Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Creation: The Mirror of God's Triune Glory


Over the decades I have spent engaged in creation/evolution apologetics, the single most important thing I have come to appreciate is the absolute centrality of the Christ of Holy Scripture to this entire sphere. Please indulge me as I share with you some of my favourite quotations with regard to this topic, and try to unpack them for a general readership. 

First, as Dr. Geerhardus Vos wrote in his famous volume ‘Biblical Theology’:

‘To take Christ at all, He must be taken as the centre of a movement of revelation organized around Him, and winding up the whole process of revelation.’            

Of course, this statement is equally true, whether we are considering special or natural revelation – both of which obviously reveal the same Creator! So as Prof. Edgar Andrews once put it:

‘We cannot have a truly biblical perspective on the cosmos without recognizing the absolute centrality of Christ.’ 

Indeed, all divine revelation is focused upon the person of our Lord Jesus Christ; the revealed knowledge of God is mediated through him. This is what the Scriptures teach. God is there, God is Light. And He has spoken with power and finality through His only begotten Son! And so, human knowledge is only possible because of one particular person, and one particular being. And the study of being is known in philosophy as ontology.

To speak of ontology is to introduce the idea that creation itself possesses a special language, precisely because it has been created by the Being of the Triune God.

Now one of the core tenets of postmodernism is summed up by Richard Rorty in the following pithy quotation: ‘The world does not speak. Only we do.’

Yet this statement is culpable nonsense, since we know from the Psalmist of Israel in Psalm 19 that: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. No speech nor language without their voice heard. Their rule is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.’

As the 19th century preacher Charles Spurgeon warned: ‘Men who never heard the gospel can see God in his works if they open their eyes. There is written upon the face of nature enough to condemn men if they do not turn to God. There is a gospel of the sea, and of the heavens, of the stars, and of the sun; and if men will not read it, they are guilty…’

Let’s think about this point in a little more depth. Romans 1:20 indicates that God’s eternal power and divinity are understood through the ‘things that are made’. As philosopher Willard Quine suggests, language and ontology have intimate connections. His thesis is that the use of a particular language system commits one to the existence of certain things. If so, a universal language seen and heard by all (as that of the Triune God in creation itself) should commit one to the existence of an Absolute Being – i.e. the Triune God. But sin causes such blindness and deafness that this cannot be admitted! The natural person is truly dead to it. They simply ‘will not have this man [Christ] to rule over them’. As Van Til put it: ‘Absolute personality implies that all of man’s life is under authority and judgment. This is the offense of the Trinity.’

Dr. Henry Morris wrote concerning the witness of God in Christ: ‘According to this remarkable verse [Romans 1:20], there is a clear witness to the God of creation to be seen in the created cosmos. Thus there is no difference; every man who has ever lived has been confronted with this testimony of creation to the nature of the God who made it. Whether or not he ever opens the pages of Holy Scripture, or whether he believes what he reads therein, he cannot escape confrontation with the Christ of creation! He is without excuse. But how can this be? “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18). How is it possible that the ‘invisible things’ of God can be made visible so that they are ‘clearly seen’? These “invisible things”, according to Romans 1:20, are summed up in two great concepts, those of His “eternal power” and His “Godhead”. Or, one might say, His work and His person. That He is a God of infinite and eternal omnipotence, one of “eternal power”, is revealed plainly, according to this verse, in the created universe. Furthermore, His very nature, His “Godhead” is also revealed in creation. And this means that Christ is revealed in creation, for the very essence of the Godhead is found in Jesus Christ. “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily”. (Col 2:9). The very Godhead that is clearly revealed in nature by the “things that are made” (Greek poiÄ“ma, the word from which we transliterate our English word “poem”, thus signifying His “poetic handiwork”, a word only used elsewhere in Scripture in Ephesians 2:10, where it is said that we who are redeemed by his grace are similarly His “workmanship”) is that summed up in all its fullness in the Lord Jesus Christ. There can therefore be no question that Christ has been revealed in the creation. He is Himself the Creator (John 1:3, Col 1:16). He now sustains and upholds the creation by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17), and He is the light that “lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” (John 1:9…). It should be recognized that no man could recognize and receive Christ through this witness of creation unless the Holy Spirit so draws him.’


