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New City Catechism 5.1

This week we come to Question 5 of the New City Catechism, found in Part 1 of the catechism (questions 1-20), which focuses on God, creation and the fall, and the law.

Question 5: What else did God create?

Answer: God created all things by his powerful Word, and all his creation was very good; everything flourished under his loving rule.

When it comes to giving an account for the existence of the universe, we basically have four options. One option is that the universe has always existed. If we hold to this view, we must conclude that the universe itself represents reality at its deepest level, and is thus worthy of our worship. The term “pantheism” identifies all that exists as divine. A second option is that the universe spontaneously came into being, and the forces of matter and energy are all that we need to account for it. Interestingly, while many atheists posit this kind of “non-religious” understanding, it’s quite striking how similar it is to pantheism. For while they may claim the universe had a beginning, they must assume that at the beginning was “the singularity,” the densely packed material particle from which the universe emerged in a grand explosion. Whether one is a pantheist of the Eastern variety or an atheist of the Western variety, the end result is mostly the same: the worship of creation as the absolute reality.

A third option to account for the universe is to say that there is divine being who cannot simply be identified with this world, but that this world emanated from him. The universe, on this view, is not his creation so much as it is his (her?) offspring, involuntarily birthed of divine material. On this view god and creation are mutually part of one another, not clearly distinct. The god of this worldview is a cosmic mother, and we are all little bits of divinity who emerged from her. This view has been called "panentheism."

Against all of these views stands the Christian understanding (and its various offshoots, such as Islam). In the Christian worldview, creation exists because God freely and voluntarily brought it into being by the power of his Word. God clearly transcends creation, and thus he alone, and not any created being, is worthy of our worship and adoration. You might picture pantheism and atheism as “one circle” worldviews, where the universe is all that exists. There is no other level of reality. The third option, panentheism, would be pictured as two overlapping circles, with one emerging from the other, but neither able to be distinguished clearly from the other. In the biblical teaching, we have a clear “two circle” worldview, where God stands supreme above all, clearly distinct from all he has made. He alone is Lord.

Suggested passage for family or personal reading: Psalm 148. What are the various realms of creation mentioned in this psalm? What is the conclusion the psalmist wants us to draw from the fact that God created them all?

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