In my last article (which you can read here), I ended by asking the question: “Where do we fit in among the grand scheme of God’s redemptive plan for His creation?” This is just one of many questions that I find Christians seem to struggle to find clarity on. To that end, publishing content to address (and in some cases, redress) these theological and ethical shortfalls is an important part of all that The Reformation of Manners stands for. “Bridging the Gap” is just one of the ways that we try to provide a biblical framework from which we can better engage with God’s world and His people. It is a way of connecting Christian convictions into matters of practical substance.
So what sense should we make of the seven days of creation? Genesis 1:2 is the immediate vantage point: God is concerned with the world as the focus of His attention. As previously mentioned, the idea of God intimately ‘hovering’ over His embryonic creation is pictorially akin to that of a mother bird stirring her young to flight. It is a compelling and provocative expression of God’s deep care and devotion to His created world.
The first chapter (and to a greater extent, chapter two) of Genesis presents God as the loving Maker who delights in His creation, but equally reveals God as the majestic and supreme Creator over all. The world at this point is “without form and void”, but God is about to give His world shape and meaning. Although the earth right now is empty, God is about to fill it with life (although the doctrine of ex nihilo is not mentioned explicitly here, it is strongly implied elsewhere in the biblical corpus cf. Psalm 33:9; 148:5; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 11:3; Revelation 4:11). Indeed, God matches the dual negatives of formlessness and emptiness with their positive counterparts: form and fullness.
It is here we must address the days of creation themselves. The chronology of creation (of which there has been extensive debate), I think, is only important insofar as the order belongs to the poetic form of the passage and should not be interpreted literally. It is a shame that the creation narrative has so often been pitted as a ‘religious’ explanation against the many ‘scientific’ explanations – they cannot be competitors if only for the fact that the biblical author’s concern is to display theologically the visible world as God’s handiwork, and not to present a chronological record. The fulfilment of form (that is, separation and the creation of space) and fullness are God’s concern, and it is only after these are satisfied does God pronounce His work as ‘good.’
DAY ONE: LIGHT SEPARATED FROM DARKNESS
DAY TWO: SKY SEPARATED FROM THE WATERS
DAY THREE: DRY LAND SEPARATED FROM THE WATERS
DAY FOUR: SUN TO GOVERN THE DAY, THE MOON AND STARS TO GOVERN THE NIGHT
DAY FIVE: BIRDS TO FILL THE SKY, SEA CREATURES TO FILL THE WATERS
DAY SIX: ANIMALS TO FILL THE LAND, HUMANITY TO RULE THE EARTH
But God’s work in creation reaches its pinnacle in Genesis 1:26-31 with the creation of human beings in the “image” and “likeness” of God, and it is here our attention will rest. It is undeniable that the birth of Man is the pinnacle of God’s creative work (cf. P. J. Gentry, “Kingdom through Covenant: Humanity as Divine Image”, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 12.1 (2008): 16-42 does a brilliant job of developing Genesis 1:26-28 as the climax of God’s creation). The wider created world is reflective of God’s glory (v. Psalm 19), but mankind operates within a special sphere of favour, and Genesis 1:26-31 presents this brilliantly in three ways:
Firstly, God begins to speak in a new way, switching from a third personal singular (‘God made … let there be etc.’) to a first person plural (‘Let us …’). Although it is difficult to be completely certain with respect to this new form of speech, I think it is safe to assume that it is a combination of grammatical (plural of self-deliberation or self-encouragement) and theological (reference to the plurality of the Trinity) rhetoric.
Moreover, God declares that He will make humankind in his image, and according to His likeness, and the language here is definitely that of sonship (cf. Genesis 5:1-3; God creates Adam in the likeness of God … Adam begets Seth who is in his own likeness, after his image). Meredith Kline, on the topic, writes, “To be the image of God is to be the son of God” and this is true in two respects:
- Relationally, we are sons and daughters dependent on God through covenant. Adam’s role as ‘son’ is taken up in the biblical narrative by Israel (Exodus 4:22-23; Hosea 11:1), David (2 Samuel 7:13-14), ultimately in Jesus, the true Adam, Israel, and David, and the true Son of God. Christians are partakers in sonship through adoption as God’s children (1 John 3:1-3; Romans 8:29), and also partakers in covenant. The terms of the covenant are symbolically represented in the two trees in the Garden: life in dependence and obedience unto God on the one hand; and on the other, death by turning from God and seeking but a shadow of true life apart from Him (cf. Jeremiah 2:12-13).
- Vocationally, as God’s children, we are also charged to rule the world as His representatives within a limited measure of independence, just as Adam was. At the very least, Adam was both a king and a priest (in addition, Adam may be have occupied a prophetic office, but I am undecided). God commands Adam to ‘have dominion’ over the earth, and Adam is called to work and to keep the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15; cf. 2:8 where God plants the Garden – Adam is now called to continue in God’s role) – a kind of pictorial epithet for monarchs in biblical antiquity. David Clines writes, “human beings represent God in a way analogous to kings. “Adam is almost certainly described as God’s vice-regent and therefore, the archetypal human king.
But Adam also holds a priestly office in the sense that Adam’s work is priestly work – Adam is commissioned to “to work” and “to keep” (Genesis 2:15) the Garden. The Hebrew verb, “to work, עָבַד” is not only used in the cultivation of agriculture, but also for the service of God (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:2, 12), and in particular, the sacred duties of the Levites and the tabernacle (cf. Numbers 3:7-8; 4:23-26). Similarly, “to keep, “שָׁמַרnot carries both the simple idea of protection, but is more commonly used in relation to religious duties (cf. Genesis 17:9; Leviticus 18:5). Adam then, is not only appointed to rule over God’s creation, but jointly to serve the Creator in creation.
What does this mean for Christians today?
Firstly, it means to give serious thought to the nature of Man and our purpose here on earth. Although creation was ‘good’ and even ‘very good’, it was not yet perfect, complete, and thus did God call His people to emulate him: ‘be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it’ (Genesis 1:28). We are given the enormous privilege of continuing God’s work in creation, and Hermann Bavinck writes beautifully, “the first man, however highly placed, did not yet possess the highest humanity … [Adam] stood at the beginning of his “career” not at the end.” Friends, we must never think of our vocations as dreary, mundane, or meaningless – we are God’s people, and in Him, our work is an act of service (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:16-17, 23-24), using our gifts, skills and opportunities in ways to bless both His name and His creation (1 Corinthians 12:7; 1 Peter 4:10; Romans 12:1-8).