Very Good Creation
Suppose you woke up one morning in a world where mice follow maps, bulls have radar, and pizzas grow on trees. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Well, if that would be amazing, then what about the world we actually live in? Isn’t it equally amazing? Think about it. Pizzas don’t grow on trees, but peaches do. Bulls don’t have radar, but bats do. Mice don’t follow maps, but other creatures do. Salmon somehow navigate huge distances and swim to their exact spawning place. Birds fly far when seasons change, and they somehow know their destination and how to get there.
This world is filled with things as amazing as any world we could dream up. It’s as full of marvels as a fairy tale. We might be amazed by a story of a frog that becomes a prince, but isn’t it just as amazing for a tadpole to become a frog, or for a caterpillar to become a butterfly?
All these things are God’s handiwork. The Creator’s fingerprints are everywhere. Peaches and porpoises, bats and bullfrogs, geese and gorillas, dinosaurs and daisies, and all sorts of other weird and wonderful things display God’s playful inventiveness. The world is brimming with marvels that enchant little children and astound learned scientists.
Design and Delight
Underlying the almost magical qualities of various creatures are mechanical designs that display God’s mind-boggling wisdom. Bacteria are among the lowliest creatures on earth, but even they are marvels of design. The flagellum by which bacteria swim is actually a corkscrew-shaped propeller. It is attached to and turned by a tiny electrical motor made up of different kinds of protein. “The rotary motor uses a flow of acid to power it, like a hydroelectric dam uses a flow of water to power its turbines,” explains biochemist Michael Behe. “The cell,” adds Behe, “is essentially a completely automated factory, so all assembly has to be done by highly sophisticated robots, not by magic.” Now, if one of the least of God’s creatures can be compared to a factory with robots, imagine the complexity of higher creatures.
Here in the computer age, we’re impressed that one small compact disc can store hundreds of books. But that’s nothing compared to the information storage God invented for our bodies. Just one tiny gram of DNA can hold the information equivalent of a trillion CDs! Not just one, not a just thousand or a million or even a billion, but a trillion CDs could fit in a single gram of DNA. German information scientist Werner Gitt estimates that a quantity of DNA the size of a pinhead could hold so much data that if it were written in books, the books would stack up 500 times higher than the distance from the earth to the moon.
Can anyone imagine the intelligence of the divine Designer who could pack such incredible amounts of information into such a small space? Can anyone grasp the artistic genius of the God who dreamed up all the different creatures with no prompting or pattern but his own creativity? Can anyone fathom the power of the Lord who brought into being living creatures and vast galaxies without having any raw material to start with except his own omnipotence? The universe is a theater which displays God’s glory. One of the silliest ideas ever conceived is the idea that the world and its creatures came to be without a Creator.
There’s another idea, though, which may be even sillier: the idea that God exists but is a killjoy who wants to stifle and spoil our pleasures. That may be the dumbest idea ever. God is the Creator who invented pleasure! Why would he want to ruin it?
When you’re feasting your eyes on a sunset or a waterfall or the fall colors of a tree, who do you think invented all those splendid colors and gave you eyes to see them? When you’re listening to the whisper of a breeze or the chirping of a bird or the giggling of a baby or the melody of music, who do you think invented all those sounds and gave you ears to hear them? When you’re sinking your teeth into scrumptious food and washing it down with a refreshing drink, who do you think got the idea for all that flavor and gave you taste buds to savor it? Who made creatures that could enjoy loving kisses and tender caresses? Who came up with the idea for all this? God did. How could God create all this and be an enemy of pleasure?
God isn’t against happiness; happiness is his idea. In fact, it’s not just his idea. It’s at the very heart of who he is. God is a happy God. The Trinity of God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is a union of boundless delight. Father, Son, and Spirit decided to display God’s own overflowing delight by creating a world filled with delightful creatures who would delight in the world and in its Creator.
God’s delightful nature is evident in the delightful world he made. We see some things that are devastating, not delightful, but that’s not because of any failing on the Creator’s part. It’s because our first parents, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and brought degeneration and death on themselves and other creatures. We live in a world marred by sin, but even so, we’re still surrounded by countless examples of wise design and joyous delight. If the world is this good, even after it got messed up, just picture what it was like when God first created it.
In Genesis 1 God tells the story of creation simply enough for any child to understand. He doesn’t go into technical details, but he makes one thing absolutely clear: he did the job perfectly. At six different stages of creation, Genesis 1 says, “God saw that it was good.” Then, after God completed his work, Genesis says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” What did God see when he looked over his creative work each day? “Good, good, good, good, good, good, very good”—six “goods” as the work proceeded and a “very good” when it was completed. Let’s take a closer look at God’s very good creation.
