Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture by Philip Eveson

The Gospel and Creation - the Significance of a Theology of Creation for Preaching
On the Monday Evening of the Creation the Bible and Science Conference, Philip Eveson, Principal Emeritus of the London Theological Seminary gave a this year's Lloyd-Jones Memorial Lecture. He began by saying that "the Doctor" would have approved of the subject in hand. In his sermons on Romans 8 and Ephesians 1, Lloyd-Jones emphasised that salvation is about far more than dying and going to heaven. God is going to renew the whole cosmos. The preacher urged Evangelicals to recapture the sheer grandeur of biblical eschatology.
In the report that follows, I have drawn on my hastily scribbled notes. But this blogged-up sketch cannot really convey the power of this gripping tour de force. Lloyd-Jones said that preaching is "theology on fire". Well, there was certainly fire in this address on creation and the gospel. By the end I just felt amazed and awed by the stunning glory of our triune Creator and Redeemer God.
The Gospel is for created beings. The Bible's redemption hope includes creation. We need to foster an appropriate attitude to God's world.
I. What a theology of creation will include
There is a danger of controversy over Darwinian evolution overshadowing the Bible's positive teaching on creation. The biblical creation account is not there to be argued over. Its purpose is to call us to worship the Creator, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). When God gave Job a guided tour of creation, he was humbled to the dust before the majesty of his Maker. It is by faith we understand that God created all things. Scripture must inform our doctrine of creation. A biblical theology of creation will include these twelve points:
1. God is an uncreated Creator
No one made the eternal God. He simply exists - Psalm 90:2.
2. The Creator created creation
Contatry to the Gnostics, he did not use intermediaries or demigods. "God created the heavens and the earth".
3. The Creator made one creation
Multiverse theory is nothing but postmodern speculative nonsense.
4. The uncreated God created all things from nothing.
He used no pre-existing material in the original creation. Creation is not an emanation from God's being. Having been made ex nihilo, the creation is dependent upon God, yet distinct from him. This rules out pantheism and the Gaia hypothesis of extreme environmentalism.
5. The Creator created time
"In the beginning God created...". Creation was made with time. God worked in time to form the earth in six days.
6. Creation is good
Matter is not evil. God declared the completed creation "very good" (Genesis 1:31). The Bible warns against false asceticism 1 Timothy 4:1-5. God has richly given us all things to enjoy. We should give thanks to the Lord for the provision of our bodily needs.
7. The Creator God rules over the whole creation
The Lord reigns over all. "Everything under heaven is Mine." Says the Lord to Job (Job 41:11). Nothing is off limits for him.
8. Creation is the work of the Triune God
The Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck is especially strong on this in his Reformed Dogmatics. Creation is the work of the one God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, John 1:1-3, 1 Corinthians 8:6. Creation does not reveal the Trinity of the godhead, but creation presupposes the action of the Triune God. The unity in diversity of the Trinity is displayed in creation. Islam with its monadic conception of God cannot cope with the sheer diversity of life. Postmodernism tends to fragmentation at the expense of unity. But the God who is one in three has made a Universe that is teeming with diversity. God did not need the creation to complete himself, for he is eternally complete in the rich communion of the persons of the Trinity. Creation exists not necessarily, but according to God's sovereign will, Revelation 4:11. It displays his glory, Psalm 19:1, Romans 11:36. Creation is the free expression of the Triune God who is love.
9. The Creator God is relational
We are made in God's image (Genesis 1:26) for fellowship with God and with each other.
10. The Creator and the creation is all that exists
There are no intermediaries between God and his world.
11. Creation must be distinguished from providence
God rested on the 7th day from the work of creation (Genesis 2:2-3). Providence is God's work of upholding, directing and renewing creation. Providence is Trinitarian. The Father upholds all things by his Son through the power of the Spirit. A biblical doctrine of providence rules out a "God of the gaps". There are no gaps where God is not at work in sustaining and guiding the Universe. The distant god of Deism is not the God revealed in Scripture. He is active in the historical process, directing all things in accordance with his will.
12. There is a need for a new creation
