Results tagged “Creation” from Reformation21 Blog

Creation Calls For Wonder

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"The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good." Thus the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes the Christian doctrine of creation (WSC 9). What response should this doctrine elicit from us?

Too often, I think, the doctrine of creation ex nihilo elicits from us a posture of war. We immediately raise our defenses, or take the offensive, against perspectives that trace the origin of all things to something other than our Triune God. We arm ourselves with biblical references to, or summary statements of, or supposed scientific proofs reinforcing the truth that God made all things, and we stand ready to do battle with alternative (presumably naturalistic) accounts of how this world we inhabit came to be. Or perhaps we aim closer to home, preparing ourselves to do battle with any who question our understanding of creation "days." Regardless, an immediate posture of war when confronted with the doctrine of creation speaks, in my judgment, to fundamental boredom with the truth we are so eager to defend. We've taken the doctrine of creation ex nihilo for granted, it has become commonplace to us, if our first instinct when confronted with it is some apologetic strategy or another.

Of course, apologetics have their place. Naturalistic accounts of how this world we inhabit came to be can and should be discredited. Those who disagree with my understanding of creation days should be made to conform to my superior insight. But only after we have let ourselves be washed anew with wonder at the astonishing fact that once there was nothing but God, and then God spoke all things into existence. Creation calls, first and foremost, for a posture of wonder, not war. The right response to the reality that "God said" and thus "there was" (Gen. 1:3) is fundamentally, well, this.

We see this in Psalm 33: 8-9. Note the reaction of this world's inhabitants at God's work of creation demanded by the psalmist: 

"Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm" (emphasis mine).

One implication, I think, of a right sense of wonder at what God has done (namely, made everything) -- one "tell," if you wish, that this truth has properly gripped you -- is a humble and proper sense of the distinct likelihood of unlikelihoods in this world, the distinct probability of improbabilities. All bets for what might happen are off in a world spoken into existence by an eternally Triune God. Pretty much anything can be -- from seas parting to asses speaking to men rising from the dead. The doctrine of creation, in other words, primes us to appreciate the fundamentally enchanted (magical, if you will) character of the world we inhabit. Expectation of the unexpected is wonder's closest kin.

Jared C. Wilson evidenced his sense of this world's enchantment, an expectation for the unexpected rooted in the reality of creation ex nihilo, in what was easily my favorite blog post from 2016 (except, of course, for all the ones I wrote): 'His Eye is On the Sasquatch'. Check it out if you've not already read it. It's well worth your time.

And ponder, at some point today, God's work of creation. Let the reality of that work fill you with wonder. Let it inform your understanding of the world in which you live. "Live your life filled with joy and wonder." So suggested Michael Stipe in the lyrics to the song "Sweetness follows" on one of my favorite cassette tapes from high school, R.E.M.'s Automatic for the People. R.E.M.'s music gave me much pleasure in my teenage years, even perhaps the occasional chill running down my spine (in a good sense). Unfortunately, it (and most other things I devoted myself to in high school) never gave me the resources to actually live a life persistently filled with joy and wonder. Careful attention to the doctrine of creation, however, does just that.

No Adam, No Christ!

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Preaching through Genesis over the past year and a half has encouraged me to re-open quite a number of significant theological subjects--not least of which is the historical character of the foundational portions of God's revelation. Over the past 150 years, biblical scholars have spilled ink ad nauseam over the question of the historicity of the opening chapters of Genesis (as well as other parts of the Old Testament). Denying the historicity of various portions of Scripture was the backbone of theological liberalism at the turn of the 20th Century. Today, in the biblical studies world, scholars are far more nuanced and sophisticated in the ways in which they deny the historicity of Genesis 1-3. With the rise of studies in Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) literature and complex scientific theories of origins, there is no end to the ways in which its historicity is explained away. 

Today, quasi-evangelical scholars have concocted an amalgamated hermenuetical approach made up of various aspects of Higher Criticism, ANE mythopoetic categories and scientific theories of origin. One can find this amalgamated hermenuetic most notably (or perhaps most notoriously!) in the work of Peter Enns (who continues to spend inordinate time and energy seeking to overthrow the inerrancy and historicity of the foundational portions of biblical revelation). 

Nevertheless, the connection between the creation account and the subsequent redemptive revelation form the internal witness of Scripture to the idea that the historicity and theology of the creation narrative is inseparably linked to the historicity and theology of the redemptive (i.e. new creation) revelation. 

In his Reformed Dogmatics, Geerhardus Vos helpfully illustrated the principle of connecting history and redemptive revelation when he said, "within the narrative of Scripture the creation narrative is interwoven like a link in the chain of God's saving acts. God does not make a chain of solid gold, in which the first link is a floral wreath." Vos developed this thought in the following way: 

If the creation history is an allegory, then the narrative concerning the fall and everything further that follows can also be allegory. The writer of the Pentateuch presents his work entirely as history. Against those that believe in the results of higher criticism, it can perhaps be useful to note that according to the critics who carve the Pentateuch into pieces, Genesis 1 belongs to the Priestly Codex, that is, to the more sober, non-poetic part of the Torah. The same writer who describes the layout of the tabernacle and the clothing of the priests gives us the narrative of creation, and he connects both. Further, elsewhere in Scripture Genesis 1 and 2 are treated as history (Exod 20:11; 31:17; Ps. 8; 104; Matt 19:4; 2 Pet 3:5).1

John Murray, in his Principles of Conduct, also defended the historicity of Genesis 1-3 as over against a supposed mythological or mythopoetic interpretation. He explained: 

That Genesis 2 and 3, for example, is story, but does not represent history, the present writer does not believe. An express attempt to refute such an interpretation had not been undertaken...The historical character of the revelation deposited in the Bible does not comport with a non-historical view of that which supplies the foundation and starting point of that history. It is surely apparent how far-reaching must be the reconstruction of the Bible's representation respecting the history of revelation if we are to reject the historicity of the fall of Adam as the first man. It is the conviction of the present writer that a mythological interpretation is not compatible with the total perspective which the biblical witness furnishes.2

Murray, like Vos before him, proceeded to root his argument in the fact that the rest of biblical revelation adopts a historical approach to Genesis 1-3. 

