Entry Level Theological Truth [2]

The opening sentences of the Bible are laden with meaning concerning God’s identity (see the previous post.) The first three verses in particular bring out aspects of the divine being that later Scripture develops in greater detail. As Romans 1:20 puts it: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

The 24th Psalm further asserts His creatorial ownership of planet earth, saying: “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.” His omnipotence, omniscience, and spiritual nature are all revealed in Genesis’ first paragraph.

The Divine Power & Wisdom: From Microbes To Supernovae

“God created” – what profundities are contained in those two words! The complexity of both the macroscopic and microscopic worlds is contained within it. Whether one peers at cells and the subatomic realm or at the seemingly endless galaxies of magnificent celestial bodies, the power and wisdom of the Almighty are prominently displayed.

One has only to look at their own body to consider the imaginative artistry and engineering brilliance of the divine mind. The interdependent respiratory, circulatory, neurological, digestive, endocrine and other systems, not to mention miles of nerves, arteries, veins, and various types of tissue, all point to a vastly clever designer.

As “the Prince of Expositors” Alexander MacLaren once expressed it: “Every man carries in his own body reasons enough for reverent gratitude.”

The diversity of topography, abundance of animal and plant life in different ecosystems, the ubiquitous beauty that abounds from tiny flowers to august mountains, from barrenly beauteous deserts to frigidly gorgeous glaciers all testify to the existence of a God who values loveliness and artisanship.

All of these wonders came at His verbal command. He spoke, and so He created.

Deus Superius Machina

This all-knowing and all-powerful Creator is spiritual, rather than material (Genesis 1:2; cf. John 4:24.) He is not a created being, nor is He an outgrowth of His world. He is not co-extensive with the universe but exceeds it as being entirely other – He is truly unique, or holy, as the Scriptures so often say (Isaiah 43:3.) Here we have the embryonic roots of the doctrine of the trinity; later revelation in the Bible reveals with greater clarity God’s triune being (e.g. Psalm 110:1; Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14; John 14:16.) Yet, as seen in verse 2, this immaterial Lord is intimately involved in the creation, maintenance, and destiny of His world.

Earth’s present form is a pale reflection of the pristine, unfallen glory of Genesis 1; nonetheless, the vestiges of that “very good” creation are still evident everywhere in the universe (Genesis 1:31.) As a classic hymn says: “Thy Almighty power and wisdom all creation’s works proclaim, Heaven and earth alike confess Thee, As the ever great I AM.” Thankfully, one day the Lord will supersede this creation with new heavens and a new earth, which will be liberated from the tyranny and debilitating effects of sin (Romans 8:18-30.)

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Jottings – The Bible and Science in Harmony

We think that, since God is the author of his Word the Bible and of the universe, there must ultimately be harmony between correct interpretation of the biblical data and correct interpretation of the scientific data.

Dr. John C. Lennox in Seven Days that Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, p. 13. The first eleven chapters of Genesis is under attack. To believe what is recorded in those 11 chapters… to believe the simple and plain meaning of those words… and to publicly declare that belief, is to open up yourself to public ridicule. Ridicule, not only in schools, universities, and the workplace, but also in many churches today. Yet as Dr. Lennox rightfully points out… if God actually wrote the Bible AND created the universe the two must be in perfect harmony.

As for me, I believe that God created the universe and wrote the Bible. God’s Word never changes, yet scientific theories come and go. I’ll stick with the simple and plain meaning of God’s Word, and wait for the scientific theories to catch up.

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Entry Level Theological Truth

The fact that the opening verse of the Bible reveals a great deal about God is often obscured by the contentious debates over competing cosmologies. Of course the controversy over the world’s creation is vitally important, but let us momentarily put it aside in order to consider what this cogent section of Scripture shows about the Almighty.

At least three of His key attributes are manifested in Genesis 1:1:

  1. His Eternality
  2. His Transcendence
  3. His Immanence

Beginning Before The Beginning

The Bible famously begins “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1.) There is no attempt to prove God’s existence; there is merely a description of His activity in creation. One learns that “in the beginning” He already was; this affirms His eternality.

