Friday, November 15, 2013

The God Who Created Everything

One of my privileges as GCPC's associate pastor is to lead our youth group. I love our youth, and being with them on Sunday nights has become one of the highlights of my week. They are a sharp bunch, who are a joy to teach (and we have a blast playing games together). In our study together, I have been endeavoring to help them become even more solidified in their faith--to take ownership of it for themselves--especially since they are approaching high school and college looms in the not-so-distant future. To that end, we are in a teaching series called "The God Who is There." It's structure and much of its content are based on D. A. Carson's excellent book with the same title: The God Who is There. I have made a number of changes to various parts because of the needs of my youth group and because of some disagreements with Carson. Overall, however, his book is excellent and well-worth your time.

Over the next months (perhaps longer), when I finish a section, I will post some highlights on here, and recently we just finished studying Ge. 1-2 together. Now, there are a lot of directions we could have gone with this creation account, and there are a lot of topics that we could have studied in it. Many of those directions and most those topics can be hotly debated in Christian circles, and I have an opinion on almost all of them that I believe is consistent with Scripture. I suppose we could have spent a lot of time studying the various opinions on those topics and I could have given them mine, but I decided to follow Carson and Francis Schaeffer's advice and narrow the focus. Instead of trying to talk about everything that Ge. 1-2 does or can say, we have focused on what it must say in order for the rest of the Bible to be true and have any intelligibility at all. These chapters set up the rest of Scripture, and there are many doctrines and foundations about God and man established here that are crucial for the rest of the Bible to make any sense at all. We focused on those essential things in our study, and I have left the rest for them to work out with their parents and in their own study.

Focusing on these essentials also gave me the opportunity to teach our youth about giving charity to Christians who disagree with them on non-essential matters. We have talked at length about how these core doctrines are essential foundations in Ge. 1-2 around which all Christians must unite because without them we do not have Christianity at all. We have also talked a lot about how we must give charity to Christians who disagree with us about doctrines that fall outside these essential foundations. Now, that is not to say that we should not have strong opinions about those doctrines. I do, and I have told our youth that I want them to study those topics on their own and with their parents to figure out what they believe regarding them. But, we must not let our opinions divide us from other Christians when those opinions concern non-essential matters. We can have friendly debates about them, but, at the end of the day, we need to stand side-by-side on the core doctrines that Ge. 1-2 must say for the rest of the Bible to be true and give charity to our Christian brothers and sisters on other matters.

