Friday, July 26, 2019

Creation, History, and Creation History

1. Creation, History, and Creation History
The distinct dignity of creation is that it is the first work of God. This first work of creation, however, does not stand alone. God makes it to serve him as the context in which the history of his covenant of grace with man will take place.

When we speak of God in relation to creation, we mean God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. First, a correspondence exists between the Father’s relation to the Son and Holy Spirit and the Father’s relation (with the Son and Spirit) as Creator to creation. Second, just as God the Father freely expresses his love by eternally begetting the Son, so too he freely expresses his love by creating for fellowship human beings who, though different from him in nature, may still hear and respond to his Word. Furthermore, in God’s eternal counsel before all time, Jesus Christ already was the Word made flesh and as such the reason for creation. Third, the Holy Spirit is the act of love between Father and Son and, in relation to humankind, the power by which humankind may bear witness to this glory of God.

God’s purpose for creation is our free participation in an ongoing relationship of love established by God with us in a covenant of grace. It is this covenant which constitutes the meaning of history and which therefore makes the history of salvation the true history of humankind. Creation belongs to the history of this covenant of grace as its beginning and context. Scripture begins with the history of creation for three reasons: (1) because it belongs from the beginning to the covenant of grace; (2) because creation relates to faith just as faith relates to all of creation; and (3) because creation history, as told in Genesis 1-2, constitutes the beginning of the history of the people of God.

God himself is eternity understood not as infinitely extended time but as past, present, and future in unity and as the source of our time. In this sense creation, as a sequence of events, is neither eternal nor timeless. Instead, with God’s revelation, with God’s act of creation, we have the simultaneous occurrence of creation and time. This is why, with the creation and naming of light, we have evening and morning of the first day.

This genuine time of the history of creation was followed by two times in the history of the covenant of grace. The first of these is our lost time as sinners turned away from God. But in the lifetime of Jesus Christ, and in the time before and after it which were included in it as his genuine past and future, God took our lost time and transformed it into his time of grace, a time of his gracious rule. We live in this time of grace when we believe in Jesus Christ. Faith by grace in Christ means our lost time of sin and death is set behind us. It means our future time of justification, sanctification, and glorification lies before us. It means that we presently participate in the transition from that past to that future because that future is present already in Christ’s victory.

There never was a time, following the genuine time of creation, when our lost time was the only time. The time of creation was continued directly by the time of the covenant of grace fulfilled in Jesus Christ. But while identical in nature, the times of creation and of grace nonetheless are distinct. The time of creation was original time. The time of grace is characterized by a confrontation with the enemy of lost time unknown at the time of creation. More importantly, since God created the world and man for Jesus Christ, his lifetime (and the history of Israel and the Church included in it) is the real time and the time of creation is real as a reflection of it.

The special distinction of the time of creation is that, while being real history, it is the only time without a pre-history. As such it is the only time standing solely in immediate relation with God. All other history relates to God both immediately, since the existence of everything depends constantly on God’s continuing creation, and mediately, since everything now has a pre-history and so relates to other aspects of creation as well as to God. The content of original time, of creation history, is the original positing of the creature in the creative act of God. This unique content complicates the telling of the story of creation as the real history it is.

Because we have no way of seeing any evidence of it, or of any event essentially similar to it, the story of creation, though real, cannot be told in any commonly accepted historical sense. The story of creation can only be described in non-historical terms. This is also true of those aspects of our own history which continue to stand in immediate relation to God—especially of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. So, for the time of grace, our narrative will contain both non-historical and historical elements, varying in degree with the immediacy and mediacy of the content to God. So too, for the time of creation, the narrative must be wholly non-historical because, even though the events really happened in time, their content is solely God’s actions as Creator. We may call this non-historical narration of real events either “saga” (Karl Barth) or “legendary witness” (George Hunsinger).

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.

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