THE DOCTRINE OF CREATION.

 by John Theodore Mueller TH. D

1934

 

 

1. DEFINITION OF CREATION.

 

In contradistinction to pagan pantheism, which regards the universe as an emanation from, or a manifestation of, God, so that God and the universe are identical, and to pagan dualism, which assumes the eternal existence of matter fashioned by a deity into this present world, Holy Scripture teaches that the Triune God created all things that exist outside Himself, i.e., the universe, out of nothing. By "nothing" we do not mean any already existing matter (nihil positivum), but a state of non-existence (nihil negativum). From Gen. 1:1, Heb. 11:3, and Rom. 4:17 we learn that before the creation of the world nothing existed but God Himself. Calov writes (III, 899): "Creation does not consist in emanation from the essence of God, nor in generation, nor in motion, or natural change,… but in outward action, by which through infinite power things are produced from nothing." (Doctr. Theol., p. 164 f.) Gerhard says (IV,7): "Away with the dreams of the Stoics, who devised two eternal principles, mind, or God, and matter, which, they imagined, during the ages of eternity was a confused chaos and at a certain time was at length brought into form by 'mind.' " (Ibid.)  Against pantheism, both ancient and modern, Hollaz writes thus: "Creation is a free divine action, because God framed the universe, not induced thereto by necessity, as though He needed the services of creatures,… but freely, as He was able to create or not, to create and to frame sooner or later, in this or in another matter." (Ibid.) The question why God did not create the world sooner Hafenreffer describes as a "question of madmen curiously inquiring into such things as are of no profit." (Ibid.)

 

2. THE ORDER OF CREATION.

 

According to Holy Scripture, God did not create all things "at once, but gradually, observing an admirable order" (ordo creationis). As the first chapter of Genesis affirms, God, in creating all things, proceeded from the lower to the higher, until He finally made man as the crown of His creative work. In general, the work of creation comprises three steps: a) the production, on the first day, of the crude material, "which was the germinal source, as it were, of the entire universe" (Quenstedt); Luther: moles coeli et terrae; b) the separation and disposition of simple creatures during <page 180> the first three days (light on the first day; the firmament on the second; the separation of the earth from the waters on the third); c) the furnishing and completion of the world, which was brought to perfection in three more days (the celestial bodies on the fourth day; the fish and fowl on the fifth; the creation of land animals and of man on the sixth).

 

We thus distinguish between immediate and mediate creation, the former being the creation of the moles coeli et terrae out of nothing and the latter the arrangement of the previously created material.

 

This order of creation must, however, not be interpreted as an evolutionary process; for according to Scripture the world was not developed by forces resident in matter itself, but by the creative power of God. (Gen. 1:1: "God created"; v. 3: "God said.") The creatures thus came into existence through the omnipotent command of the personal, transmundane Creator. This truth our dogmaticians have expressed by the statement : "The efficient cause of creation is God, and He alone" (Calov). Nor can experimental science gainsay it, since it can prove neither a development of organic things from inorganic (generatio aequivoca) nor a development of higher forms from the lower (Deszendenztheorie; Transmutationshypothese).

 

Evolution must be rejected as untenable even on rational grounds, a) since it does not account for the existence of primeval matter and b) since it rests upon a principle disproved by nature, namely, on the supposed transmutation of the homogeneous into the heterogeneous (transmutation of species). Scripture, on the other hand, accords with reason in the following points: a) the creation of all things by an omnipotent God; b) the orderly procedure in the work of creation; c) the propagation of creatures after their kind, Gen. 1, 21. As all creatures came into existence through the creative command of God, so they are preserved and propagated through the divine omnipotent will, Acts 17, 28. The existence of the universe today with all its manifold creatures is due to the blessing which God pronounced upon the whole creation after the completion of His creative work, Gen. 1, 22 ; Col. 1, 17.