To state the case positively, the concreteness of Genesis 2 and 3, as historically interpreted, is thoroughly consonant with the concreteness which characterizes the subsequent history of Old Testament revelation. It should be noted that of supreme importance is the fact that Jesus and the Apostles assumed the historical character of the Old Testament, and frequently referred to the historicity of the creation narrative, Adam, Noah, a world-wide flood and the Exodus. In Mark 10:6, Jesus affirmed the historicity of the creation account of Genesis 1 when He said, "from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female.'" When he came to predict the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, Jesus again affirmed the historical nature of the creation account of Genesis when He said, "in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be."3

Appeal to how the writers of Scripture viewed the historical character of the creation/fall account of Genesis is, without doubt, the strongest internal-witness argument of Scripture. This point of paramount significance is seen by a brief survey of how both the Old and New Testament human authors of Scripture viewed the creation account:

  • Moses tells us how Adam was created (Gen. 1:26; 2:5-8) and how many years he lived (Gen. 5:5). 
  • The writer of 1 Chronicles traced humanity from Adam to David (1 Chronicles 1 and 2) by means of historical genealogy. If Adam was not a historical being then neither were all the people from Adam to David. 
  • Job likened the hiding of his sin to Adam's covering his sin (Job 31:33). 
  • Luke traced Jesus' genealogy (from Mary) back to Adam (Luke 3:38). If Adam was not a historical being then neither were all the people from Adam to Jesus. Jesus declared that "He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' (Matthew 19:4). 
  • Paul explained that the reason for death and condemnation was the representative, imputed guilt of Adam's sin (Rom. 5:12-21). Paul also explained that the external giving of the law was first with Adam and then with Moses. Those who were not given external law from Adam to Moses still had the sentence of death in them because of Adam's sin. Paul explains, "death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Rom. 5:13). If Adam was not a historical being then neither was Moses.
  • Paul explained the solution to our deserved condemnation in the obedience of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12-21). He explicitly declared that the first Adam was a "type" of the second Adam. If Adam was not a historical being then neither was Jesus. 
  • The apostle defended the role relation of men and women in the church by the order in which Adam and Eve were created and were tempted (1 Timothy 2:13-14). Eden was the prototype of every subsequent culture. No one can say Paul's teaching was culturally bound because he takes it back to the Garden. He viewed the Genesis account as an accurate historical record of Eden. 
  • The apostle urged the NT church to defend the Gospel by reminding them of the way in which Satan--in time and space--had deceived Eve: "I fear, lest, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ (2 Cor. 11:3)."

Some have responded to the statement "If Adam didn't exit then neither did Christ" by appeal to the continuum fallacy. Ironically, such an appeal is itself a fallacious appeal to logical fallacy. If in historical narratives/genealogies we have explicit statements of generational descent then we have to conclude that it is either A) true (based on the authority of Scripture) or B) untrue. Because of the trustworthiness of Scripture--the variable of variables, in this case--we cannot conclude that part of the genealogy is true and part is untrue. Hence there is no continuum fallacy as there might be with that sort of reasoning where the "inerrancy/authority" variable is not present. 

While some conservative biblical scholars may, in fact, play the "slippery slope" argument too quickly (and even, at times, inappropriately), when the authority of Scripture is brought into the mix, our reasoning is affected in a way that it is otherwise not affected by those things that are not distinctly biblical. For example Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, makes a number of logical arguments about Christ's resurrection and the subsequent impact it has on our preaching, faith and personal resurrection (1 Cor. 15:14-18). As is true of the connection between the historicity and theology of the resurrection of Christ so too of the historicity and theology of the creation and fall account of Genesis 1-3. 


1. Geerhardus Vos. Reformed Dogmatics. R. B. Gaffin, Ed., A. Godbehere, R. van Ijken, D. van der Kraan, H. Boonstra, J. Pater, & A. Janssen, Trans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012-12014) vol. 1, p. 161. 

2. John Murray Principles of Conduct (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdman's, 1957) p. 9

3. Ibid.

A Christmas Reflection

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If the dank earth forming marrow and flesh does not entice your wonder, then neither will the Incarnation. 

This Christmas season, I have been thinking of how integrally related Adam and Christ are in redemptive history, as made plain in Romans 5:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:42-49. The Trinitarian God spoke Adam into being and formed him from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). The Father uttered; the Son manifested; the Spirit gave life (cf. Job 33:4). Out of soil came a son.

In the Incarnation, the same Trinitarian God spoke, but this time in the tongue of redemption. The Father sent (Gal 4:4; 1 John 4:10); the Son complied (cf. John 5:19-20); and Mary conceived by the Spirit (Matt 1:18; Luke 1:35). Out of a womb came the Word (John 1:1).
At Christmas we are ever reminded that the Son of God took on flesh and dwelt among us. 

This, we are told, should bring us to well up with joy--a glorious joy fit for proclamation by an angelic host (Luke 2:13-14). And it should! But reminding ourselves that Adam lies in Christ's shadow may serve to deepen that joy. Here are a few thoughts to remind us of how the beauty and wonder of the Incarnation builds upon the beauty and wonder of creation.

Just as God did not have to redeem, God did not have to create.[1] "Creation was not required, not mandatory, not extracted from God, neither by any necessity imposed from outside nor by any deficit lurking within the life of God."[2]  Creation is the result of a voluntary, gracious, and loving decision. All that we see around us "is a work of God's grace, flowing from God's love."[3]

The creation of Adam, seen in this light, is not ordinary or expected in the sense of being the product of some mechanical law of evolution. Adam was not simply bound to be there in the beginning. Adam was there only because God chose to speak him, and nothing can thwart the sovereign choice and holy speech of an almighty God. Creation was voluntary, not compulsory.

In this sense, Adam's life can be seen as a gift from the Trinitarian Giver. Creation, not Christmas, is the origin of gift-giving. That, perhaps, is part of the wonder of humanity's genesis. Ours is a beginning wrapped and tagged by the Trinity: Adam and his progeny are the gifts God gave to himself--not in divine greed but in divine grace. 

Now, juxtapose this with the Christmas story in the New Testament. If the wonder of Genesis is that God gave humanity the gift of life, then the joy of Christmas is that God gave us new life. And the packaging of both gifts resembled one another. The temporal son took on flesh and bone, as did the eternal Son. The "man of dust" (1 Cor 15:47) had no biological father, and neither did the "man of heaven." 

But there are also stark differences: the temporal son failed where the eternal Son succeeded; the man of dust could offer no salvation, but the man of heaven had salvation in his bloodstream. The first Adam exchanged the words of God for the words of a creature; the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45) crushed the words of a creature with the words of the triune God (Matt 4). 

Given this redemptive-historical relationship between Adam and Christ, we would do well to remember them both at Christmas, with greater emphasis, of course, on the Incarnation. Adam, we said at the outset, is in Christ's shadow, not the other way around. And yet, our appreciation for the utter uniqueness of the Incarnation is deepened when we contrast it with that ancient incarnation of sonship in Adam. What a wonder it was for God to breathe life into the dust and form a person! Such wonder is outweighed only when we reflect on the miracle of God breathing the second person of the Trinity into flesh and blood! We should be awed by Adam, but overwhelmed by Christ. The former brought death through life; the latter, life through death. 

