If creation is unceasing, how are we to understand Genesis 2:1-3?


(Mike Gantt) #1

I have learned (through a prior discussion in the BioLogos Forum) about the doctrine of creatio continua.
It states that God’s creative activity, first described in Genesis 1, has never ceased.

While it is easy for me to see how God has continued to be active and creative in the universe since the actions described in Genesis 1 (e.g. forming every new human being as described in Psalm 139:13 and making each new day as stated in Psalm 118:24), it is not easy for me to ignore the coda to the creation story which is Genesis 2:1-3.

If all creatio continua means is that God has continued to be active and creative throughout the history of the universe, then I can accept it wholeheartedly. But if it means that those inaugural actions described in Genesis 1 never ceased and were never completed, than it seems to me that Genesis 2:1-3 has been eviscerated of any meaning. How then do we reconcile creatio continua with Genesis 2:1-3?


Who best reconciles the Bible and Evolution?
The Problems with Bill_II's Idiosyncratic View
(George Brooks) #2

@Mike_Gantt

You write: " But if it means that those inaugural actions described in Genesis 1 never ceased and were never completed, than it seems to me that Genesis 2:1-3 has been eviscerated of any meaning. How then do we reconcile creatio continua with Genesis 2:1- 3."

You Extract “Special Creation” as the central meaning of that text and then challenge anyone to disprove.

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Jewish theologians do not … and did not … ascribe your criterion as central to that text!


(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

I’m far from the best qualified one here to answer this, but I’ll jump in here with the best answer I can.

I think the passage in question is a wonderful example of the general principle of accommodation --was that you in another thread asking about that too? If so we might get two birds with one stone.

Letting the Scriptures help interpret themselves has been a time-honored strategy to help towards understanding. So when Jesus or some later prophet appropriate an earlier O.T. passage, we pay attention. Our general application of this begins to shape our approach in certain patterns we may notice. For example, we learn that God is not a man, for example, in Numbers 23:19 or in John 4:24 as well as many other places I’m sure. So what do we do then with the countless passages that refer to “the arm of God”, or the “face of God”, or in Psalm 91 we hear of God covering people with “his pinions” – is he a winged creature now? Or perhaps God is a rock? There are probably more passages making use of all these “physical features” of God than there are ones reminding us that God is not a mere creature or thing! What is the poor verse-counting proof texter to do? Well, he begins by dropping his bad habits and realizing that Scriptures accommodate to us by pretending God is such a creature only for the sake of our easier reference and comprehension toward other more important points being made.

So when in Genesis we read of God “taking rest” from labors, this doesn’t surprise us overmuch. It certainly is not teaching us that God grows weary (see Isaiah 40:28, for example) so much as it is teaching us about our regular need for Sabbath rest. Were we reading this one Genesis passage in isolation we could not come to this conclusion. But we aren’t. We have the help of all the rest of Scripture, and from that we should realize Genesis 2:1-3 is not about God’s alleged limitations. And we have no reason to believe it is about some literal creation chronology as if God would need six whole days to get things done. But it does seem to be about our literal need for a regular rhythm of days to get things done and a regular Sabbath rest to follow. Can we imagine as parents temporarily and playfully entering into an imaginary world of a child while mimicking to her things that she needs to learn to do? We accommodate to their level to demonstrate for them and connect with them in a more effective way than if we simply tried to instruct them as if they were another adult. I propose that the Bible as a whole gives us tastes of all these different levels. There are things there for the infant believer as well as the mature. Much of the time, however, we are addressed as sheep who heavily depend on a gently accommodating leader that we can follow. That’s my two cents anyway.

Couple of corrective/clarifying edits added in above.


(Phil) #4

My feeling is that Walton is on to something with his creation as God’s temple, and the 7th day is when he “rests” on the throne (note that there is not an 8th day, so does that mean we are still in the 7th day?)
That does not mean God is finished in his works, but now rules over creation. We, as his representatives, made in his image, participate in the ongoing creative works, though that has been perverted by sin.