 

3. THE HEXAEMERON.

 

Holy Scripture teaches distinctly that the whole universe was created within six days of twenty-four hours each (hexaemeron). To change the six days into a mere moment (Athanasius, Angustine,  <page 181> Hilary) or to expand them into periods of millions of years is equally contrary to Scripture. (Gen. 1:31 ; 2:2 ; Ex. 20:9,11: "Six days shalt thou labor.… For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth.") Since the Mosaic creation record is the only authentic report which we have of the miracle of creation (no man was present at the creation, and no one can show from the now existing world how it once sprang into existence), we must regard every attempt to correct or supplement the record of Genesis as unscientific pretense. Evolution proper is atheistic and immoral, while theistic evolution is neither in accord with Scripture nor with the basic principles of evolution proper. To deny the inspired character of the Book of Genesis means to contradict the testimony of the divine, omniscient Christ, who accepted also this book as canonical, Matt. 19:4-6; John 5:39.

 

4. THE SIX DAYS OF CREATION CONSIDERED IN DETAIL,

 

The First Day. — The expression "In the beginning" means as much as "when this world began to be." "There was no material of creation (materia ex qua) with respect to the things created on the first day" (Quenstedt). Only since things outside God have begun to exist, there is a beginning. Before that there was no "beginning," because God has no beginning, Ps. 90:1,2, and outside Him there was nothing. Time and space must therefore be traced to God's omnipotent fiat of creation; they are creatures of the infinite God. The words "In the beginning," Gen. 1:1, correspond to the same words in John 1:1; only the Book of Genesis records what God then did, while the Gospel of John informs us who existed in the beginning (the Father and the Son).

 

The expression "heaven and earth" is a Scriptural designation of the universe (das Weltall), or the "all", of which St. Paul speaks in Col. 1:17 and Acts 17:24: "the world and all things therein." However, since the divine record in Genesis describes in detail the creation of the various creatures out of the original substance (mediate creation), we rightly understand the expression to denote the rudis moles coeli et terrae, or the crude material, which was the "germinal source of the entire universe." Together with the earth, God created the water, since this surrounded the earth, Gen. 1:2.

 

The term heaven must not be taken in the sense of a "highest heaven" (empyrean, coelum empyrium), a supposed region of <page 182> pure fire, in which God dwells with the angels and saints (papists, Calvinists). Quenstedt rightly calls this supposed empyrean a merum figmentum. The expression heaven and earth in Gen. 1:1, as just stated, simply denotes the Weltstoff, to borrow a term of modern dogmatics.

 

The term tohuvabohu, which our Authorized Version translates "without form and void," in Jer. 4:23 denotes a desolate country. In Gen. 1:2, however, it denotes the chaotic condition of all created things before God's creative hand had separated and arranged them in order. The theory that Gen. 1:1 reports the restitution of a world previously created, but destroyed at the fall of the evil angels (Kurtz), has no Scriptural foundation whatever and must be rejected as a figment of human speculation.

 

The “light," which God created on the first day, was the elemental light, to which He on the fourth day added the "two great lights in the firmament" to govern day and night, summer and winter, seed-time and harvest, Gen. 1:14. According to Scripture, light existed before the celestial bodies. "By the word of His power God created light, elemental light, brought it into being in the midst of the darkness, and commanded it to shine out of darkness, 2 Cor. 4:6. Ever since the first day of the world the regular recurrence of darkness and light marks the period of one day, as we now divide it into twenty-four hours." (Kretzmann, Pop. Com., 1, 2.)

 

The Second Day. — On the second day, God created the expansion, or the "firmament", by which is meant not the stratum of atmosphere above the earth, but rather the visible vault of the sky (Luther). According to Gen. 1:6-8 the "firmament" divides the waters above and those below it, so that we must conceive of waters beyond the visible vault of the sky. The creation report everywhere exhibits God's omnipotent power and majesty, but does not answer all questions which the ever-curious mind of man is inclined to put.

 

The Third Day. — On the third day, God gathered the waters under the heaven together unto one place, so that the dry land appeared. "God here finished His creative work on inanimate matter, when His almighty command bade the waters from below the heavens, below the firmament which He had constructed, be gathered together into a single place, by themselves. In chaos the mixture of solids and liquids had been so complete as to preclude the designation 'dry land’ But now the solids and liquids were to <page 183> be separated, so that dry land as we know it was visible." (Kretzmann, Pop. Com., 1:2.) As soon as God caused the dry land to appear, He adorned it "with grass and herb yielding seed after his kind and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind," Gen. 1:12 (the law of propagation). According to Scripture the plants were before the seed, since God created mature plants, "yielding seed."