This Christmas, as you focus on the glory of the Incarnation and the gift of the Son of God, remember that this Son cast a long shadow in which a lesser son was born. The world began with a gift; we might not be so surprised, then, to see it restored through one--a far greater and more costly gift: God himself. Such a gift is worth more than gratitude. It is worth our adoration.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!
O come, let us adore Him, 
Christ the Lord. 

- John Francis Wade

Notes:

[1]  Herman Bavinck, in my opinion, has one of the best treatments of the Triune God as creator. See God and Creation, vol. 2 of Reformed Dogmatics, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), pp.420-26. God created not simply to have something isolated from him, but to dwell in relationship with his creation. That is why redemption is so frequently spoken of as a restoration or reconciliation with God. Or, for Bavinck, it can be described as a return to God. "Creation thus proceeds from the Father through the Son in the Spirit in order that, in the Spirit and through the Son, it may return to the Father" (p.426).

[2] Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), pp.64-65.

[3] Michael Reeves, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2012), p.47.


This is the second (and final) part to the report. One can read the first part here ~ the editor

...The 'nothingness' that enters into human experience through acts of sin is something of which Augustine was acutely aware when he meditated upon his own life in his Confessions. John Cavadini, Professor of Theology at Notre Dame, tied the narrative of Augustine's life to his account of the seven days of creation in his paper "Where do Stories Come from? Augustine on Creatio ex nihilo". Ultimately, since it is something we have never experienced, CEN is a mystery dependent upon God's revelation. Recognizing the primacy of revelation, in the creation account itself we see in miniature a narrative of the Christian's life. At least this is how Augustine understood his own life. Take the moment right after creation (Gen 1:2): the world was "without form and void". According to Augustine, this is where sin takes us: to the brink of nothingness, to the place where we have no story or identity except that we are created beings. This formless, meaningless place - this 'neighbor of nothing' - is where the famous pear tree incident took Augustine in Book 2 of the Confessions. But where sin brings a formless chaos into our lives, God's redeeming hand shapes our lives into a story that 'ends' resting in God's eternal presence where there is no longer "evening and morning". The cosmos itself has a story God narrates in creation that ends in timeless rest on the seventh day. In telling his own 'creation story' whereby he sets up a model of Christian discipleship, Augustine teaches us that the meaning of life is learning to give thanks to God for taking us out of our disordered sin and progressively shaping our lives into something that is "very good". 

While uncontroversial, the conclusions reached in these two historical papers are important for articulating the distinct shape CEN took as it was emerging in the early Church. The 'work' CEN did within Athanasius and Augustine's writings holds promise for any coherent evangelical theology in highlighting how this doctrine supports an account of God's freedom, his goodness, and his ability to immediately meet us in his grace. It is hard to ignore the apologetical force of CEN within this historical period when many alternative accounts put 'something in the way' of the divine and creation. CEN 'cleared the air', as it were, in both clearly separating humanity from God (the 'Creator/creature distinction') while also putting human beings in a full and immediate relationship with their Creator. One gains a picture for how this happens in the life of and self-understanding of Augustine. Where the philosophical and cosmological accounts of the relationship between God and the world have shifted since the time of the early Church, certainly CEN continues to provide an arsenal of tools that enable compelling explanations for not only who God is but how he continues to act in the world. To understand our own spiritual lives as a 'mini-story' of creation where God is shaping us to spend eternity with him rightly places the Christian life within the highest register - as an act of God himself - while also tempering any measure of pride, since all we can do is give thanks for the beautiful narrative God's creates for each of his saints. 

And with that the lack of controversy ends. The last paper I will comment upon was delivered by the indefatigably brilliant David Bentley Hart. In "God, Creation, and Evil" Hart both pledged his theological troth to the universalistic legacy of Origen of Alexandria and Gregory of Nyssa and mounted a highly sophisticated screed against the God most Christians have believed in, that is, One who sends some to hell either based on predestination or free-choice. In brief, while Hart claims Scriptural warrant for his position - after all, he asks, has the church known a more careful reader of the Bible than Origen? - his argument carries an overwhelming concern for philosophical coherence. In its simplest form it is this: the good God who freely created all things will safely return all those things to Christ. Hart's overall point is that when we talk about beginnings (protology) we are, at the same time, talking about ends (eschatology)--the end matches the beginning. If at the beginning a good God creates all things then in the end, by necessity of the character of the God who created them, all things must return to him. To posit an eternal place where things remain separated from God produces, in Hart's consideration, a logical hairball that must be heaved out. CEN cannot withstand in the future a total antithesis such as an eternal place of separation from God. The existence of evil in the world, in Hart's considered opinion, is ultimately an arrangement of God's goodness the purpose of which will only be revealed at the end of all things. 

This was just the beginning of Hart's talk. He went on to thrust his sword at all comers within the non-universalist Western Church, taking on original sin, traditional evangelism, and - most vociferously - the Reformed faith. Now, let me repeat, Hart is a brilliant intellect. He's also a very entertaining rhetorician. If he's written an essay out there, I've most likely read it and thoroughly enjoyed the brandishing of his theological and philosophical sword against the untrammeled nonsense of our day. But despite his commitment to Eastern Orthodoxy, he's too good of an intellect to fall prey to the polemics he engaged in within this talk. For a brief second he commended the Reformed tradition for taking the sovereignty of God to its logical conclusions. But then he took up the mantle of the old preacher who had written in the margins of his sermon, "Weak point...Yell louder!!!". The result for Hart was thinly veiled disgust informed by a simple inaccuracy. He started by claiming that John Calvin doesn't affirm love as an attribute of God, repeating twice "I'm not making this up!" Well, actually, he was. As E. J. Hutchinson over at The Calvinist International has demonstrated, this repeated canard is indeed a Hartian fabrication, one made all the more bewildering because Hart claims to be such a close reader of original texts. Hart went on to up the ante and claim not only Calvin but the entire Reformed tradition as not holding love as an attribute of God. To be honest, such a reckless and dishonest characterization could cause one to question all his judgments. Again, I say, Hart is too good for this. If he doesn't have the patience to give Calvin, Turretin, Bavinck, the Westminster divines, or Edwards (to name a few) an honest and nuanced read, at least he could 'pass over' the Reformed and leave us in our sins instead of actively damning us to his theological inferno. In the end, during the time for feedback, Hart was firmly interrogated both for his sweeping asides that seemed to simplify the teachings of those he opposed and for how his 'brief' for universalism matches up with the words of Jesus found in Matthew 25:31-46. 

