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321 and Creation

I've begun to explore how the three truths of 321 interact with the four planks of other gospel presentations (creation, fall, cross, repentance).  Those gospel events are vital.  But the three truths of Trinity, Adam and Christ and union with Christ are essential if we're to understand the four events rightly.

Today we'll think about 321 and creation....

"God made you, therefore..."

How do you want to finish that sentence?

There are many implications of God's creative work.  But so quickly we want to speak about what it means for us.  And even when we consider what it means for God we cite implications like: God owns everything, He has certain rights, He's the legitimate ruler of the universe and of you.  Essentially we think Creator means Creditor or Creator means King - in fact it can be hard for us to think in any terms beyond this.  "God made you, therefore you owe him" is a pretty common way of unpacking the implications of creation.  And when it comes as the first point in an evangelistic presentation, it introduces God to us in profoundly unhelpful terms.

When Athanasius was battling Arius, he identified a grievous error in the heretic's method: Arius named God from his works and called him "Uncreated".  He should have begun by naming God from his Son and calling him "Father."  (Contra Arianos 1.34)  If the first thing we know about God is that he is Maker, we'll start our gospel on the wrong foot.

For one thing, God defined as Creator becomes quite a needy deity.  He's like the workaholic who doesn't know who he is unless he's at the office.  God defined as Creator needs to work.  He requires a world in order to fulfil himself.  And then creation is not so much a gift of his love as a project for his own self-interested purposes.  Instantly the God-world dynamic revolves around God's needs and we are the ones to fulfil him.

Nicene faith, on the other hand, begins "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth."  Father comes first.  Which means, before anything else, God is a Life-giver.  Because of the truth of 3, He has lived in love long before He has lived in labours.  He does not achieve His divine identity by creating, instead creation expresses His eternal fruitfulness.  He has no need of galaxies, mountain ranges, rainforests and us.  We do not fulfil Him, He fulfils us.  We do not give to Him, He gives to us.

Therefore when the Christian says "God made you, therefore..." - how should we finish that sentence?  There are a hundred things we could say, but perhaps one of the first is, "God is Giver."  "God is generous."  "God is immeasurably expansive in His love."   Whatever we say we need to avoid simply equating Creator with Creditor.  The whole direction of the gospel presentation will depend on this set-up.  Are we introducing God primarily as one who takes (because He's earned the right by making us) or as one who gives (because He's shown His life-giving character through creation)?

I hope you'll see that 3 is a vital truth to surround the teaching of creation.

But 2 and 1 are important too.  Because what connection is there between God, the world and you?  Why does creation matter if, essentially, the gospel is God's plan to save souls?  What relationship is there between the fall of humanity and the physical world?  What's the link between Christ's resurrection and the regeneration of all things?  And what does God actually want with the world?

If the gospel's not about creation giving to God, then how does God's giving nature express itself in creation.  Well He gives us our lives so He can give us His life.  He gives in order to give.  He creates a world through His Son and by His Spirit, so that He can enter that world through His Son and by His Spirit.  Again the direction of travel is vital.  God doesn't create a world below so that we can learn to make our way back up.  He pours out His love in creation so He can pour out Himself in incarnation.  Creation is intended to receive its Lord so that He commits His future to us as a Bridegroom commits himself to a bride.

Creation is not simply a truth to be affirmed and then forgotten while we deal with the spiritual problems of sin and redemption.  Instead creation is the first stage in a unified movement of God, the goal of which is the summing up of all things under the feet of the incarnate Son (Ephesians 1:10)

Therefore the truths of 2 (Adam and Christ) and 1 (union with Christ) are vital - not just for the understanding of redemption.  They earth redemption's story in creation.  The world, summed up by our Representative Man, is the place where salvation happens.  In this Man, on that cross, in our humanity God has worked.  And in this flesh, on this earth, with these eyes I will see my Redeemer (Job 19:25-27).

...More to follow...

16 thoughts on “321 and Creation

  1. Gav

    Glen. I would like to share this with you as confirmation and encouragement to you (like you need it ;-) ) about that my relationship with God has completely changed. I couldnt relate (let alone have a relationship) with the "needy" god that was watching my every move waiting for me to impress him......and I did try really hard....but now I have a relationship with a generous God who has amazingly reached out to me and adopted me into His family. Thankyou so much for your teaching on this. Its so much easier to share who the relational, family love God is now because of this experience.

