The Doctrine of Creation and it's Significance
by John W. Keddie
The doctrine of creation presents a problem for apologetics at the outset: How may such an idea as the biblical account of origins be defended or advanced in the face of the monolithic and scientifically sophisticated superstructure of modern science, dominated as it is by evolutionary theories? There is little doubt that the view predominates in our society, at both scientific and pre-scientific levels, that purely naturalistic evolutionary processes account for the origin and development of the universe, covering thousands of millions of years. God has more or less been excluded from the picture and Biblical creation according to Genesis chapters I and 2 is dismissed as an outmoded concept. Evolution, in one form or another, is modern man's starting point, his basic datum in his view of reality. From a Christian point of view, however, based upon the Bible as the reliable and wholly trustworthy Word of God, evolution must be regarded as one of the great illusions of the epoch. Even a non-Creationist author like Michael Denton could say:
"The influence of evolutionary theory on fields far removed from biology is one of the most spectacular examples in history of how a highly speculative idea for which there is no really hard scientific evidence can come to fashion the thinking of a whole society and dominate the outlook of an age... Ultimately the Darwinian theory of evolution is no more nor less than the great cosmogonic myth of the twentieth century. "1
Science in general therefore, does pose a problem, though not all scientists Christians and non-Christians, accept such naturalistic theories of origins. There is probably a growing number of academic scientists pursuing scientific work from the presuppositions of a Biblical view of origins2.
In many respects the idea of evolution has been a convenient dogma for post-enlightenment man, seeking as he has done to explain the cosmos without reference to God or supernatural revelation. Clearly this takes us into the realm of world-views, which inevitably are based on a heart-commitment, however rationally or empirically coherent they may claim to be. Specifically, a person's cosmology (view of the universe as a whole), and cosmogony (view of the origin of the cosmos) will be derived from their presuppositions or world-view. Basically that will be one of two competing antithetical positions: either a belief in the living God and His revelation in Scripture; or, belief in a "god" of man's own devising, some absolutist aspect of created reality. It makes all the difference whether or not the scientist believes in the living God revealed in Scripture and through His creation.
There is, then, a fundamental antithesis in the under understanding of reality. This arises because man is a fallen creature (cf Gen.3; Eccles. 7:29). The difference is that the Christian has become, by the grace of God, a "new creation" (2 Cor. 5:17; cf Gal. 6:15) and "by faith" understands "that the worlds were framed by the word of God" (Heb. 11:3; cf Rev. 4:11), whereas the unbeliever is in "darkness" (Ps. 107:10; cf John 12:46) and "receiveth not the things of the spirit of God...neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned' (I Cor. 2:14; cf Rom 8:5). The outlook of these two categories is therefore antithetical.
What is at issue, therefore, is man's basic faith-commitment, and not so much the "raw" data of science, important as that is to understand accurately in connection with man's commission to subdue the earth (cf Gen. 1:26,28). The latter will inevitably determine his outlook on reality and will influence his "interpretation" of so-called scientific "facts." This article will not deal with scientific information. The main purpose is simply to outline the Biblical doctrine of creation and to bring out some of its importance and significance.
THE FACTS OF CREATION
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth..." (Gen. 1:1). These well-known words introduce us to the revelation of God in Scripture. On the question of origins we are dependent upon God's revelation for information. There were, after all no human witnesses (cf Job. 3 8:4)! Only the creator can tell us the facts of creation. We simply receive this truth 'by faith" (Heb. 1 1:3). In a day when science is thought of as being omnicompetent, and when scientific achievements and technological developments abound, it is salutary to be reminded of this humbling truth: God alone is sovereign, and human existence - our very breath (cf Acts 17:25) - derives from and depends upon Him. Much great work has been done, but only because of the structure and order of a world given meaning and function by "God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth."
God is the originator of all physical (and spiritual) reality (John 1:3). He is Himself an non-created being and has an non-derived existence, independent from and above His creation (Ps. 90:2). He enjoys perfect complacency within the eternal counsels of the Holy Trinity (cf John 17:5). Therefore, to His creatures belongs the exercise of reverent adoration of their creator (I Chron. 16:23-36; Ps. 95:6; Rev. 19: 1 0); belief in His truth (2 Thess. 2:13; John 8:32; cf. Eph. 5:9); and the practice of godliness (I Tim. 2:2; 4:8; 6:13; cf Jas. 1:23; 2:14).