This conference was very helpful. Even Hart's misguided paper was helpful in thinking through the internal logic of universalistic claims. Its greatest benefit for me, an evangelical and Reformed Protestant, was in considering the doctrine of creation within a proper theological context. In recent decades the theological and ecclesiastical world I inhabit has been consumed with questions attending the 'how' of creation. As important as these are, just as important are the questions of how a doctrine like CEN upholds a whole web of theological affirmations and practices--from God's presence in grace to the spiritual reality of prayer. We would do well to explore more deeply CEN's connections within our theological and spiritual architecture, for the result would be a richer and more confident confession of our faith. 

Rev. D. Blair Smith is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a doctoral student in early christian history and theology at Durham University. He's currently a research visitor at the University of Notre Dame. Follow him on twitter @dblairsmith

Scarcity and Abundance

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In recent decades, Western culture has developed what the business analysts might call a 'scarcity mindset'. 

There are good reasons for this of course. For a long time, we've been behaving like a teenager in a bedroom, consuming non-renewable energy sources, polluting the planet, and degrading the soil from which we then expect another bumper crop. Now we notice that the Chinese and the Indian economies are industrializing, too, and that they see the privilege of prosperity as being able to be as reckless as the West always has been. 

There has been an assumption that growth would always come, that nature would always bounce back, and that the future would take care of itself.

Despite readily available contraception and abortion on demand in many countries, the human race is breeding very successfully, and population growth is rising at an exponential rate. With growth in population has come, not unsurprisingly, a series of wars in which ideology and religion have provided the rhetoric for what is in many ways a struggle for the finite resources of the earth. This has meant, as we have seen in recent weeks, the catastrophic uprooting of millions of people who now seek shelter, food, and security. 

The national anthem of my country, Australia, has a rarely sung second verse which says 'for those who come across the seas, we've boundless plains to share'. But we don't have them, and we won't share them. Those plains are dry as dust. And successive governments have made it clear, we are defending our limited resources of water and our harbor views and our great weather to the hilt, against all comers. 

A scarcity mindset is what you must have if you believe that nature is a closed system, with a renewing power of course, but only a limited one. 

However, a theistic worldview, and in particular the Christian one, has at the heart of reality the three-personed God of Love, whose creative energy made everything from nothing at all by his Word, and who makes a great nation out of the fruitless loins of Abraham, and who gives life even to the dead. His grace abounds; his abundance overflows. He enters into, blesses, and renews the earth. The Old Testament testifies again and again to the renewing power of the divine breath upon the earth. 

The emblematic episode was the Exodus: a feeding in the wilderness, in which God reminded Israel of the title that Abraham had given him when he provided a ram to substitute for Isaac: yhwh yrh, the God who provides. The manna from heaven was not a natural co-incidence. It was miraculous. It wasn't supposed to be there - it exceeded nature's fruitfulness, and enabled survival in the wilderness, where nature was in fact barren. 

The feeding of the five thousand is the New Testament counterpart to the feeding in the Exodus. The 5000 who gathered in the desert ate from two fish and five loaves, and were satisfied. And, in excess of the Exodus miracle, there were twelve baskets of left overs! The miracle was a provision beyond necessity, to excess. 

Of course, as with all the miracles, it's an object lesson. This is a great extraordinary picture of what the world, when God rules it once for all, will look like. And it isn't a world in which things will run out. It's a world in which things overflow, because that's the character of the God who made it. This is the God who made everything from nothing, not with any strain, but by a word; and the God who gives life to dead. This is the God whose artistry fills the heavens at night, and who has filled the earth with so many creatures that we haven't counted them all yet. And this is the God, who, despite our willingness to believe that he has our good in mind, gives us even his own Son to supply what we need. 

There is then, an abundance mentality rather than a scarcity mindset with the God of Jesus Christ. And yet, this is different to the abundance mentality that has got us into this mess. That was a faith not in the God who supplies our need but in the endless bounty of nature. That was not the right response to the gracious abundance of God in the overflow and beauty of the natural order. It was a squandering of the gift, like the prodigal son, being prodigal with the inheritance he demanded from the Father. We now choke on the fumes of that prodigality.

Rather, as the sacrament of the Lord's Supper teaches us, the right human response to the divine graciousness displayed in creation is gratitude - as we hear in Romans 1:18ff, it is lack of gratitude that marred humanity, and set us on our self-destructive path.

A former politician and public commentator who attends my parish, queried me as to whether this mentality of abundance could have any real world application. Could it help a government make policies? Surely the scarcity mindset is at least a sensible one? 

But if we understand the humanizing possibilities of gratitude, then we can see how a Christian witness to governments and policy makers in the face of diminishing resources, and growing populations, might proceed. Thanksgiving honors the gift, and the giver. It cannot be destructive or reckless. It does not presume on more, but it knows that the world as we see it is open to the creative and transformative power of the Lord God. And we know that that includes the hope for the New Heaven and the New Earth, in which God's abundance will flow.


Michael P Jensen is the rector of St Mark's Anglican Church, Darling Point, Sydney, and the author of Martyrdom and Identity: the Self on Trial and Sydney Anglicanism: An Apology


In early July the University of Notre Dame's "Institute for Church Life" held a comprehensive, high-octane - and free - conference on the doctrine "Creation out of Nothing" (one of the rare doctrines that might be better known by its Latin appellation: Creatio ex nihilo). Comprehensive because, over the course of four days, the conference's theme was examined from four different perspectives: biblical, historical/theological, philosophical, and scientific. High-octane because it gathered over twenty leading scholars, from Gary Anderson to David Bentley Hart, who presented papers with opportunity for attendee feedback. In this post and the next, I draw out highlights from select papers, interspersed with thoughts on the proper place of this doctrine within evangelical and Reformed theology. 

Unlike many academic biblical scholars of the previous generation, Gary Anderson (Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Theology, University of Notre Dame) approaches the text of the Old Testament with an overarching theological concern. Rather than slicing and dicing books and chapters to reveal mind-numbing minutiae severed from the larger biblical narrative, Anderson asks questions that connect passages to broad biblical and theological themes. In the opening address on "Is Creatio ex nihilo Biblical?" he clearly demonstrates this concern by first examining creation ex nihilo (hereafter CEN) in Genesis 1-2 before moving on to the theological import of this doctrine. 

