This is the first chapter for a book I am writing (What Sinners Dare Not Dream). I am attempting to tell the Gospel, from creation to where we are supposed to be. This chapter simply focuses on the purpose for creation and how it was done. I welcome any critiques or comments. I especially welcome anyone who notices major grammatical errors (keep in mind that this is casual writing; though it irks me to begin a sentence with “and” or “but,” it is preferred in casual writing).
Into the darkness, the vast void of nonexistence, the Lord spoke and the material world began its existence. It is impossible for us mere humans to fathom what nothingness is, a place – if nothingness can even be a place – where there is no light, no feeling, no vacuum of space, no warm or cold, no real darkness; nothingness. Yet, God chose to fill the void and create something. But why would God create anything?
Did God create the material and spiritual worlds because He needed to create? Did He do so because He was lonely? Perhaps He just wanted to see if He could actually do it, like a child that climbs a rope just to say he reached the top. If God needed to create, than He was not God prior to creation because He had not fulfilled His purpose – and this begs the question, who or what gave Him that purpose to begin with? If God had to create because He was lonely, then He is not Trinitarian. If we are merely God’s attempt at self-satisfaction in His own power, to see if He could accomplish something, then our purpose is really purposelessness, as He has seen what He can do and has now abandoned us. Thankfully, none of the above scenarios are true.
The Bible makes it clear that God created for three reasons: His own pleasure, to display His glory, and to display His love. God created to gain enjoyment out of His creation, but also so intelligent beings within His creation could see how glorious He is and how much He loves His creation.
The first and primary reason God created all things was for His pleasure. Revelation 4:11 (KJV) states, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” All the things that we can see and observe were created for the pleasure of God. All things in the spiritual realm were likewise created for His pleasure.
What does the Bible mean when it says “pleasure” though? Are we simply pawns God uses in order to gain selfish enjoyment? No, this is not what Scripture means, for such a god would be contrary to the God of Scriptures, such actions would go against His loving nature. Rather, the Greek word used in Revelation 4 is thelema, which refers to a purposeful pleasure. That is, all things were created to fulfill the purpose God had for humankind. In short, God created all things in order to fulfill a purpose.
What an astonishing thought about creation that is often ignored. God takes enjoyment out of creation; He created in order to enjoy it through fulfilling a purpose. Creation alone is not sufficient for fulfilling God’s purposes – the sacrifice of Christ is also necessary, as shall be seen in later chapters – but it is a necessary component. In order for God to display His purpose with creature (namely, humans), He must first create.
The other part of His purpose in creation is to display His glory. Many times Christians will say that God “created for His glory,” or that “God gained glory in creation,” but this doesn’t make any sense. If God is infinite and already has an infinite “amount” of glory, how could He possibly add to it by creating? Instead, it makes more sense to follow the Biblical teaching, which is that God created in order to display His glory.
Psalm 19:1 points to the masterful artwork of God, and says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Make no mistake, God is an artist, and everything He molds and shapes all cry out, “God is glorified!” But what does it mean that creation glorifies Him, what does it mean to be glorified? It means that all of creation brings renown to God; it makes people recognize His handiwork.
If you were to walk into the Sistine Chapel and look at the beautiful ceiling, you would immediately notice the beautiful artwork of Michelangelo. Noticing such artwork would help you to appreciate the genius of Michelangelo, the hard work, and the dedication to his craft.
Likewise, when we lie out on a grassy hill late at night and see the beauty of the heavens, we can appreciate the artwork of God. When we drive through east Tennessee and marvel at the Smokey Mountains, we can acknowledge the artistry of God. As we descend from hiking in the Swiss Alps we can look upon the magnificent mountaintops and realize there is One greater, One who created these works of arts. While we walk in a south Kansas field and watch the sun lazily set over the golden wheat, with a gentle breeze are our backs, and we can say with a smile that God is good. All the beauty that we appreciate within nature, all that is aesthetic about nature, all that is good about nature, cries out, “God is to be glorified!”
The final purpose in God’s creation is that He wanted to display His love. The very act of creation itself is a sacrifice. I think of a sermon by Bill Dembski, where he stated:
A common challenge to the Christian doctrine of creation is to ask whether in creating the world, God has not augmented himself since it would appear that God plus the world is greater than God alone. This is supposed to raise an insuperable difficulty for Christian orthodoxy, which regards God as perfect and thus as not improvable through the addition of some object external to God, like the world.
But, in fact, God plus the world is less than God alone. To see this, consider that God could have created any number of worlds. Thus, in creating this one, God, far from expanding himself, instead contracted himself. The lesson here is that even apart from evil and sin, it is possible for intelligences (whether created or uncreated) to give irrevocably so as to deny and thereby sacrifice other options.
