Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (God the Father: Creation)

Divine Creation

Fiat Creationism

God’s creation is defined as his work by his Word and for his glory in creating the universe out of nothing so that its original condition was without spiritual or physical corruption. The purpose of this discussion is not to set forth apologetic arguments for creationism but to summarize the biblical doctrine of God’s work of creation and to set forth the fiat creationist model as the proper interpretation of the biblical creation narrative.

Divine Creation

The following features summarize the main biblical assertions regarding the divine creation of the universe.

THE BEGINNING OF THE UNIVERSE AND TIME

The universe had a beginning, and that beginning began with the first moment of time (Gen. 1:1; Matt. 19:4, 8; Mark 10:6; John 1:1–2; 17:5; Heb. 1:10). Since God created “in the beginning,” the beginning must also include time. God began to create in the first moment of time, the beginning of the first day (Gen. 1:5). Genesis 1:1 evidences that God exists outside time and that he is its Creator.

CREATION WAS RAPID AND OUT OF NOTHING

God created the universe in six literal twenty-four-hour days, and he created it by his Word ex nihilo (“out of nothing”) (Gen. 1:1; Pss. 33:6, 9; 148:5; Isa. 45:18; John 1:3; Acts 4:24; 14:15; 17:24–25; Rom. 4:17; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11; 10:6). God created the first physical energy and matter because none existed when he began his creation acts. God is the only cause of the beginning of the universe.

THE UNIVERSE IS DISTINCT FROM AND DEPENDENT ON GOD

The universe was created by God, is distinct from him, yet is dependent on him (Job 12:10; Pss. 104:30; 139:7–10; Isa. 42:5; Jer. 23:24; Acts 17:24–28; Eph. 4:6; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:3). God is greater than what he created.

THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED BY THE TRIUNE GOD

The God who created the universe is the triune God revealed in the Bible. God the Father initiated the divine work of creation and governed it (1 Cor. 8:6). In submission to the Father as his means, God the Son created the universe (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:10). And the Holy Spirit also participated in the divine work of creating the universe (Gen. 1:2; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; Isa. 40:12–13). This work was not distributed; rather, each person of the Trinity acted in concert with the other two persons. God the Father is seen as the source; God the Son is seen as the Mediator of the acts of creation; and the Holy Spirit is seen as the agent of these acts. Each person worked fully and in concert with one another in the creation acts.

GOD’S CREATION WAS A FREE ACT

God acted freely in creating (Eph. 1:11; Rev. 4:11). The creation is not necessary to the essence of God. Even the decree of God is not essential to God but is rather a necessary eternal product of God’s essence. The creation is dependent on the sovereign decree of God, so the creation is not in itself a necessity for God to be God. But creation is a necessary result of the integration of all that God is (his perfections/essence).

MAN WAS CREATED DIRECTLY, CLIMACTICALLY, AND SPECIALLY

God created Adam and Eve directly and specially as the climax of the divine work of creation (Gen. 2:7, 21–23). Adam was created first “of dust from the ground,” and then Eve was formed by God from one of his ribs. They were individual people and were created on the sixth and final day of creation, the culmination of God’s work of creation. God created man not from other beings over eons of time but from the ground on the literal sixth day of creation. God created man not from dead animals but directly from the dust of the ground in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). And when God formed Eve out of Adam, they were the first marriage partners and the pattern for all marriages (Gen. 2:24).

MAN WAS CREATED TO RULE THE EARTH

God created Adam and Eve and gave them a command to rule the earth (Gen. 1:27–31). They were God’s servants to govern the earth for him.

ALL CREATURES WERE TO REPRODUCE “ACCORDING TO THEIR KINDS”

God created each creature to produce “according to its kind” (Gen. 1:11, 12, 21, 24, 25). As a result, there would be inviolable boundaries in each kind’s genetic nature.