#5

This is a picture of the Sabbath. The Sabbath required that you do no work so you would get to a good stopping point and then stop. Does this mean that you don’t resume work on the day after the Sabbath? In John 5:17 Jesus says in regards to the Sabbath “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” which certainly sounds like God is continuing to work. Genesis 2:1 references the heavens and the earth and that aspect of creation is completed but that doesn’t mean all other aspects of creation are done.

Not a grand theological argument but I hope this helps.


(Mike Gantt) #6

Mervin,

If it was me, I don’t recall it.

This is a strategy I have always liked to employ wherever possible.

I’m strongly with you on this point as well.

As for my reading of the word rest, however, it is different from yours. I recognize that some people need to figure out a way to deal with the word “rest” as you have because it implies to them refreshment from weariness - a scenario that could hardly apply to God. By contrast, I have always been among those people who read the word as primarily speaking to the repose and reflection of a craftsman who has just finished what he deems to be a satisfying work of art - that is, the cessation of labor that allows thoughtful contemplation of all that has been accomplished. In this sense, “rest” seems even more applicable to God than to a human being because no human being could ever attempt, much less succeed, at such a project.

For me, the word “rest” fits very well with other key words in that passage (e.g. “completed,” “done,” “work,” “created,” “made”). (I am using the NASB.) Thus it is the meaning of rest as cessation of labor, and particularly as the cessation of labor for the purpose of reviewing and reflecting on what was accomplished through that labor, as well as the accumulated weight of these related words that I struggle to reconcile with the idea that Genesis 1 launched a creation that has never ceased and continues to this day (i.e. creatio continua).

As far as I can tell, there’s no reference about man imitating God with respect to taking a sabbath until Exodus 20. Even then, Deuteronomy 5 demonstrates that God could easily have justified the Sabbath without reference to His creation of heaven and earth. Moreover, God doesn’t have to justify a commandment to us at all - as the balance of the Ten Commandments amply demonstrates. I could assume that Genesis 2:1-3 was a revelation of God to and through Moses, making Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20 (as communications to Israel) roughly contemporaneous, but then, especially given the Deuteronomy 5 explanation, I’d struggle to understand why, if the idea is based on God’s activity, it didn’t need to be an aspect of human behavior for all those intervening centuries.

I’ve not tried to be exhaustive in my comments here, but I did want you to appreciate why the “weariness” aspect was not part of my thinking and therefore not something I had to overcome or that otherwise occupied my attention.


(Mike Gantt) #7

All attempts are appreciated.


(Mike Gantt) #8

Does this mean to you that God never actually took, or never actually takes, a Sabbath?


(Mike Gantt) #9

I can appreciate Walton insofar as he sees the heavens and earth as God’s temple; I think that thought direction is fruitful. However, I struggle with his framework in other ways, which I will not go into here. Rather, for your sake I will try to deal with this Walton suggestion.

I know that a lot of people get focused on this, but it has never been an attraction for me - one way or the other.

This, I think, has to be recognized as a problem point for Walton as “finished in his works” is a much easier inference from Genesis 2:1-3 than “now rules over creation.”


(George Brooks) #10

@Mike_Gantt,

If God is always at labor, what does it mean for God to “rest”. Isn’t this text worded this way to establish the Sabbath for humans?

Anthropomorphism runs throughout many theologies. And so does figurative language.

If you create Earth, and then decide to Flood it eliminating all visible land … aren’t you doing a re-do? Isn’t that continued Creation?

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(Mike Gantt) #11

I don’t take Genesis 2:1-3 as referring to everything God does (as I mentioned in the question that opened this topic), but rather to the activities just described in Genesis 1 (i.e. “the creation of heaven and earth and all that is in them,” to borrow a biblical phrase).

As I said in a response above, I don’t see the Sabbath used for this purpose until centuries later (and then only in Ex 20, not in Deut 5).

Yes, I think there is an aspect of “starting over” but clearly it was only the products of day six that were being wiped away, and, even then, not all of them.


