The Cornerstone of Truth
Mr. Stan F. Vaninger is a teacher at Victory Christian School, St. Louis, Missouri, and fellowships at South Side Bible Chapel. We sincerely appreciate this first of a two-part study on creation. Some of our readers will recognize his name relative to his numerous book reviews which have appeared in the magazine.
The doctrine of creation is unique to the biblical world view. It is not commonly known that virtually every major world view (philosophy or religion) denies that creation has occurred! The two extremes of Monism and materialism provide good examples.
“All in One”
Monism is simply the view that the only true reality is God. As strange as this view may seem to most western minds, it is foundational to most eastern religions, occult philosophies, and “New Age” groups. God is the only true reality: everything that really exists is part and parcel of God.
God is seen as being pure spirit and the material realm is regarded as being non-existent and illusionary. Man’s soul or spirit is seen as an emanation from God or an extension of God’s essential being and thus in most forms of Monism, man’s individuality is also seen as illusionary. A commonly heard catch-phrase of this kind of view is “all is one” where the “one” refers to the one true reality of “God.”
For materialism, which is an important tenent of such views as humanism, evolutionism, and atheism, only the physical realm is real; the spiritual realm is illusionary and belief in God is regarded as being on the same level as superstition.
For Monism, only God exists and the material realm is illusionary. For materialism, only matter exists and the spiritual realm is non-existent.
As opposite as these two views of reality seem to be, they have one crucial factor in common: both deny that creation has occurred. For Monism, nothing can exist apart from or outside of God. For materialism, nothing can exist apart from or outside of the physical universe which is a self-existent entity.
In either case, no distinction is allowed between a Creator and a created order. For both views there is a continuity to all existence: everything that exists is of the same essence or substance.
The Biblical View
Genesis 1 forces us to recognize that there are two very different kinds of existence. The language is so clear and explicit that we are forced to recognize a radical discontinuity between the self-existent Creator-God and the created order.
In view of the uniqueness of this teaching, we should not be surprised to discover that this view of reality is foundational for many other important biblical doctrines. We will show, in fact, that the basic truths concerning creation are essential to an understanding of who God is, who man is, what sin is, what happened at the incarnation, and the doctrines of resurrection and redemption.
The creation account of Genesis 1 forces us to recognize that there is a fundamental difference between God and man. In the Old Testament, the prominent attribute of the Lord is that unique and unrivalled power that has created and sustains the universe and its inhabitants (Psalm 104).
The Lord often speaks of Himself as Creator in order to make more explicit His identity and to give greater authority to what is being proclaimed (see for example Is. 40:18-28 and Jer. 10:11-16). In these and other passages we learn that the Lord is not like the gods worshiped by the pagans. The uniqueness of Yahweh is centered around the fact that He and He alone is the Creator.
In the Image of God
Simply because God is Creator and Man is creature, man is utterly different from God. Yet we also learn from Scripture that man was made “in the image and after the likeness” of God (Gen. 1:26, 27). Man’s spiritual dimension, his personality, his free agency, and his rational faculties such as logical thinking and speech could all be thought of as being included in the image and likeness of God. One likeness to God that man initially possessed at creation but later lost was his moral righteousness.
Thus, because man is a creature, he is very different from God; yet, at the same time, man was created to be like God in many respects. If we do not maintain a proper balance between these two truths, both revealed in Genesis 1, we will have a distorted view of both God and man.
The Goodness of Being Human
In our zeal to emphasize the depravity of fallen man, we often neglect the very crucial teaching of Genesis 1 concerning the goodness of the created order and man. Six times during the course of his creative activities, God declares his work to be good and at the end of the sixth day, all is declared to be very good (Genesis 1:31).
Thus, the created realm, including man, is declared to be intrinsically good, simply in virtue of the fact that it is the creation of the almighty and sovereign God. This is in stark contrast to many non-biblical world views which, not having the insight provided by Genesis 1, see the material realm in general and the human body in particular as being inherently evil.
If we understand Genesis 1 correctly, we must not include sin in our most basic definition of what man is. Man, in his “natural” created condition, is not sinful. Sin is an unnatural intrusion into human nature.
The doctrine of creation is foundational to a proper understanding of the doctrine of sin. Because God is Creator and man is creature, man falls under a natural obligation to obey God, that is, to allow God to determine for him what is right and what is wrong. It is this very important principle which is behind the prohibition given in Genesis 2:17.
The issue was, would Adam and Eve allow God to determine for them what was right or wrong or would they choose to determine for themselves what was right and wrong. When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree, it was an act of rebellion against the lordship of their Creator, pure and simple. The essence of the first sin, and every sin that followed it, is the refusal to submit to the natural obligation man has to obey his Creator-God.
Thus, according to the Scriptures, the fall was moral. While some non-biblical religions have a concept of a “fall,” it is very different than that of Genesis 3, being metaphysical rather than moral. Hinduism, for example, speaks of a “fall” which corresponds to man’s entrance into the material realm.
The “fall” introduced the deception of individual and physical existence that men are now under. Man’s false conception of himself as an individual and as having a physical body is, in fact, viewed as man’s basic problem.
In contrast to this Hindu view of man, the creation account of Genesis 1 & 2 makes it clear that man was deliberately made by God as an individual person with both a spiritual and physical dimension and that such an arrangement was good.
Genesis 3 makes it clear that the fall was not a change in man’s conception of reality and of himself but rather was a spiritual and moral degeneration whereby man came under the power and deception of sin. Man’s problem is not his “human”-ness but his rebellion against God. It is this truth that non-biblical world views so desperately try to avoid or obscure.
You Will Be Like God
The serpent’s temptation of Eve included the appeal that, “you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). We have seen that according to Genesis 1:26-28, man was already created to be “like” God, and it becomes obvious that the appeal in Genesis 3:5 is to something beyond that.
What really lies behind the appeal surfaces when we consider the remainder of it: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The words “knowing good and evil” show that the serpent was holding before Eve the possibility of transcending the moral obligations of creaturehood.
The serpent offered to the creature what belongs exclusively to the Creator, the right to know (or determine) what is right and what is wrong. What the serpent offered to Eve was the possibility of becoming her own God, of being able to determine for herself what is right and wrong.
This is what lies at the root of all false religions and philosophies. Whether man denies the existence of God or asserts his own deity, the end result is the same: man is free from any externally imposed moral absolutes. It is no coincidence that most non-biblical religions and philosophies not only deny that creation has occurred but are also amoral, denying any ultimate distinction between good and evil. Only by denying that creation has occurred can man avoid the Creator/creature distinction and the natural moral obligations of creaturehood.