Inculturating A Doctrine Of The Creator And Creation

Regular commenter Pam has sent me a poem from Australia by William Hart-Smith (1911-90) that is based on an Aboriginal creation story. It speaks of Baiamai, whom Pam says

is usually considered an over-arching creative figure whom missionaries could usefully compare with the god of Genesis.

So this already raises interesting questions about how we communicate our faith in a different culture. This practice, though, has honourable precedent, given the near-certainty that Genesis 1 uses ancient myths, particularly from Babylonia, but then changes the theological message. Here, then, is Hart-Smith’s poem:

Baiamai’s Never-failing Stream

Then he made of the stars, in my mind,
pebbles and clear water running over them,
linking most strangely feelings of im-
measurable remoteness with intimacy,

So that at one and the same time I
not only saw a far white mist of stars
there, far up there, but had my fingers
dabbling among those cold stones.

One thing it certainly does, in terms of classical theology, is it seems to speak of a divine being who is both transcendent and immanent. What do you make of it?

And what do you think about using material from other cultures in the service of the Gospel? Isn’t it what Paul did in Acts 17 at Athens, where he quoted Greek poets favourably? What does this say about other cultures? Does it not lead us more thoroughly into the conviction that ‘All truth is God’s truth’?

One comment

  1. Glad you liked the poem Dave.
    One of the poem’s distinctions is its pioneering use of free verse – it was first published in 1944. It’s reminiscent, too, of the free verse rhythmns in the King James Bible.


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