Creation and Faith (continued)
We may ask and answer the question: why is it necessary for a Christian to believe the doctrine of creation? This question has sometimes been put, and it has been asked whether it is not possible to believe in Christ as our Savior and not necessarily to accept the doctrine of creation. This is, indeed, both an interesting and an important question. The ramifications of this question are many, and the principles involved are important. In answering this question we may call attention to more than one factor.
First of all, we must emphasize that when we speak of faith in connection with creation, we are speaking ofsaving faith, the very same faith that clings to Christ as the revelation of the God of our salvation. Not some kind of meaningless, irrelevant, historical faith is meant, a blind belief that. God created all things, but a faith that stands altogether unrelated to and disconnected from that “certain knowledge” and “hearty confidence” whereby I belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. Faith is one. It is saving faith. That this is true is evident, for example, from a passage such as Hebrews 11. There the subject is saving faith as the evidence of things unseen and the substance of things hoped for. And it is precisely through faith that “we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Hebrews 11:3. That also implies, of course, that outside of faith in Jesus Christ it is principally impossible to believe in creation, or rather, in the Creator. To be sure, God does not leave Himself without witness. And the natural man is able to apprehend the facts of creation, though he is unable to believe in the Creator. “For the invisible things of him (God) from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.” Romans 1:20. And indeed, also the natural man cannot fail to note that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth his handiwork,” because those heavens and firmament are indeed His handiwork. But the natural man holds under the truth in unrighteousness, and outside of Christ and faith in Him is unable and unwilling to acknowledge the Creator.
In the second place, there is the most obvious answer to this question that the same Scriptures which you must believe in order to believe in Christ also set forth the truth of creation. It is the issue of faith in Holy Scripture. And you cannot go about picking and choosing what part of the Scriptures you will believe and what part you will not believe. It is all or nothing. As the Lord pointed out to the unbelieving Jews of His day, he who believes Moses believes Christ; and, vice versa, he who believes Christ ‘believes Moses. If, therefore, you cannot believe Moses when he speaks of creation, you cannot believe Christ of whom Moses also speaks. This leaves out of the picture yet the fact that once one begins the critical approach to Scripture that makes of the creation record a myth, he has not ended yet, but must needs proceed until he has reaped all the devastating results of such criticism, until he has no Bible and no God and no Christ and no salvation left.
In the third place, we may approach this question from the theological point of view. And then we must remember—and this is fundamental when we speak offaith—that the God. Who quickens the dead is the God Who calleth those things which be not as though they were. The God of the resurrection is the God of creation. The God of creation is the God of re-creation. And not only is this true from the general point of view that our God is the God of the wonder, the God Who only doeth wondrous things. This is, of course, true: the very same unbelief that cannot and will not accept the resurrection also cannot and will not accept the wonder of creation. It simply will not accept the wonder—any wonder. But this is also true particularly from the point of view of the fact that all wonders stand related, have their meaning, their reason, their sense, in the central Wonder, our Lord Jesus Christ. I always feel that our Heidelberg Catechism puts the matter so appealingly in Lord’s Day IX. It does not give a lengthy discourse on creation at all. But it goes rather to the heart of the matter in answer to the question, “What believest thou when thou sayest, ‘I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth’?” And now note the answer: “That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them; who likewise upholds and governs the same by his eternal counsel and providence) is for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father; on whom I rely so entirely, that I have no doubt, but he will provide me with all things necessary for soul and body: and further, that he will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn out to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.” Notice, please, that it is precisely “God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” Who is both the “eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” and “for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father.” The three notions are inseparable. And notice, in the second place, the tremendous implications of this. Take creation out of the works of God, and you can no longer say that “he is able to do it, being Almighty God.” For then creation is independent of God, outside of His ownership and control. And then He cannot provide me any longer with all things necessary for soul and body, nor make even evil things turn out to my advantage. What an impoverished heavenly Father we would have in that case!
Finally, we must not forget that according to Scripture, there is a very close relation between creation and Christ. This is patently true, according to Scripture. Thus, for example, in John 1:1-3 we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” And who is that Word? He is our Lord Jesus Christ, John 1:14, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Or again, in Hebrews 1:1, 2: “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son (our Lord Jesus Christ) whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.” And finally, we cite that rich passage from Colossians 1:15-20: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” Christ, therefore, is the Firstborn of every creature. All things were created by Him, and for Him. Deny the truth of creation, therefore, and you must literally deny Christ, according to these passages. Creation is not a doctrine that lies on the periphery of the Christian faith, one which you can perhaps deny or compromise without doing serious damage to the doctrine of Christ and salvation. It is rather an integral part of Christian doctrine, so fundamental that if you deny it, you deny the Christian faith.
Faith, Creation, and Natural Science
What, then, in the light of the above, can be said about faith’s approach to the whole question of creation and natural science? This is an important question for the man of natural science who is concerned about being Reformed, who wants to maintain the confession of Article XII, and who wants to adhere to the Scriptures. And it is important for the Christian student who is busy in the realm of natural science, and who frequently is exposed to all kinds of theories that run counter to his creation-faith.
Briefly, I would submit the following fundamental principles:
1. There can be no conflict between God’s Word and the facts. Today men of science like to point to certain facts which they maintain conflict with what God’s Word teaches us. And especially to Christian youth they like to emphasize that the Bible is not a scientific treatise, and that it must not be read as though it were such. They mean to say, of course, that the Word of Scripture must not be taken at face value, but must be interpreted in the sight of science. They will even argue that after all God reveals Himself in the book of nature too.
Over against this, it must be strongly emphasized that a conflict between God’s Word and the facts, genuine facts, of the things that are seen is a priori impossible. This lies in the nature of the case. And the deepest reason for this is the virtue of God’s veracity. The God who reveals Himself in His Word is the same God Who in the things that are made reveals Himself as the Creator and Upholder of all things. In this connection, however, we must remember that this does not imply that the harmony of Scripture and facts is always discernible. But in such a case the Christian must maintain that whatever the facts are and may seem to prove, he holds to the Word of God. At the same time, the Christian does not despise natural science. He merely insists that the approach of science must always be the deeply humble approach of faith in the Word of God, and that apart from the knowledge of God in Christ there is no genuine science.
2. There is frequently conflict between the Word of God and the “findings,” conclusions, theories, of natural science. The latter are human. Moreover, we must remember that only too often what is actually only a theory or a conclusion is presented as a fact. And here is the area of conflict with the Scriptures. When men, mere natural men, begin to evaluate the facts, their conclusions must always be fundamentally the lie. It is precisely at this point that faith and unbelief come to the parting of the ways. And because the conclusions of unbelieving science are ethically always the lie, those same conclusions are frequently, individually taken, erroneous too. The Christian should be very discerning here. Take, for example, the studies that are made concerning the age of the world in connection with radio-activity and Carbon 14. The fact of Carbon 14 is undeniable. The fact of a certain process involving a consistent change of amount of Carbon 14 is also undeniable. The conclusion drawn from these facts that things are millions and hundreds of millions of years old is not a fact, as is often presented, but a mere theory, and a theory too that refuses to take into account certain plainly stated facts of Scripture. Now, whether I can fully explain such phenomena as Carbon 14 or not, I may never accept a theory as a fact when that theory contradicts the facts of Scripture.
3. And the third fundamental principle for the Christian is that natural science in its entire approach must stand four-square on the basis of the Word of God. It must proceed from Scripture. It must allow Scripture to shed light upon the facts which it discovers and studies. For the Christian the book of creation must and can only be read in the light of the Book of Scripture, not the other way around. “Sie sollen das Wort stehen lassen.”