July 11, 2010

What does “Creation” mean? Not in a basic, surface level, but in a deeper, continuing sense? I guess it’s a little like asking the eternal, “What’s the purpose of life and what are we doing here?” question.

I ask because it seems important– it’s at least a curiosity-prompter. There are a lot of quick, snappy answers that try to box it in and move on but many of those don’t resonate with me on a deep level. It struck me that of all the religious posts I’ve made and even in my “Reformulating Thoughts” articles in which I tried to lay out where I was on a personal level with all of the big theological issues, I neglected to touch on the key issue of Creation. Obviously I covered what I perceive to be the important issues in the world and the purpose of what we should, could, and can do out in the world now that we’re here–it’s central to the “this-world” Kingdom of God philosophy that I hold dear–but I don’t think I’ve deeply pondered or written on just why we got here in the first place on this site.

This thought struck me recently in the Islam class I was in. Listening to and reading Muslim answers as to why humans are created stuck with me and brought up questions for myself. From my understanding, the Muslim perspective is that humans, along with all other creation, were created to praise God. Generally, this is where mainline Christian and Jewish thought lands as well. This belief (is at least supposed to) lead(s) to acts that also aid and comfort neighbors in the personal and global sense, and almost every conceivable moral issue falls under the umbrella of praising God.

I don’t deny that we should praise God. And where I see the purpose of life is to create light in the darkness by striving to make the world more the way it ought to be in our daily actions, I have to step back and think a bit–though working to make the world a better place may be the purpose of this life, is it why we as humans were created in the first place? If that were the case, why wasn’t the world created as it ought to have been originally?  I’m not trying to be  inflammatory here, so please bear with me! Some Islamic theology sees this world as a test; since all Islamic theology holds that we will be held accountable for our every action, the test idea seems consistent. For after all, if our good deeds outweigh our bad deeds and we are admitted into paradise as a result of them, the idea of this world being a test is plausible. Many other religious perceptions would assent to such a concept. In the Christian sense, generally the idea of this world being a test wouldn’t fully pass muster. It probably would in some theological camps, but not in the modern majority.

Why would God need company? Why would God need praise? I think it’s evident why we should praise God, but I find it difficult to picture why an Omnipotent presence would require praise and thus create life in order to receive that praise. If God is perfect and complete, if God is the “ground of all being” and the core of all reality, if God is the ultimate truth and true knowledge, if God is perfect in Godself as is, then there is no logical reason that God would have to create beings to bestow praise in God’s direction for that reason alone.

I can get behind the idea that we are “created to praise God” in the largest and most comprehensive sense, in the perception that our acts to restore the world to the way it ought to be and in our acts to seek to heal and help our fellow humans are ways of praising the God-pieces within all of that creation (although this muddies the water in many ways since a lot of the theology I’ve been pondering in this article insists on the complete Otherness and separateness of God); I can understand the idea  that by continually stopping to reflect on the God that is the ground of all being and the source of all truth and knowledge by re-centering ourselves and by recognizing the beauty in creation around us is a way of ordering our own lives to be more whole, more productive, and that these actions cause us to pause long enough to keep  from doing those things that  harm ourselves and our world. But as a root cause, maybe Creation occurred not because this presence we call God needed reassurance through praise, but maybe Creation was inevitable–maybe this presence called God simply cannot help but create. Creation sparked in that cosmic “big bang,” that action which was a first-cause (or caused by the First Cause) and Creation can only spread outward and onward, spawning life which evolves, cutting light into darkness which eventually results in living matter. This Creation that God is and caused is thus the “cutting of lightness into dark” that we as creation can affect on a smaller level in our actions that sustain and perpetuate such creation rather than participating in actions which result in the end and the decay of that creation. As God is perfect, God must create so that creation can join in the “dance of creation” (as other more elequent and knowledgable writers have said before me), so that Creation can reach that center, reach that completion and come back home.


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