Moltmann Monday: The Song of Creation

Happy Moltmann Monday! I’m currently in Chicago at the Faith Forward conference having a lovely time. Today’s excerpt comes from The Way of Jesus Christ:

If we look back at the creation story told in the Priestly Writing, we find the immanent unity of creation expressed in two formulas: 1. In the formula of creation through the divine Word: ‘God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’. 2. In the presupposition for creation through the Word, a presupposition which has received too little notice: the vibration of the present Spirit of God: ‘The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.’  The Hebrew word ruach is better translated as ‘wind’ or ‘breath’ than Spirit. The Hebrew word rahaph is generally translated ‘hover or ‘brood.’ But…it has the meaning of vibrating, quivering, moving and exciting. If this is correct, then we should not think only of the image of a fluttering or brooding dove. We should think of the fundamental resonances of music out of which sound and rhythms emerge.

In thinking about ‘creation through the Word’ we should not therefore think primarily in metaphors of command and obedience. A better immage is the song of creation. The word names, differentiates and appraises. But the breath is the same in all the words, and binds the words together. So the Creator differentiates his creatures through his creative Word and joins them through his Spirit, who is the sustainer of all his words. In the quickening breath and through the form-giving word, the Creator sings out his creatures in the sounds and rhythms in which he has his joy and his good pleasure.

I love how Moltmann brings another (and better) dimension to our mental picture of God demanding the universe to be created. Of course, we profess that God is the Creator of the universe, and did so as a free and willing choice. God makes space for not-God in the universe, because it was God’s good pleasure to do so. But this does often get flattened into a picture of God only commanding. When I think of the act of creation, though, I imagine God less as a drill sergeant and more like an artist, weaving and wending and creating a masterpiece. And it is not a quiet affair; no, the act of creation brings forth beauty not just in material things and not just in words but in sounds, and sights and smells too.

Moltmann always gives the Spirit an actual place at the table in his theology, and he does so again here by reminding us that when the Spirit hovered over the formless and void waters of the deep in Genesis 1, what was called forth was not just a word but a song. The word names, but the breath, the Spirit, binds the words together.

The Creator sings out his creatures. Sometimes we catch hold of this melody, and sing back, and the world resonates with the joyful harmony of heaven and earth. We are God’s song.

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