  2. Glen

    That's a GREAT encouragement to me, thanks Gav. There's no better news than sharing *this* God. And when others see Him for who He is, they'll share Him too. I'm doing some seminars on Adoption and Evangelism this Saturday and your comment perfectly describes what I've been trying to put into words - when you get the adopting, generous God, you *want* to generously share Him.

    Glory to Jesus!

  3. Matthew Weston

    Glen - you know that I agree with Athanasius rather than Arius on this! However it struck me recently that Genesis 1 begins "In the beginning God created" - i.e. the Nicene Creed may start with Father, but the Bible seems to start with creator. I was thinking of how to communicate the truth of God as Father before he is creator, but found I didn't know how to deal with Genesis 1:1. Any thoughts? (Also, I'll be there on Saturday so hopefully we'll finally meet in person!)

  4. Glen

    Be great to see you there Matthew. Make sure you say hello.

    Yeah "Begin" can become a very contested word in these discussion. I certainly don't mean that, pedagogically, you must begin pre-creation.

    In teaching the gospel, I'm very happy beginning thousands of years *after* Genesis 1. Actually you'll notice that 321 begins at the baptism of Jesus and works backwards and then forwards again.

    I wouldn't mind beginning in Genesis 1:1 either, but I'd want to make sure that, at the very least, I wasn't defining God in ways contrary to His triune nature. As you can guess, I'd highlight the Spirit of God hovering, the Word of God creating, and the "Let us" of verse 26.

    What I'd object to is laying a foundation of "Creator" which, a) might not be applicable to the Son when I (later) introduce Him and b) is elaborated in terms of mere Creditor or King without the life-giving generosity which I think creation /really/ reveals.

  5. PRB

    Not everything can be said of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the first chapter of the Bible. Rather than describe all the inner relations of the Trinity in the first verse we are given something that is of immediate comfort to us: the heavens and the earth are a glorious gift of goodness, order, light and life - and before we are given a single day of work we get a day of rest. We are given no goals or schedules, no targets or to-do-lists, we are simply told NOT to do one easy thing.

    We are given free run of the whole creation as long as we run in love and trust.

    The first question Adam is asked is "where are you?" and the answer has already been given. Adam is in a wonderfully gracious family home - spoken and hand-made with love and generosity.

    This is not a kingdom but a family home - destined to be a marriage home... and so Adam is himself handmade as a pattern and prototype of the whole purpose of the universe and its final destiny: Eve is drawn from his side and the two are one flesh showing him [and us] the way we were designed to experience the very life of God in the soul of humanity. The God who speaks His Word in the power of the Spirit - the God whose Voice comes to walk with His future Bride in His Garden, in the family home... this is the God who overflows His own generous life to the heavens and the earth.

    Genesis 1 verse 1 may not tell us this whole picture, but by the time we get to chapter 3 we have a wonderful picture of both the 3 and the 2... if not also the 1.

  6. Glen

    Yes, what PRB said... Genesis 1 (and 2 and 3) unpack "Creator" not in terms of what we owe to God but in terms of His profligate generosity. From the outset "Creator" is set in a bigger framework - even if that framework isn't instantly unpacked.

  7. Howard

    Glen wrote: "In teaching the gospel, I’m very happy beginning thousands of years *after* Genesis 1. Actually you’ll notice that 321 begins at the baptism of Jesus and works backwards and then forwards again"
    I wonder if this needs to be more encompassing?

    The theology network blog was encouraging us this week to use the Old Testament to validate the New- -especially regarding the life and work of Christ, and Jesus certainly spoke of the validity of doing so on numerous occasions. This also aids when we look at issues such as creation in Genesis 1. The Psalmist notes God made the heavens and the waters by 'the Word of the Lord' (Psalm 33: 6), and this 'wisdom' -hearing this same 'Word' - underpins all (Psalm 19:1-3, Romans 10:18), hence, the essential truth of Genesis 1:1 is that the work of creation takes place within that which is of primary place and role - the Word Himself, because of His relationship to the Father, creation itself thereby becoming a means to both express and reflect something of this. Perhaps introducing these qualities quickly in examining the very opening of scripture and history is a way to 'jump in' to the centrality of Christ in Creation and Redemption.

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