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God as Cosmic Artist

The earth at creation

"And God saw that it was good."

Again and again in the Genesis creation story that is this week's Old Testament lesson, God stops after each day's work to look at His handiwork with a discerning eye. Each time, he sees that is is good.

There may be two lessons in this.

The first seed of a lesson is that even God, at least in this account, feels the need to assess His own creation. Far from being sure of his own perfection, the Lord pauses, each "day" of Creation ("day" surely being as the Lord's time works, not ours), to make sure He has done it right. Like an artist re-checking a painting after a night's sleep or re-assessing a piece of pottery after taking a break to clear his head — or like a writer re-assessing her paragraphs, after an intervening meal, to see if they flow as well as she intends them to do — God double-checks Himself.

Not only that, but God seems to be making it up as He goes. He engages in a deliberate, step-by-step fashion. It's almost as if He isn't even sure about the need for animals on the Earth until He has already separated the waters, created light, created the Earth, and created dry land.

This is not a God who seems to know from the very start exactly what He wants, all at once. Otherwise, He would just create the whole thing in one fell God-swoop — wouldn't he?

The lesson is that ours is a God not of certainty, or at least not of certainty in our limited time span, but rather a God of ongoing Creation, of mid-course adjustments and even in some senses of experimentalism. Of course He knows it will all lead to the good in the end because He knows His own power and He knows His own goodness. But, even then, He allows for His own doubt to creep in, or at least shows a humility of sorts that allows for the possibility (in His own mind) that he could have erred and therefore must constantly re-check to see if what He is doing is indeed as good as He intends.

The first lesson, then, fully realized, is that God's intermediate designs are evolving and that we, therefore, must emulate God's openness to creative change — not for our purposes, but for His.

The second lesson is simpler. The second lesson is that after each burst of creative energy, the creation is, yes, good. Even though God repeatedly pauses to make sure it is all good, He is never described as having failed to achieve goodness. (Of course, this stands to reason, because if God is purely good then of course nothing ultimately bad can spring from Him.) In other words, God doesn't fail. God always produces good, because that is God's nature.