Creation

This page contains my many thoughts on creation. I hope they will stimulate your faith in all that God has done.

Before the Creation of the Earth

I think we should give more consideration to the events that happened before the creation of the earth, or, in contemporary terms, the creation of the universe. I suppose the first thing that happened was the creation of the spiritual space we call heaven. This had to occur so God would have space for all the spiritual beings he would create. The book of Revelation tells us of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who surround the throne of God (another creation) and worship him continually. Revelation also tells of angels who serve God’s purposes for good; and beasts, a false prophet, a dragon, and a prostitute who also serve God’s purposes but who intend evil.

The events before the creation of the earth also included the begetting of God’s Son. In his prayer at the Last Supper, Jesus said, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5). The apostle Peter wrote about Jesus, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20).

Another event that occurred before creation of the earth was the coming into existence of the Holy Spirit, who was to participate in the communion between the Father and the Son, share in the creation of the earth, and be an active presence (counselor, intercessor, helper, and comforter) with those who believe in Christ.

God’s purposes for Christian believers also were formulated before the creation (foundation) of the earth. Let us look at what the apostle Paul tells us about God’s purposes that came into existence before the creation of the earth.

“We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7). Paul told the Corinthians, and us, that what he was communicating was, in the wisdom of God, intended for present believers.

“Even as he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). The us and the we in this verse speak to the future condition of individual believers.

We live “in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began” (Titus 1:2). For these things Paul wrote to be true Creation has to be teleological, that is to be directed to very precise ends. We are the precise ends God intended when he created the universe and for us to happen many things were brought into existence. Let us look at some of these things.

The first necessity of physical creation is some place for it to exist. The container of the universe is the space-time continuum. In it, both now and at the instant of the Big Bang, are all contents of the universe. Both place and contents needed to be worked out in God’s mind before creation began.

The next step was the creation of electromagnetism which allowed the energy and particles resulting from the Big Bang to do what God intended. His intention for much of the energy is that it becomes matter. When the first hydrogen atom came into existence, God had to have quantum mechanics waiting for it along with the strong and weak forces. When matter came into existence, it was found that it deformed the space-time continuum causing physical things to come together. In God’s planning before creation he had foreseen the need for and so gave the space-time continuum the properties it needed to make gravity. The coming together of matter due to gravity produced nuclear and chemical interactions that God had planned for.

The nuclear reactions in the stars formed by gravity produced larger and larger atoms and these eventually filled the periodic table that God had been planned to provide the material for further creative acts. Atoms then interacted in the ways that God had planned for them and so created the molecules that form the entities God had in mind.

God’s plan for physical reality, as you well know, did not end with just molecules and inorganic compounds. It went on to the creation of organic chemistry and from there on to organisms. God’s plan for living things included the creation of three types of living cells. If the name archaea (derived from the Greek for ancient things) truly means that the domain Archaea is the oldest form of life then these single-cell organisms are the first instance of cellular existence. The coming into being of these (if they are) original cells involved many other subsidiary inventions. These include cell walls, cell membranes, DNA and RNA, genomes, a genetic code and perhaps the most marvelous invention of all—a way to duplicate themselves by cell division.

The other two types of cells that were created later are those of bacteria and those of multicellular organisms. These cells share some of the characteristics of archaea but differ in many respects from archaea and each other. It seems obvious in hindsight that these three types of cells were necessary for life forms that could provide a continuing ecology over the often catastrophic history of the earth. While the multicellular cells were planned for to provide the variety and complexity of life that were needed for our human existence. The list of things planned for multicellular organisms would take up several volumes. However, I think the creation of minds, particularly our minds, was the most important.

God’s planning did not end at the point of humans having minds. People had to be able to have languages and later form nations largely based on common languages. As God’s communication with people expanded, there was also put in place in people the ability to invent and use written languages. It was in God’s purposes before the creation of the earth that we would have a written revelation so that we could know about God, and also believe that physical death was not the end of our existence.

Since there is a plan for us to live in some way beyond our physical death, there had to plans for a place for us to enjoy our eternal lives. Jesus said to his disciples, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2). The New Jerusalem described in chapters 21 and 22 of the book of Revelation is apparently the place to which Jesus referred. It was necessarily planned when plans were made before the creation of the earth for us to live with God forever. What we will be like and what we will do, except worship God, is not clear. There was a group of early Christians in the Middle East who combined the biblical idea of our perfection in heaven with Plato’s idea of the sphere as the perfect shape to conclude that our resurrection bodies would be round.

Whatever our shape and the nature of our eternal bodies, and whatever we are given to do in the New Jerusalem, we can be sure it had been planned before the creation of the earth.

Note: Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.

 

I think the following article will be helpful to people who are interested in the relationship of Christ and creation.

