At Work & Theology 101

Three Common Mistakes About Creation

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One of my colleagues recently attended a global missions conference, where a common question was posed to a panel of Christian entrepreneurs: “How many people came to Christ as a result of your business?”

This question is not new. In his essay Learning In Wartime, C.S. Lewis writes about his efforts to answer a similar question:

How can you be so frivolous and selfish as to think about anything but the salvation of human souls?

You may wonder this yourself as you go about your daily work. You may have been told your profession is less spiritual or important than that of an evangelist or missionary. Those positions certainly are important. However, scripture makes it clear that your work is just as meaningful.

Each of our professions plays a role in carrying out the cultural mandate given by God during Creation. Creation is what I want to dig into today. There are many misconceptions about this first chapter of the four chapter gospel. It is important to dispel these notions so that we can better understand the event that provides part of the basis for our work.

1. Creation was not made out of God.

When theologians talk about God creating ex nihilo, out of nothing, they are, in part, saying that creation was not made out of God. This is in contrast to pantheism (all is God), as exemplified in various forms of Hindu, Buddhist, and New Age philosophies. Various New Age authors articulate this “All is One” or “All is God” philosophy as “the principle of non-distinction.” This principle states that the distinctions we see in this world between plants, animals, and people are illusory. The distinct world created by God is not real but an illusion.

2. Creation is also good.

Matter is not evil. Various philosophies throughout the ages have maintained that anything physical or material is suspect. Plato wanted to have his soul delivered from the prison house of his body. He desired our destiny to be a redemption from the body rather than a redemption of the body, as scripture teaches.

Other groups, such as the Manicheans, Dualists, and Gnostics held similar views. The early church battled earlier versions of these philosophies. The apostle John is said to have resisted the teaching of Cerinthus, who believed that the divine Christ entered the human Jesus after his birth and departed before his crucifixion. Thus, God was not involved in pain, suffering, and death. In contrast, John 1:14 says, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

3. Creation is not heretical. 

Perhaps it is this kind of false teaching that Paul addresses in I Timothy 4:1-5:

But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer. 

Notice Paul’s strong language of warning: abandoning the faith, deceiving spirits, things taught by demons, hypocritical liars, consciences seared as with a hot iron. What is this horrible heresy that leads to such deplorable results? It is the taking of that which is good and acceptable and calling it bad and unacceptable.

The advocates of the false teaching Paul was speaking of most likely forbade marriage because of a belief that our bodies and sexuality are evil. They also advocated abstaining from certain foods. They focused on what believers could not do. They said no where God had said yes. They made up rules where God had not given rules. They made up laws where God had left people free.

Above all, they denied implicitly that God’s creation was good. Note that Paul regards creation as real and deeply, radically good (see also I Corinthians 10:23-31).

Our work takes the raw materials God provided in creation and develops them for the glory of his kingdom. It is helpful to know the raw materials we work with are real and good. Don’t say no to your work, where God has said yes to you working and developing his creation.

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