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Basics of the Reformed Faith: Creation

July 22, 2011

Kim Riddlebarger

As C. S. Lewis was fond of saying, “God likes matter. He invented it.” Although people can easily overlook this important theological connection, the Christian doctrine of God demands a corresponding Christian doctrine of creation. There are three important elements to consider when reflecting upon how Christians should understand the created order, including things seen and unseen.

First, Scripture affirms that God created all things. Nothing which now exists, exists apart from the fact that God created it. All created things, therefore, owe their existence to God’s eternal decree that particular things do exist. The second distinct feature of a Christian doctrine of creation is that since God created all things, God is therefore distinct from all created things and beings. This is apparent from the very opening declaration of the Bible–“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Creation is not part of God (pantheism), nor is creation within the being of God (panentheism). This fact alone sets Christianity apart from a number of religions–especially those of the east, or those with a dualistic heritage located in Greek philosophy. The third aspect to consider is that having created all things, God pronounced them “good,” a refrain which is repeated throughout the seven days of creation of Genesis 1. These three facts not only frame a distinctive Christian doctrine of creation, they stand in opposition to a great deal of contemporary opinion to the contrary.

When God created all things, he created them from nothing (creation ex nihilo) through the sheer power of his creative word (Hebrews 11:3). The creation account reminds us over and over again that “God said” and it was so (Genesis 1). From the sun, moon, and stars, to the sea, land, and sky, to the various creatures which fill these created realms, all things were created by God who spoke them into existence. “All things” include those things we can see (i.e., the visible world in which we live), as well as those things we cannot see (i.e., the angels and the invisible world). Although the invisible world cannot be seen, it nevertheless is real, and it too has been created by God and filled by spiritual creatures who do his bidding (i.e., the angels).

The Christian doctrine of creation precludes the notion that God formed our universe out of eternal matter, or that there was there a realm of eternal and ideal forms in which matter participates as an indication of its inherent deficiency and inadequacy when compared to the spiritual world above (i.e., Plato). Rather, the Christian doctrine of creation insists that before all things came into being, God was, completely free and independent from his creation. Here, too, there are important ramifications of a Christian view of creation. There are no eternal human souls, nor do we in pre-exist our birth. We are not “divine” in any sense. Yet in the creation account, God pronounces his divine benediction upon Adam, the first man, who was created from the dust of the earth and then given the breath of life by God himself (Genesis 2:7).

It is important to keep in mind the fact that when we speak of God creating all things, we are referring to the triune God, not just the Father. Scripture assigns the act of creation to all three persons of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Although scripture frequently speaks of the Father creating all things (i.e., Genesis 1:1; Nehemiah 9:5-6, Psalm 33:6), the Son and Holy Spirit are also mentioned in connection with the creation of all things. In the prologue to John’s Gospel (John 1:1-14), John affirms that the Son (Jesus) created all things (John 1:3). So does the Apostle Paul (Colossians 1:16), as does the author of the Book of Hebrews (1:2). And then in the creation account, we read, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” It is the Triune God who creates all things.

Keeping these things in mind will help us avoid some of the pitfalls of the pagan thinking around us. The Christian doctrine of creation (things visible and invisible) reminds us the Creator is to be distinguished from all things created, and that the common dualism between spirit and matter is fatally flawed. Matter is not inherently evil nor flawed simply because it is material. The creation account is crystal clear that when God created all things from nothing, he pronounced them “good.” And although the world groans under our feet because of humanity’s collective rebellion against God (Romans 8:18-24), let us not forget, that at the end of the age when our Lord returns, he will indeed renew all things which he has created, including the heavens and the earth (2 Peter 3:1-13).

God likes matter. He not only invented it, he will renew the heavens and earth and make them fit for our eternal home.