Creation, Fall, Redemption: A Motif of Scripture (revised)

The Theological-Historical Motif of the Bible

The God of the Bible is a God who is intimately connected with what He has made.  This world is personal in a very genuine way.  This personal dimension to reality is what makes the cross of Christ comprehensible.  This is because the “Sin Problem” – what is wrong with this world – must be resolved by a personal God from above, on behalf of sinful persons.  The cross is also interpretative of history, since it is God’s “marker”  testifying to His ongoing concern for what He has made and intends to put right.  The resurrection is another historical “marker” that guarantees the way it will be put right.

Reality

A Biblical picture of God as personally active for us, therefore, will lead us to see reality in the following outline:

1. The Universe is an ex nihilo creation not a product of chance (Gen.1:1ff.; Heb. 1:12; 11:3). 

This excellent definition is given by Torrance:

The creation of the universe out of nothing does not mean the creation of the universe out of something that is nothing, but out of nothing at all.  It is not created out of anything – it came into being by the absolute fiat of God’s Word in such a way that whereas previously there was nothing, the whole universe came into being.[1]

This is a statement at once about the creation of the universe by God’s power and will, but it is also a statement about  the personal underpinnings of our reality.  The clarification on the meaning of the word “nothing” is necessary because many atheists (most recently Lawrence Krauss) define “nothing” as having properties – even if they are of quantum mechanics.

2. The creation is under a curse (Gen. 3:17-18; Rom. 8:20-22).

Creation is subject to vanity, futility and frustration because of mankind’s fall and its consequences due to the natural world’s connection with us.  The world’s continual cycle of birth, growth, death and decay demonstrates this subjection.  The universe is in a process of deterioration…and it appears to be running down.  Nature, like mankind, is in a state of decay, deterioration, pain and futility.[2]

3. This reveals a linear view of history.[3] History is going somewhere (Acts 17:26-27; 15:18).

The telos of creation is bound to its being personal rather than impersonal.

In this great metanarrative, the chaos of violence, injustice, ignorance, natural disasters, and corruption are dissonant screeches that will be resolved in a coming Age of Peace and Unity.  Hendrikus Berkhof noted,

Although the Reformers were afraid of sectarian interpretations, they, like the Middle Ages, were convinced that history moves between the Fall and completion, that Christ is the centre of this, that we are involved in the struggle between him and evil, and that he will gain the victory in that struggle.  This view of history has for centuries been typical for Europe; indeed, it made Europe, and gave seriousness and direction to the actions of Europeans.[4]

4.  Men will be judged by God at an appointed day in the future (Acts 17:30-31; Rom. 3:19). 

As a theological theme final judgment needs to be more visible than it currently is.  We need to get back to the realism of the Puritans and the first evangelicals, who made “Judgment Day” a driving force in their preaching and teaching.  Any theology worth its salt must face the practical necessity of proclaiming God’s judgment.  True Christians are mainly distinguished from non-Christians by their acceptance of God’s judgment against their sins in the willing Substitute.  Here, for example,  is John Brown of Haddington with advice to students of Divinity:

See that ye be real Christians yourselves.  I now more and more see, that nothing less than real, real Christianity, is fit to die with, and make an appearance before God.[5]

5.  God has provided salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, who lived and died as a man, and who will return to Earth to rule as unchallenged Lord (Acts 2:36; 3:13-21; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). 

The crucifixion and resurrection, seen as one event (Jn. 10:17), thus becomes the lens through which all existence must be viewed if it is to correspond to reality as it will turn out to be.

The horizon of creation is at the same time the horizon of sin and of salvation.  This world is not what it is supposed to be.  A reclamation and reconciliation are ahead of us; achieved but not yet consummated in Christ.  This hope is covenantally predicted and fixed, especially through the New Covenant made and mediated by Christ.  To conceive of either the fall, or of Christ’s deliverance as encompassing less than the whole of creation is to compromise the biblical teaching of the radical nature of the fall and the cosmic scope of redemption.[6]

Ethics

It is no surprise to find that what is found above as a basic description of reality is also the Gospel blueprint.  However, the Christian worldview also covers the realm of Ethics.

a. The Bible teaches that there are moral absolutes of right and wrong, good and evil (Isa. 5:20; Jn. 14:6).  This is a corollary of the personal nature of God and creation as a gift.

b. Because God has made man a moral agent he is required to choose to do the good and avoid the evil (Rom. 2:4-16).

c. Because we are created in God’s image God requires us to “do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”  Human government is expected to punish the guilty and exonerate the innocent (Matt.7:12; Gen.9:6).

d. There exist standards of conduct and propriety which men ought to follow (though these are not to be confused with Victorian prudery).  These standards are supposed to bind all human institutions.

e. Life does not consist of stuff to make us feel either cozy or superior.  “It is better to give than to receive.” (Lk.12:15; Acts 20:35).

f. Nevertheless, Christianity is not a religion of constraint (as Islam).  It allows people to demur, though it warns of the dread consequences, both temporal and eternal, of rejecting the personal Creator’s declared intentions (Matt. 7:21-27).


[1] Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God: One Being, Three Persons, (Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 1996), 207.

[2] John D. Currid, A Study Commentary on Genesis, vol. 1, (Darlington, UK: Evangelical Press, 2003), 135-136.

[3] For a good discussion of historiography see John Warwick Montgomery, The Shape of the Past, (Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1975), especially pages 6-182.

[4] Hendrikus Berkhof, Christ the Meaning of History, (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1966), 23-24.

[5] The Systematic Theology of John Brown of Haddington, Introduced by Joel R. Beeke & Randall J. Pederson, (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, [1782] 2002), iv.

[6] Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained, 86.

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