The Creator/Creature Distinction, Missions, and Church Planting

 Most Christians probably haven’t thought how the biblical distinction between the Creator (the triune God) and creation (the universe and everything in it) has a lot to do with missions, evangelism, and even church planting.  Read this section in Chris Wright’s The Mission of God, where he shows how a the Creator/creature distinction has much to do with missions.

“The Bible makes a clear distinction between God the Creator and all things created….  Nothing in creation is in itself divine. …In the faith of Israel…the great realities of  the natural world, whether forces, phenomena or objects, had no inherent divine existence.  The Hebrew Bible…resists and reverses the human tendency to divinize or personalize the natural order, or to imbue it with any power independent of its personal Creator.”

“It is important to distinguish between personalizing and personifying nature.  The Old Testament frequently personifies nature as a rhetorical device, a figure of speech, for greater effect.  Personification is a literary device in which nature is spoken of as if it were a person.  (i.e. Deut 30:19, Is 1:2, Ps 50:1-6, Psalm 19:1-4, etc.)….”

“But the point of this literary and rhetorical personification of nature is either to underline the personal character of the God who created it and is active in and through it, or to express the personal and moral nature of human beings’ relation to God.  Such literary usage is not ascribing real personhood or personal capacities to nature or natural forces in themselves.  In fact, to personalize nature in that way (that is, to attribute actual personal status to nature itself) results in both depersonalizing God and demoralizing the relationship between humanity and God.  To accord to creation the personal status and honor that is due only to God (or derivatively to humans who bear God’s image) is a form of idolatry as ancient as the Fall itself (cf. Rom 1:21-25), though now given new characteristically twentieth-first-century dress in the New Age movements.”

And finally, notice how he brings it towards missions.

“This countercultural thrust in the Old Testament has strong missional implications, for the gospel today still confronts (as it did in the New Testament) religious traditions that divinize nature, whether in some forms of primal religion, popular Hinduism, or recent New Age borrowings from both.”

Wright makes some great points there that Christians/churches need to think about as we “go forth” and tell people about Jesus.  The only thing I’d like to add is a reminder that the divinization of nature is not a belief that is only found in some foreign tribes in the dark jungles.  Most people who live next door to you, in your towns and cities (whether in Detroit, London, or Sydney) simply don’t believe in a basic distinction between God and creation.  They probably believe a smattering of New Age pantheism (“Green Mother Earth”) and/or a blend of deism (“one nation under G/god”), which makes for a messed up worldview.  Therefore, when discussing the Christian faith with those who are not Christians, one important area to discuss is the biblical Creator/creature distinction. 

The quotes from Christopher Wright are found on pages 400-401 of The Mission of God.  Now you can see why this book is on my list of recommended reading for church planters.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

2 thoughts on “The Creator/Creature Distinction, Missions, and Church Planting”

  1. This looks like a good book for church leaders; I appreciate the post. I’m placing it on my amazon wish list. also, I think Van Til offers some fine points: “I take what the Bible says about God and his relation to the universe as unquestionably true on its own authority. The Bible requires men to believe that he exists apart from and above the world and that he by his plan controls whatever takes place in the world. Everything in the created universe therefore displays the fact that it is controlled by God …” (DOF).

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing this. I especially like the point about the way the Old Testament confronts religions such as Hinduism and New Age. I would like to be able to explain this more effectively. Sometimes those I teach who are seeking reject the Old Testament because they don’t understand why God would command His people to kill so many others…

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