There was a rumble from the heavens, and a flickering flash of thunder; and a neolithic farmer fell to his knees, properly shocked.
His shock quite deepened when the bushes and shrubs all round him burst spontaneously into flame, surrounding him in a wall of fire that, curiously (though for a moment he was too shocked to notice), did not spread across the plainsland like the wildfire it seemed to be.
And from the biggest of the burning bushes, a voice came, deep, majestic and powerful: “I have you now.”
The neolithic farmer fell to his knees, then on his face, which he struck on a sharp rock; then he whimpered.
“Daman”, the voice said, “I call you: that is, the man, mankind, for the first of men are you.”
The farmer thought of his father, who admittedly did not all that much like bashing his head against a cave wall and was effete in other ways; and though he still wondered, he kept silent.
“I choose you as my steward; into fellowship I call you; with you I make this personal relationship, that you should know me. Speak, Daman!”
The farmer said a very quiet “What? Who, me?”
“Yes”, the voice rumbled, and the shrubbery burned, but was not consumed. Pigeons of living flame darted from bush to bush, and a pillar of fire rose to the highest heavens from this circle of fire: a pillar with a crossbeam high in the skies. “Yes; you I name Daman, da-Man, the man, I name.”
“Who are you?” the farmer said, raising his eyes slightly.
“I am who I am”, the voice spoke, serene, powerful and incomprehensible. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Power. I am the first who was; I am the last who shall be. I ever was; I ever will be. I am the first cause, and the greatest imaginable; I am the moral ground and the root of all being. All life and light sprouts from the seed I planted and nurtured.”
“Are you…” the farmer asked, his voice and lip trembling, “the ghost of the tree I felled yesterday?”
There was a short silence, broken only by the subdued roar of flames, the hiss of the crossed pillar, and the whisper of the flame-doves’ darting. Several of the last stopped on twigs and branches and regarded the sweating farmer with puzzled, unblinking cinder-eyes.
“I am God”, the voice said, flatly.
“But you are not made of clay”, the farmer protested. “Neither do you have parts like the parts of asses, and balls a cubit big; or mounds like the swelling of the earth itself, both topped by a nub like a sabertooth-tiger’s skull. How can you be a god?”
“I am not a God”, the voice rumbled. “I am the God. The only one there is. The only real one. What you have seen so far are all false gods. Your kind has sought for me; and not finding me they have made those distorted, enhanced reflections of themselves so they might worship their own weakness instead of my strength.”
“Aah”, the farmer said, standing up and dusting his knees. “You mean you are a, um, a Thegod, which is like a god, but not very much at all.”
“True enough”, the voice growled. “But listen, Daman — I take you as my own, and I shall lead you to a woman likewise enlightened, and your children shall—”
“What?” the farmer blurted. “You’re not happy just renaming me, now you’re giving me a woman, too?”
After a bit of silence and crackling, the voice spoke again, somewhat uncertain now: “Are you… are you protesting or delighting in that?”
“Um I… what is she like?”
“A bone of your bone, a flesh of your flesh—”
The flames all round hiccuped; one fire-dove exploded in a burst of red and yellow. “No! I am not making you marry your own mother!”
The farmer blinked, confused. “But I don’t have sisters. Or daughters. Do you mean I have a hidden sister somewhere, and I ought to…”
There went a second dove.
“No! I will lead you to a woman of the same mind and soul as you; together you will be spiritually alive in my fellowship, and from your loins shall grow the tree of all humanity.”
The farmer raised a hand, and the voice quickly continued: “By which I do not mean you both will have roots in your loins. Enough with the wood business. I must go.”
The flames were burning lower now; the fiery cross above was being replaced by a wide triple rainbow.
“You will meet her”, the voice whispered. “Prosper with her. If you do, remember I God caused it; if you fail, remember you Daman you failed it.”
The fires went out, and the bushes were unburnt; the rainbow lingered for a while, and then faded.
The farmer reeled for a while, then walked back to his cave. The caveman next door saw his approach, and grunted: “Any news?”
The farmer laughed wildly, briefly, and then said: “I think I just got proposed to!”
* * *
That’s my instinctive reaction to a lot of theology. This time to a piece seen by Jerry Coyne on the Biologos site.