The first thing God did was to create matter. God wasn’t like an artist who starts out with some clay and goes about shaping it. God was more like an artist who started with absolutely nothing, brought clay itself into existence, and then went on to form it according to his design. Nothing in our universe has existed forever. Only God is eternal. Everything else had a beginning in God’s creative work. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” says Genesis. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (1:1-2). God created from nothing the raw material he would use to construct everything else. This raw material was unstructured and uninhabited at first, but the Spirit of God hovered over the mixture, poised for the next creative move.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.” And there was evening, and there was morning–the first day” (1:3-5). Notice that God created light and designated day and night before he made the sun. God didn’t need the sun or stars in order for light to exist. He simply said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and it was good.
On the second and third days of creation, God proceeded to give the formless earth a structure that could sustain life. Out of the mixture of elements, God separated air and water and made the atmosphere. Genesis calls the atmosphere “the expanse,” “the firmament,” or “the sky.” God uses words that a non-scientist can understand, but behind those simple words are complex and amazing realities. Scientists can write long books about what a marvel our atmosphere is, with the right mixture of oxygen and other gases to support life.
After making the atmosphere on the second day, God went on to separate water from land on the third day. God said, “‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so… And God saw that it was good.” Again, the Bible’s words are simple, but science helps us get a better idea just how good God’s creative work is. We often take water for granted, but water is amazing. Chemist Jonathan Sarfati writes, “We would die in a few days without water – and our bodies are 65% water. Water is necessary to dissolve essential minerals and oxygen, flush our bodies of waste products, and transport nutrients around the body where needed. Water is the only substance that has these properties.” And,” says Dr. Sarfati, “it has many more fascinating features that suggest that it has been designed ‘just right’ for life.” For example, unlike most other substances, water floats when it freezes. If water got heavy when it froze, ice would sink, and many ponds and lakes would freeze from bottom to top, making it impossible for plants and fish to live there. There are many other unique properties of water, too numerous to mention, but let’s just say that it was an understatement for God to call it good.
Once God had prepared the atmosphere, water, and land, “God said, ‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so… And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning–the third day (1:11-13). From lovely lilies to towering redwoods, God created countless different kinds of plants, each with its own special design. They were beautiful to see, and many would provide delicious, nourishing food for the animals God would soon create.
Completing the Work
Three days after inventing light, God decided to make the sun, moon, and stars to serve as his designated light-bearers.
God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth. And it was so… And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning–the fourth day (1:14-19).
Using the word “good” for all this is a divine understatement. The stars and galaxies are vast beyond measurement. Our telescopes can’t begin to see them all, but God knows every star by name (Psalm 147:4). As for the sun itself, it’s just the right size and temperature and distance from the earth to sustain life.
The sun does such a good job of handling the work God assigned it, giving light and warmth to the earth, that sinful people have sometimes worshiped it. The stars, too, are such a marvel that people have worshiped them. Even some scientists come close to worshiping the sun and stars. Astronomer Carl Sagan, for instance, once said, “Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish. It makes good sense to revere the Sun and stars because we are their children.”
Centuries before Sagan, the church father Theophilus wrote, “Since God has foreknowledge, he understood the nonsense of the foolish philosophers who were going to say that the things produced on earth came from the stars, so that they might set God aside. In order therefore that the truth might be demonstrated, plants and seeds came into existence before stars.” God created light on the first day and made the earth produce plants on the third day. Only on the fourth day did he create the sun, moon, and stars to carry on work he had already begun without them.
These great lights are magnificent tools of God, but they are only tools. There is no tool of God that he cannot not do without. Whenever God uses a tool to provide something good, the gratitude and worship should go to God, not the tool he uses. We may admire and value the sun, moon, and stars, but we must realize that the beauty they have, and the blessings they give, come from God himself. “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” says the Bible, “coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights” (James 1:17).
God’s next step in creating was to populate the water, air, and land with creatures that live and move and feel.
God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” …And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning–the fifth day.
And God said, “Let the land produce creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals each according to its kind.” And it was so… And God saw that it was good (1:20-25).
Earlier we talked about fish, birds, and land animals that are as astonishing as anything in a fairy tale, and there many, many more. Honeybees perform complex dances that tell each other the exact distance and direction to a new source of nectar. Various underwater creatures generate electricity and glow in the dark.
The fact that some creatures can fly is little short of a miracle, and all the more so when we realize that birds and bats and butterflies are all able to fly, but none have the same wing structure. Bird wings have feathers, bats’ wings are made of skin, and butterflies have another type of wing altogether. It strains credibility to think that even one flight system could evolve by chance, so to think that three entirely different structures could have evolved independently requires a very devout and blind faith in the miraculous power of chance.
God designed different kinds of life with different features to populate different places. Mountain goats climb cliffs, penguins play in ice water, cactuses and camels live in deserts, badgers dig holes, and beavers build dams, all because the Creator suited each creature to its own special place.
