Creation preaches Christ — Creation cannot save

This is in response to Orange Mailman’s question on my last post:

Creation preaches Christ.  Creation cannot save.  I definitely want to uphold both things.  And Romans 10 is a great place to highlight both. 

Verse 14: How can they hear without someone preaching? 

Verse 17-18: Psalm 19’s Word of Christ goes out to the ends of the earth.

Perhaps we have trouble putting those two truths together because we tend to think like this:

  • We don’t ‘hear’ creation speaking about Jesus
  • When our fallen (and very western) minds assess creation we just ‘hear’ some kind of unitarian revelation of a creator god.
  • Therefore we conclude that this is the sum total of what creation is actually saying. 
  • Then the Christians among us conclude: “Ah yes, so that’s why creation doesn’t save. It doesn’t proclaim Christ.”
  • Then we say, “So that’s why we need special revelation.  Special revelation fills out the general revelation (which is silent about Christ) and adds to it extra information about Jesus. 
  • Ergo – That’s the fundamental difference between general and special revelation – a difference of content.  General revelation is sub-Christian.  Special revelation is Christian.

But, as my last post was arguing, this is not how we should think.  The bible does not say that the sermon of creation is a minimal thing.  No, no, no.  It is an immensely wide, long, high and deep revelation of the Logos of God, the Logos of this world – the LORD Jesus.

If we don’t see that, then it just shows how blind we really are.  In thinking these things through again yesterday it struck me just how estranged this world really is from the life of God, and yet how intimately related!  How completely insane it is that we are not living in the direct personal presence of Christ our LORD!  Once we were.  One day again we will be.  But how far have we fallen!!?  In Him all things hold together.  And yet…  how ignorant the unbeliever is, and how forgetful is the Christian most times.  He is the true Light that enlightens every man and yet we live in the midst of such darkness.

All of this is to say that the fall is HUGE!   MASSIVE!  Beyond our reckoning.  If I don’t hear Jesus proclaimed in the creation my first reaction should be: “What a wretched person I am!  How blind to the Light of the world!”  What I should not do is conclude: “Creation is an indistinct and minimal word.”  The bible never says that.  It says the very opposite.

If you asked the Hindu what creation is saying, they’ll hear many gods.  If you ask the atheist what creation is saying, they’ll hear nothing ‘spiritual’.   And let’s be honest, the only reason we think ‘general revelation’ speaks of some single creator deity is that we’re conditioned by centuries of western philosophy, not to mention centuries of western theology that thinks of the one creator God separately from the triune God revealed in Jesus.

So really this is a plea to take the fall seriously.  And to say that only the proclamation of the church will pierce deaf ears and remove the scales from blind eyes.  Not because of a different content but because of a different mode.

Not sure if this illustration is helpful but perhaps we are a bit like Mary in the garden of the resurrection.  There is the risen Christ.  THE RISEN CHRIST!!!  It’s not like she doesn’t have all the information she needs.   It’s not like she’s only been presented with a minimal, indistinct word!  There is the very Glory of God shining at full strength.  And she thinks He’s the gardener!!  But then she hears Him speak her name and suddenly what has been true all along comes home with living power.  That’s a bit like the revelation of creation and the revelation through human proclamation.  Both are saying the same things, but only one awakens faith.

As for why creation doesn’t save, I remember asking Richard Bewes that question (former Rector of All Souls Church, Langham Place).  He thought for a second and said “God’s not enlisting individuals, He’s building a family.”  It’s people-on-people contact that grows the church to bless the world.  I think that’s the best answer I’ve heard to that question.

Feel free to come back to me on this stuff…

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Posted on by Glen in creation, revelation, sin, theological method

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Creation preaches Christ — Creation cannot save

  1. Dave K

    Loving it all. Love the previous post and particularly love the Richard Bewes quote in this one.

    I keep on feeling like I should have something to say, but I’m just letting it all sink in.

  2. Tim Cairns

    If you have itunes you should go to the itunes store and get the free download of Tim Keller and Edmund Clowney at Reformed theological seminary – their course is entitled preaching christ in the postmodern world. i havent listened to it yet – but I just heard about it today and if it lives up to the recommendation it will be great!

    They have a section on preaching the OT – basically I have been told that their view is – if you do not preach Christ in every text of the OT then you are preaching about yourself. I thought of you when I was told about it!

  3. The Orange Mailman

    Hey Glenn-

    Thanks for the response. I believe the issue runs, well, maybe “deeper” isn’t quite the right word. Let me ask a question first. Why didn’t the Israelites do missionary work in the OT like Paul and Barnabas did? Once you think about the implications of that, then perhaps we can wrestle with the entire text.

    Paul is in the midst of preaching about evangelizing the nation of Israel. (I’m just going to preach my view, brother, I hope that’s alright.) The Word is close to them, even in their hearts, Romans 10:8, quoting Moses’ words to the nation of Israel to prove it, Deut. 30:14. So the Word of Christ has been close to them all along, at least since the giving of the Palestinian Covenant, and even Mosaic Covenant since that’s what the Palestinian Covenant is based on.

    That very word which was preached back then is what Paul is proclaiming today. Confess, believe, call on His name and you will be saved. BUT, how can they call on someone they have never heard of? Then Paul quotes another OT passage to show that evangelists must be sent out, Isaiah 52:7. That context is the repentance of the nation of Israel, 51:1-6 for starters and then 52:1-3 to transition into Israel’s future salvation. 52:6, my people will know my name and how beautiful are the feet of them that bring these good tidings, or the gospel message, which message is that Israel’s God reigns.

