Introduction

Beginnings are usually the best places to start. The Bible is no exception. Misunderstanding the opening pages of Genesis can affect how one reads Matthew and Paul, or how one views marriage and ethnic diversity. Apologetically speaking: as go Genesis 1-3, so go Genesis 4-Revelation 21. So, presenting a Biblical theology of creation is self-evidently important.

We will consider creation in the following four ways: account, immediacy, crown, glory. Though strictly a positive study of creation, I do have apologetic concerns. Chiefly, I aim to present a succinct Biblical theology which refutes liberal readings of Genesis 1-3, which would seek to accommodate the likes of Neo-Darwinism.

Four Considerations

First, consider the account of creation. Many people get caught up debating the meaning of terms in Genesis 1, such as “day.” There is no serious doubt whether Moses intended “day” to mean a roughly 24-hour period of time. The true debate is not over such terms, but over the genre. “Day” can refer to 24 hours, yet still favor an old earth, if Genesis 1 is ancient cosmology, for example.[1]

The book of Genesis is a historical narrative, which means that it is a sequential account of events which transpired in the past. The sequence of historical narrative is usually, though not always, chronological.[2] Common liberal arguments involve the supposition that Genesis 1-3 is not historical narrative, but the question must be asked: when does Genesis become historical narrative? All historical figures in Genesis and beyond are considered the descendants of Adam and Eve (e.g. genealogy of Genesis 5). If Genesis 1-3 is not historical, then neither is the rest of Genesis. Many take this position, while others draw arbitrary lines in earlier chapters.

Beginning to end, Genesis is a historical narrative. However, we do find unique elements in the opening chapters. Genesis 1-3 might be called exalted historical narrative. It depicts God as a King and man as His vice-regent. The creation of the universe in Genesis 1 is an image of God the King building His temple.[3] At least three poetic structures are evident (1:27; 2:23; 3:14-19) in the Hebrew. Moses was attempting to give an account of creation in the most beautiful and glorious way possible.

Second, consider the immediacy of creation. Scripture speaks of creation as an immediate act. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6). God spoke (e.g. Genesis 1:3) and matter came into being (c.f. John 1:1-3). This does not allow for any hesitation or delay. We are to visualize an immediacy akin to our future resurrection, when we will receive re-created bodies: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).

The immediacy of creation is also found in creation ex nihilo, creation from nothing. “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3). God’s work in Genesis 1 was not a rearranging of matter, as Mormons believe.[4] God has revealed to us that before He spoke, nothing existed. There was not matter or time or energy. When He spoke, however, the universe came into being, and it did so immediately. “As it is written, ‘I have made you the father of many nations’ – in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17).

Third, consider the crown of creation. God has made many glorious things, but only man bears His image. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God is not human like we are, so we should not assume from this verse that to be made in the image of God means He has a physical body after which we are modeled. Rather, bearing the image of God means we reflect something of Who He is. When you look at a person, you see a divine reflection, as if God were looking in a mirror.

A direct consequence of the Imago Dei (Image of God) is that man was created as God’s ambassador in the world, a function which no animal shared. We see this natural reality in God’s will for Adam: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was to reign as a steward over the world God had made (1:26), expanding Eden’s borders into the ends of the earth (v.28). He was also to function as a priest. The language of “working and keeping” in Genesis 2 is used of Israelite priests (Numbers 3:7-8; 8:25-26; 18:5-6; 1 Chronicles 23:32; Ezekiel 44:14), and we know that the functions of priesthood existed long before Israel was established as a nation (e.g. 4:1-7; 14:17-24). Man was created to be the priest-king of creation, to cultivate creation for worshiping God.

Fourth, consider the glory of creation. The fabric of creation demonstrates certain perfections of God (Romans 1:19-20). “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). One of the glories of creation is the very glory of God Himself.

Another glory of creation is the maturity in which it was generated. “And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for season, and for days and years” (Genesis 1:14). The expanse of celestial bodies (stars, planets, etc.) were created for daily, seasonal, and annual orientation. These bodies exist not for their own sake, but for man’s sake, to assist his work on earth. Therefore, it is more reasonable than not for us to assume that God created the stars with their light already in transit to earth. If not, then it would take many light years before these lights even reached earth. We know that God’s creative acts in Genesis 1 were immediate and that He completed each in the course of several days.

We may call this maturity a functional creationism, which is to say that God created the universe to begin functioning immediately as He intended it to. He did not need to create Adam as a baby, or create a dozen eggs which would eventually hatch into chickens. God made the world functional.

A final glory of creation may be seen in the structural precedents embedded in the initial created order itself. Marriage was instituted when God made Eve and brought her to Adam. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). Sabbath rest was instituted when God rested on the seventh day (v.2; Deuteronomy 5:12-15). Species integrity was instituted when God created all creatures according to their kinds (e.g. Genesis 1:21). This is one reason bestiality is a sin (Leviticus 18:23). There is a special order with which God does not want us to tamper.

Conclusion

From these basic Biblical facts of creation, it should be apparent that Neo-Darwinism is incompatible with Christian faith. If we take the Bible seriously, then we must say that God created the order we see around us by His word, not by macro-evolution. God formed Adam immediately from the dust, not from protoplasm over hundreds of millions of years. God designed creation intentionally to reflect His glory and institute certain standards for ongoing life; He did not create matter and allow it to work itself out randomly.


[1] Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One, 14-20.

[2] For example, consider the varied order of events in the Synoptic Gospels.

[3] For discussion on Genesis 1 relation to the Israelite Tabernacle/Temple, see Schreiner, The King in His Beauty, 8.

[4] We are not instructed on the creation of spiritual entities, but we may only assume they are likewise created ex nihilo, because angels and the like are considered part of creation.

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