Basic Christianity, Part Seven: Creation
In previous articles we have examined reasons to study Christianity, we have defined who God is and how He has revealed Himself, paying special attention to the Bible. Today we turn our attention to the creation of the world.
A question that comes immediately to mind when examining creation is "why?" We can't help but wonder why God created the world. If God is perfect it can't be that he needed the world or people to complete His happiness. The only possible answer is that God did this for His own glory. He created the world so it could bring glory to Him.
The first book of the Bible is called "Genesis" which means "beginnings." Genesis begins with the words, "In the beginning, God…" This simple phrase contains a great truth and relates something we spoke of in studying the attributes of God. In the beginning of recorded history, God already was. The Bible does not begin with God coming into existence or with God creating Himself. God is eternal and already existed before anything else. At one point in time He decided to create the world and everything in it and our text begins with a discussion of this act of creation. We learn that God created the world in a seven day period. We will briefly review each day.
Day One. On the first day of Creation God made light. He simply spoke it into existence. We see that darkness had already come into existence, for the creation of light was actually a separation of light from the darkness that was already present. After creating light, God waited for the completion of the day - the first day in recorded history.
Day Two. On the second day God separated the water in the sky from the water on the earth, thereby creating the earth's hydrological cycle where water falls to the earth and either runs into the seas or evaporates and returns to the sky.
Day Three. On the third day God separated the water on earth, forming the first land masses. Not stopping there, he also covered the earth with vegetation - trees, plants, grasses and every other kind of plant life. At the end of the third day we read "And God saw that it was good." This phrase will be repeated at the end of each of the subsequent days of creation and shows that God's creation was good and merited His approval.
Day Four. On the fourth day God made the stars and planets. The Bible says that He gave them for light and as a measurement of time. He created the sun to provide light during the day and the moon to provide light at night. And it was good.
Day Five. On the fifth day God created sea animals and birds. He commanded the animals to breed and multiply and to fill the seas and the earth. And it was good.
Day Six. On the sixth day God created land animals. And it was good. But God was not yet finished. On this day God also created human beings. We will devote more detailed attention to this shortly. At the close of the sixth day we read that "God saw all that He had made and it was very good."
At this point it is interesting to note the logic behind the way God created the world. We see that there are two "triads" or groupings of three days. On day one God created light and then three days later, on day four, created the stars and planets. On day two He created the sky and the water and three days later created the birds and fish to fill the skies and waters. On day three He created the land and vegetation and on the sixth day created animals and humans to inhabit the land and use the vegetation.
Day 1 - Light
Day 4 - Planets/Stars
Day 2 - Sky/Water
Day 5 - Birds/Fish
Day 3 - Land/Vegetation
Day 6 - Animals/Humans
Day Seven. On the seventh day God rested. We read that God "blessed the seventh day and sanctified it." He set the day aside as a special day to rest from the work He had done.
Let's take a few minutes to examine some of the most important points in greater detail.
Ex Nihilo. This is a traditional term used to describe the origins of God's act of creation. The words "ex nihilo" come from the Latin meaning "from nothing." God created the world from nothing and did not begin with any building blocks, using those to shape the rest of the world. He simply spoke the world into existence. When He said "Let there be light!" light immediately came forth. When He said "Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures" the seas were immediately filled with fish and other sea creatures.
If I decide to create something, I must begin with available materials. Should I wish to create a piece of furniture, for example, I will begin by cutting down a tree and creating planks. I can then fashion those planks into a piece of furniture. My act of creation, though, is not an "ex nihilo" act for I had to begin with existing materials. It is only God who can create something from nothing. Humans must begin with materials that are already available.
It was good. At the end of days three, four and five we read that God saw everything He had made thus far, "and…it was good." At the end of the sixth day there is additional emphasis given to this as the text says "God saw all that He had made and it was very good." (emphasis mine)
What then does it mean that creation was good? Simply put, it means that God looked at what He had made and saw that it was perfect, complete and that it met His approval. There were no flaws in what He had made and He did not omit anything. There was nothing He could add to it or take from it to make it better. All that God had created showed His unique ability to create and thus displayed His power.
