Theological Vision Guides

3. Creation, Fall, Redemption: The story of God’s self-revelation

Key Theme: Creation, Fall, Redemption

We know that the world is not as it should be. Romans 1 teaches us that since the fall, humanity suppresses the truth God reveals in creation and fails to give glory back to him. What does this mean for creation? While it was created good, does it mean that it has now lost its value since God’s revelation of himself has been suppressed? Has sin and death’s entrance into the world reduced creation to meaningless matter? 

We must make sure that our understanding of the fall is not shaped by the modern Western thought which has created a sacred/secular divide. It would be easy to envisage a kind of ‘Christian modernism’ in which something almost identical to the sacred/secular divide re-enters the church through an interpretation of the fall which completely overrides creation’s original goodness. This would lead us to accept a very dim view of creation as now being devoid of intrinsic value, which in turn could make us more likely to believe that our academic work was essentially worldly, ideally to be replaced by an exclusive focus on evangelism.

Creation remains God’s communication

How then are we to view the status of creation after the fall? Scripture teaches that at the fall, God cursed the earth (Gen 3:14-19). But this did not erase the nature of creation as creation. It continued to depend on and be sustained by God for his glory. It was after the fall that the Psalmist wrote ‘the heavens declare the glory of God’ (Ps 19). Likewise Paul refers to creation’s ongoing witness: ‘…his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made…’ (Rom 1:20).

The same is true of humanity itself. We continue to bear the image of God (Gen 9:1-7). The curse on the earth may have caused painful toil, but it remains good to work and ‘everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving’ (1 Tim 4:3-5). The dynamic of creation remains: a good creation is still received from God, for which we give thanks to God.

Sin: contradiction

This does not make the fall any less serious. Quite the contrary. As the original dynamic of creation persists, so the original dynamic of human sin persists. Although creation still communicates God, the essence of sin is to ‘suppress the truth’ (Rom 1:18). So while as dependent creatures we remain from God, in our sin we seek to redirect reality as if it is not also to God: ‘although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools … they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator’ (Rom 1:21-25). Having redirected our creaturely worship, we are now ‘turned in on ourselves.’

So the legacy of the fall is not that creation ceased to be creation. The fall takes place within the ongoing story of divine self-communication. In turning against God, human beings become ‘enemies of God in [their] minds’ (Col 1:21). There is an intellectual effect of sin when we think of how creation relates to God. The essence of creation is that it speaks to us of God, so if we are rejecting him we are forced to reinterpret reality resulting in folly (Rom 1:22, Ps 14:1). Consciously or otherwise, we seek in vain to deny the true nature of God and his creation. As a result, sin by definition brings with it an intellectual instability and inconsistency. As far as creation is concerned, the fall therefore does not bring about a static non-creation of meaningless matter, but a dynamic of anticreation. If creation is the Creator’s self-communication, sin is its contradiction.

Redemption: super-communication

God will not permit a lie to be the last word. God’s answer to sin is a judgement true to the offence: if we will be anti-life, he will give us death. To make this judgement clear God has ensured that the condition of the whole creation itself now reflects the human story: in applying his curse he has subjected its ongoing Godward dynamic to ‘frustration’ (Rom 8:20). But the same text says he has done so ‘in hope’ – anticipating the overcoming of death in the bodily redemption (resurrection and glorification) of the children of God. We will inherit the creation similarly renewed – having been purified by a fire akin to its own death – to work and reign over it forever. We will be God’s erstwhile enemies reconciled and re-oriented in worship toward his face (2 Pet 3:10-13, Rev 22:3-5).

This redemption comes about because God’s response to the fall is not only to give a truthful judgement to sin. He also contradicts that contradiction by the super-communication of himself: not only in truth, here also in grace, God’s final word is his own Son. The Word, who first created, himself became flesh and dwelt among us revealing his glory (Jn 1:1-18). His Spirit shows Christ to us and in us: the firstfruit of the new creation which will be completed when Christ is finally revealed at his second coming, but which begins in us as we are made his children.

This gospel story of God’s gracious response to sin is thus continuous with the first creation: they are both the story of his self-communication. But it is also unlike that first creation: this time he gives us all his fullness in the person and face of Christ himself, and he does so in a way that is suited to overcome our blindness and suppression of his truth (2 Cor 4:4-6).

This ‘special revelation’ is the turning point of redemptive history, which correlates with God’s new creation work (2 Cor 5:17). The gospel of Christ’s appearance, applied to us by the Holy Spirit, is at once God’s effectual self-revelation and our salvation. And as we see him in the gospel we are increasingly transformed into the same image – imaging God in our human existence within his meaningful creation (Gen 1:26; 2 Cor 3:18). But what does it mean to be human? How are we to image God in a meaningful creation?

Recap and summary: God’s creation is still meaningful

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

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and to him. (Colossians 1:15-16)


Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!

How unsearchable his judgments,

and his paths beyond tracing out!

“Who has known the mind of the Lord?

Or who has been his counsellor?”

“Who has ever given to God,

that God should repay them?

For from him and through him and for him are all things.

To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)


Consultation Exercise

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