He was never created – nor did He ever begin to be. In His eternal existence, He was obviously self-existent and self-sufficient. He existed before everything, and needed nothing to live or be everything that He is.

Later Scriptures reveal His independence from material sustenance; as He says in Psalm 50:9-13: “I will not take a bull from your house, Nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, And the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, And the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; For the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, Or drink the blood of goats?”

The Immensity Of The Creator

What is more, the Creator is distinct from His creation. Pantheism and Panentheism are both refuted by the first verse of Scripture. God is not identical to His creation, nor is He within each creature or created thing. He is distinct and transcendent. Scripture depicts the Lord sitting over the earth, sovereignly overseeing its affairs (Isaiah 40:22.) Contrary to Carl Sagan’s famous opinion that “the Cosmos is all there is, was, or will be,” the Lord is also bigger than the stars (Psalm 8:3.) Since He is greater than His universe, the Bible repeatedly rejects the veneration of created beings or things as idolatry (e.g Deuteronomy 4:19; Romans 1:20-23.)

The Lord’s tremendous power is awesomely displayed in one phrase: “God created.” Without any taxing effort He fashioned the universe out of nothing. This awesome display of energy notwithstanding, He is interested in the minutest detail of His creation. The Creator of the galaxies is the same God who entered His world millennia later to redeem mankind. He is not the remote and distant deity of deistic speculations; nor is He the crass super-tyrant of Greco-Roman mythology. Instead, He is the omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient Maker who diligently cares for mankind’s well-being.

He created planet earth to be uniquely habitable for humans. Because of Man’s fall it no longer demonstrates the pristine glory of its newness, and has become the scene of countless stories of death and woe. Nevertheless, one day the Lord who designed and built the first creation will marvelously transform it into “new heavens and a new earth. And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17.)

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Battles Over The Beginning

Recently the media has reported on the growing controversy over the historicity of Genesis. Well-known, self-described evangelical scholars are questioning the existence of Adam and Eve, the story of the flood, and other aspects of Genesis 1-11. Of course, this section of Scripture has been repeatedly attacked during the past two centuries – the assaults often being launched from the liberal wing of Christendom. Nineteenth-century German scholars declared that the Bible must be examined like any other work of literature, downplaying any notion of divine inspiration. Moreover, they typically set aside anything supernatural as unhistorical on the grounds that such things just do not occur and therefore must be myths and fabrications. That it comes from respected “evangelical” professors makes this latest criticism especially dangerous. These men are theological double-agents, undermining the church from within its own ranks.

Error in Christian circles is nothing new. False teachers have promulgated error from privileged positions within the church since the first century. The Lord Jesus warned of wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15-23.) Similarly, Paul warned the Ephesian elders that “…from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:30.) Christians must be vigilant against the inevitable attacks that come from within and without.

The conflict over the early chapters of Genesis is particularly dangerous because it undermines the authority of the rest of the Scriptures – thereby destroying the foundations of Christianity. Christian truth rests on the basis of the book of beginnings. What believers know about God, mankind, evil, sin, redemption, the purpose of existence, justice, future judgment, and many other doctrines find their origin in Genesis. The rest of the Bible rests on the belief that the first book is true history.

Genesis’ historical reliability ultimately depends upon the word of Christ Himself.

The New Testament makes it plain that He believed in the accuracy of this embattled book. For instance, He upheld the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman by referring back to the creation of the first human couple, saying: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:4-6.) Elsewhere, Christ declared His belief in a personal Devil, Satan, also known as “the Father of lies” in language that hearkens back to the first temptation in Genesis 3 (John 8:44.) He also referenced other events such as Cain and Abel (Luke 11:51) and the flood of Noah (Matthew 24:37-38.)

The Lord Jesus is contrasted with the historical Adam regarding sin and salvation (Romans 5) and Christ’s triumph over death itself. If Adam is a literary invention than the basis of redemption and resurrection is undermined. One need not worry, however, for Jesus declared Himself to be the truth (John 14:6) and affirmed that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35.) Genesis is true – we have Christ’s word on it.

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