Order. On the fourth day God created stars and planets. As He did so He said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth." We see here that God is a God of order. There is nothing chaotic about the universe. We read recently about an American attempt to land a vehicle on the surface of Mars. How did NASA know with certainty that their spacecraft would rendezvous with Mars at this precise moment? It is because the planets follow an orderly course. They know that if a spacecraft leaves earth at a certain time and on a certain course, it will always reach Mars. Similarly we know that the sun will rise each day in the Eastern skies and set in the West. The universe is orderly, following God's rules. If the sun were to deviate from its course even a little, the earth would quickly be left devoid of life. Yet in the long history of earth this has never happened.
Kinds. When God created life, be it plant or animal, He commanded that each be made "according to its kind." This shows further God's orderliness. Each organism He created was unique and had a unique DNA structure. Thus in the world around us we see that trees can only produce their own kind of tree. Animals can only produce animals of their own kind. A dog, for example, can only breed with another dog. Attempting to breed a dog with a cat would not produce any offspring. God created each organism according to its kind.
Day of rest. The work of creation was complete. In resting God provided the pattern of a six day work week followed by a day of rest that we continue to adhere to even to this day. By sanctifying this day, God set it apart to Himself. It was the first thing in the entire world that He kept for Himself.
Let Us…. On the sixth day we read that God said "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness." We see in this statement an indication of what we learned previously about God being multiple persons. There is a unity of purpose and action in the creation of the world as the members of the trinity work together to bring man into being.
God's final act in creation was to make man. Man was the pinnacle of the process. He was God's greatest and proudest achievement and the one in which God invested the most.
According To God's Likeness and In God's Image. We read that God created man "according to [His] likeness" and "in the image of God." This was not said of anything else that was created. Nothing else in creation bore God's likeness.
To understand what we mean by "God's likeness" we must return to what we discussed in the third article in this series where we answered the question of What Is God? To review, we learned of God's attributes, as summarized in this definition - "God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth." We learned that God has three attributes (infinite, eternal, unchangeable) that are incommunicable, meaning they are His and His alone. We also learned that He has several attributes that are communicable, meaning that they are able to be passed on to other beings. In making man in His image, God chose to give to man a degree of each of these attributes. Thus God gave man a measure of being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth. God gave man intellect, emotions and a will.
And so it was that on day six God created a man and named him Adam. He formed this man from what He had already created - the dust of the ground. He used the earth to form man to show man's close connection to the earth. He placed this man in a perfect environment. He created a garden filled with trees bearing the most pleasant fruit for him to eat. He assigned this man a task, telling him to name all the animals.
In Genesis 2:18 we read an interesting statement. God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone." This seems to contrast with earlier statements at the end of the days of creation where God said, "it was good." God shows with this statement that He formed humans to be in community. Humans were not made to exist alone. Even in a perfect world humans needed interaction with other humans. To remedy Adam's solitude, he created a woman who Adam named Eve. He created this woman from Adam's body to be a companion and a helper to him. He then created marriage, saying "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."
God made this woman to be a helper to Adam. It is important to note that this in no way indicates that she is inferior to him. On the contrary, the fact that God created her shows man's inadequacy. The word "helper" is often used in the Bible to describe God and the manner in which He helps people. If God is perfect and powerful, yet considers Himself a helper, this cannot be a derogatory term.
God gave the world to Adam to tend and keep it. He gave him the whole world as his playground and man was free to do anything he wanted. Anything that is, with just one exception. God put a tree in the garden called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and commanded Adam not to eat any of its fruit. The purpose of this tree was to show man's dependence and trust in God. To take from this tree would be an act of human autonomy and an attempt to gain knowledge apart from God. If man were to eat of it, God said, he would surely die. Of course in a perfect world there was no death, so Adam could not fully understand the implications of such a statement. Still, he acknowledged God's decree and did not eat of that tree.
State of the World
Let's take a short while to examine the state of the world at the end of God's act of creation. "God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good." God looked at what He had created and it met His approval. There were no inadequacies or imperfections whatsoever. A man and a woman lived upon the earth, having been created in God's image and bearing some of His attributes. These two people had the whole world at their disposal with the one exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Everything was perfect. The man and his wife had a perfect relationship with each other and with God. The climate and environment suited them perfectly for we read that they were naked, having no need of clothes for warmth.
In short, the world was a perfect, idyllic place. There was perfect communion between humans and God and between the man and his wife. Everything God created functioned perfectly in bringing glory to Him.
In our next article we will see what man did to alter this perfect world and examine how that has affected his condition.