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Dictionaries :: Creation

Below are articles from the following dictionary:
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia


kre-a'-shun (bara' "to create"; ktisis, "that which is created," "creature"):

1. Creation as Abiding

2. Mistaken Ideas

3. True Conception

4. The Genesis Cosmogony

5. Matter not Eternal

6. "Wisdom" in Creation

7. A Free, Personal Act

8. Creation and Evolution

9. Is Creation Eternal?

10. Creation ex nihilo

11. From God's Will

12. Error of Pantheism

13. First Cause a Necessary Presupposition

14. The End-the Divine Glory


1. Creation as Abiding:

Much negative ground has been cleared away for any modern discussion of the doctrine of creation. No idea of creation can now be taken as complete which does not include, besides the world as at first constituted, all that to this day is in and of creation. For God creates not being that can exist independently of Him, His preserving agency being inseparably connected with His creative power. We have long ceased to think of God's creation as a machine left, completely made, to its own automatic working. With such a doctrine of creation, a theistic evolution would be quite incompatible.

2. Mistaken Ideas:

Just as little do we think of God's creative agency, as merely that of a First Cause, linked to the universe from the outside by innumerable sequences of causes and effects. Nature in her entirety is as much His creation today as she ever was. The dynamic ubiquity of God, as efficient energy, is to be affirmed. God is still All and in All, but this in a way sharply distinguished from pantheistic views, whether of the universe as God, or of God as the universe. Of His own freedom He creates, so that Gnostic theories of natural and necessary emanation are left far behind. Not only have the "carpenter" and the "gardener" theories-with, of course, the architect or world-builder theory of Plato-been dismissed; not only has the conception of evolution been proved harmonious with creative end, plan, purpose, ordering, guidance; but evolutionary science may itself be said to have given the thought of theistic evolution its best base or grounding. The theistic conception is, that the world-that all cosmic existences, substances, events-depend upon God.

3. True Conception:

The doctrine of creation-of the origin and persistence, of all finite existences-as the work of God, is a necessary postulation of the religious consciousness. Such consciousness is marked by deeper insight than belongs to science. The underlying truth is the anti-patheistic one, that the energy and wisdom-by which that, which was not, became-were, in kind, other than its own. For science can but trace the continuity of sequences in all Nature, while in creation, in its primary sense, this law of continuity must be transcended, and the world viewed solely as product of Divine Intelligence, immanent in its evolution. For God is the Absolute Reason, always immanent in the developing universe. Apart from the cosmogonic attempts at the beginning of Genesis, which are clearly religious and ethical in scope and character, the Old Testament furnishes no theoretic account of the manner and order in which creative process is carried on.

4. The Genesis Cosmogony:

The early chapters of Genesis were, of course, not given to reveal the truths of physical science, but they recognize creation as marked by order, continuity, law, plastic power of productiveness in the different kingdoms, unity of the world and progressive advance. The Genesis cosmogony teaches a process of becoming, as well as a creation (see EVOLUTION). That cosmogony has been recognized by Haeckel as meritoriously marked by the two great ideas of separation or differentiation, and of progressive development or perfecting of the originally simple matter. The Old Testament presents the conception of time-worlds or successive ages, but its real emphasis is on the energy of the Divine Word, bringing into being things that did not exist.

5. Matter not Eternal:

The Old Testament and the New Testament, in their doctrine of creation, recognize no eternal matter before creation. We cannot say that the origin of matter is excluded from the Genesis account of creation, and this quite apart from the use of bard', as admitting of material and means in creation. But it seems unwise to build upon Genesis passages that afford no more than a basis which has proved exegetically insecure. The New Testament seems to favor the derivation of matter from the non-existent-that is to say, the time-worlds were due to the effluent Divine Word or originative Will, rather than to being built out of God's own invisible essence. So the best exegesis interprets Heb 11:3.

