Question: How do we derive our knowledge of Creation? Answer: Solely from Revelation. It is a pure, not a mixed doctrine. The heathen cosmogonies and modern scientific heathenism, with many divergent theories, some in a pantheistic, others in a dualistic, and still others in a purely materialistic way, exclude the free activity and will of a sole Eternal, Omnipotent, Supreme Being. The New Testament references of which Heb. 11:3 is central, presuppose the detailed description with which Holy Scripture opens in Gen. 1.
Chapter 4 - Creation
1. What is the relation of this chapter to what precedes?
We come now to the more specific treatment of God in relation to what is not God. This, of necessity, has been anticipated, to an extent, in considering the Divine Attributes. But what has been only incidentally mentioned, is now to be more fully examined. Recurring to the external activities of God (Opera ad extra) defined at the close of preceding chapter (Q. 62, 63), we may say that all that remains for us in this treatise, is to treat of the three themes, Creation, Redemption and Sanctification.
2. What is Creation?
The act by which God brought into being that which had no preexistence, except in His thought.
Heb. 11:3 — “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God, so that what is seen, hath not been made out of things which appear.”
3. Whence do we derive our knowledge of this act?
Solely from Revelation. It is a pure, not a mixed doctrine. The heathen cosmogonies and modern scientific heathenism, with many divergent theories, some in a pantheistic, others in a dualistic, and still others in a purely materialistic way, exclude the free activity and will of a sole Eternal, Omnipotent, Supreme Being. The New Testament references of which Heb. 11:3 is central, presuppose the detailed description with which Holy Scripture opens in Gen. 1.
4. What is the purpose and scope of the Mosaic account?
It has a religious and not a scientific end. Its aim is not so much to record a detailed cosmogony in opposition to the many elaborate hypotheses which had preceded, as to solemnly affirm the supremacy and omnipotent activity of God, and the goal of all creation in Man, as its summit, towards which each successive creative act was an advance.
5. Who created the world?
The Triune God.
1 Cor. 8:6 — “God the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him.”
1 Cor. 8:6 — “One Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.” Col. 1:15, 16 — “Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him are all things created in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, all things have been created through him and unto him.” John 1:3 — “All things were made by him.”
Ps. 104:30— “Thou sendest forth thy Spirit; they are created.” Ps. 33:6 — “All the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Gen. 1:2 — “The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”
6. But does not the Apostles’ Creed ascribe this work in an especial sense to the Father?
Yes, according to the order of the Persons of the Trinity, and because what the Father has of Himself, the Son and Holy Ghost have of the Father.
7. Are Father, Son and Holy Ghost, then, associated causes of creation?
There is but one Creator. The three Persons are one God, and one cause and Author of creation.
8. Whence came God’s purpose to create?
All the external works of God proceed from His free will, and not from His natural will or any inner necessity, as do the immanent or personal works.
9. Does “create” always mean “to produce from nothing”?
Theologians distinguish between “immediate” and “mediate creation.” The former is the proper sense of the term; in the latter sense, it refers to the producing of something from preexisting material, as in Gen. 1:11, the coming forth of grass and trees from the earth; and yet even here there is that which calls for an immediate creative act of God, for grass and trees could never be produced by mere matter. Man’s soul was created immediately, and his body mediately. In Ps. 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart,” the word refers to a change of properties or renewal. It is with immediate creation that we have to do here.
10. When creation is defined as “to produce from nothing,” what is meant by “nothing”?
Absolute non-existence. Not “a relative nothing,” as from matter without form and void.
11. Could the world have been created from eternity?
No. For eternity is an attribute of God alone. Ascribe eternity to a creature, and you ascribe infinity, for eternity is infinite duration.
12. Was there time before the creation?
With the creation, time began. For time implies succession, and, as before the creation, God alone existed and God is immutable, there was no succession.
13. How was the world created?
Not by the thought, but by the word of God.
Ps. 33:6 — “By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made.” 9: “He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast.” Gen. 1:3 — “God said: Let there be light, and there was light.” John 1:1-3 shows that this was none else than the Personal Word of God, or Second Person of the Trinity, expressing and revealing the thought and purpose of God.
14. What was the product of creation?
Heaven and earth. By the former is meant not only the visible heavens with their stars, planets, comets, meteors, etc., but the entire superterrestrial world of spirits (2 Cor. 12:2; Rev. 4:1). By the latter, also all that earth contains. The physical insignificance of the earth is compensated by its destiny as the abode of the incarnate God, and the theater of Redemption.
15. What was the purpose of Creation?
The manifestation of the perfections of God, as the ultimate end; the highest welfare of man as the subordinate.
16. What perfections?
The glory of His goodness, wisdom and power.
Ps. 19:1, 2 — “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” Ps. 104; Ps. 106:4-9; 148; Rev. 4:11.
