Wonder and mystery in retelling of biblical creation story

By on June 1, 2003

Let There Be Life
by Robert Fripp
HiddenSpring, 2001
ISBN 1-58768-004-1
l96 pp., $29.95

This book is a poetic retelling of the Biblical creation story, using not only the first Genesis account, but also insights from other religious traditions and the latest scientific information. It does not, however, pretend to be a theological apologetic for the Biblical creation story. The author, a film producer and magazine editor with a degree in earth sciences, lists in an ascending order the essential ingredients leading up to human life, using a wealth of scientific data gleaned in the last decade. (Interesting tidbit – the first stirrings of life perhaps needed only shallow pools of water in titanium-rich sand; today sand or silicon dioxide is the stuff out of which computer chips are made – nature has come full circle.) Time and again the author notes that the development of complex compounds necessary for life depends upon the linking together of the appropriate elements. Organization and suitability seem to be built into the fabric of the universe. Evolution should not be seen simply as a random process of change but rather as the process by which life as a whole seeks continuity and stability through the myriad of changes.

Yet author Robert Fripp does not use the creation narrative to prove or disprove the existence of God, which may disappoint some readers. Rather, he wants to arouse a sense of wonder and mystery at the remarkable development of the universe leading up to human life. Human life is no less amazing for having taken billions of years and is linked with a wonderful story that began with the Big Bang. There is wonder in a host of details that happened along the way. Science and religion do not offer competing explanations and there should be no warfare between them. Rather, they complement each other, religion giving the overview and science the small print.

There is no lack of things for the author to marvel at in this universe of ours, but as stated he does not promote a theistic view. He prefers to let the record speak for itself and let readers draw their own conclusions. As he concludes, “If that lends all of us some measure of divinity, so be it. And if not, so be that too.” Religious believers who see the Genesis account as working in the realm of poetry and symbol should enjoy this book. Certainly there is a wealth of fascinating chemical and biological tidbits that are guaranteed to break the ice at a cocktail party.

Canon Mark McDermott is rector of Grace Church, Milton, Ont.

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