In his illuminating examination of the creation week in Genesis, Anderson highlights the need to coordinate our reading of the beginning of the creation story (1:1-3) with the end (2:1-3). Conspicuously absent from the seventh day is the refrain of the previous six days ("there was evening and there was morning"). The lack of 'limit' to the Sabbath points back to 1:1-3 where God is not 'limited' by the darkness and formlessness described in 1:2. Whereas other Scriptural passages may carry a stronger theological implication of CEN, the clear 'creation without opposition' found in Genesis's creation account informs the theological concern of God's transcendence. Indeed, the theological heart of CEN, according to Anderson, is upholding both God's transcendence and his immanence. The freedom of God's transcendence demonstrated in creation actually grounds his engagement with his creatures. Because of his eternal and transcendent freedom, God is 'able' to be within those who are spiritual - that is, those creatures who possess the Spirit - giving them eyes to see the world as He sees it. As those 'spiritual eyes' move from the world to the Bible, through the doctrine of CEN they are equipped with the theological tools to, in Anderson's words, "read the Bible better".  From a Reformed perspective, I'm not sure this Roman Catholic scholar could have put it any better. 

Janet Soskice's paper further set the doctrine of CEN in a theological context. Soskice is Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and highly respected for her wide-ranging work on everything from metaphor in religious language to, recently, a gripping account of two Presbyterian sisters in the 19th century who travelled to the Middle East in order to discover the earliest known Gospels in ancient Syriac. Soskice's erudition was on full display as she spoke on "Why Creatio ex nihilo for Theology Today?". 

The first matter she addressed was carried forward from Anderson's theological concerns: CEN is primarily about God and not the cosmos. That is to say, while asking the 'how' question of creation is important to consider, that is not what CEN is primarily about--it speaks to the God we worship. Soskice stated CEN is a 'first order' teaching that grounds Christian teaching across the board. Quietly in the background, it upholds such matters as miracles, prayer, and the work of God's grace. In the early history of the Church CEN was an emergent doctrine, finding its stride especially in apologetic contexts. As the debates of the early Church marched on, the question of how God comes to us in a time of need sharpened the contours of CEN. For while CEN teaches that God is transcendent, he is not a domineering or distant tyrant as presented by some forms of contemporary feminist theology. God is transcendent and present. Looking to the Psalms, Soskice observed how both God's power and his lovingkindness are at the heart of who he is. All that is is dependent on God. Yet, for all those who are his he is near to them in lovingkindness. The 'immediacy' of God's grace, therefore, is upheld by the reality that everything relies upon God for its existence. The transcendent power that created the universe is what also enables the loving nearness that God demonstrates when he pours grace into the lives of his loved ones. Again, I found a Roman Catholic scholar elucidating the high points of the teaching of CEN in a vein very much compatible with Reformed thought. Of course, there are going to be disagreements over how grace is administered to and appropriated by believers. Nonetheless, a theology robustly informed by CEN cannot help but stress our radical dependency upon God, both in our very existence and in our experience of intimate fellowship with him seen in such realities of our faith as a vibrant prayer life. 

The theological relevance of CEN outlined by Soskice highlights just how dependent our understanding of this doctrine is upon the writings of Athanasius. The great fourth-century father had no small role in the full-fledged emergence of CEN within the early church, especially the doctrine's import for the divine-human relation. Khaled Anatolios (who will be moving as Professor of Theology from Boston College to Notre Dame this Fall), took up in his paper, "Creatio ex nihilo, Divine Goodness, and Creaturely Giftedness in Athanasius of Alexandria", Athansius's early twin work, Against the Heathen and On the Incarnation. There he discerns a shift in the latter chapters of Against the Heathen where Athanasius is awakened to the import of CEN and thereafter a difference is evident in his theology. The difference is especially seen in that human giftedness is no longer primarily colored in with the platonic hues of our intellectual powers transcending physical reality (such as in Against the Heathen 7). Rather, informed by Genesis 1:1 and Hebrews 11:3 in On the Incarnation, the great divide to 'overcome' is between created and uncreated reality. That is to say, humanity is fully dependent upon God - in body and soul - because our whole being finds its source in his creative act. The doctrine of CEN enabled Athanasius to gain a firmer grip on the reality that we, as human beings, are always 'from nothing'. Because created reality is 'from nothing' human beings would have nothing to hold their existence if it were not for God's continued gift of being experienced through participating in the logos of God. Without this gift of participation in God's being we would continually slip back to nothingness. In fact, sin, according to Athanasius, is an ungrateful rejection of God's gift of protection and so the result is a form of de-creation. 

Part 2 to follow shortly...

Rev. D. Blair Smith is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America and a doctoral student in early christian history and theology at Durham University. He's currently a research visitor at the University of Notre Dame. Follow him on twitter @dblairsmith 

  


Calvin's commentary on the creation narrative of Genesis 1.1-2.3 is dominated by one particular metaphor--that of God as the builder and decorator of a luxurious house.  The creation days, in Calvin's perspective, mark successive stages in God's construction project. In the first triad of creation days, God performs the role of a proper builder, directing his energies to the foundation and fabric of his cosmic domicile. In the second triad of creation days, he performs the role of interior designer, supplying his house with both "furniture" and "garniture" (ornamenta).

God, in Calvin's estimation, is no minimalist when it comes to interior design. "The heaven without the sun, and moon, and stars," and the "earth... destitute of animals, trees, and plants" would, indeed, make for a "poor and deserted house," a "dismantled palace." The presence of heavenly bodies and earthly flora and fauna make for a "house well supplied and filled."

This "wealthy house, well supplied with every kind of provision in abundance and variety," was built with a specific tenant in mind, even if that tenant didn't yet exist during the designing, building, and decorating process. "In the very order of the creation the paternal solicitude of God for man is conspicuous, because he furnished the world with all things needful, and even with an immense profusion of wealth, before he formed man. Thus man was rich before he was born."

Calvin's attention to the "paternal solicitude" apparent in God's act of creation evokes images of wealthy parents-to-be preparing their home for their anticipated first child, eager to provide for that child's well-being and enjoyment. Socket covers and safety latches for cabinets and drawers are installed, potentially dangerous items are locked away or placed out of reach, the pantry is stocked with formula milk and baby food. Particular attention is given to the nursery: a baby cot fitted with musical mobile is secured, the walls are painted pleasant colors and covered with vibrant images, stuffed animals are placed in the cot and on shelves in anticipation of the baby's arrival. In sum, these soon-to-be parents, brimming with expectation, secure everything they can think of to provide both nourishment and delight to their future child.

Similarly, the "house" which God prepared as man's "happy and pleasant habitation" was tailored both to man's well-being and his enjoyment; it was, indeed, a "variety of delights." Calvin's description of the newly-created world drips with references to "abundance," "affluence," "profusion," and "sweetness," particularly so with regard to Eden--the nursery, as it were, in this house prepared for man. 