ALL THINGS WERE CREATED MATURE

God created all things mature, with the appearance of age. Living things were created ready to reproduce, including plant life (Gen. 1:12), animals (Gen. 1:20–25), and humans (Gen. 1:26–30). Adam and Eve were created ready to be given dominion over the world. Indeed, the entire universe was created with all systems in mature operation. For example, the stars were created with their light already reaching the earth (Gen. 1:14–19).

THE UNIVERSE WAS CREATED “VERY GOOD”

God created completely and perfectly; the universe was “very good” by his standard of perfection for creation (Gen. 1:31). At this point, there was no corruption or death. Evolution of the world is ruled out by this assertion since evolution requires decay and death.

CREATION WAS TO GLORIFY GOD

God created to manifest his glory (Isa. 43:7; 60:21; 61:3; Ezek. 36:21–22; 39:7; Luke 2:14; Rom. 9:17; 11:36; 1 Cor. 15:28; Eph. 1:5–6, 9, 12, 14; 3:9–10; Col. 1:16). God would not have purposed an ultimate end other than himself since he is superior to everything outside himself. Only having his own glory as his primary purpose would preserve God’s independence and sovereignty. Furthermore, no other ultimate purpose would encompass all things, and any lesser purpose would be subject to failure since creatures are finite.

Fiat Creationism

The explanation of creation that best fits the biblical doctrine of divine creation is fiat creationism, which contends that God created the universe by fiat (or decree). This view asserts and argues that God created everything in six literal twenty-four-hour days and that he created man as special and distinct from all other creatures in the image of God. That God created directly by his Word is explicitly stated in Scripture (Gen. 1:1–31; 2:7; Ex. 20:11; 31:17; Pss. 33:6; 148:1–6; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; 11:3; Rev. 4:11).

Essential components of fiat creationism include the following tenets:

       1.    Creation was complete and immediate by the fiat (decree) of the personal, omniscient, omnipotent designer in six literal days.

a.    The primary use of the Hebrew word yom (“day”) is of a literal twenty-four-hour day, used in this way over 1,900 times out of more than 2,200 Old Testament occurrences.

b.    The Hebrew word yom refers to a literal twenty-four-hour day when qualified by a cardinal or ordinal number, as in Genesis 1. There the ordinal numbers are also accompanied by the article, which means literal days are definitely in view.

c.    “Evening” and “morning” normally define a twenty-four-hour day.

d.    The order of creation’s six days followed by one day of rest is the basis for the Sabbath law (Ex. 20:8–11; 31:15–17).

       2.    Creation was intelligently purposeful. Everything was intentionally planned and created by God to achieve his specific goals.

       3.    Genesis 1:1 summarizes God’s acts of creation, while the remainder of the chapter rehearses the details. Genesis 1:1 asserts the entire creation process; 1:2 describes the first stage of creation as “without form and void”; and 1:3–31 unfolds God’s subsequent stages of fashioning the original creation.

       4.    Living organisms were created whole and in well-defined “kinds,” which have an inbred adaptability to environmental changes, an adaptability within themselves that does not transcend the bounds of the “kind.”

       5.    Man and woman were created by God as the climax of creation. They were created whole and separately from the rest of creation in the image of God to have dominion over the world (Gen. 1:26–30; 2:7, 18–25; Ps. 8:3–8; Matt. 19:4–5; Luke 3:38; Rom. 5:12–14; 1 Cor. 15:45–49; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:12–14; Jude 14). The human body was created from the dust of the ground, but the soul/spirit was created directly by God’s immediate act. Man has both material and immaterial aspects.

       6.    Creation was followed by processes of conservation.

       7.    The earth is relatively young—perhaps less than ten thousand years old.

       8.    There is a net decrease in complexity in the created order as time advances.

       9.    Geologic history is marked by postcreation global catastrophism. The Bible indicates a worldwide flood, which created atmospheric, topographical, and geological upheaval (Genesis 6–8). It involved waters in the sky descending in torrents, waters on and under the earth rising to cover the entire earth up to the height of the highest mountains now on earth, and a breaking apart of the land.

