A biblical novelist looks at Genesis - part 4
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3 What kind of faith did Abel have that still speaks to us today? Faith similar to the type Jesus spoke of to Thomas when He said, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed." Faith trusts that there is more to life than our eyes can see. Faith looks at the universe, at the physical world around us and sees a Creator. And that same faith believes that if there is a Creator, then I am wise to find out more about Him.
Faith is necessary in every walk of life. It takes faith to believe in God and it takes faith to believe there is no God. Since God is unseen, we base our understanding of Him on the things He has revealed to us--in nature, in relationships, in His words. For those who believe the Bible, that means believing that what we are reading is true--including the stories of the people within its pages.
But why does it matter if Abel was real? Why does it matter if Adam or Noah or Abraham or Moses were real? Couldn't they be as fictional as a novel is today?
If a reader looks at the Bible as simply a collection of fantastic tales and does not see it as a whole that fits uniquely into one compelling book, then they will not see the overarching theme of it all—the spiritual themes of redemption, forgiveness, and love (to name a few). In a sense, to see the Bible only in parts is like looking at a puzzle and gazing only at the individual pieces without ever trying to fit them together into the finished product. You would miss the beauty of the whole picture.
But if you can accept for a moment the story as a whole, then you see that the parts joined together make a lot more sense than if they are simple left as separate pieces.
So if Genesis is the beginning of history where each continuous tale, each person in that history adds to that beginning, where prophesies (foreshadowing) and plot points are woven in such a way that the ancients of the Old Testament mesh neatly with the New, culminating in a dramatic finale in Revelation, then the stories will have greater meaning as individuals and as they relate to each other.
So when Abel offered a sacrifice in faith, because of the sin he inherited from his father, I can understand his reasoning a lot better than I could if Adam didn't exist--if he had never broken faith with God--if there had been no Garden. There would be no need to worship the Creator or to offer gifts on an altar in repentance and faith, if the earlier tales of Creation and sin had been poetic metaphors.
If Moses did not live, then two entire faiths, Judaism and Christianity, base their history on a Law that was not given. If Noah did not live, then Peter had no reason to use him as an example of God’s coming judgment. Nor did Jesus have a reason to tell his followers, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the coming of the Son of Man…” If Noah did not exist, if his story is not true, why would Jesus and Peter mention him at all? Why not simply tell a story as a parable and start off…Before the coming of the kingdom there will be…He didn’t have to draw them back to their history.
Remember, when Jesus told a parable, he didn’t name his characters. But when he taught a lesson based on Jewish history, He named the people from their past. Not unlike we might today if want to speak to children about a civil war. We might say, “As it was in the time of President Lincoln…”
I am not suggesting that stories cannot speak to us throughout the centuries. The Bible is the greatest story ever told. And yet, why has it held best-selling status all these years? Because it speaks to us of things and of people that are real, that are true. And if we have eyes of faith, we can see that truth more clearly.
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Hebrews 11:3
What does it mean to have an entire universe created by the word of God?
One final thought to come.