God’s Good Earth – Chapter 1: God’s Relationship to Creation

Here is the link to the first chapter proper of my book on the goodness of creation.

To begin to appreciate what the Bible really teaches about the natural creation, after the Fall of man, one needs not proof texts but the general presentation of God’s relationship to what we call “nature” in the Bible, which is what I attempt in this chapter.

Scientists will note that I read a very hands-on version of God’s involvement out of the texts, and that I make no attempt to justify it scientifically in relation to natural laws, and so on. That is simply because the brief of the chapter (and of the book, come to that) is the the continued obedience of Creation to its Creator, not the mechanics of how God does it.

Nevertheless, old readers will know that that has been addressed in many places on this blog in pieces on providence, concurrence and the like (use the search function). What I would stress here is that one can’t separate God’s intimate and detailed control of nature from the biblical text without producing a quite different God from the God of Israel and the God of Jesus Christ (not to mention a different Jesus Christ, for according to the Bible he currently rules nature just as sovereignly as Yahweh is said to in the Hebrew Bible, seated as he is at his right hand).

I would suggest, therefore, that the cavills of many TEs that the question of the degree of God’s control of nature is open to debate or disagreement amongst Christians is true only in the same way as the question of the truthfulness of Scripture about the Person of God. If one is prepared to say the Bible has got things flat wrong, then a Creation either in rebellion against God or in some other way beyond his universal control (“creaturely autonomy” being the common phrase) is an option. But God’s control of nature is so pervasive in Scripture that any higher view of its authority ought to foreclose disagreement on the matter.

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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10 Responses to God’s Good Earth – Chapter 1: God’s Relationship to Creation

  1. Edward Robinson Edward Robinson says:

    I’ve read most of the linked chapter, Jon, and I have enjoyed it very much. I look forward to reading the rest of the chapters, as they become available. It’s a shame you can’t make some money out of this, since it’s better than much of what gets published on the Bible. Did you try all the big American publishers? Not just the obvious ones, e.g., the specifically religious publishing houses in Grand Rapids, but mainstream publishers who have a line of religious works, e.g., Thomas Nelson?

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Eddie

      The reason is that, by Sam Johnson’s definition I’m a blockhead: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

      Samizdat, however, was pretty effective in the pre-Glaznost USSR. The interesting question (if rather off-topic) is how “publication” alters the psychology of reading. Unless you’re a complete bigot you can “disagree” with parts a book, however trashy, whereas it’s acceptable to completely rubbish what a commercial chap calling himself a publisher hasn’t deemed commercial.

      Incidentally, a couple of other good quotes on writing from Johnson, which were no doubt passed over by those who read him uncharitably because they knew they knew his thought before they ever read it:

      “The task of an author is, either to teach what is not known, or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorning them; either to let new light in upon the mind, and open new scenes to the prospect, or to vary the dress and situation of common objects, so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions, to spread such flowers over the regions through which the intellect has already made its progress, as may tempt it to return, and take a second view of things hastily passed over, or negligently regarded.”

      “Critics ought never to be consulted, but while errors may yet be rectified or insipidity suppressed. But when the book has once been dismissed into the world, and can be no more retouched, I know not whether a very different conduct should not be prescribed, and whether firmness and spirit may not sometimes be of use to overpower arrogance and repel brutality.”

  2. Cath Olic says:

    Jon,

    I started to read your chapter 1. Here’s what came to mind so far:

    “The biblical blessings and curses are most clearly set out in Leviticus 26…
    “‘I will grant peace in the land, and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid. I will remove wild beasts from the land, and the sword will not pass through your country.””

    Curiously, there is no mention in Genesis 1-2 of Adam and Eve being “afraid”.
    However, there *is* mention of beasts, and of the beasts being brought to man by God for man to name.

    They were all wild beasts, of course, so, why weren’t Adam and Eve afraid?
    Were A&E mortally afraid but Genesis just omitted mention of their well-founded fear?
    …………..

    “For our purpose the key thing to notice here is that Yahweh uses the Creation as his reliable and obedient agent both for blessing and for cursing…
    A *major doctrinal point* can be made quite clearly from this: one reason for Yahweh’s creation of the natural world is in order for it to be his instrument of government for the world, and especially for the human world which is the prime focus of his concern. The things in world exist not, primarily, for their own sake, but in order to serve Yahweh’s governing purposes day by day.”

    Was God’s creation blessing or cursing, or both, during the eons of animal discomfort, disease and *death* before the creation of man?

    What were Yahweh’s governing purposes day by day in the millions of years of animal discomfort, disease and *death* before the creation of man?
    ……………

    “God, then, actively commands all aspects of nature, and whether these act benignly or wreak destruction depends on the outworking of God’s sovereign justice and mercy.”

