In this study we will examine what the Bible has to say on the environment God has created for our existence and for the shaping of the Kingdom of God. By the way, when the Bible uses the word "World", it can mean, (i) the whole universe, or (ii) the inhabited earth. Naturally our earth, and the associated universe, is one. It is the product of a single creative act of God.
One of the first things we have to realise is that God's act of creation is only understood through the "eyes of faith", Heb.11:3. There is very little evidence to support what the Bible teaches and so the Christian must simply rely on the trustworthiness of God's word.
The Bible has this to say about the creation:
i] The origin of the material universe came about by a free and purposeful act of God.
ii] God created the universe in stages. He obviously had the power to create it in an instant, but he chose to create it in natural progressive steps.
iii] God created by his word. He spoke and it was. Heb.11:3. iv] God created out of nothing, Gen.1:1. This is quite different from the "Platonic" idea of creation which is accepted by Eastern religions e.g. Hinduism. They see living things as a kind of emanation from God, a part of his being.
v] The Bible says that all three persons of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, were involved in the act of creation.
vi] God is both independent of his creation and yet closely linked to it. The theological terms used to describe these truths are:
(a) Transcendent - He is independent of the creation, Rom.9:5.
(b) Immanent - The creation is dependent on him for its existence, Acts 17:28, Col.1:17.
vii] Animals are a secondary creation, although like humanity, are created out of the dust of the earth. Yet we do need to remember that the earth and the animal kingdom are created as an environment for us. So although God's creation begins with matter, his intention begins with us.
viii] Mankind is the apex of creation, having a single origin and made in the image of God.
ix] When the work of creation was finished God said it was "good". This means it turned out the way he wanted it. The created order is not evil, less than good or unspiritual, and therefore to be rejected, denied.....
x] The purpose of creation was to display the glory of God, Col.1:17.
The Bible, in a very simple and unscientific way, answers the fundamental question we have concerning our environment. "Who has caused these things to be?" The answer ..... God". The creation story in Genesis chapters 1 to 3 teaches us that everything was made by God. He said, "Let it be", and it was.
The Bible describes the creation as follows:
Day 1 - Light
Day 2 - Sky
Day 3 - Water, Land, Sea and Vegetation
Day 4 - Heavenly bodies
Day 5 - Fishes and Birds
Day 6 - Animals and Man
Many Christians get worried by what seems to be a tremendous conflict between the teaching of the Bible and science. Science teaches that the Earth is many billions of years old and that animal and vegetable life has evolved from simple organisms to the vast array of complex organisms that we see around us today.
When Darwin published his book "On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection" in 1859, Christians, who had taken the creation account literally, were thrown into confusion. Most scientists of the day accepted Darwin's theory that natural selection could operate like an intelligent designer. From the chaos of minute random variations, survival selected those best designed to do a particular job. Today the general thrust of the theory still stands, although there is growing support for the idea that a new species probably developed within a short period of time (possibly 5,000 years) and then remained unchanged for millions of years until replaced by a more efficient species.
Some Christians reject outright the teachings of science. They only accept the literal account of creation recorded in the Bible. "Creation Science" today has a strong following.
Other Christians attempt to blend scientific theory with the teachings of the Bible. They argue that the word "day", in the creation story, simply means a period of time. So the Bible teaches that over a long period of time the universe, as we know it, evolved in stages under the direct control of God. The problem is that the creation of the "heavenly bodies" on day 4 is a bit out of sequence. We also really are not sure how the word "day" is to be taken. It's not wise to try and line up the Bible with ever-changing scientific theory. Some suggest that when God created the world, he created it with a fossil record, a history, a past. Yet this would imply that God is out to fool us.
In truth, the creation story has nothing to do with science. It does not set out to explain the mechanism of creation. It is a poetic description of the origins of everything that surrounds us. It is a story that ancient man can understand and that we can understand. By whatever means God created the world, he created it. He created it by his word and it was good.
The Genesis account of creation shows that God's design for the world was perfect. It was to be a place of harmony and peace, a beautiful environment for humans to develop love with each other and God. The Garden of Eden displays this picture - man and woman caring for a balanced environment. The trouble is, this potential was never reached.
The Bible says that the world is in the bondage of sin. Mankind has gone against God and so brought destruction and death to God's perfect universe. The world groans in its bondage, Rom.8:22. imbalance, death, decay, natural calamities - all display the world's plight.
The Bible goes even further by saying that the inhabited earth is now under the control of the Evil One, under the control of Satan, 1 John 5:19. It is his domain, Matt.4:8-9 and we are in bondage to it, Col.2:20. This is a very hard truth to accept. We see so many examples of beauty and goodness around us, we simply can't believe that some evil power has control over our world. Yet it is the truth, the world has been subjected in futility under the power of the Evil One. If it wasn't for God's restraining hand, our world would be convulsed in destructive violence that would soon wipe out all existence.
Of course the good news is that Jesus has dealt with the Evil One - this "Prince of this World", John 16:11. He has taken out of Satan's control a group of followers to be with him for eternity. He has not actually taken them out of the world, but they are now not of the world. These followers of "the way" are to go into all the world, Mark 16:15, to be the light of the world, Mtt.5:14. Jesus has promised to keep them from the Evil One, John 17.
The Christian life is a bit like walking a tightrope. On the one hand we must not regard the world, and the things of this world, as evil and therefore to be avoided. This is called asceticism. Jesus was not an ascetic. "He came eating and drinking", he went to dinner parties, he lived. On the other hand we must not regard the world as pure and therefore something that can be "worshiped", eg. Green politics. Nor is it something for us to freely indulged in as though abuse cannot harm us.
This is certainly God's beautiful creation, but it has been affected by sin and is manipulated by evil powers. We have to be very careful how we live in the world. We should enjoy life without indulging all our sensual appetites. We must live as those who are "in the world but not of the world". That is, we must live as part of the human race with natural created desires and needs, but also as part of a new creation in Jesus. When it comes to the world we must be "as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves".
The world as it is now, groans and creaks awaiting the day when it will be released from its present trouble, Rom.8:21. It awaits the day when Jesus will return to form a "new heaven and a new earth", the day when the "earth's true loveliness will be restored". In that day the power of evil will be destroyed and "then God will be present in a total manner in the universe", 1 Cor.15:28. "The Kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our Lord", Rev.11:15.
The Bible seems to say that in the day of Jesus' return the world will be purified by fire and re-created into the perfect environment for Jesus' new community. An infinite universe will then be ours. What we experience of God's creation now is but a minute foretaste of the "New Heavens and the New Earth." To say any more is to move into science-fiction. To even know for sure, how much of what the Bible says about the future is figurative or factual, is impossible to guess. All we can say is, what God has prepared for his new creation in the age to come is beyond imagination.
1. To what degree do you think your faith in Christ is dependent upon the world being created over a period of six days? Consider how this issue affects the authority of the Bible.
2. Given that sin has affected God's good creation, how do you think you should treat the things of this world?
3. How does a clear vision of the "new heavens and the new earth" affect your life now?