Christian theology has always regarded God’s creation of the world as an act of love. In the act of creation, God gives himself irrevocably to this world to the exclusion of all others. Creation is a gift of sacrifice.
I highlighted the last sentence because it sums up all of creation; creation itself is a sacrifice of love. God, by creating this one universe, by creating anything, gave up something. God alone plus nothing is infinitely greater than God alone plus something. Thus, the mere act of creation is also an act of sacrificial love.
The most quoted verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16, is in agreement, stating that God loved the word, so much so that He sent His only begotten Son to die for those in the world. Romans 8 says that all of Creation groans in anticipation for the redemption that is to come. If God did not love the world, then why would He waste so much time redeeming it?
In short, God created because He has a purpose and all things are supposed to lead toward this purpose. God created for the purpose of His pleasure, the purpose of His glory, and the purpose of His love. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “…yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” All things exist for Him and by Him – that is why God chose to create.
The Void From Whence We Came
One of the more amazing aspects about God’s creation is that He created everything out of nothing. That isn’t to say that every little thing we see came from nothing (obviously that tree came from a seed, that kitten came from a cat, and that infant came from a human), but that the material world, at one point, did not exist. All the elements, all the physical laws, all that we take for granted at one time simply did not exist. Just as none of us existed during the Civil War, just as none of us were around for the Revolutionary War, just as none of us partook in Caesar’s conquest of Gaul, so too the elements simply did not exist at one point.
The Bible is implicit, not explicit, in its description of Creation ex nihilo (out of nothing). Scripture teaches us that all things were made through God and that without Him, nothing could exist (John 1:3). We know that all things were made through Christ (Romans 11:36 and 1 Corinthians 8:6). Revelation 1:8, along with Isaiah 48:12-13, makes it very clear that God is the beginning. Since God exists outside of time and is therefore eternal, this would mean that all things, both spiritual and physical, come after God, from God. God did not create with the cards He was dealt, God did not rely on the elements, God did not rely on anything; out of nothingness, God created everything.
Dwell on the power of God to merely speak things into existence. He demanded that light exist and it existed. From nothingness He spoke material into existence. Every atom, the basic building block of all material things, has its existence in the words of God. All spiritual things, such as our souls or angels, also belong in this category of creation. In the grand metaphysic of life, it boils down to two final categories: “God,” and “Not God – created by God.”
Such a belief in God’s power to create out of nothing is not a new concept to theology either, for even the early Church fathers taught the same belief. The earliest extra-biblical teaching on creation ex nihilo, to my knowledge, comes from The Shepherd of Hermas (80 AD), where he states:
“First of all, believe that God is One, even He who created all things and set them in order, and brought all things from non-existence into being, Who comprehendeth all things, being alone incomprehensible.” (Trans. Lightfoot, 1:1)
Notice how the author states that God brought all things into existence from non-existence. This clearly shows that the early Christians believed that God created out of nothing, just as the Bible implicitly states. Even the second century Athenian apologist Aristides writes in his Apology;
Let us turn now, O King, to the elements in themselves, that we may make clear in regard to them, that they are not gods, but a created thing, liable to ruin and change, which is of the same nature as man; whereas God is imperishable and unvarying, and invisible, while yet He sees, and overrules, and transforms all things. (Apology, IV)
Prior to this, in Apology III, Aristides is explaining how early humans went astray by attributing deity to the elements. They worshiped the elements and proclaimed them gods. He is baffled by such thinking, and says;
“And I am led to wonder, O King, at their philosophers, how that even they went astray, and gave the name of gods to images which were made in honour of the elements; and that their sages did not perceive that the elements also are dissoluble and perishable. For if a small part of an element is dissolved or destroyed, the whole of it may be dissolved and destroyed.”
In other words, the thinking of such early Christians was that the elements could be destroyed in some part and if such elements can be destroyed, they cannot be eternal.
This world did not evolve from purposelessness. We weren’t “just lucky” that the elements happened to form out of the Big Bang. Everything didn’t just appear from nothing on its own. Nothingness did not beget somethingness in some implausible naturalistic fantasy. All things in the material world can be destroyed, meaning all things, at one point, did not exist. There is only One who cannot be destroyed, snuffed out, or departed. God is the only eternal being in the entire world – He created all other things out of nothingness.
The Goodness of Creation
One aspect of God’s creation that often goes unnoticed is that His creation is good. Too often Christians try to “spiritualize” nature paintings, placing scripture verses within the painting or on the frame. We try to “sanctify” nature by finding ways to make it holier. We view nature as non-spiritual and if you don’t believe me, try to tell a conservative Southern Baptist or staunch Episcopalian that you’d rather have your wedding outside than in a church and you’ll quickly understand my point!
