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It is quite unfortunate that the notion of creation in and of itself has gotten inextricably linked with the politicized issue of evolution (through government school curricula issues), age of the Earth, science/religion conflicts, etc. It's become a truism of historical scholarship that there never was much of a great widespread "battle between "science and religion in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. (A good rule of thumb is that anything described as a "battle that doesn't involve guns and soldiers is probably stretching journalistic license.) It's mostly a remembered conflict that involved fewer folk than we imagine, and was fought over less substantive issues than are posited by present-day would-be theological/scientific pugilists.

It's unfortunate because the immense energies poured into "proving things like a six-day creation of 24-hour days, a 6,000-year-old Earth and other favorite sparring topics have taken the focus off the astounding nature of the simple, though staggering, idea of the act of creation. For the latter is a much neglected topic in religious circles.

First of all, long before the verbal fisticuffs of the age of Darwin and post-Darwin, "natural philosophers, as scientists were often referred to in those days, studied and cataloged and searched out everything they could learn about the natural world with the devotion of the most ardent Christian missionary to far-off lands. And that fervency was not surprising because many of those (mostly) men saw their labors in a theological light, through a theological lens. They were most often orthodox, or near-orthodox, Christians or at least Deists who believed in some sort of "supreme being as the weasel phrase now has it. They considered they were studying God slantwise, by studying his "handiworkas the universe was referred to in the days of Spinoza, the humble lens grinder, and Leibniz, the inventor of calculus.

In any case, the growth of atheism, in any literal sense, really only began in the later 19th century and only proceeded apace by a kind of "social contagion in much the same fashion as Thomas Kuhn describes scientific revolutions, that is, not by sustained argument and ratiocination, but by realizing all one's peers were beginning to think in a new way and finding oneself, mirabile dictu, thinking that way as well!

So, beyond the loss by many scientists of the ability to convince themselves nowadays that they are studying "God's handiwork in their investigations, there are the other deficits of not hearkening to what we may learn of God by thinking about creation.

Christian theology can be considered a form of Biblical reasoning, and we begin with this simple syllogism: "If God made the world, then the world is a good place, a good thing. One can point to the inherent "goodness of existence, of being without forgetting other related doctrines such as the Fall and Original Sin, etc. To state that the universe is flawed is not a a contradiction of the above but an affirmation, and agreement with its essential goodness, for to say it is flawed is to affirm that the part not flawed is, well, flawless, partaking of its original created goodness.

The way in which sin has affected our natures and turned us from God is seen in Christian doctrine as the source of the flaw, which has also had cosmic effects, the "red in tooth and claw aspect of nature and the seeming "hostility of nature to unprotected, unsheltered humanity. And the understanding of the church is that the whole story of God in relation to his creation can now be summed up as a rescue operation.

But let's stay with creation. A deeper reflection on creation can get us to an awareness of its puzzling nature. And by that I mean, the sense of awe that comes over us most often for the first time in our early teens when we look up at the night sky and the starry canopy and go "Wow, dude. If you persist in wonderment, and persist in asking questions, you can eventually get to bedrock with "Why is there something rather than nothing?That's a long way from "Wow, dude, but it's all the same journey.

Why am I here? What is my purpose? A Christian (and a Jew) is able to see that first question ” Why is there something? ” and respond: Because God likes "stuff. God wanted us to be here. God prefers something over nothing, and therein is the salvation of the world. For when we know the true meaning of creation, and humanity's fall, if you never knew the rest of the story, redemption and salvation, etc., you would still expect them to be something like that.

Yes, there is great evil in the world, unleashed by our own ancestors and abetted by our own willfulness, but God likes stuff, things, somethingness rather than nothingness. Some theologians, puzzled, as we all are, to truly understand the genesis of evil, have gone so far as to say that the definition of evil is the absence of being. Nothingness attempts to erupt into our somethingness so that there may be no more of the simple beauties of existence.

This final notion of creation is informed backward (in interpretive time) with the Christian understanding of the "good news of redemption, it is fair to say, but it's still appropriate to arrive at the notion that, to rewrite the quote a bit, "For God so loved the world that he made it.

It is love that spoke the worlds into being, it is love that gave us the earth in its manifold multiplicity, it is "love that moves the sun and the stars as Dante would have it.

Sheer existingness can elicit a species of gratitude. Can we call a simple "I'm glad I'm alive, a form of prayer? More gratitude is always a good thing, for gratitude grows one's character with an ability and willingness to make room for others on this floating spaceship. Gratitude gives me vision to perceive you as a person of possibilities just like me. To see the "other as a person, i.e. to realize whose face we face, is the beginning of salvation. If there is a God to whom I can be grateful, then perhaps I can also learn to be responsible. Perhaps God has certain ideas as to how I should use this gratitude, how I should treat others and what my purpose on this earth might be.

So, yeah, let's call it a prayer. I'm glad I'm alive. I hope you are, too.