Where did you come from? I’m not asking where you’re from in the sense of the place of your birth/family history. Rather, I’m asking, “Where did humanity come from?” Are we products of evolutionary naturalism? Were we created? Does the biblical picture of creation as detailed in Genesis detail where we are from? Are our ancient ancestors from Africa 200,000 years ago?
These questions intersect philosophically, theologically, scientifically, and anthropologically. We might be tempted to leave these discussions to the academics and philosophers. However, as followers of Jesus, our faith literally begins with creation. Not only does the Bible begin with the creation narrative, but faith in God finds its root in the doctrine of creation. The book of Psalms highlights the Lord as Creator (Ps. 8, 19, 24 just to name a few). When Paul preaches to polytheists and philosophers at Athens, he begins with the Lord as Creator (Acts 17:24).
As we continue these posts on the doctrine of God, we’re going to spend a couple of weeks answering questions about creation. God as Creator forms the foundation for our faith.
Question # 1—Why the doctrine of creation?
Answer: We must explore the doctrine of creation and seek to know the Lord as Creator because every worldview must answer the question of origin.
The Bible teaches that before creation, only God existed and that God created ex nihilo—out of nothing. The Hebrew word bara means “create.” It is a technical term that is reserved specifically for God’s act of creating. It is used 50 times in OT, and God is always the subject of the verb “create.”
Nearly every worldview has an origin story, and every worldview (for it to be valid) must account for the origin of the universe.
In his book, Genesis in Space and Time, Francis Schaeffer summarizes the 4 options regarding origins:
- “Once there was absolutely nothing, and now there is something.” This is not really a serious answer and has not been held by philosophers over the years.
- “Everything began with an impersonal something.” This answer leaves no room for personality to exist in the universe. As such, it is a view that falls staggeringly short of experiential reality.
- “Everything began with a personal something.” This is the only explanation that accords with reality—human personality and the universe as we know it. This is also what is tacitly observed in many of the ancient creation accounts—why people have almost always subscribed to gods. However, when getting behind those worldviews, only biblical, Trinitarian Christianity answers the why and what questions behind creation. Only biblical Christianity as a worldview sufficiently explains the intrinsic nature of love and communication.
- “There is and always has been a dualism.” This answer falls apart when we press the dualism on the specific interactions between the competing tensions like: Yin/Yang; ideas/matter; or brain and mind. Dualistic answers tend to lean toward one end or the other and fail to articulate a way forward together. (Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time, 10-11).
Schaeffer, correctly I believe, leaves us with a personal Creator. The Bible tells us that this personal Creator spoke the world into existence ex nihilo.Genesis 1:1
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth
Question # 2—Why the biblical creation account when there are other creation narratives? A common criticism of the Bible’s claim is: “There are numerous creation myths, and they cannot be literally true.”
Answer: The biblical creation account in Genesis is unique in the accounts found in history and worldview.
Creation by Yahweh is unique in the ancient creation stories. God announced in history and by revelation his claim upon all. In contrast other creation narratives allude to strife between deities, chaos, and disaster that result in the creation of the world (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, 325).
Yes, there are dozens of other creation narratives, and not all of them can be true. But just because many are not true, does not mean one cannot be true. What one must do is evaluate the claims. The violence of the Egyptian narrative where gods like Typhon kill the fertility god, Osiris only to have him resurrected stretch the imagination. Intra-deity violence is also present in the Indian creation account as well as the Greco-Roman and Babylonian accounts (Horton, The Christian Faith, 325).
Reading Genesis 1-2 sounds tame and matter-of-fact in comparison. This is the point. The biblical account is certainly miraculous, but it is also straightforward. It is written, not to defend God, but to declare him.
Question # 3—Why does it matter what we believe about creation?
Answer: It matters what we believe about creation because where the story begins determines how the story can finish.
If the universe was not created, then how did it come about? Genesis assumes God’s existence and thus points us to a God who can be known and worshiped.
To have a worldview that ends with hope and assurance, one must have a framework that accounts for it. If one’s worldview begins with an origin narrative that does not account for morality, love, hope, relationship, peace, fulfillment, purpose, or eternity, then those very normal human longings remain unfulfilled. Personally, I believe one of the main reasons why our world is so full of chaos, disruption, and destruction is simply because we have rejected what God made known to us through creation.
As I was driving into the office today, I saw the most beautiful sunrise. The clouds had a deep almost purplish gray. The sun was shining behind the clouds with hues of orange, pink, and deep peach. It was art. It was a work of art that humans can only hope to imitate. The biblical doctrine of creation accounts for this beauty. The scene led me to worship. And that is the primary reason for the biblical doctrine of creation. God the Creator is worthy of our worship.
In next week’s post we’ll answer more questions about the doctrine of creation such as whether we should take the early chapters in the book of Genesis literally or figuratively. But for today, look at creation and pause to worship the Creator.