Posts tagged creation
10 May 2012
Back to Al Wolter's book, Creation Regained (1, 2), and the rest of chapter 2, on Creation. We're trying to gain a biblical perspective on the whole of reality, and the task in this chapter has been to look at the basic structure of all that God has made, before looking in the following chapters at the shifting direction in which the creation has been oriented, whether away from God (Fall), or back towards God (Redemption).
Genesis 1 speaks of an unformed and unfilled earth being formed and filled by God's creative word. What next?
This is not the end of the development of creation, however. Although God has withdrawn from the work of creation, he has put an image of himself on the earth with a mandate to continue. The earth had been completely unformed and empty; in the six-day process of development God had formed it and filled it—but not completely. People must now carry on the work of development: by being fruitful they must fill it even more; by subduing it they must form it even more. Mankind, as God's representatives on the earth, carry on where God left off. But this is now to be a human development of the earth. The human race will fill the earth with its own kind, and it will form the earth for its own kind. From now on the development of the created earth will be societal and cultural in nature. In a single word, the task ahead is civilization (pp.41f).
But where do these cultural riches spring from? Ultimately from God, who created the world to be so rich with possibility, having so many ways in which it can be opened up and unfolded by human activity.
The given reality of the created order is such that it is possible to have schools and industry, printing and rocketry, needlepoint and chess. The creational law is crying out to be positivized in new and amazing ways. The whole vast range of human civilization is ... a display of the marvelous wisdom of God in creation and the profound meaningfulness of our task in the world (p.44).
This should have a deep impact on how Christians view all areas of culture and society: "they are not outside God's plans for the cosmos, despite the sinful aberrations, but rather were built in from the beginning" (p.45). This means there will be "positive possibilities for service to God in such areas as politics and the film arts, computer technology and business administration, developmental economics and skydiving" (p.45).
But what about the ultimate end of human civilisation? Will it all be thrown away when Christ returns?
Wolters uses the helpful image of a child who develops with a chronic disease. Two processes are continuing in parallel: the normal process of growth, and the distorting effects of the disease. If this person is healed of the disease in adulthood, that doesn't mean that the normal growth will be reversed and the adult will become a tiny infant again. Rather, the distorting effects are taken away, and the good growth is preserved.
So it will be with human civilisation:
Even the great crisis that will come on the world at Christ's return will not annihilate God's creation or our cultural development of it. ... There is no reason to believe that the cultural dimensions of earthly reality (except insofar as they are involved in sin) will be absent from the new, glorified earth that is promised. In fact, the biblical indications point in the opposite direction. Describing the new earth as the new Jerusalem, John writes that "the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. ... The glory and the honor of the nations will be brought into it" (Rev. 21:24, 26). This very likely refers to the cultural treasures of mankind which will be purified by passing through the fires of judgment, like gold in a crucible (p.47).
But doesn't the Bible say that "the earth and the works that are upon it will be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10, RSV)?
[A]ll but one of the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts do not have the final words "will be burned up" but instead have "will be found," which makes quite a difference. (This is the Greek text accepted by the more recent translations, such as the NEB and NIV, which read, somewhat o[b]scurely, "will be laid bare.") The text therefore teaches that ... "the earth and the works that are upon it" will survive (p.47).
In other words, "God does not make junk, and he does not junk what he has made" (p.49).
7 Mar 2012
Have a quick look at this, and then read on:
An idea... We could speak about different "domains" of reality. Some of these domains are readily accessible to our senses, and some are not. Let D be a domain of reality. Then in the world of the Hebrew Scriptures, we could have one of the following:
- D is readily accessible to our senses, so It is appropriate to speak about D in simple language to describe how it actually is.
- D is not readily accessible to our senses, so It is appropriate to speak about D only in terms of images and metaphors.
My suggestion is this. In two parts.
1. It is (or should be) obvious that when the Scriptures speak about God having body parts, it is using images and metaphors. And the reason it is (or should be) obvious is not because of the genre of the passage, but because the nature of God is a domain of reality about which it is appropriate to speak only in terms of images and metaphors.
2. What other domains of reality might fit into the same category? Could it be that the process of the creation of the cosmos fits into the same category? In other words, that whenever the Scriptures speak about the process by which God created everything, it is (or should be) obvious that it is speaking in images and metaphors, whatever the genre of the passage?
Taking the two categories above, my guess (and it's a complete guess, with no supporting evidence—yet!) is that we could have the following:
- Domains of reality that can be described in simple "this-is-how-it-really-is" language: historical events, ordinary things that can be seen.
- Domains of reality that can be described only in images and metaphors: the nature of God himself, the process of creation, the structure of those parts of the world and cosmos inaccessible to ordinary observation, the inner workings of a person (heart, soul, mind, "bowels", etc.).
It's just a guess. And it's a guess based on which bits of the Bible I want to take "literally" and which bits I don't. Some people might not like that approach! But the idea makes a bit of sense to me, and I think it's worth trying out...
17 Feb 2012
Chapter 2 of Creation Regained covers the first theme of the creation-fall-redemption triad: creation. It's quite a lengthy chapter, so I'll cover it in two parts.
We might talk about "the story of creation" (in the beginning) and "the beauty of creation" (now), but in either case, Christians believe that God is intimately involved. Searching for a word to describe "the totality of God's ordaining acts toward the cosmos" (p.15), Wolters chooses to go with the word law. (I suppose we could also think of God's decrees.) God institutes laws of nature, but also gives laws for culture and society: norms.
Just as a human sovereign does certain things himself, but gives orders to his subordinates for other things, so with God himself. He put the planets in their orbits, makes the seasons come and go at the proper time, makes seeds grow and animals reproduce, but entrusts to mankind the tasks of making tools, doing justice, producing art, and pursuing scholarship. In other words, God's rule of law is immediate in the nonhuman realm but mediate in culture and society. In the human realm men and women become coworkers with God; as creatures made in God's image they too have a kind of lordship over the earth, are God's viceroys in creation (p.16).
In addition to that distinction between laws of nature and norms, we can distinguish between these general laws, and God's particular laws, for specific events to take place, or for specific people to do specific things.
In speaking of "creation" as "the correlation of the sovereign activity of the Creator and the created order" (p.14), the term becomes much broader in scope that what we usually take it to mean.
Usually when we speak of creation we have in mind the realities investigated by the natural sciences—the structure of the atom, the movements of the solar system, the life cycle of a plant, the building instinct of a beaver (p.24).
But, with the broader definition,
We will not make such a distinction if we understand creation in terms of a law-subject correlation. God's ordinances also extend to the structures of society, to the world of art, to business and commerce. Human civilization is normed throughout. Everywhere we discover limits and proprieties, standards and criteria: in every field of human affairs there are right and wrong ways of doing things. There is nothing in human life that does not belong to the created order (p.25).
So when (using God's general revelation and our wisdom) we figure out how best to run a business, we are uncovering something about God's creation, just as much as when we figure out how stars make their light.