6. "Wisdom" in Creation:

In Old Testament books, as the Psalms, Proverbs, and Jeremiah, the creation is expressly declared to be the work of Wisdom-a Wisdom not disjoined from Goodness, as is yet more fully brought out in the Book of Job. The heavens declare the glory of God, the world manifests or reveals Him to our experience, as taken up and interpreted by the religious consciousness. The primary fact of the beginning of the time-worlds-the basal fact that the worlds came into being by the Word of God-is something apprehensible only by the power of religious faith, as the only principle applicable to the case (Heb 11:3). Such intuitive faith is really an application of first principles in the highest-and a truly rational one (see LOGOS). In creation, God is but expressing or acting out the conscious Godhood that is in Him. In it the thought of His absolute Wisdom is realized by the action of His perfect Love. It is philosophically necessary to maintain that God, as the Absolute Being, must find the end of creation in Himself. If the end were external to, and independent of, Him, then would He be conditioned thereby.

7. A Free, Personal Act:

What the religious consciousness is concerned to maintain is, the absolute freedom of God in the production of the universe, and the fact that He is so much greater than the universe that existence has been by Him bestowed on all things that do exist. The Scriptures are, from first to last, shot through with this truth. Neither Kant nor Spencer, from data of self-consciousness or sense-perception, can rise to the conception of creation, for they both fail to reach the idea of Divine Personality. The inconceivability of creation has been pressed by Spencer, the idea of a self-existent Creator, through whose agency it has been made, being to him unthinkable. As if it were not a transparent sophism, which Spencer's own scientific practice refuted, that a hypothesis may not have philosophical or scientific valuee, because it is what we call unthinkable or inconceivable. As if a true and sufficient cause were not enough, or a Divine act of will were not a vera causa. Dependent existence inevitably leads thought to demand existence that is not dependent.

8. Creation and Evolution:

Creation is certainly not disproved by evolution, which does not explain the origin of the homogeneous stuff itself, and does not account for the beginning of motion within it. Of the original creative action, lying beyond mortal ken or human observation, science-as concerned only with the manner of the process-is obviously in no position to speak. Creation may, in an important sense, be said not to have taken place in time, since time cannot be posited prior to the existence of the world. The difficulties of the ordinary hypothesis of a creation in time can never be surmounted, so long as we continue to make eternity mean simply indefinitely prolonged time. Augustine was, no doubt, right when, from the human standpoint, he declared that the world was not made in time, but with time. Time is itself a creation simultaneous with, and conditioned by, world-creation and movement. To say, in the ordinary fashion, that God created in time, is apt to make time appear independent of God, or God dependent upon time. Yet the time-forms enter into all our psychological experience, and a concrete beginning is unthinkable to us.

9. Is Creation Eternal?:

The time-conditions can be transcended only by some deeper intuition than mere logical insight can supply-by such intuitive endeavor, in fact, as is realized in the necessary belief in the self-existent God If such an eternal Being acts or creates, He may be said to act or create in eternity; and it is legitimate enough, in such wise, to speak of His creative act as eternal. This seems preferable to the position of Origen, who speculatively assumed an eternal or unbeginning activity for God as Creator, because the Divine Nature must be eternally self-determined to create in order to the manifestation of its perfections. Clearly did Aquinas perceive that we cannot affirm an eternal creation impossible, the creative act not falling within our categories of time and space. The question is purely one of God's free volition, in which-and not in "nothing"-the Source of the world is found.

10. Creation ex nihilo:

This brings us to notice the frequently pressed objection that creation cannot be out of nothing, since out of nothing comes nothing. This would mean that matter is eternal. But the eternity of matter, as something other than God, means its independence of God, and its power to limit or condition Him. We have, of course, no direct knowledge of the origin of matter, and the conception of its necessary self-existence is fraught with hopeless difficulties and absurdities. The axiom, that out of nothing nothing comes, is not contradicted in the case of creation. The universe comes from God; it does not come from nothing. But the axiom does not really apply to the world's creation, but only to the succession of its phenomena. Entity does not spring from non-entity. But there is an opposite and positive truth, that something presupposes something, in this case rather some One-aliquis rather than aliquid.