Okay, you are probably wondering by now what I believe the core, essential doctrines are. (Here, I have basically followed Carson with only a few minor changes.) There are ten:
  1. Ge. 1:1 -- God simply is: The Bible does not begin by trying to prove God's existence. It begins with God, and He is the presuppositional foundation of everything. Our culture today often demands that we prove God exists because it assumes that man the ultimate measure and center of everything. This way of thinking basically started with Rene Descartes: "I think, therefore I am." That is a very man-centered way of thinking. The Bible, on the other hand, would say, "God thinks (and speaks), therefore I am." It puts God at the center of everything, and we see that right from the beginning. Now, I am not trying to say that we should not be able to give good, reasoned arguments for God's existence. We need to meet people where they are when we talk to them about Jesus, but ultimately a Christian does not consider himself to be the measure of everything or the center of anything. God is the measure of all things and at the center of everything.
  2. Ge. 1:1 -- God made everything that is not God: This simple truth has a couple of important implications:
    1. It means there is an irreducible distinction between the Creator and the creatures. His existence is self-existence and ours is completely derivative of and dependent on Him. Everything in the universe is dependent on God to exist. God, however, does not depend on anything to exist except Himself.
    2. It means this universe is not an accident, and it has a purpose. If there is no God, then there is no purpose to this universe and no purpose to our lives. But, if God exists and created the universe, then it has an ultimate purpose and our lives have a purpose in it. Without God there is no meaning to life. With God, there is deep meaning and purpose to life, and He shows us what that is throughout the rest of Scripture.
  3. Taking the account as a whole -- There is only one God: Most of the creation myths of the ancient world said that there were many gods that battled for power and the universe was the fallout from those battles. The Bible clearly tells us there were not multiple gods at the beginning vying for power. There is one. The Bible and Christianity are essentially and necessarily monotheistic. Yet, even from the beginning we see hints of a complexity to God. He is the triune God, and we get hints of this complexity even in these first two chapters: "The Spirit hovered..." "Let us make man in our image..."
  4. How does God create? What does He do in Ge. 1:28? He speaks. God is a talking God: He spoke to create, and He spoke to man. He is a talking God; not an abstract God. This is important because God is going to speak a lot in the rest of Scripture (indeed, the Bible is God's Word), and He even speaks today through the Bible by the Holy Spirit working in our hearts. The Bible and Christianity have no room for deism or any of its flavors. The Bible presents a very personal God, not one who does not pay any attention to His creation.
  5. Ge. 1:31 (and at the end of the other creation days) -- God made everything good because He is good: In its original state, creation was good and perfect because it reflected the goodness and perfection of its Creator. Now, if you were reading the Bible for the first time and you started in Ge. 1, you would look at the world around you and wonder, "What happened?" We get the answer to that question in Ge. 3. That account and the original goodness of God's creation set up the history of redemption that the rest of the Bible records. They set up Jesus' work from Ge. 3:15 onward, which will one day be consummated when He returns to usher in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Re. 21). The path from this beginning in Genesis to the end prophesied in Revelation is the path we will follow as we learn about the God who is there.
  6. Ge. 1:26-27 -- God created man distinct from all other creatures and in His image: God made humans in His image, and the account emphasizes the special creation of Adam and Eve far more than any other creature. Humans are creatures and have much in common with the other creatures, but humans were specially created as the image of God, which makes them distinct from all other creatures (even angels), gives them unique dignity, and allows them to relate to God. Furthermore, humans are not an accidental stage or a step in the development of life that is moving to something better. They are the apex of God's creation.
  7. Ge. 2:1-3 -- God rested and designated one day in seven for our rest: God rested from His creative activity when He completed it and designated one day in seven to be a day of rest His images. This means that the Lord's Day (the Sabbath) is not just a rule that God gave to sinful people because they needed it as sinners. It means that God wanted man to rest one day in seven even when man was perfect. Rest is important to God. He wants us to work, certainly, and we will talk about that soon, but He also wants us to rest.
  8. Ge. 1:28; 2:15 -- God made man to work: God made man to work and have dominion, which reflects His work and dominion (albeit, derivatively) and makes man His stewards in this world. Work is not a curse. Work is part of how God created us in the first place. The reason our work is so frustrating and sometimes feels like a curse now, is because of sin and the fall. But, work itself is good. When we work, so long as our work does not violate God's commands, we are doing what we were designed to do, and it is glorifying to Him.
  9. Ge. 1:27; 2:24 -- God made humans male and female: God made humans male and female, and God designed them for each other--nothing in this world can complete a man like a woman and nothing in this world can complete a woman like a man. They are different, yet complementary, and we cannot ignore either of those without breaking down human culture. Furthermore, when they come together in a marriage union, they become one flesh--a new unit--which sets up the Bible's view of marriage, the family, and even how we understand Christ's relationship to the Church (cf. Eph. 5:22ff).
  10. Ge. 2:25 -- God created humans perfect: God created humans perfect, innocent, and in harmony with Him and the rest of creation. This "naked" does not just mean they had no clothes on. It means they had nothing at all to hide. They were completely innocent. What would it be like never to have told a lie, had a lustful thought, committed idolatry, or committed any other sin? We cannot imagine such innocence, and it is our lack of innocence that causes us to hide who we really are from almost everyone (if not everyone). Adam and Eve, in their original state, knew none of that. They were completely innocent, and therefore could be naked (emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically) and unashamed before each other. The rest of the Bible describes God's work of redemption that is relentlessly pushing towards a time when His people will be in that state if innocence again in the new heavens and new earth (cf. Re. 21-22).
There you have it. Those are what I believe (again, mostly agreeing with Carson) to be the core essentials of Ge. 1-2 around which Christians must unite and without which the rest of the Bible is unintelligible. Do you agree? Is there anything you would say I am missing?

By His Grace,


T. Murchison said...

I agree with everything you have said here. I would add that, if not specifically stated in the Genesis 1 account, is implied and backed up with other Scriptures, God ALWAYS HAS BEEN. God created Time; therefore, He is outside of it, coming into it for His purposes and our benefit (most importantly, Christ's time on earth).

A. Taylor Rollo... said...

True, though I think that is implied and assumed in #1 and #2. If He created everything that is not Him, then He is by definition not created, i.e. eternal. Being more spcific would not hurt though. :)
That does bring up a similar point. The question 'Who created God?' is a nonsensical question. God, by definition, is the highest being in exiestence and the seat/fountain of all other being. So, asking that is asking who created the uncreated foundation of all existence, which makes no sense.