Dr. Ray E. Heiple, Jr.
Creation and the Nature of Things
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, Romans 1:20NKJV
Question 20 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What was the providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created?” It gives the answer, “The providence of God toward man in the estate in which he was created, was the placing him in paradise, appointing him to dress it, giving him liberty to eat of the fruit of the earth; putting the creatures under his dominion, and ordaining marriage for his help; affording him communion with himself; instituting the Sabbath; entering into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience, of which the tree of life was a pledge; and forbidding to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon the pain of death.”
As we saw last time, today’s question refers to what theologian’s call “creation ordinances.” And even as the word “ordinances” is most often used to refer to particular laws that govern a certain place at a certain time by a particular authority, so the creation ordinances have jurisdiction over the entire material universe until Christ returns. They are God’s preceptive will for this world, built into the very nature of things. To go against the creation ordinances is to go against the nature of things as they actually are. And since God in general revelation, through the things that are made, daily provides man with an understanding of these things, man is “without excuse” when he violates creation ordinances. Not only are such actions transgressions, which God will fully judge in the future, but they will and must result in man’s harming himself, the world, and human society right now, for the misuse of God’s creatures cannot bring any real good to mankind, and neither will God turn a blind eye to such abuse.
Accordingly, by definition all of the creation ordinances were imposed by God from the beginning of creation. He built them into the very nature of things. Thus the work of creation was a purposive act. God did not leave anything to chance. Though things might appear to be so when we look at things ignorantly, yet when we peer into the minutia of the cell or gaze into the depths of the galaxy we see order, purpose, dependence, organization, or what scientists call “laws.” We recall our previous discussion of laws and ordinances. We use the word law to describe a rigid ordering of things to which there are few or no divergences. And because there is such conformity in all created things, we describe a thing so governed by its own laws as having a certain identifiable nature. Thus, by nature leaves get nutrients from the sun in the process of photosynthesis. It is natural for leaves to do this, and where they do not do this something is “wrong” with the leaves: they are not conforming to their nature.
Establishing human government as a creation ordinance is by way of implication. Adam being made head over his wife, coupled with the command to both of them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, would soon result in a situation where a broader than one-family authority structure would be needed. There would need to be managerial positions at various levels of human society in order to harness the gifts and power of individuals to the advantage of all. We have glimpses of such multi-level authority structures in the angelic realm where we find archangels (1Thess. 4:19; Jude 1:9), princes (Dan. 10:13, 21), commanders (Jos. 5:15), armies (Luke 2:13), and legions (Matt. 26:53). Furthermore, Jesus implies that some system of human governing authority will continue in the next world when He speaks of those, in the age to come, ruling over a certain number of cities (Luke 19:12-27).
Thus we see God in creation delegating authority to His creatures to wield for His glory and their good. God has ordained human government and authority (Rom. 13:1-7), and He has given it the power to create and enforce laws. Yet no human or society of humans has the right to create or impose new creation ordinances or to negate or loosen the ones God has established. Today the governments of this world are engaged in an unprecedented rebellion against God’s creation ordinances, as especially marriage, the need to work, and even maleness and femaleness are being denied. Such a fundamental rebellion against the nature of humanity and the fabric of this world is surely provoking a great judgment from God and bringing much harm to human society. May God grant us and all the nations of the world repentance from our preposterous rebellion against the creation itself!