The Theology of Creation
Creation theology is certainly evident in Scripture, although
the doctrine of creation was developed in the early centuries
of the church.
A sweeping theme of the <!g>Hebrew Scriptures is that the God who
redeems Israel is the Creator of the universe. Theologies of creation
are found in both the older Yahwist stories of Eden (Gen. 2:4b-25)
and the lofty Priestly version involving the entire Biblical <!g>cosmology
(Gen. 1:1-2:4a). Following the Flood a mythological catastrophe
of cosmic proportions in the Priestly narrative (Gen. 7:11)
a new covenant is made which includes all life, not just humanity
(Gen. 9:9-17). This covenant is reflected in the prophets (cf.
Hosea 2: 16-23) and taken up into the vision of "a new heaven
and a new earth" (Isaiah 66: 17-25). Indeed the creation
of the universe by the God of Israel is a theme running throughout
the Hebrew testament, as Proverbs 8 so movingly portrays.
In the New Testament, Christ is seen as the new creation, the
Word of God by which all things were made (John 1:1-3) and through
whom the old has passed away (2 Cor. 5:17). Jesus teaches in parables
drawn from nature, and his power as Messiah is evidenced in healing
and nature miracles. The <!g>Resurrection of Christ is significant
not only for humans but for all creation groaning in travail (Rom.
8:18-25). Finally, the parousia will bring about a "new heaven
and a new earth" as promised to the prophets (2 Peter 3:13;
During the early history of the church, theologians fashioned
a doctrine of creation using Biblical, philosophical, theological
and liturgical tools. Actually the doctrine includes two related
strands: <!g>creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) and
creatio continua (continuing creation).
Creatio ex nihilo stands for the radical contingency
of all that is, the complete dependence of all beings on a <!g>transcendent
God as the sole source of their existence. God's creative act
is totally free; matter, space, time and even the laws of nature
emerge out of God's unconditional choice. In this sense, `creation
out of nothing' really means `not created out of anything prior.'
Creatio ex nihilo also implies that God transcends the
world. This means that the world is neither God nor a part of
God's being. Yet being God's creation the world is not purposeless
but filled with beauty and meaning and redeemed by God's saving
Along with the deeper philosophical sense of <!g>ontological dependence,
creation has also been taken to entail a sort of religious historical
cosmology. Genesis 1:1 in particular was frequently regarded literally
as referring to the creation of the world at a finite time in
the past. St. Thomas, for example, argued that philosophy could
demonstrate the contingency of the world but not its age; only
by revelation could Christians know that the age of the world
is finite. These questions continue into twentieth century theology.
Christian theologians also want to lift up God's ongoing action
in the world in terms of creatio continua. As <!g>immanent
to the world, God acts continuously to create and sustain the
world now and in the future. The creation tradition rejects a
<!g>deism in which God's only creative act was at the beginning of
a static, <!g>deterministic world, or even a more sophisticated theology
of creation which still views all of the universe in terms of
a single and unmodulated creative act. Instead reality is seen
as incomplete and the future unpredictable; the world is in a
process of becoming and the future is open to God's particular,
saving and transforming acts. Ultimately God's faithfulness will
bring all of reality to a just fulfillment at the end of the age.
Together creatio ex nihilo and creatio continua
form complementary modes of interpreting the central theological
insight that God the Creator is both transcendent to and immanent
in all of creation.
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| Contributed by: <!g>Dr. Robert Russell