    In the eons of nature before man, what was the justice which God’s commands accomplished?
    …………..

    “We may *well conclude* that, had mankind not become guilty of sin, God would employ the elements more uniformly benignly towards us, always bringing blessing rather than cursing. But that they do not reflects the change in our relationship with God to one of enmity, and not a change in the character of the elements themselves.”

    So, if mankind hadn’t sinned, God would employ nature in ways always benign to us.
    In which case, the *character* of the elements of nature – to our knowledge and as far as we were concerned – would be benign only.

    I think I agree!
    ………

    “Yet even here the psalm ends with an invitation to see the works of Yahweh, “the desolations he has brought on the earth.” Similarly, in Ps. 75.2-3, God’s judgement is expressed in terms of an earthquake, but its *destruction is held in check* by his holding the earth’s pillars firm. God’s power over the wildest elements, not their rebellion against him, is what is in view in such passages.”

    Reminds me of how in Genesis 2 we read
    “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;
    but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.
    *And amen amen, in the mean time, be on guard of the desolations I have brought on the earth, lest they kill you before you ever get to a tree.*”

    Closely followed by
    “So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.
    *God did this for all but the really wild, dangerous beasts, which God did *not* bring to man to name, for yea verily, for they were wild and dangerous.”
    ……………
    That’s as far as I could bear to read tonight.

  3. KJ says:

    Loved the quick read through ch. 1. I’m definitely looking forward to the rest (especially how you address the “curse of the ground” and how it’s normally applied). I particularly like the middle ground approach, with critiques of hardline TE and YEC assumptions. It’s interesting, however, that the critiques of the former (TE) were more explicit than the latter (YEC). I’m assuming at some point 1 Tim 4:4 (“For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving”) will make a showing.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Hi KJ. Thanks for reading so far!

      Offhand, can’t remember if I actually quote 1 Tim, but if not you’ve highlighted what is a key text, whose theological basis is in the goodness of creation even though its context is food offered to idols and so on. The onus is on those who hold to a corrupted creation to explain it away.

      The curse on the ground comes soon, and I disagree with the excellent Gordon Wenham on it (though without covering his arguments) partly for reasons you’ll see.

      I guess any lack of even-handedness in my critique of YEC and TE is down to (a) the fact that I’ve interacted with TEs more over the last few years and (b) the arguments against YEC are well known and even done to death… which doesn’t mean they don’t surface naturally when one deals with the text, the old authors or the science.

  4. Henry Tudor says:

    I know I do not participate on blogs now; however, I have been doing research on the internet concerning rosacea. I have this condition in the eyes and it is quite painful. I do not know if there are any British scientists here who might like to discuss this topic, but I have been reading some articles on this issue. I have read that it is called the curse of the Celts. My doctor asked my ancestry and gave him a very brief run-down of it. I did not get into details. British, Irish, and Belgian would contain a great deal of Celtic. Is anyone here doing research on this? Would anyone like to discuss this? If so, let me know. CharlesENancyWMiller@verizon.net. May our Triune God bless all of you. Oh, I am back on BioLogos.

    • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

      Sorry about your rosacea, Henry. With our relatively select readership, you’ll be lucky to catch any dermatological researchers here! I used to have patients with it, of course, as a GP back in the distant day, but it’s less usual for it to affect the eyes seriously and so become more than a cosmetic nuisance, so commiserations about that.

      I’d not be surprised to hear it’s genetically biased towards the Celts, together with red hair, pale skin and so on. Other conditions certainly have such biases – Dupuytrens contracture of the hand, for example, is supposed to be a marker of Viking blood.

      But we’re all so mixed up genetically nowadays that probably most people in North America, including blacks and Hispanics, have a few genes from the Irish, and so might turn up with such conditions. Maybe if you have it badly, it’s evidence for being pure-bred! 🙂

      For myself, I have a good proportion of true Irish blood, but seem to have avoided most of the pathognomonic ailments of that nation.

      • Henry Tudor says:

        Thanks for the answer, Jon. I think you are right on the pure-bred. I do enjoy a cup of British and Irish Breakfast tea in the morning. My doctor may need to give me some other medicines. I am glad to hear that you do not have it. Perhaps you never will. God bless!

        • Jon Garvey Jon Garvey says:

          Hmm – not so sure about the tea. I always thought the real test of Irish purity was enjoying several pints of Guinness in the evening! 🙂

  5. Henry Tudor says:

    I am not sure why, but I have been suspended from a certain group for three years. I am not angry about it; I just find it amusing. Have a nice day in the United Kingdom. Oh, I am going back to my doctor on Monday to make sure that the antibiotics are helping. I used to like Guinness too; however, I can no longer enjoy it due to diabetes. Take care, Dr. Jon!

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