Life, the universe and everything

When I was studying to be a minister, a friend once confided in me that he did not believe in creation in 6 days. I was horrified, not because he didn’t believe this, but because he thought that I did believe this, and he thought that this was what Christian faith is about.

The sacred texts of Christian – and Jewish- faith are complex, difficult and beautiful but it is clear that the creation accounts are not meant to be read literally. In Genesis, in which the 6 day creation story is told, it is proclaimed that the whole world is good and that men and women are equally made in the image of the divine (Genesis 1:1-2:4). Right after this, another, very different creation story is told in which it is only the garden that is good and the woman is taken from the man’s side (Genesis 2:4-24).

These two texts contradict and show us that neither is meant to be understood literally. Instead these creation accounts offer two different understandings of the earth, of women and of men and, perhaps, even different understandings of the divine.

These texts are not simplistic fact sheets to be accepted and memorised, instead, they have rich potential in opening up conversation and thinking about the earth, what is sacred, humanity, how we might be called to care for the earth and how women and men relate to one another.

In my experience engaging with the complexities of the biblical text is not about disengaging our brains, indeed it is quite the reverse. It is an ongoing adventure that provokes deep reflection on (as Douglas Adam’s nifty summarised) life, the universe and everything.  It is also a rather costly adventure because it comes with all kinds of challenges about how we might actually live.


Rev Sally Douglas