Of course, anyone with a reasonable grasp of child psychology knows that the most important thing in any home for a child's flourishing is no thing at all, but the parents themselves. No amount of stuffed animals or toys can fill the void created in a child's heart from absent or indifferent parents. 

Similarly, the principal necessity and delight in God's cosmic house is God himself. God no more built his house with any intention to hand over the keys to his human creatures and take his leave, wishing them all happiness in their new residence, than parents purpose to suddenly vacate their home after bringing a child into it. God built his house with every intention of living there with his children--of fostering relationship and intimacy with them in that place. (Calvin anticipates, on this score, recent studies which identify Eden as the prototypical sanctuary, a place for man to enjoy fellowship with and worship God.) As Calvin reflects, then, upon the gifts which God has prepared for and bestowed upon his image-bearers in this "house well supplied and filled," he notes the proper, relational response these should trigger in their recipients; namely, reliance upon God, gratitude for his plentiful provision, and "wonder" (literally stupor) at the sheer immensity of his generosity.

Our first parents failed, of course, to sustain such attitudes towards God. Their rebellion against their benefactor impacted the entire world--God's "house"--in addition to themselves. "The earth," which as a whole "would have remained the fairest scene both of fruitfulness and of delight," has become "that scene of deformity which we now behold." Yet much good remains; indeed, "thorns and thistles" are, in the final analysis, parasitic upon the fundamental goodness and beauty irrevocably invested in humankind's primal residence.

There is a temptation among those living on this side of the fall to turn blind eyes to the "abundance," "sweetness," and "variety" which persists in this world, and either focus only on the thorns and thistles, or look entirely to the world to come, with (proper) expectation of its surpassing goodness. Calvin has significant advice for us on this score: "Since the eternal inheritance of man is in heaven, it is truly right that we should tend thither; nevertheless, we ought to fix our foot on earth long enough to consider this house (hospitium), which God wishes man to use for a time."  The meditation on this world which Calvin encourages should evoke, in addition to sorrow for the obvious fruits of humankind's rebellion, those very same responses which God's house in its original splendor was calculated to excite: reliance, gratitude, wonder.

Calvin invites us, in sum, to pause from our busy lives and take time to "consider this abode," still bearing evident traces of its original "abundance" and "sweetness." Study a tree. Smell a flower. Savor the taste of some choice fruit. Pet a dog. Look at the stars. But be careful as you do so. Any appreciation for the goodness and beauty of this created world without acknowledgement of the Creator is a serious crime. "Those who perceive by the moon the splendor of night are convicted, by their enjoyment of it, of perverse ingratitude if they do not acknowledge the beneficence of God." So as we contemplate the goodness of this world, let us turn our thoughts very intentionally to the "wonderful Artificer, who has so beautifully arranged all things," and may the peculiar utility and beauty of all that we encounter "constrain us to wonder."

William Evans and the Days of Creation

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Prof. William Evans of Erskine College has taken on Al Mohler on the days of creation, among other things. Steve Hays at Triablogue has offered a thorough response here

HT: The Aquila Report

"We must take it all"

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D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the unity of Scripture:
Higher criticism is man picking and choosing out of the Scriptures, believing what he likes and rejecting, or ignoring, the rest. It is man failing to submit himself completely and utterly to the whole of the Scriptures. And I believe that this is one of the most urgent problems confronting us today. There are even evangelical people who no longer believe the first three chapters of the book of Genesis. They are not believing all the Scriptures. But until we come back to a belief in all the Scriptures we shall be in trouble because we are setting ourselves up as authorities, and we are not competent to deal with the problems that face us. If we pick and choose, and believe this and reject that, we will ultimately have no authority whatsoever. We are so anxious to please the modern scientists, the modern educated people, that we have lost our gospel.

The Bible is a unity. We must take it all. It not only teaches us salvation, but it teaches us creation. It tells us now God made the world and how he is eventually going to restore the whole cosmos. If you begin to pick and choose from the Scriptures, you will soon end in a state of dejection. This is what the Christian church has been doing for so long, and it is not surprising that things are as they are. Here is our Lord telling these men [on the road to Emmaus], and I believe he is saying it to us today, that we must submit to the Scriptures completely, entirely, whether we understand them or not. Whether we can reconcile everything or not, we must submit to it. We must say that we believe this is the Word of God and we believe everything it says. It is history. It is an account of the creation and the fall. All these events that are presented as facts we must accept as facts; otherwise we shall soon be doubting the fact of Christ himself and even the very being of God. Here is our Lord's own analysis. There is a unity in the Scripture that must never be broken. There is a wholeness and a completeness, and it is only as we submit to this that we can look to the real solution to our problems.
Setting Our Affections Upon Glory: Nine Sermons on the Gospel and the Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 81. [A.com/A.co.uk]

"In Eden's sinless garden"

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7 6. 7 6 (St. Alphege)
In Eden's sinless garden
A man and woman stood,
Each crafted in God's image,
And both entirely good.

The serpent entered Eden,
And entered both their hearts;
And neither did resist him,
Fell to his fiery darts.

So Adam's abdication
Was punished by the Lord;
Eve's insubordination
Jehovah much abhorred.

Then came the Second Adam
Into the wilderness.
Where Adam fell, he conquered,
Both to restore and bless.

He raises from the ruins
Of Eden's shattered bliss,
And by his saving power
Does Satan's blight dismiss.

True men, pursue with courage
Loving nobility;
True women, with true beauty,
Submissive dignity.

You sons of Adam, glory
That Jesus sets you free.
Eve's daughters, bow before him,
Embrace your liberty.
Jeremy Walker

See other hymns and psalms.

Evans/VanDoodewaard Exchange on Creation

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Interested readers may follow the continuing exchange between Drs. William Evans and William VanDoodewaard over at the Aquilla Report.

Here is the link to Evans's response to Dr. VanDoodewaard's piece, which was originally posted here at reformation21.

Here is Dr. VanDoodewaard's rejoinder to Dr. Evans.

Guest Post: Response to William Evans

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Editors' Note: The following is a response to William Evans's recent reformation 21 article by Dr. William VanDoodewaard, who is associate professor of church history at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and an ordained minister in the ARP.

William Evans's latest piece on the ARP Synod via his links in the creation section and use of titles states:
there apparently are some in the ARP who believe that those who do not hold to literal six-day young-earth creationism should "change, acquiesce, or depart honorably in conviction" (see my response here)
The apparently some, is apparently me, as I wrote the article in the first link, which was titled "Hermeneutics and Awkward Science." Evans insinuates in his response "Unhappy Politics" (I hoped misunderstood, but private correspondence between us eliminated that possibility) this as an effort to remove from Presbyterian denominations ministers who do not hold to literal six-day young-earth creationism (accusing me of playing crass power politics), a drum he continues to beat in his most recent Ref21 article.

