Having discussed in several chapters, in Vol. I, Chapter XIV, on his Institutes of the Christian Religion, the creation of angels, Calvin then resumes his discussion of the creation of the world. In this discussion, he is very brief. Later, in chapter XV, he discusses at length the creation of man. Having discussed the creation of the angels, Calvin writes:
Yet let us not disdain to receive a pious delight from the works of God, which every where present themselves to view in this very beautiful theatre of the world. For this, as I have elsewhere observed, though not the principal, is yet, in the order of nature, the first lesson of faith, to remember that, whithersoever we turn our eyes, all the things which we behold are the works of God; and at the same time to consider, with pious meditation, for what end God created them. Therefore to apprehend, by a true faith, what it is for our benefit to know concerning God, we must first of all understand the history of the creation of the world, as it is briefly related by Moses, and afterwards more copiously illustrated by holy men, particularly by Basil and Ambrose. Then we shall learn that God, by the power of his Word and Spirit, created out of nothing the heaven and the earth, that from them he produced all things, animate and inanimate; distinguished by an admirable gradation the innumerable variety of things; to every species gave its proper nature, assigned its offices, and appointed its places and stations; and since all things are subject to corruption, has, nevertheless, provided for the preservation of every species till the last day; that he therefore nourishes some by methods concealed from us, from time to time infusing, as it were, new vigor into them; that on some he has conferred the power of propagation, in order that the whole species may not be extinct at their death; that he has thus wonderfully adorned heaven and earth with the utmost possible abundance, variety, and beauty, like a large and splendid mansion, most exquisitely and copiously furnished; lastly, that, by creating man, and distinguishing him with such splendid beauty, and with such numerous and great privileges, he has exhibited in him a most excellent specimen of all his works. But since it is not my design to treat at large of the creation of the world, let it suffice to have again dropped these few hints by the way. For it is better, as I have just advised the reader, to seek for fuller information on this subject from Moses, and others who have faithfully and diligently recorded the history of the world.
In these words, the noted reformer of Geneva states plainly that the Lord created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, and we are reminded by these words of what we read in Art. XII of our Confession of Faith.
Continuing his treatment of God’s work of the creation of the world, Calvin, leaving no doubt as to the length of time in which the Lord made the universe, writes:
There remains the other point, which approaches more nearly to faith; that, while we observe how God has appointed all things for our benefit and safety, and at the same time perceive his power and grace in ourselves, and the great benefits which he has conferred on us, we may thence excite ourselves to confide in him, to invoke him, to praise him, and to love him. Now, as I have just before suggested, God himself has demonstrated, by the very order of creation, that he made all things for the sake of man. For it was not without reason that he distributed the making of the world into six days; though it would have been no more difficult for him to complete the whole work, in all its parts, at once, in a single moment, than to arrive at its completion by such progressive advances.
Calvin certainly believes that the Lord created the heavens and the earth and all that is therein, in six days, and he certainly means days as we know them.
Writing on the creation of man, although he does not treat the account in Genesis in any detail, Calvin writes:
We shall afterwards, in the proper place, see how far men are fallen from that purity which was bestowed upon Adam. And first let it be understood, that, by his being made of earth and clay, a restraint was laid upon pride; since nothing is more absurd than for creatures to glory in their excellence, who not only inhabit a cottage of clay, but who are themselves composed partly of dust and ashes.
There is surely nothing in this quotation to cause us to wonder whether Calvin was addicted to the evolutionistic theory of the creation of man.
On the doctrine of creation in Vol. I of his Systematic Theology, Hodge, discussing Different Theories concerning the Origin of the Universe, writes as follows:
The question concerning the origin of the universe has forced itself on the minds of men in all ages. That the mutable cannot be eternal, would seem to be self-evident. As everything within the sphere of human observation is constantly changing, men have been constrained to believe that the world as it now is had a beginning. But if it began to be, whence did it come? Without the light of a divine revelation, this question is unanswerable. The data for the solution of the problem do not lie within the sphere either of experience or of reason. All human theories on this subject are nothing more than conjectures more or less ingenious.
Apart from the pantheistic doctrine which makes the universe the existence form, or, as Goethe calls it, “das lebendige Kleid” (the living garment) of God, the most prevalent views on this subject are, First, those theories which exclude mind from the causative origin of the world; Secondly, those which admit of mind, but only as connected with matter; and Thirdly, the Scriptural doctrine which assumes the existence of an infinite extramundane mind to whose power and will the existence of all things out of God is to be referred.
