The Catechism of Creation: Part I

[Catechism of Creation parts III, & III]

Part I: Theology of Creation

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe
you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.
At your command all things came to be:
the vast expanse of interstellar space,
galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses,
and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.
(Eucharistic Prayer C, Book of Common Prayer, p. 370)

Where do we profess our faith in the God at whose command all things came to be?

We profess it every time we say together the Nicene Creed:

“We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ….
Through him all things were made.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life.”

Our creation faith is a Trinitarian faith: the Father, who is the Source of all that is, creates and upholds the creation, that is, the visible and invisible universe, through the Son, who is the pre-existent Word who speaks the universe into being, and in the life-giving, sustaining and renewing Spirit.

What are the sources of these creedal statements, the source of our faith that we live in a created universe?

Their sources are the Holy Bible and early Christian theology together with reason and prayerful reflection.

How are we to understand the word “creation” in relation to God?

“Creation” refers to the Triune God’s originating act of creating, to everything that God continually brings into being, and to whatever new creation God intends. It includes both the visible and the invisible.

Why do we believe that God is “maker of heaven and earth”?

The Bible declares throughout that God is the creator. In one of many places the Old Testament prophet in Isaiah 44:23 speaks for God:

I am the Lord who made all things,
Who alone stretched out the heavens,
Who by myself spread out the earth.

In the New Testament St. Paul (Acts 17:24) refers to the God “who made the world and everything in it, he who is the Lord of heaven and earth….”

Are the creation stories in Genesis, chapters 1 and 2, meant to convey how God originated the universe?

These majestic stories should not be understood as historical and scientific accounts of origins but as proclamations of basic theological truths about creation. “Creation” in Holy Scripture refers to and describes the relationship between God and all God’s wonderful works.

What theological truths about creation does Genesis 1 convey?

Genesis 1 teaches that the one true God calls the universe into existence, and all of creation responds to God’s call. The creation has order and structure. It is transfigured and reveals God’s presence, but it is natural, not divine. It is dependent upon its Creator for its continuing existence and for all of the powers and capacities it possesses. Each element is declared to be good and the whole of it very good. Finally, Genesis 1 teaches that the Sabbath, God’s holy day of celebration and rest, is anchored in the act of creation.

What truths about creation does Genesis 2 declare?

While Genesis 1 emphasizes God’s transcendence or otherness from creation, Genesis 2, in poetic and metaphorical language, emphasizes God’s immanence or intimate relationship with creation. In the story of the making of the garden and of the first man and woman, God is present to every creature in creating it and giving it sustenance.

Where else in Holy Scripture is God’s relationship with creation conveyed?

Among many places, the Book of Job, chapters 38-42, reveals God’s intimate knowledge of and relationship with all of creation, and God’s ecstatic joy in and love for all creatures wild and tame. Psalm 104, also, describes God continually giving all living things life, food, and shelter, and through the Holy Spirit renewing the face of the earth. God is always making, sustaining, renewing, and blessing.

What role does Wisdom play in creation?

Wisdom is personified and described in the books of Proverbs, Sirach, and Wisdom as God’s agent and assistant in creation (Prov. 8:22-31). Wisdom teaches human beings about the creation, since she knows every part of it intimately (Sirach 24:5; Wisdom 7:22). Some theologians have described Wisdom (Greek, Sophia) as “the feminine face of God.” The New Testament identifies Wisdom with the creating Word of God made flesh in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-3, 14; 1 Cor. 1:24; Col. 1:15-17).

Why do we believe that Jesus Christ is the one “through whom all things were made”?

Christ is proclaimed as the pre-existing Word “through whom are all things” (1 Cor. 8:6). As the evangelist writes (John 1:1-3), “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” In Colossians (1:15-17), Christ is praised as the Agent of Creation (“in him all things were created”), the Wisdom of God (“the firstborn of all creation” [cf. Proverbs 8:22]), and the Sustainer (“in him all things hold together” [cf. Wisdom 1:7]).

Does our belief that Jesus Christ is the creating Word of God relate to our belief that he is our Savior?

Yes. In the Bible redemption and creation are closely tied together, for the God who saves is the very God who creates. This message appears in the Old Testament prophet of the Babylonian exile: he assures his people that the God who rescued their ancestors from slavery in Egypt and will redeem them from exile is the same Lord who created the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 40:12, 28; 42:5-6; 44:23). In the New Testament the writer of Colossians states (Colosians 1:16, 20) that the Christ through whom “all things in heaven and on earth were created” is also the one through whom “God was pleased to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.”

