§8. THE CREATION.
COSMOLOGY contains the doctrine of the universe and COSMOGONY the doctrine of the origin of the world. When we consider God as the absolute personality, we find the explanation of the truth of the Christian cosmogony. The Triune God is active not only internally, but also externally. The latter activity is not necessary in the same sense as the former. The external activity is connected, however, with the internal. Opera ad extra, of which creation is a part, have their starting point in the opera ad intra.
QUENSTEDT defines the act of creation as follows: “Creation is an external act of the Triune God, whereby, to the praise of His name and the benefit of man, in the space of six days, by the power alone of His most free will, He omnipotently and wisely produced from nothing all things visible and invisible.”
The Triune God is causa efficiens principalis. In accordance with opera attributiva in the economical Trinity creation is indeed ascribed to the Father especially, but opera attributiva are communia or indivisa, for which reason both the Son and the Holy Spirit participate. Dogmaticians generally say therefore that the world was created by the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. Because the Son from eternity is the image of the Father, therefore the thoughts of the Father are reflected in the Son. Some Dogmaticians say therefore that the Son is K6afjLo<; vot/to’s. He is the principle of the world through whom all is made. The world idea or archetype in the Son is reflected in time as an image or unfolding portraiture of the divine world plan. In creation as well as in the Trinity the Holy Spirit occupies a position which both unites and separates. Through the activity of the Spirit in creation and also in providence the world is transfigured and consecrated to God, but at the same time is separated from Him, so that God, while immanent in the world, is nevertheless transcendent, and the world does not, in accordance with the acosmism of the Pantheists, become immanent in God. Because God has Himself created the world and is the principal active cause, there is no causa instrumentalis. The goodness of God alone is the causa impulsiva creationis. Before we proceed we would cite the following passages: “Of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things’ (Rom. 11: 36); “To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6); “All things were made through him” (John 1: 10); ”For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through and unto him” (Col. 1: 16); “Who worketh all things after the council of his will” (Eph. 1: 11); “Thou didst create all things, and because of thy will they were, and were created” (Rev. 4: 11). Cf. Rom. 1: 19, 20 and Acts 17: 26, 21.
1. THE MODUS OF CREATION.
Forma creationis consists in the external act, through which God partly from nothing and partly out of the created material brought forth all things. For this reason creation is divided into creatio prima or immediata and creatio secunda or mediata.
The scholastics of the Middle Ages distinguished between nihilum privativum, the chaotic material, and nihilum negativum, which even excludes the former, and taught therefore that God had created the world ex nihilo negativo. In the Lutheran scholastic period Quenstedt changed ex to post. In explanation of the expression “from” or “out of nothing” the following may be cited: “By faith we understand that the worlds have been framed by the word of God so that what is seen hath not been made out of things which appear” (Heb. 11: 3). There was, therefore, no prima materia, which God used in creatio prima. But God did not create the world out of nothing in the ordinary sense, for it is stated that the worlds have been framed by the Word of God. Viewed from this angle, theology does not conflict with the expression: ex nihilo nihil fit. We may therefore say, ex aliquo aliquid fit. Of course those that continually urge the principle ex nihilo nihil fit deny that the world was created by the Word of God. Against such we must emphasize the fact that the world was created from nothing. On the other hand, when we set forth that the world was created by the Word of God, we must beware of theosophical speculations, which assert that in God there is a real ϕύσις with potentialities which constitutes the material of creation. Against such we must maintain that God created the world from nothing by His Word.
To be sure, we cannot explain the mystery of creation, for we know only in part. Through experience we find, however, that the spiritual forces are the most powerful. The spirit of man, although finite and dependent, is nevertheless a great power in the world of nature. We can therefore without difficulty understand how God, the infinite and independent Spirit, can be almighty.
The world is, therefore, not eternal, either as cosmos or as αἰών. This we learn in the first sentence on the first page of the Bible through the word bereshith. The same truth is expressed in other places, such as Eph. 1: 4, where we read: before the foundation of the world. With regard to the time and the creation of the world the old Dogmaticians taught that God created the world with time. HOLLAZIUS says: in tempore non praeexistente, sed coexistente.”
