How does the real­i­ty of God as Trin­i­ty help us to under­stand cre­ation? The answer is twofold, for through the beau­ty of the Trin­i­ty we per­ceive both the utter­ly gra­tu­itous char­ac­ter of cre­ation and also the amaz­ing­ly per­son­al inten­tion that stands behind it. 

On the one hand, the gra­tu­itous char­ac­ter of cre­ation. On Chris­t­ian grounds, we can­not begin to think of the cre­at­ed world as sat­is­fy­ing some inter­nal need in God. The Holy Trin­i­ty has nev­er been lone­ly, has nev­er found itself lack­ing in com­pan­ion­ship. God did not cre­ate the uni­verse, angels, or human beings to fill a rela­tion­al vac­u­um in his own life, a divine felt need” of sorts. 

Instead, cre­ation is a fun­da­men­tal­ly con­tin­gent real­i­ty. Here’s what I mean. Cre­ation did not have to exist at all; it is sole­ly the result of God’s freely cho­sen act of uncon­di­tion­al, uncon­strained giv­ing. In this respect, it reflects the inter­per­son­al self-giv­ing of Father, Son, and Spir­it from all eter­ni­ty, but it is not essen­tial to it, as though the mutu­al love with­in the Trin­i­ty need­ed some­how to be supplemented. 

No, God’s deci­sion to cre­ate was utter­ly free, since deep­est self-giv­ing was already present in God’s own inner life to an infi­nite extent. Hence, cre­ation is strict­ly unnec­es­sary, a gra­cious gift from begin­ning to end. When the rich­ness of God’s own Trini­tar­i­an life fills our vision, we might almost for­get that cre­ation exists at all. God owes us noth­ing and needs noth­ing from us. Cer­tain­ly cre­ation can make no claim” of any kind what­so­ev­er on God, for his atten­tion, his inter­est, his love. 

On the oth­er hand, when the act of cre­ation takes place, it is none oth­er than the intense­ly per­son­al God who does the cre­at­ing. Though he has no need to cre­ate, still the act of cre­ation tru­ly does reflect the infi­nite, eter­nal love that God him­self is, a love whose very nature is to share, to give, to relate, to move toward the oth­er. The cre­at­ing God is this love, and this means not only that love is foun­da­tion­al to all cre­at­ed things but also that the act of cre­ation can­not be thought of mere­ly as a work of detached, inhos­pitable pro­duc­tion,” nor can the cre­at­ed world be thought of mere­ly as an objec­tive, exter­nal prod­uct.”

If rela­tion­al­ly rich, infi­nite­ly per­son­al love gra­cious­ly speaks the uni­verse into exis­tence and then joy­ous­ly main­tains its exis­tence, we will hard­ly be sur­prised if cre­ation is some­how intend­ed to share in that very same eter­nal com­mu­nion. The intense­ly per­son­al nature of God invites us to expect that the rela­tion­ship between God and cre­ation will nev­er be mere­ly a sta­t­ic busi­ness of mak­er and made, source and prod­uct. It will instead involve real per­son­al engage­ment, real mutu­al­i­ty, real self-giv­ing, real inter­per­son­al knowl­edge and exchange. 

Scrip­ture con­firms this expec­ta­tion. When we come to the open­ing chap­ters of Gen­e­sis, we find in the sequen­tial days of cre­ation just what we might have antic­i­pat­ed, that is, a steady move­ment of increas­ing diver­si­ty and com­plex­i­ty both in the crea­tures them­selves and in their rela­tion­ships. The sto­ry cul­mi­nates in the appear­ance on the sixth day of a remark­able crea­ture that is dif­fer­ent from all the oth­ers and that com­pletes all the oth­ers. With the appear­ance of the man and the woman, the whole nar­ra­tive is drawn to a very inten­tion­al, because deeply per­son­al, climax. 

We know that this cli­max is inten­tion­al because the text of Gen­e­sis 1 goes out of its way to make the point. We find no few­er than five sig­nif­i­cant indi­ca­tions that some­thing unprece­dent­ed is tak­ing place with the cre­ation of the human pair on the sixth day.

  1. There is a lin­guis­tic change, from lan­guage of God’s sov­er­eign fiat (“Let there be … ‚” etc.) in vers­es 3, 6, 9, and so on, to lan­guage of ten­der fash­ion­ing (“Let us make …) in verse 26.
  2. There is a styl­is­tic change – very sig­nif­i­cant in ancient cul­tures – from prose to poet­ry in verse 27.
  3. There is a change in the nature of the cre­at­ed thing in verse 26, as God decides to make this last crea­ture, and this crea­ture alone, in his very own image — a point to which we’ll return next week.
  4. There is a rela­tion­al change in vers­es 26 and 28, as God bestows upon the man and the woman an author­i­ta­tive domin­ion over every oth­er creature.
  5. Final­ly, there is a change in God’s eval­u­a­tion of the whole of cre­ation, advanc­ing from good” in vers­es 4, 10, 12, and so on, to very good” in verse 31.

Each of these fea­tures of the nar­ra­tive pro­vides an unmis­tak­able hint that with the intro­duc­tion of this last, best, unique crea­ture, the work of cre­ation is com­plet­ed, and the cre­at­ed world is now pre­pared to be all that its intense­ly per­son­al Cre­ator intends. 

This series has been adapt­ed from Steven D. Boy­er and Chris Hall’s The Mys­tery of God: The­ol­o­gy for Know­ing the Unknow­able. Hun­gry for more? Please vis­it Bak­er Aca­d­e­m­ic for more information.

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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