December 31, 2017

A Theology of Swarminess

Passage : Genesis 1:20–28

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So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind,
with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good.
—Genesis 1:21

 

Don’t you love the way the author of this creation story is just in love with the creepiness of creation?  That is to say, he is enamored with the earth’s charming, astonishing fecundity, its unexpected eccentricities, its extravagant biodiversity.

On the fifth day, he tells us, God said, “Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky, great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm.”

One philosopher said once that there is a beautiful swarminess to creation. God loves swarminess.[1]

And then again, on the sixth day, God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of every kind.”  Creepy, creeping things: the author exalts in the creepiness of creation, its eccentric fecundity, its capacity to come up with just about anything and just about everything.

Do you know how many species there are on earth in the kingdom of fauna?  No, neither does anybody else.  Estimates range from about 3.6 million to about 112 million.[2] I’ve never been able to figure out how the zoologists and biologists and taxonomists could be so uncertain.  A range of estimates spanning over 100 million makes it sound like they don’t know what they’re talking about, but that’s the case.

Human beings have named about 1.8 million different species of animals, fish, birds, insects and other creatures, or about half the total at the low end, or under 2% at the high end.

About half of them will be gone before the end of this century.  That’s 82 years away.  Some of us in this room will still be alive at the end of the twenty-first century.

One reason to celebrate a service like this is to reinforce our efforts at protecting the biodiversity God so exalts in in the creation story, and to reclaim our God-given responsibility as the stewards of the rest of the earth, as kings and queens of creation.

We need a robust theology of swarminess.

 

[1]Richard Mouw, former President of Fuller Theological Seminary, in an unpublished lecture at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, January, 1995.

[2]Edward O. Wilson, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), 118.