6 - Beginnings, God the Creator [b]
Beginnings, God the Creator
No matter what you think about in life your understanding of origins and creation impacts how you think about that. Origins and understanding the issues related to creation, especially in light of evolutionary doctrine and thought, is not something secondary. Divine revelation is the only revelation that can provide the framework for understanding the details of creation. Example: there are many things that Adam could learn empirically in the garden. He could go around and see that certain plants were green, some were greener than others, some were short, some were tall, some produced fruit, etc. He could observe many different things about the different plants, the different trees in the garden. But no matter how much time he spent looking at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he could not know that if he ate that he would be under a judicial penalty. God had to tell him that if he ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would instantly die. He couldn’t know that information empirically, so empiricism is ultimately limited. We can learn some things about God through empiricism but we can’t learn specifics.
For example, Romans 1:18-22: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” What is the truth they are suppressing? It is not specific proof; it is proof related to the existence of God. “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them [evidenced in them]; for God hath showed it unto them.” Every single human being who rejects God’s existence knows that God exists; it is evident within them. God revealed it to them. How? Explanation, v. 20: “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Paul starts with the creation. This is what is called general revelation. It is non-verbal revelation; revelation that when you look out on the earth you see evidence of design, evidence of purpose, and from that you extrapolate that there must be an intelligent designer. But it doesn’t tell us a lot about who God is; it tells us that there is this intelligent designer; that there is this omnipotent power, but it doesn’t tell us anything about who he is. What the Scriptures show is that this is clearly enough to hold people accountable.
That means that the unbeliever at the great white throne judgment cannot say he didn’t know God existed. Verse 21, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations [futile in their speculations], and their foolish heart was darkened.” There is no atheist in history that did not at one time know beyond a shadow of doubt that God exists. Verses 22, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” In General revelation you can derive from empiricism certain general data and get enough information to know that God exists, but you don’t know how to be saved, you don’t know that God is a righteous God, that God is a God of judgment and accountability, and that He is a God who is loving and He provided a savior through Jesus Christ who died on the cross for our sins. You can’t learn that; it can only come through special revelation, through verbal revelation and prepositional revelation. We can only derive a certain amount of revelation generally and can only know how to properly interpret that information from special revelation.
Dr Hugh Ross is a Christian, not a trained theologian and doesn’t know the original languages, is an astronomer and a physicist. He makes a number of claims in his books, including rejection of the young earth view. In fact, he claims that when he was 17 years old, just picking up Genesis and reading it for the first time, that it was more than obvious to him that Genesis chapter one covered billions of years. He was at that age already immersed in evolutionary thought so he was reading that from within his preconceived framework. Since his views are in the public domain they are available for analysis and critique, and we need to learn how to think critically about different issues that are raised because none of these views that he raises are original with him. If we start to teak Genesis one it is going to leak out into other areas of theology.
He makes a number of interesting claims in relationship to his views, which are called “progressive creationism.” Progressive creationism is the idea that the time period of Genesis one is more than six literal 24-hour days. It teaches that after each creative act there was a certain amount of diversification. So God creates and then there is a long time period, then he creates something else and then there is a lot of development and evolution, and then He creates something else. There are different terms that are used for this, like punctuated creationism, threshold evolution, which are really different forms of theistic evolution. But progressive creationism has really come to represent a couple of different views. One view is called the day-age view. That is the idea that each of the days of Genesis really represents lengthy periods of time. The other approach is that you have day one, a 24-hour day, where God creates X. Then you have a million years, and then day two—for the six days. These views don’t hold up. Dr Ross makes a statement related to non-verbal revelation: “The plan of salvation as stated in the Bible can be seen through the observation of the universe around us. Thus all human beings have a chance to discover it. The Bible is the only one of all religious writings which declares a message in full agreement with and, of course, amplification of the gospel message seen in creation.” So for Dr Ross, what he basically does is come along and say general revelation is big; special revelation is small. It [special revelation] may expand on some things in general revelation but every important detail in the Scripture is just clear from observing nature, so we can use, then, general revelation to judge and interpret special revelation. So what he is saying is that what he discerns empirically can then be used to judge and interpret revelation from God, not the other way around. In doing this he shifts away from the historically orthodox position that general revelation simply indicates that God exists and that man can affirm through creation a few ideas about God and His existence, and enough ideas to be held accountable for rejecting God. The conclusion from this is that because Ross falls apart from his basic system of knowledge he is going to do some damaging things to doctrines in Scripture, because he is going to let empiricism be his ultimate basis of knowledge rather than the Scriptures. This is the typical arrogance of human viewpoint.
Genesis 1:1, the Bible speaks about four beginnings. The first, God, isn’t really a beginning. He is eternal, everlasting, not temporal, Psalm 90:2, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” God has no beginning and no ending; He always is. The phrase “In the beginning” is the phrase that John picks up at the beginning of his Gospel. John is writing from the Jewish perspective and that phrase would take a Jewish reader right back to Genesis one, and he would be thinking about that beginning of space-time history. “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus Christ].” The word “was” is a translation of the imperfect active indicative of the Greek word EIMI [e)imi] the word for existence, and it could be translated, “In the beginning the Word was continuously existing already.” In other words, it takes us to a point of time when time began, when space began, when matter began. He says, “At this point in time the LOGOS was,” imperfect tense, continual action in past time. The LOGOS was existing, emphasizing the eternality of the second person of the Trinity. So God has no beginning or ending, He is eternal.
Then we come to the second beginning in Scripture, the angels. The angels are not eternal; they are creatures. Psalm 148:2, “Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.” The term “hosts” is the Hebrew word which means armies. It is a synonymous parallelism where the angels are synonymous to armies. Then in v. 5 of that psalm, “Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created.” This attributes the creation of the angels to Yahweh. This is a strong argument for the deity of Christ because in Colossians 1:16 where Christ is said to be the creator of all things, including angels, “in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers [terms related to angels]: all things were created by him, and for him.” So Paul in the New Testament says it was Jesus Christ who creates the thrones, dominions, authorities. In Psalm 148:5 it says it was Yahweh. Yahweh, then, equals Jesus Christ.
Then in Job 38:4-7, a crucial passage for understanding some dynamics in Genesis chapter one, God is confronting Job with his finiteness. Job has been complaining and groaning about his suffering and questions whether God is really a just God. Why don’t you tell me why I suffer? God is not going to answer Job. He is not answerable to us for why He allows certain things into our lives. And in order to demonstrate to Job that Job is just a miserable little creature and has no right to question God as to His purposes or His actions, God begins to fire a number of rhetorical questions to Job, all of which reinforce the idea to Job that he really has no right to question God. “Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” The phrase “morning stars” is parallel to “sons of God,” and the term “sons of God” is a term that always refers to the angels. It is not talking about believers. Only when we get into the New Testament does becoming a son of God become a term for believers. The angels were present when God was creating and laying the foundations to the earth, and when He is doing that they are not divided. Notice it says, they sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. This would be before Lucifer fell, before the angelic conflict revolt.
Then we have a beginning for man, referenced in Matthew 19:4, “And he [Jesus] answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning …”
The fifth beginning. John refers to the beginning of the Church, 1 John 2:7.
The next key word in Genesis 1:1 is “God.” What do we mean by God? This is the problem that missionaries run into when they go into pagan, primitive societies. Their concept of God is not a personal, infinite God; it is an impersonal force. So the God that you are talking about is not the God that they are hearing you talk about. You have to go back and clarify these things, otherwise when it is all said and done they don’t have a clue who they have believed in because when Jesus is the Son of God He is just the son of some impersonal force, and that is not who Jesus is in the Bible.