Creation and Man

Creation and Man

“The heavens declare the glory of God;    
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1-4 ).


The world we live in is not simply the result of blind chance or some mysterious impersonal force. Rather it points us to a personal, intelligent, loving and purposeful Creator.
Creation itself is one of the greatest witnesses to the existence of God. When we look at the night sky, filled with millions of stars, or examine the perfectly formed beauty of a wild flower, we must question how they came to be. In Acts 14:16-17 and Acts 17:22-32 the apostle Paul used just this foundational knowledge of “the unknown God” to reach the thinking men of Athens with the gospel.

Different views about the beginning

Before we go any further in our thinking about creation it is important to ask the simple question: What existed before the world? Professor Donald MacLeod writes that a lot of people believe there are many answers to this question, but in fact there are only three possibilities to discuss. Which one is correct?
The first is that before this world nothing, absolutely nothing existed. In other words the whole universe came from nothing.
The second is that before this world there was an impersonal something. A mass, a lump, energy, whatever? It contained all the information, which would decide on all the complexities that exist in the world, but it was without any purpose whatsoever. Impersonal, yet holding all the genetic codes (information for the development of life), the atomic numbers of every element, all the thoughts and writings of talented authors and all the great music compositions of different cultures etc.
The third possibility is that before Creation there was a personal something, the living God, infinite in knowledge, wisdom, power and love. This personal Being would explain all other forms of existence and in particular human life in all its complexity as well. This view is not only consistent with authentic science, but fits philosophically too.
Let’s look at these different views more closely.

The Biblical account

In Genesis 1 we find a clear order of events, which point us towards a God who is both wise and logical, as well as powerful and loving.
Verse 1 establishes the supreme fact of God Himself. He is eternal, uncreated and independent in all thought and action, never subject to any other force or mind and yet willing to create a world, in which he can share his glory with other lesser but still intelligent beings.
We should note that God created everything in nature out of nothing. But while nothing else at all existed, God was present from all eternity. He has no beginning or end, is greater than time and independent of it. Everything else came from him. As C.S. Lewis once wrote?… “It is clear that there was never a time when nothing existed; otherwise nothing would exist now.” And that which did exist was God.
Genesis 1:2 gives us the very first clue about the Trinity. It refers to the Spirit of God as actively involved in the process of Creation.
Additionally, what he created was very good. “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen 1:31). This special ability to design and create is also a human characteristic, which shows that God made man in his image.
The phrase “let there be light” tells us something about the nature of God himself. Again and again, the power and truth of God’s word brings people into the “light” of knowing Christ.
The creation of many different kinds of plants and animals shows us the incredible variety that God is capable of (Gen 1:28-30).

Evolution

Evolutionists claim that the world developed over millions of years. They therefore dismiss the biblical account as just a colourful story for simple people who don’t understand science. However, science depends on observation and measurement. But was anyone able to carry this out at the beginning of the world? No. The conditions of that time were unique and cannot be repeated. This means that science cannot give us accurate answers about the origins of the world.
Yet the complexity of the world we live in and our observations about the life of plants, animals and humans in particular are so amazing that it is hard to remain honestly rational and still say it is all the result of blind chance. In fact it takes greater “faith” to accept an evolutionary world-view than to accept that the universe bears witness to an intelligent personal designer.
Consider for example the human nervous system. Inside us there are about 161,000 km of nerve fibres, along which messages travel at about 480 km/h; or think of all the information of our personality (DNA) which is stored in each tiny cell of our body. 1.8 metres of DNA in a cell is like putting 50 km of fishing line into a coffee bean. But it is not merely stuffed in, but folded. If folded one way the cell becomes skin, if another way bone or another hair.
To write out the information in one cell would take 300 books 500 pages thick. And the human body contains enough DNA if stretched out to wrap round the sun 260 times. No wonder the Psalmist wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” and that before the discovery of DNA!