We find two accounts of the creation in Genesis. The object of the first account is to present the order of creation, for which reason man, who was created when all was ready, is mentioned last, because he was the crown of creation. In the second account the creation of man is presented more in detail, while we are told how the garden of Eden was planted for his sake. No mention is made in this account of the creation of flora and fauna. We are told that the animals that had been created were brought before man that he might name them, etc. With regard to the Biblical accounts of the creation and the scientific presentations on the subject, there have been many attempts to harmonize the two. Although the Bible is not a textbook in the natural sciences, still it ought to be considered normative. It has often happened that science has been compelled to acknowledge the truth of the declarations of the Word of God, although the Bible does not express the truths in the same terms as science employs, but makes use of the language of the common man. Among the explanations that have been advanced, three may be mentioned. There are some who consider that the days of creation were extended periods of time, by which theory it has been sought to harmonize the teachings of the Bible with geological science. According to this theory a day might be a thousand years or thousands of years. Others say that the first three days were long periods, but that the last three were ordinary days. Still others present the view that the demands of science might be met by placing the period of the geological formations before the first day of creation as set forth in Genesis. The first thing that is presented in Genesis before the days of creation are mentioned is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and that the earth was waste and void. It is not impossible that an extended period of time may have intervened before the first day of creation when light was made. According to this view the remaining days of creation were ordinary days. The first of these theories is probably the most popular, while the third contains the suggestion of a harmony that is the most satisfactory to the Christian thinker. It is set forth and defended by Kurtz in a most admirable way. However, the last and deciding word has not been uttered in this question. The different harmonies that have been attempted have considerable importance in the service of Apologetics. When geology and astronomy have reached a greater degree of exactitude and perfection, then we shall find that the facts of science will not conflict with the Biblical account.
In regard to the first of these theories we would be just in calling attention to the fact that “yom,’ the Hebrew word for day, transliterated to English, has several meanings. In Gen. 1: 5 it means an ordinary day and also day and night. In Gen. 2: 4 day means all the six days. The day of salvation is not an ordinary day. It may be questioned, if the seventh day was an ordinary day of twelve hours. We should also pay attention to 2 Peter 3: 8, “But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” In regard to the words “in the beginning” or “to begin with God created heaven and earth,” we should not forget that not only heaven, but also earth has various meanings. In the first verse “earth” is a chaotic matter or mass and in the second verse “earth” means evidently not only the planet earth, but also the beginning of the formation of the solar and stellar systems. On the fourth day of creation the sun, moon and stars were made visible. But light existed also in itself from the first day. At first vegetation did not depend upon sunlight, but upon the original created light or a phase of it. The contents of the second verse are also corroborated by 2 Peter 3: 5, “There were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water.” In that time or period the Spirit of God was brooding (according to the Hebrew) on the waters. Then the implanting took place which explains the repeated “after their kind” during the days of creation. But the expression is not used in relation to man, because he was created directly. There are consequently no data in Genesis to support pseudo-evolution. The Biblical narrative of creation only contains an outline, but will stand the test of true science.
The record of creation was given to man by revelation, either directly or by vision, just as John received the revelation of the end of the world and the genesis of the new heaven and the new earth.
Concerning the modus of creation many different theories have been presented in the world of science. Many scientists accept the theory of Laplace, according to which our solar system is supposed to have developed out of a greatly attenuated gaseous mass. He considered that this mass was like star clusters. Many of these nebulae are supposed by astronomers to be fixed stars. LAPLACE said that in the motions of the heavenly bodies the nebulous rings that encircled the planets were thrown off into space and afterwards formed separate bodies. The ring of Saturn is considered a proof of this theory. The gaseous mass, once at white heat, afterwards cooled and became solid.
