Wednesday, January 24, 2018

3.1 The Creation Rule of Faith 1

Thus far in the outline:

Chapter 1: What is Biblical Theology?
Chapter 2: Theology of God
See the previous post.

Chapter 3: Creation and Consummation
3.1 The Creation Rule of Faith
1. With regard to creation, the Apostle's Creed simply states, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." The Nicene Creed only adds, "of all things visible and invisible." The Christians of the centuries have taken these words in the most literal of senses: there is nothing that exists that was not created by God.

As we will see, what is included in the "everything" and what it means to create has perhaps expanded over time. Creating may have merely meant something like "forming" to the Old Testament authors, perhaps even the New Testament authors.

Take 2 Maccabees 7:28, which says, "Look at the sky and the land and when you see all the things in them know that God did not make them out of things that are." Given our current understanding, it would be easy to assume that this verse speaks of creation out of nothing as we think of it. But many would suggest that 2 Maccabees is only arguing that God did not make the world out of already formed materials.

So when someone builds a house, they may buy bricks or planks and other materials in bulk from some business. They are making the house out of things that "are" and forming them into a house. In this interpretation, 2 Maccabees would be suggesting that God made the bricks and planks themselves. He would have made them from more fundamental materials that "do not appear" today (cf. Heb. 11:3).

2. It was in the late 100s AD that the Gnostic controversy seems to have pushed both Jews and Christians to a more radical and consistent understanding of creation out of nothing, creatio ex nihilo. The Gnostics of course believed that matter was evil. Already in the New Testament we find the early stages of this teaching. John 1:14, 6:54, 20:27; 1 John 4:2 all may very well address a rising sense that Jesus could not have been pure if he had flesh. If the underlying materials of the universe are evil, so the Gnostic line of thinking went, then only spirit can be pure, not anything material or made of flesh.

After the Gnostic controversy, creation is no longer just forming but the creation of the underlying raw materials themselves. Creation is now truly out of nothing. The Christians of the centuries pictured creation as God taking empty space and creating material that had not previously existed in any form whatsoever.

After developments in physics in the twentieth century, our sense of what creation out of nothing might mean becomes even greater. Again, the sense that God is the creator has remained constant from Genesis to today. But our sense of what it must mean for God to be creator has possibly changed as our sense of the creation has expanded.

So twentieth century physics introduces two new dimensions to the discussion that no individual in history had apparently thought prior to 1900. The first is Einstein's general theory of relativity, introduced in 1915. Space is no longer a fixed emptiness. Now, space itself can expand and contract. For example, around a massive object like the sun, space gets smaller.

The second is the idea of cosmic inflation. Around 1980, Alan Guth suggested that, in the first .00000000000000000000000000000001 seconds, the universe went from being a point to something close to its current size. In other words, space did not exist before creation. If this theory is correct, then God exists outside and beyond anything we can imagine. He was not "in" space when he created "everything," but his essence is somewhere "outside" this universe and its space...

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