Man – the image of God

In one sense, all the problems we face, both as a race and as individuals, can be traced back to a loss of our true identity. What was God’s purpose when he first created man?
God specially designed us in his image and our purpose is to reflect God’s glory as we live holy lives in worship to him.
Man is the crown of Creation, and his body is designed to reflect his special status and functions. Prof D. MacLeod explains that the word “formed” in Genesis 2:22 (Hebrew: banah), is the same word as “of the potter moulding and fashioning the clay with intimacy and dedication.” He goes on to point out, that God built the woman in this way, which means he took particular care to create her, reminding us that she too bears the image of God as well as the man. In other words, the special language used by the Bible with reference to the creation of man and woman, shows us that they stand in a unique category with special status.
So in what sense can it be said that we are made in the image of God? Well, first of all it is not in some physical or material sense as such. It is true that God has given us a physical body, which is able to function in a creative and useful way, which reflects our calling to be God’s ambassadors in the material world. But this does not mean that God himself could be contained by some material and bodily form. He is infinite and spiritual, triune, altogether undivided in his divine nature, much higher than any other thing. He will not be reduced to a material object. That is one reason why God disapproves of the use of idols and other images as an aid to worship.
So when we speak of man in the image of God, it has to do with qualities that we receive from God, which are unique to man and are not true of animals. Many of these can be summed up in the word “personality”, though even this term does not adequately include the whole truth.
The book of Genesis shows us that relationship is very important to God. He did not want Adam to be alone so he created the woman to be his companion and share his life. Both the man and the woman bear the image of God, and have equal value and dignity in the sight of God, while also having different roles. The fact of male headship must never therefore be grounds for bullying or brutality on the part of men towards women. Indeed, within Christian marriage, the special care of men for their wives is spelt out in Ephesians 5:25-33 in terms of Christ’s relationship to his bride, the church. (See BBT 9: Marriage and Family Life)

The purpose of God for man

Contrary to present day secular thinking, human life is more than just making ourselves feel good, or making better places for us to live, or even fighting against disease and death. The true purpose of our existence can be summed up in the following words:
First: Communion with God and worship of him as the source of all goodness.
Second: Procreation within the context of monogamous marriage?… “be fruitful and multiply.”
Third: Biblical stewardship: being responsible for what God has given us. Where we invest our money and energy will reflect what we really love. God is watching our faithfulness and will reward us as we respect and take care of such things as material possessions/money (Lk 16:1-12), our body (Col 2:20-23; 1?Cor 6:19-20; 1?Tim 4:1-5), families and relationships (1?Tim 3:4,5), ministry (1?Pt 4:10) and time (Eph 5:15-17).

The ethical consequences of being made in the image of God

The fact that God made us in his image gives us a basis for Christian ethics:

  1. Every human has the indisputable right to be treated with dignity. This is the basis of our ethics and law.
    For example:Violence (physical or psychological) should not be used against anybody.
    No-one should abuse or repress anybody else.
    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and freedom of belief.
  2. The honour of being made in God’s image carries with it a responsibility: God gave man the authority to take care of creation.
    For example:
    establish and develop institutions that provide basic services for the preservation of human society rule with peace and justice protect nature, use natural resources wisely
  3. God has given a specific order to creation.
    For example:
    marriage and family form the basis of society and should be honoured and protected a country should be ruled by a government that has a moral duty and the authority to lead its people; as opposed to a society without laws and leadership
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The fall of man

If we want to understand present human behaviour and what Christianity has to do with it, we need to understand the tragic reality of man’s fall in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3).

Importance of Creation in Evangelism

Genesis is about origins, including the origin of the sun and moon, the earth, animals, plants, mankind, evil, sin and death. People with an animistic belief are particularly concerned about our origins. They want to ensure that their daily behaviour does not offend the spirits of their ancestors or the spirits that are part of their daily lives. The Creation story is a very important starting point in sharing the gospel. It provides the key to the past. It shows what went wrong and how Jesus Christ came to bring redemption and freedom from the fear of the spirits. It is not enough to believe that God exists. God’s role as the only Creator of all things establishes his right to be lawgiver and judge. He must become known to us in a personal relationship through Jesus Christ (read also (Jn 1:1-18).
(Dr.H.M.)

