The Doctrine of Creation

Categories: Principles

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).1 The Bible begins with creation, declares at the outset that God is Creator, and reiterates this understanding of origins from Genesis to Revelation.

The Bible makes no claim to be a scientific textbook, nor should it be understood as such. However, the Bible declares itself to be trustworthy in whatever it teaches to be true, whether relating to matters of faith, history, or the created order. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). We affirm with Jesus the authority, certainty, and finality of God’s eternal Word (Matthew 5:18; John 10:35).

The Bible Reveals God as the Creator
Scripture focuses our attention not so much on the act of creation as on the Creator. From Genesis 1:1 to 2:3, God’s presence and activity are primary. We read that “God created,” “God said,” “God saw,” God “separated,” “God called [named],” “God made,”
“God set [placed],” “God blessed,” and God “rested.”

The creation accounts show God to be intelligent, loving, and personal. In contrast to pantheism, He is distinct from His creation (Psalm 90:2). In contrast to deism, He continues to be personally active in His handiwork; He upholds, sustains, and preserves it (Nehemiah 9:6).

The relational nature of the Creator is seen in His expectations of His human creatures. We are to worship and serve Him as the Creator (Isaiah 40:26,28,31). We are warned not to strive against our Maker (Isaiah 45:9). We are to commit the keeping of our souls to Him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19). We also recognize that our help comes from the One who made the heavens and the earth (Psalms 121:2; 124:8; 146:5,6), and there is nothing too hard for Him (Jeremiah 32:17).

The Bible also emphasizes that God is the Creator of all things, a vitally important truth repeated often in both Testaments (Exodus 20:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 146:6; Acts 14:17; Revelation 4:11; 10:6).

In contrast to ancient paganism and modern materialism, the Bible teaches a definitive beginning of the universe and everything in it. Early pagan thinking tended to be dualistic, teaching that the universe in some form existed eternally alongside the gods. In pagan mythologies, the gods are seen as having created certain things but always from preexisting materials. However, the very declaration that God is the Creator of all things sets Him apart from idols (Psalm 96:5).

Materialists teach that matter and its laws are eternal and are the sum total of all existence, thus ruling out the idea of God altogether. But the Bible declares that God existed before all things and is the Creator of all things (Psalm 90:2). Moreover, He also brought the universe into existence out of nothing (ex nihilo), that is, without preexisting materials (Romans 4:17; Hebrews 11:3).
1 All Scripture citations, unless otherwise noted, are from the New International Version (NIV).

The Bible also teaches that creation was a cooperative work of the Trinity. In addition to naming God as Creator, the Old Testament shows that the Spirit of God was active as well (Genesis 1:2). The New Testament further reveals that Jesus, who is the one Mediator between God and humankind (1 Timothy 2:5) in our redemption, was also the Mediator in Creation. Christ, called “the firstborn” because He has first place, the place of the heir (Colossians 1:15), was the active Agent in creation. “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). The Greek word translated “through” (dia) is a word of secondary agency, used, for example, where God spoke through the prophets. So God created by or through Jesus. Jesus is the living Word through whom God spoke the worlds into existence. He is the One who made humankind from the dust of the earth. He is before all things and is the Creator of the invisible spirit world as well (Colossians 1:16).

The Biblical Account of Creation Reveals Order, Progress, and Climax

Order, progress, and climax are part of the biblical account of creation. Order is seen in the careful structuring of the various stages of creative activity in a six-day format, evening to morning. Progress can be seen in the increase of personal attention God gave to His creative work. Of the vegetation we read that God said, “ ‘Let the land produce vegetation’ . . . And it was so” (Genesis 1:11,12). Of the animals we read that God said, “ ‘Let the land produce living creatures’ . . . And it was so” (vv. 24,25). But of the human race God said, “ ‘Let us make man’ . . . So God created man . . . male and female he created them” (vv. 26, 27). The human race is thus a special and distinctive creation.

All this evidence of order, progress, and climax shows careful, intelligent planning. That God planned the creation rules out the idea that any part of creation came into being by mere chance. God exercised His wisdom and control at all times (Psalms 136:5; 148:5; Isaiah 45:12; 48:12,13) and brought the entire created order to a complete and well designed end (Genesis 1:31).

Only God Can Create
It is also evident that no part of God’s creation, whether angel or human is creative in the sense God is. The Hebrew word for create (bara’) always has God as the subject of the verb. This word is used for God’s work of creation and is also used to indicate that God will do something unusual and unprecedented. For example, it is used when God said to Israel at Sinai: “I will do wonders never before done [bara’, “created”] in any nation in all the world” (Exodus 34:10).

