The doctrine of creation is a non-negotiable element of the Christian faith. By the doctrine of creation, I mean that which is asserted in the first section of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
In the Creed, as in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, the doctrine is properly formulated as a statement about God. It is not, whatever its implications for these matters might be, a statement about the age of the earth, the pre-history of mankind, or the interpretation of the fossil record. God is the subject, and what is predicated of Him is that He made everything else that exists.
The Creed asserts this of God the Father. Jesus Christ, as God the Son, is not part of the “all things visible and invisible” made by God the Father, but as the “only-begotten Son of God” shares the Father’s eternal nature and existence, thus the Creed asserts of Him that He is “begotten of the Father before all worlds” and that He is “begotten, not made”. It moreover identifies His role in Creation by saying of Him, in accordance with the third verse of the Gospel according to St. John and the sixteenth verse of St. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians “by whom all things were made”. So all things were made by God the Father, by or through, Jesus Christ the Son.
God the Holy Ghost, like Jesus Christ the Son, is not created but rather shares the eternal nature and being of God the Father from Whom He “proceedeth”, and therefore is “worshipped and glorified” with the Father and the Son.
The Nicene Creed is the most truly authoritative and “catholic” in the sense of belonging to the whole Church, of the ancient creeds or any other Christian confessions of faith. It is accepted by all the churches who can claim organic and organizational descent from the early undivided Church that formulated it, who traditionally recite it as part of the liturgy in the celebration of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and it is also accepted by the most orthodox of the sects and denominations of more recent founding. It was drawn up by the early, orthodox, Church to be a definitive statement of the faith taught by Christ’s Apostles, made in response to the myriad of heretical challenges to that faith that had sprung up in the first three centuries of Christian history. At the heart of these controversies was the Apostolic doctrine of Christ. The Docetists denied Christ’s humanity, the Arians denied His deity, and in one way or another each of these heresies denied what the Apostles had taught about Who Jesus Christ is. In these early heretical movements false teachings, of one sort or another, regarding creation, went hand in glove with their false teachings about the Person and Nature of Christ.
In 325 AD, the first ecumenical council of the Church since the council of Jerusalem recorded in the Book of Acts was convened at Nicaea in what is now Turkey, to address the controversy surrounding the teachings of Arius. Arius, a theologian in Alexandria, Egypt had taught that the Son of God was neither of the same substance as the Father, nor eternal. This had been condemned as heresy locally, at a regional council called by the Alexandrian Patriarch Alexander four years previously. By this time the heresy could not be contained regionally and so with the assistance of the deacon, Athanasius, who would later become his successor, Alexander made the case against Arianism at Nicaea. The council also condemned Arianism, and affirmed that the Son was “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father”. The confession of faith drafted and adopted at this council was the original version of the Nicene Creed, which was revised and expanded into the form still used in the East today, at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD and then into the form used in the West by the Third Council of Toledo in 589 AD.
The Arian controversy was primarily Christological, about the Person and Nature of Jesus Christ, but it also concerned the doctrine of creation in that by denying that Christ was eternal Arius made Him part of creation rather than Creator. This is why the Creed affirms that it is by Christ that all things were made and makes the distinction “begotten not made”. (1)
In the century prior to the Arian controversy another challenge to Apostolic orthodoxy had come from Marcion of Sinope. Marcion believed that the Old and New Testaments spoke of different Gods. The God of the New Testament, he taught, was the Supreme God, loving and God, whereas the God of the Old Testament was the lesser deity of wrath and vengeance, the Demiurge. The latter, he taught, created the physical world, which was entirely corrupt and evil, whereas the true God belonged to the higher, spiritual world. Christ, he taught, was pure spirit who took on the mere appearance of a man. This denial of the Incarnation, identical to the spirit of the antichrist of which St. John had written in the New Testament (2) was therefore inseparably connected to a denial of the doctrine of creation. These heretical teachings, to which the affirmation that God the Father is the “Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible” was orthodoxy’s response, were shared by the various sects and movements that are collectively referred to as “Gnosticism”.
This name given to these early foes of Apostolic orthodoxy is significant. It is derived from gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. In Gnostic doctrine, salvation was usually conceived of as a process of enlightenment whereby the “divine spark” in man was liberated from its prison of corrupt matter through the achievement of gnosis or knowledge. In orthodox Christianity, salvation is equated with knowledge as well. In orthodox Christianity, this knowledge is the knowledge of God, through Jesus Christ, (3) to be proclaimed to the world in the Gospel and received through faith and the prison from which it ultimately liberates us is both spiritual and physical, the prison of sin and death. This saving knowledge is available to man precisely through that which the Gnostics denied, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. (4) The secret “knowledge” claimed by the Gnostics, the orthodox Church Fathers declared to be the “false knowledge” of which St. Paul wrote to Timothy. (5)
What makes this significant is that once again today it is widely denied, in the name of “knowledge”, that God, the Father Almighty, is “Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible”. We use the Latin equivalent to speak of this new “gnosis” and so call it “science”.
