The vast majority of people throughout human history have believed that God (or a god or numerous gods or some kind of divine being) created all that exists. The mythologies and cosmologies have differed, but the prevailing worldviews in nearly every culture have agreed that, when we survey the earth or the heavens, what we’re looking at is a creation.
So, for most of the Christian era, when Christians have confessed from the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth,” non-Christian hearers have not found the concept of God as the creator incredible. Hardly anyone could have possibly conceived of the cosmos just popping into existence on its own. Some deity must have made all this.
Today, however, at least in some parts of the world, it’s a different story. Increasing numbers say they find our confession about creation ludicrous. They claim to believe the cosmos, and we inhabitants, came into existence without any divine initiative. And while not yet the stated personal worldview of the majority of individuals, atheistic or agnostic naturalism, with its God-less origin and end-times visions, has become the most influential worldview of the popular cultures in Europe, North America, and other regions. And it poses a formidable challenge to the Christian belief in God the Creator.
But for Christians, such a challenge is nothing new. In every era, we have been called to bear witness to — and confess before — an unbelieving world, whatever its prevailing worldview, that God the Creator is ultimate reality, that there is profound meaning in all he has made, and that he is directing the course of the future of his creation not toward extinction, but toward a new birth of freedom. And this calls for Christian courage, because our confession will sound foolish to those who claim otherwise.
To believe that God the Father is the Creator of heaven and earth is to believe that God is ultimate reality. It is to believe
that the rock-bottom truth is God’s self-revelation as “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14), the self-existent One “from whom are all things and for whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6);
that God is the “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6) and “our Father . . . the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:2–3) for everyone who by faith is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1);
that this God is God, “and there is no other” (Isaiah 45:22);
that not only is there no other god, but there is no absence of God, no ultimate nothing — that “in the beginning [there was] God” (Genesis 1:1). Period.
In a pluralistic world, this can seem like an audacious confession. And Christianity has only ever existed in a pluralistic world. It requires courage to stand in opposition to a dominant cultural worldview, and declare that ultimate reality is, in fact, radically different. And historically, Christians have often been called to confess the Trinitarian God as ultimate reality and the cosmos as his creation before cultures whose worldview is diametrically opposed (often with great hostility) to what we confess. It requires courage to be a confessing Christian.
For the most part, those other dominant worldviews have been fundamentally religious: animistic, pantheistic, polytheistic, or monotheistic. The debate has centered on which supernature is real.
But for most Christians in the West today, the most dominant alternative worldview in your culture is fundamentally nonreligious. Part of this is due to the way your nation is constitutionally constructed: to accommodate a plurality of worldviews, which, generally speaking, is good. But as we all know, it is also due to the influence of metaphysical naturalism (the denial of the supernatural). This belief has grown significantly over the last 150 years, largely as a result of inferences drawn from discoveries in various scientific fields, most famously Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Now the debate has centered on the very existence of the supernatural.
One significant reality at stake in the creation debate is whether or not the magnificent cosmos has any inherent meaning. And the implications of that question, in particular, are huge.
When Christians confess that God the Father created the heavens and the earth, inherent in that belief are three truths: first, that God’s creation was originally “very good” (Genesis 1:31); second, that after the fall of mankind (Genesis 3), God subjected the creation to futility — in hope (Romans 8:20); third, that God so subjected it in hope “that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Romans 8:21).
This means that what Christians see all around them (or should) is a creation, one that is infused with profound meaning. We see “heavens [that] declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1) and an “earth . . . full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). Even in its futility and corruption, Christians see in creation God’s “invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature . . . in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20). And the groaning of this corrupted creation, which we all keenly experience, increases (or should) our anticipation of “the [promised] freedom of the glory of the children of God,” when he will make the heavens and the earth completely new, and “he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore” (Revelation 21:1, 4).
In other words, a cosmos created by “the God of hope” makes it possible for a Christian to be filled “with all joy and peace in believing, [and] by the power of the Holy Spirit . . . [to] abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).