Heaven and Earth and the Cosmic Origins of Marriage
The first creation account in Genesis 1 is a broad, comprehensive setting for marriage. Nothing less than the creation and consummation of heaven and earth will satisfy our need for the proper horizon of the sacrament of marriage.
One of the fascinating things about the Bible as we have it – written, curated, and edited over many centuries – is that it begins and ends with the coming together of heaven and earth, as N.T. Wright described in “From Genesis to Revelation”. We are told in Genesis 1 (the first account) and Genesis 2 (the second account) that heaven and earth are made together and, so it seems, should work together. They are supposed to be the twin interlocking spheres of God’s good creation. Nature and Supernature go together. Dualism is not a Christian belief.
So how do heaven and earth, these twin interlocking spheres work together? And how does this help us understand marriage? Genesis 1 shows us a lot of other things that should be complementary and working together. So, we not only have heaven and earth, but we have sea and dry land, plants and animals, and within the animal kingdom we have male and female. Then we have the whole story of Creation climaxing together in the creation of humanity in the image of God, as male and female. We see that story is teaching us the telos of Creation, its goal and proper form. And just as creation has a fundamental harmony and order, each part working with the other, so man and woman are complementary. It is not that man represents heaven and woman represents earth (this was a common mistake in paganism) but rather that these two are created to go together and work together in a complementary fashion, which is true of the creation in its entirety.
Another feature of this account of Creation is that Creator God is called Elohim in the Hebrew text, which is the High God, the Ultimate God, in the Hebrew scriptures. We will need the second account of Creation in Genesis 2 to round out the picture of God as well as round out the picture of creation, especially marriage. But at this point we can pause to make a few important observations:
- Creation is full of binaries, beginning with heaven and earth itself, and climaxes in the binary of humanity as male and female. The story invites us to hold these binaries together in our thinking.
- These binaries are harmonies not antinomies, for the fundamental picture of creation (as opposed to its Ancient Near Eastern context) is one of peace and joy, not battle. God’s good Creation is the product of a loving intention voiced by God. God concludes each phase of his creative act with “it is good.” The final creative act, man as male and female, he calls “very good.”
- The climactic act of creation is made in God’s image and given a role as God’s representative in Creation (1:26-31). The reader, again, is invited to reflect on these couplets together. The idea seems to be marriage is God’s signpost of all that is intended for Creation. A split creation (heaven vs. earth) leads to a split marriage and vice versa.
- Just as the world is dealing with the ecological impact of modern industrialization two centuries after the fact, the pulverization of the human person characteristic of postmodernity will have similar unforeseen consequences. That is because there is an ecology of the human person, there is indeed, a cosmology of marriage. And as Jesus warned us, “what God has joined together let no on put asunder” (Matthew 19:3-6).
- Genesis 1 frames the whole biblical story line with these assertions: God exists as a singular and personal entity; God alone created the world without effort; the world is essentially good in its entirety, especially humans who represent God as His image-bearer; the seventh day is different from all the others and is an especially appropriate time to reflect on these truths. The rest of the bible will develop but never contradict these assertions.
- Four principles of complementary are revealed in Genesis: equal dignity, significant difference, synergetic relation and intergenerational fruition. They are implied in Genesis 1, which sets us up for these principles to be developed later and more fully.
Next we will reflect on how the second Creation account in Genesis 2, complements and completes the cosmological picture of Genesis 1. Repetition with variation is the major literary feature of the Bible and we see it both in the form and content of its message.
Questions for Consideration
- The story of creation is a story about the Creator. There is one (not many) God(s), who speaks (not battles) the world into existence. Humans, who stand at the apex of creation, should not bow down to worship those who are under their supervision or dominion. Thus, Genesis 1 functions as a monotheistic polemic in a polytheistic world.
- Humans, as male and female, are made in essential complementarity and unity. Any domination comes after Genesis 3 as a result what is often called “The Fall.” Thus, can dominance of one sex over another be a product of creation?
- Since God made man and woman in his image, unity is part of the divine nature. Does this invite a Trinitarian reading of the phrase “let us make man in our image?”
- Is complementarity intrinsic to creation and relational harmony?
- What are some of the essential components of an ecology of the person?
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