Creation and The Cosmic Theater

 

The doctrine of creation is an essential cornerstone upon which all the other biblical doctrines are built. If the creation narrative, which states at the outset, the reality of a God who brought all things into being is false; then any scriptural teaching that follows comes tumbling down. Christian Professor Bert Thompson makes this clear when he says, “…if the doctrine of creation is not true then neither are the claims of scripture that Jesus is the creator. And therefore, he has no saving purpose or redemptive quality in his being. He is just a man, who, like us, was a product of the evolutionary process.”[1] Despite the debates within scientific circles, we as Christians regard the authority of scripture, and the teachings of Christ, as they pertain to the origin of life and the universe as true. We acknowledge, by faith, that all of creation was brought into existence by God through the collective participation of the Trinity. The bible sums up the true creative genius behind all that exists. It is by the infallible declaration of scripture, as penned by the apostle Paul, that we firmly believe,

“all things in heaven and on earth were created by him [Jesus] – all things, whether visible or invisible… all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

The Bible, therefore, does not set out to prove the existence of God, but presupposes the existence of a Creator. And so on the basis of God’s word, we

“understand that the worlds were set in order by God’s command…” (Hebrews 11:3)

Through The Looking Glass

In the classic Lewis Carroll children’s story ‘Through the Looking Glass’,[2] Alice could have stood staring into the looking glass. But instead of just staring, she went through it, realizing that something more was there than meets the eye. She believed a whole other world of possibilities and marvels, which could not be experienced on this side of the looking glass, were on the other side. Similarly, in theological terms, the late Princeton Seminary Professor Benjamin Warfield wrote, “A glass window stands before us. We note its quality, observe its defects and speculate on its composition. Or, we look straight through it on the great prospect of land and sea and sky beyond. So there are two ways of looking at the world. We may see the world and absorb ourselves in the wonders of nature. That is the scientific way. Or we may look right through the world and see God behind it. That is the religious way.”[3]

Like Warfield and Alice, Christians know that while we may stare at the looking glass of creation that is in front of us with the natural eye; we must look past it, with the eyes of faith, to see a reality that will cause hearts to soar and hope to ignite. It is then we can gaze upon Him who is the splendor of it all, whose majesty and mystery become known to the one who dares to step through the looking glass.

Anyone can begin the journey by looking out into the heavenly expanse; into that marvelous cosmic theater and listen. It is there where we can hear the voice. As the scriptures say,

“The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalm 19:1, 2).

The cosmos are more than a looking glass; it is a window to peer through. It is a biography written in the stars. It is God’s biography and The Great Storyteller is behind the curtain of His cosmic stage. The heavens are proclaiming His glory. It is the celestial pulpit by which the starry hosts preach, and day to day their cosmic sermon is telling us about who He is. And as the twilight yawns into night, the knowledge of Him extends beyond the outer limits of our finite perspicuity. Though this heavenly biography may tell us something about who God is, it is only when we go through the looking glass of cosmic creation that we will be introduced to its playwright.

 

Cosmic Comedy

Professor Robert Jenson says, “Creation is one of the few churchly dogmas-perhaps the only one-that appears in the bible as dogma. According to Genesis, ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ ”[4]

These opening words from the book of Genesis are made by the biblical author, Moses, without proof or debate. He simply asserts a truth claim. He is not concerned with proving God’s being, or in explaining the operations of his generative power. The declaration is stated as a matter of fact; we are left with the decision to believe or not to believe. One thing, however, must certainly not escape our notice. It is the literary features that take scriptural doctrine and clothes it in humanity. It seems while the bible is presenting us with doctrinal truth, the Author is far more interested in just communicating spiritual information. So He gives us a front row seat to watch humanity as it is pushed onto the world stage to come face to face with the Ineffable. It is there, in the biblical stories themselves, where we see the way in which God portrays humanity; in their ordinary, erring and fumbling state. It is where the imperfect meets the Perfect.

This affords all of us the opportunity to relate to biblical personalities from their tragedies to their triumphs. We realize they are just ordinary men and women, not supermen or wonder-women. And so, the story of mankind’s beginnings and the entire biblical drama for that matter is a comedy. But it is a comedy of a different kind. Not as a joke to be made fun of, but a “comedy” in the classical sense – meaning an amusing play or performance. It is watching people in ever day life, being themselves, and catching them in some humorous moment. The biblical record, therefore, is more than a collection of historical narratives. And it is not a Hollywood melodrama with perfect scripts being spoken from the golden lips of polished heroes like those from Greek or Roman literature. The biblical characters were all common men and women with no special fame or fortune. Dinesh D’Souza points out, “These groups [the common people] were not favorites in the world of ancient Greece and Rome. Homer ignored them in his epics, concentrating entirely on life among the ruling class.”[5] In stark contrast the bible is a human menagerie of every sort, flawed and in the raw. It is the comedy of a man being burped up on shore from a whale, an Israelite king acting as a dribbling fool in front of a foreign king, or the knocking knees of a man named Saul who is hiding from the inevitable announcement to be chosen as Israel’s first king.

