Scripture: Genesis 1:14–2:3

Read also – Psalm 148; Ephesians 4:17–24; Hebrews 4:1–10

In his How the World Began Helmut Thiclicke begins a sermon with these words,

A person must certainly be a snob or be “utterly hard-boiled” if he is not moved by these primeval words, if his heart does not leap up in the early light of this morning of creation. If we ask ourselves what the cause of this enchantment may be, there is only one answer that comes to me: here we stand before the vision of the “world intact.” Here there is no room for tensions and the anxiety of life . . .

This we see, however, only when our heart is lifted up by grace. Any encounter with what is whole makes us, living with our broken dreams in a broken world, sad. We know that something has gone wrong. And what has gone wrong, above all, is ourselves. We have gone so hopelessly and now helplessly wrong, that only help from above can deliver.

Already the saints in the Old Testament knew this. Thus, under divine tutelage, Moses writes only so much about creation as is necessary to stimulate us to seek salvation. When God’s grace becomes real in our lives, we like them of old begin to understand that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Any contemplation of creation, under such stimulus, stirs us to adoration. Thus Israel centuries ago and we in our broken world can sing the songs which not only speak of the majesty and glory of our God; we exhort all creatures beginning with ourselves to praise Him who is our life.

Such songs, however, can well up from heart and head only when we have learned the “facts” about the world as God’s handiwork. Unless these are real and reliably communicated to us, our songs will only contain the Bights of a fanciful imagination. We sing true, only when we sing truth. And this truth about the world in its origin and pattern and purpose we learn from the factual account of Genesis.

The fourth day – Moses, instructed by God since neither he nor anyone else witnessed the creation, continues the account.

On the fourth day God again performed a mighty work. Already the light had been created. It was distinguished from the darkness which God called Night. But now it was necessary, according to God’s plan for the world, to regulate the day and the night in such a way as would be beneficial to the creatures which were still to come forth from His hand. To this end God spoke again.

God now garnished the heavens with sun, moon, and stars. The material, indeed, was brought forth on that first day. Here God makes of what had been created the light-bearers, lamps, or luminaries. He puts that part of His creation “to work.” It seems proper to understand that the light, which was in existence, is now allocated to the heavenly bodies here mentioned in such a way that this was specifically tempered to the needs of the plant, animal, and human life for which God was preparing the earth.

Tn quite some detail their function is stated in God’s edict: to divide the day and the night; to be for signs and seasons, and days and years; to give light upon the earth. Thus they declare the Creator. Yet by these we may find our way, learn about weather (Matt. 16:2, 3), recognize divine judgments (Joel 2:30; Matt. 24:29), and develop a calendar. In view of the Biblical denunciation of discerning hidden things from “astrological portents,” we must reject the interpretation of Skinner and other liberal commentators. This entire presentation, implicitly at least, is one grand protest against all polytheism and nature worship. By its simplicity -since it indulges in no detailed descriptions—our hearts are lifted up to contemplate the only true and living God.

The idea of rule is here introduced. By means of the light which sun and moon give, the lives of all creatures and especially man are regulated. Thus another giant-step is taken by the Almighty God to prepare this world as a suitable theater wherein Hc will deal covenantally with the sons of men.

The fifth day – Upon the face of the earth God has already established plants of several kinds. Now, however, he proceeds to populate with a higher or more complex form of life—that which is able to move about freely. He begins with the seas and the sky (the open firmament of heaven). While evolutionary theories urge that all life must have developed in a somewhat straight line from the simplest to the complex, the Bible insists that from the beginning there has been striking differentiation.

God commands that the waters swarm; hence abundance. Two kinds of sea-creatures are mentioned. God is not interested in teaching us biology at this point; therefore we find here no strict classification. But something of rich variety is indicated. Likewise birds appeared at his behest in the sky above. And lest we suppose that somehow power resided in water or air to produce these creatures, Moses writes: And God created . . .

To this work is added the divine blessing. Here is a special act of God. By means of it He endows these creatures with the powers of fertility necessary to propagate themselves and increase in numbers.

The sixth day – Here the creative acts of God reach their climax. Anyone reflecting with an unprejudiced mind on this chapter (call this “naive” if you will ) will be profoundly impressed by the order which is revealed. This in itself clearly supports the chronological view concerning the “days” mentioned. What God created first opens up the possibility for the creation and sustenance of what follows.