It is probably not within the province of Dogmatics to account for theories of this sort, but it is nevertheless permissible to state them, particularly as they do not decidedly conflict with the clear expressions of the Bible. It is also necessary at least to point out such theories as plainly conflict with the Scriptures. Among theories of this sort, which must be rejected, may be mentioned: 1) The theory of emanation, in accordance with which all creation has emanated from God as the stream from its source or the rays from the sun. In this way God Himself becomes material and imperfect. 2) Hylozoism, which acknowledges a formative principle, but ascribes it to matter. God is simply a force or world-soul. This theory has made its appearance in many forms. Straton of Lampsacus, the Stoics, the disciples of Plotinus, Spinoza and others have presented this theory which implies either Pantheism or Atheism. 3) Materialism, which declares that only matter exists. Matter is eternal and all things are explained through mutations of matter, hence the theory does not acknowledge any real creation. 4) The Evolutionary Theory, or Darwin’s doctrine of transmutation, according to which the universe has resulted from a gradual development of natural forces which has continued through countless ages.
There is a true evolution which implies a development within the homogeneous domain, but pseudo-evolution means the transmutation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous. The extreme pseudo-evolution as presented by such men as Haeckel denies a Creator. But the theory of pseudo-evolution has not been proved. No naturalist has been able to discover an actual transmutation of species. AGAZZIZ says: “Darwinism is an a priori conception and a burlesque of facts.’ VIRCHOW says: “I am of the opinion that, before we designate such hypotheses as the voice of science, we should first have to conduct a long series of elaborate investigations. We must therefore say to teachers in schools, ‘Do not teach it.’ … Of spontaneous generation we do not possess any actual proof.” If the doctrine be true, it should be supported by a multitude of sure facts like the law of gravitation.
2. THE EFFECTUS OF CREATION.
EFFECTUS CREATIONIS is all that has been created, both the visible world and the invisible. The earth itself reveals to us the great works of God, and with the growth of human knowledge the wonders of creation become more and more marvelous. But the eye of man pierces through the firmament and views and contemplates the thousands of worlds in the wide universe. Concerning the heavens Dogmaticians make use of the following division: 1) coelum physicum, which includes serum et aethereum; 2) coelum angelorum et beatorum, the home of the angels and the saints, where the Lord reveals Himself, which is also called Paradise and constitutes one of the many mansions; 3) coelum Dei majestaticum, where God is enthroned in everlasting glory and light. The Scriptures also mention terra nova et coelum novum, which implies a new creation or at least a transformation.
The following passages may be quoted: “For in him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible” (Col. 1: 16); “And God called the firmament Heaven” (Gen. 1:8); “Behold the heaven and the heaven of heavens” (Deut. 10: 14); “In my Father’s house are many mansions” (John 14: 1); “Caught up even to the third heaven, caught up into Paradise” (2 Cor. 12: 2–-4); “But ye are come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12: 22, 23); “Dwelling in light unapproachable” (1 Tim. 6: 16); “The city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11: 10); “He that sitteth on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21: 5).
3. THE OBJECTS OF CREATION.
FINIS CREATIONIS is twofold and the two objects must not be separated from each other. The objects are: 1) finis intermedius, which has reference to the blessedness and welfare of man. When the decree concerning creation and therefore finis intermedius by reason of sin could not be realized in accordance with the original plan, then God nevertheless carries out His purpose according to the decree of salvation and realizes finis intermedius in relation to all those that have been made new creatures through faith in Christ; 2) finis ultimus, which is the glory of God.
The following passages set forth finis intermedius and ultimus: “He made of one every nation of men to dwell on the face of the earth” (Acts 17: 26); compare Rom. 1: 25; “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork” (Ps. 19: 1); “Jehovah hath made everything for its own end” (Proverbs 16: 4); compare Rev. 4: 11.