The final glorified state will include a renewed creation. The world was subjected to God's curse because of sin, Genesis 3:17-19. Creation has been subjected to vanity, Ecclesiastes 1:2, Romans 8:18-23. With the resurrection of the believing dead, creation will be liberated from bondage to decay. The new creation will not replace the old world. Jesus, the last Adam who will bring the creation to its intended goal in God's purposes.
II. The message of the Gospel and the redeeming work of Christ
The God of creation is also the God of redemption. We find this emphasis in Exodus and Isaiah. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). The scope of this salvation includes the whole of creation. Through redemption in Christ, the creation finds its eschatological goal, which was frustrated by the fall of man into sin.
The Christian hope is not just spiritual. Creation looks for its exodus - its liberation from bondage to decay - Romans 8:21.
III. Creation and Christ
1. Creation through Christ
He was an active agent in God's creative work, Hebrews 1:2, Colossians 1:16.
2. Christ and providence
He upholds the universe and brings it to its grand conclusion, Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:17. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of creation.
3. The incarnation of Christ
Jesus, the image of the invisible God was made in the image of God when he became man. In Jesus the Creator became a creature. He is the last Adam, the head of God's new humanity. The first Adam brought sin and death into the world. Christ came to atone for sin and destroy death's power (1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14 & 15). Jesus was fully man, sharing our humanity. He came to re-establish man's dominion over the world - Hebrews 2:5-9 cf. Psalm 8.
4. The resurrection of Christ
The resurrection of Jesus - 1 Timothy 3:16 - affirms that matter matters. Jesus rose bodily from the grave. The last Adam is a life giving Spirit, the man from heaven (1 Corinthians 15: 45, 49). We shall bear the image of the risen Jesus, 1 John 3:2.
5. Christ and re-creation.
He is the beginning of the creation of God, Revelation 3:14. In Colossians 1, Paul teaches that Christ will reconcile to God the world that was made through him. When Christ returns, the dead will be raised and the whole creation will be renewed, Philippians 3:21. This will not mean the destruction of the world, but its glorious liberation by the power of Christ. Then we shall have spiritual bodies, bodies renewed and transformed by the Spirit and fitted for life in the new heavens and the new earth (2 Peter 3:13).
IV. The significance of a theology of creation for preaching
We need to have a positive doctrine of creation that will challenge the rampant atheism of our time. Paul preached creation in his proclamation of the Gospel in Lystra (Acts 14) and Athens (Acts 17). We must preach creation, incarnation, resurrection and re-creation in Christ. Let us hold before the people the stunning grandeur of our triune Creator God. The heavens declare his glory. Science helps us to further appreciate the wonder of creation. But the aim of the Bible's creation account is to awaken us to God's existence rather than provide scientific information. The witness of creation prepares people to hear the gospel of salvation. But there is more to creation than a pre-evangelistic aid. Believers should delight in God's world. Solomon studied plant and animal life. "The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them." (Psalm 111:2). We have been called to serve the Lord in our bodies, Romans 12:1. We will be rewarded for the works done in the body, Revelation 14:13. Reflecting on the power of our Creator can be a great encouragement to us, Isaiah 40:27-31. This is our Father's world. But the effects of the fall upon creation make us a little ambivalent about this life. We must set our minds on things above, not on things the earth, Colossians 3:1-2. Our citizenship is in heaven, Philippians 3:20-21. While in this world, we groan, longing for the new creation, Romans 8:22, 26. The church's message is the unique declaration of the redemption of creation in Christ. Sinners must flee from the wrath to come and embrace God's offer of salvation. Our creation theology will teach us to:
1. Adore our Maker
2. Appreciate the kindness of God, Psalm 145:9.
3. Administer creation's resources wisely, caring for the environment.
4. Ache for the renewal of creation.
5. Anticipate the glory to come.
6. Act by spreading the message of creation and the gospel.
The conference was held under the auspices of the John Owen Centre. CD's of each address and a nifty MP3 CD containing all the addresses can be ordered here. If you don't order anything else, get the recording of this lecture.


Phil Swann said...

Ephesians 8? I think I must have missed that bit

Exiled Preacher said...

That was the Lloyd-Jones extended edition. (Duly corrected).

Phil Swann said...

Ah, if there had been an Eph 8 I wonder what it would have included

Anonymous said...

Ephesian 8 would have the contents of Philippians 2 :-)