Here, as on the third day, we seem to read about a kind of “mediate” creation. God commands the earth to bring forth living creatures. It seems that by this choice of words He indicates the close relationship which these animals sustain to the earth itself. Yet the power resides not in the earth. Nowhere has science discovered any “spontaneous” generation of animals from the elements composing our world. As in the rest of Scripture (cf. Ps. 33:6; John 1:1; etc.), all things were made by God’s powerful word.

Three kinds of animals are mentioned; again a representation of the way these creatures show themselves in their relationship to man. There arc cattle, domesticated beasts; creeping things, those without feet and legs or apparently so; the beasts of the earth that roam about freely. Even though the grouping is not to be identified with any scientific nomenclature concerning species, the after their kine! clearly points out the limitations set by God’s ordinances within which the animals are propagated and fill the earth.

Of signal attention is what the Bible now says concerning the creation of man. A separate lesson will be devoted to this. Here, however, we must note that in every respect the writer, while showing an affinity between man and the rest of creation, stresses his uniqueness.

The chapter concludes with God contemplating all the works of His hand. His estimate thereof is stated in strong language: Behold, it was very good. Thus Moses, echoing the judgment of God, sings a hymn of praise to the Creator. Genesis knows of no universe which evolved from the simple to the complex over a period of uncounted millennia. While “process” of some kind is not completely excluded (cf. such words as divide [vs. 6], appear [vs. 9], brought forth and yielding [vs. 12], etc.), the consistent emphasis is on the “miracle” which God performs. lie calls the things that are not, and they come into being. Here no application of “laws” according to which the universe functions in our age can be so applied as to provide the clue to God’s method of working. The truth of this chapter cannot be checked out by our investigatory methods any more than can the miraculous birth and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. But saying this by no means insinuates that what Moses has recorded is less or other than “historical.” These are the facts, guaranteed by the Spirit’s inspiration. And those who read them respond either in faith or unbelief. Despite all our discussions (and these arc appropriate when carried on within the framework of Biblical revelation, and necessary) it’s really as simple as that!

The seventh day – Often readers can be thrown off the track of a sound understanding of the structure and message of Scripture by our rather artificial division into verses and chapters. Clearly the opening verses of Chapter 2 constitute a fitting conclusion to the material in Chapter 1. Without these we might well suppose that the eternal God has engaged Himself in “continuous creation.” The church has quite consistently shied away from such a view, distinguishing between creation and providence.

This brief section begins with the announcement that the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. The elaborateness and completeness, as well as the perfection, of God’s works are affirmed. Nothing uniquely “new” is to be added afterwards.

We read that God finished, brought to completion what He had set out to do. This work from which He desisted is the term “used regularly of the work or business forbidden on the Sabbath” (Driver as quoted by Skinner; cf. Exodus 29:9, 10; 35:2; Jeremiah 17:22, 24). Some have conjectured that on this day God created the angels, since they are not mentioned in the creation account. This is not only speculative; it appears to contradict the plain teaching of Job 38:4-7. Even more, the words used indicate that no creation-work was done by Him. He rested, ceased from, desisted from work as the term “shabhath” shows. Nor is there any allusion here to the sabbath, even though Moses clearly refers back to creation in announcing the fourth commandment to Israel. What we have is the “creation” sabbath, foundational for all life upon the earth. Even oxen and asses are to rest under man’s direction to reflect the rest wherein God delighted himself.

God’s rest is not a negative and impersonal withdrawal from His creation. There is activity, and that of the highest order. Because He rested, He blessed that day. By this act He imparted to it that quality which would enable man to glorify and enjoy Him. By divine appointment, its true observation will bestow grace and glory from God upon the man who follows in the footsteps of his Maker. Closely connected with this blessing is the divine act of “sanctifying” the day. By this it is declared holy, consecrated to the purpose intended by God; and, in that sense, “cut off or distinguished from the other days of the week. Even as man’s life is regulated by the daily round of day and night, so God provides him with the boon of the weekly cycle.

