Chris' Original Blogbeque

A fresh, vinegar-based examination of life

Bonhoeffer on Creation Theology

Posted by Chris on April 1, 2010

I just began reading a book title Creation and Fall–Temptation, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  The material was adapted from a series of lectures he gave in 1933-1934 and the two topics are separate studies.  Bonhoeffer is known for his role during WWII of helping Jews, for which he was killed.  He did not leave the country, like many others, but actually left American and traveled to Germany in order to denounce the Nazis.  His most famous work is The Cost of Discipleship (sitting on my shelf but I haven’t read it).

In the Creation and Fall study, DB begins by meditation on the beginning of Genesis 1:1: In the Beginning, God created… He writes that there is frustration in humans because we live in the middle (meaning we cannot extend to the true beginning of time)– this section somewhat confused me.  However, it started making more sense when he discusses the vanity of trying to ask and answer questions about what happened before and during Genesis 1.  I will post a large section of it here because a)it’s eloquent and interesting to me, and b)it relates to what I wrote about what I believe in this post which introduces a blog series on reading through Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species.

Briefly, I recognized the debates between evolutionists and creationists but stated that I don’t have a strong opinion about who is right because I think that Genesis 1 is about a lot more than the scientific facts of creation; and that a true Creation Theology of Genesis 1 and 2 comprises much more than simply evolution v. creation.  The “other stuff” is much more interesting and significant.  This is how Bonhoeffer explains it (all bold emphasis added is mine):

The twofold question arises: Is this beginning God’s beginning or is it God’s beginning with the world?  But the fact that this question is asked is proof that we no longer know what “beginning means. The beginning can only be spoken of by those who are in the middle and are anxious about the beginning and the end, by those tearing at their chains… If this is so, we can no longer ask whether this is God’s beginning or God’s beginning with the world.  Luther was once asked what Gopd was doing before the creation of the world.  His answer was that he was cutting canes for people who ask such useless questions.  This not only stopped the questioner short but also implied that where God is not recognized as the merciful Creator he must needs be known only as the wrathful judge, i.e. always in relation to the situation of the middle, between beginning and end.  There is no possible question which could go back beyond this “middle” to the beginning, to God as creator.  Thus it is impossible to ask why the world was created, about God’s plan or about the necessity of creation. These questions are finally answered and disposed of as godless questions by the sentence, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Not “in the beginning God had this or that idea about the purpose of the world which we now only have to explore further,” but “In the beginning God created.”  No question can penetrate behind God creating, because it is impossible to go behind the beginning…

This quite unrepeatable, unique, free event in the beginning, which must not be confused in any way with the year 4004 or any similar particular date, is the creation.  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That means that the Creator, in freedom, creates the creature… Creator and creature cannot be said to have a relation of cause and effect, for between Creator and creature there is neither a law of motive nor a law of effect nor anything else.  Between Creator and creature there is simply nothing: the void. For freedom happens in and through the void.  There is no necessity that can be shown in God which can or must ensue in creation.  There is nothing that causes him to create.  Creation comes out of this void.

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