Everything that exists must have a beginning, right? Hmmm… It’s not as straightforward an assumption as we often think. Does a river have a beginning? Numerous explorers lost their lives attempting to find the source of the Nile – yet even today, it remains inconclusive. Lake Victoria is claimed (by Uganda) as the source of the White Nile, while Ethiopia says the Blue Nile is the true source – a bit shorter but much higher volume. But Lake Victoria is fed by rivers coming from Rwanda, so Rwanda also stakes a claim. Springs also feed both Lake Victoria and the Rwandan rivers. Springs are essentially an underground river, so basically Lake Victoria is merely the transitional phase between the underground river and the surface river. Which is the true beginning?
We could ask the same question about absolutely anything – a chocolate cake, a symphony, a company, work of art, garden, poem, city, a baby. What about you as a person? When did you begin? When will you end? We naturally respond, ‘at birth’, but of course birth is merely a transition from existing inside the womb to outside. We might say at conception. But then you were a combined egg and sperm filled with masses of DNA information from the far distant past. Your traits did not just ‘appear’, they were ‘inherited’ and ‘formed’ through a process of development that relied on source material going back hundreds of generations. (We might also ask, were you fully you at conception? When does one become a person?)
I often wonder when GTS began. As an idea, as a bank account, a legally registered charity, or when we first started teaching? Perhaps a chocolate cake is easier. Does it begin to exist out of the oven? At the mixing / cooking stage? Sourcing ingredients? When you decide to bake?
So – when did heaven and earth begin? Thinking about ultimate beginnings is a fascinating exercise with three important conclusions:
- Everything is a process. I’m continuously progressing from baby to old man.
- Nothing comes from nothing – every material thing derives from previous things.
- Everything made has its origin in the mind (ours or ultimately God’s).
In the beginning was the word (logos). In the beginning God created (process). The biblical beginning is actually a transition story – from an earth formless and void to one of abundance and vitality, through God’s creative process.