God the Creator

God the Creator August 19, 2014

One of the themes of Andrea Gabriel’s summary of Barth’s Doctrine of Creation is that, for Barth, the doctrine of creation is a doctrine about God. This brings some fresh insights to the fore.

It means, Barth insists, that “God” is not “synonymous with the concept of a world-cause, rightly or wrongly postulated, disclosed or fulfilled” (quoted p. 13). When God is called Creator, it refers to a “completed act of God, yet also to the one who is still involved with creation. It does not refer to a timeless relationship. Hence, Barth maintains that ‘it is for this very reason that the Creator cannot be changed into a world-cause, a supreme or first cause or a principle of being” (13-14). The doctrine of creation tells us what kind of God the Creator is: A personal God who wills and acts in freedom.

Understood as a doctrine of the faith rather than a piece of natural theology, the doctrine of creation also hints at the Trinitarian character of the Creator: “In contrast to the concepts of origination and causation (which are impersonal), creation refers to a divine action for which the only proper analogy is found within the life of God: the eternal generation of the Son” (14). According to Barth, God’s “being and activity ad extra is merely an overflowing of His inward activity and being, of the inward vitality which He has in Himself” (25).

The Sabbath likewise points to the freedom of God: “The fact that the original creation is a result of the will of God is further illustrated by the fact that God completed the work. That is, God was in control and was able to stop the work of creation. Barth recognizes this in God’s rest on the seventh day of creation . . : ‘it is precisely this rest which distinguished God from a world-principle self-developing and self-evolving in infinite sequence.’ God was free to limit his creative activity” (24).

Drawing inspiration from Reformed federal theology, Barth’s view of the doctrine of creation integrates creation and covenant. Creation is distinct from God, and therefore He can enter into relationship with it. And that covenant partnership is indeed the reason for creation in the first place: “Covenant is not an implication of creation, but is that which is the ground of the existence of creation. God wills the covenant and therefore he creates Hence, the covenant exists before creation and is not just an afterthought. As Barth states, ‘Before the world was, before heaven and earth were, the resolve or decree of God exists in view of this event in which God willed to hold communion with man” (35). Creation is thus the “stage” or “way” of the covenant. It is designed to make its fulfillment in covenant communion possible.

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