Writing on the Scriptural Doctrine of the creation of the universe, Hodge, in Vol. I of his Systematic Theology, pages 553 ff., writes,
The Scriptural doctrine on this subject is expressed in the first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The heavens and the earth include all things out of God. Of which things the Scriptures teach that they owe their existence to the will and power of God. The Scriptural doctrine therefore is, (1.) That the universe is not eternal. It began to be. (2.) It was not formed out of any preexistence or substance. It was free to God to create or not to create, to create the universe as it is, or any other order and system of things, according to the good pleasure of His will.
The doctrine of an eternal creation has been held in various forms. Origen, although he referred the existence of the universe to the will of God, still held that it was eternal. We speak of the divine decrees as free and yet as from everlasting. So Origen held that this was not the first world God made; that there never was a first, and never will be a last.
Of course those of the schoolmen who made the thoughts of God creative, or identified purpose with act, or who agreed with Scotus Erigena, must regard the universe as coeternal with God. This was done by Scotus in a pantheistic sense, but others who regarded the universe as distinct from God and dependent upon Him, still held that the world is eternal. The influence of the modern Monistic philosophy, even upon theologians who believe in an extramundane personal God, has been such as to lead many of them to assume that the relation between God and the world is such that it must have always existed. The common doctrine of the Church has ever been, in accordance with the simple teaching of the Bible, that the world began to be.
The second point included in the Scriptural doctrine of creation is, that the universe was not formed out of any preexistent matter, nor out of the substance of God. The assumption that any thing existed out of God and independent of his will, has ever been rejected as inconsistent with the perfection and absolute supremacy of God. The other idea, however, namely, that God fashioned the world out of his own substance, has found advocates, more or less numerous, in every age of the Church.
Not only those of the schoolmen and of the modern theologians who are inclined to the Monistic theory (the creation came forth out of one principle of being or ultimate substance—H.V.), made all things to be modifications of the substance of God, but many Theistic and even Evangelical writers of our day hold the same doctrine. Sir William Hamilton also held that it is impossible to conceive the complement of existence being either increased or diminished. When anything new appears we are forced to regard it as something which had previously existed in another form. “We are unable, on the one hand, to conceive nothing becoming something; or, on the other, something becoming nothing. When God is said to create out of nothing, we construe this to thought by supposing that He evolves existence out of Himself; we view the creator as the cause of the Universe” . . . . . To this he elsewhere adds, “In like manner, we conceive annihilation, only by conceiving the Creator to withdraw his creation from actuality into power. . . . . The mind is thus compelled to recognize an absolute identity of existence in the effect and in the complement of its causes between the causatum and the causa, ” and therefore, “an absolute identity of existence” between God and the world. This doctrine the fathers, and the Church generally, strenuously resisted as inconsistent with the nature of God. It supposes that the substance of God admits of partition or division; that the attributes of God can be separated from his substance; and that the divine substance can become degraded and polluted.
The third point included in the Scriptural doctrine of creation is, that it was an act of God’s free will. He was free to create or not to create. This is opposed to the doctrine of necessary creation, which has been set forth in different forms. Some regard the phenomenal universe as a mere evolution of absolute being by a necessary progress, as a plant is developed from a seed. Others, regarding God as a Spirit, make life and thought essential and coeternal with Him, and this life and power are of necessity creative. God’s “essence,” says Cousin, “consists precisely in his creative power.” Again, he says, “He cannot but produce; so that the creation ceases to be unintelligible; and God is no more without a world than a world without God.” As, however, thought is spontaneous, Cousin, when called to account for such utterances, maintained that he did not deny that creation was free. (the undersigned wishes to observe that with this we may certainly agree. The Lord certainly was not compelled to create the universe. He was moved solely by Himself, by His own free and sovereign will, eternally, to glorify Himself also in the creature. This determination to create the heavens and the earth, which, of course, are never to be viewed as pantheistically flowing forth from or out of His own being, was a determination of the Lord’s own free and sovereign choice.)
