The Fourfold View of Creation
The doctrine of creation is an essential Christian teaching that reveals much about the nature and purposes of God. Creation is not only addressed in the book of Genesis but throughout the various parts of Scripture. And the very first article of the Apostles’ Creed speaks of God’s act in creation:
But what exactly does historic Christianity affirm about creation? In this article, I will set forth a fourfold view of creation that reflects the teaching of Scripture and composes a doctrine that is affirmed by all historic branches of Christendom.
Let’s begin with a definition of creation provided by Christian theologian Bruce Milne: “Creation is that work of the triune God by which he called all things that exist, both material and spiritual, into existence out of non-existence.”2
The Christian doctrine of creation thus affirms that God as a necessary being (a being that cannot not exist or must exist) called all contingent realities (things that cannot create themselves) into existence. God is thus the infinite and eternal, self-existent creator of all things.
So let’s now turn to the four points of creation.
1. The triune God created all things.
Our first point is that the three members of the Godhead were all actively involved in creation. While God the Father is considered the primary agent in creation (1 Corinthians 8:6), the Son (Colossians 1:16) and the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:1–2) served as his cooperative coagents. In trinitarian theology, whenever one member of the Trinity is involved in a divine act, then in some way all three participate. Thus, a trinitarian way of discussing the topic is to say that creation is from the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Another biblically based statement is to affirm that the Father gives creation, whereas the Son upholds it, and the Holy Spirit adorns it.
2. The triune God created all things out of or from nothing.
This point affirms the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo (Romans 4:17, Hebrews 11:3). This critical doctrine teaches that there was originally nothing but God (an infinite, eternal, and tripersonal spirit). By means of his incalculable wisdom and infinite power, God alone brought the universe into existence from nothing (not from any preexistent physical reality such as matter and its connected realities). Thus, everything other than God was called into existence from nothing.
3. The triune God sustains all things in existence.
This statement affirms that upon creating the world, God continues to sustain and uphold his creation (Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3). God continuously upholds (Greek: pherō, “carry or bear”) all things in their existence and sustains the natural properties of those created things. Thus, the fact that the created order remains in existence after creation is also a divine miracle. The apostle Paul even places our lives and being in God’s sustaining hands: “‘For in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:28).
4. The triune God directs all things toward their appointed end.
As the supreme authority of all things, God continually directs the course of all actions and events toward accomplishing his sovereign purposes. Paul describes God’s overruling plan thusly: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).
The three persons of the Godhead created all things from nothing and continue to sustain the creation and direct it according to his sovereign purposes.
So not only is the doctrine of creation an essential belief of the historic Christian faith, but it also reveals God’s deep investment in the created order and in our lives as his creatures and redeemed children.
The fourfold view of creation also reveals that the triune God alone is deserving of worship and devotion, not the contingent creation. The universe, because it was created by God, possesses objective meaning, purpose, and significance. And this world is the stage for God’s redemptive actions in Christ.
- Christian Reformed Church, “Apostles’ Creed” in Ecumenical Creeds and Reformed Confessions (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988), 7.
- Bruce Milne, Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1982), 72.