Evans and I had a long behind the scenes discussion during the original exchange where I noted that my primary concern was the problem of evolutionary origins of Adam and Eve, and the theological implications of this, and pleading for him to work together on this -- a call I also made publicly. This was also clearly evident in my final reply to his posts in my "Defining Adam and Eve". Evans meanwhile stated that the theistic evolution of Adam and Eve, pre/co-hominds/part of a tribe was a legitimate position in the life of the church, a non-issue, so long as there was an Adam and an Eve. How the ARP Synod will respond to the Mississippi Valley memorial remains to be seen, but to me it is clearly worded, says what needs to be said, and is something that as stated pretty much everyone should be able to in good conscience agree upon. I trust the Lord will give wisdom, love and faithfulness, in this important discussion and decision.

Results tagged “Creation” from Through the Westminster Confession

Chapter 4.2, Part Two

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ii. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.  Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

As we conclude our study of the Confession's teaching on creation, we should note how focused the divines were on the redemptive message of the Bible. We rightly distinguish between the Bible's teaching on creation and redemption, but the Confession reminds us how they are related.  

In this respect, the Confession first reminds us of Adam's spiritual and moral ability prior to the Fall. He was "endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness." What a fitting covenant head Adam was for the human race! Adam and Eve had "the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it." Our first parents were able to obey God and to live without sin. Reading these words, we are reminded of all that we have lost through the calamity of sin! The Fall was possible because Adam and Eve had "a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change." 

Reformed theology strongly rejects the Arminian doctrine of free will, except when it comes to Adam. Prior to the Fall, Adam was created with a truly free will, since he had the ability both to honor God through obedience and to rebel against God in transgression. After the Fall, man in sin possesses only the latter (see Eph. 2:1-3). In Adam, we also see the relationship between righteousness and happiness. While Adam and Eve kept God's law, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures." So it is for God's people today, that having been restored to spiritual ability by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, we now find happiness through lifestyles that are obedient to God's Word and experience at least a partial restoration of the dominion which Adam lost (see 2 Cor. 3:18).

The Confession particularly wants to emphasize that Adam was not in covenant with God only in a general sense but also in a specific covenant. While God's Covenant with Man falls under the heading of chapter 7, it is impossible fully to treat man's created state without noting the Covenant of Works: "Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (see Gen. 2:16-17)  All of history was shaped by Adam's disobedience of this command, with the subsequent Fall of the human race into the condemnation and corruption of sin. Between mankind today and the blessings Adam and Eve once enjoyed in the Garden stands the historical reality of the Fall.  

All the rest of the Bible presents God's grand redemptive plan to overcome the Fall into sin and its consequences. To undo what Adam did in sin, mankind will need a new covenant head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who did not break God's commands and who perfectly fulfilled God's covenant of works, so that through union with Christ in faith believers may be saved from Adam's sin and our own (see Rom. 5:18-19). In this life, believers in Christ receive a righteousness gained by Christ and a partial, though increasing, restoration of our natures in knowledge and true holiness. When Christ's covenant of grace has fully achieved its harvest work, Adam's offspring will experience in Christ the fullness of the blessing that God intended through Creation as we enjoy the new heavens and the new earth in the return of the Second Adam, the Lord Jesus.  

As we consider all that Adam lost through sin - "knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness" after God's own image - we are reminded of the glorious restoration that we are now experiencing through faith, and we are motivated to enter more fully now into the blessings appointed by God for those who are in Christ.

Chapter 4.2

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ii. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after his own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.  Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.

The Westminster Confession's second paragraph on Creation fittingly centers on mankind. An important emphasis is on the distinctiveness of mankind versus the other creatures. One of the great problems with the evolutionary dogma so dominant in our culture today is that it strips mankind of the special dignity that comes with being made in God's image. It is interesting that the Confession itself does not deal directly with the details of Genesis 2:7, "the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."  The Larger Catechism is very clear, however, that "God formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man" (WLC 17), which clearly rules out any theory of evolutionary processes involved in the creation of Adam and Eve.

Whereas the secular humanist would have mankind look downward to the beasts for his identity, the Bible would have man look upwards to God. Psalm 8:5-8, for instance, places Adam in a mediating position between the angels and the lower created order: "you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea." Notice that while Adam is placed between the heavenly beings and the earthly beasts, his identity is found above rather than below. He was made "a little lower than the heavenly beings" rather than a little above the beasts. Moreover, Adam was invested with authority on God's behalf to rule the creatures of the earth. This doctrine makes a world of difference in how we think about ourselves. We are special among all the other beings of the earth, "crowned with glory and honor," and have special obligations to God as his vicegerents in the world.

The Bible's teaching on creation further assails the secularist mindset in the clear ordering of the beings that God made. Neo-pagan culture is determined to eradicate all biblical distinctions: the distinction between God and man, male and female, humankind and the beasts, good and evil, etc.  But the Bible's teaching establishes a clear order. What a mistake it is, therefore, when Christians think it helps our witness by downplaying the Bible's distinctions, especially when it comes to gender. Instead, we bear testimony to God the Creator by wholesomely emphasizing the gender pattern which is essential to God's good design in Creation. Christians should therefore not accommodate the cultural demand that men and women be treated as if they are the same. At the same time, the Bible does clearly show the fundamental unity and shared dignity of men and women within humanity. Similarly, the Confession emphasizes that man was made with a God-given awareness of moral truth. There is good and evil and mankind was made to know them, "having the law of God written in their hearts."

The Confession presents a strong doctrine of mankind as bearing the image of God. By stating that men and women were created "with reasonable and immortal souls," the divines point out that mankind was made to understand and know God.  We were created to worship and were obliged by our creation to obey and glorify God.  

CHapter 4.1, Part Three

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i. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

In considering the What of Creation, the Confession states that God was pleased "to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible." It is false to say that Creation came from nothing, since the Bible teaches that the Creation came from God.  Rather, God made the universe out of nothing, ex nihilo. The Bible says that God created simply by means of his speech, saying, "Let there be" (Gen. 1:3, 6, 14). Jesus wielded this same power of the Creator when he stood before the stormy seas and raging winds, crying out, "Peace!  Be still!" (Mk. 4:39). Peter tells us that God's same mighty Word goes forth in the recreating act of salvation: "you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23; see also 2 Cor. 4:6).    

When we read that God created "the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible," the Confession rules out any doctrine of macroevolution. Some Christians affirm that God got creation started, but then ordained that the process of evolution would actually bring the various species into being. To the contrary, however, the Bible teaches that God directly created all the various kinds of creatures. "And God said, 'Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds - livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds'" (Gen. 1:24). Some Christians will urge that God's approach in doing this may still have been evolutionary. This approach is intended to remove the conflict between Bible-believing Christians and the secular dogma of evolution. 

