Word of the Week

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.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth

Genesis 1:1

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.

For today, look at creation and pause to worship the Creator.

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

We are continuing our exploration of the attributes of God. Last week’s post on God’s greatness attributes focused on how God transcends us. This post and the next on the goodness attributes of God focus on how God relates to us: how God is immanent with us.

Again, we are following Millard Erickson’s division of attributes, goodness and greatness, from his Introducing Christian Doctrine.

God is holy. In Isaiah’s vision of God enthroned he saw God “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1). The angels were crying “Holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). God’s holiness refers to his being “set apart” and not like ordinary or normal persons or things. God’s holiness is one of his primary attributes, and his holiness sets him apart from us in nature and character.

God is righteous. God’s righteousness reflects the perfection of his law and his self-consistent actions in accord with his law. The decrees of the Lord are righteous (Psalm 19:9). Erickson defines God’s righteousness as “God’s holiness applied to his relationships to other beings” (Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 99).

God is just. That God is just means that God makes correct and right judgments with regard to his creation. God is just when he judges, and because he is good, he is also the justifier of those who believe in Jesus (Romans 3:26). God’s justness is good news for those in our world longing for justice. While the debates will continue over the proper interpretation of justice in social spheres, the Christian has a ready-made worldview with which to interpret issues of justice: the character and laws of God. God’s justice also means that he must punish sin. We’ll compare God’s justness with with his love, mercy, and grace in the next post.

God is true. God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18) and is identified as the “Truth” (John 14:6). God does not obfuscate or obscure. He is the epitome of what is true. His judgments, statements, promises and affirmations are true. This is one of the primary reasons why we can trust the truthfulness of biblical revelation. God is not a liar, and thus what he reveals will be true and trustworthy.

God is faithful. God’s faithfulness is affirmed over and again in Scripture. He is described as the faithful husband to unfaithful Israel (the book of Hosea), and Paul declares that God’s faithfulness assures us that he will accomplish his plans and purposes (1 Thessalonians 5:24). The faithfulness of God grounds our confidence in his promises and interventions.

God’s holiness, righteousness, honesty, justice and faithfulness reflect his glorious interactions with people. While we cannot adopt perfectly these attributes in our own lives, we can relate to them. In fact, these goodness attributes of God are specially important to followers of Jesus because they are relatable.

When we consider the greatness, glory, and wonder of God’s attributes, we should be amazed. He wants us to relate to him as he is, and he invites us to know him.

So on this day as you reflect on these attributes, praise God for these goodness attributes.

  • Imagine the glory of God’s holy splendor in Isaiah’s vision and bow before him in humility.
  • Consider the perfection of God’s righteous standards and declare his righteousness to your own sinful heart.
  • Contemplate the clarity of God’s justice and acknowledge that he alone is the true Judge of action and motive.
  • Meditate on the personality of God’s truth in Jesus Christ and praise him as the only True God.
  • Remember the persistence of God’s faithfulness and thank him that he will never fail you.

Look for next week’s post when we reflect on more of God’s goodness attributes.