Theological Vision Guides

2. The Creator-Creation Relationship: Creation through the Word

Key Theme: The Creator-Creation Relationship

What is the relationship between the Creator and his creation like, and how does that help us understand how to view ourselves and the world around us?

On the one hand, we should not identify God with creation, mistaking creation for its Creator. To confuse created things and the Creator is the root of idolatry, in both ancient and modern times (cf. Is 64:8, Rom 1). The Israelites needed to be reminded time and again of the difference between idols made of wood, and the God who had made that wood. There is a complete distinction between God, who we were created to worship, and his creation, which depends on him. The life of the Trinity is self-sufficient, so God did not need to create but chose freely to do so: creation does not exist necessarily but points back to its sustainer. 

Alternatively, we may have a wrong view of the relationship between God and creation by perceiving him as far removed from it. Although God is indeed freely sovereign and transcendent, he did not merely ‘will’ into existence some arbitrary matter that has nothing to do with what he is like. 

The key to a biblical view of creation is to remember that God created through his beloved Son, the Word (see category #1). The Son has always been the radiance of his glory (Heb 1:3), and so God’s creation through the Word was an act of self-communication in history that flowed from God’s life in eternity, in which God’s glory has always been communicated from and for a relationship of knowledge and love.

This means that the goodness of creation communicates God’s goodness: the heavens declare his glory (Ps 19). So the relationship between God and his creation is not merely one of dependence, but also of meaning. As it exists ‘from God’ it gives and displays his life. But as creation is not God, it points beyond itself to its ultimate end: ‘to God’ by which it has its meaning. So creation is not only from God, as it is created, sustained and blessed by him, but it is also for him, returning thanks to him as he is worthy of all its glory and praise (see diagram 1).

The New Testament’s early readers who were familiar with the Old Testament would have taken this biblical view of creation for granted. And for us as for them, this understanding of creation can act as the precursor to a presentation of Christ as the Word made flesh: just as God communicated himself in the act of creation, so he has finally and fully communicated himself in his redemptive work (Jn 1:1-18, Heb 1:1-4, Col 1:15-20). 

This connection between the Trinity, creation and redemption can help us in our post-Enlightenment world today. We must draw on our understanding of the eternal Son, and the work of Christ, and allow these to work together to help us appreciate that the creation around us is not arbitrary ‘stuff’ as Western modernity would have us think. Instead, creation is communicative: it reveals God’s glory. And that revelation of God’s glory is not limited to one part of it, such as a so-called ‘sacred’ part. Instead, God reveals himself through all of creation, even if we suppress that knowledge, as we shall see later.

Diagram 1: The Creator-creation relationship
Creation exists as God’s meaningful self-communication. It reflects Him and points us back to Him.


Consultation Exercise

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