The Judaeo-Christian
Doctrine of Creation
summarized by Sheila E. Mc Ginn, Ph.D.
27 October 2006

 

Historical Development of
the Doctrine of Creation

The doctrine of creation was unique in Judaeo-Christian tradition [in the ANE and at the time of Christ]; it is of fundamental importance to understanding God, nature, humanity in general and oneself in particular.
Israelite Belief in God as Creator

The earliest view of Yahweh is as Savior (Deuteronomy 26:5-10), and especially in reference to Exodus and the gift of the land. The God of the covenant (Exodus) brings salvation by His power. Yahweh has power over all nations and elements of the world--both nations and nature. Thus, Yahweh is the God of Creation and the Creating God (Gen1-2)

Belief in creation was an extension of faith in Yahweh as the God of the covenant, of history and of the promises. God's act of creation was viewed as analogous to the covenant: "creation is also considered as a force dominating history . . . a promise ordained to fulfilment. It is entirely caught up in the relationship between God and [humanity], of which eventful history salvation is the goal. Hence the one word [bara] can indicate the original creation, God's actions in history and his final salvific intervention."(2)

God as Lord over all
God's work is seen in nature, and God's power over it; thus, God is the cause of creation [Ps. 19:1; 104].
God as creator of the universe
Early Christian tradition

discussion with Greek philosophy brought:

  1. Distinction between God and creation
  2. Affirmation of goodness of creation against pantheism and dualistic systems, respectively (cf. Irenaeus, adv. Haer.)
  3. Distinction between uncreated and created, rather than between intelligible and sensible

Systematic Summary of
Christian Doctrine of Creation

Definition: "Creation" is "the way in which the world and everything pertaining to the world have their origin, ground, and final goal in God."(3) In the active sense, the term refers to the creative action of God. In the passive sense, it includes the totality of the world.

The Biblical terms for this idea are:

Cosmology & Protology v. History of Salvation Approaches
Throughout history, there have been two primary approaches to discussion of the doctrine of creation, either in terms of cosmology/protology (e.g. the Priestly author), or in terms of the history of salvation (e.g. Irenaeus).
Christ is the efficient, exemplary, and final cause of creation

"In the man Jesus Christ, God's creative word is fully uttered, and his plan of creation definitively accomplished in his saving acts. . . . Here the ultimate truth of the ancient theological proposition, that [humanity] is the goal of creation, is displayed to the full. Here it can also be seen that creation is obedience, partnership in a covenant. This mystery also affirms the unthinkable proximity of the creature to the creator: the Son who is in the bosom of the Father is a [human]. Creation is oriented to this mystery.

Creation is history, because it makes [humans] and [their] whole world responsible to the creative will of God and thus involves all creation in the drama of refusal and forgiveness (Rom 8:19-21). All things are from God, and look for his Lordship, when he will be all in all (1 Cor 15:28)."

Creation as a type of divine manifestation, a word of God

"The knowledge of God through the contemplation of the created world is revelation in a certain sense; for it is a gift of God and a manifestation of God which calls for religious homage on the part of [humanity]." (See Rom. 1:19f, Acts 14, Ps. 19:1-2.)

Creation is a certain manifestation of an unknown God.

Finally, the manifestation of God through creation implies, for [humanity], the obligation of rendering the religious homage which is due to God through glorification and thanksgiving. `Inexcusable' are those who have not recognized God and have not given him this homage (Rom. 1:20; 2:14-16; Wis. 13:1, 8)."(6)

In the last analysis, what distinguishes the two forms of revelation is the fact that in the revelation of pure grace [especially, in Jesus Christ], the notions of word and testimony are verified in the strict sense. ". . . Creation betrays the presence of God, manifests His perfections. It speaks of God, but God Himself does not speak; God does not enter into a dialogue. He is like a person present but silent. And thus the encounter between [person] and universe does not terminate in the assent of faith, but in an existential attitude: that of homage and adoration. . . . Natural revelation does not have this characteristic of word and testimony [personal call to covenant in faith]."(7)
 

Doctrine & Interpretation
Creation of Humanity & the Theory of Evolution
A non-literal interpretation of Gen 1-3 prevailed in the first Christian centuries (up to at least 500 CE). These stories show humans as the highpoint of the created world, with the authority to care for the creation (stewardship). Modern theologians need to re-evaluate and re-word teaching on creation to take the possibility of evolution into account.