Category Archives: Creation
J. I. Packer rather famously wrote, “were I asked to focus the New Testament message in three words, my proposal would be adoption through propitiation, and I do not expect ever to meet a richer or more pregnant summary of the gospel than that” (Knowing God, 214). Adoption is precious, and that line from Packer is worth memorizing.
But there’s a much broader historical-redemptive context for understanding our adoption as David B. Garner explains in his excellent chapter, “The First and Last Son: Christology and Sonship in Pauline Soteriology,” published in Resurrection and Eschatology (P&R, 2008).
Here is Garner’s thick-and-rich-like-dark-chocolate conclusion. Best enjoyed in small bites:
Behind the creation of the cosmos—and most relevantly here, behind the creation of man—exists the archetypal, eternal sonship of Christ. Man, made in the image of God, a finite replica (ectype) of the eternal, ontologial Son (archetype), is, at creation, necessarily a son of God.
While the fall skewed sonship and alienated the relationship of the created son with the Father, just as man did not completely lose the divine image, he likewise did not lose the broad sense of his sonship. Still sons, but alienated and depraved, the first man and his progeny stood under the curse of their Creator/Father, and were in need of the judicial declaration of God to rectify their sonship status, and the redemptive power of God to restore their sonship constitution, indeed to vouchsafe their eschatological familial telos.
In view of the failure of the first son of God, the realization of this declaration and redeeming power by God’s grace came through the Last Adam, the Son of God par excellence, whose redemptive work provided the reversal of the curse on man and the attainment of adoption for the fallen sons of Adam. In Christ, created sons of Adam become the adopted sons of God.
While the entire redemptive-historical development and realization of redemptive sonship organically derive from his messianic sonship, Christ’s pre-temporal constitution plays the prior, ultimate role. In fact, all biblical sonship flows from an anterior, ontological principium—the eternal Son of God, in whom the ectypal, typological, and antitypical sonships find their raison d’être.
This principium of christological sonship unites the sonships of Adam, of Israel, of the incarnate Christ, and of the eschatologically adopted believer in covenantal, redemptive-historical continuity. The first Adam finitely replicates the First Son; the Last Adam fulfills the telos of the first created son. In this way, Christ is not only the eternal Son, he is also the archetypal Adam. Further, by his covenantal obedience as the Last Adam, he became the glorious, exalted, eschatological Son of God in power (Rom. 1:4).
We see therefore in Pauline soteriology an exhaustively christological cast, wherein the filial, ontological, and redemptive-historical are securely tethered in Christ the Son of God, the Source, Epicenter, and Consummator of all reality. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First Son and the Last. (279)
Here’s a fine 135-word introduction to Christian Hedonism from the new children’s devotional by Sally Lloyd-Jones, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (Zonderkidz, 2012), pages 52–53:
God tells us to glorify him. “Glorify” means “to make a big deal of.” When someone makes a big deal of you, it fills up your heart with joy.
But why does God need us to make a big deal of him? Why does he need us to get joy?
He doesn’t. In the beginning God the Father and Jesus, his Son, together with the Holy Spirit, were already there — a loving family, glorifying each other in this wonderful Dance of Joy.
No. God didn’t create us so he could get joy — he already had it.
He created us so he could share it.
He knows it’s the thing your heart most needs to be happy. When God says, “Glorify me!”, he’s really saying, “Be filled with Joy!”
He’s inviting us into his Forever Happiness.
From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon on the beautiful text of Isaiah 65:17–19 (#2211):
I must confess that I think it a most right and excellent thing that you and I should rejoice in the natural creation of God.
I do not think that any man is altogether beyond hope who can take delight in the nightly heavens as he watches the stars, and feel joy as he treads the meadows all bedecked with kingcups and daisies. He is not lost to better things who, on the waves, rejoices in the creeping things innumerable drawn up from the vast deep, or who, in the woods, is charmed with the sweet carols of the feathered minstrels.
The man who is altogether bad seldom delights in nature, but gets away into the artificial and the sensual. He cares little enough for the fields except he can hunt over them, little enough for lands unless he can raise rent from them, little enough for living things except for slaughter or for sale. He welcomes night only for the indulgence of his sins, but the stars are not one half so bright to him as the lights that men have kindled: for him indeed the constellations shine in vain.
One of the purest and most innocent of joys, apart from spiritual things, in which a man can indulge, is a joy in the works of God. . . . I like to see my Savior on the hills, and by the shores of the sea. I hear my Father’s voice in the thunder, and listen to the whispers of his love in the cadence of the sunlit waves. These are my Father’s works, and therefore I admire them, and I seem all the nearer to him when I am among them.
