What We Believe (5): God – The Creator

This is the fifth in a series of articles on Reformed Doctrine, under the heading, What We Believe. The familiar question-and-answer method, used so effectively by Bosma‘s Reformed Doctrine of a bygone day, is being followed. Rev. Elco H. Oostendorp (retired) of Hudsonville, Michigan deals with the “Doctrine of God” in these opening articles.

How did God begin to carry out His eternal plan for the world?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” Genesis 1:1. This is the first article of the ApostlesCreed not only, but in many ways the doctrine which is basic to all other articles of the Christian faith. By creating the universe and the human race God established the relationship between himself and men—and angels too—which made possible the fall into sin and the work of redemption in Christ.

What is meant by creation?

Creation is often described very simply as making something out of nothing. However, the Bible uses this word in two senses, and we may therefore speak of a primary and secondary creative activity of God. Genesis 1:1 speaks of that activity of God by which He brought into existence the matter out of which the universe is made. The rest of the chapter describes how the Lord ordered what was at first a chaos into a cosmos. In Genesis 1:2 we are told that the creation was at first without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep, while the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. Then in six days God transformed this unorganized “stuff” into the wonderful world or universe which He pronounced “very good.” The crown of creation was the making of man out of the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) and a woman out of man’s rib (Gen. 2:21, 22). Men, male and female, are made in the image of God, and given dominion over all the creation (Gen. 1:27, 28 and Psalm 8:5–8).

Do we believe the so-called “gap” or “restitution” theory of creation?

No. This theory teaches that there was a long time gap between the first and second verses of Genesis 1. Verse one records the creation of the first heavens and earth, which became waste and void because of the fall of Satan and his angels. The rest of the chapter then tells about the restoration of the earth rather than its creation out of nothing. This interpretation is taught in the Scofield Bible notes, and due to the wide popularity of that Bible in evangelical circles, is accepted by many today. Space does not allow a detailed refutation, but the supposed Scriptural evidence adduced for this idea is very weak. The theory is often appealed to as a very satisfactory explanation of many apparent contradictions between scientific findings and the Genesis record, the idea being that long geological ages and many fossils can be explained this way. It should be obvious that the chaos described in Genesis 1:2 and the creative process outlined in 1:3 to 2:3 do not allow for such an explanation at all. It is indeed amazing that such a speculation could find such uncritical acceptance among so many who pride themselves on taking the Bible literally!

Why has the doctrine of creation become very important in recent times?

Because of the rise of the evolutionary theory, especially since 1859 when Charles Darwin published his Origin of Species. Although evolution as taught by Darwin and others does not give a theory of the origin of the universe, it does try to explain the present condition of the earth and life upon it in terms of a gradual process which is quite different than the 6at creation of Genesis and other Scriptures. In view of the fact that our confessions date from a period when this theory had not been developed, they do not address themselves to the problems it raises. This is strikingly evident in the emphasis of Articles XII and XIII of the Confession of Faith and also Answer 26 of the Heidelberg Catechism. The confessions are interested in creation as it has a bearing on our relationship to God as our Father in Christ, and are more concerned with the spiritual than the natural world. This is especially evident in the Belgic Confession, Article XXX, which is headed: “The Creation of All Things, Especially The Angels.” It is also instructive to notice that both the Confession and the Catechism closely connect creation and providence, so that while the Confession has a separate article on each, it already mentions providence in the article about creation. Which leads us to the following question.

What is the relationship between creation and providence?

By speaking His word of creative power (Psalm 33:6 and 9) God gave the creation an existence distinct from His own. The Bible always speaks of creation—with one or two exceptions—as a past act of God. Compare for example Hebrews 11:3 and Revelation 4:11. Providence is the activity of God by which He upholds and governs His creation. Although God is still at work in the world He rested from the work of creation, as Genesis 2:1–3 and Exodus 20:11 clearly teach. This is a very significant fact to remember, for when science tries to speak about origins and how God made the world and living creatures, it must always do so in tenus of its observation of developments since the creative activity of God has ended. That is why our knowledge of creation must come from revelation for we cannot observe it anymore. Although we cannot deny that there are problems that arise from discoveries in geology and archaeology, astronomy and biology and other sciences, these can never touch our faith in God as Creator.

Why is it important that we believe the historicity of the Biblical account of creation?

This account in Genesis 1 and 2 is most closely connected to the record of the fall in Genesis 3. Paul teaches very plainly in Romans 5:12–21 that it was in Adam‘s fall that we all became sinners and that as we died in Him so also we are saved and made alive in Christ. While belief in creation is also of great significance for our understanding of nature and the “cultural mandate” to rule over creation as God’s servants, our confessions are especially concerned to maintain that God created man good and in His image, that man fell by his own sinful choice, and that salvation is a restoration of what was lost by the fall. Among the many Scriptures which stress this fact we mention only Revelation 4 which speaks of creation, and Revelation 5 which is a vision of the Lamb who by his blood has ransomed men of every nation for God and made them priests and a kingdom to reign on the earth.

What do we believe about the creation of the angels?

The Bible does not state specifically the time of the creation of the angels. From the fact that Satan fell and tempted Adam and Eve soon after their creation we may conclude that they were created before man was. As the Confession states in Article XII, we believe that they were all created good, but that now there are also evil, fallen angels, of whom Satan or the Devil is the head. They form a kingdom of darkness. This evil power is not able to go beyond God’s control (cf. the Book of Job, and passages like Luke 22:31, 32), but it is nevertheless dangerous and real. As the Catechism says (Q. and A. 127), “our sworn enemies, the devil, the world, and our own flesh, cease not to assault us.” The revived interest in angels, both good and bad, as evidenced for example, in the great popularity of Billy Graham‘s book, is an encouraging development. We can indeed be thankful that there are hosts of “ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). With them and all creation, we join in praise to Him who is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because He has created all things, and by His will they existed and were created.