This is John Ray’s classic work from 1717. He starts with this verse:
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made; And by the breath of His mouth all their hosts. … For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6,9)
The Bible is clear: God made all things out of nothing with a sovereign word of command. The film director shouts “Lights! Action!” and his word calls it into being.
There some important consequences to this concept. First, it keeps a distance between Creator and Creation. It’s as small as the distance between speaker and the word spoken, but that’s the point: it ascribes contingency (or dependency) to what is said (and done) and authority, power and ownership to the One-Who-Speaks.
There are two wonderful words that have been used to explore this difference between the Speaker and the Word Spoken. Though God is separate from His creation and stands above it in his transcendence, at the same time He is intimately involved in the world He has made in His immanence.
A distinguishing characteristic of the Biblical view of life is that God is a God who comes, a God who visits his people, a God who breaks into history and human lives and performs mighty deeds: “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.” Ps 150: 2).
But let’s consider not that “breaking and entering” into history (of which, more later!) but this statement:
Creation shows who God is and what he is like.
He is not an absentee Creator who merely “watches us from a distance” or a clockmaker, who, having finished his word, stands back to see it working. Rather, God is fully engaged with what he has made and reveals himself through it and in it.
As Psalm 104:24 puts it: “O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions”. God’s sheer brilliance is on display in everything He has made! We appreciate his wisdom in the tiniest aspect of what he has made. I met a haematologist who came to Christ through a study of blood samples. The sheer purposiveness of such intricacy forced him from his “functional atheism” (as he put it) to seek a God who is known in what he has made.
According to the Bible, every realm of reality — physical, moral, spiritual, cultural — has a certain divinely-ordained structure to them. In some cases, especially in nature, these laws function automatically. The work of gravity, the orbits of planets, and the metamorphosis of a butterfly … Add your own ideas!
We may even say that:
Creation is a sacrament.
God the Trinity is the Creator of the universe and His laws and wisdom oversee it all. We are not surprised, then, if the whole creation — every creature in it, and every particle of it — declare God’s glory and make Him known! God has revealed Himself in the person of His son Jesus Christ — His living, incarnate revelation. He has revealed Himself in Scripture — His special, written revelation. He also discloses Himself through creation — His general, natural revelation. Indeed, through faith in Jesus Christ as He is revealed to us in Scripture, we come to understand who God is, and that the world as His creation, speaks of Him everywhere.
Isaiah 6:3 literally reads, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, the fullness of the earth is His glory.” Toby Sumpter described it beautifully: “We are inextricably embedded in this world, in the material world. The wind scrapes our faces as much as the branches of low hanging trees. Words and images ricochet through space and time like chisels swung against marble, chipping, shaping, creating, destroying. We are inescapably embodied. We are bodies that act and react as we are acted upon.
This means that all of life is already a ritual, already sacramental, already profoundly spiritual. This is because God made the world and upholds it by the Word of his power and by the breath of his Spirit. So where will you go from his presence? Will you hide in a cave, at the bottom of the sea, in outer space?”
Creation has a spiritual purpose.
The way we think about creation is foundational to a Biblical view of life. This is not a philosophic or scientific discussion. Sure, it has implications for the creation and evolution debate, but its real significance is spiritual. We can see this in at least a few important ways:
First, it teaches us who God is. It exalts Him as the sovereign, omnipotent, wise, good, and loving Creator.
Second, it teaches us who we are. We learn that the Lord Himself is God; that He made us, and not we ourselves; and that we are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Ps 100:3). The doctrine of creation puts our lives in a proper perspective before God and humbles us.
Third, it strengthens faith. If God can create the world, He can certainly redeem it. If God is the Maker of heaven and earth, He can surely minister to me at my time of need! Creation guarantees new creation both individually and cosmically.
The most obvious, and gut-response to all of this is described by John. It is worship.
“Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honour and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)