How is all this relevant to our apologetics and evangelism? It is only Christ, and the Spirit of Christ, who gives light – whether that be in the first natural light of cosmic creation, or in the first spiritual light of somebody’s deceived and darkened heart whom you might speak to in witness.

In A Survey of Christian Epistemology, among other works, Prof. Cornelius Van Til noted that: ‘God exists as triune. He is therefore self-complete. Yet he created the world. This world has meaning not in spite of, but of, the self-completeness of the ontological Trinity. This God is the foundation of the created universe and therefore is far above it.’

Again, he unpacked this a little more:

‘The foundation of the representational principle among men is the fact that the Trinity exists in the form of a mutually exhaustive representation of the three Persons that constitute it. The emphasis should be placed upon the idea of exhaustion. This is important because it brings out the point of the complete equality as far as ultimacy is concerned of the principle of unity and of diversity. […] Hence the problem of the one and the many, of the universal and the particular, of being and becoming, of analytical and synthetic reasoning, of the a priori and the a posteriori must be solved by an exclusive reference to the Trinity.’

‘The problem of the one and the many relates to questions about the relationship of change and stability, chance and determinism, facts and laws, love and logic — which means that an apologetic which emphasizes the problem of the one and the many actually has a broad range. It is not at all limited to issues of ultimate metaphysical import…It was upon this foundation of a truly Trinitarian concept that Calvin built his conception of covenant theology.’

God is a covenantal Being, who now lives fully and bodily in the man Christ Jesus. And covenant can be found right at the very beginning of Scripture. As Van Til further wrote:

‘Since the whole being of God, if we may in all reverence say so, is built upon the representational plan, it was impossible for God to create except upon the representational plan.’

Indeed, Dr. Nathan Wood explained this back in 1932: ‘The fabric of space, matter and time presents a universal and exact confirmation of that Tri-unity in God. For the one vital and conclusive proof which the physical universe can give of that Tri-unity is that the universe should reflect it’… ‘…things in the physical universe happen or take place or exist in three tri-unities, - space, matter and time, - and in one great tri-unity of those three combined, - and…these three universal tri-unities, and their combined all-inclusive tri-unity, are the absolute image in every possible way of the supreme Tri-unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’

This representational plan is even discernable in the first chapter of the Bible, if one looks closely! 

It is very subtle, but it is indeed there! As I wrote elsewhere: ‘…from Genesis 1:3-2:3 there follows a series of royal words, royal works and royal seals. Note then that who God is in eternity is reflected by how he acts in creation. Martin Luther wrote of this pattern:

“These three expressions therefore, ‘said,’ ‘made,’ ‘saw;’ are spoken by Moses, in a beautiful and appropriate manner, as attributively to the THREE DIVINE Persons: that we might, by these three expressions, the more distinctly understand that great Article of faith, the Holy Trinity!”

There are precisely nine commands introduced by the expression “and God said…” (wayyomer elohim). This fact is noted by Jordan: “The refrain “and God said” occurs nine times in the passage” together with Hebrew scholar Jacques Doukhan: “…each creation work…[a total of] nine…is introduced by the same stylistic expression… [the] …imperfect verb wayyomer”.

As Jordan highlights in his book ‘Creation in Six Days’, these nine refrains are wonderfully arranged in a Hebrew literary device known as a chiasmus:

“Genesis 1 is not concerned only with structuring and filling, but also with light. […] …Genesis 1 is…a full chiasm. The passage is focused on the idea of day/light, with each day moving from evening to morning, so that the work of each day is an expansion of God’s original work of light-bringing.…”

Note well that ‘…the final Word from God “Behold, I have given you…” relates to humans viewing God’s exhaustive pre-temporal Self-Image in the light of a Christophany (cf. Proverbs 8:31). Thus…we move, organically, from the Spirit of Christ in verse 3, towards the embodied Christ in Eden, visibly robed in the first light of creation (verse 29).

So the Christ of the Covenants is Christ the Creator! He is the Logos! He is the Divine Rationality – both Creator and Redeemer. Jeremiah 33:20-21 is especially significant:

“Thus saith the LORD; if ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne…”.