Some who do not admit that God is under any natural or metaphysical necessity to give existence to the universe; still assert a moral necessity for the creation of sensitive and rational creatures. God, it is said, is love;-but it is the nature of love to long to communicate itself, and to hold fellowship with others than itself. Therefore God’s nature impels Him to call into existence creatures in whom and over whom He can rejoice. Others say, that God is benevolence, and therefore is under a moral necessity of creating beings whom He can render happy.
According to the Scriptures God is self-sufficient. He needs nothing out of Himself for his own well-being or happiness. his creatures; He is in every respect independent of and the creation of the universe was the a
ct of the free will of that God of whom the Apostle says in
“Of Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things.”
Following upon this Hodge discusses the subject, in connection with the creation of the universe, ofMediate and Immediate Creation.
But while it has ever been the doctrine of the Church that God created the universe out of nothing by the word of his power, which creation was instantaneous and immediate, i.e., without the intervention of any second causes; yet it has generally been admitted that this is to be understood only of the original call of matter into existence. Theologians have, therefore, distinguished between a first and second, or immediate and mediate creation. The one was instantaneous, the other gradual; the one precludes the idea of any preexisting substance, and of cooperation, the other admits and implies both. There is evident ground for this distinction in the mosaic account of the creation. God, we are told, “created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Here it is clearly intimated that the universe, when first created, was in a state of chaos, and that by the life giving, organizing power of the Spirit of God, it was gradually molded into the wonderful cosmos which we now behold. The whole of the first chapter of Genesis, after the first verse, is an account of the progress of creation; the production of light; the formation of the atmosphere; the separation of land and water; the vegetable productions of the earth; the animals of the sea and air; then the living creatures of the earth; and, last of all, man. In
it is said that God created man male and female; in
it is said, that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” It thus appears that forming out of preexisting material comes within the Scriptural idea of creating. We all recognize God as the author of our being, as our Creator, as well as our Preserver. He is our Creator, not merely because He is the maker of heaven and earth, and because all they contain owe their origin to his will and power, but also because, as the Psalmist teaches us, He fashions our bodies in secret,
And the Bible constantly speaks of God as causing the grass to grow, and as being the real author or maker of all that the earth, air, or water produces. There is, therefore, according to the Scriptures, not only an immediate, instantaneous creation ex nihilo by the simple word of God, but a mediate, progressive creation; the power of God working in union with second causes. Augustine clearly recognizes this idea. (here the undersigned wishes to observe that, although we may speak of mediate creation in this sense, he fails to see the propriety of speaking of second causes. How can the dust of the ground be viewed as a second cause in the creation of Adam?)
Thus far there is little room for diversity of opinion. But when the question is asked, How long was the universe in passing from its chaotic to its ordered state? such diversity is at once manifested. According to the more obvious interpretation of the first chapter of Genesis, this work was accomplished in six days. This therefore has been the common belief of Christians. It is a belief founded on a given interpretation of the Mosaic record, which interpretation, however, must be controlled not only by the laws of language, but by facts. This is at present an open question. The facts necessary for its decision have not yet been duly authenticated. The believer may calmly await the result.
The theistical advocates of the Nebular Hypothesis assume that the universe was an indefinitely long period in coming to its present state . . . . . The same theory of gradual, or mediate creation, has been applied to account for all the phenomena of the vegetable and animal kingdoms. This has been done in different forms. According to all these theories there must be something to begin with. There must be matter and its forces. There must even be life, and living organisms. To account for these we are forced to accept of the Scriptural doctrine of an immediate creation ex nihilo by the power of God.”
And with this last statement we wholly agree. We shall certainly accept the Scriptural doctrine of an immediate creation by the power of God. Hodge writes that the question of how long the creation of all things was in progress is at present an open question. The facts necessary for its decision have not yet been duly authenticated. And the believer may calmly await the result. However, we believe that this is pot an open question. And the believer may calmly await the result? And accept the final conclusion that this universe was brought into existence through a process of thousands and millions of years? and accept this calmly’? We believe that the Scriptures have spoken on this matter, and that the language of the Word of God is unmistakably clear. The Lord willing, we will surely call the attention of our readers to this fact, as we continue our discussion of the creation of the heavens and the earth, as held before us in the infallible Scriptures.