Calvin, who at times has been accused of having a rather “low” estimate of one day of rest each week, deals in some detail with the Sabbath question in his comments on this passage. He is worthy of our attention. He distinguishes the creation-rest from the sabbath as “a legal ceremony shadowing forth a spiritual rest, the truth of which was manifested in Christ.” He concludes with these telling words:

So far as the Sabbath was a figure of this rest, I say, it was but for a season; but inasmuch as it was commanded to men from the beginning, that they might employ themselves in the worship of God, it is right that it should continue to the end of the world.

Thus the “prologue” to the Scriptural self-revelation of God constitutes a striking and astounding unity. It begins and ends with the living God who alone can tell men how all things came into being. And the intent of its incorporation into the holy record is that man, the chief of all God’s creatures, shall by serving his Creator enter into the rest wherein God himself delighted.


1. Sun, moon and stars are God’s great gifts to mankind. As such they are always dependent on Him. The very light they give has been received by them from God. Hence they do not rule as in the heathen religions by their own inherent powers; they are only light-bearers. Thus Scripture cuts off as untrue and illegitimate not only pagan myths with their superstitions; also modern astrological notions on which the horoscopes popularized in the daily newspapers and other media life based. Let believers in our supposedly scientific and sophisticated age beware, lest they suppose themselves invulnerable to these fashionable idols. Today these have millions in their tenacious grip. When the living God of the Scriptures is no longer consciously worshipped in all our thoughts, words, and deeds, idols are bound to insinuate themselves into our lives.

2. sea-monsters (“whales,” KJV), vss. 21, 22. To the Canaanites this was a terrifying term and reality. It stood for the power of chaos which opposed their god Baal in the beginning, somewhat after the fashion of the chaos-m0nster “Tiamat” who existed prior to the gods in Babylonian mythology. On such views the worshippers could never really experience confidence and peace that their gods actually controlled all things. In how far the Genesis account is a polemic against false religion has been much discussed, especially by recent scholars who in contrast with the early modernists recognize the sharp divergence of what Moses wrote from the notions of the heathen. To trace this takes too much time in these Outlines, even in the form of “notes.” In so far as there is polemic here, it is only incidental and implicit. The Bible presents the “positive” message which by its very nature as the living and dynamic Word of the Lord leaves no room for any other view. In this way it is always “intolerant” of error, since our God in truth is a holy and jealous God allowing nothing and no one to be regarded as beyond His control.

God’s Word, however, speaks of these sea-monsters quite frequently, and then always as His creatures who exist and play before His face and have His blessing; this even though they at times rage furiously (cf. Job 41; Ps. 104:26, etc.; also Kidner, op. cit., p. 49).

3. dominion, vss. 22, 26

Delitzsch in his Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1) comments that its; use here clearly indicates that it is “not the content but the consequence” of man’s creation in God’s image. To identify it with image produces much too narrow a conception and likewise does violence to many teachings of Scripture.

James 3:7, 8 states clearly that fallen man still exercises a kind of dominion over creation, appealing unmistakably to Genesis 1, but with one fatal exception: the tongue which reflects and regulates human life so greatly. Kidner comments: “In sad contrast, our human record of exploiting what is at our mercy proves the unfitness of fallen beings to govern, as ourselves ungoverned” (op. cit., p. 52)

This brings up the Christian attitude to the most recent pressures to concern ourselves with ecology and the proper use of natural resources. It should be a daily and profound concern of every believer. Tragically, we also have fallen under the spell of misusing God’s world by our lust after things, conveniences, etc., with little reward for “stewardship.” Unless we learn to live much more “soberly” (a virtue consistently commended by Paul, Peter, etc.), we fail to shine in this respect as lights in the world. Whether this means we can uncritically join forces with present-day movements which seek to restore balance within the created order is an altogether different matter, also in view of the insistence of many that even the state may have to regulate the number of children brought into the world. Our concern with these matters will always have to be God-taught, thus Biblically grounded and tested, in sharp contrast to the “humanistic” theories and goals which at the last will only lead men into greater and graver problems.

