Creator Creature Distinction
Christianity is unique in that it has what is known as the Creator/Creature distinction. The Bible informs us that there are only two world religions - Christianity and all the others that worship some form of the creation or nature. The worship of nature is known as monism or pantheism. The Apostle Paul in Romans 1 teaches us that when people turn from worshiping the one true God they will then worship some facet of nature. Often that worship takes the form of a man, a state or other idols resembling some facet of nature, such as Hinduism, which has millions of gods found within nature.
God is described in the Bible as having created the world and everything in it. He is totally set apart from that which he has made. Other world religions consider the creation to be divine. And since these people are found within this creation then they too are also divine. They believe that we all have a piece or spark of divinity within each of us which gives us life and consciousness. Once we die, we return back to the divine energy source from which we came. Still other religions see this life force being recycled through reincarnation by which we continue to live new lives through time.
Romans 1 describes how God has created us in such a way that we all know there is a creator God. We can look at the creation God has made and actually know that there is a God that made all of it. On that knowledge God will hold us all accountable for what we do with that knowledge. We will all have to choose whether we will seek out and follow the God of creation or whether we will seek to follow our own way. What ever we choose God will hold us accountable for that choice. Choose wisely!
God’s Wrath Against Sinful Humanity (Romans 1)
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Christianity differs from all the other world religion in that God is separate from his creation known as the universe. As such, he has the right to set the laws for how things will operate within that universe. People are created in such a way that they know intuitively that God exists from what they observe in the created order. And based on that knowledge God will hold them accountable for how they live their lives in this world.
The knowledge about God as the Creator distinct from his creation is very important when working with people involved in world religions. We can get a general understanding how their belief system works when we fit it into a grid that compares their religion with Christianity.
The following article reveals how this relationship functions.
“The self-attesting Christ of Scripture has always been my starting point for everything I have said.” (Cornelius Van Til, Jerusalem and Athens)
I’ve thought for a long time that many of the theological disputes about Scripture stem from misunderstandings that occur because God’s eternal truths are being revealed in the space-time of our existence. Some things that are true about God and his creation cannot be made fully comprehensible to creatures who exist in space-time because God and his eternal truth are outside of time and space. Even here the words I have to use are inadequate, because into, outside and before all refer to space-time conditions. How can we conceptualize something existing outside of the universe we live in?
The distinction between God as the Creator and everything else (the creation; the heavens and earth) is a fundamental Christian belief. Starting with an acknowledgement of this distinction is essential for clear thinking about God, Scripture and theology. While I assume that most if not all Christians would agree in principle with what I’ve said here about the Creator-creation distinction, they can come up with radically different ideas about what God revealed in creation and said in Scripture, let alone how that revelation should be applied to our lives.
An analogy would be a photograph of a large three-dimensional object like the Cathedral of Learning in a two-dimensional world. It could really be a photo of the Cathedral, but it would not capture the grandeur of seeing the structure with your own eyes in three dimensions. But you couldn’t ever do that, because you exist in two dimensions. For creatures who live and move and have their being within two-dimensions, the photos of the three-dimensional Cathedral of Learning would at times seem contradictory and at odds with one another.
Even the photo thought to be the clearest representation of the Cathedral of Learning, would have inherent limitations. You can’t completely capture a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional photo. You can’t comprehensively portray a three-dimensional object in a two-dimensional world.
Nevertheless, we could still say that each of the different pictures was really a picture of the Cathedral. But that would require a starting point that existed in three dimensions—like a photographer—to take the pictures. And we would need to trust that photographer to communicate to us honestly and truly in two dimensions what actually existed in three dimensions. In Christian theology, the God of Scripture is that starting point.
There is a necessary distinction between God and creation, meaning the entire universe. We exist within that created order, where God has embedded truth about Himself within the very fabric of creation. So whether we study the irreducible complexity of biochemical systems within the human body or the incredible fine-tuning of the universe for human life, we see the evidence of His hand in the design and functioning of the cosmos. In Him we live and move and have our being.
But this evidence in creation is open to some interpretation. The fine-tuning of the universe can lead you to the conclusion of a Designer and God. Or it could lead you to hypothesize the existence of multiple universes, where the probability of one “just right” for life and devoid of the benign hand of a Designer is more statistically probable. The first concludes there is a God. The second finds Him unnecessary.
We were given specific, direct communication about God and His eternal truths in the Word of God—the Word written and the Word revealed in Jesus Christ. Both the written Word and the embodied Word possess a duality of being in the sense that they simultaneously exist within and outside created space-time. There is even more potential here for misunderstanding—partly because of the entrance of eternal truth of the Word into space-time. Apply the above Cathedral of Learning analogy here. So another fundamental Christian belief is that God reveals Himself to us in creation and communicates to us through his Word; and we can trust these revelations.
If the general revelation of God in creation is denied or distorted, then we lose the ability to truly comprehend the glory and majesty of its Creator. When we misconceive the entrance of the divine Word (written or revealed in Christ) into creation, we lose the ability to commune with our Creator. If God existed without our ability to know Him in these two ways, then He truly would be unnecessary.
Another issue that contributes to the misinterpretation of Scripture is that we don’t want to be beholden to special revelation from God in order to understand anything—ourselves, creation and even God or His eternal truths. The story of the Fall in Genesis indicates how humanity wanted to be like God, knowing good from evil. So here is a third fundamental Christian belief—the rebellion of humanity. But that is a topic for another time.
Posted in Thinking God's Thoughts | Tagged Cornelius Van Til, Creator-creature distinction, space-time