When the devil tempted Eve, she took the forbidden fruit and gave some to Adam. Instead of obeying God’s command, the man and the woman satisfied their own selfish desires. Before that, they had lived peacefully in the presence of God. They walked and talked with him. After they had sinned, Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, and they were banished from the Garden of Eden. The relationship between humans and God was broken. Their true God-given identity was spoilt and replaced by a sinful nature. Their natural desire was no longer to worship God from a pure heart and obey him, but to rebel against him and hide from him. Further, the natural event of giving birth to a child was filled with pain. And man had to struggle against the earth to survive (Gen 3:16,19).

Condition of a fallen world

In our present day we are far away from the perfection and beauty of God’s creation. Maybe the sight of a beautiful sunset fills us with wonder but at the same time we hear of oil leaks, atomic accidents and other disasters contaminating large areas of the earth. We might have the joy of harvesting a lovely crop knowing that other people are starving of hunger at this very moment. News about war and terror occupies our mind, but even on a smaller scale in our own lives we see jealousy, anger, lust, dishonesty, corruption, family problems, sickness and much more. Can so much pain and suffering come from failing to fulfil the purpose of God for our existence? This is truly a fallen world in great need of a Saviour. The book of Genesis gives us the explanation for the terrible state our world is in. But more importantly, it points out God’s plan of redemption in sending Jesus Christ to overcome evil and bring new life (Gen 3:15?/?1?Jn 3:8).
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God’s plan of redemption

Jesus was the only person ever born without sin. He came to restore the broken relationship between man and God. He took the punishment for our sin when he died on the cross and when we come to him in faith, he gives us a new nature through the Holy Spirit, so that we can live for God’s glory again.
“…?for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its
wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you”
(Col 3:9-10 NLT).
Christ is fully God and fully man in one undivided personality. As we are sanctified, we learn to become more and more like Jesus Christ.
In the early chapters of Genesis we see that human life does not advance from the primitive to the cultivated, but declines from perfection to corruption. This fall was an actual historic event, by which we were completely cut off from God. It had to be corrected and reversed by the equally historic atonement, which Christ accomplished as the “last Adam” (1?Cor 15:45). (see also BBT 6: Salvation)

Connecting creation and redemption

Turning to the New Testament, it is important to see how the apostle Paul applies the doctrine of Creation to his gospel ministry, not only on occasions (see Acts 14:14-18 and 17:24-28), but also at length (Ro 1:18-32). As Christians, it is important that we show the vital connection between the events in the early chapters of Genesis and the work of Christ in redemption. Read Ro 5:12-21 and 1?Cor 15: 22, also verses 45-49.
From these passages we are also reminded that Adam himself was a valid, historical figure and not merely a symbolic representative of the human race. He actually walked the face of this planet as a complete and beautiful human being, who, together with his wife Eve, were the distinct parents of the whole human race.
However, although the created world is an important witness to our relationship with God, it would be a big mistake to make created things more important than God himself. Many people today are more concerned with the gifts than with the Giver. There is a current trend of “prosperity” teaching, which claims that God rewards our faith in him with material things. It is taught that if we believe, we can have bigger houses, better cars, health, wealth and security. This is absolutely not in line with the Gospel. The life of Jesus Christ is our example. He denied himself, became a servant and was willing to suffer even unto death (see Php 2:4-8, Mt 8:20, Mt 16:24, Mt 20:26-28). As his followers, we too should be willing to sacrifice our own desires for his sake. He does not promise to give us an easy life. He promises something which is worth so much more: his presence.
“Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5)

Conclusion

People may have different views about how life began. Many scientists believe that the world was formed through evolution. The animists believe that the world was created by an unknown natural force. The Christians believe that God created the world, as detailed in Genesis.
In any case it takes faith to believe in any of these accounts about the beginning of our existence: faith in blind chance, or faith in an unknown natural force, or faith in the Living God of the Bible.
How can we know which account is right? By the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that brought light and order to the formless emptiness (Gen 1:1) is alive and at work today in the hearts of men and women, testifying to the truth of God’s word.
As Christians, we have great news to proclaim! The Bible gives us the true account of how this world came into being. It explains why the world is in such a state of pain and suffering today. And best of all, it gives us hope of a new restored relationship with God our Creator, and hope of a new and perfect world to come. All made possible through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have the joy of knowing God, who “so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Now go and share Him.

Malcolm MacGregor, DCL team