4. rest, vss. 1–3

The whole Sabbath issue is too large and detailed to consider here, worthy as such a theme is of careful Biblical study and reflection especially in view of the modem desecration of the Lord’s day which has attacked many within churches claiming to be orthodox, Bible-believing, and conservative. We may protest loud and long against the “Puritan” sabbath-conception as legalistic, unbiblical, etc.; but too often such efforts have produced little else than a greater enslavement to material goods, passing pleasures, etc., rather than the true liberty in Christ. It is so easy (and fatal!) to use Scripture in our rationalizations of what we want in our day with its conveniences.

Rest here is not the rest of inactivity (e.g., like sleeping all Sunday afternoon, etc.) but of Achievement. That God continues to be active also after His six days of creation is clear from Scripture. Yet the day is recorded here in terms of a “break” in His methods. On this basis, too, Reformed theologians have consistently maintained a sharp distinction between creation and providence, something those who suppose scientific investigations will uncover something new about the Creation days have tended to ignore. On the rest of God a helpful parallel may be drawn with what the Bible says about Christ and His saving work Our Lord is in that rest of God as the One sitting on the right hand of the Father (cf. Heb. 4; 8:1, 10:12, 13). Yet this work clearly goes on through his own activity from heaven by Spirit and Word.

5. why no evening and morning in Genesis 2:3?

This has often puzzled Bible readers and exercised commentators. Clearly it cannot have been a thoughtless omission on the part of the writer inspired by the Holy Spirit. Aalders in Genesis (p. 100) deals with this in some detail. He insists that there is analogy between this seventh day and the sabbath as known and taught and observed in the Old Testament.

Oat Goddelijk rusten gaat immers nog steeds door. Voor ons menschen is het zoo, dat er na den rustdag telkens weer een nieuwe reeks van werkdagen voigt; maar zoo staat het bij God niet . . .

He concludes, “This seventh day indeed had a ‘morning,’ wherewith it began, but no ‘evening,’ because it still continues” (p. 100). Delitzch in his commentary finds it unwarranted to conclude that this day was “a period of endless duration.” Yet he urges that the “resting of God points forward” to that divine rest to which “the whole world, especially man, the head of the earthly creation, (shall) eventually come” (pp. 69, 70).

6. for the church’s proclamation, and our meditation, there is rich material here. Thielicke in How the World Began says in his sermon on “The Great Sabbath” much that is worthy of our attention.

Heaven and earth and all its hosts are now complete. And as the young world in all its dewy freshness exults in the surge of life—the whales romping in the sea, the trees blooming and fading. the stars circling in their courses, and man roaming through the Garden of Eden—the Creator withdraws into a solemn, celebrative stillness.

The gaze of the church has always passed from this sabbath after the completion of the work of creation to the last day of the world when the sabbath of eternity will conclude and resolve the restlessness of history. We shall not venture to ‘pace off’—that would be presumptuous—but perhaps just to find some presentment of the monumental, soaring arch this text flings across the space between the first and the last sabbath of the world (p. 103);

and elsewhere,

. . . On the border between the completed work of creation and the noisy alarms of history there is a great silence, the resting hush of the Creator.

What is the meaning of this strange message for us? Is it a beautiful, pious dream of worship that would enwrap and lull us to sleep, a lovely but quite unrealistic sentimentality?

No. I think that something altogether different is being proclaimed to us here. This is what it is saying: No matter how overwhelming the riches of creation may he—the profusion of birds and bears and beautiful flowers, the spectacle of rising and setting stars, the wonder of seeds and fruits and unceasing growth overwhelming as all this may be, a sublime hand grasps us for a moment by the shoulder, turns us around, so that all these glories lie behind us, and makes us look at the Lord of creation himself. Otherwise. you see, we might overlook him (p. 106).

Questions for discussion

1 – Mention at least seven “nature” psalms. Why do you suppose these were composed and sung by the people of Israel?

2 – Do you think it is true that farmers and country-dwellers are more aware of God’s presence and power in nature than people who live and work in the city? Give reasons for your answer. Do you think city-dwellers are more aware of God’s workings in history?

3 – Discuss in some detail the relationship between God’s speaking in and through creation and his revelation in his law (Ps. 19). What is meant by law here?

4 – Show something of God’s concern for plants, animals, and especially man in the location, size, functioning, etc. of the sun and the moon.

5 – Is reading “our” horoscope in the newspaper, etc., as innocent as young people and others suppose it to be? Can you prove from Scripture that dabbling in this is sinful?