11. From God's Will:

It is enough to know that God has in Himself the powers and resources adequate for creating, without being able to define the ways in which creation is effected by Him. It is a sheer necessity of rational faith or spiritual reason that the something which conditions the world is neither hule, nor elemental matter, but personal Spirit or originative Will. We have no right to suppose the world made out of nothing, and then to identify, as Erigena did, this "nothing" with God's own essence. What we have a right to maintain is, that what God creates or calls into being owes its existence to nothing save His will alone, Ground of all actualities. Preexistent Personality is the ground and the condition of the world's beginning.

12. Error of Pantheism:

In this sense, its beginning may be said to be relative rather than absolute. God is always antecedent to the universe-its prius, Cause and Creator. It remains an effect, and sustains a relation of causal dependence upon Him. If we say, like Cousin, that God of necessity creates eternally, we run risk of falling into Spinozistic pantheism, identifying God, in excluding from Him absolute freedom in creation, with the impersonal and unconscious substance of the universe. Or if, with Schelling, we posit in God something which is not God-a dark, irrational background, which original ground is also the ground of the Divine Existence-we may try to find a basis for the matter of the universe, but we are in danger of being merged-by conceptions tinged with corporeity-in that form of pantheism to which God is but the soul of the universe.

The universe, we feel sure, has been caused; its existence must have some ground; even if we held a philosophy so idealistic as to make the scheme of created things one grand illusion, an illusion so vast would still call for some explanatory Cause. Even if we are not content with the conception of a First Cause, acting on the world from without and antecedently in time, we are not yet freed from the necessity of asserting a Cause. An underlying and determining Cause of the universe would still need to be postulated as its Ground.

13. First Cause a Necessary Presupposition:

Even a universe held to be eternal would need to be accounted for-we should still have to ask how such a universe came to be. Its endless movement must have direction and character imparted to it from some immanent ground or underlying cause. Such a self-existent and eternal World-Ground or First Cause is, by an inexorable law of thought, the necessary correlate of the finitude, or contingent character of the world. God and the world are not to be taken simply as cause and effect, for modern metaphysical thought is not content with such a mere ens extra-mundanum for the Ground of all possible experience. God, self-existent Cause of the ever-present world and its phenomena, is the ultimate Ground of the possibility of all that is.

14. The End-the Divine Glory:

Such a Deity, as causa sui, creatively bringing forth the world out of His own potence, cannot be allowed to be an arbitrary resting-place, but a truly rational Ground, of hidest thought. Nor can His Creation be allowed to be an aimless and mechanical universe: it is shot through with end or purpose that tends to reflect the glory of the eternal and personal God, who is its Creator in a full and real sense. But the Divine. action is not dramatic: of His working we can truly say, with Isa 45:15, "Verily thou art a God that thyself." As creation becomes progressively disclosed to us, its glory, as revealing God, ought to excite within us an always deeper sense of the sentiment of Ps 8:1,9, "O Yahweh our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"


James Orr, Christian View of God and the World, 1st edition, 1893; J. Iverach, Christianity and Evolution, 1894; S. Harris, God the Creator and Lord of All, 1897; A. L. Moore, Science and the Faith, 1889; B. P. Bowne, Studies in Theism, new edition, 1902; G. P. Fisher, Grounds of Theistic and Christian Belief, new edition, 1902; J. Lindsay, Recent Advances in Theistic Philosophy of Religion, 1897; A. Dorner, Religionsphilosophie, 1903; J. Lindsay, Studies in European Philosophy, 1909; O. Dykes, The Divine Worker in Creation and Providence, 1909; J. Lindsay, The Fundamental Problems of Metaphysics, 1910.

Written by James Lindsay





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