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Creatio Ex Nihilo

Category Articles
Date May 29, 2009

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Astronomers tell us that our galaxy, the Milky Way, has over three billion stars, that it is one thousand light years deep, that it is one hundred thousand light years across. One light year is the speed of light (one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second) multiplied by every second in one year. They also say that there are one hundred billion galaxies in our universe. These figures are incomprehensible to us, but they proclaim a God of immeasurable glory and immensity, One who fills up every inch of his creation with his omnipresence, omnipotence, and omniscience.

The debate today between naturalists and creationists of every stripe – whether they believe in an old earth through a Steady State view of the universe (Carl Sagan, ‘The cosmos is all there was, is, or ever will be’), through the Framework hypothesis or Gap theory, or a young earth through a literal twenty-four hour, six day creation – hinges on philosophy or theology. There is no conflict between true science and Biblical faith. Notice that I said ‘true science’, for it recognizes its limitations, that true science works by observing certain phenomena and arriving at hypotheses based on that research. Since no one was or is able to observe the origin of the universe, true science is no better than theology at suggesting ‘how it all began.’ Robert Jastrow of NASA famously said that for cosmologists, this is ending as a bad dream. For years they have been scaling the mountains of ignorance, thinking they finally have topped the summit, expecting to discover how it began, only to find the theologians sitting there for centuries. So the Christian has no reason to fear true science. We welcome scientific research, based on the scientific method. And we do not denigrate the suppositions scientists make on any range of observable and verifiable subjects. The problem develops when they become metaphysicians, philosophers, or theologians.

The grand declaration, that God created all things out of nothing (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Acts 17:24, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:3) is the most profound and far reaching statement in all of Scripture. It says volumes about God. It tells us that he is self-existent (Isaiah 45:5ff), incomprehensible (Romans 11:33), and sovereign (Psalm 115:3). He does not need us. He was not lonely. He was perfectly content and fulfilled by his Triune fellowship. He does not enhance his being by condescending to our helplessness. We are unable ever to mine the depths of his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, or truth. He does as he pleases. He foreordains everything that comes to pass. There are no mistakes, no accidents. Nothing catches him by surprise. Our problems stem from an inadequate view of God. Our thinking about God tends to be far too small.

Some of you are aware of the debate between Bible believing expositors and theologians concerning the early chapters of Genesis. Some believe in what is called the Framework hypothesis, others believe in a literal twenty-four hour, six day creation. The Framework exegetes are not heretics. They believe in creatio ex nihilo, creation out of nothing. However they believe that Moses never meant Genesis 1 to be taken literally. They say it is poetical, that the six days of creation are not chronological, that Moses meant the first three days to refer, as it were, to kingdoms and the last three days to refer to various kings in those kingdoms. In their view day one corresponds to day four, day two to day five, and day three to day six. This view allows for an old earth, perhaps billions of years old, and this fits very well with the vast majority of cosmologists who believe in a Big Bang theory of how it all began.

For what it is worth, I reject the Framework hypothesis for several reasons. First, the Hebrew text has fifty-one vav consecutives in Genesis 1 alone, and the vav consecutive is a verb form that is used in historical narrative, not in poetry. Second, the language in Genesis 1 is not symbolic. There are no metaphors or tropes in it. Third, it does not make use of parallelism which is so prevalent in Hebrew poetry – see the Psalms and much of Isaiah. Psalm 19:1 is an example of Hebrew poetry (notice the parallelism), ‘The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands.’ And fourth, the New Testament makes at least one hundred references to Genesis 1-11 and none of these give any indication that they view it poetically.

I freely admit that this causes many to view the Bible to be in serious conflict with science. Most who believe in a literal twenty-four hour, six day creation suggest the earth is less than ten thousand years old, and most cosmologists simply laugh at that. I will have more to say about this in the future, but as it stands right now, may I suggest that we have one of two ways to go in this debate – either we begin with science and then try to fit Scripture into a reasonable model of cosmology; or we begin with Scripture and wait for science to make sense of the apparent discrepancy. As a pastor and exegetical preacher, not to mention a theologian – okay, if Calvin, Hodge, and Sproul are Ph.D.’s then I am a junior high theologian – I suggest we must begin with Scripture. After all, no one was there at the beginning. No one knows how it all began. For a scientist or cosmologist to speak as though he knows, is to move from science to metaphysics, philosophy, or theology. Would it not make sense, therefore, to begin with Scripture, to admit that we don’t know how it all began, that we are not sure of the age of the earth, but that the Bible teaches a literal twenty-four hour, six day creation, and that perhaps science may one day, through research, find the Bible’s explanation scientifically feasible?

This all means that we ought to deny atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, polytheism, and naturalism. If you take the Genesis 1 account seriously, then this leaves no room for any of these isms – including naturalism in the form of evolution or theistic evolution. These very simply contradict the Scriptures. It means that we must affirm the worship of God. One of the Hebrew words for worship in the Old Testament means literally to bow down with one’s face to the ground in utter reverence before the Creator Redeemer. It means that everyone’s life has purpose and meaning, and that’s because we are the crown of his creation. No one is unimportant. And it means that creation is a paradigm for re-creation. God recreates us in Christ, giving us a new heart to love and serve him; and he one day will re-create the heavens and earth, restoring them to their pre-fallen glory and majesty. I pray your vision for God will expand so that you may worship in awe.

Rev. Allen M Baker is Pastor of Christ Community Presbyterian Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.

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