Unexplored Dimensions of Our Christian Worldview
Of him, through him, and to him are all things — Romans 11:36
I. What was God doing before he created the world?
A. WCF 2.2 God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things.
B. God’s ontological/relational independence
1. God neither depends upon, nor needs any other (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 5:9; Acts 17:24, 25; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11). God has/d no need for creation. God desired to created, he didn't need to.
2. As Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 1 John 4:8, 16) God experiences the fulness of personal relationship apart from creation. Out of that fulness of relational happiness the Father, Son, ad Holy Spirit created the world and humanity.
II. Why did God create the world and humanity?
A. Creation is work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
1. The Father (1 Cor. 8:6)
2. The Son (John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17)
3. The Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:12, 13)
B. God’s plan: share the wealth [glory]
1. Nothing selfish or self-centered about God’s plan to create the world and humanity. (Remember 1.13 above.)
2. Be careful with popular Reformed use of “for his own glory” as a motive for creation.
a. Self-glorification is strictly speaking not possible within the Godhead. God is not a single “self.” The Father didn't create the world selfishly to amass more glory, and neither did the Son and Spirit.
b. Self-glorification is condemned in Scripture (Prov. 25:27)
c. Jesus repudiates this as a motive (John 8:50, 54) and describes something quite different within the relational life of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (John 14:13; 17:1, 5).
d. Since Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, the character and life of Jesus is a transcript of the character and personality of the Father (Heb. 1:2; John 1:14, 18; 14:7-11; Phil. 2:1ff.)
C. Creation is an act of giving between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Re-creation in Christ makes this evident (John 1:1ff.; Heb. 1:2; Rom. 11:36) as Augustine reminds us: “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
1. Humanity is created for the Son by the Father and Spirit; daughter humanity is created to be the Son’s bride (Ps. 45:9; Is. 62:5; Jn. 3:29; Rev. 19:7; 21:9, etc.). The Father gives, the Spirit glorifies [=beautifies] (John 3:9; Eph. 5:26) and all for the Son. Creation is the gift of the Father and Spirit to the Son.
2. Humanity is created for the Father by the Son and Spirit; we are created to be the Father’s adopted son (Rom. 8:14, 19; Gal. 3:26). The Son offers a brother after his own image; the Spirit matures the younger brother. Creation is the Son and Spirit’s gift to the Father.
3. Humanity is created for the Spirit by the Father and Son; we are created to be the Spirit’s temple/city (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19; Eph. 2:22). The Father plans the city/temple of living stones and provides the material; the Son builds it for the Spirit to indwell (Gen. 1:2; 2:7; David & Solomon, etc.). Creation is the Father and Son’s gift to the Spirit.
D. When he creates humanity God enables us to participate in his own covenantal life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
1. Particularly, the Father-Son relations are the archetype of our relationship with God. For when Jesus teaches us about how to relate the Father, he draws us into his way of trusting, addressing, loving, and obeying the Father. He is the Son, we are created sons.
2. This fits with the Trinitarian purpose of creation outlined above. As our Brother, the Son teaches us how to live in the Father’s House (Heb. 2:12). As our Husband, he glorifies us by his Spirit in order that we might be made part of the Father’s family (Eph. 5:25-27).
III. Why this is important and what we are denying
A. Much of modern theology makes God in some sense dependent upon creation and/or humanity for being or personal fulfillment.
B. It is important to maintain the ontological independence and relational fullness of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in order to safeguard the freedom of God’s interaction with creation, both in his acts of creation and redemption.
C. It is also important to come to grips with the common aversion in modern culture for what perhaps is thought to be the metaphysically dualistic and oppressive doctrine of the Creator/creature distinction.
1. When God is perceived of in uni-personal terms, then it becomes difficult to conceive of his relationship with anything outside of himself in a way that is not oppressive and tyrannical (i.e., Allah)
2. The origin of modern atheism has been attributed in part to the waxing cultural dominance, from the 17th century onward, of an overweening monotheistic ontology together with its stifling effect in human communities.
3. Even so, a healthy trinitarian doctrine of God grounded in an orthodox Christology should be sufficient to guard against all tyrannical theological configurations. God’s eternal being is not only constituted as the loving relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but his opera ad extra are just the gracious “overflow” of his fellowship and love to include created humanity. The Triune God did not create to dominate and control, but to share or communicate the fullness of his own life with mankind, and through Christ to bring mankind into fellowship with the Triune family, so to speak.
4. Wolfhart Pannenberg: “The three persons of Father, Son, and Spirit are primarily the subject of the divine action. By their cooperation the action takes form as that of the one God. This must be the starting point of a Christian answer to the totalitarian implications of a single divine subject acting without restriction” (Systematic Theology I, p. 388).
D. God is the gracious Lord of all (Presence, Knowledge, Control). Lord, not primarily with the sense of “Master,” but as the Giver and Chief Servant of all (Mark 10:41-45).
1. Love and service characterize relations within the Godhead.
2. Love and service characterize relations between the Godhead and creation.
3. There is no such thing as a created nature that has its purpose, being, or continuance apart from God’s free grace. Every thing and event in creation at every moment of time owes its entire existence to the Triune God’s free and gracious gift. Creation is each Person's gift to the Others and also to us as well.