Creation: The Cornerstone of Truth.
Stan F. Vaninger
The doctrine of creation is Unique to the biblical world view. It is not commonly known that virtually every major world view (philosophy or religion) denies that creation has occurred The two extremes of pantheist and materialist monism provide good examples.
Monism: "All is One"
Pantheist monism 5 simply the view that the only true reality is God. As strange as this view may seem to most western minds, it is foundational to most eastern religions, occult philosophies, and "New Age" groups. God is me only true reality: everything that really exists is part and parcel of God. Coo is seen as being pure spirit and the material realm is regarded as being non-existent and illusionary. Man's soul or spirit is seen as an emanation from God or an extension of God's essential being and thus in most forms of Monism, man's individuality is also seen as illusionary A commonly heard catch-phrase of this kind of view is "all is one'' where the "one" refers to the one true reality of "God." Pantheist monism usually holds to emergent or directed evolutionism.
For materialist monism, which is an important tenet of such views as humanism, random evolutionism, and atheism, only the physical realm is real; the spiritual realm is illusionary and belief in God is regarded as being on the same level as superstition.
For pantheist monism, only God exists and the material realm is illusionary. For materialist monism, only matter exists and the spiritual realm is non-existent.
As opposite as these two views of reality seem to be, they have one crucial factor in common: both deny that creation has occurred. For pantheist monism, nothing can exist apart from or outside of God. For materialist monism, nothing can exist apart from or outside of the physical universe which is a self-existent entity.
In either case, no distinction is allowed between a Creator and a created order. For both views there is a continuity to all existence: everything that exists is of the same essence or substance.
The Biblical View
Genesis 1 forces us to recognize that there are two very different kinds of existence. The language is so clear and explicit that we are forced to recognize a radical discontinuity between the self-existent Creator-God and the created order.
In view of the uniqueness of this teaching, we should not be surprised to discover that this view of reality is foundational for many other important biblical doctrines. We will show, in fact, that the basic truths concerning creation are essential to an understanding of who God is, who man is, what sin is, what happened at the incarnation, and the doctrines of resurrection and redemption.
The creation account of Genesis 1 forces us to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between God and man In the Old Testament, the prominent attribute of the Lord is that unique and unrivaled power that has created and sustains the universe and its inhabitants (Psalm 104).
The Lord often speaks of himself as Creator in order to make more explicit his identity and to give greater authority to what is being proclaimed (see for example Is. 40: 18-28 and Jer. 10: 11-16). In these and other passages we learn that the Lord is not like the gods worshipped by the pagans. The uniqueness of Yahweh is centered around the fact that he and he alone is the Creator. In the Image of God.
Simply because God is Creator and man is creature, man is utterly different from God Yet we also learn from Scripture that man was made "in the image and after the likeness" of God (Gen. 1 26,27). Man's spiritual dimension, his personality, his free agency, and his rational faculties such as logical thinking and speech could all be thought of as being included in the image and likeness of God. One likeness to God that man initially possessed at creation but later lost was his moral righteousness.
Thus, because man is a creature, he is very different from God; yet, at the same time, man was created to be like God in many respects. If we do not maintain a proper balance between these two truths, both revealed in Genesis 1, we will have a distorted view of both God and man.
The Goodness of Being Human
In our zeal to emphasize the depravity of fallen man, we often neglect the very crucial teaching of Genesis 1 concerning the goodness of the created order and man Six times during the course of his creative activities, God declares his work to be good and at the end of the sixth day, all is declared to be very good (Gen. 1:31.)
Thus, the created realm, including man, is declared to be intrinsically good, simply in virtue of the fact that it is the creation of the almighty and sovereign God. This is in stark contrast to many non-biblical world views which, not having the insight provided by Genesis 1, see the material realm in general and the human body in particular as being inherently evil
If we understand Genesis 1 correctly, we must not include sin in our most basic definition of what man is Man, in his "natural" created condition, is not sinful. Sin is an un-natural intrusion into human nature.