As to the facts of creation the first chapter of Genesis provides the following basic information, from which important considerations arise:
The Power of God (Psalm 62:11)
In the opening chapter of Genesis we are told that God "spoke" or "called", "made" or"created." As a result material things came into existence, either immediately, or, where previously created materials were used, mediately (as, for example, in the formation of man "out of the dust of the ground" (Gen. 2:7, cf verse 19)). The origination of all things was thus the result of the direct exercise of divine sovereign power. It was a divine fiat, creation by divine decree. This is the use Paul makes of the doctrine of creation in the letter to the Romans when he says that "the invisible things of him (i.e. God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse" (1:20).
The Westminster Confession of Faith (hereafter WCF) states this truth with characteristic Scriptural clarity: "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 ... t, (IV, 1).
The Suddenness of Creation (Genesis 1:3)
This is implicit in the idea of fiat creation, but warrants emphasis, especially in view of the prevailing evolutionary theories of the origin and development of the universe. This is not a mere 'big bang', rather it is a purposeful and decisive creative act. When God "spoke" (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 29), 'made" (1:7, 16, 25), or "created" (1:21, 27), the things which He purposed came to pass immediately. This carries with it, of course, the implication of the maturity of the things called into being - an important concept to bear in mind in connection with geological dating variables. As Dr J.C. Whitcomb put it: "There could be no genuine creation of any kind, without an initial appearance of age inherent in it"4. In assessing the age of the universe sufficient account must be taken of such a factor. This is not saying, of course, that the creation included fossils. That is a different matter altogether.
There is an analogy here with some miracles of the New Testament. For example, the first miracle performed by the Lord - at Cana of Gahlee - saw Jesus turn water into wine (John 2: 1 -1 1). The ruler of the Feast clearly believed that the best, that is to say, the most mature wine had been kept till last. In point of fact it had only been 'created" a few minutes earlier. To underline this point about the suddenness of creation, the Psalmist writes: "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made ... for he spoke, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps. 33:6, 9). There is no reason at all to dismiss a "young earth' or "recent creation' view of origins.
The Comprehensiveness of Creation (Acts 17:24)
This follows logically from the fact of creation ex nihilo (i.e. "out of nothing"). Everything in the universe, "whether visible or invisible" (WCF, IV, 1), owes its existence to the divine will. The comprehensiveness of creation is brought out strikingly by the apostle PauL writing to the Colossians: "...by him (Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him. " (1: 16).
There is, however, an orderliness in creation. This much is clear from the Genesis narrative. We are told that creation was the work of "six days" (cf Ex. 20:1 1; 31:17). The very pattern of man's weeks - six days labour and one day's rest - and the demarcation of his weeks by the sabbath day, derives from the pattern of God's creative activity. There is no reason at all to dismiss a "literal" view of these six creative days. Without question it was possible for the Lord thus to create the world, and it would seem strange for the Lord to describe the creation period in these terms if He meant millions or thousands of millions of years (with "chance" and random occurrences), as the evolutionary schemes would require.
In Genesis 1 every basic constituent of the material universe is brought before our view. God is not merely the creator of "substance" in general but specifically of "light and darkness" (3, 4); "waters" and "firmament" (i.e., expanse) (6); "dry land" and "seas" (9, 10); plant life (11, 12); stars, sun and moon (14, 16); birds (20); sea creatures (21); animals (24); and, finally, the capstone, so to speak, man himself (26, 27; cf Gen. 2:7; Ps. 8:5, 6). From the initial formlessness God wrought order, comprehensively (cf Gern 1:2 with 2: 1).
The Perfection of Creation (Psalms 104:24)
At every stage in the work of creation God reflected upon the works of His hands and expressed satisfaction as to the end result. Six times in the first chapter of Genesis the phrase "and God saw that it was good" is used to describe what had been created. This is predicated of the third day 1O, 12), the fourth day (18), of the fifth day (21), and of the sixth day (25, 31). In verse 31 the statement is made: "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." This is clearly a reflection on the whole period of creation. Man himself was made with "knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His (i.e., God's) own image" (WCF, IV, 2; cf Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24).
