I once heard Stephen Hawking, the famous British scientist, suggest on TV that the greatest question facing man was: ‘Why is there anything at all?’ As I remember, he admitted that as a scientist he had no answer, and as far as I know, despite Richard Dawkins’ contentious claim that naturalistic evolution solves all our problems, to my knowledge in 2019 science has still not found an answer to Hawking’s basic question.
However, mankind is faced with the fact of creation including his own (procreation). In other words, there is something that requires an explanation, and it would seem obvious that ex nihilo nihil fit, that is, that out of nothing comes nothing. So what is the something that produces the stubborn fact of creation? Though in the past it has been held that creation is eternal (1* Even that still requires an explanation to satisfy the enquiring human mind!), it is denied by modern science which readily acknowledges a beginning and postulates the big bang.
By contrast, the Bible which has long influenced thinkers especially in the West (despite its origin in the (middle) East) proposes an answer with its famous assertion “In the beginning God ….” So the invisible but living God becomes our great unproved presupposition. (2* Compare J. Dunn, pp. 28ff.) Though unproved scientifically, even the Bible itself acknowledges that it is only by faith that we accept it (Heb. 11:3, cf. Rom. 4:17). Yet it becomes the foundation of all biblical teaching that follows. Indeed, it is arguable that its truth is ‘proved’ by the latter as the existence of the invisible wind is proved by its sound, etc. (John 3:8).
According to the Bible, the God who created the world, the visible material universe in fact (Heb. 11:3), is a self-existing invisible spirit who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent apart from whom nothing else exists (Gen. 1-2:3). He alone is complete and self-sufficient (Acts 17:25, cf. Ex. 19:5; Ps. 50:10f.). As Job in the oldest book in the Bible tells us, in his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind (12:10; John 1:4) and if he withdraws his Spirit, all dies (Job 34:14f.). Even creation itself is not self-sustaining but is upheld by the Word of God (cf. Col. 1:17; John 1:1; Heb. 11:3). Clearly he who brought it into being can destroy it when like a tool or a servant it has served his purpose (Ps. 119:91; 2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 3:5-13). Since the visible derives from the invisible it is by nature impermanent and not to be compared with the glory still to be revealed (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Otherwise expressed, the creator is greater than his creation (cf. Heb. 3:3).
It is important to realize that God is not depicted as a lonely, isolated figure in need of a companion. The persons of the immanent Trinity somewhat covertly revealed to us as Creator, Word and Spirit even in the OT (cf. John 1:1) are, as Jesus intimates, united in eternal love (cf. John 17:20-23). Precisely because he is a Trinity God can even be defined as love (1 John 4:8, cf. 2 Cor. 13:11), and this implies that but for his Trinitarian nature the plan of salvation would never have been devised, and put into action let alone realized. (3* If this is so, the Islamic conception of God as monadic, monolithic or statically transcendent like the Greek must be regarded as deficient. It implies salvation by power or ‘by hand’ rather than by love and grace. In the OT ‘by hand’, Gk cheiropoietos, is the usual OT word which is always depreciatory.)
Scripture leads us to believe that our Creator God, according to his good pleasure (Is. 14:27; Dan. 4:35), has chosen to share his love and to demonstrate it by creating creatures in his image with the ultimate intention of making them his own children (John 1:12f.; 1 John 3:1-3). However, to do this he devised a wonderful plan of salvation intended to display his love, grace and glory but implemented at tremendous personal cost. For God to become a Father in addition to acting as Creator (Acts 17:28) he had to redeem his sinful children by spilling the blood of his Son born of woman (Gal. 4:4), for under the law without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin (Heb. 9:22). Here it is important to understand the difference between the immanent and the economic Trinity. The latter clearly involved change. The Word who was God (John 1:1) had to abase himself by becoming man (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6f.). This inevitably meant that in is love he freely changed his nature if not his identity and ontology. He divested himself of his glory or divine nature and took on flesh. Thus, made in the image of God he had to recover his glory and the generic nature of God as man (John 17:5,24). So now, though still God, he has assumed the nature of man and remains forever the image of God, Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3, and as such forever subordinate to his Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28). All this to the glory of God and the eternal welfare of believing man (Phil. 2:9-11. We can only stand back overcome with amazement and praise (Rev. 7:9)!
The New Creation
So God is not glorified by creation alone (Ps. 19; 104; Rom. 1:20, etc.) but supremely by the redemption of his people from it (Rev. 14:3). Does this mean, however, that the significance of the material creation as such is nullified by its eventual destruction (2 Pet. 3:7, 10-12) like the flesh (1 Cor. 15:50)? Not at all, for the original creation prepares the way for the new creation (2 Pet. 3:13) or regeneration (Mt. 19:28) just as the physical body of man which is creation in miniature prepares the way for the spiritual or heavenly body (1 Cor. 15:44-49).
Seed leads to harvest. Spes messis in semine or the hope of harvest lies in the seed. Though Jesus was physically a dry tree (Isa. 56: 3, though note Mt. 19:5,12), spiritually he was a prolific sower (Mt. 13:37).
The grand objective of the gospel is marriage and the household of God.
||Creation and Man||New Creation|
|2||Earth God’s footstool||Heaven God’s throne|
|3||Present creation||New world |
|4||Present age |
|Age to come |
|5||Man of dust or clay |
(1 Cor. 15:47a)
|Man of heaven |
(1 Cor. 15:47b)
|6||Old body of flesh||New body of spirit|
|7||Two men |
|Two ages |
and to come)
|9||Man of dust and |
|Man of spirit |
J.D.G.Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle, London/NewYork, 1998.
(Note: Father God/mother earth: Pater familias, Eph. 3:14f. Son/virgin bride (church) (2 Cor. 11:2)
Children (1 John 3:1-3, cf. living creatures, Rev. 4:6, etc.). Note Heb. 11; Rev. 7:9.)