Sometimes you almost have to laugh at how every single passage of Scripture can be disputed. People (myself included) like to bring fresh eyes to the text to see what others may have missed. Part of that might be good Bible study, but part of that might be the pride of life.
The opening passages of Scripture are no different. The creation account of Genesis 1-2 has been torn apart and reassembled more times than perhaps any other passage. The modern age has said it is trying to reconcile reason with Scripture when it comes to the matter of the age of the earth and how space, time, and matter came to be. That premise, though, is misleading. Were reason and Scripture disjointed before the modern era?
The Confession opens its doctrine of creation with this: "In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.”
Right off the bat, we are reminded that for all of eternity, the Godhead has existed as Father, Son, and Spirit. That is no small matter. Believing that keeps us from all kinds of false notions, such as Jesus being adopted or created. All three persons are God.
We’re also given the purpose, or telos, of creation. The heavens and the earth were created “for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom and goodness”[.] Did God need anything? Was he lonely? Did he create everything, including us, because of a need inside of himself? By no means, to quote the apostle.
For many, this is a paradigm shift in their thinking about, well, everything. We are not the point, reason, or purpose for existence. We are here to glorify God, not fulfill him. Everything exists, from the smallest particle no human eye will ever see, to the largest supernova in the farthest galaxy, to shine a light on how glorious, wise, and powerful our creator is. He is the point of it all.
The Confession also does not mince words on the timing of creation. Creation took place “in the space of six days”. The text of Scripture, whether or not we agree with it, could not be more clear. Between the days of creation being given a number and every day being marked by both evening and morning, to look for loopholes in what the text actually says to reconcile it with contemporary science is not the point.
There are several theories as to how this can be done, from the gap theory (millions of years between days), to the day-age theory (days are equal to aeons), to the framework theory (it’s just a literary device, not literal history).
Let’s be clear what we are saying if we deny the historicity of a literal 6 24-hour days of creation. Death existed before sin entered the world. Adam was not a special creation. Paul’s arguments about the covenant of works and the covenant of grace in Romans 5:12-23 becomes meaningless, making sin less than a rejection of the law of God.
Well-intentioned, Bible-reading Christians can surely disagree on minor interpretive issues, even around creation. But if we are people of the book, we must take the book as it comes to us. We must read the creation account for what it is: a highly organized, memorable, poetic account of the creator forming everything from nothing. Once we read the text and interpret it rightly, only then are we able to incorporate contemporary science and philosophy into our understanding of how God made everything from nothing. And a robust doctrine of the authority of Scripture necessarily places it as the text that corrects and guides our scientific conclusions.
The Confession then states, “After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created”[.] Two people were created, one from the other, in perfect harmony with the rest of creation. That was the only time in world history when there were no struggles, diseases, or disasters. They were completely “fit unto that life to God”, which was their purpose: to live for God. Tending the garden, multiplying, and subduing the land was how they would live for God. Should we not live for God any differently today?
The Scriptures present Eden as a kind of temple. Though the tabernacle and temple of Israel would not come until much later, the text clearly presents the earth as the place where God especially dwells. Even then, the structure and decor of the tabernacle (and later the temple) would reflect the way that Eden is described in Genesis 1-2. When sin entered the world, God cast the people out of his presence. When the Israelites sinned, God’s presence left the temple and the people were kicked out of the land again. It’s hard to read Exodus 40-48 alongside Genesis 2 and not see how clearly they correspond.
Theologians call this the covenant of works. God interacts with his people always in a covenant, never without. Before Adam sinned, eternal life was based on works. When God told Adam that death would come from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the sense is that not eating from it would lead to eternal life. Creation came with a series of obligations, blessings, and curses, hence, a covenant of works.
Hosea 6:7 says, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant”[.] Why are we held captive by Adam’s sin? Because he was our covenant head. That is one of Paul’s main points in Romans 5:12-20, another reason why the creation account matters. It’s all interrelated and incredibly cohesive!
When Adam sinned and was ejected from the garden, God entered into a covenant of grace with him. God slaughtered an animal to shed blood (without which there is no remission of sins) and to make coverings for the people to cover their shame. All of the covenants that follow, up to including the new covenant in Christ’s blood, are all under the banner of the covenant of grace. The Noahic, Abrahamic, Sinaitic, David, all look forward to the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36. Even the law, which was never meant to take away sins but to expose them, is within the covenant of grace.
Next week, we’ll take a look at chapter 5, divine providence: how God governs the world for his glory.