Creation as Mission

One aspect of the close connection between creation and salvation that I didn’t mention in the previous two posts on the subject is that of Missio Dei, the mission of God, which encompasses the outgoing motivation he had both to create all things from nothing, and to restore them in the aftermath of the Fall.

In the light of the insights Athanasius has given us in those posts, we can see that there is a close identity between that mission and the Logos himself, the One who proceeds from the Father to express his love, wisdom and purpose. Not that by this we should exclude the Spirit, who also proceeds from God. This Mission, in Christ and through the Spirit, unites not only our creation and salvation, but our own participation in the eternal outreach of God – there is an inherent call to action in the idea.

A few years ago (like eighteen – ouch), in completing an assignment for a theology course, I decided to buck the system by cramming the whole of Missio Dei, creation and salvation history into a three minute pop song. Songs are akin to Japanese haiku poetry in some ways – you can put a whole world into a small space, and in this case I tried it with an entire Universe, though it stretched to four minutes with the repeats.

Here’s a demo-quality recording of the song – one of these days I’ll have to record it properly, but this was good enough to get me an A- from my tutor (for cheek, I think). And I see from my correspondence that I played the thing to Bruce Winter, then the warden of Tyndale House, when he came to our church that autumn. So you’re in select company…

MISSION OF LOVE

In the beginning God made the Day
To spread light around and to give love away
Made all the creatures
And he’s blessed them from above
He’s sending out the Mission of Love

Down in the garden see Adam and Eve
They’ve learned good and evil
And they’ve learned how to grieve
They’re hiding in shame, now,
But see how
The Lord gives them cover enough
He’s sending out the Mission of Love

He sent his promise to the world through Abraham
He sent Moses to the people in Egypt land
He sent the prophets to say
That he’d send a man
Who would die upon a tree

“Go make disciples in every place
Go and baptize them from every race
Teach them to do all the things
That I’ve been speaking of
I’m sending out my Mission of Love.”

“You can tell them that I’m going to return again
You can tell them that I’m bringing my Kingdom in
You can tell them that I’m going to draw all men
Back into one family…

“Go make disciples in every place
Go and baptize them from every race
Teach them to do all the things
That I’ve been speaking of
I’m sending out my Mission of Love.”

© Jon Garvey 1996

Jon Garvey

About Jon Garvey

Training in medicine (which was my career), social psychology and theology. Interests in most things, but especially the science-faith interface. The rest of my time, though, is spent writing, playing and recording music.
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15 Responses to Creation as Mission

  1. GD GD says:

    Jon,

    I enjoyed your lyrics – so much so that I will risk putting the following verses (perhaps a darker version, but one that implies a mission); this is the ending of Part I of Salvation ©:

    During the days of peace
    Industry and commerce increase
    Mankind uses his talents to create a metropolis
    Destroying the beauty nature gives us freely.
    He does this, he says, to bring prosperity
    Each family can grow with health and vitality.
    Yet he pollutes the air we breath
    Destroys the family, alienates children, and oppresses women.
    Crime rises like a great serpent’s head,
    People live in ugly monstrosities all of their days;
    Diseases are cured, as people eat food without nourishment
    Suffering anxiety, neurosis, and insecurity.

    Mankind continued in the ways of sin
    Finding only the things that it can bring
    Sin corrupts and this corruption spreads
    Deluding man’s heart, destroying his sense.

    The spirit within him is un-nourished, imprisoned.
    Alienated from God
    Man could not find that so freely offered
    The love and care of his Creator
    Whose will is for mankind to live and be free.

    The prophets spoke the word of God
    Proclaiming the coming of the Son of God
    Who would save us from Satan’s way to death
    Into the resurrection and the Way of Life.

  2. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Thanks for posting those words GD. I did a darker version of my own, in a different style, about the application of intelligence without wisdom. Link to Clever Fellow. Enough lyrics already on this page, so you’ll have to use your ears!

  3. Ian Thompson says:

    Jon: some time, you might like to discuss the difference between “to create all things from nothing” and “to create all things”. After all, from nothing comes nothing.

  4. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Ian

    I’ll have to wait till unti I can crib what Ted Davis has to say on ex nihilo creation via Ted Peters over at BioLogos: a good series so far.

    My first reaction, though, is that the axiom follows the logic of efficient material causation. Material things are caused, and that trail can’t end in complete non-existence. So Krauss’s “nothing” is, in fact, something, but not matter (although it is the kind of quantum vacuum that itself requires explanation). Analogously, “nothing” in Christian theology isn’t strictly “no thing”, but God alone, who doesn’t require explanation and so breaks the regression.

    Just as the endless regression of causality ends in him – whose causelessness we can’t really comprehend – so, I guess, the ability to make matter-energy-information from nothing is equally in a realm to which we have no access. After all, we have no real idea of what matter and energy are in their own right, let alone their relationship to God. Can I phone-a-physicist?

  5. Ian Thompson says:

    Jon: you remind us that: “nothing” in Christian theology isn’t strictly “no thing”, but God alone.

    That is my problem! Not the question of what happened (even though we hardly understand it, as you say), but the words used:
    How can anyone ever mistake God for ‘no thing’? Or even say it?

  6. Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

    Ian

    Language fails at that point – God is not no thing, nor is he a thing, now is he (strictly) a person. And of course he is the Creator, not the stuff from which he creates (from nothing…).

    I have sympathy for those who are, perhaps, arguing with materialists and need to argue along the lines, “There must be a cause, and it can’t be matter, so it He must be God … well, he IS God, of course, because he’s a necessary Being … no THE necessary Being ….”

