“We believe in . . . the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen”
Joel D. Otto
For the fourth-century writers and confessors of the Nicene Creed, this statement was not very controversial. There was no dispute among Christians that God was the almighty Creator of the universe. Even heathen unbelievers accepted that some divine being or force was the cause or “prime mover” of the universe.
Yet, those early century Christians thought it was important enough to clearly confess that God created all things. They were blessed with foresight because today this is an extremely controversial issue both inside and outside of the church.
Public education has long accepted the theory of evolution as the “scientific” explanation for the origins of the universe. But many Christian churches, in an attempt to appear intellectually acceptable to the secular culture, have compromised the creation account in Genesis. Some claim that God got things started and used the evolutionary process to bring the different species into existence. Others dismiss Genesis chapters 1–2 as myth. They say it was simply the way primitive believers tried to explain the origin of the world. Since scientific discoveries, they claim, have progressed so much, we have to get away from such myths.
The problem is that every attempt to diminish or compromise the Genesis creation account diminishes and compromises the power of the one true God. If he is truly “the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth,” as the church has been confessing for centuries, then by all means he has the power to call into existence this entire universe by his spoken word in six 24-hour days. Consider the intricacies of the human body, the orderliness of the orbit of the planets, the fact that our planet is the right distance from the sun and rotates at the right angle and at the right speed.
Finally, however, it is a matter of faith. We can study God’s creation and marvel at it. We can attempt to debunk evolutionary theories. In the end, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe what the Bible says: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3).
Believing that our heavenly Father has created this universe gives us additional confidence that he has the power to help us. Even when the world appears to be falling apart, even when our lives might seem to be unraveling, we remember that by faith in Jesus we are children of the heavenly Father who in love and power called all the heavens and earth into existence, “seen and unseen.” He lives and rules all things for the good of his children.
So we can echo the confession of the psalmist: “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:2).
EXPLORING THE WORD
1. We often marvel at what we can see of God’s creation. Describe as many of the “unseen” things of God’s creation as you can.
There are many answers. Here are just a few: air (consider how it contains just the right amount of oxygen), gravity (consider that the earth rotates at the right speed, on the right axis, at the right distance from the sun and moon), sound waves, heat/light/energy (we can’t usually see this, but we often see its source or feel the results), angels. One might also consider the way God makes the crops grow. We observe it happen, but it happens in such a way that it is hard for us to see. One might also think about the internal workings of the human body. These things are unseen unless we get an X-ray, MRI, or have surgery or some traumatic injury.
2. Read Psalm 139:13-16. How does an understanding about God’s creative activity help us view our bodies, intellect, and abilities?
It is true that sin has marred God’s perfect creation. That is why, for example, there are genetic defects. However, because we are knit together in our mother’s womb by the almighty God, the different look of our bodies, the different skills and abilities we have, and the different levels of intellect and understanding we possess, all are used by God to make us the unique people that we are. And God uses the uniqueness of each one of us for his good purposes and for our spiritual and eternal good. So we can view our bodies, intellect, and abilities as gifts of God’s power and grace, knit together to make each of us a unique blessing in his world and in his church to serve him and others, even if sometimes we might see what we consider to be defects and deficiencies.
3. Read Genesis 1:2,26; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17. While we usually confess that the Father is Creator, how do these passages inform a complete picture of creation? What does this tell us about the Trinity?
Both the Son and the Holy Spirit were also involved in the work of creation and continue to be involved in the work of preserving creation. The Bible does ascribe specific tasks to a particular person of God. For example, only the Son became flesh and was crucified. And we will often delineate certain titles for the persons of God based on the tasks typically ascribed to them (for example, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier). However, when it comes to creation, all three persons were active. The three persons of the one God take counsel together and work together to care for us and save us.
4. In what way does your view of the origin of the universe affect your worldview and purpose in life?
If you hold an evolutionary view of the world where the world’s existence is a result of change, accident, or survival of the fittest, then your worldview is focused on yourself, and your purpose in life becomes personal survival and advancement in life and/or a pursuit of personal pleasure. There is no accountability toward something or someone higher than yourself. There is no Creator to honor and glorify, so you end of glorifying humanity and humanity’s achievements. Or people might turn creation itself or created things into “god.” Consider the way some people refer to “Mother Earth” or the way different civilizations have worshiped the sun, planets, or animals (cf. Romans 1:18-32).
On the other hand, if you believe that God created the universe, gave us life, and provides all that we need, then you also recognize that you are accountable to that Creator. Adam and Eve recognized that they were accountable to God for their disobedience, even though they tried to hide from him (see Genesis 3). Your worldview is focused on your Creator, and your purpose in life becomes obeying his commands; glorifying and honoring him in attitude, word, and action; and serving others (1 Corinthians 10:31; Deuteronomy 10:12). There is an accountability and responsibility to the God who gives and sustains life. Luther brings this thought out in his explanation to the First Article. After reviewing all that God has done to create us, provide for us, and protect us, he writes, “All this God does only because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, and not because I have earned or deserved it. For all this I ought to thank and praise, to serve and obey him.” While ultimately we worship, honor, and obey God in gratitude for his saving works, his creating work also elicits our praise and forms our worldview as one where we strive to glorify our Almighty Maker in all that we do.
Contributing editor Joel Otto, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin, is a member at Salem, Milwaukee.
This is the second article in a 13-part series on the Nicene Creed.
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Author: Joel D. Otto
Volume 101, Number 12
Issue: December 2014
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