Thursday, March 08, 2007

Full yet? III: Christ, the fullness of God

Genesis records God's first command to humanity: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Is it full yet?

When I first raised this question, it generated many comments, among which Frank suggested: I think the challenge of our day is to start with the reality of our situation and then turn to the scriptures. If we start with the scriptures then we have a command that will destroy us, at least the way we are interpreting it.

I want to suggest that rather than starting with Genesis or our present situation, we ought to start with Christ. In him, the fullness of deity dwells bodily (Col 2.9). It is from here that we ought to garner our concept of 'fulness'.

...Or at least so I thought late at night a couple of weeks ago when the basic outline of this series came to me. I intended to look at the language of fulness as it applies to the Trinity in order to shape the rest of of my posts (where I would deal more directly with the question of population and reproduction). However, in my semi-conscious state, I took some notes that now make little sense to me and which fail to answer the question of how fulness language regarding the Trinity might affect the discussion. This is (part of) the reason for the delay in this series. I've been trying to remember my thoughts from that night, or come up with new ones and have drawn something of a blank.

So I thought I'd throw it over to you: how might fulness language as it is used in reference to the Trintity* be relevant to a discussion of understanding how humanity is to fill the earth? Or is it simply a theologically trendy way of distracting us from what Genesis 1 says?
*e.g. Col 2.9; 1 Cor 15.28; Eph 1.23; 5.18; Hab 2.14
Series so far: Series so far: 0; I; II; III; IV.
Ten points for the city in the picture.

15 comments:

cyberpastor said...

I suspect that there could be some ontological problems if we equate the notion of humans filling the earth with the fullness of deity dwelling in the Messiah. Would it be possible to maintain an ontological distinction between divine and created if "God was all in all" in the same way that humans filled the earth?

byron said...

Not necessarily in the same way, but might there be some analogy?

At the moment, I'm thinking about fulness as being the defining characteristic, without necessarily implying the removal or overwhelming of other characteristics. To be filled with anger doesn't mean that you mightn't also had some sadness. For all the fulness of deity to dwell bodily in Christ doesn't mean he was no longer also human. For God to be all in all doesn't mean the obliteration of creation. That kind of thing.

I think this was more or less what I was thinking the other night. Thanks for helping me remember it... :-)

Michael Canaris said...

Kuwait City? Basra? Dubai?

Dave Lankshear said...

Too many blogs, too little time.

A slightly different theological angle on this problem...

Enkers at Sydney Anglicans argued this a long time ago. This is what he wrote.

**************

How full is full?
Shiloh Ishan has above implied that "full" means filled to capacity, as if we are commanded to multiply until there are no excess resources or space. I doubt this is what Gen 1 is suggesting. The earth was already full (of violence) in Gen 6:11-13. It is again filled in Ex 1:7 when the land (of Egypt) was full of Israelites (in fact, Ex 1:7 uses the same word for "fill" and the same word for "earth" as found in Gen 1). If Egypt was said to be full of Israelites in Ex 1:7, and the population of Egypt then was nothing like what it is now, then Egypt, at the very least, is now over-full!

Other places said to be full are described in 1Kings 20:27; Isa 2:7 (where the land is full of horses and idols); Jer 23:10 (where it's full of adulterers); well, you get the idea by now I hope.

I think the idea that "fill" means attain a population which stretches the earth's resources to breaking point, and that any lesser population is not "full," is completely unsupported by the text. If the population of Hebrews in Egypt in the second millenium BC can be said to "fill" that land, then we are way beyond any concept of "full" now.

Given that Gen 1 tells us that we are meant to rule the world as God's image—i.e. as his representatives conveying his rule—I think that encouraging our own population to exceed that which can be readily supported and to reach a point which depletes the world of both animal and mineral resources is a clear abuse of our role as God's image.

I would be interested in knowing where we are told it is appropriate for us to have large families with many children, and where it is said it is bad to have no children? I know Paul encourages us to remain single, which would seem to run counter to the imperative to be fruitful and multiply!

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

I'm not sure where starting with Christ gets us in this discussion. As someone who almost ALWAYS argues for "beginning with Jesus," I can't believe I just wrote that first sentence. But I need to be shown how this works.

byron said...

Sorry Michael C, keep guessing.

Dave - yes, I think this is what I'm getting at: 'full' in biblical usage doesn't usually mean filled to capacity to the exclusion of all other alternatives. Thanks for all the references.

And Michael WW - I think this is where I've been heading over the last couple of weeks, esp since I think my insight was more about biblical usage (which applies to Jesus) than about Jesus per se.

cyberpastor said...

Just had a chat with Peter O'Brien and he thinks that the language of fullness in Ephesians and Colossians is related to it's use in Jeremiah 23:24. Here when the Lord fills a place it refers to the extent of his rule or dominion. Coming back to Genesis that could mean that the command to fill the earth has less to do with population and more to do with the position of regency that God bestows on the man and the woman.

byron said...

Thanks David (and Peter) - that's a very interesting little verse and does seem to shed more than a little light.

byron said...

Hint for the points: this post has a picture from the same city.

OK, so maybe that doesn't help much.

Dave Lankshear said...

Hi Cyberpastor...
interesting idea.

But on Genesis... just thinking out loud... does God's scattering of people at Babel indicate otherwise?

I'm just wondering if part of the problem with Babel was not only human pride, but a defiance of God's command to fill the earth (or "Move Out" over the earth)?

Michael Canaris said...

Venice? Bandar Seri Begawan? St Petersburg? At any rate, that flame looks either like a navigational aid or an oil/gas flue.

Anthony said...

If I put Venice! with no ? can I still get the points? I thought it was, and when I found the late night movie 'Blame It On the Bellboy' was set in Venice, I watched long enough to confirm it. Those structures are undeniable.

byron said...

Ten points to both Michael and Anthony for Venice. (NB the 'flame' is actually the sun shining through a lamp on top of the pylon - I was happy with this photo as it required split second timing to get the pylon to line up with the sun as our vaporetto went past)

byron said...

Michael - you're getting very close to Pete J. I didn't think anyone would catch him. He seems to have gone quiet recently...

Lynne said...

I'm on another tack entirely. I always thought the NT equivalent to the command to multiply was the command to go and make disciples. Both are the means (first physical, second spiritual) of enlarging the Kingdom of God on earth ..