Where does the idea of a perfect creation come from? Is it from God’s seven “good” appraisals in Genesis 1? If that’s the case, then why does the text have ominous hints of a foreboding force just under the surface? The “formless” and “void” earth (i.e. an earth unable to produce or sustain life) which is covered by a portentous deep sea and blanketed by darkness should make us feel uneasy as readers. Even when God creates light and pulls back the sea exposing the earth, the sense of a menacing force remains under the surface. Even after he creates stars, plants, and animals, the sense of a menacing force remains. Even after God brings humanity onto the scene giving them the job to image his rule in creation, the sense of a menacing force remains because the earth of verse two has yet to be completely subdued.
Have you ever wondered why a tree able to give knowledge of evil was present in the garden? Or, what evil was there to know? We’re not told. Regardless though, we should feel the tension. It seems that evil was in creation in some way and that humanity was possibly oblivious to its existence. It seems God desires to keep that knowledge to himself. Maybe he wants to protect humanity, like a father trying to shield his children from the knowledge of evil, of violence, or of sexual degradation.
Where in the world does a serpent get the gall to tempt the divine image? Once again, we’re not told, but we should begin to perceive that there is something going on behind the scenes here. Adam’s failure to have dominion over one of the animals, Eve’s failure to help Adam, and the resultant cursing and death that ensue should remove all doubt that an evil force is and has been at work to thwart the earth of darkness and death from being transformed into one of light and life.
This brings us back to the original question: What was God thinking? He creates life, which seems extremely fragile in the midst of an earth gripped by an ominous force; and on top of that, the guardians of his project, whom he created, seem to be naïve and able to make divergent choices. What was he thinking? I believe God was thinking exactly what he thought when he decided to send his son to earth as a human to conquer the still present force of death. Remember God uses weakness to triumph over “power” and foolishness to outwit “wisdom.” If the clearest representation of the Creator God is in the bloodied and crucified body of a marginalized Palestinian Jew, then we should know what he was thinking. Why doesn’t God eradicate death and evil with a single word? Or, why does he create humanity with the ability to screw it all up and then give them the reigns to boot? Because, for a reason beyond our knowledge, God chooses to conquer evil and death through weakness and fragility. Even in creation, we can see the cruciform nature of the triune God counterintuitively at work. Truly his ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts!