The idea that God created the material universe is foundational to the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The first verse of the Bible, the one on which the rest of the Scriptures stand, states: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
According to Jews, Christians, Muslims and others, everything came into existence through the intentional act of an unimaginably powerful being. That is a big idea. Its importance is impossible to overstate. Creation implies intention, and intention implies purpose.
That big idea has been challenged. The University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne has said that “the universe and life are pointless … in the sense that there is no externally imposed purpose or point in the universe. As atheists, this is something that is manifestly true to us. We make our own meaning and purpose.”
Coyne agrees with his theistic opponents. Without God, “the universe and life are pointless.” Yet he immediately tries to salvage meaning and purpose by asserting that humans can create their own. Many atheists deny this possibility, but even if Coyne’s assertion is true, it must be acknowledged that humans are powerless to create purpose or meaning that endures. Human purpose ultimately devolves into purposelessness and meaning into meaninglessness.
Unfortunately, interest in creation, particularly among fundamentalists and evangelicals, has often been limited to the method of creation and the age of the earth. These things should be explored and logically debated, but the method of creation is just one door, and a side door at that, into a large house, with many rooms. Too often people stand outside the house and argue about how it was built rather than entering in, enjoying it, and caring for it.
A growing number of Christians have, in recent decades, rediscovered the importance of the doctrine of creation. The conservation and environmental movements of the last century, and green technologies and sustainability in this century, have forced Christians to think about the implications of the doctrine of creation. But Johnny-come-lately Christians would have been out in front of this had they taken their own doctrine of creation seriously.
Though the doctrine of creation has helped some Christians be comfortably fashionable in their commitment to keep and protect the earth—and being fashionable is a more powerful motive than most of us care to admit – it has left other Christians awkwardly unfashionable. For if the Bible is right and God created humankind male and female and blessed their union, it is hard to avoid the implication that creation displays God’s clear intentions regarding human gender and sexuality. Yet to say so in contemporary society is to invite reproach and ridicule.
Concern for the planet has led some people to enthusiastically embrace the biblical doctrine of creation, but they have ignored that doctrine’s implications for gender, sex, and marriage. They have hitched their faith to cultural trends and then looked to the Bible for support. That’s getting the proverbial cart before the horse.
Another, and often overlooked, implication of the doctrine of creation is that God created humans to live in community. In the creation narrative, God is quite blunt: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” Isolation is not good. It is ironic, but for individuals to be all they can be, they simply cannot be individualistic.
Yet modern culture is increasingly individualistic. The very idea of “the common good” is in danger of being lost. When I was a boy, we shared our phone with people in the neighborhood on a party line. Today, moms and dads and kids wouldn’t think of sharing a phone with each other, much less with the rest of the neighborhood.
The doctrine of creation calls us to community, but society is headed in the opposite direction. We sit alone, even in a restaurant full of people, and interact with digital images. More and more, our friends and family live on a 4-G network. How ironic that “privacy” has become one of contemporary society’s most pressing concerns.
The Bible asserts that “It is [God] who has made us, and not we ourselves.” The doctrine of Creation informs us that we were purposed and, contrary to Professor Coyne, we are not free to repurpose ourselves. Life works best when we operate according to the designer’s specs.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 5/19/2018