Old Testament Study – Creation
In the introductory files available on the study board I have taken a
brief look at a number of subjects important to a proper understanding of the
setting of the Old Testament – the world view of the biblical authors, their
implicit historicism, as well as a brief nine-point overview of where this
study will be going. The first part of this study of the Old Testament will
consist of an in-depth look at each of these nine periods of OT history.
The place to begin such a study then is at the beginning. Beginning today
and continuing over the next several months, then, we will look at that period
of biblical history known as the Period of the Beginnings. Logically, the
discussion will fall into four parts -Creation, Sin, the Flood, and The Birth
of Nations – but the majority of the time will be spent on the first and then
the second of the four. The data on which we will be focusing are found in
Genesis, chapters 1 through 11.
GOD EXISTS, AND HE CREATED ALL THINGS
The story of the Bible is in many ways the story of two events: Creation
and Redemption. These, in fact, are the central themes of Scripture, and
under them all biblical theology may be summarized. As I have discussed in
the files I have made available, modern evangelical theology has a tendency to
emphasize the doctrine of redemption to the point of ignoring creation, in
spite of the fact that it is the doctrine of creation which provides the
underpinning for the whole of the biblical story. Too often we tend to think
of creation only in terms of the first chapters of Genesis, or as one side in
a creation-evolution debate. Yet the doctrine may be found throughout the
Bible. In John, for example, we read: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.’
(John 1:1) (All Scripture references in this study will be to the New
International Version unless otherwise specified.) But John goes on in verse
2 to say: ‘Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that
has been made.’ This is the doctrine of creation.
Again, in Colossians, Paul says of Jesus that ‘by him all things were
created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones
or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for
him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.’
(Colossians 1:16,17) Again, these verses speak of creation. And in
Revelation the saints before the throne cry ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your
will they were created and have their being.’ So, from Genesis to Revelation,
creation is a focus of the biblical account.
The name ‘Genesis’ comes from the Latin word for ‘beginnings’. And Genesis
is indeed a book of beginnings – the beginnings of heaven and of earth, of
man, and of sin and redemption from sin. It is the story of the birth of
nations, and of the beginnings of God’s dealings with people, primarily
through the agency of Abraham. And it is the story of the birth and
development of the nation of Israel. In Genesis, we receive our initiation
into the framework underlying all that Scripture will subsequently reveal
concerning God’s activities.
Scripture begins with a number of presuppositions. A presupposition is
simply something which is pre-supposed, that is something which is assumed to
be true without the bother of having to prove it. Philosophers refer to this
as ‘a priori’ truth – that which is known before hand.
The single, most fundamental presupposition the Bible makes is found in
Genesis 1:1: ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’
Actually, in this verse we have 3 presuppositions. First and most basically,
the Bible assumes ‘a priori’ the existence, the eternality and the knowability
of God. Nowhere does Scripture attempt to prove God’s existence; it is only
concerned with showing him in action, most especially in relationship to man.
From this point, Genesis proceeds immediately to declare that ‘God created
the heavens and the earth.’ In the New Testament book of Hebrews, we read
that ‘by faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so
that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.’ (Hebrews 11:2) Here,
then, is the second presupposition of Scripture: creation. God created all
things at the word of his command, and he did so ‘ex nihilo’ – out of nothing.
(Those of you who don’t speak Latin hold onto your hats; I’ll discuss this
further below.) The two most essential presuppositions, then, of a truly
biblical faith are these: God exists, and he is the creator of all things.
But the author of Hebrews doesn’t stop there. ‘And without faith it is
impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he
exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’ (Hebrews 11:6) We
have already discussed belief in God’s existence, but what does the rest of
this verse mean? What Hebrews is saying here is that faith in the existence
of God is not enough. Even a belief in the biblical doctrine of creation is
insufficient for a truly biblical faith. Belief in these truths is all fine
and good, but nothing in them prevents one from deciding this God who exists
and who created the universe is a transcendent being – that is, a God who
cannot be contacted, who is unconcerned with the problems of man, who is
unknowable and unreachable completely. Where then is religion?
So, first we must believe that God exists. But we must go beyond that.
We must believe that it won’t be a waste of time to seek after him, to try to
come to know him and to know that he does indeed concern himself with us.
This, then, is the starting point of biblical religion: God exists, and he
created all things. But what’s more, this same God – who exists and who
created the universe -concerns himself with our affairs and desires to be
known by us.
Faith, in its essence, then, is the acceptance of biblical presuppositions
a priori – without requiring proof of their truth. Often people demand proof
of God’s existence as a basis for their belief in him. God’s existence,
however, cannot be proven in a philosophical or a scientific sense, though
there are a number of philosophical arguments which will support a belief in
God once one has accepted that belief. But we must accept these truths of God
presuppositionally: first, and most essentially, that God exists, and secondly
that he is the creator of all things, and the rewarder of those who seek him.
And, since God created the universe, he has a claim on it and relates himself
Computers for Christ – Chicago