    Isaiah himself is proclaiming the message making him an evangelist. But they did not all obey what Isaiah was preaching, Romans 10:16, quoting from 53:1 from the very same OT context. Now the context in Isaiah has slightly shifted to the suffering servant. Yet it is still the same gospel message that Israel’s God reigns. Isaiah preached it, but they didn’t believe it. So the conclusion is that faith can only come when they hear the message, which they have been hearing all along. When they hear, then they have the opportunity to believe or disbelieve, and the Israelites have been disbelieving for the most part.

    But I say, Have they not heard? Or perhaps better put, if no one preaches, haven’t they heard? That seems to be the context that Paul is operating under when he asks the seemingly rhetorical question in Romans 10:18. So when Paul quotes Psalm 19:4 which shows that creation is speaking a language which points to the Creator, it is justification that they (those who have never had an evangelist come to town) have already heard the voice of the evangelists proclaiming the gospel message by the voice of creation.

    Further, Paul pushes the point with the nation of Israel, sort of like the knife turning in their backs as he rats out on their rejection of God even before they rejected Messiah. Didn’t Israel know? They had all the facts before them. Moses said that a nation that isn’t really a nation would provoke them to jealousy. Isaiah foretold that “other” people that hadn’t looked for Israel’s God would find Israel’s God. Yet all the while God is stretching out His arms to a nation that refuses to be embraced, yet God does not cast them away, Romans 11:1-2. He has still preserved an Israelite remnant, Romans 11:3-5.

    So why didn’t the Israelites in the OT do missionary work to the Gentile nations? It seems more like the godless heathen were busy converting the Israelites to their gods all throughout the law and prophets. But now with the establishment of the New Covenant in Messiah’s blood and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message is being carried throughout the entire world. Yet Paul would say that this is the same gospel message that creation has been preaching.

    In Psalm 96 and 98, the seas roar, the trees rejoice, and the floods clap their hands, why? Because the LORD (Jesus) comes to judge the earth. Creation will have a righteous judge ruling over it.

    As far as Western thought, how would you view Psalm 104? Here David is examining creation, in very fine detail, and realizing that the God of Israel has uniquely designed each aspect of it. Then in 104:24 he exclaims how manifold are His works, in wisdom making them all. Is this the mindset of the average Westerner?

    My view is that while creation speaks the language of testifying that it is currently fallen and in need of a Redeemer, and that the Creator is that only Redeemer; that the spoken word specifically reveals Jesus of Nazareth as that Creator begotten as Redeemer, the Messiah of Israel. The spoken word is simply a progressive stage which God had planned all along. It existed with Moses and the prophets, yet God has brought it to fruition during the time of the salvation of the Gentiles in order to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy.

    I see you as taking special revelation and applying it to the current evangelization methods and general revelation and applying it to creation. If Romans 1-3 is a good model, there is more to it than just that. General revelation can be in the conscience and through creation, both complimenting each other. Specific revelation can be through the law (i.e. thou shalt not…) but only compliments the conscience which has not yet turned from the knowledge of God, and compliments the language of creation. The New Covenant is simply the fulfillment of the Covenant Plan of God as outlined in the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. So the current proclamation of the gospel is the same as His covenant (Psalm 105:8) which He commands to a thousand generations.

    I suppose I’ve rambled enough.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  4. Dev

    what a brilliant quote from Bewes!

  5. glenscriv

    Dave and Dev – Bewes is the man!

    Tim – I have dipped into those lectures, thanks. Very good. My favourite quote so far = something like “If you take seriously the way the NT handles the OT you have to conclude that there are 150 Messianic Psalms.”

    Love it!

  6. glenscriv

    Hi Orange,

    Thanks for that response. It’s great to draw out those links between Romans and Deuteronomy and Isaiah. A rich feast of Scripture, thankyou.

    We could probably have some interesting discussions about the covenants etc. But let me just ask whether you think creation proclaims the same gospel that Paul does or is Colossians 1:23 hyperbole?

  7. The Orange Mailman

    Hey Glenn-

    Same gospel. Same good news. If creation is moaning and groaning from the curse of sin in anticipation of redemption, and that redemption comes through Messiah, and we are redeemed by Messiah, then it is the same good news. That’s what Paul was talking about just two chapters previous to Romans 10. I believe Paul has not shifted topics too dramatically. He’s still focusing on the same basic subject, just from another angle, that of his burden for the nation of Israel and their place in all of this.

    Since I don’t view Mark 16:15 as hyperbole, I wouldn’t view Colossians 1:23 as anything but the plain fact. I believe that’s what the psalms were talking when they refer to creation rejoicing because the LORD (Jesus) is coming to judge the earth. That’s why I’ve been doing a series subtitled Back to the Beginning. Genesis 1-4 is the foundation for all Paul’s theology about sin, righteousness, and justification. You can’t have a last Adam without a first Adam.

    Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  8. glenscriv

    Thanks Orange.
    Then I think we’re in agreement about the main thing I’m wanting to say: Creation proclaims *Christ* specifically and not just some intelligent Designer.

    I’ll have to check out your Genesis series. Sounds good.

    Glen

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