There are a great many problems with this mistaken compromise, however, some of which will come up in the Confession's teaching regarding Adam. But notice that there is an irreconcilable conflict between evolution - a random process taking place incrementally over many aeons - and the biblical teaching of Creation - which presents not random mutations but sovereign fiat according to the will of God. Included in the variety in God's creation are the invisible spirits known as angels. The Confession concludes that the entire creation was "all very good." The evolutionary worldview explains sin and other defects as part of a process that is continually perfecting itself. For the secularist, the world was created with major defects which evolution is slowly ironing out. The Bible, however, teaches that all evil and error resulted from an historical Fall. The world itself was made completely good, reflecting the heart and design of its glorious Creator.

Lastly, we consider the When of Creation. The Confession makes two statements. First, God created the world "in the beginning." This not only follows the language of Genesis 1:1, the Bible's first words, but it also shows that unlike God himself, the world has a beginning.  Second, the Confession states that God created "in the span of six days." There has been a great deal of controversy in recent years as to whether the Confession intends to limit its teaching to the view that God created all things in six literal twenty-four hour days. Most Reformed denominations do not require this view, but allow a range of alternatives. There can be little doubt, however, that virtually all of the Westminster divines believed in a literal six day creation. They urged this view because they believed in the truthfulness of the Bible not only in its redemptive message, but also in its teaching on the history of Creation. The Westminster Confession knows nothing of contemporary views that deny the historical value of Genesis one for the chronology of God's creation work. Indeed, here as elsewhere the Confession uses language that closely follows the Bible, showing their belief that the Bible speaks sufficiently for God's people when it comes to understanding the creation of the world.

Chapter 4.1, Part Two

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i. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

After yesterday considering the Why of Creation, we now turn to the Who. Who made all this?  The Confession's answer is that God did. This is the only realistic answer when it comes to the data of the universe. Does the secular humanist seriously expect us to believe that all things came from nothing? "Well, then," the unbeliever asks, "where did it all come from?" The Christian answers that all things must have come from someone able to create them, which can only be God. The same argument holds for the vaunted Big-Bang Theory, which says that the universe exploded into being. Did the universe explode into existence by its own power or by something else's power? Was it non-being that created being? How is that reasonable? If it was being that created being, what was this being? The poor secularist cannot even talk about the Creation without having to face the glorious Creator he is trying so hard to avoid. For the universe was created by God so that "invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature... are clearly perceived... in the things that have been made" (Rom. 1:20). The universe was created to bear testimony to the glory of God, so even questions asked about the origin of Creation can only be answered by reference to God.

The truth that God created all things prompts some important denials that strike at the heart of postmodern unbelief. If God created the world, then the world is not self-existent. Everything created is dependent on God for its original being and its present sustenance. The world and the things in it also are not eternal, since they were willed into existence by God at a certain time.  Mankind is therefore not divine, so that narcissistic self-worship in condemned. Moreover, the world is not autonomous.  That is, Creation - including men and women - is not subject only to its own laws and decisions but is subject to a higher power, namely, its Creator. All Creation is thus answerable to God for his approval and judgment.  For this reason, writes Johannes Vos, "all attempts of men or nations to live independently of God are foolish, wicked, and doomed to failure in the end."  We see what a subversive statement it is for Christians today to read the first verse of the Bible: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1)!

It is not incidental that the God who created all things is the Trinity: "the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."  We should ascribe all of God's works to the Trinity, since the three divine Persons co-operate in all that God does. Not only does the Bible describe the one God as three Persons, but it includes many statements directly ascribing creation to the Trinity. First Corinthians 8:6 join Father and Son in creating: "there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."  Ps. 104:30 speaks of God sending his Spirit in order to create. Christians are well warranted in comparing the cooperation of the Trinity in creation to their work in salvation: the Father ordains, the Son accomplishes, and the Spirit applies. Hebrews 1:2 says that it was through his Son that God created the world, and John 1:3 agrees that "All things were made through him." Genesis 1:2 shows "the Spirit of God... hovering over the face of the waters." All things are according to the will of the Father, through the work of the Son, and by the power of the Spirit. Therefore everything in all Creation resounds to the praise of the same Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit into whose name believers in Christ are baptized for salvation (Mt. 28:19).

Chapter 4.1

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i. It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.

When we turn to the Westminster Confession's treatment of Creation, in chapter four, the first and most important is Why?  This spurs some of the most important questions in all of Holy Scripture: Why is there a creation?  What is the purpose to all that is?  What is the meaning of the universe and all that takes place in it?  

The first answer given is, "It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost." The purpose of Creation, like its very existence, is determined by the will and pleasure of the Triune God. This reminds us that mankind does not determine the meaning of existence by his own will or choosing. We do not even choose the proper purpose for our own lives. God, who made all things and who thus possesses them by right as Lord, has determined the purpose of all creation.  

This purpose is given by the Confession: "for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, [and] goodness."  Think about the implications of this statement and its militant theism.  Most of us have lived our lives as humanists. Therefore we have thought that the world was made for the highest utility of human beings (and especially of ourselves!). This is why we can be frustrated by the idea that God might will something that would not choose. Why would God will something that frustrates our will - perhaps a deadly disease or a friend who dies in unbelief?  

The answer is for the manifestation of the glory of who God is. Why is there disease? At least in part, the answer is for the manifestation of the holiness and justice of God against sin. Why is there a hell? For the manifestation of God's wrath. More positively, why did God create marriage? To display the glory of his love. The Confession is right in saying that God created everything according to his own pleasure, to manifest his glory through the display of the perfections of all his attributes. When we realize that God is not a humanist, but he made and willed all things for his glory, we are better able to handle what the Bible teaches not only about Creation but also about the Fall and about Redemption.

The Confession highlights three of God's attributes that are supremely glorified in the Creation: his "eternal power, wisdom, and goodness." We look at the stars and marvel at the power of the God who created crashing galaxies and nebuli! We peer into the structure of a cell or contemplate the mystery of love between a man and woman and the wisdom of God is overwhelming.  We watch the grass growing, rejoice at the dazzling colors of a field of corn or wheat, and we delight at the hummingbird's song and are persuaded of the goodness of the God who made it all. How should we respond to the purpose of Creation, given for the pleasure of the Triune God? Surely the answer is by giving him the glory of all that he is, in response to the witness of the world he has made! The hymnodist Folliott S. Pierpont, writing in 1864, summarized this well:
For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies,
For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,
Lords of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.