Darwinist Richard Dawkins’ favourite quote is that the God of the Old Testament is “a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”. This may seem over-the-top to some, but his books are best sellers translated into over thirty languages.
One Norwegian writer says what many, many others have said – she cannot understand how people can read the Bible and still believe God is good. The Old Testament is full of violence, and the Gospel, she feels, is no better for it is unjust of God to punish the innocent in place of the guilty.
This same Bible once formed the basis of our Western society, so what has brought about the drastic change in attitude? The clue lies in the fact that when there was a Christian consensus on morality, there was also a general acceptance of the Bible’s account of origins. Compromise on the first chapters of Genesis means that both are now lost because God’s moral authority is the truth of His Word. The best argument for God’s goodness is still in these chapters of Scripture when taken seriously.
Genesis chapter 1 and 2 declares six times that God’s work is ‘good’
God’s pronouncement of goodness on His creation is of extreme importance. God is creating something completely distinct from Himself, and as such it carries no inherent goodness of its own. The value of what God created lay in the balance until God, who in His very nature is pure goodness, bestowed that goodness on it. Nature stands in need of the once and ongoing pronouncement of goodness by the God who created it, sustains it, and continues to take delight in it.
The very fact that the goodness of creation is continually bestowed upon it by its Creator places upon us a huge responsibility. When we look on nature we look on that which delights the heart of God to such an extent that it dwells under his unceasing decree of goodness. And in response, “The heavens declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1)
That tells us two things:
1. A Good Creation Can Only Be the Work of a Good God
Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to questions of origins. Existence of God the Creator, known with certainty through His works, by the light of human reason, and even if this knowledge is often obscured and disfigured by error. This is why faith comes to confirm and enlighten reason in the correct understanding of this truth: “By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear.”
In my Muslim ministry world, they’re taught that the powers and gods of the natural world portray, in various degrees of, ill will and so aspects of the natural order explained as the outcome of this ill will.
In the OT, the natural order is fundamentally good, as the work of the single good God, Yahweh.
Biblical testimony to the goodness of creation reflects the good character of the God who made it – Psalm 19; 29; 65; 104; 148; Job 12:7-9; Acts 14:17; 17:27; Romans 1:20
2. Creation is Intrinsically Good
God is the creator of all natural beings that constitute the universe, each living and inanimate being has a God-given purpose, and the entire universe is utterly dependent upon God for its ongoing existence
God’s affirmation of the goodness of creation is His seal of divine approval on the universe.
The Gospel Message
Jesus came proclaiming a jubilee (see Lk 4:16-22) in which humanity, and with us all creation, was liberated (see Rom 8:18-25). He taught about salvation, however, with a countryman’s knowledge of the land. God’s grace was like wheat-growing in the night (see Mk 4:26-29); divine love like a shepherd seeking a lost sheep (see Lk 15:4-7). In the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, Jesus found reason for His disciples to give up the ceaseless quest for material security and advantage and to trust in God (see Mt 6:25-33). Jesus himself is the Good Shepherd, who gives his life for his flock (see Jn 10). His Father is a vineyard worker, who trims vines so that they may bear more abundant fruit (see Jn 15:1-8). These familiar images, though they speak directly to humanity’s encounter with God, at the same time reveal that the fundamental relation between humanity and nature is one of caring for creation.
So the earth has intrinsic value – that is to say – valued by God – He made it, He owns it.
Alister McGrath lists four implications of the doctrine of creation. First, there is a need to see a distinction between God and the creation. Second, if God is truly the creator, such a declaration is that this same God is authoritative over all. A Christian theology of this sort then recognizes the stewardship role of humankind of the earth. Humans do not own the world. Third, creation is good – in fact, it is “very good.” To say such does not imply that the world as it presently exists is perfect. Rather, it is has intrinsic value. Fourth area of implication – humans as created in God’s image. St. Augustine’s words give us one dimension of this: “You made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” These words remind us that humanity shares a unique connection to the Creator.
So our mission is not need-supplying value of the earth to us, but in the glory-giving value of the earth to God.
Just like the work of an artist reflects something of the inner being of the artist, creation reflects and praises God. Creation shows us something of the grandeur of God. It is not something consumed or used, it is there and of itself to give glory to God.