God as Creator

Our mission is to the world. So do we do the world any service by talking of God as creator?

Such a picture of God may have made sense 2,000 years ago, but it doesn’t today. Back then the earth was seen as the centre of a quite recent creation, with God the creator dwelling somewhere in what was called heaven, which was located above a flat earth. God occasionally visited the earth, sent heavenly messengers or spoke through human prophets.

Now we know that the earth is but a speck in an infinite space, and is one of billions of planets revolving around suns that appear to us as stars. Some are dying and some still evolving. The cosmos, as we currently understand it, has taken close to 14 billion years to evolve, and our earth approximately 4.5 billion years. There are more species now extinct than there are in existence.New Zealand separated from Gondwanaland over 80 million years ago. The earth’s surfaces are full of cracks and layers and plates that cause movement and change.

Our children and grandchildren know about dinosaurs, and the 3,000 different species of lice that feed on human and animal life, each one adapted to its host habitat. Do we say God created each of those species of lice for our and animals’ irritation? Our individual existence depends on chance – one of millions of sperm penetrating one of hundreds of eggs, and all different.

So what does it mean to say that we, and everything that exists, are created by God. Did God pre-exist the Big Bang and plan it all out? Or is God some sort of intelligent design forcing evolution to take place in a particular way? Or is God quite different? Can we articulate that difference in a relevant way? Maybe “God as creator” is a metaphor, but if so a metaphor for what?

Today we recognise and affirm the creative activity of humanity. Perhaps this creativity is an aspect of the divine within us. If so, we might say that divine creativity and human creativity are one and the same thing.

I believe our imagery of God needs to change if it is to be relevant to changing generations.

Russell Feist

11 thoughts on “God as Creator

  1. Oh my. It makes more sense to me to speak of creation as the result of God’s purposeful action than it does to speak of creation as an accident, or to try to ignore the issue of first cause altogether. Perhaps the creation story is a parable for what really took place, but we cannot dispense with the essential truth of the story, that the creation is the result of God’s purpose, and none other.

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  2. Reblogged this on karellorier and commented:
    Thanks Russell for raising this important question. If divine and human creativity are the same thing as you suggest does this mean the idea of God is a product of human imagination and creativity, as Gordon Kaufmann and others explore? In this way humankind explains the mystery of all that exists including human consciousness and imagination. This in no way belittles God because God is at the heart of the mystery of why anything exists at all. However,it places an enormous responsibility on humankind and the theologians among us so that the God we create is worthy of the name and that everything else is relative to God, as Anselm states, “God is that than which nothing greater can be conceived.” For us, as Christians, we have the tradition that God is just, merciful and loving as we have seen preeminently in Jesus.

    I think the biblical authors created God, unaware of what they were doing. We can see the evidence for this in the Hebrew Bible as God evolves from a family God, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, to a tribal God (God orders genocide) to the God of justice, righteousness and peace and of the nations. I agree that imagery of God needs to change if it is to have any meaning to the current generations. The idea of God needs to evolve as humankind discovers more about everything, including ourselves, our creativity, imagination and the construction of meaning in our lives.

    This idea is not as alien as it may appear. Listening to people talk about God, when they feel free to do so without criticism, it becomes clear that they had constructed their idea of God as a mental image from the words of the Bible, hymns, songs they sing and sermons they have heard, discussions and so forth. They add this to their experience of life. We need up to date images that have meaning and make sense to current generations from which they can construct their God.

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    • I agree. The challenge is to find imagery that makes sense within our current state of knowlege and at the same time to honour the Biblical traditions that have brought us to the present.
      To affirm human creativity is to acknowledge human responsibility for all we encompass within the meaning of creation. Some might say God will take care of it all. I believe God places the responsibility firmly on us.
      To reject some traditional imagery is not to reject the experience of mystery and awe in nature and in all forms of life. These plus an awareness of morality distinguish humans from other species.
      Yes, Jesus is the template.

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  3. Hello Russell
    Your outline of our current understanding of the world and its universe is documented extensively by physics and cosmology and you ask (a) is “God as Creator” a metaphor and (b) a metaphor for what? Using the dictionary as a guide we would have to say that “God as Creator’ is a metaphor . Right at the beginning of our Scriptural tradition the Tanack explodes with the words “God spoke” and in speaking the world took shape geologically with habitats of flesh and blood on land and in water . . A prescriptive metaphor emphasised emphatically and poetically in the Psalms . It’s a metaphor so entrenched in our social and cultural awareness that it has immense power and persuasion ; power and persuasion re-imaged in the Gospel of John : “In the beginning etc..It’s a metaphore that , in the medieval undersatnding of the Cosmos , encouraged an anthropomorphic image of “God” and it’s an image entrenched still in the mind of most if not all peoples within the Judaeo/Christion tradition , and in our Western democracies as well . It’s a simplistic metaphor and yet it’s a metaphorm on-which the Judaeo/Christian traditon in grounded and not only grounded but also commissioned as “the people of God” to promote justice and goodwill for all people as we work to establish “The Kingdom of Heaven . It’s a simplistic metaphor and yet we can still use it to speak effectively and inspirationally to our people . Thankyou for the opportunity to respond . Yours cheeerfully ; Ivan.