Divine Miracles

The Bible defines a miracle using various words that describe the “effect spectrum” of a miracle. Four different Hebrew words in the Old Testament reveal the various shades of a miracle:

       1.    Pele’ has the basic idea of “wonder” (Ex. 15:11; Ps. 77:11).

       2.    ’Ot indicates a “sign” that establishes a certainty that was not previously present (Ex. 4:8–9; Num. 14:22; Deut. 4:34).

       3.    Geburah means “strength” or “might” (Pss. 145:4, 11–12; 150:2).

       4.    Mophet basically means “wonder,” “sign,” or “portent.” It is used frequently in conjunction with ’ot, as in Deuteronomy 4:34; 6:22; Nehemiah 9:10.

The New Testament uses four Greek words that correspond exactly to the Old Testament Hebrew terms:

       1.    Teras (“wonder”) describes the miracle that startles or imposes. Its extraordinary character indicates the marvel or wonder that the miracle inspires. Teras does not occur alone in the New Testament but is always accompanied by semeion (“sign”). It forms the Greek counterpart to mophet and pele’ (see Deut. 4:34 in the Septuagint). Christ illustrates the usage in Acts 2:22, as do the apostles in Hebrews 2:4.

       2.    Semeion (“sign”) leads a person to something beyond the miracle. It is valuable not for what it is but rather for what it points to. It is the Greek counterpart of ’ot (see Num. 14:22 in the Septuagint).

       3.    Dynamis (“power” or “miracle”) pictures the power behind the act and points to a new and higher power. It corresponds to its Hebrew equivalent, geburah (see Ps. 144:4 in the Septuagint).

       4.    Ergon (“work”) is used by Jesus in the Gospels to describe distinctive works that no one else did (see John 15:24).

These various elements constitute a biblical miracle. By integrating each descriptive aspect, a miracle from God may be defined as follows:

an observable phenomenon delivered powerfully by God directly or through an authorized agent (dynamis), whose extraordinary character captures the immediate attention of the viewer (teras), points to something beyond the phenomenon (semeion), and is a distinctive work whose source can be attributed to no one else but God (ergon).

Boiled down to its core meaning, a miracle can be described as God suspending natural laws and personally reaching into life to rearrange people and their circumstances according to his will.

The outline below describes the various works of God. By using these definitions, some semantic confusion can be avoided.

        I.    God’s originating works of creation

       II.    God’s continuing works of providence

A.   Supernatural/miraculous/immediate

1.    Without human agency

2.    With human agency

B.    Natural/unmiraculous/mediate

1.    Explicable/known laws

2.    Inexplicable/unknown laws

All the above works involve God’s divine participation at some level. With regard to healing, for example, any physical recovery can be called divine healing, but not all healing can be termed miraculous.

Miracles, according to the biblical definition, preclude the necessity of secondary means and are not limited by the laws of nature. They involve God’s supernatural intervention. Jesus’s miracles were never limited; they were never doubted; they were performed in public; they were abundant and instant. Anything that would claim the title miracle today should also possess those qualities. Unfortunately, the contemporary church tends to trivialize the idea of miracles by labeling anything out of the ordinary as miraculous.

Also, miracles do not automatically produce spirituality in those who witness them. The Israelites, set free from Egyptian slavery by miracles, very quickly degenerated into idol worshipers (Exodus 32), even though the marvelous miracles of God were fresh in their minds. Elijah performed spectacular miracles from God, yet the believing remnant of Israel became so small (seven thousand people) that Elijah thought he was fighting the battle alone (1 Kings 19). After Jesus fed the five thousand and spoke of the miracle’s significance, many of his disciples withdrew and would no longer walk with him (John 6:66).

Just the opposite happens today. While first-century witnesses to Christ’s authentic miracles walked away from them and from him (John 9:13–22), twenty-first-century Christians seem to be curiously drawn to experiences that are not even worthy to be compared with Christ’s miracles.[1]


[1] MacArthur, J., & Mayhue, R., eds. (2017). Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (pp. 213–218). Crossway.