Even after creating the marvelous variety of animal life, however, God wasn’t finished. He saved the best for last and “created man in his own image,” says Genesis, to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves along the ground” (1:27-28). Humanity is the crown of God’s creation. I’ll devote an entire program to that theme next week, but for now, simply take note that of all God’s marvelous creatures, Adam and Eve were best of all.
Then, just before Genesis offers God’s final assessment of his creation, it mentions that God provided nourishment without any need of bloodshed. God said to the first humans,
“I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground–everything that has the breath of life in it–I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. (1:29-2:1)
God’s creative work had been good all along, but now it was very good, because God’s masterpiece, humanity, had now been made, and because the entire array of good creatures was now finished.
Notice that God declared creation “very good” only after he first announced that all moving, breathing, feeling creatures would eat plants, not each other. You may ask, “What about the big, sharp teeth of so many animals? Doesn’t that prove they were always meat eaters?” No, it only proves they have big, sharp teeth. “The giant panda has sharp teeth like a meat eater, but it eats bamboo… Bears have teeth similar to those of a big cat (eg., a lion), but some bears are vegetarian” (Ham, Sarfati, Wieland, The Answers Book, p. 247-248). Before humanity fell into sin and unleashed bloodshed and death, animals could have used their strength and sharp teeth to enjoy a vegetarian diet.
Now that we’ve heard the creation account, listen again to God’s assessment of it: “Good, good, good, good, good, good, very good”–six “goods” as the work proceeded and a “very good” when it was completed.
Escaping Darwin’s Doldrums
Charles Darwin did not believe that God created the world very good, in a state of perfect design and painless delight. Darwin studied some scholars’ attempts to demonstrate God’s reality from nature’s design, but Darwin was not convinced. He conceded that many things look designed, but, said Darwin, “There seems to me too much misery in the world.” He could not believe that a good and all-powerful God deliberately designed cats to torment and kill mice or parasites to infest and feed on the bodies of living caterpillars or other painful, bloody, deadly behavior in the animal kingdom.
Darwin didn’t accept Genesis as written, and, sad to say, even intellectuals who believed in divine design often dismissed the details of Genesis. They tried to convince Darwin about God’s creative handiwork but did not themselves believe there was ever a time when the animal kingdom was free of bloodshed, disease, and death. Suffering would then be part of God’s original handiwork, and this was the thing that bothered Darwin in the first place.
If we dismiss what Genesis says about all animals eating only plants in the beginning and instead accept a scientist’s scenario of long ages of pain and death before humanity appeared on the scene, we may think it will be easier to build bridges between science and the Bible. But this approach may create bigger problems than it solves. Does the idea that animals have inflicted pain and death on each other from the beginning really make it easier to believe in a good and loving Creator who designed everything perfectly?
If we take Genesis as it is written, then we know that the world as we now observe and experience it is not the same as it was when God made it. Everything God made was very good. But humanity rebelled against God, and our sin brought devastating effects not only on humanity but on the whole world of creatures headed by humanity. Why do things so often appear designed but yet with glitches in the design? Because there has been much decay from God’s design, and yet, by God’s grace, some of the original design still shines through. Why are there so many delightful things and at the same time so many deadly ones? Because we live in a world where the Creator’s goodness is intermingled with sin’s curse.
Darwin, rather than believing Genesis and acknowledging the Creator’s goodness and the effects of sin, came up with a theory that tried to explain everything in terms of chance and death. At one time Darwin enjoyed many good things in life, even though he was troubled by some bad things. But gradually Darwin lost his capacity to enjoy beauty and goodness at all. Things which once thrilled him and filled him with delight in his younger days became dull, even disgusting. Darwin wrote, “My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts.” His emotions were starving and his soul was shriveling. Darwin recognized this and regretted it, but he didn’t know what to do about it.
Darwin’s doldrums afflict many who have lost touch with God and the Bible. But it’s possible to escape Darwin’s doldrums and rediscover joy. First, believe that God originally created a world that was precisely designed, perfectly delightful, very good in every way. Second, blame the world’s problems not on God but on sin. Admit your own part in that sin and repent. Third, believe that this world, with all its problems and pain, is still in God’s hands and still reveals his goodness in many ways. Creation is not as good as it once was, but the Creator is as good as ever. Fourth, believe that the living Word of God, by whom all things were made, became a man. Believe that Jesus taught and died and rose again so that his divine joy might live in his people and ring throughout the whole creation. Trust Jesus. Count on the Spirit of God, who hovered over the shapeless mix in the beginning, to hover over your mixed-up life and make it into something very good. Fifth, believe that the Lord is coming again to make all things new. That new creation will surpass even his first creation.
By David Feddes. Originally broadcasted on the Back to God Hour and published in The Radio Pulpit.