Liberation and Creation

While reading yesterday I came across the same idea in two very different texts.  Given that it was a new idea to me, it gave me pause and is pushing me to engage with the creation accounts of Genesis in a new way.

Jacques Ellul in Anarchy and Christianity:

Far from being the universal Commander, the biblical God is above all the Liberator. What is not generally known is that Genesis is not really the first book of the Bible. The Jews regard Exodus as the basic book. They primarily see in God not the universal Creator but their Liberator. The statement is impressive: “I have liberated you from Egypt, the house of bondage” (Ex 13:14; 20:2). In Hebrew, Egypt is called Mitsraim, and the meaning of this term is “twofold anguish,” which the rabbis explain as the anguish of living and the anguish of dying. The biblical God is above all the one who liberates us from all bondage, from the anguish of living and the anguish of dying. Each time that he intervenes it is to give us again the air of freedom. The cost is high. And it is through human beings that God discharges this mission, mostly human beings who at first are frightened and refuse, as we see from the many examples of God’s pedagogy. . . [38-39]

Dorothee Soelle in To Work and To Love:

“That God acted with liberating power on behalf of God’s chosen people in a specific historical time and space and under particular circumstances was the decisive factor in the Israelite understanding of God and humanity.” [8]

“It is in light of the Hebrews’ being freed from oppression by a foreign military superpower that we have to approach the conceptualization of creation in the biblical narratives of Genesis 1 and 2. The Exodus event precedes Jewish faith in creation and its exposition in narrative form.” [8]

“Biblical faith originated from a historical event of liberation, not from belief in creation.” [7]

“To return to the roots of the Jewish and Christian tradition means to understand the historical project of liberation carried out in the Exodus, before moving on to the ontological project that God inaugurated in the creation of the universe. Both projects, the historical and the ontological, are aimed at the freedom of the human being, and both projects need human agency . . . [7]

“The cosmic order as such, without a liberation tradition, does not reconcile slaves and other oppressed peoples, because it cannot empower them to free themselves.” [10]

“Creation faith is susceptible to the danger of “cheap reconciliation,” whereby we are asked to live as if we did not require freeing from present, unjust orders, as if the presumption of a universal transhistorical order were sufficient in itself for human life, and as if the God of nature had triumphed over the God of history. The oppressed have an epistemological advantage: They wait for a greater God. Creation is not yet finished. Both projects, the historical and the ontological, are aimed at the freedom of the human being, and it is one of the claims of this book that both projects need human agency. Participation in the ontological project of creation––human liberation––is possible only for the Exodus people, who have experienced at least once the liberating empowerment of the source of life. The universal source of life is not endlessly available to us, but, as the Jewish and Christian traditions claim, comes to us through particular historical events.” [10]

“When there is no memory of liberation, there can be no hope. Turning its back on liberation, creationism dehistoricizes what creation faith really is and reveals nothing of substantial relevance for people’s lives. For creationists, objectively speaking, the whole world has become the Egypt of the oppressor in which even the need for liberation is destroyed. The failure to reveal the truth of creation and its ontological project is matched, in creationism, by the attempt to control people’s lives and thoughts and to weaken their self-determination.” [11]

How might viewing Genesis 1 and 2 through the lens of the Exodus event and liberation influence your understanding of creation? Of humanity? Of the earth? Of hierarchy and relationships? What are your reactions to reading the creation myths through the lens of liberation?


One Comment on “Liberation and Creation”

  1. Mike Bull says:

    Hi there
    It seems to me that these comments were all written with the (quite baseless) assumption that the Hebrews did not believe Genesis in its entirety was history. Yet the same “death and resurrection” process, the binding of Joseph (prefiguring Jesus) and loosing of Israel (prefiguring humanity) is obvious in every passage of Genesis, and working at multiple levels within those passages (including Genesis 1-3).
    I ‘ve done a bit of work on this sort of structural analysis if you are interested:
    Kind regards,
    Mike Bull

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