If I were a great artist, I should think it a very small compliment if my son came into my house, and said he would not notice the pictures I had painted, because he only wanted to think of me. He therein would condemn my paintings, for if they were good for anything, he would be rejoiced to see my hand in them. Oh, but surely, everything that comes from the hand of such a Master-artist as God has something in it of himself!
Writes Jonathan Edwards in Typological Writings, page 152:
I expect by very ridicule and contempt to be called a man of a very fruitful brain and copious fancy, but they are welcome to it. I am not ashamed to own that I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, and the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words; and that the multitude of those things that I have mentioned are but a very small part of what is really intended to be signified and typified by these things: but that there is room for persons to be learning more and more of this language and seeing more of that which is declared in it to the end of the world without discovering all.
HT: Ann Voskamp, who perhaps more than anyone else I know consistently works this Edwardsian worldview out in her writings (and gets ridiculed for it).
G. K. Chesterton, in his defense of humility, concludes this way:
Humility is the luxurious art of reducing ourselves to a point, not to a small thing or a large one, but to a thing with no size at all, so that to it all the cosmic things are what they really are—of immeasurable stature.
That the trees are high and the grasses short is a mere accident of our own foot-rules and our own stature. But to the spirit which has stripped off for a moment its own idle temporal standards the grass is an everlasting forest, with dragons for denizens; the stones of the road are as incredible mountains piled one upon the other; the dandelions are like gigantic bonfires illuminating the lands around; and the heath-bells on their stalks are like planets hung in heaven each higher than the other.
Between one stake of a paling and another there are new and terrible landscapes; here a desert, with nothing but one misshapen rock; here a miraculous forest, of which all the trees flower above the head with the hues of sunset; here, again, a sea full of monsters that Dante would not have dared to dream. These are the visions of him who, like the child in the fairy tales, is not afraid to become small.
Meanwhile, the sage whose faith is in magnitude and ambition is, like a giant, becoming larger and larger, which only means that the stars are becoming smaller and smaller. World after world falls from him into insignificance; the whole passionate and intricate life of common things becomes as lost to him as is the life of the infusoria [minute aquatic creatures] to a man without a microscope. He rises always through desolate eternities. He may find new systems, and forget them; he may discover fresh universes, and learn to despise them. But the towering and tropical vision of things as they really are—the gigantic daisies, the heaven-consuming dandelions, the great Odyssey of strange-coloured oceans and strange-shaped trees, of dust like the wreck of temples, and thistledown like the ruin of stars—all this colossal vision shall perish with the last of the humble.
Writes Gary V. Smith in his article “Structure And Purpose In Genesis 1–11” [JETS 20:4 (1977), 310-11]:
When Genesis 1 and 2 are compared with 8 and 9, one begins to perceive the extent to which the author uses repeated phrases and ideas to build the structural relationships within the units. The following relationships are found:
(a) Since man could not live on the earth when it was covered with water in chaps. 1 and 8, a subsiding of the water and a separation of the land from the water took place, allowing the dry land to appear (1:9–10; 8:1–13).
(b) “Birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” are brought forth to “swarm upon the earth” in 1:20–21, 24–25 and 8:17–19.
(c) God establishes the days and seasons in 1:14–18 and 8:22.
(d) God’s blessing rests upon the animals as he commands them to “be fruitful and multiply on the earth” in both 1:22 and 8:17.
(e) Man is brought forth and he receives the blessing of God: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” in 1:28 and 9:1, 7.
(f) Man is given dominion over the animal kingdom in 1:28 and 9:2.
(g) God provides food for man in 1:29–30 and 9:3 (this latter regulation makes a direct reference back to the previous passage when it includes the statement, “As I have given the green plant”).
(h) In 9:6 the writer quotes from 1:26–27 concerning the image of God in man.
The author repeatedly emphasizes the fact that the world is beginning again with a fresh start. But Noah does not return to the paradise of Adam, for the significant difference is that “the intent of man’s heart is evil” (Gen 8:21).
G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chapter 4:
“A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
The word is the basis for our relationships. Without words we form no connections, no closeness, no self-disclosure, no knowing. Without words there is no relationship. A picture of my face will not build a relationship with you (it will more likely repel you!). But words like these can begin to do so. Self-disclosure is the first step in a relationship. Ellul makes the point from Genesis: “God is not only creator; he is creator through the word, which means that he is never far from, never foreign to, his creation. God speaking means he is in relationship” (Humiliation, 59). The word forms the basis of our relationship with God, or, rather, God’s relationship with his creation.
