frgavin on September 9th, 2010

What makes a Christian doctrine of creation actually Christian?

It is because it has to do with Christ. This works by looking at creation through the lens of the incarnation of the Son, the atonement and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

The incarnation of the Son of God has attracted various theologians as informing the Christian doctrine of creation. From the 19th century on, the incarnation was said to parallel creation by virtue of kenosis (‘he emptied himself’, Phil 2:7). Aren’t incarnation and creation both acts of divine self-limitation?

However, whereas kenosis seems to indicate some kind of suffering on Christ’s part, and is addressed to the fallen world, in the Bible creation is the cause for God’s joy (Gen 1-2). The concepts are not simply analogous to one another. More simply, the Word becoming flesh shows us three things. Firstly, that the created order is not utterly repellent as a substance to God despite the effects of sin. Importantly, the incarnation proves the primary reality of physical matter, which Platonic thought would deny.

Second, that the effects of sin are so grave that a redirection of the creation emanating from God is needed.

Third, that humanity will achieve its intended status in relation to the creation – dominion – in Jesus (Heb 2:5-11).

But it is not merely by his incarnation but also in the atoning sacrifice of his death that Jesus achieves the full restoration of creation. It is through his death that the purpose of the world is mapped out. We read this in one of my favourite passages, Col 1:15-20. In 1:15-17, the role of Christ in creation is highlighted, as we have seen.

But this is not enough, for through Adam’s sin enmity between God and the world came to pass. Therefore, to complete creation’s purpose God needed to make reconciliation, through the blood of Christ:
…through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Col 1:20)

The created world was not able to offer up an unpolluted sacrifice in order to cleanse itself. The sacrifice had to be provided by God (cf Gen 22). Thus the Christian doctrine of creation views the redemption of the creation as won specifically on the cross of Jesus Christ. (Rom 8:18-25).

The future of creation is further, by Christ, a resurrected one. Several New Testament passages link God’s act of creation with the resurrection. Rom 4:17 parallels the two:
the God…who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

It is not surprising that the two concepts should be so associated, for the resurrection is a demonstration of God’s absolute sovereignty over creation (as proclaimed in the Old Testament) and his appointment of Jesus as its ruler. The testimony of the apostles in Acts is to the Lordship of the resurrected Christ (2:32-36; 17:30-31 et al). The resurrection is, of course, key to Paul’s cosmic eschatology in 1 Cor 15:20-28. It is also the reversal of the entry of death into the world through Adam. Jesus’ resurrection body is a preview of the resurrected creation – still corporeal, but gloriously so.

Moore College has its annual School of Theology on 15th -16th Sept. The title is: The Wisdom of the Cross: Exploring 1 Corinthians

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