Monday, May 16, 2011

Is Creation Fallen?

Last Sunday my worship experience was heightened by the offertory vocal This Is My Father’s World. Consider the following exultant phrases referring to the creation, especially during this month of May as the countryside springs to verdant life: All nature sings…I rest me in the thought of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—His hand the wonders wrought…The birds their carols raise…The morning light, the lily white declare their Maker’s praise…This Is My Father’s World…He shines in all that’s fair…In the rustling grass I hear Him pass…He speaks to me everywhere. Fundamental truths about how the creation speaks of the glory of the Creator are not overshadowed by the poetic talents of the lyricist.

At home after the service I reviewed the texts of a long list of titles in the hymnal’s topical index under the heading “God—Creator and Creation.” My hymnal supplies a supporting scripture passage with each of its 818 hymns. Titles such as All Creatures of Our God and King (verses 1-3), Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee (verse 2), and Let All Things Now Living (verse 2) are linked with scriptures such as Psalms 8, 19, 24, 104, 148, and Romans 1:20. John Calvin called the physical creation “the theater of God’s glory.” Psalm 139 speaks of deep truths concerning the genetic completeness of the unborn. This insight is prescient--thousands of years ahead of its time. Bio-scientists have discovered the complex secrets of genetic inheritance only in the last 50 years.

Who would not revel in this physical creation as a manifestation of God’s glory? Yet, some theologians see this creation in a very different light. One well-known evangelical minister has written “Because of sin, no part of creation now exists as God originally made it…It was spoiled…subject to God’s curse instead of His blessing.” Many evangelical theologians see creation as spoiled by sin. I must respectfully disagree. There is no scripture clearly instructing us to that effect. The human race is spoiled by sin. At least one Bible commentary claims the Romans 8:19-22 “groaning and birth pains” refers to the Jewish expectation of Messiah’s arrival as deliverer, not to a creation groaning under sin. More generally, all believers anticipate the ultimate redemption of our bodies and souls. This will occur in the New Creation described in Revelation 21-22. We will be delivered from the First Creation existing today into the future New Creation now being prepared (John 14:2).

Had the characteristics of the First Creation fundamentally changed when man initially sinned, a large array of physical changes would have occurred. This would have amounted to additional divine creation events. Genesis 2:1 states that God rested from his works of creation after heaven and earth and man were formed. In the “altered by sin” scenario, herbivorous animals would have become carnivorous animals. Molecular genetics would have been altered. Predatory behavior would have appeared for the first time. Laws governing plate tectonics and laws governing meteorological events would have changed. Earthquakes, tornadoes, and floods would have occurred for the first time, bringing potential or real death. Looking back at the long geological history of Planet Earth, such events had occurred for millions of years.

The fine tuning of our cosmos provides us with the ordered system in which we now exist. Creation brings glory to The Creator, giving us cause to worship Him. It is not a fallen creation, but this creation is inhabited by fallen man. Misguided stewardship of this creation results in human discomfort and death. We may take comfort that the future New Creation will be superior to the present creation. The New Creation will be free of discomfort and death.