The significance of the Hebrew verb bara’ is also illustrated when God spoke through Isaiah to his stubborn people, “ ‘From now on I will tell you of new things . . . They are created [bara’] now, and not long ago’” (Isaiah 48:6,7). As in the first chapter of Genesis, the word bara’, “to create,” is used only of completely new and unprecedented acts of God; that is, of the creation of the heavens and the earth in the beginning, of the creation of the first animal life in the sea (1:21), and of man and woman in God’s own image (1:27). At other times the word “made” (‘asah) is used. The word “create” (bara’) thus emphasizes that God alone is the Creator, and His acts of creation are unique and unprecedented.

God’s Creation Is Purposive
God had a stated purpose in creation. He created “for his own ends” (Proverbs 16:4) and for His glory (Isaiah 43:7). He “formed [the earth] to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18). All creation is thus an expression of His will and His power.

The creation story depicts human beings as the zenith of God’s creative activity. Their unique nature and role are portrayed in two separate and complementary accounts (Genesis 1 and 2). God lavished particular attention on both the man and the woman. It
was only humans of whom God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule . . . over all the earth” (1:26). Thereupon, God gave them a mandate to be benevolent and nurturing caretakers of the created order (Genesis 1:26, 28;
Psalm 8:5–8).

Being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26,27), human beings are free, rational, capable of self-appreciation and self-expression, capable of moral and spiritual understanding, and created for fellowship with God. That the first human pair, made in
His image, would fall and lead the race int o sin (3:1ff.) was hardly a surprise for the Creator, who purposed to create them anyway. The image of God divinely stamped on the race would be marred by sin. But Jesus Christ (Romans 5:15) was destined to
redeem fallen humankind and include those who believe in Him in the final reconciliation of the universe (Romans 8:21; 1 Corinthians 15:20–28; Colossians 1:19).

The Reality of Creation
Genesis 1–3 accurately communicates God’s creation of the heavens and the earth. Using language that appears to employ both prose and poetry and that contains both literal and symbolic elements, the story is a simple yet beautiful and compelling narrative
intended to speak to all humankind. The complexity of creation is such that humans will never fully comprehend it. But the message that God alone is Creator plainly has been communicated to all who, through the ages, hear and read the Genesis account.

Our understanding of God as Creator is rooted in a divine revelation of real events that occurred in time and space. Moreover, our understanding of God as Redeemer is rooted in the revelation of God’s dealings with Israel in history and in the historical events of the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. Likewise, the New Testament treats the first Adam as a historical person (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:13,14). Genesis 2 declares God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed into him the breath of life. This act indicates that humans are distinct from animals and that God did not form Adam from some previously existing creation (1 Corinthians 15:39).

Some have contended that the first two chapters of Genesis are poetical and are to be taken as parables. But a comparison of poetical references to creation (Deuteronomy 32 and 33; Job 38:4–11; Psalms 90; 104:5–9) shows that the Genesis account is in prose form, though it may contain some poetic language. Even so, however, poetry in the Bible often describes actual, historical events, so the use of poetry does not make this account fictional.

It is significant that although creation events are not stated in modern scientific terminology, divine accommodation to human limitations puts them in vivid and understandable language that provides a reliable record for all peoples in all times
(Ephesians 1:18).

Creation and Science
We affirm that God and God alone is the designer and creator of the universe and of life.

The discoveries of science had been utilized by skeptics to question the accuracy of the biblical accounts. In response, believing scientists and biblical scholars consider no fundamental conflict to exist between God’s Word and His works. The theories of the scientists are constantly changing with the introduction of new evidence. By contrast, the Scriptures are always the final, unchanging authority for Christian faith.

Christians have historically believed that “all truth is God’s truth.” God reveals himself finally and authoritatively in the Scriptures, His special revelation. In a subsidiary but not conflicting way, He also reveals himself in the general revelation of His created order. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1–3).

Ultimately, then, when God’s Word and God’s Work are properly understood and taught by reverent scholarship, there is no disunity. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). God has revealed himself in such a way as to invite us into an exploration of His nature through both the Word and His Work, the Bible and scientific exploration.

In summary, we see that the Bible from beginning to end identifies God as the Creator. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). “For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm” (Psalm 33:9).


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