Even the teachings of Jesus were set in profane or ordinary caricatures: farmers, sheep, branches, sparrows, currency, etc… and not in the fantastic myths of gods versus demons whose stories were set within fanciful tales and imaginative worlds. No, the descriptions of our biblical heroes and villains are all too ordinary, such as: the curious little Zaccheus, or the penny pincher Matthew, or the hot-tempered Peter, or the swindler Judas; and even the God who was coddled in a stable. All is there; the fears, passions, handicaps, triumphs and sins. Through all this we hear, “Come as you are; come one and come all.” That is the comic invitation. The invitation of a circus ringleader beckoning us to the show; as well as I might add, the refrain of the Savior to the common sinner- which is all of us.

Though the creation story may be filled with awe and wonder, it is the human element that shows us its comedic quality. While everything else was created by God’s spoken word, man was created out of dirt. I can see it now. The Almighty looked all around at his creation with a grand smile and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:24). Looking down on an earthen patch of mud he grabs a handful. And with a mundane, ordinary clump of mud, flings into existence the crown of his creation. That’s comedy. Profane comedy, in the classical sense. Who else could have ever conceived of such an act? It is not the scene of a dramatic display of heavenly power, with man shot out from a lightning bolt, or arising out of the fires of creation, or emerging from primordial waters. No, just an ordinary fistful of dirt accompanied with a Divine smile- a comedic Creator indeed. So while the doctrine of creation places the highest honor of creation upon the human being, it will never let us forget that from dust we are and to dust we shall return (Genesis 3:19). Hyers sums up this idea by saying, “the Comedian enables us to embrace ourselves and each other as the luminous lumps that we are: the image of God imprinted in the clay of earth.”[6]

Cosmic Showdown

Perhaps the most lethal weapon of our time to assault the doctrine of creation is the dogmatism of Darwinian evolution. The treatment for this aspect on the study of creation reminds me of a joke I heard. A team of scientists gathered to challenge God in the creation of a human being. They boldly raised their voices to the Creator and said, “With all our scientific progress we can now create a human being just like you did.” As they proceeded to reach down for a handful of dirt, they were abruptly interrupted by a voice from heaven, “Nah, ah. Get your own dirt!”

Both Christian and secular scientist’s continue to spar in the ring of theories regarding how life began; whether it’s Creationism versus Evolution, or young earth creationist’s versus old earth creationist’s, or the big bang theorist’s versus the steady state theorist’s… all claim to have scientific support for their position. While I am not minimizing the role of science as it pertains to biblical studies, I am merely pointing out the variety of positions that exist among scholars in this field of cosmology. But one thing is clear from the biblical standpoint. Creation took place “ex nihilo” or out of nothing. Meaning God needed nothing to bring into existence everything that now is. For the Christian, the doctrine of creation can be summed up in this scripture,

“By faith we understand that…the visible has its origin in the invisible.”(Hebrews 11:3)

It is helpful to remind ourselves that this scripture was penned 2,000 years ago when what was in vogue was something much different. Greco-Roman religion, as well as the pagan creation myths knew nothing of a universe being created “ex nihilo”. The Hebrew understanding of something coming into existence out of nothing transcended all ancient concepts and explanations of the time. And in that respect, the Genesis cosmogony stood alone amongst the various creation stories. The Hebrew text in the opening lines of Genesis, “In the beginning God”, stand against the creeds of pagan, secular and scientific philosophies which believe, “in the beginning ‘matter‘”. The Psalmist makes this striking announcement in chapter 33:6,

“By the Lord’s decree the heavens were made, by a mere word from his mouth all the stars in the sky were created.”

From ancient times, civilizations have developed their own creation epics. Some of these are the Mesopotamian ‘Atrahasis Epic’, the Babylonian ‘Enuma Elish Epic’ and the three Egyptian creation myths from Heliopolis, Memphis and Hermopolis. Today, atheist’s and skeptic’s have claimed that the Genesis record is just another tale invented by lively Hebrew imagination, which has followed in the footsteps of pagan creation stories. This has cast doubt on the originality and uniqueness of the Genesis record. Shetter’s review of the Egyptian creation myths show that while there may be similarities to the Hebrew cosmogony, there are certain aspects that set them in contradistinction.[7] I also agree with Russell Grigg [8], that Moses, being trained in the higher schools of Egyptian study, knew well of the cosmologies that were told among the people of his day. He was not borrowing from their legends to write a creation epic for the Hebrew nation, but instead he was undermining the myths that surrounded the Egyptian cultus. Moses strongly poised Yahweh-Elohim in contrast to the gods of Egypt and branded in the memory of God’s people the great duel that preceded the Exodus. The creation motifs shared between these two cultures show that the original story of creation, of which Adam and Eve were a part and then passed on through oral tradition, were later plagiarized by people groups who broke from the knowledge of the true and living God. These foreign tribes and nations went on to develop a creation tradition which suited their own worldview, giving political strength and societal cohesion for the worship of their own gods, their own power and their own destiny.

