Maker of heaven and earth

Luther’s THE SMALL CATECHISM divides the Apostle’s Creed into three articles, one for each Person of the Trinity. Here is Luther’s explanation of what it means that God the Father is our Creator:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

What does this mean?

I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still preserves them; that He richly and daily provides me with food and clothing, home and family, property and goods, and all that I need to support this body and life; that He protects me from all danger, guards and keeps me from all evil; and all this purely out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I am in duty bound to thank and praise, to serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true.

Notice that the Father Almighty as Creator means more than what He did long ago in Genesis. He preserves our existence; He “daily” gives us our sustenance, our material goods, and our family; He protects us; He extends His grace.

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  • Darren

    I don’t mean to open a can of worms with this question, but based on this interpretation, could orthodox Lutherans believe in theistic evolution?

  • Darren,
    That is a can of worms. I tend to say no. But Cwirla is better on all of this.
    I don’t find the theory of evolution to be convincing enough to believe in period. So I don’t see much reason to try incorporate it into my belief about God and how he created the world. I try to be charitable here though as I don’t equate creation with the Gospel.
    When it comes to evolution I remain a skeptic with Thomas Nagel, and Antony Flew. However, I don’t know that I want to be as dogmatic as Ken Hamn about the age of the earth and so on.

  • Darren,

    The short answer is “no.” Though Luther’s explanation doesn’t say “God created the world in six 24 hour days,” that was Luther’s confession and it is the clear teaching of the Scriptures.

    Two additional points that may be helpful. In Exodus 20, Moses gives some important exegesis of Genesis 1 when he says that “just as” God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh, so also do we work for six days and rest on the seventh. There is no sense in Exodus 20 that the days in Genesis 1 were any different than the days that are being talked about in our work week.

    Second, if we try to come up with a “theistic evolution,” we probably can, but it will not be Christian and cannot be. Evolution requires millions of generations of death before the rise of man. All death (in man and in creation) are a consequence of sin. This is clear from Genesis 2-3 but also from Romans 5-8.

    On the original post:

    Thanks, Dr. Veith! The personal nature of Luther’s confession regarding creation is the central thought of my book, “God Made It For You!”

  • Dan Kempin

    In my own study and teaching recently, I am drawn more and more to the significance of this article. I think that in some ways our understanding of language and the philosophical debate over evolution have minimized the concept of God as Creator. When we say “creation” today, many people see it as an accomplished fact. God “made” the world, but there is no particular relevance to the present. It becomes essentially a debate over the origin of the species and who deserves the “credit” for the way things are–which, incidentally, is why the fallen state of the world is often brought up as an argument against creation.

    This is not the Biblical concept, or at least not the whole thing. The concept that God is the creator is a present tense concept. He is not just the one who “did” somehthing fantastic once; he is the source of all things.

    He is the source of life. Cut yourself off from the source of life and what do you have? That is why the wages of sin is death. He is the source of all things. “From him and through him and to him are all things.” “In him we live and move and have our existence.”

    God is the source. That has been a profound concept for me to consider lately, and I think it is a good framework for understanding the first article. It is not a debate about the existence of the world, but rather a revelation of the nature of God. That makes theistic evolution not so much forbidden as irrelevant. What we have to come to terms with is not the origin of the species, but the idea of a God who is the creator and source of all things.

    I even provide a philosophical question to inform the discussion: If a toaster is not plugged in, is it really a toaster?

  • WebMonk

    Non-Lutheran here, so take my comments on this for the non-expert statements they are.

    I’d say that it would be a ‘yes’ to Dan’s question. The statements in the first article here are much less precise than those of Genesis 1, so any way that one could stay inside the realm of Christianity and hold to TE would mean that one could also affirm Article One and remain Lutheran. (as far as Article One goes)

    There are a number of ways Christians say the Bible allows for a theistic evolution history of the universe without doing violence to Original Sin, Adam and Eve, and Jesus as God and Man dying for the sins of the world.

    Frankly, the theistic evolution view has a lot more Biblical validity than much of the end times theology out there. (that’s more a slam on the end times theology than a ringing endorsement of the TE view) We might disagree with the lousy end times theology, but we don’t (usually) say they’re outside of Christian belief. Likewise for much of TE.

    TE may or may not be an accurate view, but I don’t see it as being outside the First Article here. There is much more to Lutheran theology than the First Article (obviously), so there may be other areas which might rule out the TE view for Lutherans.

  • Is it possible to be a Christian and hold to theistic evolution? Maybe.

    Is it possible to hold a view contrary to the clear teaching of the Scriptures (like theistic evolution) and be an “orthodox” Christian? No.

    So, if you can’t be an orthodox Christian and hold to theistic evolution (and the Scriptures make it clear that you can’t), then you can’t be an orthodox Lutheran and hold to it either.

    I know these are probably fighting words, but I think that though Moses probably had never heard of evolution persay, he does make it clear in his 5 books that it’s not an option (in the sense that his books are a polemic against near Eastern cults, he was actually arguing against evolutionary ideas of a sort, because they were very common in Babylon and elsewhere… eg. Enuma Elish).

  • Dan Kempin

    Not to disparage further comments, but I think a discussion of theistic evolution distracts us from the point of the first article of the creed and of the catechism’s question: “What does this mean?”

    What does it mean to have a God who is the creator?

    Notice that Luther’s answer does not emphasize the origin of the species, but the ongoing act of creation as it continues today. God is the source of all things.

    If a toaster is not plugged in to a source of electricity, is it still a toaster? Is it still properly called a toaster if it cannot make toast? Without being connected to a source, it cannot do what it was created to do.