6 – Where do evolutionists put reptiles on their scale of life and its development? Do they have “grounds” for this?

7 – Have someone give a brief summary of the so-called “geological ages.” In this connection, perhaps, some discussion on fossils and their dating will be helpful, especially in view of wide-spread acceptance of the evolutionary theory of origins and development.

8 – How important is Genesis 2:1–3 for a correct understanding of the “sabbath” in man’s life? Do you think we should work for legislation on behalf of one day of rest per week for all people?

9 – Can we still rightly appeal to this passage to defend our views of the Lord’s Day? (cf. also Catechism, L.D. XXXVIII).

10 – If we are to delight ourselves in all God’s works, do you think we sbould, besides attending worship services, have outings and picnics on the Lord’s Day?

11 – What practical suggestions do you have to make the Lord’s Day one of the joy, also for children and young people? What is the duty of parents here?

12 – Why do you think evening and morning are not mentioned in connection with the seventh day? Does it, perhaps, have something to do with the “symbolical” meaning of the number six as the number of man, so that it is used only for the other days? Or is this too speculative?


Scripture: Genesis 1:26–30

In his lectures to the Cambridge undergraduates, J. S. Whale spoke of the inescapable importance of the doctrine concerning man. His words deserve to be remembered, as he projected them against the confused notions of our times.

This is the ultimate question behind the vast debate, the desperate struggles of our times. Ideologies—to use the ugly modern jargon—are really anthropologies; they are answers to that question which man has not ceased to ask ever since he began asking questions at all: namely, What is man?

It is the question which faces us, directly or indirectly, so long as we live. It is the issue which confronts us every time we seek to assess our responses to life. In a playful mood G. K. Chesterton reminds us that, when we try to dissuade someone from overmuch drinking, we urge: Be a man. Yet when a crocodile wants to swallow his tenth victim, we don’t exclaim: Be a crocodile. The beast is simply behaving “according to nature.” The drunkard, so all agree, dehumanizes himself by his destructive course.

Only the Bible gives the clue to who and what man truly is. It allows for no long and slow ascent from some lower form of life to man’s present status. Rather, it teaches that man came directly from the hand of the Creator.

Experience, indeed, cannot teach this to our generation. All around we see the wreckage which men with a perplexing and painful consistency impose on themselves, others, and the world in which they live. Yet in and through all there is an awareness, even among many who ignore or reject the Scriptures, that man can’t be this way without impairing his manhood. But all this remains a riddle to even the cleverest minds, unless one learns what Calvin learned: “It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has seriously contemplated the face of God.” This, in a measure, the first chapter of Genesis has stimulated us to see. It occasions no surprise, therefore, that enshrined within this account of the origin of all things such large attention is paid to the creation of man. God speaks his Word to men; not to birds or bees or beasts, not even to the angels. And man will not listen truly, unless he also has learned to know himself as indissolubly joined to his God.

Man . . . whence? – Glorious as are all the works of the living God, none is greater than man. In size he is insignificant when compared with many of the beasts and the sea-monsters. In the course of his existence on earth he has imposed a destruction, as Scripture soon will say, far exceeding that of the catastrophes of nature. While he stands with his feet planted on the earth, his head reaches towards the sky. He knows himself bound by a thousand limitations, yet within him stirs a profound sense of his transcendence. He seems so much like some of the other creatures but always insists that somehow he is different.

All this the Scripture explains in simplest terms.

Man came from the hand of God. And he came in a manner totally different than did any of the other creatures.

Unique is the introduction to this act of God on the sixth day. God did not simply speak; He first took counsel. And God said, Let us make man . . .

How this us is to be interpreted has exercised Christian thinkers from the beginning. Some of liberal stripe insist on finding here a remnant of some original belief in several gods. But how is this possible in a writing so consistently and pervasively monotheistic? Others speculate that God is consulting with the angels as co-laborers in the ereation of the human race. Nowhere, however, does the Bible give any encouragement to this notion. Often it has been said that we may find here “the plural of majesty.” Aalders has shown, quite conclusively, that this is unlikely. The only instance of such a plural in the Old Testament we find in certain Aramaic sections which relate matters concerning the potentate Artaxerxes (Ezra 4:18; 7:24). Luther quaintly and somewhat ironically remarks: “The Holy Spirit is not wont to employ the courtesies employed for royalty.” Nor is it true that the Hebrew word for God is properly a plural. Another attempt to explain the plural us borrows from man’s experience, as he sometimes speaks of himself discussing with himself. But this does not fit Genesis 3:22, one of the only two other instances where God speaks of himself in the plural.

