Creation

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.

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.

Photo by Dawid Zawiła on Unsplash

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 19:1

Last week’s post overviewed the doctrine of Revelation, or God’s unveiling of himself to the world. Today’s post will define general revelation, one of two spheres of the doctrine of revelation. Special revelation is the second sphere and will be the subject of subsequent posts.

General revelation refers to God’s self-manifestation through nature, history, and the inner being of the human person. It is general in two senses: it’s universal availability (it is accessible to all persons at all times) and the content of its message (it is less particularized and detailed than special revelation).

Millard Erickson, Introducing Christian Doctrine, 26.

The distinction between general and special revelation is important. Because general revelation is universal and available to all, it is sufficient for mankind to know that there is a God. But because the one true God can only be known through Jesus Christ, special revelation is necessary. We will unpack this consideration in upcoming posts.

Millard Erickson suggested three areas where God has revealed himself generally to the world:

  1. Nature/Creation (Ps. 19 and Rom. 1:18-32). In nature, which is the focus of natural theology, God makes himself known as Creator. While we will not dive into the arguments for God’s existence from natural theology here, it is necessary to note that the universal tendency to worship gods or nature as gods is an affirmation of God’s revelation through nature. For the entirety of human civilization, gods and religions have been a part of human experience. The primary reason for this is that humanity has recognized that the world we live must have come from something/someone greater than ourselves. While some versions of ultimate reality coming from nature arose during the experiment of Greek philosophy, naturalism as a worldview is a recent development (18th century).(Naturalism is the worldview where ultimate reality is found in nature. The theory of evolution comes from the worldview of naturalism. Hence the phrase evolutionary naturalism). Humans have almost universally believed some deity is responsible for creating the world we live in. Creation testifies to general revelation.
  2. History (the Old Testament). An example of general revelation in history would be the unfurling of God’s character through his dealings with Israel in history. Whatever one thinks about the nation of Israel theologically or geopolitically, it is evident that there is something special about them. As a people, they have been targeted for annihilation (Nazis), persecuted, and disenfranchised throughout history. Their land has been under the control of empires and other nations for most of human history. Yet Israel remains. They remained a unique people even before they returned to their land. Why is this? It appears to me that God’s dealings with Israel reveal his special concern about the people he chose. Israel’s history testifies to general revelation.
  3. Humanity (Gen. 1:28). Being made in God’s image is a vital part of human understanding. It is true that the doctrine of the imago Dei is not universally accepted. But the philosophical definitions of humanity (as an animal or machine or mere product of nature) are inconsistent with human experience and reality. Humanity must be more than what naturalistic philosophies suggest because of our capacity for relationships, rationality, creativity, and morality. The fact that humans have free choice about how to live life reflects the freedom and personality given by a Creator. Humanity testifies to general revelation.

I recognize that connected these three areas to Scripture (special revelation). Understanding and interpreting general revelation sufficiently requires special revelation. We will unpack what this means in the following weeks.

Even so, it is important to recognize one staggering truth about general revelation that should shake us as followers of Christ:

General revelation is sufficient for condemnation, but not for salvation. 

You might read that quote and disagree. You might not like it. But whether we like it or not, it is true. Have a read from Paul’s exposition in Romans 1.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:18-25 (emphasis on verse 20 mine)

Theologically, one is condemned for failing to believe in God alone. Human sin, flowing down the generations from Adam to sinners today, is the cause of unbelief. Paul identified idolatry as a rejection of the truth taught in general revelation and sufficient for condemnation.

As Christians, the truth regarding general revelation should drive us three specific applications:

  • Pursue deeper knowledge of God.
  • Seek a greater appreciation for God’s general work in the world (nature, history, humanity).
  • Share the specific truths about God and salvation to sinners who desperately need forgiveness and eternal life.

Photo by Ravi Pinisetti on Unsplash