    God did not create the world; He creates it. He is not only the initiator of the world, he is the creator–present tense. “From Him . . . are all things.” All things. Have you really thought through the implications of that statement?

    What does this mean?

  • WebMonk

    Careful Lehmann, you’re tossing out a number of respected early church fathers when you say a 24-hour day is the only possible orthodox Christian position.

    Origen, Augustine, and Clement of Alexandria probably being the most well known of the non-24 crowd. I can’t remember for sure, but I think Justin Martyr and Cyprian were too.

    I don’t agree with everything they held, but consigning all of them to non-orthodox status is pushing it.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Dan, I also really like the ongoing and everyday nature of God’s creative work as highlighted in the first article. I think the first article also sets up the Christian to ever grow in his or her understanding that Christ is the center of it all (Second Article).

  • f

    Human beings, including writers of the Word of God according to the Holy Spirit in the Biblical canon, living within space and time, see at best through a glass darkly. Personally, I see no reason why Creation precludes an evolutionary process, though Darwin and modern evolutionists have far from proved this beyond a reasonable doubt. It is a mere theory based on empirical data., however regnant scientific theory might be in our time.

    Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial hasn’t really been refuted, even by Francis Collins, the Evangelical head of the Genome Project, who claims that contemporary microbiology confirms Darwin’s theory of Evolution.

    As far as this thread goes, can anyone refute the First Article of the Shorter Catechism that God is both omniscient and omnipotent. Further, that He is an involved as opposed to a distant deistic God.

  • Since Origen’s teachings were condemned by a Council of the Church, I’m fairly comfortable calling him heterodox.

    In that all the others you list also held various positions at odds with the Scriptures, they are all, in the strict sense, heterodox.

    Let’s just say I’m not a fan of George Calixtus, as popular as he is these days.

  • WebMonk

    Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of Origen. Irenaeus either, for that matter.

    I guess my main point was that declaring all non-24-hour people “heterodox” catches a LOT of respected church fathers.

    Augustine, Martyr, Clement, Cyprian, Basil, Ambrose, etc — that’s a pretty august group of Christians to start declaring to be outside the orthodox Christian faith.

    Did they have faults and errors? Absolutely, but declaring them all to be non-orthodox is a lot further than I’m willing to go.

  • Peter Leavitt

    “f” above is Peter lLeavitt. How I became the “f” letter is an Ethernet mystery.

  • Dan Kempin


    (That’s my cool ether way of saying Web Monk.)

    I don’t recall reading Augustine or Ambrose on the days of creation being something other than days. Do you have a reference for that?

    I know that Origen was into the “deeper meanings” behind the words of scripture, but hey, at least he had the “stones” to speak up.

    Oh, wait . . .

  • Augustine certainly held to an allegorical view of the six days of creation. It is not that he thought the days were longer than 24 hours, but that they were shorter. Augustine had a hard time believing that God would have to take any time at all to create, so he believed in an instantaneous creation that was expressed as six days for symbolic reasons.

  • I’ve read parts of Martin Luther’s excellent commentary on Genesis, and I suspect that he would have been a young-Earth creationist.

    But then again, Luther’s words against the foolish heresy of Copernicus were perhaps even stronger than anything put out by the Catholics.

    If you believe that the Sun is at the center of the solar system, then you are allowing science to help you interpret Scripture.

  • I’ve been thinking about origins issues for thirty years, and know I won’t have it all figured out yet after another thirty years of study. But here’s one conclusion that I’ve reached: The Bible doesn’t really say anything one way or another about evolution, except perhaps when it comes to the origin of humans. Here are a few reasons why I say this:

    1. One of the reasons given for rejecting evolution is what Genesis says about organisms reproducing after their kinds. A horse “kind” (whatever “kind” is; the Bible doesn’t give us a strict biological definition) will reproduce horses. Turtles reproduce turtles. Oaks reproduce oaks. That is all fine and true, whether one accepts evolution or not. What the Bible says doesn’t mean that a population of horses cannot change a bit from generation to generation. Even if the horses changed from Pliohippus to Equus over time, it was still horses reproducing horses. Are there limits to biological change? Perhaps, but this is a scientific question on which the Bible is silent. To say that evolution cannot happen because organisms reproduce after their kinds is reading something into the text that is not there.

    2. Another objection to evolution that has been raised here is the problem of death before Adam’s sin. First of all, neither Genesis nor Romans explicitly says that animals died before Adam’s sin, so this is an area for interpretation. Did Adam’s sin affect all of creation? Yes. In what ways? It is not all spelled out. Think about this: If Adam stepped on the soil in the Garden of Eden (which was a place in Mesopotamia, not the entire Earth), did he kill any bacteria? Did he kill any worms? Where is the cutoff line? The Bible does not say. If organisms were to be fruitful and multiply, how long would it have been before the Earth was covered by bacteria? By slime mold? By squirrels?

    3. Most young-Earth creationists accept evolution at an incredible rate after the animals left the Ark to repopulate the Earth. They left the Ark and filled all kinds of new niches by adaptive radiation in just a few thousands of years. This all happened at a rate that would make most Darwinists blush! Any distinction you try to make here on micro- vs. macroevolution is once again going beyond whatever Scripture says. It is a matter for scientific debate but the Bible doesn’t tell us whether or not there is a limit to biological change.

    I have gotten to know a number of theistic evolutionists in the past couple of years. They believe in the authority (even the inerrancy) of Scriptures, a real creation of a real Adam, a real Fall into sin, and in Jesus Christ as the only solution for that sin.

    Grace and Peace