The only satisfactory explanation of the word us is the one championed already by the early church fathers. It explains this as referring to a plurality of persons within the Godhead. Only such an “allusion” to the doctrine of the Trinity adequately explains the passage. This is not to say that we find here an unmistakable and clear revelation of that precious teaching. Not until Christ has come and both speaks of and sends His Holy Spirit does it become manifest. Hence we do not speculate on how much Moses and the Old Testament saints understood of what they heard and read. But without this interpretation the word remains dark and puzzling. Calvin concludes his argument with these words:

Christians, therefore, properly contend, from this testimony, that there exists a plurality of Persons in the Godhead. God summons no foreign counsellor; hence we infer that he finds within himself something distinct; as, in truth, his eternal wisdom and power reside within him.

And for those who confess both the unity and verbal inspiration of the Bible, this explanation will be endorsed. Man, thus, comes from the hand of the triune God after deliberate divine counsel.

Man . . . what? – The glory of man is revealed not only in his origin; also in his nature.

He is, indeed, and always remains creature, the work of the mind and fingers of the living God. Let him, therefore, never conceive of himself as a god, as one who is a law unto himself and can live in isolation and independence of his Creator. This dependence upon the One who fashioned him is his glory.

That “glory” of man is in accordance with the divine counsel. It elevates him to a station far surpassing that of any other creature. God claims him as uniquely His own: in our image, after our likeness.

The cardinal Biblical teaching concerning man has been the occasion of much dispute. In contrast with the Roman Catholic theory, Protestants following both the Jews and the Creek church insist that there is intended here no distinction between image and likeness. The words in Scripture are used interchangeably. What they clarify is man’s unique relation to God as the one who “reflects” in a very special way something of the glory of God. 1n what that image consists we face far more serious issues. Because it is mentioned in such close connection with dominion, some as early as Chrysostom have insisted that this properly explains the term. In this, indeed, it also manifests itself; yet it is not to be so identified.

Calvin shows us a better way. He calls attention to what Paul says about its restoration by the gospel in Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:23. But because this has led also not a few Reformed followers to narrow down the image, we do well to rehearse what this eminent commentator says on this point.

That he (i.e., Paul) made this image to consist in “righteousness and true holiness” is by the figure synecdoche (i.e., putting a part for the whole); for though this is the chief part, it is not the whole of God’s image. Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth. For there was an attempering in the several parts of the soul, which corresponded with their various offices. In the mind perfect intelligence flourished and reigned, uprightness attended as its companion, and all the senses were prepared and moulded for due obedience to reason; and in the body there was a suitable correspondence with this internal order.

To be sure, we may want to use some other phrases, yet Calvin speaking in language familiar to his contemporaries refuses to limit the image to one part of man’s life, to sever the body-soul unity with which God fashioned man, or to emphasize function at the expense of structure or vice versa. All of this, which may at first glance seem rather abstract and abstruse, is of tremendous conseql1ence for even an everyday assessment of man. Often we ask: Is man still, having fallen into sin, in the image of God? And the answer will have to be, on this matter, both a “Yes” and a “No.” However we may want to speak of what remnants have been retained, the Bible still speaks of man today in terms of that image. Man, with all his sinning, never becomes a beast or a devil—much as he may seem to act like one upon occasion. But his glory has been defaced. He has turned his humanity into a shameful thing. Only in Jesus Christ who is declared to us as the effulgence of his (i.e., God’s) glory, the very image of his substance can we now truly behold the likeness of man to the living God.

To this must be added what the Bible adds. God created mankind male and female. The sexual differentiation is original; not something added as an afterthought on God’s part. He is to live in society, the most basic form of which is the conjugal relation. Here already all debates on the superiority of one sex to the other are laid to rest. Women fully as much as men are created in the image of God. Yet identity in original dignity casts no shadow on the differentiation here described.