The new Gnostics are in many ways the mirror image of their predecessors. They do not demonize the physical world the way the Gnostics of old did, on the contrary they make it out to be the only world that exists, or at any rate the only world which can be known or is worth knowing. Salvation, to the new Gnostics, lies not in our liberation from the physical world but in our control over it.
Evolution is the name of the Demiurge to whom the new Gnostics ascribe the creation of the physical world - or at least the living things in it – rather than the true and living God. Just as the Christian doctrine of creation can only be properly understood as a statement about God – that God the Father, created everything that exists, through Jesus Christ the Son – rather than a statement about the age of the earth or the fossil record, so the Gnostic doctrine of evolution must be understood as a denial of the Christian doctrine - as the assertion that we, through the process of natural selection “made ourselves” in a world where order arises out of chaos by chance - rather than merely a set of observations, such as those made by Charles Darwin, about how species have adapted in order to survive.
The Church’s response to this challenge has been disappointing. Some theologians have reinterpreted the Christian teaching on creation to accommodate evolution – examples of this include theistic evolution, the Day-Age theory, and progressive creationism. Others have rejected evolution but in its place have accepted what they ironically call a “literal” understanding of the book of Genesis that includes interpretations that would never have occurred to anyone prior to the last 150 years, such as the idea that the “waters above the firmament” were some kind of vapour canopy that made the entire planet a tropical region prior to the Deluge. What the accommodationists and the “scientific creationists” have in common is that both have bowed their knees to the modern pagan idol of Science, accepted that false god’s claims to be the ultimate arbiter of what is true, and interpreted the words of the true and living God accordingly.
Science, however, in the modern sense of the word, has neither the right nor the ability to determine what is true and what is false. It is not about truth at all. Modern science, stripped of its exalted status, is merely the process of accumulating observations about the physical world, postulating theories on the basis of those observations, and conducting experiments to test those theories. The purpose of this process is not to arrive at truth. In the nineteenth century it was thought that to be scientific a theory had to be verifiable, that is to say, that it had to be able to be demonstrated true through experimentation. In the twentieth century, however, it came to be accepted, through the arguments of Sir Karl Popper, that to be scientific a theory must be falsifiable which means that it must be vulnerable to being shown to be false by further experimentation. This new understanding of what makes a theory scientific was intended to safeguard the integrity of the experimentation process against the formulation of theories that could not be overthrown regardless of the outcome of the experiment. Nevertheless it demonstrates that science is no reliable standard by which to judge truth, for by the standards of logic that which is falsifiable must also be false..
This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the history of modern science, the end of which has never been truth but power. “Knowledge is power”, Sir Francis Bacon said, and while he was speaking of the knowledge and power of God, he extended it to human knowledge by saying that it is by examining the world around us and learning about causes and effects that we will be able to bend nature to our will and produce the effects we desire. This is the true nature of what we have called “science” ever since. The true litmus test of whether a theory is scientific is not whether it is verifiable or falsifiable, but its utility. If science can produce a vehicle that can transport us through the air from one side of the world to the other in a fraction of the time it would have previously taken us then science has fulfilled its purpose and been of use to us regardless of whether the hypotheses with which it was working to produce the vehicle are later debunked.
Modern man in his neo-Gnosticism tends to equate utility with truth and justice. He looks at all that modern science has given us and concludes that since it has in so many ways enhanced our lives therefore everything it tells us is true and everything it does is right. This is a dangerous error. Truth and justice are immutable standards, external and transcendent, that impose limits upon man’s will and hold him accountable. Utilitarian science, however, recognizes no external limits upon man’s will in its endless search for newer ways to bend the world to that will. It is the duty of orthodox Christianity to insist upon these limits and to remind man that he is but a creature, a part of creation, subject to and accountable to the Creator in Whose image he was made.
This means re-affirming our faith in “one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible” against the new Gnosticism, that equates the utility of modern science with truth and justice, and declares that we through the process of natural selection (6), created ourselves, a theory which, like others of its era, (7) is merely man’s self-justification of his attempt to seat himself upon the throne of his Creator.
(1) The verb beget means to sire, to carry out a father’s role in reproduction. A father begets, a mother conceives and gives birth. Ordinarily, the word begotten suggests a point in time, a beginning. Fathers and mothers, however, in begetting and conceiving children, pass on their own nature to them. Eternity, having neither a beginning nor an end, is part of the nature of God, which Christ shares with His Father. Therefore when the Creed speaks of Christ as being begotten, this denotes an eternal relationship rather than an event in time.
(2) “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4:3)
(3) John 17:3 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”
(4) John 1:18, John 14: 8-9
(5) 1 Tim. 6:20
(6) The basic idea of natural selection, that a species adapts to a changing environment through the spread of traits that enhance its ability to fit in and survive and the disappearance of traits that hinder such, is merely an observation about the nature of life in the world. It is when it is expanded into an all-sufficient explanation of how we got here, with life supposedly developing from non-living material then gradually evolving into higher life forms, and ultimately us, that is becomes patently absurd.
(7) Such theories include positivism, the idea of progress, and the Whig theory of history.
A Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory with a libertarian streak, at the same time a monarchist, indeed a royal absolutist, and a minarchist.
You can e-mail me at gerrytneal(at)hotmail(dot)ca