Ps. 8:1, 3 — “0 Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, who hast set thy glory upon the heavens. When I consider thy heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him?”
These attributes are specifically mentioned: Goodness, Ps. 145:9, 10; Wisdom, Ps. 104:24; Power, Is. 40:26; Rom. 1:20.
17. Show that the highest welfare of man was the subordinate end?
Ps. 8:4, 6 — “What is man that thou art mindful of him or the Son of man that thou visitest him? Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.”
18. But does not the Epistle to the Hebrews (Chap. 2:7) declare that this refers to Christ?
Yes, as the Son of man, the ideal or representative Man, through whom the dominion over creation, lost by the fall, is more than restored.
1 Cor. 3:21 — “For all things are yours.”
19. Where else is the same doctrine taught?
Gen. 1 126 — “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.” Ps. 115:7 — “The earth hath he given to the children of men.”
20. But does not the New Testament go still further? Yes, by declaring that all creatures, even angels, exist for the sake of men.
Heb. 1:14 — “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to do service for the sake of them that shall inherit salvation.”
1 Cor. 3:22 — “The world or life or death or things present or things to come, all are yours.”
Rom. 8:28 — “We know that to them that love God, all things work together for good.”
21. Does this, however, depend upon the Order of Creation?
No; but of Redemption, in which the superiority of Man appears in that the Son of God personally united Himself to a human nature, thus distinguishing it above all creatures. Nevertheless God had this exalted destiny of the human race and the Plan of Redemption in view from the beginning. It was no afterthought; for God has no afterthoughts.
22. But is not the difficulty greater in regarding the lowest of creatures subservient to mans highest welfare?
Yes, for, to natural reason, some seem absolutely useless, and others harmful. In answer to this, we need only cite a passage from Augustine: “If an unskilled person were to enter the shop of a mechanic, he would see many instruments of whose use he would be ignorant, and if very unintelligent they would seem superfluous. Or if an incautious person were to fall into a furnace, or were to wound himself with some steel instrument, he would regard many things harmful, whose use the artisan well knows, and therefore laughs at the folly and unadvised words of the critic. Nevertheless men are so silly, that while they do not venture to blame such a mechanic with respect to tools of which they are ignorant, but when they see them believe them necessary and adapted to some use; nevertheless in this world, whose Maker and Administrator is God, they attempt to criticize many things, the causes for which they do not see, and in regard to the works and tools of the Almighty Workman want to seem to know that of which they are ignorant.”
23. For what various uses of man are creatures intended?
Some are for the nourishment of the bodily life.
Gen. 1:29 — “Behold I have given you every herb yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” Prov. 27:26 — “The lambs are for thy clothing.”
Others for man’s thankful delight and pleasure.
1 Tim. 6:17 — “Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.” Ps. 145:16 — “Thou openest thy hand and satisfieth the desire of every living thing.”
1 Tim. 4:4 — “Every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it be received with thanksgiving.”
Some are remedies.
E. g. Oil, James 5:17; Oil and wine, Luke 10:34; Figs, 2 Kings 20:7.
Others are preventives of disease, and preservatives of health.
Ps. 103:5 — “Who satisfieth thy desire with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
Some aid man in his life and appointed work on earth. Gen. 1:15 — “Lights in the firmament of heaven, to give light upon the earth.”
Ps. 78:53 — “The sea overwhelmed their enemies.”
Acts 14:17 — “He gave from heaven rain and fruitful seasons.”
Amos 6:12 — “Will one plow there with oxen?”
Others are for example and imitation.
Matt. 6:26 — “Behold the fouls of the air.” Prov. 6:6 — “Go to the ant, thou sluggard.” Is. 40:31 — “They shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Matt. 10:27 — “My sheep hear my voice and I know them.” 1 Cor. 15:41 — “One star differeth from another star in glory.” Ps. 125:1, 2 — “They that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem.”
Ps. 1:3 — “Like a tree planted by the streams of water.”
24. What proof of this can be found outside of Revelation?
Man’s progress in civilization is determined by the progress made in the application of the objects and forces of the natural world to his use. Objects regarded useless for centuries are estimated at a high value when their proper use has been discovered. Illustrations are found in the modern application of steam, light (Photography), electricity, radium and other results of Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and Meteorology, and in the constant advance of discovery and the cultivation of regions previously unknown, or regarded irreclaimable. The lightning is used to flash man’s words around the globe, and even the most irresistible floods of waters are diverted to commercial ends and to carry men from place to place. Niagara is harnessed. All is in virtue of the divine command, “Replenish the earth and subdue it.”
25. In what did Creation end?
First of all in God’s admiring contemplation of the result.
Gen. 1:31 — “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.”
Nothing that God has created is in itself evil; it can become such only by its use in another sphere than that for which God designed it.
26. What is Optimism?
The theory that the world as it came from God is the very best that was possible.
