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THE DOCTRINE OF GOD'S RELATION TO
THIS COMPRISES THREE POINTS : CREATION, CONSERVATION,
PROVIDENCE AND GOVERNMENT.
GOD's eternal love creates a free world, distinct from God,
and distinguishing itself from God, in order to communion of love with it. In its character as an organism, which it is by the fact of its being destined to reflect God's triune life, the world needs two things, the requisite multiplicity or manifold diversity, and unity. Accordingly, we must come to a decision upon the questions as to the eternity of creation, the applicability to creative agency of the antithesis of rest and action, matter and form, with which the question as to creation out of nothing is related."
1. BIBLICAL AND ECCLESIASTICAL DOCTRINE.—The doctrine of the origination of the world through God's creative action by no means involves a mere question of religious curiosity. All more cultured religious systems have their cosmogonies. But this doctrine has special fundamental importance for a religion which lays down a formal doctrine of creation on its first page. By this doctrine, and the clear way in which it distinguishes God from the world, while avoiding deistic separation from it, the basis is gained for the Hebrew religion, and the possibility of secure progress in mutual intercourse between God and the creature. Where creation is ignored or wrongly defined, religion is most profoundly modified. Religious consciousness can only arise through the medium of consciousness of the world. When, therefore, the fundamental relation between God and the world, which is to be raised into the light of consciousness and inspired with life through religion, is wrongly defined, supposing a development of religion to survive, it can only be an abnormal one.
1 Rothe, Ethik, 2d ed. 67, 1 Bd. $ 40 ff.; Pfaff, Schöpfungsgeschichte, 1855; Schultz, Die Schöpfungsgeschichte nach Naturgewissenschaft u. Bibel, 1865 ; Reinkens, Die Schöpfung der Welt, 1859 ; Keerl, Der Mensch, das Ebenbild. Gottes, Sein Verhältniss zu Christo u. zur Welt, Ein urgeschichtlicher Versuch, Bd. 1; Zöckler, Theologie u. Naturgewissenschaft, 1877, 1879.
There are numerous theories respecting the world's origin ($ 33), which prevent world-consciousness being elevated into God-consciousness, and obscure the latter. Now, while the Mosaic cosmogony is not indeed ratified in the N. T. as a whole, it is accepted in its essential elements. It guards for us the right religious apprehension of the world against errors tending to confound and separate the two factors. Confusion is precluded, because the world as progressive issues from God's absolute, self-conscious volition; separation, because the world received life only through God's Spirit brooding over the original matter, and because in man--its goal — it is endowed by God with His own image.” Moreover, God looks on the world He has made with approval." Nor does the N. T. contain the doctrine of an eternal ünn å uopfos simply moulded by God. The N. T. rather coincides with the doctrine of this having been made from the non-existent, provided only that Nothing is not regarded as matter. More important for us is what the Epistle to the Hebrews says: The world was not made of what appears or is visible (un éx palvouévwv). The antithesis perhaps is : Rather was it made from the pñua, the omnipotent Word unapparent to sense, which converted into reality the world-idea likewise invisible. With this representation Genesis also essentially agrees, not laying down the doctrine of an eternal matter before creation. Although it says nothing expressly respecting the origin of matter, still the act of creation, according to ver. 1, embraces heaven and earth. The origin of matter from God is not meant to be excluded. An eternal matter alongside God is not in the author's thoughts. Else a simpler beginning would have been : “In the beginning was Thohu and Bohu," in the style of Hesiod. Instead of this, the mention of the divine act of creation comes first, which, if it were meant to denote a mere moulding expressly and exclusively, would necessarily presuppose matter, which yet is first spoken of in ver. 2. At all events the idea of the 0. T. in general is, that God by His creative act constituted not only form, but matter with absolute freedom. Whether matter is derived from nothing or from God's invisible Essence itself, on this point no positive decision is given in the 0. T. Thohu, Gen. i. 2, signifies no doubt elementary existence, which, although not absolutely shapeless, is still without settled form. Whether creation, as concerns time, is to be regarded as eternal, cannot be gathered from Gen. i. “”
i Acts xiv. 15, xvii. 24-28; Rom. i. 19, 20, xi. 33 ; Eph. ii. 15; Heb. ii. 10, xi. 2; as also Heb. i. 1-3; John i. 1-4; Col. i. 13 ff.; where, however, the cosmogony is placed in connection with Christology. ? Gen. i. 26 ; cf. ii. 7.
3 Gen, i. 31. * Wisd. xi. 17 certainly seems to imply this. Μacc. vii. 28 : εξ ουκ άντων.
6 xi. 3.
