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Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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May 22, 2023 12:01 am


Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 22, 2023 12:01 am

By the sheer power of His commanding voice, the eternal God brought the universe into being. Today, R.C. Sproul examines the account of creation in Genesis 1, showing that since the world is not a cosmic accident, neither are we.

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If there was ever a time when there was nothing, all there would be now would be nothing. And even that's improper to say because you can't say that there would be nothing because nothing has no being.

And the term to be nothing would be self-contradictory, wouldn't it? Have you ever considered how bold the opening verse of Genesis is? The Bible doesn't hold back in order to not offend its readers, but declares, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us for this Monday edition of Renewing Your Mind. This record of divine creation at a particular point in time sets Christianity apart from atheism, humanism, and many other isms. This week, Professor Sproul will help us understand the book of Genesis, and today, the provocative claim of Genesis 1-1.

Here's Dr. Sproul. I can remember 30-some years ago when I began teaching, I was given the assignment of teaching introduction to the Old Testament and then introduction to the New Testament. And I had students come up to me with great excitement and joy and say, oh, Professor Sproul, you make the Bible come alive for me.

And I very much appreciated the compliment and the flattery on the one side, the side of the flesh. But there was another part of me that was distressed by that kind of comment, and I used to say to those students that were so excited. I was delighted that they were responding in that way to their maiden voyage of studying the sacred Scriptures, but I told them, I said, look, I can't make the Bible come alive because I can't make anything come alive that already is alive. There's nothing wrong with sacred Scripture. What you're noticing with my animation and my excitement is my response to the Scriptures.

It would be much more accurate to say that the Bible makes me come alive rather than my making the Bible come alive. Now, we see here in this setting today all of these Bibles that are scattered abroad here in the bookshelves, and we see all different shapes and sizes and versions and editions, and we can scarcely find a home in this nation where there is not at least one version of the Bible to be found on a shelf. And we have discussions about the nature of Scripture and arguments about its authority and its inspiration, its infallibility, how we're supposed to interpret it, and that sort of thing.

But the great crisis in our day, beloved, is a crisis of neglect of the content of this book. It doesn't do us any good if we have a high view of Scripture but don't know what's found in its sacred pages. And I know that many Christian people begin with great resolve in their early Christian pilgrimage and say, I'm going to read the Bible from cover to cover.

I've spoken to groups all over the place where I'll ask people, how many of you have read the book of Genesis and most everybody's hand goes up and they'll say, okay, how about Exodus, and they raise their hand, Leviticus, the hands start to go down, and Numbers and Deuteronomy the hands are declining and they'll look at me and say, I just can't find my way around the Old Testament, it's the details are so strange to me, they're so foreign, and so on. But the whole scope of Scripture has been given to us by God for our instruction, for our reproof, and for our edification. And I have found in the past that if we begin with a wide, broad survey of the major themes of Scripture that that can give us the hooks, as it were, to hang our hat as we then go back and look at each book of the Bible and finally to each verse of the Bible and so on. And so what I'm hoping we'll be able to accomplish in this brief time together is to light a fire under all of us that we may renew our resolve to come to grips with the content of sacred Scripture. So having said that, let's begin our study at page 1, the first chapter in the first book of Genesis beginning at verse 1.

Let's look at it as we consider the teaching of the text. We read these words on the first page of Scripture, In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That's the first proclamation, the first assertion that is found in the Holy Bible. And there are three words in this first sentence that I think are of crucial importance for us if we're going to make a good beginning for understanding the whole scope of redemptive history from dust to glory. And those three words are these, beginning, God created. Because in these three words we have those central affirmations of biblical Christianity that set Christianity apart from all forms of atheism, all forms of naturalism, all forms of secularism, humanism, existentialism, and a host of other isms that compete with the faith of Christianity for people's allegiance in our day. Because it could be said that the most controversial sentence of all of Scripture is this first one, that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

