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Creation is a foundational truth

Irenaeus: the prophets and apostles regarded creation as foundational

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en.wikipedia.orgIrenaeus
Irenaus, in Church of St Irenaeus, Lyon.

Irenaeus (c. 130–202 AD), a significant leader in the early Christian Church, wrote Against Heresies to counter wrong ideas in his time. Regarding the authors of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), Irenaeus states that,

These [the authors of the Gospels] have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God. If any one do [sic] not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics. (Against Heresies III.1.21).

Irenaeus includes agreement with the truth of God as Creator among the fundamental truths which must be believed lest a person despise Christ and the Father and stand condemned as a heretic.

Sadly, in the Church today there are those who do not view the doctrine of creation to be a foundational truth. They assert that the doctrine of creation is of secondary importance. Many would assert that it doesn’t really matter what we believe about how or when God created so long as we have repented of our sins and believed in Jesus as our Saviour.

At CMI, we state that, “The doctrines of Creator and Creation cannot ultimately be divorced from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (See, What we believe). We hold to this position because we believe that this is what God, through the prophets and apostles, teaches in the Bible. The prophets and apostles did not regard the doctrine of creation to be a side issue or of secondary importance.

The opening words of the Bible state,

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. (Genesis 1:1–3)

There is much that we can learn from these verses. However, we note only:

  1. God does not defend or prove his existence. He assumes it and declares it because all people know about his existence, although they might suppress this truth (Romans 1:19–20).
  2. He provides us with information about his attributes such as his existence outside of time and that he is non-material.
  3. He indicates that he is the Creator of everything (“God created the heavens and the earth”).
  4. He demonstrates that he is a powerful communicator (“And God said”).

Thus, the opening verses of God’s revelation about himself to mankind begin with a statement that he is the Creator before he reveals additional truths about himself. The first thing God wants us to know is that he is the Creator.

When God delivered the Ten Commandments to Moses, he stated,

For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:11).

God based the cycle of our week on what he had done during the creation week (see, The Seven-Day Week). The expression used in this commandment, “made heaven and earth”, is used a total of ten times in the OT.2

Hiram (a non-Jew) used the expression to thank God for giving Israel a wise king—Solomon (2 Chronicles 2:12), and Hezekiah used it in his prayer when the Assyrian army surrounded Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:15). The psalmists use the expression five times as they praise God.

Job and his supposed comforters engaged in a lengthy debate about topics such as the origin of evil and the cause of human suffering. They were unable to settle the debate and God intervened, in a whirlwind, and challenged Job,

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. (Job 38:4).

This challenge is not given, as some suggest, to warn Job not to question God in any way, but to direct Job to consider the truth that God’s providential governance of the universe is always just, because he is the Creator.

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both declare God to be the Creator, in contrast to the worthless gods of the surrounding pagan nations.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. (Isaiah 40:28).

Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:11–12).

These messages were given to ancient Judah to encourage them when facing threats from foreign armies. Likewise, they should encourage us. The maker of heaven and earth continues to control the nations of this earth.

Jesus regarded the OT to be presenting history and used the Genesis account in his teaching. In Matthew 19:4–5, he refers to the creation of Adam and Eve “at the beginning” (not ~13.8 billion years after the beginning).

The Apostle Paul, when presenting Jesus to the educated Athenians at the Areopagus, began his message to them with the statement that there is one true God who “made the world and everything in it”. He used the truth that God is the Creator who “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” and that all mankind is descended from one man [Adam], to begin his message about Jesus Christ. It was only after he had presented God as the Creator that he called on the Athenians to repent of their sins “because he [God] has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man [Jesus] whom he has appointed” and then speaks about the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 17:22–34). Creation was not a peripheral or secondary doctrine for Paul when he presented the Gospel to the polytheistic Greeks. It was the foundational truth for his evangelistic approach among the intellectual elite of his day.

The writer of Hebrews begins his consideration of those who exercised faith by reminding his readers that the foundation for a true faith is belief that God created the universe.

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

We should observe that in this statement, the writer indicates that each class of created entity was a unique creation that did not appear because of long ages of cosmological or biological evolution from more primitive entities.

In the last book in the Bible, John relates his visions. In one vision in which he had a glimpse of heaven, he hears the audience around God’s throne declare,

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).

Clearly, the residents of heaven view the fact that God is the Creator to be an important consideration in his being worthy of worship.

Later, John reports seeing an angel who swore by the God who created the heaven and earth.

And the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised his right hand to heaven and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it, that there would be no more delay. (Revelation 10:5–6).

These words of the angel indicate that God, the Creator, will wrap up history.

So, from beginning to end, and in many places in between, the authors of the Bible demonstrate that the doctrine of creation is a fundamental truth that serves as a foundation for their belief in the majesty of God, his right to control the nations, and his worthiness to be worshiped.

As Irenaeus indicated, the human authors of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, “all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth.” With the prophets and apostles, and Jesus himself, we need to receive Genesis 1 as an historical narrative in which God tells us what he did in the first six natural days of this created realm, about 6,000 years ago. We need to accept the creation account as a foundational truth to guide our understanding of the rest of the Bible and for presenting the Gospel.

Published: 26 July 2022

References and notes

  1. Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Irenaeus against Heresies. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (Vol. 1, pp. 414–415). Christian Literature Company. Return to text.
  2. Exodus 20:11; 31:17; 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chronicles 2:12; Psalm 115:15; 121:2; 124:8; 134:3; 146:6; Isaiah 37:16. Return to text.

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