THEOLOGY OF CREATION: Introduction

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The Doctrine of Creation expresses the belief that God is the origin, ground, and goal of the world and of everything in it. Creation is a fundamental belief from which flows much of what Christians profess about God, about the cosmos we inhabit, and about our destiny and hope. The doctrine of creation is shaped by presuppositions about God – fundamental beliefs that are difficult to conceptualise, and yet make a profound difference in how Christians view the world. In turn, creation is presupposed in revelation, the primary source for what Christians profess to believe about God. This is succinctly expressed in the Book of Wisdom of Solomon: “For from the greatness and beauty of creation things comes a corresponding perception of their creator” (Wis 13: 5). For the Christian, creation itself is the self-revelation of God.

In Biblical revelation the very first line introduces the theme of creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth” (Gen 1: 1). The creation theme recurs again and again in the prophetic and wisdom literature, in the Pauline Epistles, and in the Gospels. Finally, in the Bible’s last book we find a hymn in praise of the creator: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev 4: 11).

The belief in the God who created all things, celebrated in this hymn, is expressed in the first article of the Nicene Creed, as revelation continued to unfold as the tradition of the church developed. The first lines of the Creed are at once a prayer of praise and a confession of one of the church’s core beliefs: that God is “maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.” Although there was no early doctrine of creation as such, this articulation of the Christian belief that the God of Jesus Christ is creator is part of a long process of the church’s struggle to make its faith intelligible.

To understand Christian creation faith requires that we address it with an eye on a diversity of questions that have emerged in a long and complex history. The one most immediate to us is the question of the relation of science and religion in an advanced scientific and technological culture. This question finds itself expressed in two major forms: the challenge of evolutionary science to religious faith and the concern for ecology. Evolution and Ecology are obviously interconnected and in turn contributes much to it. Evolution and, to a lesser extent, ecology will provide us with lenses for surveying major recent developments in the theologies that address creation.

A presentation of the theology of creation requires a survey of historical developments with some attention to their social context and to their underlying philosophical assumptions. This task will be taken up in this study in a limited manner. We begin with a look at the biblical sources on creation; then we will survey some major Roman Catholic theological and church traditions on creation; and finally, we will highlight some aspects of the contemporary theological discussion on Creation.

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