What is it that makes a human, human? If you want to know who you are you, you need to know where you came from. Gerard Kelly insists that origins matter and that a belief in a creator who made you in His image can change your self-worth and the way you live our life.
Journalist Kate Adie is probably most remembered for the courageous reporting during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 for the BBC. More recently she has turned her considerable skill to a subject much closer to home. Her book ‘Nobody's Child, Who Are You When You Don't Know Your Past?’ was published in September 2005 to critical acclaim, and will be featured in the coming months on a number of TV documentaries.
The book explores the often-ignored subject of 'foundlings' - people who were abandoned at birth and have no knowledge, often well into adulthood, of just who their parents are. Adie herself was adopted, and she writes very movingly of the experience of having to make up answers to simple, everyday questions. “Do you have any brothers or sisters?” “Where were you born?” “When is your birthday?" I found the book particularly compelling because one of the stories told in it is that of my wife's mother, Anthea Ring. Anthea was found abandoned on the Sussex Downs, near Worthing, at the age of 10 months. Despite a nationwide police investigation at the time, and her own intense efforts in more recent years to trace her roots, nothing has ever been found out about how this healthy, well-cared-for child was left beneath a blackberry bush. Anthea has no idea where she was born, or to whom. The birthday she celebrates each year is one made-up for her by the nurses of Worthing Hospital, also responsible for naming her. She was later adopted into a very loving home, and enjoyed a healthy and happy childhood: but still there is this drive to know. Like all foundlings, Anthea longs for even a scrap of information of her origins. One of the women quoted in 'Nobody’s Child' was, like Anthea, adopted into a loving and caring home. Yet from this place of comfort and security, she writes: 'I would give a hundred worlds like this if I could see my mother.' Origins matter Seeing the depth and passion with which foundlings are driven to find out about their past has convinced me, more than ever, of a simple truth: that origins matter. Our history is a building block of our identity. If we want to know who we are we need to know where we come from. And what is true for the individual is also true for humanity. If we are to know who we are - what it means to be human in this most human-shaped world - then we need to know where we come from. Origins matter: this is the crux of the 'creation debate'. 'Creation' matters to me not so much as an argument with which to refute the rationality of science, but as a fundamental statement of what is. It is important, I believe, to make this stark claim, because our thinking about God as creator can so easily be distorted by our very complex debates about the universe's first moments. For the past 100 years or more discussions about the Christian view of creation have been dominated by arguments about faith and science and whether the two can live peacefully together. These debates do matter. For those caught up in them, not least the believing scientists who find themselves all too often hated by both sides - too believing for their colleagues in science and too scientific for their fellow believers - they matter very much.
But they are not all there is to say about the Bible's view of the beginnings - the Genesis - of our world. And they are not, in themselves, the most important aspect of creation. I am a 'Creationist' because I believe that the God I worship is the One Creator God - the maker of Heaven and Earth. I make no claim to understand exactly how the world came into being, nor how long it took, nor what I might have reported had I been there to witness the process. But I do believe the universe to be the work of a loving, personal being, who has called into existence a multi-faceted, achingly beautiful cosmos and has placed human beings within it to manage, rule and love it at his side. At the heart of thingsTo say that the One God we worship is the Creator of all things is to make a foundational philosophical statement. It is to say that all reality - all that we can see and know and experience and enjoy - has its origin in the love of God. It is to say that personality and purpose, mind and meaning, are at the heart of all things.
Believing scientists often talk of ‘Intelligent Design’ as a fundamental quality of the creation - but I also want to speak of Loving Intention. A universe conceived in the bosom of a loving, personal, purposeful God will be a different place than the aftermath of an accidental explosion. It matters to me that my planet is not a random collection of purposeless atoms, because if it is, then I am, and no meaning is possible for me. But if my world has meaning, then so do I, and there is the possibility of a life of purpose. I have believed for many years that the Christian church of the West is called by God to wrestle for this fundamental belief in creation. Whilst allowing for different accounts of just how the world was God-made, I want to hold without apology to the belief that it was. The word 'creation' is foundational to our faith because it speaks in two directions. It tells us who God is and it tells us who we are. Belief in the creation tells me that God is, before all else, Creator. When our scriptures open with the four words 'In the beginning, God...' they are not introducing a lecture in pre-history. They are launching, rather, an extraordinary hymn of praise; a glorious symphony in honour of the loving, saving God whose power makes the sun look like a battery-operated torch; whose splendour makes midgets of the highest of mountains; whose heart is deeper than the most distant star. The appropriate response to the book of Genesis is not knowledge so much as worship.
Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann writes: ‘The Bible starts out with a liturgy of abundance. Genesis I is a song of praise for God's generosity. It tells how well the world is ordered. It keeps saying, "It is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good." It declares that God blesses - that is, endows with vitality - the plants and the animals and the fish and the birds and humankind. And it pictures the creator as saying, "Be fruitful and multiply." In an orgy of fruitfulness, everything in its kind is to multiply the overflowing goodness that pours from God's creator spirit. And as you know, the creation ends in Sabbath. God is so overrun with fruitfulness that God says, "I've got to take a break from all this. I've got to get out of the office.”’ [See article here]
The Bible paints an extraordinary picture of the God whose biography it is. The Hebrew view of God, Tom Wright asserts, can be summed up in a single phrase: creational and covenantal monotheism.' [See article here] God is personal. He has made the world. He remains intimately and lovingly involved with the world he has made. This God is faithful; committed; generous; artful. He is both powerful and gentle; both distant and approachable. Theologians use the words 'transcendent' and 'immanent', to capture this sense that God is both ‘simultaneously other than his people and present with them’. God is my ‘Father in Heaven’ - a loving parent who overwhelms me with his generosity and favour and yet whose every word to me is backed by the unfathomable depth of his power as the maker of all things. How can the utterly 'other'; the all-powerful; the ultimate 'beyond' be intimate with me? Here is the mystery of our faith, and the mark and measure of God's generosity. Gerard Kelly is Senior Pastor of Crossroads International Church, Amsterdam, and a founding director of the Bless Network, a UK-based mission team at work on mainland Europe. You can follow Gerard's adventures in his blog