As Robertson highlights: “An argument basically of the same construction appears in Jeremiah 31:35f.:

Thus says the Lord,
Who gives the sun for light by day,
And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord,
Then the offspring of Israel also shall cease,
From being a nation before me forever.”

Robertson argues convincingly that this cannot refer to God’s covenant with Noah in Genesis 8:22 because:

“…the reference to the sun and moon specifically as light-bearers for day and night is found in the creation narrative but not in the narrative describing God’s covenant with Noah. Furthermore, the narrative of the creation-activity of the third day [sic] refers to the stars as well as to the moon (Gen. 1:16), as does Jeremiah 31:35. The record of God’s covenant with Noah makes no mention of the stars. For these reasons, it seems likely that Jeremiah 31 alludes to the Genesis narrative of creation rather than to the establishment of God’s covenant with Noah. […] Because of the closeness of the parallelism of the two chapters, it would seem that Jeremiah 33, which uses the term “covenant,” also refers to the creational orderings of Genesis 1. If this is the case, then the term “covenant” would be applied to the orderings of creation.”

J.V. Fesko agrees with this application, further pointing out:

“Nowhere in Genesis 1 does the reader have any indication that God has established a covenant with the day and night, yet Jeremiah clearly states this is the case. When God creates, it is covenantal.”

Upon verses 20-21 of Jeremiah 33, the famous commentator Matthew Henry remarked:

“There is a covenant of nature, by which the common course of providence is settled, and on which it is founded, here called a covenant of the day and the night, (v. 20, 25.) because that is one of the articles of it - that there shall be day and night in their season, according to the distinction put between them in the creation, when God divided between the light and the darkness, and established their mutual succession, and a government to each, that the sun should rule by day, and the moon and stars by night… - which establishment was renewed after the flood…and has continued ever since….”

Creation in covenant also sheds light on why, when Adam and Eve fell into sin, the whole creation was subject to the bondage of corruption and death (Romans 8:22), rather than just Adam and Eve themselves. Furthermore, since Christ has a covenant with creation, as Golding points out: “…it means that covenant grace includes the created order, which makes it unthinkable that the faithful creator will drop the temporarily cursed earth from his covenant purpose…”. To be sure, then, the entire creation (having been subject to futility through Adam’s disobedience) will one day be completely renewed and glorified through Christ’s obedience (cf. Revelation 22).


How should we use this knowledge as Christians? Immanuel Kant asked the question: “Under what conditions is it possible, or what would also need to be true in order for it to be possible, to make sense of one’s experience of the world? The only answer, according to Van Til, is that Christianity MUST be true! The ontological Trinity is there, and He is not silent!

As Thomas Brooks wrote:

‘What are the heavens, the earth, the sea, but a sheet of royal paper, written all over with the wisdom and power of God?’

The mathematical physicist Stephen Hawking once asked: ‘What breathes fire into the equations?’

We may be fully and courageously confident in the Christian answer: ‘Christ does!’

References (alphabetical):

Doukhan, J. B. (2004). The Genesis creation story: Text, issues, and truth. Origins, 55, p.16.
Fesko, J.V. (2007). Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of EschatologyRoss-shireScotland: Christian Focus Publications, p.82.
Golding (2004). Covenant Theology: The Key of Theology in Reformed Thought and TraditionScotland: (Mentor) Christian Focus Publications, p.193.
Henry, M. (1890). A Commentary on the Holy Bible, Volume IV, New York and London: Funk and Wagnalls Company, p.1009.
Jordan, J.B. (1999). Creation in Six Days: A Defense of the Traditional Reading of Genesis OneMoscow: Canon Press, p.221.
Jordan, J.B. (1999). Op. cit. p.175.
Jordan, J.B. (1999). Op. cit. p.215-16.
Luther, M. (1544). Translated by Cole, H. (1858). The Creation: A Commentary on the First Five Chapters of the Book of Genesis. London: Hamilton, Adams and Company. p.74.
Robertson, O.P. (1980). The Christ of the Covenants. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, p.20-21.
Van Til, C. (1946). Nature and Scripture. In: The Infallible Word: A Symposium. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Guardian Publishing Corporation. Online PDF available at: [WWW]

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