Alfred Edersheim on Creation

Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889) was born a Jew, died an Anglican and in between was a Scottish Presbyterian. He is best known for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah first published in 1883. [1] He was born in Vienna, the son of wealthy and cultured Jewish parents who spoke English in their home. He learned the Hebrew he would need for his biblical scholarship while attending a Hebrew school in Vienna. He was forced by family financial reverses to drop out of the University of Vienna. He went to Pest (before it was joined to Buda) in Hungary. There he met John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain ministering to Scottish workmen building a bridge over the Danube. When Duncan returned to Scotland, Edersheim accompanied him.

Edersheim then studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. He married a Scottish woman, Mary Broomfield, and fathered seven children. After being ordained to ministry in the Free Church of Scotland he served in several churches and spent a year as a missionary to the Jews in Iasi, Romania. In 1875 he “crossed the Thames” and was ordained in the Church of England. He then served as curate and vicar in Hants and Dorset. He next relocated to Oxford and was appointed Select Preacher to the University for two years and then became Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint at Oxford University. He died in Menton, France in 1889. [2]

The education and life experiences of Edersheim seem to have uniquely qualified him to write The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. This is evidenced by the fact that it remains in print 130 years after it was first published. The scholarly research he pursued required not only extensive knowledge of the biblical languages Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, but of the languages of theological study, English, German and Latin. He may have had his own life in mind when he discussed the use of the words by chance (Luke 10:31 KJV) in his commentary on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Edersheim objected to the translation of the Greek words κατα συγκυρια as by chance, and presumably would object to them being translated it happened (NIV). He thought the real meaning of the Greek expression was concurrence. Thus he wrote, “He [God] provides through a concurrence of circumstances, all in themselves natural and in the succession of ordinary causation (and this distinguishes it from miracle), but the concurring of which is directed and overruled by Him.” [3] This appears to be the explanation of how God worked in Edersheim’s life.

When it comes to creation, Edersheim took a road less traveled. The following is a commentary on what Edersheim wrote in connection with Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman. What Edershiem wrote is one paragraph but it needs to be looked at phrase by phrase because of the density of the content. Edemsheim begins, “As always, the seen is to Christ the emblem of the unseen and spiritual; …” An emblem is a symbol of a nation, organization or family. It is not the reality of what it symbolizes. To think of Christ seeing physical reality as only a symbol of what is unseen and spiritual turns our usual thinking upside down. Yet when Jesus told the Jews, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days,” (John 2:19 NIV) he could say this because he saw in the temple the redemptive work his death and resurrection would accomplish. The visible temple was only an emblem of a far greater reality.

Edersheim continues, “Nature, that in and through which, in manifold and divers colouring, He ever sees the supernatural, even as the light lies in varying hues on the mountain, or glows in changeful colouring on the edge of the horizon.” It is not too surprising Jesus saw the supernatural when he looked at nature. He existed before nature and, as the pre-incarnate Christ, participated in the creation of all things. The incarnate Christ had the knowledge and power to work miracles in nature because it was the plan of his Father that he would do so. Because nature had been created to accommodate miracles—one of C.S. Lewis’ great insights—nature was not damaged or deformed when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Nature and Lazarus went on as they had before.

Continuing, Edersheim wrote, “A view this of all things existent, which Hellenism, even in its sublimest poetic conception of creation as the impress of heavenly archetypes, has only materialized and reserved.” The Greek philosophers, like Plato, saw in the objects of nature things that were modeled after archetypes that existed in the spiritual realm, that is,in the home of the Greek gods. In this view creation was both subsidiary to and limited by what existed in the archetypes. This view divided reality between the ideal and the actual.

Christ’s view of creation brought everything together. “But to Jesus it all pointed upward, because the God of Nature was the God of Grace, the One Living and True God in Whom all matter and spirit lives, Whose world is one in design, workmanship and purpose.” For Christ there was no division between spiritual prototypes in heaven and the material objects of earth. Neither was there the current distinction between the physical and the spiritual. Everything fits together because it had its source in the mind of the one true God.  “And so nature was but the echo of God’s heard Voice, which ever, to all and in all, speaks the same, if there be but listening ears.”

Edersheim did not see the unity of Christ’s view of creation as being evident to everyone. Actually he believed just the opposite. This is how he described Christ’s teachings on creation. “And so He would have it speak to men in parables, that, to them who see, it might be the Jacob’s ladder leading from earth to heaven, while they, whose sight and hearing are bound in the sleep of heart-hardening, would see but not perceive, and hear but not understand.” [4] Jesus taught many things in parables, and except when the point of the parable was aimed at those who opposed his ministry, many of his parables required an explanation before even his disciples could understand them. Edersheim states that seeing creation rightly requires the same open heart that is necessary to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Or as the writer of Hebrews tells us, “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 ESV)

[References Cited

  1. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition (n.p.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993).
  2. “Alfred Edersheim,” Wikipedia, last modified on December 13, 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Edersheim.
  3. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition (n.p.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 639.
  4. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah: New Updated Edition (n.p.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 284.]

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