Seven words that change how you see the world

god-saw-good

A few days ago, I started my new Bible reading plan. I cracked open my Bible, pen in hand, and immediately found that I was captivated by seven words: “And God saw that it was good.”

These words in the creation story, words that are repeated multiple times throughout, remind us of something extremely important: the world as God created it was good. It wasn’t the giant mess that we see today, this world we live in that’s filled with crooked politicians, extreme poverty, and poor grammar. It was good, in a way we simply cannot fathom

This has been convicting to me not because of a tendency to hopelessly lament the plight of the poor, or to grumble about politics, or be frustrated anytime someone says “cuz”, but because these words call me back to recognizing the goodness of not only the world God created, but the way in which he created it to function. That humanity was to act as stewards, caretakers of this world, rather than pillagers, yes. But it’s more about the way human relationships were designed to function—in joyful and mutual submission, in a unity that left no room for power struggles, with respect for the equal value and dignity of both men and women that honors the uniqueness of how God has created us all to function.

It’s something I notice when Emily and I struggle to resolve conflict in a healthy way (like several times this weekend when we wound up being more snippy with one another than is necessary). Or when my kids are struggling to get along. Or when I see how people speak of one another on social media (regardless of relationship). And even in how the news celebrates actions, lifestyles and decisions that run contrary to what God has called “good.”

What these words remind me of is that our attitude toward what God has called good—and especially when we call “good” what God has not—is wrong. And it grieves me when I realize how we’ve become so arrogant and presumptuous. How we’ve become so blasphemous as a culture. It weighs heavy whenever I think about it, and when I consider how I have played (and to come degree continue to play) a part in it. When I fail to treat my wife with proper respect, I’m guilty. When my mind entertains ideas that might undermine someone else, I’m guilty. When my failures prevent my children from seeing the picture of the gospel marriage is supposed to represent (Ephesians 5:32), I’m guilty.

I’m guilty. But I’m not hopeless. Recognizing this fact itself is a gift from God. These words that God has repeated multiple times confront me and challenge me, not to weep over my sorry state, but to look to Christ, the one through whom and for whom all these things were made, and celebrate that he is even now making all things new.

Creation and the Trinity stand together

creation-trinity

One of the most shocking things to me is how little Christians are encouraged to think deeply about creation and the Trinity.

I’m not talking about all the various arguments for methods of creation, views on the age of the earth or anything like that. Nor am I referring to attempting to understand the complexities of what Scripture reveals of the equally divine natures of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and how we can have a God who is three yet one. No what I’m referring to the central reality of creation being a divine—and more specifically, a Trinitarian—work.

Bavinck summarizes it well, writing:

Creating is a divine work, an act of infinite power and therefore is incommunicable in either nature or grace to any creature, whatever it may be. But Christian theology all the more unanimously attributed the work of creation to all three persons in the Trinity. Scripture left no doubt on this point. God created all things through the Son (Ps. 33:6; Prov. 8:22; John 1:3; 5:17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:3) and through the Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:13; Luke 1:35).[1. Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2, 421]

And for the Christian, Bavinck says, this is something we absolutely cannot lose our grip on. When we treat the Son and Spirit as mere “instruments” in the work of creation, as though the labor of creation were somehow divided between them, we reveal (at best) a woefully deficient view of God, and at worst, a deviation from the doctrine of the Trinity itself (a la Arius).

“All things originate simultaneously from the Father through the Son in the Spirit,” Bavinck writes.

The Father is the first cause; the initiative for creation proceeds from him. Accordingly, in an administrative sense, creation is specifically attributed to him. The Son is not an instrument but the personal wisdom, the Logos, by whom everything is created; everything rests and coheres in him (Col. 1:17) and is created for him (Col. 1:16), not as its final goal but as the head and master of all creatures (Eph. 1:10). And the Holy Spirit is the personal immanent cause by which all things live and move and have their being, receive their own form and configuration, and are led to their destination, in God.[2. Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation, vol. 2, 423]

Creation is a divine work. It is a Trinitarian work. If we lose our grasp on the Trinity, our doctrine of creation collapses. The two stand and fall together.

Your presuppositions shape your response

Bill-Nye-debate

Last night was the big origins debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham (of Answers in Genesis). And while I’m sure every side is declaring victory over the other, from what I saw an opportunity was lost. Why?

Because the problem with the origins debate is the key point that’s almost always missed: this isn’t a scientific debate. Not really. Instead, we need to recognize it for what it truly is: a philosophical and theological one. 

A year ago, I read a very thoughtful book by Gerald Rau, who is both a Christian and a scientist, called Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything (reviewed here)In this book, Rau makes a critical point:

“Our worldview and philosophy shape the way we view that evidence from the first time we hear it… Each scientist is working from the perspective of one particular theory, which affects both data collection and interpretation.” (Kindle locations 189, 202)

Sha-zam.

Rau gets it.

Your worldview—the underlying presuppositions you hold which help you make sense of the world—necessarily affects your observations about the world. So think about it this way:

For the Christian, everything ties back to the truth that God created the universe and everything in it. That he creates and sustains and holds all things together.[1. I’m not getting into the mechanics part, because, frankly, that’s for another discussion.] And so the Christian can provide an answer to many questions the naturalist cannot.[2. Something seen in the Nye/Ham debate, particularly on questions like, “Where did pre-Big Bang atoms come from?” and “How did consciousness arise?”]

His worldview is begins with a Creator, and the natural response for the Christian is to worship. To give praise to the One who made all things.

For scientists who are Christians, this is what drives so much of their work. It’s not a desire to simply know “what,” but a desire to worship the “Who” behind the “what.” (Does that make sense?)

For the naturalist, though, the answers Christians provide come across as pat or (as my my friend Bill described it), as though you’re trying to counter science with magic, something that’s incredibly frustrating to Christians for whom these answers seem so “obvious.” Why?

Because the naturalist’s underlying presuppositions about how the world works—his worldview—necessarily prevents him from accepting even the idea of God as a possible answer. In order for his worldview to remain coherent, he must reject categorically reject the supernatural, even if it means having to say “I don’t know” to questions Christians can answer.

And because the subject is rarely ever broached, the real debate gets completely missed. It’s like buying a house and spending all your time focused on the flooring, but never investigating the foundation. You might buy something that looks pretty, but is structurally unsound.

This is where our debates need to go—Christians need to stop trying to debate symptoms, and start dealing with causes. The creation vs evolution question is a symptom of competing worldviews crashing into one another.

We must always remember that our presuppositions shape our response to the evidence we see. We always interpret what we experience and what we learn through the lens of our worldview.

So we need to open up the worldview question, and humbly begin to explore its coherence (or lack thereof). When we do this, we may find our debates to be far more fruitful for all.

What’s on your to-read pile?

Every so often I like to share a few titles on my reading pile. Here’s a quick look at what’s currently on tap:

pressgram-readingpile

Image via Pressgram

If you can’t see all the titles, they are:

  • The Adam Quest: Eleven Scientists Explore the Divine Mystery of Human Origins by Tim Stafford (Amazon)
  • Walking with God through Pain and Suffering by Tim Keller (Westminster | Amazon)
  • The Unfolding Mystery by Edward Clowney (Westminster | Amazon)
  • The Person of Christ by Donald Macleod (Westminster | Amazon)
  • Fight: A Christian Case for Non-violence by Preston Sprinkle (Amazon)
  • Greek for the Rest of Us: The Essentials of Biblical Greek (Second Edition) by William D. Mounce (Amazon)

What’s on your to-read pile?