 

The Fourth Day. — On the fourth day, God created the sun, moon, and stars, Gen. 1, 14 if. The "matter out of which" (materia ex qua) God made the celestial bodies is not stated; but the holy writer describes their purpose (finis cuius) and the recipients (finis cui) of their blessings, Gen. 1:14-18. While Holy Scripture does not teach an astronomical system, nevertheless it stresses the following truths: a) The earth was before the sun, just as also the light was before the sun. b) The earth does not serve the sun, but, vice versa, the sun serves the earth, and both the sun and the earth serve man, who has been created for the purpose of serving God. Within the bounds of these basic truths all astronomical ideas of the Christian theologian must be confined. All so-called astronomical systems suggested by men rest upon hypotheses, which are beyond positive proof. Over against the astronomical systems of scientists the Christian theologian must therefore maintain: a) Scripture never errs, not even in matters of science, John 10:35; 2Tim. 3:16.b) Scripture accommodates itself to human conceptions, but never to human errors, since it is always truth, John 17:17.  c) We know so little concerning astronomical data that it is both foolish and unscientific to supplement, correct, or criticize Scripture on the basis of human speculative systems, d) It is unworthy of our Christian calling to discard the inerrant Word of Scripture in favor of the "assured results" of science falsely so called. Hence in a controversy on this point a Christian must always maintain the divine authority of Scripture. But he must not believe that by convincing an unbeliever of the truth of the Mosaic narrative he may convert him, since conversion is accomplished only through the preaching of the Law and the Gospel.

 

The Fifth Day. — On the fifth day, God created "the moving creature that hath life" in the water and the "fowl that may fly above the earth," Gen. 1:20-21. While the materia ex qua of the first was water, that of the second is not stated directly. Nevertheless the matter out of which these and other creatures were made <page 184> was in no wise self-creative (evolution). Materia est principium passivum; non concurrit cum Deo ad aliquid creandum.

 

The Sixth Day. — On the last day, God created both "the beasts of the earth" and, as the crown of His creative work, man, Gen. 1, 24. 27. The question whether animals and plants which after the Fall have become injurious to man were created at this time may be answered as follows: They were indeed created within the six creation days, but their functions were in complete accord with man's well-being. Even to-day the "harmful things" (poisonous plants and minerals) may be used by man for his benefit. However, since before the Fall nature was not yet under the curse and corruption of sin, even these creatures yielded to man their willing service.

 

The supreme glory of man, as the crown of creation, appears from the following facts: a) Man's creation was preceded by a divine consultation in which the three Persons of the Godhead concurred, Gen. 1:26. b) While all creatures came into existence through the almighty divine word, God formed the body of man out of the dust of the ground, Gen. 2:7, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, so that he became a living soul, Gen. 2:7b. c) God made man an intelligent and rational being to rule in His stead over the world, which was created for him by the beneficent Creator, Gen. 2:7b; 1:28. d) God made man in His own image, so that he was like God in holiness, righteousness, and wisdom, Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10. e) God supplied Adam with a helpmeet, who was made in the divine image and endowed with intelligence and an immortal soul, Gen. 2:22-24.

 

The question of dichotomy or trichotomy must be decided on the basis of such passages as describe man according to his essential parts, Matt. 10:28; 16:26; Gen. 2:7. On the basis of these passages most Lutheran dogmaticians have declared themselves in favor of dichotomy. Passages quoted by trichotomiste are Luke 1:46-47; 1 Thess. 5:23, etc.; but none of these furnishes incontrovertible evidence in proof of trichotomy. That Scripture uses the terms spirit and soul interchangeably is clear from the fact that those who have departed this life are called either spirits (1 Pet. 3:19), or souls (Rev. 6:9). Dichotomy certainly offers less difficulty in explaining the phenomena of human existence in general.

 

The Mosaic narrative of the creation of the world must not be regarded as an allegory or myth, but must be taken as a true <page 185> historical account of actual happenings. Only a literal interpretation is fair to the text.

 

According to Holy Scripture, creation was that free act of the Triune God by which "in the beginning, for His own glory, He made, without the use of preexisting materials, the whole visible and invisible universe" (Strong). This doctrine stands in close relation to God's holiness and benevolence, Rom. 8:20-23; 2 Cor. 4:1-17, as well as to His wisdom and free will, Ps. 104:24; 136:5. Those who deny the doctrine of creation as taught in Scripture may as well deny also the Scriptural doctrine of redemption, since the account of the former is no less inspired than is the account of the latter. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God," 2 Tim. 3:16, and Christ's command is to accept as divine truth the whole Bible, John 5:39; 10:35.

