Much of Western humanity is in the middle of a severe identity crisis. Every transient ideology has attempted to redefine vital and key foundation blocks of healthy civilisation in belief and behaviour. Many live ignorant of who we are, where we come from, how we got here, and what we should prioritise in life. Hence many of us live without any sense of personal meaning or valuable purpose; any sense of objective truth consigned to the waste-bin as unfashionable.
Addressing what the Bible says about creation is necessary
The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith is rooted in a Biblicist reformation principle of upholding the Holy Scriptures as the primary fountain of knowledge and the ultimate guide to righteous belief and behaviour from the beginning of human existence. Therefore, having affirmed truths about the Holy Scriptures, God’s identity, and God’s decrees, it should not come as a surprise that “Of Creation” is so swiftly addressed in the 1689 Confession.
An area that is so often untouched by many churches (Baptist or not) due to its seemingly “hot-topic” nature, creation and what we believe about our origins is of primary importance. One cannot be truly Christian, let alone truly Baptist and ignore what the Bible says about creation.
The 1689 affirms the Biblical account of when creation happened: “In the beginning.” Easy to ignore, these words, which are derived directly from Genesis 1:1 affirm that we believe the creation we now inhabit was not preceded by any other as some assert nor is it infinitely old as others speculate. There was an actual beginning when the universe was created. What’s more, there was a revealed time-scale in which God created the universe: “a six day period”. We should be in no confusion - the 1689 believes that the Genesis creation account is a history, not allegory, literal, not symbolic. It does not belabour the issue. With few exceptions, the belief in a literal six-day creation period as described in Genesis 1-2 was accepted by believers before and after Christ alike.
The 1689 affirms the Biblical record of how creation happened: “God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was pleased to create or make the world.” The whole of God’s complementarian, coordinated, co-existent, co-eternal, co-equal, cooperative being is involved in creating the heavens and the Earth. It is right from Genesis 1:1 that we encounter the Triune God, Elohim in the Hebrew, pointing to a plurality in unity. This is repeated in Genesis 1.26 when Elohim uses plural pronouns: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The creation process affirmed by the 1689 Confession, taking six days and governed by God’s word and will, excludes any notion of theistic evolution over the theoretical 13+ billion years asserted by many. God gives the order, and the creation exists simply by the word of His divine power.
Theistic evolutionists do not have a problem acknowledging that there was a beginning when God participated in the act of creativity. The idea that this beginning saw God create the entire Universe in 6 days is where the issue arises. Prior to the acceleration of evolutionary controversies, the 1689 Confession acknowledges what creation happened: “the world and all things in it, both visible and invisible...and all very good...After God had made all the other creatures, he created humanity. He made them male and female, with rational and immortal souls…”
God created the Universe at a point of maturity. Adam and Eve were not created as infants where their age could be calculated to Day 1. Nor could the Earth on Day 1 be calculated as at a point of infancy. The universe was created with an apparent age of maturity, with all visible and invisible created as “very good”. Calculating the age of the Earth to the point of infancy is, therefore, a fruitless endeavour that cuts a core part of God’s powerful creative process out of the picture. Beyond the point of maturity, God created humanity, particularly, with a sense of responsibility and accountability, to play the primary role in the upkeep and leadership of God’s creation with certainty.
In exploring the substance of what God created, we encounter - as did the initial signatories of the 1689 - why creation happened: “He did this to manifest the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.” Specifically, in relation to humanity, we were made as we are with body and soul for a “life lived unto God...made in the image of God, being endowed with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.” God created humanity with “the law of God written in their hearts and the power to fulfil it. In addition to the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.9 As long as they obeyed this command, they were happy in their communion with God and had dominion over the creatures.”
Put simply, the creation happened to highlight God’s glory, and humanity was created to be recipients and beneficiaries of the same, living lives on Earth that themselves represented and reflected God’s supreme goodness.
The Confession today
Affirming the 1689 Confession in its own affirmation of the Scriptural teaching on Creation is of paramount practical importance. If we get the matter of creation wrong, we will fail to get our humanity and the entailing responsibilities right. We cannot truly understand our own purpose and identity, much less the linear pattern of human history unless we start “in the beginning”. There is much rooted in our consciences as a direct result of God’s creating work. We believe in the special place of humanity because of creation. Humanity has a unique identity as God’s image-bearers, and there is the accompanying responsibility and accountability of our consciences before God that this entails. We believe in the unique, different and complementary features, personalities, and roles men and women have as men and as women – distinct in sex from birth because of creation. Christians believe in marriage between one man and one woman because of creation. We believe in the goodness of sex within the context of heterosexual marriage alone because of creation. We believe in the blessing of procreation and the ensuing parental responsibility of both mother and father because of creation. We believe that the complementary nature of the man/wife union and relationship is vital, healthy, and best for children because of creation. We believe in law and order on the basis of good and bad in society because of creation. We have seven-day weeks, including a day of rest because of the pattern God created.
While all of these are essential parts of who we are in reflecting our Creator God’s plan revealed in the Genesis 1-2 history, understanding redemption itself cannot be achieved in a meaningful historical way outside of accepting the Scriptural account. The Lukan genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3.23-28) traces Jesus’ lineage back to Adam. Is this fabrication? Paul says sin and death entered the world through one man - Adam (Romans 5.12; 1 Corinthians 15.21) and that Christ has come as a Second Adam to give life. If we can’t trust the reality of the first Adam, how can we trust the redemption of the second? If the story concerning Adam and Eve’s fall from God’s goodness in creation and the subsequent effect on the Universe is not accurate, then where did sin and death come from?
The Confession is right and affirms the foundational point of faith on which everything else rests. As Hebrews 11.3 says: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Apart from this, we will never understand who God is or who He has created us to be.
15th May 2021