God’s Word starts with the creation by God of all things out of nothing. Genesis chapters 1 and 2 present creation as the foundation of all scriptural truth. The first eleven chapters of Genesis are foundational to the entire New Testament. The New Testament writers refer to these chapters repeatedly, and Jesus Christ Himself referred to each of the first six chapters of Genesis. Nowhere does the Lord, or any of the New Testament writers, give the slightest hint that these foundational chapters of the first book of Moses are anything but straight, historical truth, to be understood in their historico-literal sense.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). This means, as the Nicene Creed affirms, that God is creator “of all things visible and invisible.” In Hebrew, the phrase “heavens and earth” is a merism, a phrase by which an entirety is referred to by naming some of its parts. In this case, “heavens and earth” means “absolutely everything.” In his Literal Interpretation of Genesis, Augustine of Hippo notes that when God brought material reality into existence, “then time began its flight.” That is, when God created material things, at the same time He created space and time as their context. He did so within the space of six days, and He brought the angels into being sometime during that first creative week as well. We must never read spatial and temporal limitations back onto God, for He is their Master, not their servant.
Before the creation week, there was nothing but God—no material realm, no space, no time. God alone inhabited eternity. The church fathers and Reformers taught that the name Genesis 1:1 uses for God—the plural Elohim, rather than the singular Eloha, is a hint at the truth of the Trinity. Within Himself, the one God is triune in person from all eternity (as we clearly learn later in the Scriptures). He was not a lonely monad, but three-in-one. According to Ephesians 3:14-15, human fatherhood is a reflection of the divine Fatherhood, so that in some sense the life of God is like that of a family: “Father of whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named.” The doctrine of creation by Elohim is the basis of family structure and joy.
By creating all things out of nothing (that is, without preexisting material), God shows that He alone is God. When Moses asked for His name at the burning bush, He replied, “I am who I am” (Ex. 3:14). These letters are the root of the Hebrew word for “to be.” God always exists; He has no origin; He depends on nothing outside Himself to be who He is, or to do what He does. Everything else depends on God; only God depends on nothing but Himself for His existence.
Throughout Scripture, certain qualities or attributes are ascribed to God and God alone, including eternity, infinity, omnipotence, and supreme intelligence (which attributes include an all-encompassing plan that He alone is able to carry out). But at the very beginning of human history, Satan tempted our first parents to think that by disobeying God’s clear command, they themselves could become gods and decide for themselves what is good and evil (Gen. 3). Fallen human beings ever since have sought to elevate themselves to the divine heights by denying both God’s creative authority over them and His Word to them, in hopes of setting up their own independent program of good and evil.
This generally works by means of shifting the divine attributes to the created order, as Romans 1 graphically shows: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (v. 25). We see how this works in the theory of evolution: eternity is taken from God and given to an always-existing material universe; omnipotence is ascribed to the impersonal cosmos, which somehow is able out of its own emerging powers to bring forth order out of disorder. While supreme intelligence is generally denied to the cosmic order, nonetheless, its functional replacement would perhaps be something like the inherent evolutionary drive to move from the simple to the complex. (The evolutionary drive and its accompaniments have never been proven by empirical science; they are a construct posited by those who would replace God with nature, with themselves, or with the state.)
There are many advantages to an intelligent grasp of the biblical doctrine of the Creator and of His creation. It shows that God alone is God, and that the Eternal One has an eternal and all-inclusive plan for everything that happens in His creation. It restores meaning and hope to life. It has the massive advantage of refusing to grant divine attributes to anything that is less than God, whether the material world, humanity, or, especially relevant these days, the would-be omnicompetent state or world order. Creation by God is always the basis of resistance to statist (or ecclesiastical) tyranny.
The biblical doctrine of creation also benefits us by showing that the God of order made a creation with orderly components, proper sequence, overall regularity, and intelligibility; these assumptions are the basis of all true science (as even non-Christian historians such as Alfred North Whitehead have argued). Genesis 1 and 2 also show us that God created all things “very good” (Gen. 1:31). This means that the material creation, including the human mind and body, are positive goods, not evils that we should seek to escape (as is taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age religions).
Evil came in, according to Genesis 3 and Romans 5, from the rebellious choices of moral beings, who were originally created innocent and good, but with the capacity to choose voluntarily to love God or to disobey Him. The bright angel who became Satan fell into sin by rebellious disobedience against his Creator, and in time successfully tempted Adam and Eve, our first parents, to follow him. Hence, evil comes not from material reality itself, but from moral persons who acted disobediently. Thus, the Christian need never hate his or her body, seek to flee the real world, or make a god of reality.
None of this was outside the eternal counsel of God, because even before the first sin occurred, Christ was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). Therefore, we do not look to the mythical evolutionary process to improve our lot, or to take the world where it needs to go. We look to the eternal creator God in faith, through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, for eternal pardon of our sin, for structure and meaning in our lives lived in a fallen creation, and for an eternity of bliss in “the new heavens and new earth” (2 Peter 3:13) that His return will consummate.
A God on whom we can rely; meaning and hope in life, and beyond; freedom from tyranny; a happy view of the body and of marriage; advance in true science and a plain reading of the Scriptures; the way to eternal pardon—all of these benefits flow from the doctrine of the Creator and His creation.