(Lynn Munter) #12

It seems this is not a problem limited to the continuing evolution of animals and plants. Stars also continue to be born, and the border between land and sea evolves too: the sea may erode away low islands and coastal regions, or volcanism and plate tectonics may create new land where there was none before. And yet the overall principle that all the land and sea are due to God remains intact.

Perhaps Gen 2:1 refers to a point at which all that God had created up to that point we humans would recognize the world as containing essentially everything our modern world contains.


(George Brooks) #13

@Mike_Gantt,

I don’t see what difference it makes whether it was do-over of Day 6, or a Do-Over of Days 5 to 6. It’s still a do-over.

You are trying to get your audience to say: the Creation story in Genesis is about God “stopping His labors” after day 6.

But He doesn’t really do that, does He? And certainly He doesn’t stop doing all the other things we expect of the One God (making molecules work, making time work, and so on… and I haven’t even mentioned the Angels).

Is this more anthropomorphism? … where the King sits on his throne twiddling his fingers until he has to do something?

God runs the Flood for a massive do-over. Then he creates the Rainbow.

His creation work is ceaseless. And your argument is contrived.


(Mike Gantt) #14

My view is somewhat similar to this. It seems to me that Genesis 2:1-3 is describing the point at which the creation has been established, and everything that follows is an outworking of that creation - somewhat like the point in time at which the establishment of a garden has been completed and everything thereafter is a matter of tending that garden. This view is independent of how long one might consider the “days” of Genesis 1 to be. Thus I do not see John 5:17 as at all conflicting with or superseding Genesis 2:1-3. Rather I see that New Testament verse as speaking to all of God’s work and Genesis 2:1-3 speaking strictly of the work mentioned in that context (i.e. Genesis 1) - to stick with the earlier metaphor, John 5:17 could be said to refer to all that the farmer does while Genesis 2:1-3 is speaking of the work he did in establishing the farm, the remainder of his work being the maintenance of that farm.


(George Brooks) #15

@Mike_Gantt

The concept of “progress” is a relatively modern idea, yes?

More than once, large stable empires came to look upon the future as degeneration, rather than a time for optimism… until you finally get the “perfect solution” of the End of Days.

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#16

The Sabbath was made for man so no, God never takes a Sabbath. It would be hard to when He is constantly working in his garden, so to speak.


(Mike Gantt) #17

Then how is Genesis 2:1-3 not a lie?

This is from your earlier post and approximates my view. (Sorry, I missed this on my first response.) It seems to me as well that Genesis 2:1-3 refers to the heavens and the earth (including everything mentioned as created in Genesis 1), but that it does not refer to the entirety of God’s activity which is ceaseless.


(Mike Gantt) #18

On the contrary, the creation of heaven and earth - having been accomplished - sets the stage for all that follows. That is, Genesis 2:1-3 says that the overture is completed and the play may begin.


(Mike Gantt) #19

No, I am saying that Genesis 2:1-3 seems to be a clear statement that God’s creation labors are over and I’m trying to figure out how to reconcile that with never-ending creation labor.


(Mike Gantt) #20

Point of Clarification:

I am open to a different interpretation of Genesis 2:1-3 than the one I hold, because that would address the question I raised to start the topic. I think, however, that there are three interpretations to which I cannot, and should not, be open:

    1. a non-interpretation of Genesis 2:1-3 (i.e. saying that Genesis 2:1-3 has no meaning)
    1. an interpretation that is the opposite of the one I hold (i.e. saying that Genesis 2:1-3 means that God did not rest on the seventh day)
    1. an interpretation that means Genesis 2:1-3 is a fiction formulated to provide a divine example which never actually occurred (i.e. a lie)

You can, therefore, offer me an interpretation which does not fall into one of these three categories. Alternatively, you can show me why I should not have one or more of these categories. (I’m not giving the reasons for the three categories because I think they’re obvious, but if you need me to elaborate any or all of them, I will.