Today, the showdown is still in the cultural arena, but between atheists who espouse evolutionary science, and creationists who adhere to the record of biblical origins. The framework for Christian creationism is an essential part of its doctrinal structure. To help us understand this, Steven Bouma-Prediger defines the doctrine of creation in what he calls the seven D’s.[9]

First there is Distinction. This means that Creation is other than God in being and that God is transcendent to creation.

Second there is Dependence. God is self-existent while creation is ontologically dependent on God for its existence.

Third is Decision. God did not have to create any world at all. It is, instead a gracious act of a loving God.

Fourth is Duration. Creation is temporal and God is eternal.

Fifth is Design. The cosmos is a universe governed by laws and therefore is intelligible.

Sixth is Defect. The creation is essentially good. Evil, brought about by the Fall, is an alien intruder.

And seventh, Delight. Creation sustains a profusion of ecological and animal life, which extends beyond their usefulness to humans. God not only provides, but is a lavish giver which evokes delight and joy.

Because the biblical doctrine of creation is rejected among secular scientists, there is resurgence within the Christian community to again find harmony between science and the bible. After all, it was Christians that gave rise to the fields of science as noted during the Renaissance by such men as Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, Pascal, Boyle and a host of others. All of these men acknowledged God in their search for understanding the world through scientific study and observation. Despite today’s secular scientists wanting to divorce faith from science, it was Christianity and its belief in God that led many men to explore the world, thereby launching science into a serious academic discipline. In modern times similar science/faith connections are being made. But none as astounding as the one recently discovered by American astronomer Edwin Hubble.

In the late 1920’s, Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding. We can imagine, using a loose analogy, a balloon expanding as we blow air into it. Conversely, when the air is let back out, the balloon contracts. With the Hubble discovery, scientists extrapolated that all the galaxies had a common point in time or a point of singularity; that is they had a beginning. This meant the entire universe was initially compressed into an infinite density smaller than an atom. Then at some point- Bang! And the universe was born and continues to expand. This new knowledge completely changed previous held views about the cosmos and shook the scientific community. Theories that the universe was eternal or “static” (not contracting or expanding) were now known to be erroneous. So much so that Einstein modified his theory of relativity. The Hubble discovery proved that the universe had a beginning, and the big bang theory became a fact of science. But this was no surprise to the Christian theologian, because Christianity had always asserted that the universe had a beginning. And so it now seems as if the theologians had been right all along. Science had only now caught up to what Moses had written about thousands of years before. The difference is we know who pulled the trigger, whereas science offers no explanation.

However; for the scientific community to advocate belief in a God who created the universe is going beyond the scope of empirical data. But, we may reason, if there’s no God to create the universe then what are the alternatives- life coming into existence by itself? Christian apologist Dinesh D’Souza presents this insightful challenge, “How did unconscious life transform itself into conscious life?” Cognitive scientist Steven Pinker admits there is no explanation. Pinker says, “Virtually nothing is known about the functioning micro circuitry of the brain…The existence of subjective first-person experience is not explainable by science.”[10] In other words, we don’t even know how the brain informs us of our own essence or cognitive existence, so how could something unconscious create something as complex as human consciousness? Conscious life coming from unconscious nothing is patently absurd.

The Brooding Midwife

The biblical doctrine of creation is far more than just a statement of faith or a teaching to be believed. It tells us something about the character of God himself. In fact, it is the first thing we come to know about God as seen in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created…” The bible begins by exposing us to the first essential characteristic of God; which is, He is a creative Being. He is powerfully imaginative and able to construct a world that bears the imprint of His genius. This creative aspect of God is central to all that He is. This is no clearer than when we consider how God chose to enter the world. He elected to arrive on this planet through a creative process. Meaning, that in Christ, He chose conception, which is the most creative force of all human powers. This alone reveals much about how His creative nature gave expression even in the decision to enter the realm of humanity. It is in this way that we see how the Holy Spirit, whom I will call the ‘Brooder’ (to be explained later), was present at the creation of the world, was also involved when the miraculous conception of Jesus occurred.

Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit by using birth language. He explains to the religious leader, Nicodemus, not just the meaning of eternal life, but the means by which it occurs. He describes the process as a birth. Again, it is descriptive of a creative act- as a new birth ,which occurs by the transforming power of the Spirit of God to a person who has been born physically, but has not yet been born-again spiritually. Jesus instructs Nicodemus,

“You must all be born from above. The wind blows wherever it will, and you hear the sound it makes, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 7,8)

Creative language fills the scriptures. Again, we can look at another aspect of this language as seen through the mind of Paul the apostle. He says,

“…put on the new man who has been created in God’s image…” (Ephesians 4:24)

And finally we read how God will once more re-create the cosmos as envisioned in the Revelation letter. John provides this image through his ‘looking glass’,

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had ceased to exist…”(Revelation 21:1).

Moving throughout the scriptures is the creative power of God. This aspect of God’s nature is the result of His being, which is love. Moltmann observes that the driving force behind the act of creation is love.[11] And again Moltmann adds, “The overflowing love of God expresses itself in the community of love that is the triune God.”

Thus, creation was the result of the Triune Godhead’s desire to share and express pure Divine love. This perfect love shared amongst the members of the Trinity, climaxed in bringing forth the cosmos, and life itself. It is this aspect of God’s love that gives us the reasons for His creating in the first place. Those reasons are bound up in the Genesis story, which is not a prosaic telling, like a grocery list of events to be checked off when finished. It is instead, an amazing look into the cosmic birthing room, where the Trinity agrees to “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.” (Genesis 1:26). The act of love amongst the Godhead created the closest being like unto itself, in the form of a man; just as a husband and wife can pro-create a being like unto itself. The creative aspect of God is so wonderful, as the Psalmist notes that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”(Psalm 139:14), that this creative process that was initiated by God at the birth of the cosmos is reflected through the birth of every human being. The first two verses of Genesis is a revealing creation motif:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”

The analogy may be drawn that just as the earth was without form in the darkness, surrounded by water, under the guardianship of the Holy Spirit; human life begins in much the same way: an embryo without form, placed in the darkness of a womb surrounded by water under the protection of the mother. In effect, what God did at creation is replicated through pro-creation and in that way celebrates the God who loves to create.

While the role of the Holy Spirit seems, at first glance, somewhat in the shadows, regarding the creation of our universe, I see that He plays just as important a role as the Father and the Son. The bible tells us that at the moment of cosmic delivery the Holy Spirit was brooding over the face of the deep. We read, “…the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the water.” The net bible explains the action of the Holy Spirit, ‘as moving’, a phrase rooted from the Hebrew verb meaning “hovering”, as a bird covers her young for protection. The Syriac cognate term means “to brood over; to incubate”. The Holy Spirit is much like a brooding midwife providing protection and assistance in the birthing of the heavens and the earth. Moltmann points out that the Father creates through the operation of the Holy Spirit and that He is the ontological bond, as it were, between God and creation. God and creation are therefore connected by the Spirit.

As Christians know, the biblical doctrine of creation is an essential tenet of the Christian faith. It gives us the truth regarding existence and reality, both in the being of God and in the origins of mankind. From a biblical worldview, without the doctrine of creation, we have no answer or reason for why anything exists at all. This is reasoned if we consider that the opposite of creation is not destruction, but non-existence. And so the question posed by German philosopher G. Leibnitz “Why is there something rather than nothing” can be effectively answered by the Christian doctrine of creation. In the final analysis, because God is a self-existent Being, then that which derives its existence from Him, must naturally be that which itself exists and comes into being by His creative power. To this the words of scripture affirm,

“For in him (God) we live and move and exist…” Acts 17:28

Copyright © Steve Covarrubias 9/2013

Bibliography

1 -Thompson, Bert. 1992. Jesus and the Doctrine of Creation. Reason and Revelation.

2- Carol, Lewis. 1871. Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there.

3- Benjamin B. Warfield.1970. Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield

4- Jenson, Robert W. 1982. Creation as a Triune Act. Word and World

5- D’Souza, Dinesh. 2007. What’s so great about Christianity?

6- Hyers, M.Conrad. 1982. Comedy and Creation. Theology Today.

7- Shetter, Tony L. 2005. In Light of Ancient Egyptian Creation Myths.

8- Russell Grigg. 1998. “Did Moses really write Genesis?” Creation Magazine

9-Bouma-Prediger, Steven. 1997. Creation as the Home of God: The Doctrine of Creation in the Theology of Jurgen Moltmann. Calvin Theological Journal

10-D’Souza, Dinesh. Ibid.

11-Bouma-Prediger, Steven. Ibid

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