I've begun to explore how the three truths of 321 interact with the four planks of other gospel presentations (creation, fall, cross, repentance). Those gospel events are vital. But the three truths of Trinity, Adam and Christ and union with Christ are essential if we're to understand the four events rightly.
Today we'll think about 321 and creation....
"God made you, therefore..."
How do you want to finish that sentence?
There are many implications of God's creative work. But so quickly we want to speak about what it means for us. And even when we consider what it means for God we cite implications like: God owns everything, He has certain rights, He's the legitimate ruler of the universe and of you. Essentially we think Creator means Creditor or Creator means King - in fact it can be hard for us to think in any terms beyond this. "God made you, therefore you owe him" is a pretty common way of unpacking the implications of creation. And when it comes as the first point in an evangelistic presentation, it introduces God to us in profoundly unhelpful terms.
When Athanasius was battling Arius, he identified a grievous error in the heretic's method: Arius named God from his works and called him "Uncreated". He should have begun by naming God from his Son and calling him "Father." (Contra Arianos 1.34) If the first thing we know about God is that he is Maker, we'll start our gospel on the wrong foot.
For one thing, God defined as Creator becomes quite a needy deity. He's like the workaholic who doesn't know who he is unless he's at the office. God defined as Creator needs to work. He requires a world in order to fulfil himself. And then creation is not so much a gift of his love as a project for his own self-interested purposes. Instantly the God-world dynamic revolves around God's needs and we are the ones to fulfil him.
Nicene faith, on the other hand, begins "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." Father comes first. Which means, before anything else, God is a Life-giver. Because of the truth of 3, He has lived in love long before He has lived in labours. He does not achieve His divine identity by creating, instead creation expresses His eternal fruitfulness. He has no need of galaxies, mountain ranges, rainforests and us. We do not fulfil Him, He fulfils us. We do not give to Him, He gives to us.
Therefore when the Christian says "God made you, therefore..." - how should we finish that sentence? There are a hundred things we could say, but perhaps one of the first is, "God is Giver." "God is generous." "God is immeasurably expansive in His love." Whatever we say we need to avoid simply equating Creator with Creditor. The whole direction of the gospel presentation will depend on this set-up. Are we introducing God primarily as one who takes (because He's earned the right by making us) or as one who gives (because He's shown His life-giving character through creation)?
I hope you'll see that 3 is a vital truth to surround the teaching of creation.
But 2 and 1 are important too. Because what connection is there between God, the world and you? Why does creation matter if, essentially, the gospel is God's plan to save souls? What relationship is there between the fall of humanity and the physical world? What's the link between Christ's resurrection and the regeneration of all things? And what does God actually want with the world?
If the gospel's not about creation giving to God, then how does God's giving nature express itself in creation. Well He gives us our lives so He can give us His life. He gives in order to give. He creates a world through His Son and by His Spirit, so that He can enter that world through His Son and by His Spirit. Again the direction of travel is vital. God doesn't create a world below so that we can learn to make our way back up. He pours out His love in creation so He can pour out Himself in incarnation. Creation is intended to receive its Lord so that He commits His future to us as a Bridegroom commits himself to a bride.
Creation is not simply a truth to be affirmed and then forgotten while we deal with the spiritual problems of sin and redemption. Instead creation is the first stage in a unified movement of God, the goal of which is the summing up of all things under the feet of the incarnate Son (Ephesians 1:10)
Therefore the truths of 2 (Adam and Christ) and 1 (union with Christ) are vital - not just for the understanding of redemption. They earth redemption's story in creation. The world, summed up by our Representative Man, is the place where salvation happens. In this Man, on that cross, in our humanity God has worked. And in this flesh, on this earth, with these eyes I will see my Redeemer (Job 19:25-27).
...More to follow...