1 Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise him in the heights.
2 Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
3 Praise ye him, sun and moon: praise him, all ye stars of light.
4 Praise him, ye heavens of heavens, and ye waters that be above the heavens.
5 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for he commanded, and they were created.
6 He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass.
7 Praise the Lord from the earth, ye dragons, and all deeps:
8 Fire, and hail; snow, and vapour; stormy wind fulfilling his word:
9 Mountains, and all hills; fruitful trees, and all cedars:
10 Beasts, and all cattle; creeping things, and flying fowl:
11 Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth:
12 Both young men, and maidens; old men, and children:
13 Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven.
14 He also exalteth the horn of his people, the praise of all his saints; even of the children of Israel, a people near unto him. Praise ye the Lord.
The writer of this psalm (Psalm 148, KJV) calls on all of God’s creatures to join him in praising the Lord. In this post I’ll claim that the primary purpose of God’s creating everything was so that He could display His glory to and receive glory (or praise) from what He created. I’ll also assert that all of the universe and everything in it were good when God created them and that, despite the presence of sin in the world, they still are good. Finally I’ll explain what it means for God to be transcendent over and immanent in creation and identify some alternative views of the relationship between God and creation.
The Purpose of Creation
In John’s heavenly vision when he was in exile on the island of Patmos, he saw the twenty-four elders who were sitting on thrones around the throne of God fall down before God, cast their crowns before Him, and say, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11, ESV; all Bible passages are quoted from the ESV unless otherwise indicated). Thus God created because he wanted to, not because of some inner need to, such as to love and to be loved, as some have claimed.
But why did He want to create the universe and everything which is in it, including human beings? The words of the angels suggest that it was to display and receive glory. Some other Bible passages which suggest this are:
– “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
– “And one [seraphim] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!'” (Isaiah 6:3).
– “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).
– “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever” (Romans 11:36).
In considering the purpose of creation Millard J. Erickson observes that the inanimate creation glorifies God mechanically by obeying the natural laws that govern the physical world and that the animate creation glorifies Him instinctively by responding to inner impulses, but that humans (and angels) can glorify Him consciously and willingly and thus most fully (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013], pages 338-40). Let us do so!
The Quality of Creation
The Bible records that at the end of each stage of creation God saw that it was “good” and that at the end of the six days of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
And, despite there being sin in the world, Paul affirms that the material creation is still good and should be enjoyed and made use of by us, saying, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” Paul goes so far as to charge that those who forbade marriage and required abstinence from foods created by God were following “deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 1:1-5). At the same time, we should remember what Jesus told his disciples, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things [the material things that we need] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
In considering the quality of creation J. Rodman William urges, “The goodness of God in creation should again and again awaken us to joy and celebration….Let us speak forth our glad testimony!” (J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996], page 114)
God Transcendent over and Immanent in His Creation
The Bible teaches that God is distinct from His creation and yet that it depends on Him for its existence and functioning. Thus He can be described as transcendent (above) and immanent (within) with regard to it. His transcendence and immanence are affirmed by Paul in Ephesians 4:6, “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994), which my family and I are reading in our after-breakfast Bible reading time, compares the Bible’s teaching of God’s transcendence and immanence with some other views of the relationship between God and creation (pages 267-71). I’ll identify each of the views here, but I won’t try to duplicate Grudem’s descriptions of them or the diagrams with which he illustrates them.
Materialism says that the material universe is all that exists and that there is no God. Grudem claims that Christians who focus on money and possessions are practical materialists.
Pantheism says that everything, even evil, is God or a part of Him. Thus it denies that God has several of the attributes which the Bible shows Him as having. Grudem observes that most pantheistic systems, such as Buddhism and other eastern religions, end up denying the personal identity of human beings as well as of God.
Dualism says that both God and the material universe have existed eternally. Augustus Hopkins Strong identifies two forms of dualism: that which holds to the eternal existence of two distinct principles, God and matter, and that which holds to the eternal existence of two antagonistic spirits, one good (God) and the other evil (Augustus Hopkins Strong, Systematic Theology, Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 1967, pages 378-83). Among the problems with dualism is its indicating an eternal conflict between God and either the evil aspects of the material universe or the evil spirit with no assurance that God will ultimately triumph.
Deism says that God created the universe but isn’t involved in it or in the lives of human beings now. Gruden claims that many lukewarm or nominal Christians are practical deists.
Let us be thankful that our God is both over and within the universe which He created. To Him be glory and honour forever and ever!