27. How must this theory be qualified?
By the circumstance that the original creation was only preparatory to still higher stages of perfection attainable only in the New Heavens and the New Earth. The goodness of the creature as it came from God’s hands was that of the acorn not of the oak, that of the new-born child, and not that of the fully developed man. So would it have been even if sin had not entered. But through Redemption, as we shall hereafter see, it attains a yet higher grade.
28. What accompanied God’s admiring contemplation of Creation?
Gen. 2:2 — “He rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.”
This is made prominent by the frequent references to it, as in Heb. 4:4; Ex. 20:1 1; 31:17.
29. Does this mean a cessation of God’s activity?
No. For this would be in contradiction to His life, and we read
1 John 5:17 — “And Jesus answered, My Father worketh even until now, and I work.”
The reference is to a change of work. Creation ceases. God’s activity is henceforth in the sphere of Providence, and, except where the new Order of Redemption intervenes, through second causes. God’s rest is, therefore, only a change in His mode of work. He no longer creates, but sustains and concurs with things created, yet so as not to exclude, when He so wishes, His miraculous activity.
30. What can be said of an alleged conflict between Science and Revelation on this article?
Between true Science and Revelation, there can be no conflict, for the true in the natural, and the true in the supernatural, cannot be contradictory. But when the facts of the natural world are elevated to the position of a standard by which the supernatural is to be decided, Science passes beyond its own limits, and ceases to be true science (see Chapter 1, 32). When, on the other hand, some theologians push incidental allusions to natural events in the language and according to the popular conceptions of the age in which a book of Holy Scripture is written, to the position of an integral part of Revelation itself, they also sometimes imagine a conflict of Science, with Revelation, where no such conflict exists.
31. Explain this more fully.
Where skeptical scientists and some well-meaning champions of Revelation agree in maintaining that it is an important part of Holy Scripture, that the earth does not move, and hold that the Ptolemaic System of the Universe is essential to belief in Revelation, they should be reminded that the language of every day life that “the sun rises” and “sets,” is not an untruth, but only describes a real fact from the standpoint of the ordinary spectator, although not from that of astronomical observation. The most common facts in nature would be unintelligible to all except those technically educated, if they were always described in scientific terminology; and if so stated, would have been without meaning in the age when the Holy Scriptures were written.
32. What other caution must be observed?
The rash acceptance of scientific hypotheses as though they were final. The theories of one generation of learned men in regard to the natural world, are ridiculed by their successors in the next. In the middle of the nineteenth century, the Biblical account of Creation was attacked because it taught the unity of the human race, while only a few decades later, the same account was criticized because of its antagonism to the Darwinian theory of evolution of all forms of life from a common source. One generation attacks the Biblical account of creation because it teaches that light existed before the sun was created; a later generation learnedly treats of the luminous effects produced by electricity generated from the friction of an assumed “star dust.”
33. To what should this lead?
To modesty in pressing the claims of “science” as well as to moderation on the part of students of Scripture in regarding any thoroughly established fact as capable of affecting the truth of Revelation.
34. State some of the useless controversies that have been waged?
Such, for instance, as to whether the “day” of the Biblical account of Creation, be the natural day of twenty four hours, as we measure time, or a long period, according” to 2 Peter 3:8, “One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” Another is as to whether Gen. 1:7 teaches as an article of faith that there is an immense reservoir somewhere above the clouds. Kindred to this is the question as to whether the world was created in the spring or the autumn. It would be just as pertinent for New Testament students to enter into learned discussions concerning the words that introduce the Sermon on the Mount as given by Luke (Chap. 6:20), “He lifted up his eyes on his disciples,” instead of treating of the discourse of the Master. Various theories might be suggested as to how it were possible and how impossible for one “to lift up” his own eyes. Intense literalists could insist that “to lift” must mean to apply one’s hands to an object, and that any other conception is heretical; and skeptics might urge the same as an argument for the rejection of the entire record. It is so easy to be diverted by accidentals, and to overlook the essentials of Holy Scripture.
35. What method has been used to explain some apparent difficulties?
The suggestion of Augustine by which the first verse of Genesis refers to an original creation which had fallen into chaos before the events described in the succeeding verses occurred. Then, some urge, the description proceeds as the events would have appeared to one who had been present as day after day recorded something new.
But all this, and all other hypotheses are speculative, and their extended consideration only withdraws attention from what is the actual purport of the account taken as a whole, to which we have referred in Q. 4.
36. Does the occurrence of similar accounts in ancient Oriental literature, deciphered from inscriptions on tablets or otherwise preserved in any way affect the value and force of the Mosaic account?
No. For the Mosaic account gives the history of creation its true religious value, and places it in proper relations to the history of the preparation of Redemption for mankind. The Christian should ever consider it from the standpoint of the fullness of the revelation he has received in Christ.