The doctrine of creation is foundational to a proper understanding of the doctrine of sin. Because God is Creator and man is creature, man falls under a natural obligation to obey God, thai is, to allow God to determine for him what is right and what is wrong. It is this very important principle which is behind the prohibition given in Genesis 2 17.
The issue was, would Adam and Eve allow God to determine for them what was right and wrong or would they choose to determine for themselves what was right ann wrong. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, it was an act of rebellion against the lordship of their Creator, pure and simple. The essence of the first sin, and every sin that followed it, is the refusal to submit to the natural obligation man has to obey his Creator-God.
Thus, according to the Scriptures, the fall was moral. While some nonbiblical religions have a concept of a "fall," it is very different than that of Genesis 3, being metaphysical rather than moral. Hinduism, for example, speaks of a "fall" which corresponds to man's entrance into the material realm. The 'fall' introduced the deception of individual and physical existence that men are now under. Man's false conception of himself as an individual and as having a physical body is, in fact, viewed as man's basic problem.
In contrast to this Hindu view of man, the creation account of Genesis 1 & 2 makes it clear that man was deliberately made by God as an individual person with both a spiritual ann physical dimension and that such an arrangement was good Genesis 3 makes it clear that the fall was not a change in man's conception of reality and of himself but rather was a spiritual and moral degeneration whereby man came under the power and deception of sin. Man's problem is not his "human"-ness but his rebellion against God. It is this truth that non-biblical world views so desperately try to avoid or obscure.
You Will Be Like God
The serpent's temptation of Eve included the appeal that, 'you will be like God' (Gen. 3 5) We nave seen that according to Genesis 1:26-28, man was already created to be "like" God, and it becomes obvious that the appeal in Gen. 3:5 is to he something beyond that. What really lies behind the appeal surfaces when we consider the remainder of it. "You will be like God, knowing good and evil " The words "knowing good and evil" show that the serpent was holding before Eve the possibility of transcending the moral obligations of creaturehood.
The serpent offered to the creature what belongs exclusively to the Creator, the right to (or determine) what is right and what is wrong. What the serpent offered to Eve was the possibility of becoming her own God, of being able to determine for herself what is right ann wrong.
This is what lies at the root of all false religions and philosophies. Whether man denies the existence of God or asserts his own deity, the end result is the same; man is free from any externally imposed moral absolutes. It is no coincidence that most non-biblicai religions and philosophies not only deny that creation has occurred but are also amoral, denying any ultimate distinction between good and evil. Only by denying that creation has occurred can man avoid the Creator / creature distinction and the natural moral obligations of creaturehood
The Word Became Flesh
The doctrine of creation is crucial to a proper understanding of what actually occurred at the incarnation. The proclamation that "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14) reveals that the discontinuity between Creator and creature has been bridged in one direction by the Son of God.
But it's important to realize that we cannot get The full impact of what John 1:14 is saying without understanding John 131-13. A knowledge of the Word's preexistence as God and as Creator is crucial to a proper understanding of what happened at the incarnation. There was truly a new thing done under the sun when God became a man and the Creator became a creature.
Likewise, when Paul teaches the incarnation and the deity of Christ in Colossians 1:19 and 2:9, we should not be surprised to fine that he first presents Christ as Creator in Colossians 1:15-17. Paul, like John, saw that the Creator 'creature distinction was crucial roan understanding of what actually happened when the Word became flesh.
While the concept of incarnation is found in some non-biblicai world views. it is very different from the New Testament conception For many eastern religions and for the many Greek and gnostic sects that flourished early in the church age, incarnation is the situation of every human. Man's Soul is regarded as divine and intrinsically immortal while the body is seen as a temporary prison house of the soul.
Incarnation, in fact, is seen as man's basic problem. The material realm is seen as toeing evil and undesirable either because it is illusionary (Hinduism), the creation of a rebellious demi-god (gnosticism), or a lower aspect of reality (Greek philosophy). Man's goal is excarnation, to shed the human body, and to achieve a higher plane of existence or a purely spiritual union with God. The historical fact of the incarnation shows what a dreadful error this view is.
