This article looks at the term "creation" and how we should use it to prevent misunderstandings.

Source: The Outlook, 1987. 2 pages.


Recently there seems to be a resurgence of interest in matters relating to the controversy over creation and evolution. In past discussions and publications it has been evident that the term "creation" has not always been used with the same meaning. At times "creation" referred to the things we see around us, and at other times to their initial appearance. Sometimes an author or speaker would even switch meanings inadvertently within a journal article or speech.

To avoid such a mix-up of concepts, some authors would capitalize one term and not the other. But others would disagree on which term should be capitalized.

One guest speaker at Dordt College was aware of this confusion and of the problems it can cause in an exchange of ideas. He therefore used the two terms "creatio" and "creatura" to distinguish between these two meanings of "creation."

In further discussions today we would do well to remember the distinction between these two concepts, which I wish to enlarge on at this time.


First we will consider the term "creatio." When we talk about the "creation" of various things, such as the sun, or plants, or of man, for example, we are dealing with their initial appearance. This concept of "creation" refers to God's creative acts, through which He called into being that which did not exist before. God created by the Word of His Power. This is God's Word in creation.

When God created He made things and organisms to appear abruptly and supernaturally. Some He created ex nihilo (they simply appeared instantly, from nowhere), and others He created by an unprecedented, non-natural way from preΒ­-existing matter.

It may be helpful to remind ourselves that this "creatio" is not subject to scientific investigation. God's creative acts are supernatural and do not lend themselves to human experimentation or investigation, or to repitition. What we know about "creatio" we know only because God has revealed it to us in His inscripturated Word.

We must also understand that things which were created from pre-existing matter did not come about by natural ways but, again, supernaturally. Had they come about by natural law, then this would no longer fall within the realm of God's creating activity, but be in the realm of God's providence, of His upholding activity.

If God's creative acts were not supernatural, then the origin of things would be "natural" or mechanistic, totally dependent on the laws of nature. Were we to hold to this position we would have to call ourselves deists, because then God would at best enter only incidentally into the origin of the cosmos.


Secondly, let us think about the "creatura." We often talk about "studying God's creation," and our intent then is to deal with the creatures which God initially called into being. Then we look intently at the products of God's creative acts.

These creaturely things, of course, are not "God's Word in creation." The "creatura" is not an infallible "book," as some have claimed, and it is not on par with Scripture. Although it is indeed a most elegant "book," it gives only a creaturely testimony. It testifies of God's eternal power and godhead, of His majesty and providence, and leaves man "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). God's Word in Scripture speaks to us authoritatively, but the creatures can not do so because they have been affected by the Curse. The "creatura" speaks creaturely, testimonially, and is in principle different from Scripture which, says Calvin, "comes from the very mouth of God."

When we study the "creatura" we are observing its structure and behavior, and we discover some of the laws which God has laid down for it. These laws prescribe how the "creatura" must and will behave and they are part of its essence. The evidence we discover of these prescriptive laws we recognize as of God's daily upholding power, of His providence. Some of this evidence we are able to verbalize and make into statements about that behavior. Such statements, when accurate and time-tested, may become our "scientific laws."

In maintaining a clear distinction between these two meanings of the word "creation," i.e., of "creatio" and of "creatura," we are more likely to keep communications clear, and we are less likely to ascribe divine qualities to the creaturely things on the one hand, or, on the other hand to bring God's supernatural acts down to our twentieth-century understanding of how the universe operates.

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