Believing in Creation But Denying That We Are Creatures?

Anita writes to ask about a couple of things I said in class last night. In brief she asks why I suggest that some who believe quite strongly in creation don’t really seem to believe in creation at all and second, why I say that theonomists don’t really believe in creation since they are so ardent about it.

Hi Anita,

Thanks for your questions.

1. Yes, I do think that while we’ve been arguing about the length of the creation days we’ve lost the idea of “creation” itself, i.e. that there is such a thing as nature, that there is a fixity to the way things are, that there are boundaries to which we are all obligated and which we cannot transcend or re-name. I think this is particularly an issue with folks under age 65 and becomes more intense in proportion to the age of the subject.

Many young people today, of the age that I teach, come to us (often having been taught the 6/24 view as essential to Reformed orthodoxy) believing, for all practical purposes, that they have endless options. They believe that they are the ultimate arbiters of what is important and what they need to know. In other words, they believe in “creation” as a data of Scripture but they don’t seem (yet) to believe in creation as a reality. It is bizarre that they can give the age or time of creation but they miss the most fundamental fact of creation, that there is a Creator who issued fundamental laws binding on all people in all times and places.

Take the Sabbath as an example. I know lots of 6/24 creationists who are antinomian on the Sabbath! Well, the Sabbath is the climax to the creation narrative. The Sabbath is one of those great fundamental givens in creation that bounds our life. In the nature of things all humans are to work for no more than 6 days and they are to rest on the 7th. What good is it to affirm nominally 6/24 creation and ignore the point of the narrative?

2. Yes, I’ve found over the least 28 years that theonomists frequently take essentially a Barthian (who vehemently denied the existence of natural law) view of creation or natural law. They scoff over an idea that was (and remains) fundamental to Reformed ethics. See this paper.

They mostly say they believe 6/24 creation but they don’t believe that the Creator instituted laws in nature that can and are known from and in nature by all people in all times and places, that are imprinted on the conscience and that convict humans (image-bearers) in all times and cultures and to which we can and may appeal to form a public ethic in all times and places. They often speak and write about “natural law” as if it were endlessly flexible and they are usually agnostic about or hostile to natural law. They affirm a dogma about the length of creation (about which Scripture is not entirely perspicuous) but deny, in effect, the Apostle Paul’s doctrine of natural law (Rom 1-2; Rom 12) and the historic and confessional Reformed doctrine of natural law in the interests of their bizarre and, from a historical point of view, Anabaptist use of the Mosaic civil penalties.

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