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Christmas, a time to welcome the creator of the world

By Peter Sellick - posted Friday, 23 December 2022

It is an item of faith for natural scientists that the world had its origins and processes within the bounds of natural cause and effect. To admit the existence of processes apart from this would make scientific description of the world impossible.

When, as in quantum mechanics, cause and effect are hidden or strange, it is nevertheless assumed that some natural process is involved that is hidden from us. Since, in the popular imagination, God is associated with such causes, the existence of God must be denied.

The religious crisis that was precipitated by Darwin's theory of natural selection was supported by the idea that belief in God also meant that one believed that God was the cause of the world; an assumption supported by the Church for its entire history.


Both common creeds of the Church, the Nicene and the Apostles affirm belief in God, creator of heaven and earth. To suggest that these words are not meant literally, when the literal meaning has been held by so many for so long is a big ask. But ask we must.

Both the Apostle's and Nicene creed begin with "I believe" i.e. that God created the heaven and the earth is not a fact supported by evidence, it is not known, but believed. Belief that God created the heavens and the earth is a matter of faith, not a matter of evidence gleaned from natural science. Such belief invokes a gracious gift, not an explanation of how things came to be.

As one of the Eucharistic liturgies would have it: "You have given us this earth to care for and delight it and with its bounty you preserve our life." We receive the world as the essential setting for human life, we also receive its beauty and wonder is evoked in us, even when that beauty is terrible and unconscious of us.

This does not evoke the anthropomorphic principle, the idea that God created the world according to the needs of humanity, which would again fall back into the idea that God is the cause of the world. Such an idea is confronted by modern astronomical observations, particularly those recent images from the James Webb telescope that has revealed to us even further, the unimaginable size of the universe. One must ask the question, if God created the universe for the sake of humanity, why did He make it so big!

Our problem with understanding God as the creator and sustainer of all things is that the discussion misrepresents the being of God in terms of a single, personal, supernatural being who may act in the physical world. Christians should protest that this is not the God they worship on Sunday mornings.

Rather, they all should know that God the creator is the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, when we regard God as creator, we also include the Son and the Spirit. In other words when we encounter Jesus, we encounter the creator in the Spirit.


Given the first words of the two most common Creeds this is easily missed since it appears that God the Father is creator of heaven and earth to the exclusion of the Son and the Spirit. This cannot be so because the doctrine of the Trinity affirms that the activity of the Persons cannot be divided. For example, the Spirit is never without the Word that is spoken by the Father.

A key to this understanding lies in the correspondence between the first words of Genesis and of the gospel of John, "In the beginning.." In Genesis, God summons the creation into being. In John, it is the Word of God that is in the beginning and we read that "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being." The Word is identified with the Christ: "And the word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory as of the only Son of the Father."

You can see how the idea that belief in God as creator is a matter of faith and not science because the assertion that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh is not open to scientific investigation but can only be a matter of faith. While it is usual in our time to define truth as that supported by evidence, as in the scientific method, and to dismiss as fantasy all claims of faith as being ungrounded, superstitious and the resort of the weak and needy, I would argue that our lives are embedded in all kinds of "faith" and that we cannot live without them.

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About the Author

Peter Sellick an Anglican deacon working in Perth with a background in the biological sciences.

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