· Although x70 may be used, where matter is already given, and where, consequently, only a Demiurgic fashioning is in question, still in the 0. T. God is not contemplated merely as a Demiurge along with a like eternal power, Matter, Isa. xlv. 18; Ps. cxlviii. 5, cxxxv. 6, cxxi. 1, 2. In Gen. i. 1, matter is not conceived either as offering resistance to, or a limitation of, God's power, xya in the Kal (in distinction from the Piel) denoting free, easy production (Dillmann, Genesis, p. 18). In Hebrew usage the word does not of itself take the accusative of the material, from which, indeed, “it does not follow that the word of itself excludes the use of material and instruments, but that, where
is applied to God, means and material are not thought of, but the absolute freedom of divine production is kept in view.” Respecting the origin of the unformed matter in ver. 2, the passage says nothing expressly. But “we may concede without hesitation, that if the author had taken into consideration the question as to the origin of matter, he must have come to the decision, on the basis of his conception of God, that even as to its matter the world has its ground of possibility and existence in the divine will. God speaks, and it is done, Ps. xxxiii. 9" (Dillmann, p. 21). In any case the later representations of creation in the 0. T. go back, beyond the formless condition of the earth in the beginning, to God's omnipotent word summoning forth matter and form. Cf. Oehler, Theol. 0. T. I. 177, Eng. Tr. I. 169 (Clark), who sees in ver. 1 the creation of the materia prima, which, however, in this case would be identical with Thohu.
2 That the word “earth "in ver. 1 cannot denote the form, shape of the earth, ver. 2 shows.
> Cf. Ps. xxxiii, 9, cxlviii. 5, with xc. 2, where creation is called a birth.
"In the beginning" signifies : " Before a worldstructure existed, God the Creator was.” The record professes to treat chiefly of the creation of the earth and our solar system, though ver. 1 puts the heaven before the earth. Respecting the period of creation, we might expect some information to be given in Gen. i. But in this case it must have been clear what the six days denote, whether earthly days or spaces of time, a question which does not seem to have occurred to the author at all. In the N. T. the passages respecting Christ's glory with the Father and the election of believers before the foundation of the world are not meant to give any information respecting the age of the world (which is not a religious question), or respecting an initial non-creation on the part of God, but merely imply that the eternal God and His world-idea are the logical prius of the world.
The Ecclesiastical Doctrine is contained in the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds. The ancient Church early guarded itself against Gnosticism, Manichæism, and vulgar Emanationism. The Reformation accepted this, as also the position that the world was created through the Son (Nicene), without excluding Father and Spirit (Schmalkaldian Art.). Concerning the matter, time, and design of the world, the Creeds contain no further detailed exposition.
2. That the world is to be derived froin God's self-conscious, wise love ($ 33), is no assumption or makeshift, no pushing of the matter into the hypothetical; but while every other mode of derivation fails to afford light, this is not merely satisfactory, but is just as little mere hypothesis as the divine love itself. Absolutely nothing outside God determines God to the work of creation; He determines Himself purely and solely. Not His plenitude of life or Nature, not His omnipotence, but His love, which is the power above His omnipotence, determines Him. He is therefore absolutely free in creation. His spontaneous love, in union with absolute intelligence, derives from itself the idea of the world, and determines itself to creative activity, The Nature of God as such could not create. The power of God as such would effect no relative self-dependence of the world, nay, as such, would not include the possibility of another object than God, which, when really cut off from God's existence, would continue as an independent causality. Intelligence as such would merely give us a form, a plan, no actuality, and apart from love a mere limited teleology, and therefore no motive for setting omnipotence to work in order to the actual existence of another than God. Love, on the other hand, immanent in the divine intelligence and power, carries within itself its own absolute logic or rationality. It is the causal principle of a real existence other than God, and, indeed, of a multitude of such existences, desiring as it does a multiplication of the life of love, while including, on the other hand, the principle of union. It secures distinction by making the world an end, and yet establishes no dualism either in the world itself, or between the world and God. The end in view is a rich life of love, and this constitutes the motive for creation. Grant to love the position due to it in respect to creation, and the dispute vanishes between those who say, “God created the world for Himself, for His own glory, that He might be confessed and glorified by rational spirits,” and those who regard the glorification or happiness of the creature as its end. In love both are blended together. God makes Himself a means in order to the world's good. He desires it for its own sake, as a kingdom and theatre of love; but what owes its being and happiness to love is made in order to love, because only by exercising love can it be perfect. The world, therefore, beloved of God, by necessity of love makes itself in turn a means and sacrifice for another, and responds to the love wherewith it is loved. In this way a blessed cycle of the life of love ensues. To the divine love belongs the bliss of possessing all things. In its unenvying charity it stoops to the humble, especially to everything destined for love, capable therefore of being sought for its own sake, and bound because of the love it receives to become itself a subject of love. But, again, to man's likeness to God belongs the power of reciprocal love. Love in its ascending order is thus foreshadowed, and the cycle of love is made complete. Through being an object of love, i.e. through self-communication of and participation in God, the world comes to be a subject of love, to the end that in God and the world one and the same Love may exist.