Imagine looking out at a beautiful vista overlooking a vast forest, or contemplating the endless expanse of water at the ocean’s edge. Or recall a time you stood enraptured by the starry host at night, or gazed in fascination at the intricacies of a flower. Perhaps your bent is science, and you’ve marveled at the beauty of the Standard Model, or been astounded at the biochemical complexities of life. How do these things make you feel? How would you summarize them?
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Genesis 1:31
When I consider the wonders of God’s creation, it never ceases to move me. The beauty, the majesty, the infinite variety, all give us glimpses into God’s divine nature.
It’s true that we may see some darkness even in the most moving vista because the original creation has been marred. Looking at the intricate beauty of a rain forest, there may be some disease, a momentary act of violence, but it is primarily a picture of life and beauty. Our human nature seems to delight in focusing on the darkness, but that doesn’t negate the true splendor of God’s creation. There may be occasional thorns, but there is also the warmth of a sunbeam, and the pleasure of food. Autumn crispness that makes us feel alive, and the majestic beauty of storms. The grandeur of mountains, and waterfalls! The miracle of new life — who would stop that because of increased pain?
Yes, there are some imperfections, but through every darkness shines the light of His redeeming work. Because of this, and because the dominant themes of creation are still life, beauty, and redemption, we see a world that amazes us. To me, the universe seems much more than just “very good”.
Now, even though it is much better than “very good”, no one would say that the current creation is flawless or perfect. There is a huge difference between “very good” and “perfect”. And if it is an understatement to say that our awesome but imperfect creation is “very good”, then it would be even more strained to say that a perfect creation is “very good”.
Given the difference between “very good” and “perfect”, it should be clear that one term just can’t be exchanged for the other. However, some claim that just such an exchange is possible and reword the Bible to make it state that creation was perfect. The convoluted reasoning required to do this seems to involve claiming that the local context of Genesis 1 alters the typical meaning of “good” such that it means “perfect” in this case.
However, as we’ve seen elsewhere, there are actually a variety of details in the initial Genesis context that indicate an imperfect creation. So, if “very good” is interpreted consistently with the rest of the Old Testament, then it is also consistent with the other details in the rest of Genesis 1. This is a much more Biblical interpretation of the text than trying to read perfection into it.