It is a self-evident truth that existence cannot spring spontaneously from non-existence. In this sense ex nihilo nihil fit is an universally admitted axiom. Those, therefore, who deny the existence of an extramundane mind, are forced to admit that as the universe now, it must have always been. But as it is in a state of perpetual change it has not always been as it now is. There was a primordial state out of which the present order of things has arisen. The question is, How?
Then, calling attention to the purely Physical Theory, Hodge writes as follows:
According to the first hypothesis just mentioned (the theory which excludes mind from the causative origin of the world—H.V.), the primordial condition of the universe was that of universally diffused matter in a highly attenuated state. This matter has the properties, or forces, which it now everywhere exhibits; and under the operation of these forces and in accordance with the laws of heat, motion, etc., not only the great cosmical bodies were formed and arranged themselves in their present harmonious relations, but also all the organisms, vegetable and animal, on this globe and elsewhere, were fashioned and sustained. Every man knows enough of physical laws to be able to predict with certainty that on a cold day in the open air the moisture of his breath will be condensed; so, according to Professor Huxley, on this hypothesis, with adequate knowledge of those laws, it would have been easy from the beginning to predict, not only the mechanism of the heavens, but the fauna and flora of our globe in all the states and stages of its existence. . .
And then Hodge calls attention to the Nebular hypothesis, which would explain our world purely from the physical point of view. Assuming that the matter composing our entire solar system once existed in the condition of a single nebulous mass, gradually this single mass broke up into several satellites, thereby constituting our various planets, without the intervention of mind.
Then Hodge calls attention to those theories which assume Intelligence in Nature itself, and he writes:
The obvious impossibility of blind causes acting intelligently, as of necessary causes being elective in their operation, has led many who deny the existence of an extramundane Mind to hold, that life and intelligence pertain to matter itself in some at least of its combinations. A plant lives. There is something in the seed which secures its development, each after its kind. There is, therefore, something in the plant, which according to this theory is not external to the plant itself, which does the work of mind. That is, it selects or chooses from the earth and air the elements needed for its support and growth. It moulds these elements into organic forms, intended to answer a purpose, and adapted with wonderful skill to accomplish a given object. With regard to this principle of life, this vital force, it is to be remarked that it is in the plant; that it is never manifested, never acts, except in union with the matter of which the plant is composed; when the plant dies, its vitality is extinguished. It ceases to exist in the same sense in which light ceases when darkness takes place.
What is true of the vegetable, is no less true of the animal world. Every animal starts in an almost imperceptible germ. But germ has something in it which determines with certainty the genus, species, and variety of the animal. It fashions all his organs; prepares the eye for the light yet to be seen; the ear for sounds yet to be heard; the lungs for air yet to be breathed. Nothing more wonderful than this is furnished by the universe in any of its phenomena.
If, therefore, vegetable and animal work all these wonders, what need have we to assume an extramundane mind to account for any of the phenomena of the universe? All that is necessary is, that nature should act just as we see that the vital principle does act in plants and animals. This is Hylozoism; the doctrine that matter is imbued with a principle of life.
Another form of this theory is more dualistic. It admits the existence of mind and matter as distinct substances, but always existing in combination, as soul and body in man in our present stage of being. The advocates of this doctrine, therefore, instead of speaking of nature as the organizing force, speak of the soul of the world: the anima mundi, etc.
Concerning these theories, the purely physical and that which admits of mind but only as connected with matter, Hodge declares:
(1) That they leave the origin of things unaccounted for. Whence came the matter, which the theory in one form assumes? Whence came its physical properties, to which all organization is referred? And as to the other doctrine, it may be asked, Whence came the living germs of plants and animals? To assume that matter in a state of chaos is eternal; or that there has been an endless succession of living germs; or that there has been an eternal succession of cycles in the history of the universe, chaos unfolding itself into cosmos, during immeasurable ages, are all assumptions which shock the reason, and must of necessity be destitute of proof. (2) These theories are atheistic. They deny the existence of a personal Being to whom we stand in the relation of creatures and children. The existence of such a Being is an innate, intuitive truth. It cannot be permanently disbelieved. And, therefore, any theory which denies the existence of God must be not only false but short-lived.
Wicked man invents these theories because he hates the living God and refuses to acknowledge Him as the Creator of the world.