Creation and God’s Goodness

If Creation is an outflow of God’s greatness, then it also is an outflow and reflection of his goodness too. In Creation, we see God’s beauty, holiness and wisdom. For example, we see his holiness as God makes distinctions separating light from darkness, day from night, land from sea, sea from sky. This is the same God who will separate a people out for himself as a holy nation. This is also the God who, in his wisdom, creates an ordered and structured Universe.

This good God cannot be the God who stays at a distance. As Calvin puts it, “It were cold and lifeless to represent God as a momentary Creator, who completed his work once for all and then left it.”[1] God’s goodness, kindness, compassion and love are reflected in his providence.

God’s Providence shows his love and wisdom

Calvin describes the mind where he says,

“On learning that there is a Creator, it must forthwith infer that he is also the Governor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special Providence, sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even to the sparrow.”[2]

So, God did not stop working when he completed the days of Creation. This helps us to understand what Genesis 2 means when it describes God as resting on the 7th day. “As Scripture also makes very clear (Isa. 40:28), this resting was not occasioned by fatigue, nor did it consist in God standing idly by.”[3] This ‘rest’ represents a change in the specific nature of God’s work. “God’s ‘resting’ only indicates that he stopped producing new kinds of things. (Eccles. 1:9-10)”[4] Rest points us to the effortlessness of God’s reign over his creation; he is enthroned over it.

“The whole world with everything that is and occurs in it is subject to divine government.” This includes the seasons and the weather[5] as well as animals. “Scripture knows no independent creatures; this would be an oxymoron. God cares for all his creatures, for animals… and particularly for humans.”[6]

Providence describes the way in which God is concerned for the well-being of his creatures and so orders and sustains the very detail of Creation. Providence is a consequence of God’s Will and Decrees. In other words, everything happens because God predestines it.

This includes God’s direct actions, so that miracles are

“not a violation of natural law nor an intervention in the natural order. From God’s side it is an act that does not more immediately and directly have God as its cause than any ordinary event, and in the counsel of God and the plan of the world it occupies as much an equally well-ordered and harmonious place as any natural phenomenon. In miracles God only puts into effect a special force that, like any other force, operates in accordance with its own nature and therefore also has an outcome of its own.”[7]

However, it also includes the way in which God works through subordinate causes in order to accomplish his will. This is known as concurrence.[8] It means that just as God can be the direct author of our salvation but work through intermediate means (the sending of preachers), so God can be the direct provider of or daily bread whilst using the processes of the water cycle and crop generation to bring this about. This means that we should not think in terms of “the God of the gaps” who steps in to provide where natural processes cannot. Rather, God is in and over those processes.

It also helps us to understand why God created a “mature” Universe with all the necessary processes in place from day one.

“The world was not created in a state of pure potency, as chaos or a nebulous cloud, but as an ordered cosmos, and human beings were not placed in it as helpless toddlers but as an adult man and an adult woman. Development could only proceed from such a ready-made world, and that is how creation presented it to providence.”[9]

Providence encourages us to trust God’s provision and to depend on him every day.

Providence distinguishes the true God from false Gods

Providence is different and opposed to pantheism[10] and to deism.[11]

As Bavinck explains,

“The providence of God, thus distinguished from God’s knowledge and decree and maintained against pantheism and Deism, is -in the beautiful words of the Heidelberg Catechism – ‘the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures and so rules them that… all things, in fact, one to us not by chance but by the fatherly hand.”[12]

It is distinguished from Deism because God is personal, active and imminent. He is not the impersonal first cause of a Universe that continues to run itself.  It is different to pantheism because the Universe is dependent upon an external person to rule over it. It does not have life within itself.

Providence also distinguishes Christian faith from polytheism. In polytheistic religion, the gods look to humans to provide for them: food, labourers, etc. Providence points us to the God who cares for and provides for his creatures.

 

 

 

 

[1] Calvin, Institutes, I.xvi.1. (Beveridge 1:171).

[2] Calvin, Institutes, I. xvi.1.  (Beveridge 1:172).

[3] Bavinck, God and Creation, 592.

[4] Bavinck, God and Creation, 592.

[5] Bavinck, God and Creation, 592.

[6] Bavinck, God and Creation, 592.

[7] Bavinck, God and Creation, 610.

[8] Frame, Doctrine of God, 287.

[9] Bavinck, God and Creation, 609.

[10] Bavinck, God and Creation, 599-600.

[11] Bavinck, God and Creation, 600-604.

[12] Bavinck, God and Creation, 604.

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