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CREATION AND SOUND

A text by Verena Grüter

Creation and sound | Christianity

»In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...«

The first book of the Bible tells us about God’s creation of the world. Not to provide historic or scientific explanations but rather to answer the question: who are we as humans in this world? What is the relationship between the world and us, everything else created and us, God and us? In Christian tradition the creation of the human couple has long been understood as the culmination of creation. However, while people who lived in the time of the Book of Genesis saw humans as ‘God’s stewards’ and as being accountable to God, since the Renaissance people have put themselves into the centre of their world view. The status of having been created in the image of God was perceived as a free pass to subdue and exploit the world.
Where this perception has led us to is very apparent in today’s ‘ecological crisis’. The anthropocentric perspective of the traditional Christian understanding of creation is confronted with a new outlook: the connection between all beings. The human couple only entered the stage during the last act of the story of creation. It is therefore not the dominating but the most vulnerable, most dependent being, the one that needs all the others in order to live. The image of a hierarchy within creation is replaced by one of dynamics: the human couple is not the culmination but a part of the entire creation, with the calling to live a life in a mutual relationship with all other beings. Even earth itself, which according to the story of creation was to “bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and fruit trees”, takes part in God’s act of creation.

»then God said...«

There is a sound at the beginning of God’s act of creation – the sound of his voice, his word. Creation is a performative event. Similar to a director God calls the actors on stage: light and sky, dry land and seas, plants and trees, celestial bodies, animals and humans. It is the sound of God’s words that calls everything into existence, every being to its place, into the living relationship with everything else. While Orthodox Christian churches celebrate the sound of liturgy as a reflection of heavenly life, Lutheran theology centres around the word of God: God’s word awakens faith. Besides this cognitive approach, however, Martin Luther granted music its own theological honour: musicam esse ab initio mundi inditam seu concreatam creaturis universis – music has been created together with all beings, in fact, it has been given to them by God.

»Veni Creator Spiritus...«

»Come, Holy Spirit, renew the whole creation!« This old Christian prayer for the Pentecost festival draws our attention to an important aspect of the Christian theology of creation: God’s act of creation is not completed. The resurrection of Christ, his rise from the dead and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit have been signs that have been pointing to the new creation: to »a new heaven and a new earth«, created by God, in which suffering and death will be overcome. Since 2013 and as part of the ecumenical process »Turning back to life – Shaping the change« Christians from different churches have been making an appeal as »new creatures« in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) to overcome the anthropocentric limitation of the inherited understanding of creation and to shape our socioeconomic living conditions in a new way in the spirit of a »new humility«.

»Sing a new song to the lord...«

In a letter Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: It is on this word that a new sound lies. How is this new song different to the song, that made the human being new, the song that bursts out of humans after darkness, sorrow and fear giving new hope, new faith, new trust? This new song is the song, that God himself just raised in us – whether it may be an ancient song – the God – as it says in Job - »who gives songs in the night« (Job 35:10). God’s recreation is not happening in silence, without a single sound. It paves its way in the singing of its humans.

Creation and sound - A text by Verena Grüter

Creation and sound.pdf (67.5 KiB)

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