Man . . . why? – In the light of man’s creation in God’s image, the Bible now tells us something of the purpose intended for him.

Immediately we read that God blessed them. The use of the plural would seem to indicate that Eve, whose creation is related in 2:18–24, also came into being on the sixth day.

The blessing first has reference to the intimate relation between the man and the woman. Together they are commanded to be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. All the world is, in the way of faithfulness to the Creator, to be opened to them. Their fruitfulness, however, is a blessing from the Lord. He and He alone can impart it, for which reason sensitive believers have always seen in the begetting of children the favor of the Lord and have hesitated to take this matter into their own hands.

Also the relation of mankind to other living creatures is mentioned. Over them man is to have dominion, to exercise sovereignty as the vicegerent of God Himself. Some have concluded from the introduction of the word subdue that even the original creation had within it unruly and antagonistic elements. This, to be sure, is the representation of the universe in the mythologies of other peoples. But the Bible knows nothing of it here. In the light of verse 31 where all creation is denominated very good the importation of the idea of conflict with its consequences is foreign to the account.

For man as well as all living creatures upon the earth and in the sky God now makes rich provision. For man there are herbs and fruit of every kind; for the animals every green herb. Not until after the flood was man given permission by God to eat flesh.

Why is this provision, which seems so self-evident, mentioned in such detail by Moses? The question is legitimate, since God who is the primary author of the Word does not waste words. Calvin, with pastoral insight, urges,

For it is of great importance that we touch nothing of God’s bounty but what we know He has permitted us to do; since we cannot enjoy anything with a good conscience, except we receive it as from the hand of God . . . Thus we are instructed to seek from God alone whatever is necessary for us, and in the very use of His gifts, we are to exercise ourselves in meditating on his goodness and paternal care.

What, then, is man?

Only God who fashioned him can give us the satisfactory answer. Let us then learn from His lips man’s origin and nature and calling, lest by our ever-changing notions we defame the living God in ascribing to the human race either more or less than God Himself has revealed. Here are the true foundations (with much more to follow) for the understanding of ourselves and others which must guide all the teaching given in our homes and schools and churches.


1. On the issue of “theistic” evolution and its impact among some Reformed scholars, their thought, by working in them a true knowledge of God, of themselves, and of the law-structure of the creation . . .

On the contrary, apart from the revealed framework of creation, fall and redemption by Jesus Christ, science or human reason only uncovers a meaningless universe. Although the Word of God must never be regarded as the source book for the “facts” of science, it does put the set into the scientific saw by enabling us to see the facts studied in the various sciences in their true order, structure, relationships, and coherences. The facts of science do not speak meaningfully unless we do see them in their proper order in terms of the scriptural conception of reality as created by God. Thus God’s Word clarifies our view of the world at the outset (p. 47).

He thereupon distantiates himself also from the approach often taken by “fundamentalist” Christians and asserts:

For this reason the manner and method by which the Lord created the heavens and the earth must lie for ever beyond present day scientific investigation (p. 48).

That revelation may never be put, as it is put by both fundamentalists and modernists, upon the same mundane level as the data discovered by the researches of the scientist, for in the Christian view that revelation is the very condition and presupposition of any coherent scientific theories about reality whatsoever (p. 49).

2. Also a most helpful book on evolution of various sorts and its evaluation, cf. Bolton Davidheiser: Evolution and Christian Faith (Presb. and Refd Publ. Co., 1969). This is the kind of book for parents to give their high-school and college students who will be facing conflicting theories often with little preparation.

After defining his terms and presenting us with a brief but illuminating history of “evolutionary” thought, the author addresses himself especially in Chapter 4, “Approaches to the Theory of Evolution” (pp. 164–187) in some depth to “theistic” evolution, of which he says: “No matter what the approach, theistic evolution leads logically to modernism” (p. 172) and to progressive creationism and “threshold” evolution as a kind of in-between theory which is intended to make the presentation of the Christian gospel more attractive, respectable, and palatable for the modern man. He comments:

It is the considered judgment of this writer that Ramm’s (one of the proponents) appeal will have no effect upon the non-Christian biologists, and his influence will be most effective among those who are in a transition between a conservative and a liberal position. Moreover, it may help to start such a transition in some who are conservative (italic ours; p. 180).

