Today we continue our new series on Gospel Convergence; each week I will reflect on a chapter of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith. I would encourage you to pick up a copy of the confession and read along with me.
The Power of a Voice
Recently I have, for the first time, been reading through the Chronicles of Narnia series. As I alluded to a couple of weeks ago I am not a huge fan of all of C. S. Lewis’ work. However, these novels have captivated me! I think my favourite part of these books so far has been a lesser known extract from the first book, The Magician’s Nephew. At one point in this book two children watch in bewilderment as Aslan simply sings Narnia into existence. It is a wonderfully imaginative retelling of creation, and perhaps most poignantly of all it captures the power of a voice. After all, the repeated refrain throughout the creation narrative is ‘And God said…’ (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). This is the topic that the Confession deals with in chapter four.
Made by God
Creation was made by God is the opening statement of the Confession in this chapter. While there would be virtually no debate on this among Biblical Christians, it then proceeds to assert that it is God the Trinity who has made creation. This, to my mind, is a helpful reminder. That God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1) is almost assumed, but helpfully it reminds us that both the Son (Jn. 1:1-3; Heb. 1:2) and the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13) were also involved in creation. Despite some debate concerning the Scripture references for the Spirit’s work in creation, a strong argument can be made for reading them in this way (see especially Genesis commentaries by McKeown, Waltke and Wenham).
Inevitably, because creation was made by God, this means that there is some imprint left by God on creation. This is testified to by Paul in Romans when he writes ‘[God’s] invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made’ (1:20). Indeed, simply watching the facial expressions of people standing at the Grand Canyon, Victoria Falls, or even just on the North Coast – they know, feel and see eternal power and divine nature.
Another point the Confession makes regarding the fact that creation was made by God, is that it was made in six days. It pleased God, argues the Confession, ‘to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days’ (pg. 39). Not everyone can sign up to reading Genesis 1 as six literal days. However, for me this isn’t a problem.
Made like God
The pinnacle of creation is mankind. The narrative of Genesis builds toward this pinnacle, and the Confession mirrors that: ‘After God had created all other creatures, He created man’ (pg. 39). In modern society it is particularly pertinent to note that man was made both male and female. ‘God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them’ (Gen. 1:27).
Most remarkable of all, however, is the fact that humanity was made in the image of God. As the Confession puts it:
[M]ade after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness (pg. 39).
I found it intriguing that the Confession used terms such as knowledge, righteousness and holiness to describe how we are made in the image of God. Yet Scripture points to some of these facets for us. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes mourns that ‘God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes’ (7:29). As Longman puts it, ‘God made people virtuous, but they have corrupted themselves’ (Ecclesiastes, pg. 207).
How did sin enter the world if humanity was created upright or virtuous? They were the Confession answers, ‘left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change’ (pg. 39).
Made Under God
Creation was also made under God, in that everything was to take its cue from and live in obedience to God. Initially, this is observable in humanity ‘having the law of God written in their hearts’ (pg. 39); Paul affirms this in Romans 2:15, when speaking of the Gentiles who do not know, nor obey, Torah. He argues that they ‘show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness’. However, in the beginning there was more than just the law in their hearts:
3. Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (pg. 40)
There was an explicit command from God (Gen. 2:17) which exemplified the truth that creation (including the pinnacle of mankind) had been made under God. Yet while there was obedience there was happy communion, a perfect relationship!
That’s all pretty standard stuff, isn’t it? Therefore the question follows – so what?
It would be inappropriate to take time to fully flesh out all of the implications of the doctrine of creation as set out by the Confession; but here are a few primers to get you thinking on some of the implications:
- The reality that creation reveals God to a certain extent opens up a myriad of evangelistic opportunities. Scientists, geographers, geologists, photographers, etc. could all easily use their work, studies and hobbies to point to evidence of eternal power and divine nature in creation. Even taking your unbelieving family members for a walk along the coast with the large waves breaking on the beach offers that opportunity.
- That humanity is the pinnacle of creation gives them special status. In today’s social climate I think this offers the primary basis for arguments over the sanctity of life. We are different from the animals, thus it should be problematic to our conscience to kill unborn persons (abortion), or end an unwanted person’s existence (euthanasia).
- Another avenue for evangelistic efforts could surround the truth that God’s law is written on humanity’s heart (to a degree) and that morals are often constrained by a conscience. These are very obvious and very personal evidences of a Greater Being at work in this world.
- Finally, obedience is good. In recent years obedience has been a bad word in evangelical circles. But here, in creation we have the affirmation that obedience led to happy communion. Holiness is a vital sign of discipleship, growth and maturity in the faith. Obedience does not dictate our standing, but it can be a sign of our standing. It is good and should be pursued in a gospel way.