Yet, we ignore that nature is already spiritual because it is good; it is a creation of God. In Genesis 1, God makes it very clear that every aspect of His creation is good and when he is complete with His creation He states that it is very good. What does it mean to be “good” and “very good” though? The Hebrew word for “good” (towb) indicates that the creation was pleasant to God, but not satisfactory. Only when He is done creating (and make no mistake that He is the Creator, nothing comes about by blind chance) does it proclaim that creation is “very good.” This seems to indicate that the creation was finally satisfactory to God’s purpose. It met His standard.
God is Still in Control
In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia, some foreign newspapers accused then President George W. Bush of having a weather device that caused the earthquake that in turn caused the tsunami. Those in the West simply lifted their eyebrows at such a claim. We have come to discover that no matter how hard we try, at best we can merely adapt to and contain the weather, but we can never control it.
One of the problems with this knowledge is that we often attribute all weather patterns and even the general maintenance of Earth to a system that is in perpetual motion. Many Christians simply believe that God let the system start and then left it running. However, I believe we have done Scripture an injustice.
This is still God’s world and He is still in control of it, still sustaining it, and not just interjecting every now and then. Creation bows to His superior glory. All systems, though they do truly exist, only do so by the will of God. Colossians 1:17 says that the entirety of creation is held together by God. People often wonder how God sustains anything when we can point to gravity, or the elusive dark matter, that binds all things together. We give the head nod to God for creating such things, but then brush Him aside and let Him know He is not needed to sustain it.
I am not here to deny that weather systems, dark matter, or even gravity exists. That would be absurd. Rather, I ask this simple question: If the Universe has a starting point and is continuously expanding, I ask, what is it expanding into? What surrounds the Universe? What holds the Universe together, but allows for its chaotic expansion? I would argue, that God maintains the Universe, that He holds it all together (Hebrews 1:8). Though natural systems do exist and are part of the design of God, we should never forget that such systems continue to work because He wills that they continue to work and He holds it all together.
We should also not make the mistake of thinking that God has left it all up to a natural system. Though there is a natural system, He often interjects and changes it when it fits His purpose (Matthew 5:45). God does not defy natural law, He merely suspends it when it suits His purpose. We scoff at the idea of the earth standing still so the Hebrews would have extra daylight to continue their battle, but is it so difficult to believe that God could stop the rotation of the earth without causing any damage to what He has created? Could He not sustain it? There is a natural cycle that we cannot control, but the earth rotates at His command and all of nature is subject to His order.
The God Who is There
Finally, we must see that God is above His creation and separate from it (Ephesians 4:6). He is not a part of this creation and we do not exist within His mind. Nothing in creation contains an element of God for He is wholly separate from it. God is well above the physical realm (Psalm 97:9) and not subject to the chaos and randomness that comes with the physical world (Psalm 16:33). God is transcendent.
At the same time, God interacts with His creation. He sees and is concerned with all that we do (Jeremiah 23:23-24) and all of creation has its being through Him (Acts 17:26). God stoops down and walks amongst His creation in Genesis 3. Thus, though He is wholly above and separate from creation, He is also a part of its story, partaking in creation and showing concern. He is not like the Aristotelian god who is too transcendent to concern himself with creation. He is not the Stoical “unknown god” where we can only know he exists because of what we see, but cannot interact with Him. God has sacrificed Himself by choosing to interact with His creation.
With God being both transcendent and immanent, we know that we can never comprehend God, but we can know Him. He will always remain out of reach, a complete mystery to our finite minds, yet we can always converse with Him and feel His embrace. We cannot know Him completely, but we can know Him partially through His creation and through His revealed Word (He has revealed Himself to us).
God’s Glorious Creation
God created this world for His pleasure, and His pleasure is in displaying His glory and displaying His love. He accomplished this by creating out of nothing, by bringing material from non-material. He was able to do this because He is non-physical and not limited to the physical laws (that He created). God’s creation is good and it is for His glory, but that isn’t the complete story.
Genesis 1 says that creation is only complete, only “very good,” after humans have been created. The author of Genesis then proceeds to spend an entire chapter explaining the creation of humanity and the careful detail God put into it. Why is this? Because we are God’s crowning achievement – we are the ones who are to see His glory and love displayed.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit existed for all eternity in perfect union. If God were lonely, then He could not be Trinitarian for there would be no union. This perfect union between the three Persons of God shows that He would most certainly not have been lonely.
Seminary Chapel, October 19, 2006 (emphasis added)
Though some date this to the mid-second century, much of this dating is due to the works familiarity with the writings of John. Because most modernistic critics of the Bible place the writings of John at the late first century to early second century, they then assume that this document had to be written in the mid-second century. Since I believe the writings of John were actually written by John, thus dating them to the mid-first century, it is entirely plausible (and likely) that this document was written in the late 1st century, as originally thought.