Let me begin with this. I believe the creation poem that begins the Bible was a special revelation, traditionally given to Moses, that gives a true picture of the creation of the heavens and the earth as far as it goes in describing things. In it God painted with a very broad brush as he took us from the beginning of earth as an entity to the apex of his original creation—us.
I do not have a natural affinity for poetry so I have read books to help me better understand and appreciate it. One of the books made a very good point. That was that reading poetry literally was, in most cases, going to cause problems for the reader. You know where I am going with this: the problem of the days and nights.
First, I think that framing the creation account in terms of days and nights gives us a realistic feel for the way the heavens and earth were created in stages. Each of the stages is founded on a previous one and this is the way things occurred. All of physical creation, except at the very beginning, is dependent on something else that existed before it.
Second, I think setting the poem in a seven-day week enhanced the liturgical quality of the poem. This in turn kept it in the Tabernacle and Temple services so that it would come down to us as a suitable praise of God’s original works of creation.
We have, of course, many additional testimonies to God’s creation throughout Scripture, both of his original creation and of his continuing creation.
Since God’s original work of creation of the physical realm, which brought into being what had not previously existed, he has continued to work out his purposes in what he created. (This is contrary to some people’s idea that God wound up the universe like a clock and left it to run by itself.) This active working can be designated as continuing creation, providence, and miracles. Though this is more for our own thinking than something we are obliged to believe or necessarily as the Trinity thinks of it.
Continuing creation is God using things that do exist to create new things. For example, God uses two cells from our parents to create us who had no previous physical being, although we did receive the ancestry contained in our parent’s genetics.
In providence God uses what exists and shapes matter, energy and events in accordance with the way he has created them to accomplish his purposes.
Miracles involve actions we do not understand. Many people believe miracles are impossible as they seemingly require the violation of natural laws. However, we can think that if God intended miracles he would create a universe that could be used in ways that are beyond the usual. For instance, I do not believe that when Jesus started doing miracles he surprised anybody in heaven (only people on earth). It was just part of God’s original plan.
Let me put in here something more about the Trinity. This is not from my own thinking but from the Nicene Creed, a fifteen-hundred year old interpretation of Scripture accepted by most churches. The Trinity functions as three distinct persons though all share the full nature of God. Here is what the creed has to say about the character and roles of the three persons.
“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.”
The triune God of Christianity is absolutely unique. Except for offshoots of Christianity, other religions have no god, one god, many gods or everything as god. The Trinity is one God existing in the persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Bible adequately shows the truth of God in three persons and in one being. This mystery was revealed most fully in the person of Jesus and the writings of the New Testament. Jesus had authority to teach us about this because he was one of the persons. Thus, he was able to tell his disciples what they could understand about the Trinity and promised them another person, the Holy Spirit, would help them by providing further knowledge.
This knowledge of the Trinity has not given us the answer to “How can this be?” I believe it is meant to be this way so that we who believe can stand in awe and unbelievers will simply sound foolish when they claim the Trinity is a human invention. As written above, the only person once on earth who might lay claim to the invention of the reality of the Trinity was one of them.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24 ESV). I interpret these verses as providing a basis for our interpretation of Scripture although there are other meanings in them and other verses that guide interpretation. I believe the interpretation of biblical passages must enhance our understanding of the reality of spiritual things and bring us closer to a fuller knowledge of God’s revelation.
This does not mean we should not use such wisdom as has been provided us by others who have worked at interpreting Scripture. Interpretation is such a complex subject it has its own name—hermeneutics. The article in my Bible dictionary says interpretation is both an art and a science. Science begins with accurate observation and in interpretation this would mean, as far as possible, correctly reading the passage. From there we go on to context, comparison with other Scripture, other people’s interpretations and whatever we have learned from interpreting other passages.
There are rules for interpretation. These serve the same purpose as what are called the laws of nature do in the physical sciences. They put bounds on what are legitimate interpretations.
The art of interpretation is the work of the Holy Spirit as we pray for guidance and meditate on the possible meanings to see as much as God would have us see in a particular passage. Art is not static so what we may not understand originally may become clear as we continue to seek understanding.
Even verses, even short passages, even chapters, even individual books are sufficient to bring people to faith in Jesus Christ, as was the Ethiopian. (I once met a man who said he came to faith in Jesus Christ by reading the book of Job.) I am sure some people have come to faith through less than perfect translations into indigenous languages. The inspired Word and the work of the Holy Spirit make whatever we may have of the written revelation of God sufficient for our needs.
You might ask why if a little bit of Scripture is sufficient for redemption there is so much of it in the Bible. Here I think we need to go back to the idea of Scripture being a creation of the Holy Spirit. Like physical creation the Bible has depth beyond the understanding of any single human mind and in its total richness is deeper than the collective mind of humanity is able to understand.
This is the other side of sufficiency. You may have noticed that serious Bible commentaries take up a good part of a bookshelf or even more. This is because the immense content of the Bible is sufficient to provide material for endless study for even the most diligent Bible scholar. The Scriptures are, I believe, a well of wisdom that never goes dry.
Clarity, to me, involves more than reading the words as we read ordinary passages. Let me illustrate what I mean by using the account of Philip and the Ethiopian as found in Acts 8:26-40. It took a long string of providences to bring the Ethiopian to where he was and doing what he was doing. It took a special revelation to bring Philip up to his chariot just as he was complaining about not being able to understand Isaiah 53:7-8.
Clarifying the passage for the Ethiopian meant taking him on a long psychological, intellectual and spiritual trip until he came to saving faith in Jesus Christ, was baptized, and went home rejoicing. Philip then moved on to Azotus having done Christ’s work with the Ethiopian and continued his preaching.
Clarity in our understanding of Scripture, I believe, can come to us in various, though less dramatic, ways. Examples are reading the Bible, listening to teaching and preaching, going to Bible studies, using study Bibles and commentaries to see what other people think of a passage, talking to fellow Christians, and meditating on God’s Word. I believe when these things are superintended by the Holy Spirit we will receive the level of understanding of Scripture that Christ intends us to have.