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  4. Appreciate the question and the concern behind it. We should be concerned deeply about the way we may be failing to engage our children and grandchildren in matters of faith.

    Putting aside the existence of lice (and I might add, flies, mosquito’s, and dogs :>)); I am not convinced we can do away with God as creator. Creation and Redemption belong together. If the creator of the world does not “come to his own” in the Incarnation, what or who does? If the Father “who so loves the World” and who gives us his son is not the creator, who is he? If the God who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself is not the creator and the owner of the vineyard, who exactly is he in relation to the created order?

    We hold that the Maker of the Heavens and the Earth is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is true this in no way was ever meant to satisfy our questions regards his wisdom in bringing into existence that which annoys or finds us appetizing. And how he has done this could also be approached in ever growing wonder and awe. The creed makes no statement on how it came to be but is concerned only with the one who is doing it.

    I would like to present to young people the simple thought that our claim that the same God who claims them in Christ is the one to whom they rightly belong. They belong to one who is like themselves: Person. What the creation stories show is that they belong to a personal creator and not orphans amidst an impersonal universe of rock and gas.

    The existence or the extinction of species tells me little I will find helpful in finding that most essential quality we call “meaning” and that is what it seems we can not do without as human beings.

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  5. Hello Russell.
    You ask :”Did God pre-exist the Big Bang?” “Is God some kind of intelligent design forcing evolution to take place in a particular way.?” “Do we do the world any favours by talking of God as Creator?” . Well we would have to say that there was nothing but swirling masses of gas and dust before the so called ‘Big Bang’. Space/Time would have been as an abyss (Genesis) and out of that ‘abyss’ sprang light and life and human kind ; male and female . As for evolution , well we know that the evolution of all species , including ourselves , is manipulated by bacterial RNA and its mutations in response to environmetal and respiratory factors . You ask also , “Do we do the world any favours by talking of God as Creator.” and you highlight the current scientific understanding of biological reproduction and the current understanding of life in the universe detailed by modern Cosmology which is fair enough but showing favour to ‘the world’ is not something the Judaeo/Christion tradition should ever indulge without highlighting and insisting on specific caveats ; caveats highlighted in the Ethical and Holiness teachings of scripture . Ethical and Holiness teachings that we consider necessary to manifest the emerging Kingdom of Heaven . Ethical and Holiness teachings that we have modified over time to enhance their humane intentions . This is the launching pad from which we , within the Judaeo/ Christion tradition , propell ourselves onto the world challenging the influencial and the powerful to share the world’s resources equally among its citizens . Callenging the rich and powerful to be good stewards of the environment . Challenging the influencial and the powerful to make peace not war . Chalenging the rich and powerful to acknowledge the value of all peoples regardless of colour or creed and to uphold the rule of law in ways that protect and enhance the living conditions of the oppressed , the dispossessed and the disaffected . To speak of God as Creator is to acknowledge the human instinct over many millennia to personalize that which stands over and against us , namely life , suffering , misfortune , disease and death . and in animistic religions , beginning with our Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon anscestors , human kind has developed elaborate rituals to mitigate (dis-empower) suffering , misfortune , disease and death even equipping those they bury with tools and food to travel on and find new life , and , at the same time , while buring the dead , those still standing and alive seek also to secure for themselves a good , prosperous and healthy life going forward . In the Judaeo/ Christian tradition we do the same thing by way of prayer and we pray to the ‘Lord God Creator of Heaven and earth’ to the Lord God who walked and talked with us in the wilderness and spoke out of the fire at Mt sinai . We pray also the Lord’s prayer ; to our Father in Heaven and to His Son Jesus Christ .. Indeed , it’s a distinctive feature of human kind to reach out into a realm over and beyond to secure good harvests , safe journeys , better life prospects . In fact , throughout our evolutionary journey , beginning with our emergence from the sea , humankind is continually reaching out for light and life and in reaching out the mind of Humankind has developed a ‘person-centred perspective’ with which we embrace everything , every body ( person) , the world and the universe and we embrace these personally and so it is with the idea of ‘God as creator’ ; it is a concept manufactured in the mind of human kind and because it is so manufactured it is very personal and very imporatant . Outside the mind of human kind God as a reality or a fiction is not in any sense perceived . So when we within the Judaeo/Christian tradition speak of God as ‘Creator’ we build for ourselves a ‘personality’ with which we can talk and walk to whom we can sing and pray , with whom we are in covenant relationships of care and committment (entitlement) and grace . God as Creator is a construction of the mind of human kind and for this reason the phrase is absolutely critical not only for humankind but also for planet earth for by construing a personal relationship with Creation we are able to highlight obligations of care that have for both human kind and planet earth ; saving value . Without this propensity to personalize life in all its dimensions we would be , as Kevynharris highlights , in his reponse to your article Spet., 12 , bereft of the creative , saving and reforming power of God as Creator and the redeeming work of Christ Jesus His Son . We and our world would would be lacking ‘person-hood’ and both would be subject to more serious levels of abuse and angst . Indeed , our understanding of God as Creator , as an over-arching personaluithy in which we are embodied , is a personality that touches and inspires us to reach out for life and love not only here on planet earth but to reach out also into Space , into new relationships and to reach out confidently and fearlessly within the whole realm of infinity for as St Paul says in Rom. 13:8 “Whether we live or die we are , neverteless and forever alive in Christ.” or as I quite often say :”Whether we live or die we are nevertheless and forever alive in that ‘Creativity’ inwhich we all live and move and have our being.” Thankyou for the oportunity to respond Russell . Yours cheerfully . Ivan .