Why do we believe that the Holy Spirit is active in creation as “the Lord, the Giver of life”?

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit is imaged as the breath or “rushing wind” of God that sweeps over the waters at the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:1), and breathes life into the dust to make the first human (Gen. 2:7). The Psalmist declares:

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all their hosts by the breath of his mouth (Ps. 33:6; cf. Judith 16:14).


When you send forth your spirit they are created,
And you renew the face of the earth (Ps. 104:30).

God’s life-giving “immortal spirit is in all things” (Wis. 12:1; cf. Ps. 139:7-10). In the New Testament the Holy Spirit is called “Lord” (2 Cor. 3:17) and “giver of life” (John 6:63), since the Spirit gives new life to all who believe in Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:5; 8:2, 9-11; 1 Cor. 15:44-45). Wisdom, Word and Spirit are linked together in creating, sustaining and recreating.

What does the Bible convey about creation’s relationship to the Creator?

In poetic and metaphorical language, the creation is depicted as responding with praise for its Creator. In Psalm 148, all of the elements are called upon to give praise—sun and moon, fire and hail, snow and frost, “creeping things and flying fowl.” It is said, poetically, that at the coming of the Lord, the morning stars sing together (Job 38:7), the mountains skip like rams (Ps. 114:4), and all the trees of the field clap their hands (Is. 56:12). We who can give human voice to our gratitude are also called upon to give thanks for this wonderful gift, the creation (Ps. 148:11-13).

What does the Bible reveal about God’s relationship to humanity?

Genesis 1:26-28 teaches that God brought forth man and woman in the divine image and likeness and bestowed upon them responsibility for all the things of the earth. Genesis 2:6 declares that humans are to tend and serve the garden, i.e., to care for “this fragile earth, our island home” (Eucharistic Prayer C). God also has given human beings creative powers. We also participate in creation through works of human thought, art and scientific invention (cf. Ex. 31:35). And God invites humanity into a covenantal relationship of love for God, for humanity and for the creation.

Are there other ways in which it is said in Scripture that God creates?

The Old Testament teaches that God also created a covenant people from those whom God liberated from Egypt (Ex., chapters 19-20). The Spirit, experienced as a “mighty wind” (cf. Gen. 1:1), gave birth to a new creation, the Church, at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). And St. Paul writes: “If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

How else does the Bible speak of a new creation?

In metaphorical and mystical language, St. Paul writes that the resurrection of Christ marks the beginning of a process that will bring not only humanity but the whole of creation into a new state of being and relationship with God. All of creation groans like a woman in labor to give birth to something new (Rom. 8:18-25). Likewise, the image of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev. 21:1-4) symbolically conveys not the destruction of the old but its transformation into the new. In the same letter that he writes about the mystery of the resurrected body, Paul conveys that in some inexpressible way, the whole of creation will be taken up into the life of God (1 Cor. 15). What this new creation may be remains a mystery, yet it constitutes the ground of Christian hope.

What is theology of creation?

Theology puts into words our rational and prayerful reflections on revelation. Theology of creation presents the Church’s thinking about the relationship between God and the world as it is informed by our understandings of Holy Scripture and observations of nature. It seeks to express in human language the mysteries of this relationship. It is not a theory about the universe but a doctrine about the God who creates. Throughout the history of Christian thought, in the tradition of “faith seeking understanding,” our understanding of the doctrine of creation has been informed by discoveries and theories in the natural sciences, but without the doctrine itself being determined by any particular scientific theory or world view.

What does it mean to say that God creates “out of nothing”?

This ancient church teaching asserts that the Trinity has created this universe out of that which did not previously exist (usually expressed by the Latin phrase creatio ex nihilo). Before this act of creation there was, literally, no time, space, energy, or substance of any kind. God’s originating act was an exercise of God’s will and pleasure, an act of love. This teaching arose from reflections on the whole course of biblical revelation about the creation and was not a conclusion drawn from scientific observation.

What does it mean to say that God continues to create?

Besides the doctrine of creation out of nothing, early Church theologians developed the doctrine of continuous creation (in Latin, creatio continua). It means, first, that the creation is continually upheld and sustained through God’s Word and Holy Spirit, for were the Trinity to withdraw divine power, the creation would cease to exist. Second, it means that the creation is not a once-and-for-all act: the universe comes more and more into being over time. Just as the phrase “creation out of nothing” expresses God’s transcendence or Otherness from creation, so “continuous creation” expresses God’s immanence or intimate Presence within creation. It means that God continually calls forth, dwells in, and provides for creation.

[Catechism of Creation parts III, & III]