 

5. THE UNITY OF THE HUMAN RACE.

 

On the basis of Scripture we maintain that Adam, created by God on the sixth day of the hexaemeron, was the first of all men and the parent of the entire human race throughout the whole world, 1 Cor. 15:45, 47; Gen. 2:5; Acts 17:26; Rom. 5:12. Hence we reject the error of Isaac Peyrere (1655), who taught that, while the Jews descended from Adam, Gen. 2:7ff., the Gentiles came from preadamites, Gen. 1:26ff., so that they date back to ages before the creation of the ancestor of the Jews. But the Mosaic narrative allows the assumption neither of preadamites nor of coadamites, since it teaches most emphatically that Adam is the parent of all men, Acts 17:26. With this doctrine agree also the conclusions of outstanding anthropologists, who, on grounds apart from divine revelation, have affirmed the unity of the human race (Alexander von Humboldt).

 

While Adam was created first and independently, Gen. 2:18, Eve was created dependency from Adam, a complete rational individual, taken from man according to soul and body, Gen. 2:21-24. The rib from which God built Eve, must not be understood as a mere rib, but as a living, vital substance, including everything of which she consisted essentially, Gen. 2:23 ; Acts 17:26. (Cp. Luther's explanation, St. L., I, 157.) While Eve was Adam's equal in the enjoyment of the divine blessings, both temporal and spiritual, her social status was one of subordination to Adam, for whose sake she was created, Gen. 2:18; 1Cor. 14:34-36; 1Tim. 2:11-15.

<page 186>

 

6. SPECIAL QUESTIONS REGARDING THE CREATION REPORT.

 

a. While Holy Scripture informs us exactly how and when man was created, it gives us no account whatever concerning the creation of the angels. Nevertheless they, too, were made within the hexaemeron, Gen. 2:1-2. Since Scripture reveals to us everything that is necessary for salvation, we should not try to supplement the divine record by human speculation.

 

b. Whether Moses received the facts recorded in his narrative by immediate revelation or through oral tradition is immaterial. Since the Book of Genesis is canonical, it is divinely inspired, 2 Tim. 3:16; John 10:35, and therefore contains God's own account concerning the beginning of the world and the human race.

 

c. The two creation narratives of Genesis (chaps. 1 and 2) are not contradictory records (Jean Astruc, 1766), but chap. 2 rather supplements the account of chap. 1. In Gen. 1 we have a general description of the work of creation, while Gen. 2 brings the fact of creation in relation to the history of God's Church in the Old Testament. For this reason Gen. 2 is both supplementary and explanatory. The history of the Church of God, the Creator, which is begun in Gen. 2, is therefore narrated as that of the Church of Jehovah the eternal Lord of His people.

 

d. As the soul of Eve was produced by propagation from Adam, so, it is generally held among Lutheran dogmaticians, the souls of children are produced by propagation rather than by direct creation (traducianism, not creationism). "The soul of the first man was immediately created by God; but the soul of Eve was produced by propagation, and the souls of the rest of men are created not daily,… but by virtue of the divine blessing are propagated, pertraducem, by their parents." (Quenstedt.) Traducianism is inferred: a) from the primeval blessing of God, Gen. 1:28; 9:1; b) from God's rest and cessation from all work on the seventh day, Gen. 2:2; c) from the production of the soul of Eve, Gen. 2:21.22; d) from the general description of generation, Gen. 5:3; e) from Ps. 51:5, etc.

 

e. The act of creation must be regarded as a free act of God (actio libera), so that God was not compelled to create the world by any inner necessity of His divine essence, Ps. 115:3. To say that the act of creation was a necessary divine act (actio necessaria) would be tantamount to pantheism and nullify the very concept of a personal, sovereign God. <page 187>

 

 

f . While Holy Scripture assures us that the universe as it came forth from the creative hand of God was "very good" (Gen. 1:31), it would be folly to affirm that the world as created by God was the very best that God could have made (the "optimism" of Leibniz). We must judge this world by God's own standards, as these are presented to us in His Word. For this reason we say that the world was very good in the sense that it accorded perfectly with the divine will or that it was just as God desired it to be.

