The Most Profound Truths
Posted by Lee Gatiss, 16 Feb 2018
Lee Gatiss unpacks the second line of the Apostles’ Creed, and what it means for us that God is the creator of heaven and earth. This is part of our Lent series: Believing, Living, Praying, in which we are looking at the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer.
Creator of Heaven and Earth
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it on the seas and established it on the waters.” — Psalm 24:1-2 (NIV)
The short phrase “creator of heaven and earth” takes no more than 3 seconds to say, but it contains the most profound truths about God, the universe, and us.
The Creator God
The God we believe in, the Father Almighty, is a creative being. Behind the beauty and order of the universe is a creator, not random chance. A careful and deliberate personal creator is responsible for everything, not impersonal and blind “forces of nature.”
This means that God is above and beyond the world. He is not our creation, but we are his. He is not the product of primitive human fantasies, as some claim; we are the fruit of his imagination.
There was a time when we did not exist, when nothing existed — except God. Then, there was a moment of genesis. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The Ordered Universe
“There are more things in heaven and earth”, Shakespeare’s Hamlet tells his friend Horatio, “than are dreamt of in your philosophy” (Hamlet, Act 1, scene 5). Horatio was having a hard time swallowing something his rational mind could not understand and his hands could not touch. The Creed also reminds us that there is more to the universe than just earth and whatever physics, maths, chemistry, and biology can describe. Our God is the creator of the heavens, as well as of the earth.
The word “heavens” refers in the Bible to the sky above where birds and aeroplanes fly, and to the great expanse where the sun, moon, and stars twinkle away to give us light and an indication of time and seasons (Genesis 1:14-15). Yet it can also refer to the place from which God speaks and acts, his dwelling place (1 Kings 8:30). It is the place where angels come from (Matthew 18:10). The Lord our God is the maker “of all things visible and invisible” (as the Nicene Creed puts it).
He made mountains, trees, seas, lakes, streams, animals, vegetables, and minerals. DNA, gravity, magnetism, and love were all his idea, along with colour, taste, texture, hot, cold, wet, and dry. It would take pages and pages to describe the huge variety of things with which our creator God has blessed the world. There are around 30,000 species of fish, and more than 60,000 types of tree in the world. Amazingly, there are over 300,000 varieties of beetle. All designed and intricately put together by a divine master craftsman. Yet we don’t know the half of it — how much is yet to be discovered in unseen realms of creation we could barely conceive of?
None of this is an accident. It is purposeful and intentional. When I look around, I see his handiwork everywhere. It is marred and broken in many ways, because sin has entered the world. But sparks of beauty and strength remain, and God’s fingerprints are everywhere. He made space, time, and matter — and since he made it, we know matter matters; God is not just interested in “spiritual” things, but in flesh and blood and bodies too.
We are his creatures
The fact that our God is the maker of heaven and earth leaves no space for any other God. He has no rival. There are no other gods with their own independent empires. It’s true that we humans are made in his image, but there is a very firm distinction between creatures and their creator. We are made in his image, not he in ours, and we belong — body and soul — to him.
As Psalm 24 says, everything and everyone belongs to God, for (because) he made them. Creation gives him a right of ownership over us. Our role is to be stewards of the gifts he has generously given us. The earth does not belong to us. So we must ultimately answer to him for how we treat his creation: how we look after it, what we do to develop it, and not least how we treat others in it who are made in his image.
Questions for reflection:
1. Which aspects of God’s handiwork in creation fill you most with awe and joy?
2. What difference does it make to believe in a personal, creator God rather than blind chance?
3. Why is it important to remember the distinction between us as creatures and God as creator?
Prayer: Lord our God, creator and possessor of heaven and earth, commander of angels and master of time and space: give us eyes to see the wonder and design of your ordered creation, that we may rejoice in your goodness and steward the earth with gladness as those who bear your image. In Jesus’s name we pray. Amen.
Revd Dr Lee Gatiss is the Director of Church Society
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