Volume 13, Issue 1: Presbyterion
The doctrine of Creation is under assault in the Christian church today, and it is under assault because the Christian faith itself is under assault. The doctrine of creatio ex nihilo is being attacked because it is foundational to every other doctrine of the faith.
The assault takes many forms. It may be incremental. Just as ancient gnosticism was embarrassed by the creation and tried to put "distance" between the material world and the Creator via numerous emanations, so many modernist Christians are embarrassed by the recent nature of creation, and try to shoehorn some ages in between themselves and the historical fact of creation so as to relieve some of the discomfort. This is done by various means - framework, day-ages, and so on - and while creation is not overtly denied, it is treated as an embarrassment.
The attack may also be overt. Process theologians deny creatio ex nihilo outright, and quite properly chide their openness cousins for their inconsistency in still hanging on to it. And materialist evolutionists tell us that they can account for the world and everything in it without reference to God. Cults like the Mormon church deny creation ex nihilo, and affirm the eternality of matter. One Mormon writer put it this way: "It is an utterly false and uninspired notion to believe that the world or any other thing was created out of nothing or that any created thing can be destroyed in the sense of annihilation." [Mormon Doctrine, Bruce McConkie].
Nothing is more uncongenial to the natural mind than the sovereignty of God, biblically understood. Contained within the doctrine of creation we find all the essential offensiveness of Calvinism. Put another way, everyone who affirms creation is in principle a Calvinist, and anyone who adamantly rejects Calvinism is well on his way to a rejection of creation. The two stand or fall together. This might excite some objection, so a few comments are in order.
God created the world, and a brief glance around us shows that it contains much that is evil, twisted, and wrong. This presents us with what is called the problem of evil. If God is all good and all powerful, then why do such things happen? Scripture maintains that God freely and unalterably ordains whatsoever comes to pass, including all this sin that we see. In other words, the doctrine of foreordination of all things maintains (out loud) that God also foreordained this, and His creative act was one of His means to accomplish it.
This causes our Arminian brethren to hold back in dismay. They do not want to say that God has foreordained every last thing. But because they do maintain that God foreknew all future events, and they believe He went ahead and created the world anyway, this means that in principle the state of affairs is what it is today because God willed it in the act of creation. He saw what would happen if He created, and then He created. This means that He willed whatever would flow from His action. The only debate between Calvinists and Arminians concerns why He willed it - not whether He willed it.
Now the new "openness" theology guys want to solve this problem of evil. They think that the difficulty is the Arminian affirmation of foreknowledge. But that is not what caused the problem - the problem is the act of creation. This mess is here, now, because somebody put it here. If He did so, it does not matter whether or not He knew what would come from His action. Responsibility flows from the creation - doing - and not from the predicting or seeing. This radical inconsistency means that the next doctrine that will be dropped by the openness camp will be the doctrine of creation.
In the Refomed understanding, God created the universe as one of His means to accomplish the end which He had determined to accomplish. In the Arminian view, God created the world knowing full well what would happen if He did. In the openness view, God did not know the future (but knew the general possibilities), and He created the world in ignorance of the outcome. If the problem of evil were to be compared to us being pushed down the stairs by God, the openness heresy wants to solve the problem by having God close His eyes before He does it.
Now all these problems have grown up within the Church because of cowardly preaching. The Bible teaches flatly that God created the world. God "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power" (Heb. 1:2-3; cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17).
But preaching the creation does not mean saying that God created the world, period. Although this would be an improvement over what we have now, it is still inadequate. From the pulpit, we must declare the fact of creation, the historicity of creation, the glory of creation, the materiality of creation, the goodness of creation, the ramifications of creation, and, of course, the humility of all creation. This last item certainly includes our minds - our reason - which must be taught not to be haughty. We must learn to bow down before the Lord God, our Maker.