    If God were axiomatic to us all, and to scientists too, our speech would more likely reflect reverence and truth…

    • GD GD says:

      Jon,

      It is very difficulty to discussing ‘something from nothing’ and in fact scientific terminology is more likely to use words that can be meaningful to science (as these may be observed in some manner) such as a vacuum, or to use terms that mean an absence of all matter, energy, time and space.

      Our language problem is compounded by the way we link or equate a term with its meaning. Thus theologically I am inclined to think in terms of what has been revealed to us in language that is meaningful within the context of the particular revelation, and then it is up to me on how I reason on the matter, within my own limitations.

      “How did God create out of nothing,” is a incorrect use of words. What we would understand is that all that we can comprehend as the creation, or all that we may, or will ever know as existing, is because God as Creator has brought it into existence, or created it as such. Our limited capacities would reason that nothing can be contemplated by human beings outside of all that we know or can possibly know – it is this negation of everything that we would understand as nothing. I thing the Gospel according to John makes this clear.

  7. A common scriptural justification for creation ex nihilo is Heb 11:3. It does not present the idea in any pristine philosophical sense. It says that what is seen was not created out of what is visible. There are various directions in which that statement might be taken. There is a kind of quasi-Platonism in Hebrews (as in other places in the NT), most easily seen in 8:5, where it recalls that Moses was told to create the visible, material tabernacle according to the pattern shown him on Mt. Sinai–God’s plan for the temple as a visible representation of preexisting, invisible spiritual realities (cf. 2 Cor 4:18).

    • GD GD says:

      Hi Darek,

      The wording in Heb 11:3 may be translated into: “…..(KJV) Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

      The notion (faith .. so that..) is that things that are seen were NOT made of things which do appear, which I suggest equates with a negation of what we understand on the material world in time and space.

      • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

        I remember reading something to the effect that “visible” in Heb 11 was as close to “existent” as Greek could get – and maybe had some kind of technical, philosophical meaning to that purpose. I may have put it in a post, but I can’t find it to check it out just now.

        In any case, I don’t think it could bear the sense of merely “stuff you can’t see”, like primal matter for example. So it’s either “nothing” or “only in the mind of God”, both of which seem to be consistent with the busual Christian understanding of ex nihilo.

        • The linkage with creation “by the word of God” points toward God’s “thinking” the creation into being. In the OT and NT, acts of speaking and thinking are not sharply distinguished. Let me be clear that I make no brief for the eternity of matter; quite the opposite. However, it is also true that in Genesis, when God begins speaking creatively there is already an unformed earthly creation in view. I think that reason must supplement Scripture in this area.

          • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

            Darek

            I go with Walton on thinking that the Genesis 1 account simply adopts the kind of questions its readers were interested in, that is “How was the cosmos brought to order?” Since the origin of matter was of relative indifference in that whole ANE culture, it’s part of the background rather than the subject matter.

            So the question of ex nihilo belongs, possibly, to a later set of enquiries, but certainly to a different literary context.

            As you say “Logos” is part of a mindset in which divine thought and speech (not to mention action) are closely connected. To me that counters the idea I’ve sometimes heard fielded to the effect that God simply said, “Do me a world” and, as it were, left the details up to the world, as a President might leave the details to his staff.

            Rather one has to consider that, unlike an earthly ruler, God’s word of command contains in it the whole content of causation. If I make a decision to pick up a pen, most of the necessary efficient causes – from individual nerve and muscle potentials to the underlying physics – are unconscious, though I actually execute them towards my primary goal.

            Surely in the case of the omniscient God working, who is the direct source of every part of the act, one has to consider all those things to be conscious, even if all part of what the old divines called “a single untuition.”

            So however the metaphysics of concept/actuality works out, reality is in totality, a reflection of what is already complete in God’s mind.

            • GD GD says:

              This discussion is interesting, but I would add this: ONLY the Holy Spirit knows the ‘things’ (using human language) of God – thinking and speaking are words we use to each other. While I also ‘think’ in thus way, I am conscious that if I discuss what God may say or think, then my meaning is (obviously) limited and thus insufficient.

              Nonetheless a really interesting topic to think on and discuss. I esp. like the approach in Gosp John, where the Word is discussed as both God, speaking, reason, creative act, and so on……, but it is always ONE and is GOD.

              • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

                Timely reminder, GD.

                I was aware, using the term, “mind of God”, of the need to hedge everything around with analogical warnings. The mediaeval insistence that what we know of God intellectually is principally from what he is not.

                On your last point, I’m also often impressed with the way John also blurs the distinction between Christ the Word and the word of the gospel, on Jesus’s own or on the disciples’ lips.

                In salvation, as in creation, God’s plan, his purpose personified in the Son, its declaration in speech and its effectual fulfilment in the world are all encompassed in that “Logos” concept.

  8. GD GD says:

    Hi Jon,

    It is the case the “Logos” is all encompassing – thus even though I appear somewhat harsh on the BioLogos site, I must say that at times I despair when I seriously think on their discussions – even using Bio with Logos should make them stop and think (?). If it is the Logos that they are interested in, then IT IS ALL ENCOMPASSING to a Christian. I am sure they do not think otherwise (except for those who waffle about Christ, but then so what); however, people such as Dennis (and some others) who think that once we accept Darwin we are all good, seem to have developed a blind spot to the LOGOS.

    I will add this – even though I have been a Chemist from the first day I held a test tube (very young), I have NEVER expressed a reverence, nor a dogmatic position, on anything in Chemistry. I thus remain astonished on the attitudes I have encountered regarding Darwin and his ideas.

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