Monday, October 5, 2015

Light and Darkness

There's something interesting, and confusing, in the beginning of the Creation dialogue that we must pay attention to, even if we can never fully understand. And it's this:

God only created the light.

In the earliest verses in Genesis, God says simply, Let there be light, and there is light, but then, it says, God separated the light from the darkness. But God never created the darkness, so where did the darkness come from?

This is, admittedly, some complicated theology. It is scientific reality that darkness does not exist in and of itself; it only exists in contrast to the light. You must have light to create darkness. A tree does not create a shadow all by itself; it creates a shadow by blocking a part of the light. Now, you might be saying that this cannot be entirely true, for the night is entirely darkness and in it, there is no light, but remember that the night is the earth's rotation away from the sun, the light, and so it is only by turning away from this light that we create darkness. 

So the question becomes (at least, the first question becomes): did God anticipate darkness? When He created the light, did He know that the light would form its own creation - darkness? And how, exactly, did all this work?

God created the light, we are told, and then separated the light from the darkness. Did darkness arise, then, as some imperfection in the light? Was light "good" only once it was separated from the darkness or was light "good" in its very being, even as it created the darkness? These are not easy questions, but they have incredible consequences (we'll get to that). 

If we want to take this a step further up into the theological mists, we could ask the higher question: We are told repeatedly that God is light; His very essence is light. This means that before even the creation of light, while the universe was still formless and void, God was light. If God is light, is there darkness? Does the light of God cast a shadow over the formless and void or is form and fullness necessary for creating the shadow? 

On one hand, we could say that if God as light casts a shadow before there is anything at all, then yes, God was prepared to handle the darkness. He knew what was coming when He formed light, for He knew light intimately already and knew the way it caused the darkness to dance. Creation, then, was in a sense His orchestration of this dance as He separated the darkness from the light.

On the other hand, if God as light casts a shadow before there is anything at all, we must say that darkness is heavily intertwined with the light in an inseparable way. Although physics would tell us this, in this pre-physical world, this has broader, more difficult implications: it means that God's very nature, His very brilliant, lighted nature, is in some manner responsible for the darkness. That's precisely the theological pill most of us are not prepared to swallow. How can God's light be reassuring if it is also the shadow-caster? How can we take comfort in God's light if we know that it is only from His light that darkness comes? 

I suppose the easy answer is to say that before the physical creation, there was no such thing as physics. There was no natural order or natural law to guide such things as darkness and light, since the natural order is the outpouring of God's wisdom into creation. And therefore, since God exists outside of the natural order (He is not a created being), He exists also outside the natural law that would govern such a thing and therefore, in a formless and void universe, light can possibly exist without darkness, even if our finite minds cannot possibly understand how. 

See, it's messy, all of this theology, even from so few simple words as Then God said, 'Let there be light.' Because there was, indeed, light, but there was also darkness. 

Maybe it doesn't seem like much, darkness and light. Maybe we've become so accustomed to the ideas that they no longer bother us. And maybe that's okay. But how about this one:

God is not only light. He is also...good. And His creation is good. And where there is good, there is also evil. More on that tomorrow. 

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