4. NOTES ON THE HISTORY OF DOGMA.
The earliest Christian Church in general accepted with childlike faith the Mosaic account of creation and rejected the teachings of the Gnostics concerning a creator of the world as distinguished from the highest God. They also rejected their doctrine of an eternal creation. The Alexandrian school was more speculative. The allegorical method came into use with Origen, whose views in general on this subject were contested by Methodius and rejected by Athanasius. Augustine’s views were characterized by spiritualistic tendencies. During the Scholastic period a pantheistic tendency began to make itself felt through Scotus Erigena, but did not gain many followers. The orthodox faith prevailed. If some of the mystics were in danger of being led astray by their speculations, they were generally strengthened in their faith by the consideration of the marvelous wonders of God in creation. Through the Reformation and the subsequent development of orthodox dogmatic theology faith in the teachings of the Bible concerning creation was confirmed. The Socinians do not seem to have held the view of a creatio ex nihilo, while the modern mystics occupied themselves more or less with theosophical and pantheistic speculations. The Wolffian school sought indeed to harmonize the Mosaic account with natural philosophy, but the old struggle still continues, which is not to be wondered at, when we consider the influence of Pantheism and Materialism in the modern critical period. Schleiermacher became a new Origen. The number of those, however, that maintain and vigorously struggle for the conservative faith is very large.
Heathenism does not seem able to reach a clear conception of the creation of the world. The great heathen philosopher Plato held the view that creation was merely the activity of the eternal Idea in relation to matter. The Creator was the Demiurge or architect who plastically wrought His ideas into the formless eternal mass.
JUSTIN MARTYR says in his first Apology, X, that God created the world from formless material. He does not declare with sufficient clearness that God also created the hyle. HERMOGENES taught that God created the world out of pre-existing material, which is tantamount to an external world-creation. The hyle is as eternal as God Himself. TERTULLIAN opposed his views. ORIGEN said that other worlds had existed before this one. God could not remain inactive. He denied the eternity of matter in the heathen sense, but taught, nevertheless, an eternal world-creation.
The Neo-Platonists, like PLONTINUS taught that the world of ideas, the divine intellect, was the mediating principle in the formation of the world. The higher powers of nature give form and life to the lifeless material. ATHANASIUS rejected the doctrine of eternal matter, and said that the result of such a doctrine would be to make God powerless and merely an artist. AGUNSTINE rejected the doctrine of an eternal world-creation. In answer to those who asked what God did before He created the heavens and the earth he says in his Conf., XI: 12: “I do not answer, as a certain person is said to have done, dodging the question: He was busy preparing hell for those that delved too deep in mysteries, for I should rather have answered: I do not know,” etc. He says that God could have created all things at one time, but because of our limitations He extended the creation over several days. He explained the history of creation itself in an allegorical way.
JOHN SCOTUS ERIGENA conceived of God both as natura creans, sed non creata, and as natura non creata et non creans. And yet he says that the nothing from which God created the world was His super-essential glory. God is in all things, which is equivalent to saying that God has made all. THOMAS AQUINAS said that the creation of the world was an article of faith. He seems to have inclined to the theory of emanation. God’s object in creating the world was to impart His being. The power of God was causa efficiens, His wisdom causa exemplaris, and His goodness causa finalis.
Mystics like Sebastian Frank and Bohme taught that the essence of God develops itself in creation. BOHME said that the nature of God was the substance from which all things were created. SPINOZA set forth that the substance was never without its modi, natura naturans never without natura naturata. It is not necessary in this connection to present anything further on Pantheism.
It is self-evident that Schelling, Fichte and Hegel held anti-Christian views on creation. DARWIN set forth that the floral and animal kingdoms resulted from an evolution out of a few primitive types. SCHLEIERMACHER rejected the doctrine of a creation. MARTENSEN follows Bohme in the doctrine of a ϕύσις in the being of God, an impersonal essence, not dead matter, but something real, a πλήρωμα, which made creation possible. The Finnish theologian GRANFELT says that the creation proceeded out of the free love of God. The conception of the world creation implies that God through His almighty mandate called the world into being, whose foundation is in Him, and to which He ultimately imparts Himself. There has been no real development in the formulation of dogmas in recent times. The leading theologians of the Church have defended the conservative faith, and in the interest of peace some have endeavored to harmonize the Biblical doctrine with the so-called facts of science.