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  6. Hello Russell .
    When we talk of the Judaeo/Christian understanding of God in the many appellations we give to those names we are engaging in the language of paradox .
    (01) The paradox that the unspeakable speaks as in our account of Creation and at Mt Sianai ; and as in the prophetc messages .
    (02) the paradox that the unknowable is known as in the mind of humankind in Egypt in the wilderness and at Mt Sinai . In the written and oral Torah , in the person of Jesus and in the liturgies of Synagogue and Church .
    (03) The paradox that the Creator stands over and against his creation and yet engages with it personally .
    (04)The paradox that this Creator is both cruel and kind ; just and merciful and forgiving .
    (05) The paradox of being cast adrift as in the Garden of Eden and with Noah and the flood and being claimed , as was Abraham , Essau , Jacob , Jesus the Israelites and Gentiles as ‘family’ in covenant relationships of protection and promise .
    (06) The paradox of death and resurrection .
    (07) that the impersonal is personal .
    (08)That the word at Creation revealed itself in the Torah and in Jesus the Nazarene .
    (09) The paradox of the sacred in the profane as in Roman 1
    (10) The paradox of a reforming and saving presence in the actuality and aftermath of adversity and destruction .
    (11)The paradox that whether we live or die we are always and forever alive within that “Creativity” in which we all live and move and have our being .
    This is an addendum to my previous responses . Yours cheerfully . Ivan

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    • Hi Ivan
      I agree with what you say. I’m not sure such an answer helps the teenager who has learned about evolution and then hears it said ‘God created it all’.
      I can comfortably say God is in all that has evolved’. I can also say ‘God is in all that we humans have created’. In saying this I must retain a panentheist position and not become a pantheist.
      How would you answer the teenager?
      Shalom,
      Russell

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      • My response to Russell Fiest’s challenge November 2015 :”How do we persuade young people about God as Creator when their understanding of the world and all its features is the result of evolution ?

        First of all my apology for not responding earlier . It’s been a painful year ..

        I think that we need to understand that “God as Creator ” is a concept that’s been central in the mind of humankind for 10.000 years and longer .

        A hunting gathering and agrarian people felt the need to reach out beyond themselves and their environment for security , safety ,hope and in the process of reaching out they established covenant relationships of obligation and promise with the unknown , IE , their God and in doing this they brought the world and the universe into their lives as an omniscient personality . An omniscient and all persuasive personality that protected them collectively and individually within the tribe ; in the world , in the cult , the Temple , the Synagogue and the Church and for millions of people whose lives are still tenuous it would be impossible and unkind to persuade them to think and do otherwise .

        However , for people who challenge this idea of an omniscient, omnipotent God as an entity in itself “out there” and who literally created the world with all its past and current features in favor of a Darwinian evolution it is necessary to engage with them in a new way and acknowledge that the
        human understanding of God and evolution within the disciplines of physics , biology and cosmology during the past five centuries has changed our understanding of who we are and from where we originated including all the steps between . All demonstrably true and forever subject to further modification .

        And so from this perspective it is not “God” but the mind of human kind that is the source of new discoveries ; new ideas , new initiatives . It is the mind of human kind , not God as traditionally understood , that is the creative impulse within this world and among its inhabitants . It is the mind of human kind that is biologically equipped to create , investigate , understand and engineer .

        It is the human mind that works to discover and understand new perspectives . It is the mind of humanity that navigates us through the labyrinth of hidden phenomena within our cosmos , within our environments and between ourselves . It is the mind of humanity , not “God” , that continually searches for phenomena that once revealed will make us more intelligently aware of who we are , from whence we have come and what changes are required to enhance our institutions and personal lives in a more and more humane way .

        And although humanity and this world has always and continues to be shaped by the influence and discoveries of the human mind the human mind , as in the past , so currently , will continue to construct everything relating to the unknown on its default setting = God

        So , whether we like it or not we are programmed to understand that , that which lies beyond our understanding = God , and in today’s world and among our more searching young people we need to speak of God not as a person or a personality that influences human behaviour but as a metaphor for “information yet to be discerned by the human mind” .

        (However , our understanding of “God” in relation to Jesus Christ is something quite different .)

        Thank you for the opportunity to make a comment .

        Yours cheerfully :
        Reverend Ivan Smith .

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      • Thanks Ivan.
        The closest I get to finding an alternative to ‘God as Creator’ is ‘God as Creative Energy’
        Russell Feist

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