And the controversy starts early. It starts with this first word, beginning, because what is asserted here in this affirmation is that from which the book of Genesis gets its name, that which is generated, that which has a genesis is that which manifestly has a beginning, a starting point in time. And when we talk about the progress of the history of redemption from dust to glory, we are making an assertion that is radical for our whole understanding of who we are as people and what our lives mean and what we're supposed to be about in this world. We are saying that there is such a thing as history and that history has a beginning point in time, and that time itself has a beginning. Now that may seem to be something that we just take for granted, but it isn't taken for granted in competing philosophical systems in our culture today. I think back to the 19th century to the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, who's famous for his declaration regarding the death of God. Well, early on in his philosophical studies, in fact when Nietzsche was a student writing his doctoral dissertation, he looked back to the conflict of ideas that had already arisen in the ancient Greek world, and he recovered for his day what he called the myth of eternal recurrence, an idea that was rooted in ancient Greek philosophy that the universe doesn't have a beginning, a starting point, but rather the universe and everything in it basically is eternal, and everything goes round and round and round without a beginning and without an end. This is captured or summarized in one of the most important pieces of literature in the Old Testament. For example, the book of Ecclesiastes addresses the pagan notion of skepticism that is tied to this idea where the sun sets, and as Hemingway borrowed for the title of his book, the sun also rises, and then the sun sets, and then it rises, it sets, it rises, and you begin to see this cyclical view and leads to the conclusion that there's no purposeful beginning, there's no specific end point of human history or of natural history, and the result is vanity of vanities.

All is vanity because we are, in a cosmic sense, caught in the trap of running around in circles heading nowhere. But at the very beginning of sacred Scripture there is the affirmation that there is a beginning, that there was a time when the universe did not exist. Now we know that even in modern cosmological theories there's much debate on how the universe came into the present form and structure that it is. There have been debates between steady state views of cosmology and the expanding universe and Big Bang cosmology and all of that, but today the consensus is that there was a point in time 15 to 18 billion years ago run some of the estimates where suddenly there was this massive explosion where all of the current matter and energy previous to that moment had been condensed into one tiny little point that's called a point of singularity, and then on one Tuesday afternoon it blew up and the results of that explosion are still reverberating throughout outer space. And though in many cases people don't like to speculate about what was going on before that, at least this carries the idea that there was a beginning. And if there is a beginning to this world, the obvious question that becomes the central focal point of controversy and debate is how did it get started?

What started it? If everything was in a state of pure organization for eternity, all matter, all energy, condensed and compressed into this infinitesimal point of singularity and in an eternal state of inertia, why did it move? You know the law of inertia. The things at rest tend to remain at rest unless what? Acted upon by an outside force.

Those things that are in motion tend to remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. And cosmologists like Jastrow say that perhaps the mountain that the scientists are climbing today, when they reach the summit or the acme of that mountain, they will find the theologians already around the tent waiting for them there to tell them, you know, that there has to be an outside force for anything to change, to move, or to come into existence because the one thing we know for sure, even apart from the work of sacred Scripture, is that if there was ever a time when there was nothing, all there would be now would be nothing. And even that's improper to say because you can't say that there would be nothing because nothing has no being.

And the term to be nothing would be self-contradictory, wouldn't it? But the idea here is that there is a radical difference between all creaturely existence, everything that is part of this finite temporal universe and its author. That's why Christianity doesn't stop by simply saying, in the beginning. But it says, in the beginning, God.

At this point there's no argument for the existence of God. All we have on the opening page of sacred Scripture is the bold declaration of God's being the author of everything that is. In the beginning, God. If there is any kind of a beginning to anything whatsoever, that which has a beginning in time must have something preceding it, or it could not begin.

That's simply another way of saying what I said a moment ago. If there was ever a time that there was nothing, there couldn't possibly be anything now. And so now we're speaking here in Scripture about the beginning of space and time, the beginning of the created universe. But for there to be a beginning to the created universe, there must be something that stands above and beyond the created universe, something that has no beginning, something that is in and of itself eternal and self-existent, something that has the very power of being in itself. And that's also part of the radical affirmation of the first statement of sacred Scripture, the proclamation of the reality of the existence of God. Now, I'm going to come back to this word in a moment, but let's go to the next one. In the beginning, God does something.

We're not told simply of the bare existence of God in the first chapter of Genesis, but the book of Genesis introduces God in action, God doing something. And what He's doing here is the most magnificent and fantastic work that has ever been done in terms of activity, and it is the creation of the universe. I know we use this word to create in metaphorical ways. I like to dabble on the side in some of the arts. I like to play the piano. I'm not very good at it, to tell you the truth. And I dabble in painting as a rank amateur, and I read the books about these things, and they talk about the inherent creativity of the musician or of the artist. And I find this great fun to get the palettes set out and to get the little tubes of paint and spread them out, and I sort of like a kid playing in the mud, and I begin to mix these colors together and try them out on the canvas, and I look at that and I think, oh, that doesn't look so good, but I change it around. And we call this creativity, but there's really no creativity in here at all in the biblical sense.

