In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
I. DEFINITION OF CREATION. By creation we mean that free act of the triune God by which in the beginning for His own glory He made, without the use of pre-existing materials, the whole visible and invisible universe. In explanation we notice —
1. Creation is not "production out of nothing," as if "nothing" were a substance out of which "something" could be formed.
2. Creation is not a fashioning of preexisting materials, nor an emanation from the substance of Deity, but is a making of that to exist which once did not exist, either in form or substance.
3. Creation is not an instinctive or necessary process of the Divine nature, but is the free act of a rational will, put forth for a definite and sufficient end. Creation is different in kind from that eternal process of the Divine nature in virtue of which we speak of generation and procession. Begetting is eternal, out of time; creation is in time, or with time.
4. Creation is the act of the triune God, in the sense that all the persons of the Trinity, themselves uncreated, have a part in it — the Father as the originating, the Son as the mediating, the Spirit as the realizing cause.
II. PROOF OF THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION. Creation is a truth of which mere science or reason cannot fully assure us. Physical science can observe and record changes, but it knows nothing of origins. Reason cannot absolutely disprove the eternity of matter. For proof of the doctrine of Creation, therefore, we rely wholly upon Scripture. Scripture supplements science, and renders its explanation of the universe complete,
III. THEORIES WHICH OPPOSE CREATION.
1. Dualism. Of dualism there are two forms.
(1) That which holds to two self-existent principles, God and matter. These are distinct from and co-eternal with each other. Matter, however, is an unconscious, negative, and imperfect substance, which is subordinate to God, and is made the instrument of His will. This was the view of the Alexandrian Gnostics. It was essentially an attempt to combine with Christianity the Platonic conception of the ὕλη. In this way it thought to account for the existence of evil, and to escape the difficulty of imagining a production without use of preexisting material. A similar view has been held in modern times by John Stuart Mill, and apparently by Frederick W. Robertson. With regard to this view we remark:(a) The maxim ex nihilo nihil fit, upon which it rests, is true only in so far as it asserts that no event takes place without a cause. It is false, if it mean that nothing can ever be made except out of material previously existing. The maxim is therefore applicable only to the realm of second causes, and does not bar the creative power of the great first Cause. The doctrine of creation does not dispense with a cause; on the other hand, it assigns to the universe a sufficient cause in God. Martensen, "Dogmatics," 116 — "The nothing out of which God creates the world, is the eternal possibilities of His will, which are the sources of all the actualities of the world."(b) Although creation without the use of pre-existing material is inconceivable, in the sense of being unpicturable to the imagination, yet the eternity of matter is equally inconceivable. For creation without pre-existing material, moreover, we find remote analogies in our own creation of ideas and volitions, a fact as inexplicable as God's bringing of new substances into being. Mivart, "Lessons from Nature," 371,372 — "We have to a certain extent an aid to the thought of absolute creation in our own free volition, which, as absolutely originating and determining, may be taken as the type to us of the creative act." We speak of "the creative faculty" of the artist or poet. We cannot give reality to the products of our imaginations, as God can to his. But if thought were only substance, the analogy would be complete. Shedd, "Dogm. Theol.," 1:467 — "Our thoughts and volitions are created ex nihilo, in the sense that one thought is not made out of another thought, nor one volition out of another volition."(c) It is unphilosophical to postulate two eternal substances, when one self-existent Cause of all things will account for the facts.(d) It contradicts our fundamental notion of God as absolute sovereign to suppose the existence of any other substance to be independent of His will.(e) This second substance with which God must of necessity work, since it is, according to the theory, inherently evil and the source of evil, not only limits God's power, but destroys His blessedness.(f) This theory does not answer its purpose of accounting for moral evil, unless it be also assumed that spirit is material — in which case dualism gives place to materialism. The other form of dualism is:(1) That which holds to the eternal existence of two antagonistic spirits, one evil and the other good. In this view, matter is not a negative and imperfect substance which nevertheless has self-existence, but is either the work or the instrument of a personal and positively malignant intelligence, who wages war against all good. This was the view of the Manichaeans. Manichaeanism is a compound of Christianity and the Persian doctrine of two eternal and opposite intelligences. Zoroaster, however, held matter to be pure, and to be the creation of the good Being. Mani apparently regarded matter as captive to the evil spirit, if not absolutely his creation. Of this view we need only say that it is refuted(a) by all the arguments for the unity, omnipotence, sovereignty, and blessedness of God;
(b) by the Scripture representations of the prince of evil as the creature of God and as subject to God's control.
2. Emanation. This theory holds that the universe is of the same substance with God, and is the product of successive evolutions from His being. This was the view of the Syrian Gnostics. Their system was an attempt to interpret Christianity in the forms of Oriental theosophy. A similar doctrine was taught, in the last century, by Swedenborg. We object to it upon the following grounds:(1) It virtually denies the infinity and transcendence of God — by applying to Him a principle of evolution, growth, and progress which belongs only to the finite and imperfect.
(2) It contradicts the Divine holiness — since man, who by the theory is of the substance of God, is nevertheless morally evil.
(3) It leads logically to pantheism — since the claim that human personality is illusory cannot be maintained without also surrendering belief in the personality of God.
