questions strike you as meaningful too. I hope this spring you will find the creative well within you!

With love,

Rev. Josh