The first teaching about God, or theology, introduced in scriptures, is the theology of creation. This is actually best understood as two sub-teachings that are coupled together to reveal the foundation of God’s purpose and plan in his creation. The first part is the creation of nature, the first “five days” of creation, and the second is the creation and the delegated dominion of man, the sixth day of creation (note: this topic nothing to do with whether you interpret the days of creation as literal 24 hour periods or as figurative descriptions of creation that equally reveal these same principles).
Genesis begins with creation, and the result of God’s creation, nature, reveals God’s creativity and demonstrates His image of beauty and goodness, through that which He created. When we look at nature, we are offered a glimpse of God’s designs, his artwork, firsthand. Any art lover can tell you that looking at artwork tells us more than just about the art itself, but it helps us to understand the artist. Likewise, nature can reveal much about God. Some of this may be opaque, but some attributes of God we can readily observe from creation. While some look to a nature as a validation of God’s existence, this is perhaps the simplest and crudest revelation of God that we can attribute to nature. Nature reveals much about who He is and His goodness, and that goes far beyond simply verifying that He exists.
Nature clearly demonstrates God’s diverse creativity. It consists of millions species with amazingly unique traits and spectacular, wild landscapes. Nature demonstrates God’s grandeur, with vast mountains and oceans, and those in front of us are tiny compared to vast realm of solar systems, galaxies, undiscovered worlds, supernovas and other unimaginably huge, hot, and intense stellar entities (or immense voids). Nature also demonstrates the nuances and attention to detail of God, with amazing the intricacies of cellular and molecular biology, chemistry, even sub-atomic physics. God’s value on sustainability is also revealed through nature. Rather than simply creating something one time that would eventually fall apart, God designed nature to continually recreate itself through reproduction, and even grow both individually and in genetic adaption and evolution.
Scripture reveals the theology of nature in chapter 1, but then reveals the second component of theology of creation before chapter 1 is even finished. In fact, this rapid sequence is important, because these two components must remain coupled to each other. On their own each component risks distortion and misuse.
The second component is the theology of delegated creation, in which God created man, who is then given dominion over creation. God didn’t just create nature, and let it remain as a static piece of art. He invites man to join and partner in creativity. Humans, as caretakers of creation, weren’t just called to pull some weeds and protect a garden, but to continue to advancing creation. God immediately invited man into a creative role, letting him name the animals.
At each stage of creation, God stated that it was “good”, but interestingly, he did not state that it was “good enough”, “perfect”, or “complete”. God could have easily ended creation before he got to man. Man was not simply the addition of another species to nature. God’s creation of man, was the creation of those with the specific purpose of joining with him in creating, in expressing creativity, design, and construction of new ideas, organizations, and structures.
This means that while we can look to nature and creation for understanding God’s design and purpose, we must see it as a starting point, not a final static image that must be preserved. By creating man, God declared creation as something that would continue to grow as humans build in a progression of new ideas, new creations, new art, and new beauty. Creation is a not static model to be preserved, but a growing flourishing dynamic ecosystem, continually bringing forth new, creative elements.
The Lego Movie, provides a surprisingly interesting illustration of the natural-design only God (the plot isn’t completely unique to this movie, but is well-portrayed). In the movie, the evil Lord Business is the main villain, and is intent on freezing creation into its original intended design, with his powerful super-weapon, the Kragle (Krazy Glue with a few letters rubbed out). Lord Business has a great hatred for the Master Builders, who are constantly coming up with creative new combinations of legos, greatly infuriating Lord Business’ pursuit of a static perfect state of the legos. The best solution in Lego World is super-gluing everything in place to ensure that nothing can depart from its intended perfect state. Of course, this is completely contrary to the purpose of legos. While they come with instructions for a certain model, they are specifically designed to be built and rearranged in limitless ways.
The idea of assuming nature to be superior to engineered products is known as the “appeal to nature fallacy“. This fallacy is particularly demonstrated when we deem something natural as superior despite contrary evidence. Not only is this illogical, but the theology of delegated creation directly repudiates this fallacy. Delegated creation means that nature is not intrinsically superior to engineering. While we typically use the term “artificial” negatively (even though it is simply means created or modified by humans), God’s plan is for human intervention, progression, and design to build on nature. And God calls us to often even go against our own natural desires. God’s plan is a synthesis of both the natural and artificial.
Interestingly there are some areas where this reality is more obvious than others. For example, it is quite clear that God intends for evangelism to occur “artificially”, through human proclamation, rather than “naturally” just through observation of nature. Likewise, discipleship generally occurs through human interaction, it is not simply something that naturally occurs without any effort. And in the non-spiritual, few doubt the benefits and usefulness of products like computers, smartphones, and tablets that are tremendously engineered.
The Bible goes on to describe our natural instincts, intuitions, inclinations, and desires as being in contradiction to God. “The heart is deceitful above all else” (Jer 17:9), and the “works of flesh” are described as depraved and in contradiction to the Kingdom of God (Gal 5:19). We are specifically called to “crucify the flesh”. To follow Christ is to against our natural “passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).
These two components of the theology of creation have important implications on numerous aspects of the interaction of technology and nature. In my next post we will look at how holding both of these components together is important, and devaluing either nature as a revelation of God, or delegation of creation, creates distortion.
One thought on “Naturally Artificial: Two Components of the Theology of Creation”