3. Creation from eternity. This theory regards creation as an act of God in eternity past. It was propounded by , and has been held in recent times by Martensen. The necessity of supposing such creation from eternity has been argued upon the grounds —
(1) That it is a necessary result of God's omnipotence. But we reply that omnipotence does not necessarily imply actual creation; it implies only power to create. Creation, moreover, is in the nature of the case a thing begun. Creation from eternity is a contradiction in terms, and that which is self-contradictory is not an object of power.
(2) That it is impossible to conceive of time as having had a beginning, and since the universe and time are co-existent, creation must have been from eternity. But we reply that the argument confounds time with duration. Time is duration measured by successions, and in this sense time can be conceived of as having had a beginning.
(3) That the immutability of God requires creation from eternity. But we reply that God's immutability requires not an eternal creation but only an eternal plan of creation.
(4) That God's love renders necessary a creation from eternity. Although this theory claims that creation is an act, in eternity past, of God's free will, yet its conceptions of God's omnipotence and love, as necessitating creation, are difficult to reconcile with the Divine independence or personality.
4. Spontaneous generation. This theory holds that creation is but the name for a natural process still going on — matter itself having in it the power, under proper conditions, of taking on new functions, and of developing into organic forms. This view is held by Owen and Bastian. We object that(1) It is a pure hypothesis, not only unverified, but contrary to all known facts.
(2) If such in. stances could be authenticated, they would prove nothing as against a proper doctrine of creation — for there would still exist an impossibility of accounting for these vivific properties of matter, except upon the Scriptural view of an intelligent Contriver and Originator of matter and its laws. In short, evolution implies previous involution — if anything comes out of matter, it must first have been put in.
(3) This theory, therefore, if true, only supplements the doctrine of original, absolute, immediate creation, with another doctrine of mediate and derivative creation, or the development of the materials and forces originated at the beginning. This development, however, cannot proceed to any valuable end without the guidance of the same intelligence which initiated it.
IV. GOD'S END IN CREATION. In determining this end, we turn first to —
1. The testimony of Scripture. This may be summed up in four statements. God finds His end
(1) in Himself;
(2) in His own will and pleasure;
(3) in His own glory;
(4) in the making known of His power, His wisdom, His holy name.All these statements may be combined in the following, namely, that God's supreme end in creation is nothing outside of Himself, but is His own glory — in the revelation, in and through creatures, of the infinite perfection of His own being. Since holiness is the fundamental attribute in God, to make Himself, His own pleasure, His own glory, His own manifestation, to be His end in creation, is to find His chief end in His own holiness, its maintenance, expression, and communication. To make this His chief end, however, is not to exclude certain subordinate ends, such as the revelation of His wisdom, power, and love, and the consequent happiness of innumerable creatures to whom this revelation is made.
2. The testimony of reason. That His own glory, in the sense just mentioned, is God's supreme end in creation, is evident from the following considerations:(1) God's own glory is the only end actually and perfectly attained in the universe. But while neither the holiness nor the happiness of creatures is actually and perfectly attained, God's glory is made known and will be made known in both the saved and the lost. This, then, must be God's supreme end in creation. This doctrine teaches us that none can frustrate God's plan. God will get glory out of every human life.
(2) God's glory is the end intrinsically most valuable. The good of creatures is of insignificant importance compared with this. Wisdom dictates that the greater interest should have precedence of the less.
(3) His own glory is the only end which consists with God's independence and sovereignty. If anything in the creature is the last end of God, God is dependent upon the creature. But since God is dependent only on Himself, He must find in Himself His end. To create is not to increase His blessedness, but only to reveal it.
(4) His own glory is an end which comprehends and secures, as a subordinate end, every interest of the universe. The interests of the universe are bound up in the interests of God. Glory is not vain-glory, and in expressing His ideal, that is, in expressing Himself, in His creation, He communicates to His creatures the utmost possible good. This self-expression is not selfishness but benevolence. No true poet writes for money or for fame. God does not manifest Himself for the sake of what He can make by it. Self-manifestation is an end in itself. But God's self-manifestation comprises all good to His creatures.
(5) God's glory is the end which in a right moral system is proposed to creatures. This must therefore be the end which He in whose image they are made proposes to Himself.
V. RELATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION TO OTHER DOCTRINES.
1. To the holiness and benevolence of God. This is not a perfect world. It was not perfect even when originally constituted. Its imperfection is due to sin. God made it with reference to the Fall — the stage was arranged for the great drama of sin and redemption which was to be enacted thereon. We accept Bushnell's idea of "anticipative consequences," and would illustrate it by the building of a hospital room while yet no member of the family is sick, and by the salvation of the patriarchs through a Christ yet to come. If the earliest vertebrates of geological history were types of man and preparations for his coming, then pain and death among those same vertebrates may equally have been a type of man's sin and its results of misery. If sin bad not been an incident, foreseen and provided for, the world might have been a Paradise. As a matter of fact, it will become a paradise only at the completion of the redemptive work of Christ.
2. To the wisdom and free-will of God.
3. To providence and redemption.
(A. H. Strong, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.