Why did God create? It’s an initially puzzling question. Certainly not because He was bored, or needed company, or purely for entertainment. Theologians speak of God having asiety—His existence is not dependent on anything outside of Himself; and, furthermore, His existence—the eternal perichoresis of the three persons of the Trinity—is whole and perfect in every way. God did not need to create anything. However, creation was also a purposeful act. It was not an accident; no part of it was governed by pure chance, or by another mind. Rather, God created because creation is an act fitting to His character, and what He created also reflects who He is.
In class, my professors brought up an interesting point: we often take pride in the fact that human beings are the pinnacle, the climax of God’s creation. But we ignore the other implication of our being created last, namely, that the rest of creation existed before us, and without us. “Human beings are the crown of creation,” professor Adriana Ribeiro said, “but a person can live without a crown.” So what is the relationship of the rest of creation to God? As a child, I was always raised to believe that human beings were the only creatures capable of knowing and worshiping God. Rocks, trees, rabbits, and even stars may give glory to God by their sheer beauty and magnificence, but they cannot chose to praise Him, or fail to do so. They have no wills, no souls. And yet, we recognize that all of creation is fallen, and needs to be saved. Plantinga disagrees with me, fancifully speaking of humpback whales praising God with their songs and breaching, and all non-human creatures “[lifting] up their praises to God…with a spontaneity and consistency far greater than our own.” While I do believe that God loves everything He created, and that all of creation points back to its masterful Creator (general revelation), this seems like a bit of a stretch. Ultimately, however, it’s impossible for us to know whether non-human creatures can praise God.
As human beings, however, we see very clearly in scripture that we were created to praise God in everything we do—by loving one another, by worshiping, through prayer and even—and, perhaps especially!—through our work. To be human means to be finite, bound by time and space and limited in our capacities and resources, and dependent. So much in life is beyond our control, from the time and place of our birth, to our family, to our deaths. Furthermore, because we are created by God we do not have the freedom to ‘create’ or ‘recreate’ ourselves, as in the ‘creative anti-realism’ that Plantinga describes. Only God knows who we are and who we ultimately will be. Being finite creatures also means that we need rest. Plantinga describes how God created the cycle of work and rest by instituting the Sabbath, and that, though God does not need to rest, the rhythm of work and rest is one way in which we “image” God, who rested on the seventh day.What is meant by the “image of God”? Human beings are image-bearers of God in that we are given dominion over the rest of creation—a dominion which, Plantinga points out, should be modeled on God’s dominion over us. Just as God rules us with mercy, grace, and selfless love, so we should seek to follow His example in our stewardship of creation. Being made in the image of God also means that we have certain rights, to life, respect, etc. It means that we are communal creatures, made to be in relationship with one another just as the three persons of the Trinity exist in relationship. We must strive for unity, and love, forgive, encourage, and be patient with one another. Finally, being made in the image of God is a call to follow the example of Christ, the only perfect image of God, in His suffering, death, and, ultimately, His resurrection.
Eight themes of creation:
1. All of creation was created good, and is redeemable.
2. Creation has purpose and order, some of which human beings can discover and understand.
3. God created out of nothing; creation is separate and distinct from God.
4. We should love creation, but be careful not to worship it.
5. Work and marriage—as created things—are essentially good! Human beings can serve God in celibacy or marriage, and in all kinds of honest work. No job is more “Christian” than another.
6. Being made in the image of God confers responsibilities—such as stewardship of creation—and rights.
7. Being made in the image of God also means that we “image” God both individually and as a community.
8. Finally, being created in the image of God gives meaning to our lives (we are not products of random, meaningless chance) but does not mean that we ourselves are God. Our status as creatures should be both an honor and a reminder of our dependence on our Creator.