3. Among the less well-informed there seems to be a general opinion that scholarly scientists without exception underwrite “evolution” as definitely proved. This may tempt believers—convinced that God’s revelation in Scripture cannot and does not contradict His self-manifestation in creation—to adjust their interpretation of the Biblical account to modern theories. C. A. Kerkut in his Implications of Evolution (Pergamon Press, 1965) shows the fallacy of this notion. By no means an anti-evolutionist, he insists as a scholar and a scientist on an intellectual honesty not always found among more conservative people who lean towards some kind of evolutionism. He writes:

May I here humbly state as part of my biological credo that I believe that the theory of Evolution as presented by orthodox evolutionists is in many ways a satisfying explanation of some of the evidence. At the same time I think that the attempt to explain all living forms in terms of an evolution from unique source, (I though a brave and valid attempt, is one that is premature and not satisfactorily supported by present-day evidence. It may in fact be shown ultimately to be the correct explanation, but the supporting evidence remains to be discovered (p. vii).

4. Even non-Christian scientists and scholars distinguish between two theories of evolution: “general” and “special,” also called “macro-” and “micro-evolution.” Cf. Kerkut: Implications of Evolution, p. 157; Wallace and Srb: Adaptation (Prentice-Hall, 1965), p. 9. Duyvene de Wit warns against using the term as glibly as many do, cf. Hebden Taylor, op. cit., p. 36. Kerkut points out seven assumptions basic to the general theory which, often not recognized or discussed, are implicit in the theory:

(1) the first assumption is that non-living things gave rise to living matter, i.e., spontaneous generation occurred.

(2) The second assumption is that spontaneous generation occurred only once. The other assumptions also follow the second one.

(3) The third assumption is that all viruses, bacteria, plants, and animals are all interrelated.

(4) The fourth assumption is that the Protozoa gave rise to the Metazoa.

(5) The fifth assumption is that the various invertebrate phyla are interrelated.

(6) The sixth assumption is that the invertebrates gave rise to the vertebrates.

(7) The seventh assumption is that within the vertebrates the fish gave rise to the amphibia, the amphibia to the reptiles, and the reptiles to the birds and mammals. Sometimes this is expressed in other words, i.e., that the modern amphibia and reptiles had a common ancestral stock, and so on (op. cit., p. 6).

Jack Wood Sears in Conflict and Harmony in Science and the Bible (Baker, 1969) deals at length with these in two chapters: the first six on pp. 29–47; the last one on pp. 48–71 with helpful diagrams.

Questions for discussion

1 – Describe briefly the evolutionary theory of man’s origin. How do “theistic” evolutionists generally explain this?

2 – How important are the “historical” Adam and Eve for understanding the message of Scripture? Mention several Christian doctrines which must be radically revised, if Adam and Eve’s historicity is called into question or denied.

3 – How docs today’s society “dehumanize” man? Is this worse today than some centuries ago? Explain.

4 – J. S. Whale speaks of modern ideologies. What does the term mean? One of these is Communism. What is the Marxist view of man? How does it differ from that of Scripture?

5 – Do you think sending men to the moon has anything to do with man’s dominion? Give reasons for your answer. Can you see any benefit coming from these efforts?

6 – How important is the doctrine of the Trinity for understanding both creation and salvation? Why didn’t God reveal this so clearly in the Old Testament, if it is important?

7 – Discuss in some detail Calvin’s view of the image of God in man. Explain the two texts referred to by him.

8 – How important is the body? Do you think Christians have generally undervalued the body? To what errors both in theory and practice can this lead?

9 – How would you apply the mandate to replenish the earth in view of the overpopulation about which people speak?

10 – During the past five years or so there has been also a radical decline in infant baptisms (hence, births) in the Christian Reformed churches. Does this perhaps point to some kind of spiritual insensitivity and decline? Explain. Should married couples have as many children as possible? as feasible for the health of mother and the earning power of father? Do you ever speak to your young people about the blessing of a sizeable family?

11 – Do you think plants and animals “died” before the fall?

12 – Why do we customarily read Scripture and pray at mealtime? Do you think Calvin’s views of food, etc., had anything to do with this? How can we make this practice truly meaningful for all members of the family?