Tag Archives: Theology of Creation

Divine Joy and Joy Divine: Five Points on Creation

We tend to treat God’s act of creating heaven and earth as an event in the long past, relevant to our lives only as setting the stage for the drama of sin and salvation. But the biblical doctrine of creation is much richer than that. It brims with implications for daily life and for understanding God’s continuing relationship to us in providence and in salvation. The first two chapters of my book The Faithful Creator explore the biblical doctrine of creation, summarizing it in five points. In today’s post I want to state these points and briefly explain them.

(1) The one God is the absolute origin and sovereign ruler over all that is not God. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Paul states this truth in unforgettable words: “For from him and through him and to him are all things” (Rom 11:36; cf. 1 Cor 8:6). The two concepts of absolute origin and sovereign ruler go together. Our creations can get away from us and outlive us, but that is because we are not “absolute” origins for the things we make. Nothing escapes the Creator. And that is very good news for those who love the Creator and believe he is good!

(2) The one God freely established the Creator-creature relation, which is characterized by generosity, freedom, and power on the Creator’s side and dependence and debt on the creature’s side. God was, is and always be our Creator. We will always depend on the Creator and will be forever in his debt. For some, this type of relationship seems demeaning, and they wish to forget it or try to escape it. But those who understand that the one on whom we depend is the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ revel in the gracious gifts of our faithful Creator.

(3) The creation really exists before God and stands before him as good; that is, as the result of God’s act of creation, the creature really is what God intended it to be. In the first chapter of Genesis, God pronounced the creation good at almost every point. And the Psalmist exclaimed, ‘The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it’” (Ps 24:1). And Paul explains, “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1 Tim 4:3-4). That creation is “good” does not mean that it is perfect or that it cannot be misused. Rather it means that each and every creature has a place and a function rooted in the will of the Creator. Christians are not Gnostics or Manicheans who reject the body, food and the human joys of life. The good things of creation may be legitimately used to sustain and enhance human life and bring glory and thanksgiving to God. Only, they must not be worshiped or enjoyed selfishly or greedily. Instead they are meant to provide occasions for shared joys. Jesus did not condemn feasting but he did urge us to invite the poor and the sick that they may share in the joy!

 (4) The Creator-creature relation established at the beginning, with its characteristic qualities, endures for all time. The author of Revelation praises God in these words, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Revelation 4:11). God sustains his creation through the powerful word of the Son (Hebrews 1:3). Creation is happening now. Every new moment and every new thing comes from the hand of the Creator. What a difference it would make in our sense of God’s presence if we grasped this truth! The world and everything in it, every beat of our hearts, every breeze that cools our brows, and “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:16-17) comes from the heart of our faithful Creator!

 (5) Human beings possess a unique relationship to the Creator characterized by their image and likeness to God and responsibility to him. Human beings are not the whole of God’s creation but they have been given a special role. We have been given the capacity to know and love the Creator, and we have the obligation to image the Creator in the created world. Of course we don’t do a good job of it. In the New Testament we learn that Jesus Christ is the image of God in an archetypical sense: “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15; cf. 1 Cor 15:49). By living in fellowship with the true image of God in the power of the Spirit we can begin to do what Adam did not, that is, shine with the glory and image of God (Col 3:10; 2 Cor 4:4; Rom 8:9) and spread the divine light over the world. Let there be light!

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Creation–Can You Hear it Sing?

Lately, I have been thinking about the idea of divine creation. For centuries Christians—and most Jews and Muslims too—have asserted “creation from nothing” (creatio ex nihilo). The central point of this idea is that God required no building material out of which to make the universe. For, if God had needed anything other than God’s own power and will to create, we could not think of God as the absolute Lord of creation—a really scary thought! To accomplish this task God would require help from something else. The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle understood that beings in the world are ever changing, coming into existence and going out of existence. But they also knew that something had to be eternal or nothing would exist, which would be inconceivable…because if nothing existed there would be no mind to conceive and no concepts to think. For them it was axiomatic that the eternal and unchanging world of intelligible forms and ideas exists necessarily. It deserves to be called divine precisely because it is self-sufficient and necessary. Aristotle was so clear that true being is eternal and unchanging that he declared that “from nothing, nothing comes into existence” (ex nihilio, nihil fit). Hence even matter is eternal and does not come into existence or go out of existence. It is always there to be shaped like the potter’s clay into different beings.

The Christian teaching of “creation from nothing” does not directly contradict Aristotle because it does not say that creation sprang into existence from nothing; existing things come from God and God is eternal. So Christian teaching agrees with Aristotle that “from nothing, nothing comes into existence.” Since God is eternal, there never was a time when there was absolutely nothing. But matter is not divine or eternal or necessary. Christianity asserts only one eternal being, God.

The idea of “creation from nothing” has profound implications in many areas of thought and life. I will mention only one. Everything, everyone, and every event that was, is and will be depends totally on God, and God alone, for its fundamental existence. Taking this truth seriously could change your life. Learn this skill: when you feel yourself relying on, serving, worshiping, working for, overvaluing, fearing or desiring anything in creation let it immediately trigger the realization that that creature also depends absolutely on God. Now let that thing direct you to its God and yours. God is the source of every good thing and the answer to every threat found in creatures, no matter how beautiful, powerful or good. If you learn this practice you might find yourself becoming a more thoughtful person, more aware of God than before. And in a world as beautiful and dangerous as ours that’s got to be a good thing.

I have found the works David Burrell, Robert Sokolowski, Michael Dodds, and Thomas Weinandy very helpful on the topic of creation.

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