Chaos and Order
It's hard for some to hear Jesus when Jordan Peterson's talking. Actually, it was hard for some to hear Jesus when Jesus was talking. He said, regularly, "If any man have ears to hear, let him hear!" So I am going to tell the story of Creation the way I see it, and leave Peterson out of it, even though he has been instrumental in sharpening my understanding and encouraging me to speak.
In the beginning, there was nothing, but God. God is good. So God created a universe, chock full of potential and form, where once it had been formless and empty. Creation continued for a very long time and continues to this day. The good of creation lies as much in its purposeful action as in its meaningful outcome. Creation is at once both a verb and a noun. What's good is not simply a steady state or perfected reality, but the process, the evolution, the development of a place to be here and now, both comfortably at home and on the edge of an amazingly vast and complex, unpredictable and turbulent unknown. The universe thrives on the creative interplay between developing order and disruptive chaos.
Much of Christian tradition has a more static world view. It sees chaos as an unfortunate consequence of the Fall (something to be avoided) and views order as the highest good. Adherents hope, finally, to join a white-robed chorus of retiring saints sitting around the throne of God. They long for the day when there will be no more uncertainty. But eternity is a long time and it hasn't occurred to them that they just might get bored. Personally, I'm counting on chaos and creativity to remain in play forever.
Admiration for this concept of 'chaos' can be off-putting for some, but it remains the best way to capture a fundamental component of creation. Chaos theory plays an important role in science, and chaos features prominently in our most compelling experiences of natural phenomena. In fact, some people just love it. My own experiences of places like Harold's Point in Killbear Park are rooted in the overwhelming, grand vision of tumultuous upheavals of rock, rising out of the sea, randomly weathered and worn by awesome forces, and populated by myriad species of flora and fauna. For me, the Canadian Shield is a microcosm, par excellence, of how God made the world. Neat and tidy it is not. But everywhere you turn you see ordered life rising, surprisingly up out of random nooks and crannies.
People are like that too - seven billion of them striving to flourish in the most unlikely, often inhospitable places. But their thriving is unique among creatures because God has ennobled them, all of them, to be His image bearers, to collaborate with Him in the on-going creation of our world. This creative aspect of humanity is not prominent enough in our Christian thinking. It doesn't even rank as fruit of the spirit, and we think of it more as an extra-curricular outlet for hobbyists and workers, when they're taking a break from being Christian. I am convinced, however, that creativity is fundamental to our existence as creatures of God. There is actually nothing else to do than to be creative -- or destructive as the case may be, for that is the obverse of creativity. We create order out of chaos. Or we create chaos out of order.
Creativity involves choices, along every step of the way. Good choices, bad choices, little choices, big choices, all of them speaking to some creative possibility. But, no matter how insignificant, God insists, every choice we make matters, and it matters not just to ourselves but to the whole of creation. Every time we spread our wings, like butterflies, there is some effect, somewhere. To view creation as a done deal is to subvert its intention and our intervention. God creates the universe as a whole, and gets great satisfaction from how good it is and can be. His gift to us is that we can participate in this creation and also enjoy the satisfaction. This alliance is baked into our DNA and is strong enough that Satan has rarely been able to fully subvert it.
As Christians, we tend to focus on redemption and restoration. Our message to the world (increasingly from the world) is to repent and to do justice. We are in damage control mode. The bigger the disaster, the more we slow down to take a look and offer help. Protesting evil, helping refugees, going on Serve trips and doing disaster relief are our tickets to Christian living.
We pay less attention to the ordinary, positive possibilities of creation. Many of these are still embedded in social structures that abound with unspoken, good examples, that apply healthy peer pressure and that are rich in social conventions. However, with the increasing, societal disintegration that we see around us, it is imperative that we pay more attention to the basics. We ourselves are in danger of losing the biblical, theological and psychological underpinnings of our day-to-day lives when we forgo the habitual reading of God's Word and the corporate proclamations of creeds, commandments and confessions.
Doing good has long been looked down upon by Christians as 'works righteousness.' Being 'saved' seems to give license to laxity in personal matters because the outcome is guaranteed. You could, arguably, describe this phenomenon as Christian nihilism - nothing now matters because, in the end, we are saved. Partly, this comes from just being overwhelmed by the mess that we've created and feeling so insignificant that we don't bother to fix anything. Cleaning it up will have to wait for Christ's return.
Most of us are capably active in domains where we can be effective and where we are enthusiastic about the possibilities. What we sorely need is more encouragement and enthusiasm to engage meaningfully and truthfully in all aspects of life. We are ceding ground, unnecessarily, to the devil in this world because we are content with the promise of an afterlife. If we understood more fully what's so good about heaven, that in heaven we will again be unencumbered in our creative bearing, then we would have no reason to wait till then to engage in this God given calling. There can be no heaven on earth, but striving for the Kingdom here and now, out of gratitude and for the good of all, is surely a meaningful task which has no equal. And such a creative bearing is surely the best witness for the good news of redemption.
You might say, 'easier said than done.' But, really, it is in the speaking that we have the most difficulty. Speech, which is the socially cooperative outworking of conscious thought, is the bedrock of creativity. It marks us as image bearers of God. The universe came into being through God's speech -- by His Word (Logos). God's Word, with its intention and implied audience, is much more significant than the physical processes underlying its effect. With God's image bearers (us people), our failures to be a creative force for good lie much more with our deficient speech than with our ability to act.
Good speech, speech that makes something good out of something that is still only latent, such speech I would say is the mark of truth. Perhaps, even, we could say that truth and good speech are one and the same. We generally ascribe truth (or untruth) to statements -- words that are spoken to intervene in our world order. And we tend to judge the truth of any statement by the fruits of that intervention. Truth and Lie are not objective realities, they are subjective forces in a universe that is pregnant with possibility.
Of all the realities that I have recently considered, Logos as the driving force behind creativity is the one that is most inspiring for me, while also being the most perplexing and challenging. I am, personally, not a wordy fellow, and I recognize that what I do say, and don't say, has often been damaging rather than up building. I have also experienced, in profound ways, that the church consistently fails to speak truth into my and other situations. I am somewhat at a loss on what to do about this, but I know for sure that progress in speaking can only happen within a speaking community.
This is just part of the story. This part is about Creation -- what it has been, still is and will be. The rest of the story, about the Fall into sin and about Redemption through Christ, also needs to be told. But the full story is impossible to appreciate if we don't have a clear idea of its beginning and its end.
Henry J. de Jong