Saturday, October 19, 2013

Grudem 15b: Creation not God

B. Creation is Distinct and Dependent
The creation is something entirely distinct from God, yet the creation is always dependent on God. God is "far above" the creation, greater than the creation (God is transcendent).  Yet God is always involved with the creation and is present in all the creation (God is immanent).

Grudem presents a number of theological mistakes that have an improper balance of these two truths. Materialism treats the creation as if it is all that exists (practical materialists are those whose lives are oriented around possessions and money).  On the other hand, pantheism equates God with the creation. The world becomes god.  Views that see the world as an "emanation" from God are similar to pantheism because the world is not distinct from God.

Dualism sees the creation as having existed side by side next to God as another ultimate reality.  In other words, it does not see God as creating the universe out of nothing. Is God stronger than the creation?  Will God win out over evil?

Deism then sees God as transcendent but not immanent.  That is to say, God created the universe but is not currently involved in it.  God is like a clock-maker who wound up the world and then left it running on its own.

Grudem's treatment of these unorthodox views is accurate and appropriate. The only place where perhaps it could be improved is in his distinction between transcendent and immanent. I have argued previously that Grudem does not have a fully developed sense of what it means to say that God's essence must be outside the creation since he created the universe out of nothing.

That is to say, creation was not when the Trinity, existing in emptiness, put matter into space. Creation was when God created both the emptiness and the matter in it. The transcendence of God, in relation to the creation, is thus much more than the fact that God is greater and "far above" the creation.  It is that his essence exists "outside" or "other" than this universe, including its space.  God's immanence is thus the presence of his Spirit everywhere within this universe and its space.

C. God Created the Universe to Show His Glory
"The entire creation is intended to show God's glory" (271). "One glance at the sun of the stars convinces us of God's infinite power."  God did not have to create the universe.  It was a "totally free act of God."  God does not need us in any way.

The creation shows us God's power and wisdom.  And God has made us in such a way that we enjoy creating things too.  We gain fulfillment when we imitate God.

Grudem is completely orthodox here, although he misses an important dimension.  Calvinists of Grudem's sort often talk about the creation as if its sole purpose is to give glory to God. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, the primary purpose of humanity is to glorify God and serve him forever. True though it is, it is not the whole equation.

The part that Grudem and those like him tend to miss is the fact that God created the universe to enjoy it as well.  Calvinists of this sort tend to see God as the greatest narcissist there ever was, as if he only created us so that we would tell him how great he is.  But God genuinely loves the creation.  He genuinely enjoys us.  He created the universe as a legitimate object of love and glory in itself.

D. The Creation was "Very Good"
Since God made the creation to glorify himself, we are not surprised that it does, that it is good. Genesis 1 of course says so. "The material creation is still good in God's sight and should be seen as 'good' by us as well" (272).

Grudem thus teaches it is wrong to have a "false asceticism" that believes we should not enjoy the creation (including the pleasures of marriage and food).  We should feel free to have a "positive, thankful, joyful use of it," 272). God has given us enjoyment of it, so the proper industrial and technological development of it is legitimate.

Certainly Grudem is orthodox to teach that the creation is not intrinsically evil. What is a little surprising is that he does not say anything about the fallenness of creation, which was a key teaching of Augustine and a common Christian belief throughout the centuries. That is to say, most Christians in history have believed that it was not only humanity that became subject to sin when Adam sinned but that creation itself became subject to corruption and decay at that time.

To be sure, not all Christians hold this belief, perhaps especially those who believe in some form of theistic evolution. Paul perhaps more exactly saw the creation as being under the power of evil at this present time, due to an intrinsic weakness (not sinfulness) that it had. Nevertheless, Grudem expresses a fully orthodox sentiment when he sees the creation as good in itself. We are free to enjoy the creation, to exercise, and to explore the greatness God has put into it.

Grudem also misses the fact that God created us to be good stewards of it.  He did not create us to abuse it or exploit it.  That would be treating his property carelessly.

1 comment:

Susan Moore said...

Thanks for this post. I love God's creation. Perhaps a rule of thumb would be; if it can be measured, it's not God.
The space that the universe sits in could be measured if we had a big enough measuring tape, and a way to get to the other side of the space to hold the other end of the measuring tape!
If you love God and His creation as well, you might like my last blog post, "Day Number Four: Time and Lit-Up Things."