Playful and Orderly

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 2 – The God who created

[Bible references: Genesis 1; 3:6; 51:6; Job 26:7-14; Psalm 102:25-28; 104:26; Proverbs 8:30-31; Jeremiah 9:24; Zechariah 8:4; Romans 1:20; 5:12-20]

It would be more conventional to title this section, “Creative and Orderly,” but the creativity is just a part of broader category of play. Although many experts disagree on how to define play[1], we may think of play as activity which is typically not productive and is done only because one wants to do it and is usually a fun activity involving other people and will typically help people bond together.

When it comes to the Creation, God did not have to create anything. God did not need the universe or anything in it – not the planets, nor the stars, nor the creatures. God created the heavens and the earth for the delight of it, and He did it because He wanted to share heaven and earth with his image-bearers. This spirit of playfulness is reflected in many of God’s creatures[2] including Leviathan and humans. God’s playfulness also shows up in other interesting places in the Bible.

When Job complains about the difficulties he is going through, God seems to admonish him by “putting Job in his place” and citing all the ways in which God’s ways are higher than Job’s ways. But God does not follow through with any discipline of Job but rather begins the process of restoring Job’s fortunes. In response, Job confesses, “I spoke of things I did not understand … I retract my words and I repent in dust and ashes.” … And yet, Job changes an interesting behavior – he no longer rose early in the morning to offer burnt offerings for all of his children, worrying that “perhaps they have sinned.” Job seems to have understood what Shams-ud-din Muhammed wrote later on:

the difference between our life and a saint’s is that the saint knows that the spiritual path is like a chess game with God and that God has made such a fantastic move that the saint trips over joy in surrender whereas we think we have a thousand serious moves.[3]

Another instance of playing occurs in Mark 6, when Jesus takes a late-night walk on a very windy lake, walking as if to go by his disciples. Of course, they were initially terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But he got in the boat and the waters calmed down. He could have calmed the waters down before the disciples started to go on the lake. He could have chosen another way to make his point … but he decided to do it that way.

God’s creativity can be seen within the created world in the extremely diverse types of plants and animals: differences in colors and shapes; different ways of digesting food; different ways of moving and observing the environment to name a few. The creativity we see is awesome. From out of nothingness, from no previous model, God created a whole system of particles and energy fields that interact with each other to form the building blocks of subatomic particles which are used to form atoms, which are used to form molecules of all sorts of complexity, which are then used to form planets and stars (actually, the fusion reaction in stars is used to create larger molecules from smaller ones). And at least one planet was used to create living things like plants and animals in all their complexity and then those living things were used to create communities (ecosystems) that allowed living things to thrive and flourish.

Yet, within the overwhelming creativity displayed within all the diversity of living things there is an order that is controlled by a set of ordered processes, some of which we call scientific (natural) laws. Christians, like Francis Bacon, pursued these laws as an extension of God’s moral laws in the universe, which then led to the development of modern science.[4] It is within science that we examine orderly processes at work that we call the natural laws which describe how all physical things behave: like the forces of gravity, electrical forces, etc.

There is no disobeying these natural laws. If you think that you can try to violate them, you’d be wrong. For instance, if you are on earth and stand on the top of a table and then jump off with the assumption that you will not be subject to gravity but rather float around without falling to the floor, you’d be wrong. You can’t violate gravity. You can try to set up circumstances that will cause other forces to come into play – such as airplanes do when they use aerodynamic forces that counteract gravity – but you simply can’t violate gravity, and there will be consequences if you try.

By observing the laws of the created order, we can ascertain some aspects of the character of God. The natural laws that govern how things are supposed to behave reveals a God who expects things to behave, and that violations are not tolerated. But when image-bearers were brought into the world there was a new level of complexity added to this physical model constrained by natural, physical laws.

On the one hand, we image-bearers are physical creatures and are therefore subject to the natural laws, but on the other hand we image-bearers were created to reflect God’s transcendence and were even given dominion over the creation into which God had placed us. Within that capacity, we image-bearers were given a moral freedom, the freedom to choose between good and evil. This freedom could not be given without some risk, because in order for image-bearers to be able to reflect God’s character of being good and choosing to do good there must be the possibility for the image-bearers to be able to choose to not be good.

And just as there are natural, physical laws that govern how physical things behave with consequences for trying to violate those laws, God has also imposed spiritual, moral laws to govern how the image-bearers ought to behave in the good universe He created with consequences for violating those moral laws. Sometimes the sin of one generation is passed down to the next. But regardless of whether a particular sin is passed to from one generation to another, the penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death.


[1] Edgar, Brian. “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality” Chapter 5: Theology: Ludic(rous) Thinking, Theories of Play

[2] Yu, Alan. “Which animals play, and why?” WHYY 15 Aug 2019 whyy.org/segments/which-animals-play-and-why/

[3] Hafiz (or Shams-ud-din Muhammad Tripping over Joy from reference Edgar, Brian “The God Who Plays: A Playful Approach to Theology and Spirituality” Chapter 4: Spirituality: Playing with friends, Competing with God

[4] Harrison, Peter, “Christianity and the rise of western science” ABC Religion and Ethics, 8 May 2012, www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2012/05/08/3498202.htm; Armstrong, David, “Christianity Crucial to the origin of science,” Patheos, 18 Oct 2015, www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2015/10/christianity-crucial-to-the-origin-of-science.html; Hannam, James. “How Christianity Led to the Rise of Modern Science” Equip.Org, 17 Jan 2017, http://www.equip.org/article/christianity-led-rise-modern-science

Reflect

As you view the world, what seems more apparent to you, creativity or order?

Observe

Read Romans 1:18-32.  Reflect on how natural laws reflect the character of God. Based just on natural laws, what kind of character does that reveal about God?

Author: transcendenttouched

I have been teaching the Bible to children and adults for over twenty years. Most recently, including teaching Discipleship/Confirmation classes. I have also been involved in various church leadership roles for many of those years. Until recently, my writing endeavors have been confined mainly to poetry. I've written an anthology of my first 40 years of writing poetry in my book, Growing. I have also written an overview of the Bible called, God Reveals Himself.

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