The benefit from engaging the questions and insights of Genesis 1-3 (“In the Beginning”)
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (King James Version Bible, Gen 1:1) The first verse of the Bible sets in motion the creation story that helps to understand God and His role in it. Genesis 1-3 gives fundamental views of humankind, the world and how God is the creator of the universe. God is regarded as the sole creator of all living and non-living things. Human beings are however unique beings because they are more intelligent and they have the responsibility of taking care of other God’s creations. Human beings are created in God’s image, and this shows that God had special plans for them. By creating human beings as the caretakers of the universe, it meant that they were subject to God’s judgement in how they enjoy their rights. The creation sequence is proof that the existence of things was not random but according to God’s plan and reasoning. The living beings got life through God’s power hence showing that their presence is down to God’s will and power. Through understanding the creation process, one can know that God is all-powerful and none is powerful than him. By believing in this, human beings trust in God in all their endeavors without questioning His powers and capabilities.
The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest church that came into existence through effort of some of the twelve disciples. The Catholic Church has been developing its views and understanding of Genesis 1-3. Pope Benedict who represents the entire Catholic community has two different opinions on how to believe in the creation process. Pope Benedict believes that Science should be used to strengthen the theological understanding of the creation process. God used the “Let there be…” commands which were not random ones but full of intelligence and authority. The creative intelligence is then suggested to be the prime example of knowledge as the existence of the universe was a perfect process. The creation story thus illustrates God’s superior reasoning and intelligence.
God’s moral order, however, has its doubters in the form of scientific theories fronted by different scientists. God is depicted as a hypothesis and that the universe existed in the form of energy and matter. Theories of conservation of energy and matter suggest that the world is an ever-existing phenomenon governed by laws of nature and thus God did not have a role in its existence. These scientific insights have prompted religious responses based on the Holy Bible. Pope Benedict warns that scientific theories could overrule primordial facts about creation.
Religious leaders have also pointed out that casting doubts on the creation process, complicates the impression of worship since the existence of God is questionable. Pope Benedict mentioned, “God himself shines through the reasonableness of His creation” and “The universe is not the product of darkness and unreason. It comes from intelligence, freedom and the beauty that is identical with love” (Chandler, Par 8-9). These spiritual insights paint the image that creation is all God’s work and it is through it that human beings get to understand Him through His power, intelligence, orderliness and superior reasoning.
The importance and goal of Interfaith Dialogue (Nostra Aetate, Christianity and the World Religions)
Interfaith dialogue is the productive interaction between individuals and institutions from various religious backgrounds. One of the first attempts to bridge the inter-religious gaps was the development of the “Nostra Aetate” which stands for “in our time” (Bunson, Par 3). The dialogues were documented in 1965 to iron out the thorny issues between the Catholic Church and other religions and specifically, Islam. The document acknowledged that other religions bear the truth about the gospel and other religious aspects. By acknowledging protestant churches and other faiths, suspicion of different beliefs reduced significantly. Issues such as rejection, persecution of other religions and confusion were pointed out and addressed significantly. The Catholic Church has been able to reach out to different religious cultures hence fostering the spirit of inter-religious cooperation and dialogue.
Interdenominational dialogue is based on the truth that man is created in God’s image. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (King James Version Bible, Gen 1:27).” It is, therefore, God’s will and intention to create us all, equally which means that there, should be no religious, color and race discriminations in one way or another. Interfaith dialogue therefore not only solves the religious discrimination as it brings together individuals from different ethnicities, cultures, ways of life and social classes among others. The human beings can only practice religious righteousness by acknowledging God’s work “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well ” (Nelson, Psalms 139:14).
Interfaith conversations are established through committees, councils and secretariats that represent different religious backgrounds and cultures. The drive behind these efforts is to create the idea of understanding religion in a more significant way. Theological dialogues help one to understand the “other” religion better in a practical way. Relying on reading books, hearsay and other sources of information have not improved in understanding religion. Practical collaborations and interactions make it easier to understand since the information is not distorted or influenced in any way. Christianity and Islam are the two largest religious conglomerates, which have benefited from interfaith negotiations. Christians get to understand the Muslims while learning from the contents of the Koran, which is equivalent to the Christian’s Bible. A paradoxical value of interreligious dialogue is that it helps one understand his or her religion better.
Interreligious conversations plays a significant role in creating checks and balances for the political system. Religion has been known to have its unwavering principles and beliefs, which is the opposite of religious and secular systems, which are prone to external and internal influences. The society, therefore, looks up to their religious leaders for guidance and advice especially when it comes to thorny issues that require spiritual intervention and interpretation. In modern society, religious observers are called upon during elections because of the neutrality and wisdom. Interfaith collaborations, therefore, act as watchdogs for the community to prevent exploitation and oppression by malicious political alliances.
The “Nostra Aetate” has contributed significantly to the interfaith togetherness by approving the declaration on the relations between the church and Non-Christian religious systems. The dialogue addressed the need for the Catholic Church to dialogue with Muslims and Jews (Bunson, Par 17). The initiative has been able to develop to accommodate more religions and cultures. Ecumenical and interreligious dialogues take place on the individual, local and institutional levels to ensure that the effects get to the religious roots of the participants.
Bunson, M. (2015). The fruits of ‘Nostra Aetate’ 50 years later. [Online] Our Sunday Visitor Catholic Publishing Company. Available at: https://www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly/Story/TabId/2672/ArtMID/13567/ArticleID/17439/The-fruits-of-%E2%80%98Nostra-Aetate%E2%80%99-50-years-later.aspx [Accessed 11 Dec. 2018].
Chandler, Otis. “‘In the Beginning…’ A Catholic Understanding of the Story of Creation and the Fall Quotes by Pope Benedict XVI”. Goodreads.Com, 2018, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/252800-im-anfang-schuf-gott. Accessed 11 Dec 2018.
Nelson, Thomas. “Bible Gateway Passage: Psalm 139:14 – New King James Version”. Bible Gateway, 2018, https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+139%3A14&version=NKJV. Accessed 11 Dec 2018.
The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.