In the Beginning
Posted by Jill Carattini on June 5, 2017
Someone once told me that the most comforting premise of the Christian imagination was, for her, the assurance of a beginning. Her Hindu upbringing had been far less clear. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” These very first words of Scripture boldly proclaim that we are not lost and wandering in a cosmic circle of time and accident, isolated from any meaning beyond the name or reputation we manage to carve for ourselves. At the heart of the Christian imagination is one who stood at the foundation of the world, and with love, beauty, and wisdom, caused life and history to begin.
For the Christian, this comforting premise is deepened by the image of creation as the cooperative work of a relational, trinitarian God. The account of creation in the Gospel of John runs parallel to the creation accounts of the book of Genesis, except that John makes it clear that the Father was not acting alone. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”(1) Paul similarly describes the Son’s vital role in creation to the Colossians, referring to Jesus Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”(2)
The New Testament writers unapologetically affirm the Old Testament understanding of creation’s dependence upon the maker of heaven and earth. But they add to this affirmation the admission that all creation—from the beginning until now—is further seen through the light of Jesus Christ. Christ is the Word of God, existing with God at the beginning. He is the one who called forth the heavens, the one who holds all things together, the one who sustains the universe by his word even now. Here also, like the Son, the Spirit is affirmed in Scripture as present at the beginning and sustaining of all creation: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.”(3) In the words of Jürgen Moltmann, creation remains a beautiful, collaborative gift: “Creation exists in the Spirit, is molded by the Son, and is created by the Father. It is therefore from God, through God, and in God.”(4)
For someone like my friend, this rightly signals so much more than simply another religion’s means of dealing with the philosophical question of origin. We are given the world via the hands of a good, imaginative, relational creator. In fact, the work of creation is the very overflowing of the divine relationship. Out of an image of the fullness of life in the Trinity, creation is affirmed not as emerging from any lack or need in God, but from God’s loving, good abundance. It is for this reason that creation is affirmed as good throughout Scripture: as the creative overflow of a divine fellowship, creation bears the very image of its creator. It is why Augustine argued that there is a trace of the Trinity in every creature.
Out of this loving abundance, Father, Son, and Spirit have bound themselves to the world from the very beginning. Leaving this mark, making humanity in their image, the divine communion of Father, Son, and Spirit presents an image of the very community God intended for the world, a communion God continues to call us further into, even as Christ works to restore the way.
This is indeed a comforting premise. It is a creation story that reaches from the beginning of time and continues in even the smallest moment of our present day. The goodness of God, the maker of heaven and earth, can be seen in the daily activities of an immense and amazing world. Into this picture of God’s creation, the Christian imagination sees a world called to participate in its very origin story, to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” to delight in God as maker of all things, and so join in the fellowship of a creative Trinity. Today and from the beginning, we are neither alone nor without purpose. We were made and we are being remade by the Son through the Spirit unto the Father.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) John 1:1-4.
(2) Colossians 1:15-17.
(3) Psalm 33:6.
(4) Jürgen Moltmann as quoted in Donald McKim, Introducing the Reformed Faith (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2001), 40.