This is an important consideration in the light of the implications of the normal evolutionary chronology of earth's history. According to the Bible (Rom. 5:12) suffering and death did not enter into the world until the "fall" of man into sin (cf Gen. 3: 1; I Cor. 15:2 1). But the evolutionary geological time scale involves the presence of death and destruction on a widespread and violent scale in all ages before the supposed emergence of "modern man" (homo sapiens). The fossil record itself supposedly illustrative of evolutionary progress and a key to the classification of geological ages, implies this. But this is clearly inconsistent with the Biblical cosmogony, which presupposes that before the fall of man everything God made was "very good" and there was no death (cf Rom. 5:14). Thus, as Dr Henry M. Morris has succinctly put it:
"The Bible-believing Christian must realize that, if he accepts the geological ages system, he is implicitly accepting the whole evolutionary package which is synonymous with it. He is accepting the billion-year reign of suffering and death in the world, including the death of man such as Homo erectus and Neanderthal Man, who lived and died long before Adam, if the evolutionary chronology is right"5.
Morris's suggested "solution" is straightforward: the fossil record, being a record of sudden destruction of life and not at all a record of gradual evolution of life, must have been formed after the fall of man into sin, probably for the greater part at least at the the of the cataclysmic world-wide flood described in Genesis, chapters 6 to 9. As Peter confirms: "The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished" (2 Pe. 3:6).
THE AGENTS IN CREATION
Creation, as we have seen, is rooted in the divine decrees (cf Ps. 8:3), is a manifestation of divine power (Rev. 4:11), and, was pronounced "very good" on its accomplishment. In addition, it is clear from Scripture that creation was an act of the triune God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The act of creation provides a clear demonstration of the Trinitarian doctrine.
Creation absolutely an act of God
The work of creation is attributed to the Godhead, the one living and true God, revealed to us in Holy Scripture. This is clear from the Genesis narrative, and also from many other Old Testament passages (cf Deut. 4:32; Ps. 104; Isa. 45:5-19; Mal. 2: 1 0) and also from New Testament passages (cf. Mark 13:19; Acts 17:24; Eph. 3:9; Rev. 10:6). Such references may correctly be taken as referring primarily to the creative activity of God the Father. Specifically, however, we are told that "all things" owe their origin to "God, the Father" (I Cor. 8:6).
Creation through God, the Son
Whilst creation is predicated primarily of God in the unity of His being, there are specific instances of this creative work being accomplished through God, the Son (the Lord Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. In His incarnation (John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-7) Jesus took human flesh, without sin (Phil. 2:5-8; I Peter 2:22; Heb. 4:15). He was "sent" by the Father (John 5:37; 1 John 4:14). But he had existence before His incarnation. This is beautifully brought out in His prayer recorded in John 17: "And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (v.5). In another place He is recorded as saying: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). Specifically, the work of creation is attributed to the Son (cf John 1: 1-5). This is most explicitly brought out in the Letter to the Colossians where we read that is was by the Son that all things "were ... created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (Col. 1: 16-17). This enlarges on a statement of Paul's elsewhere, that "of him and through him, and to him are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:36; cf Heb. 1:2).
The Spirit in Creation
The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14), "eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son" (WCF, II, 3; cf John 15:26). He too is active in creation. The first indication of this is given in Genesis chapter 2 where we are told that the 'Spirit of God moved upon [or, hovered over] the waters" (v.1). This is confirmed by such texts as Job 26:13 (cf 33:4) and Psalm 104:30 (cf Ps. 33:6) and Isaiah 40:13.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CREATION
The Biblical doctrine of creation and the activity of the Triune God in the work of creation have been outlined. What is the importance of this for Christians today? Several considerations arise.
Acknowledgement of the Sovereignty of God
The inescapable implication of the doctrine of creation is the fact of the sovereignty of God. Creation, inevitably, is rooted in divine sovereignty. This doctrine presupposes mighty creative power, something Paul makes crystal clear to the Romans when he says that "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. 1:20). The fact is, nothing is too hard for the Lord (cf Gen. 18:14; Jer. 32:17, 27; Matt. 19:26; Luke 18:27). Creation is the exercise of God's free will. He is "the high and lofty one that inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy" (Isa. 57:15) and He is the "Majesty in the heavens" (Heb. 8: 1).
Though the Lord God is high above the earth, though He is not contained within His creation (Ps. 97:9; cf Eph. 1:21-23; Isa. 66: I; Acts 7:48-50), He also works within creation to uphold it. He is near to His people (Ps. 34:18; 145:18), and has respect for the lowly (Ps. 13 8:6). Although sin has come between man and his Maker (Isa. 59:2; Gen. 3), in God's gracious redemption in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17; cf Gal. 6:15) His people's sins are forgiven (Ps. 85:2; Eph. 4:32; 1 John 2:12). How unspeakably marvellous this is! That the transcendent, omnipotent and holy creator (Jer. 23:23) should condescend to His creatures whom He chooses and save them from their sins out of His pure mercy and grace (2 Chron.30:9; Ps. 103:8; Joel 2:13; Eph. 1:4-7). "Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. 19:6)! On the other hand for those who do not know the Lord there is only a certain looking for of judgment (Heb. 10:27). It is a fearful thing to fall into the hand of the living God (v.31).