The Humanity of Christ
Not only does the New Testament emphasize that Christ was fully God but also that he was fully human (Heb. 2:14-17,4:15,1 John 4:2, 2John 7) What we learned earlier about the goodness of being human is confirmed by the fact that the pre-incarnate Son of God could become a real flesh and blood human and yet be without sin (2 Cur. 5:21, Heb. 4:15,1 Peter 2:22,1 John 3:5). While Christ's identity and glory were for the most part veiled during the first advent, there was nothing degrading about his becoming human per se.
When he returns to the earth with great power and glory at the second advent, he will still be a human being, but his true identity and great glory will be clearly manifested to all. There is no indication that becoming human will have in any way diminished Christ's glory or the praise that will be due him for eternity. On the contrary, there is every indication that the events made possible by the incarnation have served only to enhance his glory by manifesting the excellencies of his gracious and loving character.
The Resurrection of Christ
The great significance that is attached to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament makes it a very crucial doctrine of the faith. Not only is the historical beauty of Christ's resurrection an important part of the gospel proclamation, but it is itself that which authenticates the gospel (Rom. 1:4, Acts 2:22-36,13:26-39, 17:30, 31). In view of this, iris very significant that the New Testament writers take great pains to show that Christ's resurrection was a real bodily resuscitation from physical death.
In John 20:27, Christ gives Thomas the opportunity to inspect his wounds and the sceptical disciple is subsequently overwhelmed by Christ's bodily presence and the reality of what has happened. From Luke 24:39-43, we learn that Jesus encouraged all of his disciples to handle his body to verify that he was not a spirit or an apparition out that he, like themselves, consisted of real bone and flesh that was solid and could be felt. He also ate before them to prove that his body was capable of normal human functions.
It is significant that in Acts 2 and Acts 13, both Peter and Paul apply Psalm 16:10 to Christ's resurrection thus emphasizing the continuity between his body before death and after resurrection. Of course, we learn from other passages that there was also a significant discontinuity, that the resurrection of Christ involved more than just a return to life, as in the case of Lazarus and others, but included a radical transformation of the body as to its properties and qualities (Rom. 6 9, Phil 3:21). Nevertheless, the fact that both Peter and Paul emphasize that Christ's flesh was not allowed to decay, suggests that the resurrection body was essentially the same body that was laid in the grave. Both the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ rest firmly on the foundational truth of the goodness of the created realm and of man as first created by God. The New Testament clearly asserts that God in the person of Christ entered the created, material realm, became a genuine man, lived a sinless life, and three days after being crucified, was restored to a fully human state through bodily resurrection. These truths provide the ultimate proof of the goodness of God's creation and refute the erroneous pagan view that there is something inherently evil about the material realm or about human nature in its 'natural', unfallen condition.
We have already seen that man was created in the image of God and with a natural obligation to obey his Creator. When man defied that obligation in Eden, the image of God in man was horribly twisted and distorted by the ugliness of sin.
One aspect of salvation is the full restoration to the believer of God's image and likeness. especially in regard to man's moral integrity (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10, Rom 8:29, and I Cor 15:491. This restoration begins with the new birth, continues during the believer's remaining life through the process of sanctification, and is apparently brought to completion at death when the believer goes to be with the Lord.
Another aspect of salvation involves man's recommitment to his Creator as Lord. This likewise begins with the new birth and should deepen progressively as the believer matures in the faith.
Salvation is never thought of as being the deification of man as in so many pagan religions, occult philosophies, and "New Age" groups. The Creator / creature distinction shows that the deification of man is an impossibility. Since God is Creator and man is creature, man can never become God. A created being can never transcend his creaturehood and become an uncreated being as God is.
The doctrine of creation is the cornerstone of the biblical view of reality and the foundation for many other important doctrines. But the truth of creation has implications that go beyond purely doctrinal matters. It is only because Christ is the Creator-God that he can make such absolute and comprehensive demands upon our lives And it is only because he is the almighty Creator that, through the miracle of the new birth and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, he can effect in us the transformation that makes all things new.