 

7. CREATION AN EXTERNAL ACT OF GOD

(OPUS AD EXTRA).

 

Creation, as an opus ad extra, is the work of the Triune God. Hence it is ascribed to the Father (1 Cor. 8:6), to the Son (Heb. 1:10; John 1:3; Col. 1: 16), and to the Holy Ghost (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6). Yet, though the Three Persons of the Trinity concurred in this work, the creative power, or omnipotence, to which the universe owes its existence, is numerically one (una numero potentia), so that we must not speak of three creators, but only of one, John 5:17. "Creation is an action of the one God.… It is likewise an action of God alone, which neither ought to be, nor can be, ascribed to any creature." (Chemnitz.) Nor must we speak of a distribution of the one divine power among the Three Persons, as if the Father performed a third, the Son a third, and the Holy Ghost a third of the creative work. Holy Scripture never distributes the divine creative act among the Three Persons, though at times it appropriates it to a distinct divine person (cf. passages above).

 

Again, when Scripture occasionally declares that all things were made by the Father through the Son or the Holy Ghost, Ps. 33:6, this "must not be construed into any inequality of persons, as the Arians blasphemously asserted that the Son was God's instrument in creation, just as the workman uses an ax" (Chemnitz); but this mode of speaking rather indicates the mystery of the Holy Trinity, according to which the Son has His divine essence and divine power eternally from the Father and the Holy Ghost has His divine essence and divine power eternally from the Father and Son.

 

Chemnitz rightly remarks respecting this point (Loci Theol., 1, 115): "The prepositions do not divide the nature, but express the properties of a nature that is one and unconfounded." Likewise Hollaz says: "The three Persons of the Godhead are not three associated causes, not three Authors of <page 188> creation, but one Cause, one Author of creation, one Creator.” Flacius : "Vox autem per non significat hie INSTRUMENTUM, SED PRIMARIAM CAUSAM." Luther: "It is the way of Scripture to say: The world was made through Christ by the Father and in the Holy Ghost,… It employs this manner of speaking to indicate that the Father has His divine essence not from the Son, but, vice versa, that the Son has it from the Father, He being the first and original Person in the Godhead. Hence it does not say that Christ has made the world through the Father, but that the Father made it through the Son, so that the Father remains the First Person, and from Him, yet through the Son, all things appear. So John says (John 1:3) : 'All things were made by Him'; and in Col. 1:16 we read: 'All things were created by Him and for Him'; and Rom. 11:36: 'For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things."' (St.L., XII, 157 ft.) Chemnitz adds this warning (Loci Theol, I, 115) : "We must not dispute too curiously concerning the distinction of Persons in the work of creation, but let us be content with the revelation that all things were created by the eternal Father, through the Son, while the Holy Ghost hovered over them. (Rom. 11:36.)" (Doctr. Theol, p. 162 ff.)

 

8. THE ULTIMATE END OF CREATION.

 

According to Holy Scripture the ultimate end of creation is the glory of God; in other words, the world was created ultimately for God's own sake, Prov. 16:4, or for His glory, Ps. 104:1ff. For this reason not only men, but all creatures are exhorted to praise God, Ps. 148. By His creation God manifested in particular: a) His goodness, Ps. 136; b) His power, Ps. 115; c) His wisdom, Ps. 19:1ff.; 104:24; 136:5. The objection offered here that it is an unworthy conception of God to regard Him as having made all things for His own glory is a) anti-Scriptural, since Holy Scripture teaches this very truth, Rom. 11:36; b) unreasonable, since it measures God by human standards; c) atheistic, since it dethrones God and puts man in His place; for if the world was not made primarily for God's sake, then man himself must be the ultimate end of creation. However, while the ultimate end of creation is the glory of God, the intermediate end of creation is the benefit of man, Ps. 115:15,16. Quenstedt writes (I, 418) : "God made all things for the sake of man, but man He made for His own sake, Ps. 115:16; 60:7, 8." Finis cuius creationis mundi gloria Dei; finis cui homo. Macrocosmus in gratiam microcosmi conditus est.

 

[Note: From “Christian Dogmatics,” by John Theodore Mueller TH. D., professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. Copyright 1934 by Concordia publishing house.]

 

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