WCF Chapter 4 | Of Creation
Have you ever told someone, “I must have missed the first part of your story. I don’t understand”? Without a context most stories lose meaning. So it is with the story of humanity. Ignorance of our beginning breeds confusion and purposelessness. Even the drama of salvation by grace makes sense only in light of history’s opening act.
Mainstream science tells a different origins story. But at least one leading biochemist admits that, “At present all discussions on principle theories and experiments in the field” concerning the problem of the origin of life, “either end in a stalemate or in a confession of ignorance.”[i] In reality, Scripture and nature say the same thing. We don’t always see how they harmonize. We might misinterpret scientific data or misunderstand Scripture. But our first allegiance is to the Bible through which God communicates “more openly.”[ii]
The biblical story of the world opens with the eternal, triune God creating all things. He truly created; by his mere word he made everything from nothing (Heb. 11:3). He didn’t need to; he is perfectly sufficient. But he made a world to witness and proclaim “the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness.” Everything owes its allegiance to the loving and just Creator. Every Christian must believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made the heavens and the earth.
After Genesis one briefly records six days of creation, chapter two backs up to emphasize the significance of God’s creation of humans. What essential truths can we learn about ourselves from the creation of the first two people?
Humans Are Male and Female
In our post-Christian age amid the emergence of a new paganism gender has become ground-zero in worldview battles. “Today’s revolution in theology is not over the doctrine of justification by faith alone, but over sexual identity.”[iii] Why is sexuality so contested today? Because maleness and femaleness, as both biological and biblical reality, tell us who we are and how we should live. We want to define ourselves. But God already has.
Gender is basic to who we are. When asked about divorce Jesus could have simply quoted Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” But he backed up further: “He who created them from the beginning made them male and female” (Matt. 19:4; cf. Gen. 1:27). Marriage is not simply the commitment of two people, but the exclusive union of the two complementary parts of God’s image. In Scripture’s first seven chapters “male and female” occurs six times; gender is binary by design. The animals brought onto the ark had to “be male and female” (Gen. 6:19) or they would go extinct.
Both genders—equal in value, unique in their callings—glorify God together. “The high point” in creation “is not a human being, but a pair of them.”[iv]
Humans Are Body and Soul
That we are body is obvious. God told the first people, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen. 3:19; cf. 2:7). Our dustiness humbles us. It unites us with the rest of creation in dependence on our creator. It also urges us to care for our bodies and be thankful for the “very good” physical world.
But we are more than body. Into the nostrils of “the man of dust” (1 Cor. 15:48) God breathed “the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Gen. 2:7). God did more animate Adam; he gave him “a reasonable and immortal soul.” Because of our souls we live on a different plane than animals. We can reason. We can base our actions not just on consequences but on morality. We can feel joy, sadness, confidence, guilt, compassion, anger—every emotion. And, most significantly, our souls never die. We die when our bodies fail. But “the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (Eccl. 12:7). Every soul will live eternally in heaven or hell. So Jesus asks, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:37 KJV). If you care about your life you will preserve your soul by trusting in Jesus and committing to live according to God’s will.
Humans Are Image-Bearers
In some way the triune God used himself as a pattern for creating humans. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” (Gen. 1:27; cf. 1:26; 9:6). Genesis 5:3 uses the same two words: Adam “fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” Seth was entirely distinct from Adam. But there were similarities between them.
And Scripture gives examples of how humans reflect God. We were made to think like God. Sin confused our thinking. But the new birth renews us in knowledge after the image of our Creator (Col. 3:10). So are recreated people renewed “after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Like God humans exercise dominion over the earth. Like him we have the capacity for deep communion. We cannot create from nothing, but we share a fraction of God’s creativity. We can love like God and administer justice like him. To reflect God’s goodness humans were made with “the law of God written in their hearts” and with “power to fulfill it.”
Image-bearing is inescapable. Even after the fall in what most essentially distinguishes us from animals we can still sense a connection to God.
Humans Are Subject to Change
God is immutable. We are mutable, liable to change. God gave Adam a truly free will. When he warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit he extended a real choice. It wasn’t a trick. The game wasn’t rigged. God not only spoke this law, he wrote it on his people’s hearts; what God wanted resonated with their upright character. And as long as Adam kept God’s law he was happy. That’s hard for us to imagine; we wrestle against God’s law. But Adam didn’t. As he glorified God he also enjoyed him. And the creation flourished under his care. This will be perfectly true again for God’s fully redeemed people. And it begins to come true for us in this life after the new birth. God’s law is always for our good and even for our happiness. We should strive to keep it. Adam could have kept God’s will forever.
But as a free person Adam could also transgress God’s commands. And because he did no one born like Adam is truly free. Humanity has changed. In no way can we struggle our way back to paradise (see Gen. 3:22–24). And this is how the doctrine of creation informs the drama of salvation in Christ. The God who is not subject to change and who cannot sin came into our world in the person of Jesus. True God became true man, with a reasonable soul. He kept God’s full will for us and truly became for us “a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45). To know who we are we have to know our history. But for that story to end happily we must also know Christ.
[i] Cited in Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000), 115.
[ii] Belgic Confession, art. 2.
[iii] Christopher J. Gordon, The New Reformation Catechism on Human Sexuality (Gospel Reformation Network, 2022), 5.
[iv] Chad Van Dixhoorn, Confessing the Faith, 63.