Finitude, Creation, and a Well-Mowed Lawn
As I have been thinking about the theme of an upcoming conference we are hosting — on Makers — a number of thoughts have occurred to me. One of them is that God makes things for his pleasure, and so should we. This edifying thought is complicated both by our finitude and by our sinfulness, but we have to work through those complications. Giving up on the imitation of God because of our sinfulness is not resisting that sinfulness, but rather succumbing to it.
Why is it that we take such satisfaction in a job well done? We can see this particular pleasure rise up in ourselves in virtually any task — from a well-mowed lawn up to the high end of doing fancy tricks with a super-collider. Why is it that we like to stand and stare at the job just completed?
The answer is found in the creation week — God did this first to show us how. He called the light good (Genesis 1:4), and the division of sea and dry land was good too (Genesis 1:10). Grass and herbs and trees were good (Genesis 1:12). The sun and moon were good (Genesis 1:18). The great whales, and all the sea creatures, and the flocks of birds . . . those were good as well (Genesis 1:21). Then the land beasts and the cattle were good (Genesis 1:25). And when he looked at the whole shebeal, behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). Six days of stacked goodness, like so many pancakes.
I said that our approach to this is complicated by our finitude and by our sinfulness. We have to deal with both of these factors, but we must take special care to deal with them differently. Adam was finite before he fell, and the limitations he experienced then were in no way sinful. Before he sinned, no matter how hard he worked, something would be left to do the next day.
God does not fault us for our finitude — indeed, we are to glory in it. It was chafing under finitude that actually helped precipitate the fall (Genesis 3:5). When we, as Adam’s descendants repent of this aspect of our fall into sin — which we can only do in the second Adam — we have to do it by embracing that finitude, and not resenting it. There will always be more work to do. Under the sun, this reality is vanity and shepherding wind. But when we’ve been there ten thousand years, we’ve no less days to work God’s praise than when we’d first begun. The very first lesson that a bright eternity in front of us will teach us is how to exult in finitude.
Sinfulness is the other thing. Sin doesn’t want to learn to work by imitating God. Sin is turning away to reflect another source of light — wanting to be moon to another sun, or worse, to be a sun on its own. All we manage to do by this process is become burnt out asteroids. We want to be masters of the grand system, and we want it all done now. The sin here is impatience. We reach, we grasp, we insist, we stomp our little feet.
But God pronounced his work good at every stage of it. He was looking at his partially completed labor of creating the world, and calling it good, when there was only light. Then he had light and dark, dirt and water, and he thought that was good. And so on, throughout his glorious creation on the installment plan. Augustine once wondered about six-day-creation — his problem was why it took so long. Why was God dawdling?
Among many other glories, he was teaching us how to make things.