God’s Good Creation

Faith Matters

When Christians speak their faith with a Reformed accent, they talk a lot about creation.

After all, creation is the stage and first act of the world’s drama. In the second act, sin enters the picture, but only as a spoiler of God’s good creation. Creation is original; sin is only a parasite on it.

In the third act God’s spectacular intervention through Jesus Christ is the story of creation restored, maybe even surpassed by the end of the drama. The world’s big story is not just about sin and grace, but about creation, sin, and grace.

You might say that creation anticipates God’s self-giving love in Jesus Christ. Creation was itself a way for God to spend himself.

I think we may safely assume that God wasn’t bored. God wasn’t necessarily a venture capitalist, looking for a risky investment such as the human race.

We may also assume that God wasn’t lonely. No one said, “It’s not good for God to be alone. So let there be galaxies and jackrabbits and widemouth bass.” It’s true that God cannot be God without relationships, but it doesn’t follow that God needs a world in order to have them. After all, God has the endless dance of life within the holy Trinity, the ceaseless exchange of vitality, the infinite expanse of Spirit upon Spirit in superlative, triplicate consciousness.

To speak plainly, from eternity God has had a communal life and didn’t need to create a world to get one. Nothing internal or external to the Trinity compelled God to create.

But if creation is not necessary for God, neither is it an accident or a whim—as if God were doodling one day with a cosmic magic marker, drawing stick men and stick women to idle away a few thousand years of eternity, then sighed enormously and discovered to his amazement that the figures were starting to swell and stir with the breath of life!

Creation is neither a necessity nor an accident. Instead, given God’s interior life that overflows with regard for others, we might say creation is an act that was fitting for God. It was so much like God to create, to imagine possible worlds and then to form one of them. Creation is an act of imaginative love. And even of good humor—as we can tell from the habits of gooney birds, a member of the albatross family found around Midway Island in the South Pacific. With their great wingspans and set-back leg placement, gooneys are champion fliers, but they visit land so seldom that, when they do, they come in for some truly foolish landings.

For Christians, the study of creation is a classic opportunity to read Scripture and the natural world together. Scripture tells us who created the wonders of the world, and why. Study of these wonders tells us, at least in part, how God did his wonders, and when. And it tells us what we haven’t always wanted to know: the drama of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation isn’t just about us human beings.

In Genesis 9 God makes the “rainbow covenant” with Noah, but also with “every living creature.” The biblical drama includes at each stage wolves and lambs and all else that God has made—suggesting that God’s providence extends beyond humankind to the whole creation. The truth of the matter is, finally, that “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Ps. 24:1).

About the Author

Cornelius (Neal) Plantinga was formerly President of Calvin Theological Seminary. He is now Senior Research Fellow in the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

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