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Topic: Common Issues in the Christian Life

The Metaphor of Creation

by Darrel Cline

Paul calls believers "new creations" and uses Genesis One language to describe how this all begins. He says that "... God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6). By this use of creation terminology, he suggests that there is an analogy/correlation between the physical creation and the regeneration of men. I would like to pick up on this and explore some possibilities.

In Genesis One, the creation account is given against the backdrop of three major "problems". The first is the chaotic state of the various elements of created matter (Moses said there was "formlessness" -- i.e., no order to the created state). The second is the emptiness of created matter (Moses said there was a "void" -- i.e. a creation w/o anything to take up its space). And the third is "darkness".

Then Moses records that God "commanded the light to shine out of darkness" (to use Paul's 2 Corinthians 4:6 terminology). This effectively solved the darkness problem; but not fully because the next step was for God to separate the light and the darkness. In the first three days of creation, God addressed both the darkness problem and the chaotic state of affairs. On those days God separated the elements of this creation into their respective unities so that "chaos" was banished. In the last three days of creation, God addressed both the darkness and the "emptiness" of creation by putting inhabitants into the heaven (permanent lights), the seas (creatures of the seas), and the dry land (creatures of the land and man).

Paul's use of creation language suggests that, perhaps, the believer is subject to something that is analogous to the same "problems" and to the same processes. In other words, believers face the problems of darkness, chaos, and emptiness, and God addresses these problems by giving light, producing order, and putting significant "stuff" into the emptiness.

To further this analogy, we appeal to the author of Hebrews. In his letter, he alluded multiple times to the fact that the seventh day was the foundation for an analogy of "rest" for believers. His encouragement was for his readers to "strive to enter into God's sabbatical rest" (Hebrews 4:1).

So, our conclusion is that a careful analysis of what God did during the creation week will give us some significant help in understanding how we move from darkness, chaos, and emptiness into the "rest" of God.

The darkness issue is clearly addressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4. He says that our darkness is caused by blindness imposed by our unbelief as it is manipulated by the "god of this world". He calls it a mental blindness (...has blinded the minds...). In his theology, he also addresses the chaos issue by continually referring to this "world" by using the Greek word "kosmos". This Greek word refers to "an ordered system"... the best the world can come up with to resolve the chaos problem. The problem, from Paul's perspective, is that the chaos has been deceptively addressed by this "world" in such a way that the chaos remains but is garbed in the delusion of good "order". And, theologically, Paul addressed the issue of "emptiness" by addressing the "vanity of the mind". His contrast is that those who are well versed in the notions of this world have been given over to vanity and a reprobate mind while those who are well versed in divine self-revelation have been given a "fulness" of knowledge that comes through a continually progressive "renewal of the mind". Thus, darkness, chaos, and emptiness remain threats to the believer's life. His solution is light, a heavenly order, and fulness of the knowledge of the Truth.

In Genesis One, the problems are specific. First there is pervasive darkness and what light comes at the divine command is diffused in it. Then there is pervasive water and the dirt of earth is awash in it. The action of God is to use the first day to separate the light and darkness. The action of the second day is to insert an expanse between the upper water and the lower water. The action of the third day is to gather the lower water into seas so that dry land can be formed. Job 38:11 actually tells us that God commanded the seas "hither to shalt thou come, but no further; and here shalt thy proud waves be stayed!" The point is that God addressed the problems of chaos by forcing the separation of the created elements so that they would not be so diffused in one another that they were of little use to anyone. Interestingly, the themes of darkness and the pervasive flooding of water characterize a great deal of later revelation, and man is significantly threatened by both darkness and drowning. Three creation days were dedicated to the resolution of these threats. Then, in the last three days of creation, God addressed the problem of pervasive emptiness. The empty heavens are filled with lights -- sun, moon, and stars. The empty waters began to teem with living creatures. The empty skies began to be inhabited by flying creatures. The empty land began to be swarmed with animals and man. The fact that man was created as an under-lord over all of God's created creatures (not including the lights of heaven) implies strongly that man's "emptiness" is resolved by his effective exercise of his "lordship" over creation.

Thus, man, who is significantly threatened by darkness, suffocation by water, and the meaninglessness of an unproductive life, is placed in the light on dry earth and given dominion over God's creation as an "under-lord". Man's problems seem, therefore, to be ignorance (caused by his blindness) arrogance (as depicted by the proud waves of the sea) and the despair of meaninglessness (as implied by emptiness). God's solutions include revelation (the creation of light), an entirely different cosmic order (the restraint of the waters to their defined boundaries), and a significant task as under-lord (so his days are filled with labor that means something).

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This is article #262.
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