All I'm doing is taking substances that are already there, and shaping them, and forming them, and mixing them, and arranging them on a canvas so that whatever creativity the artist has is a mediated creativity, a creativity within the framework of some kind of medium. But the biblical view is far more startling than that, because the biblical view presents an act of creation where there is no medium. It's not as though 15 to 18 billion years ago God came down with His brush and His palette, and He began to mix His paint and shape and figure and draw and organize a picture.

No. There was no paint. There were no brushes.

There was no palette, no canvas. And so in biblical theology, when we try to get a hold of the biblical account of creation, we get this concept that God creates ex nihilo, which means out of nothing, that there's no preexistent matter that He forms and shapes and arranges. But that which exists comes into being through this act of power that God alone has, as the New Testament indicates in the writings of the Apostle Paul, that God alone has the power to bring life out of death and something out of nothing.

Now, how did He do it? Again, I think there's great value in tracking the movement of astronomical bodies and speculating on what happens when various gases and elements collide with each other and mix together and how seas are formed and how flowers grow. I think there's a great, great value in the studying of the natural realm.

God Himself has called us to do that. But no amount of studying that describes those things that are going on in the intricate patterns and workings of natural forces can account for this. This is the supreme work that's not just natural, but it is supernatural. That is, it takes us above and beyond the theater of nature to the beginning of nature to the author of nature who creates out of nothing. And again, the Bible doesn't give us a scientific description on how He does it. The only thing that we're told in Genesis about God's mode of creation is that He creates by the speaking of His Word. St. Augustine calls this the divine imperative. The divine imperative, or the divine fiat, not to be confused with a small Italian car, a divine imperative simply refers to God's transcendent, majestic, holy command, where He speaks into the void and says, let there be. And by the sheer power of the command of one who eternally has the power of being in and of Himself, a universe begins.

Let's look at the text quickly for a second. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Here in verse 2 of Genesis, we are given a graphic description of the unordered, unstructured, really uncreated universe that is described in terms of three basic negatives, formlessness, emptiness, and darkness.

If you see the way in which those three words are used in the imagery of ancient cultures, those three terms tend to combine to encompass and capture three of the most threatening ideas there can be to human existence and to meaning. Formlessness is really unimaginable because absolute formlessness would be absolute chaos, and you couldn't even recognize chaos as being chaotic without some idea of form. Emptiness – how we use that term to describe the worst sensations that we have in our souls when we feel frightened or alone and say, our lives are empty. Imagine, not just an empty house, an empty bed, an empty garage, but imagine an empty universe. No form, nothing, but darkness.

And darkness itself is a pure negative term because darkness is not so much the presence of something as it is the absence of something, the absence of light. And so all we have so far in this picture is the void, the formlessness, the emptiness, and the darkness. And in verse 3, we have a new agent mentioned, and the Spirit of God hovered over the abyss, over the deep, over this darkness and emptiness and void. And then we hear for the first time the voice of God, and God says, let there be light. Instantly light breaks into the universe, bursts over the darknesses, vanquishes the darkness, begins to fill the empty cavities, and begins to provide a structure for God to form His world with waters and trees and plants and animals and ultimately with people. But the very reality in which we live every moment of our lives is utterly inexplicable apart from someone somehow somewhere saying let there be. And by the power and the force of that command, the lights come on and a world begins and a setting is established for God to scoop His hands into the dust and to prepare a creature for His glory.

That was R.C. Sproul, and you're listening to Renewing Your Mind. What you heard today is the first message in a 57-part series, a complete overview of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We call it Dust to Glory, and it can be yours for your donation of any amount. When you give your gift at, we'll send you the special edition eight DVD set and you'll also receive lifetime digital access to all of the messages as well as the study guide. So give your gift today by visiting or by calling us at 800-435-4343. Genesis tells us that you and I are made in the image of God, but what does that mean? Well join us tomorrow as R.C. Sproul helps us understand who we are here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-22 02:35:25 / 2023-05-22 02:43:16 / 8

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