This point is taken to another level in the Gospel of John, a book that opens by echoing the creation event as we are introduced to the Savior as the self-disclosure of God. The theme of word and relationship returns. God’s children, his flock, listen to the Shepherd’s voice. Jesus came into the world to speak and His children hear his voice (10:16, 27; 18:37). But they do more than listen. When God speaks his children recognize their Shepherd, are drawn into relationship, and are moved to follow Him. Whenever words are spoken directly at us we are invited to respond, normally it would be odd not to respond, even of those words come from a complete stranger on the street. Or to illustrate it in a different context think of a time when you drove a car past a friend in another car and waved but got no response back. The immediate thought is “Maybe that wasn’t my friend.” A lack of response makes us question our relationship. Words are like that. Words, like the voice of the Shepherd, invite us into relationship.
If words are the foundation for our relationships, lies destroy those relationships. The one seeking to destroy man’s relationship with God–Satan–is the one who has busied himself in seeking to distort and twist the truth into lies from the beginning of God’s creation. He did this to sever man from God. And he succeeded. But it gets worse because to be a liar is to be a murderer (8:44). When truth is twisted into lies a world of relationally-networked sinners becomes a very bloody place and a war breaks out between God and the people he created. The only hope for this severed relationship between a holy God and sinful man (each of us) is through the death and resurrection of Christ. Thus the Father of Lies can be defeated–and our relationship with God can be restored–only through the ultimate murder, the severed forsakenness of our Savior on the cross. For us to know God the Word of God must be murdered by lies.
The connection between word/relationship and truth/lies has profound implications for just about every sphere of life. But the simple point of these musings is to see the connection between our Bibles, our God, and our relationship and response to Him. Scripture is more than a book. It’s the voice of our Shepherd and therefore is the foundation of our relationship with Him. Those words are God’s invitation for us to know Him, to respond, to enter an eternal relationship with Him. He speaks truth so we can know Him.
Robert C. (Ric) Cannada, Jr., Chancellor and CEO Reformed Theological Seminary, has distributed this statement from Bruce Waltke:
I had not seen the video before it was distributed. Having seen it now, I realize its deficiency and wish to put my comments in a fuller theological context.
1. Adam and Eve are historical figures from whom all humans are descended; they are uniquely created in the image of God and as such are not in continuum with animals.
2. Adam is the federal and historical head of the fallen human race just as Jesus Christ is the federal and historical head of the Church.
3. I am not a scientist, but I have familiarized myself with attempts to harmonize Genesis 1-3 with science, and I believe that creation by the process of evolution is a tenable Biblical position. I apologize for giving the impression that others who seek to harmonize the two differently are not credible. I honor all who contend for the Christian faith.
4. Evolution as a process must be clearly distinguished from evolutionism as a philosophy. The latter is incompatible with orthodox Christian theology.
5. Science is fallible and subject to revision. As a human and social enterprise, science will always be in flux. My first commitment is to the infallibility (as to its authority) and inerrancy (as to its Source) of Scripture.
6. God could have created the Garden of Eden with apparent age or miraculously, even as Christ instantly turned water into wine, but the statement that God “caused the trees to grow” argues against these notions.
7. I believe that the Triune God is Maker and Sustainer of heaven and earth and that biblical Adam is the historical head of the human race.
8. Theological comments made here are mostly a digest of my chapters on Genesis 1-3 in An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan, 2007).
Bruce Waltke, Professor of Old Testament
Reformed Theological Seminary
Peter O’Brien’s new Hebrews commentary in the Pillar series is delightful and I’ve been reading it straight through. Tonight I have a few moments and I wanted to post his comments on Hebrews 1:3b: “he [Christ] upholds the universe by the word of his power.” This has always been a fascinating text for me (along with Col. 1:17).
Not only is Jesus Christ the agent of creation (v. 2c); he also sustains the universe he has made. This Lord is not like the god of the deists, who, having created the world, then proceeded to let it run on its own. He is personally and continually involved in sustaining it.
Then he adds this:
The immediate context, however, suggests the additional nuance of the Son’s ‘carrying’ all things to their appointed end or goal. The notion of direction or purpose seems to be included. The author, then, is not referring to the passive support of a burden like the Greek god Atlas bearing the dead weight of the world on his shoulders. Rather, the language implies a ‘bearing’ that includes movement and progress towards an objective.
So what is this objective?
Moreover, if this nuance of direction is present,* then the Son’s bearing all things (i.e., time and space) to their appointed ends looks forward to his work of redemption, which is described in the next line (v. 3c). The Son’s sustaining all things is not simply the backdrop to or the precursor of his redemptive work. His cleansing of sins is an important objective of Christ’s providential work.
In other words the picture we get in Hebrews 1:3 is of a Savior who sustains the world for the purpose of dying for the world.
* Some commentators agree (Westcott, P.E. Hughes) but others disagree (Ellingworth). Ellingworth takes “upholds” more along the lines of bearing dead weight or preventing something from falling. O’Brien argues the case contextually by suggestion that “upholds” is in a line of progression that leads to “making purification” and that leads to “sat down.”