Creation is the basis of all true knowledge
The doctrine of creation is a pillar of the Christian faith (Heb. 11:3). It is a fundamental tenet of revelation, and therefore a central tenet of the faith (WCF, IV). Without the presupposition of a supernatural creation ex nihilo by the hand of God there cannot be a correct understanding of reality. In a real sense there is no possibility of a correct view of reality, in its origin, unity and diversity, and purpose, without a heart-commitment to the true and living God, revealed in Scripture and creation. (cf Heb. 1 1:6; Ps 8:3). A person's cosmology and cosmogony must be theocentric or they will be distorted and seriously flawed, to a greater or lesser extent.
The implications of this are far-reaching, covering the whole gambit of knowledge. Just as creation is a basic "given' of a true cosmology, so also it is the basis of true epistemology (theory of knowledge). This is of vital importance for the believer in Christ. The Christian is able to understand aright through regeneration. As a regenerated person the believer sees reality now with new "spectacles"; from a God-centred view-point. Such a person acknowledges God for whom He is, recognizes His word as true, accepts by faith that God is creator and sustainer, and that nothing is too hard for Him, for He is the Sovereign Lord of this universe who gives it meaning. Where such a perspective is missing there cannot be a really true understanding of the world and man's place in it. Thus, science, anthropology (study of man), psychology, education, history, or theology (or philosophy) not based upon such a theistic, creationist understanding of reality will be distorted and flawed.
Of course, it is true that unregenerate people can do good work, but only because their anti- or non-theistic viewpoint is mitigated by the fact that they inescapably operate within God's world and to some degree, in order to make "sense" of things, must the structures of creation, that is to say, assume the coherence and God-given meaning of created reality. Men operate unavoidably within the sphere of God's common or temporal-preserving grace. Nevertheless, Christians have to be aware of the tendency of unregenerate man to distort and pervert truth and reality, not least in the area of the meaning and interpretation of "facts". Christians should always examine discerningly and critically the work of unregenerate men, and any thought not based squarely upon the Biblical view of creation.
THE END OF CREATION
The chief end, or purpose of creation is the glory of God. "The heavens declare the glory of God..." (Ps. 19: 1). This truth is very clear in Scripture (cf Rom 16:27; 1 Tim. 1: 1 7; Rom. 1 1:36; Gal. 1:5; Heb. 13:2 1; I Pe. 5:1 1). Similarly with man: "What is the chief end of man?" asks the first question of the Shorter Catechism. "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever." In other words, all man's reflection on creation, and work within it, should acknowledge God as Creator and seek to bring glory to Him.
Creation also has its "end" in the sense of termination. Just as God has "stretched out" the world and all that it contains (Isa. 45:5; Ps. 104:2; Zech. 12: 1), so He will "fold" it up (Heb. 1: 12) in due time. He is in control of history and time. There will be an end. This will happen when Jesus comes again for the judgment and consummation. The link between the beginning and end of history is beautifully described in the letter to the Hebrews: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands ... They shall perish...and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up" (Heb. 1: 10- 12; cf Rev. 10:6-7).
Thus, as surely as there was a creation in the beginning there will be a final judgment and consummation of the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ in the end. What will happen then? "A new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea .. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new' (Rev. 21:1, 5).
1. Michael Denton, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Bethesda, Maryland, 1986, p358
2. There are now several associations of Christian academic scientists throughout the world holding to a strongly biblical and creationist perspective. There are the Creation Research Society and the Institute for Creation Research in the USA, the Biblical Creation Society in the UK, and the Creation Science Foundation in Australia. Among attractive, popular and effective publications are Origins from the Biblical Creation Society and Creation Ex Nihilo from the Creation Science Foundation.
3. By 'evolution' is meant that naturalistic process over time, with chance occurrences, involving random radical and progressive changes to organisms from less to more complex forms. We distinguish this from the (non-evolutionary) small changes, adaptations or diversifications evident within basic created types of organisms or creatures (ie within their 'kinds').
4. J.C. Whitcomb, The Early Earth, London, 1972, p30
5.H.M. Morris The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth, Minneapolis, 1972