Worldview Basics Pt.3: The Creator/Creature Relationship

Though it’s been a while since my last post in the Worldview Basics series, I have officially returned for more (pumped!). Previously, we discussed the question of how one would define worldview (Weltanschauung) while also introducing the first of four important concepts to consider in regards to building and maintaining a Christian worldview. In this post, I would like to focus on the next essential feature of a Christian worldview; namely that of the Creator/Creature relationship as John Frame suggests.[1]

In Frame’s approach to dealing with the issue of the Creator/creature relationship, he centers the discussion on the notion of God’s transcendence and His immanence. Rightfully, Frame places such a large emphasis on defining and describing these terms because they have the ability to radically shape what one believes about God—even from a Christian perspective.[2] Frame defines God’s transcendence in this way,

“Transcendence invokes the biblical language of God’s majesty and holiness. It often represents metaphors of height as well (Ps. 57:5, 97:9; Eccl. 5:2).”[3]

Scripture constantly speaks of God’s supremacy in relation to His creation. This is to invoke an idea of distinction between the Creator and the creature. God as Creator is self-existent and creation is not. God does not rely on anything for His continued existence, but we rely on Him for ours (cf. Worldview Basics Pt.2)—He is in control and possesses all authority over His creation.

Moreover, Frame defines the idea of God’s immanence in this way,

“Immanence refers to God’s nearness, his presence on the earth, especially with his people. It stresses his involvement with human affairs” (Deut. 4:39, 10:14-15; Josh. 2:11; Isa. 57:15; Eph. 4:4-6)[4]

Though God is majestic and above His creation, He is intimately involved as He governs. God does not leave His creation to exist on its own.

Simply stated, these terms may not seem to be all that controversial, and you may even be thinking “duh!”, but when considered in light of the history of theological belief, one will quickly understand their importance.

Correctly applying these ideas to our doctrine of God have immense apologetic/theological value for the Christian believer. For instance, it is commonplace for non-Christian thought to promote one of these attributes at the expense of the other, thus creating an incoherent view of God and/or reality. Take for example the theological convictions of certain deistic belief in which God is so far removed from creation that nothing can even be said about Him (or it, or whatever). One would expect to see this type of conviction in influential thinkers and movements such as Plato and the Gnostics.

“It is the cause of knowledge and truth; and so, while you may think of it as an object of knowledge, you will do well to regard it as something beyond truth and knowledge and, precious as these are, of still higher worth…and Goodness is not the same thing as being, but even beyond being, surpassing it in dignity and power” (Plato, Frame DG. 109).

“For the creature the highest God was absolutely unknowable and unattainable. He was unknown depth, ineffable, eternal silence” (Gnostics, Frame DG. 109).

Similarly, there are those who would elevate God’s immanence above His transcendence. This happens many times in religions that are influence by pantheism, the idea that God is indistinguishable from the world. There are traces of this conviction in many well-known philosophers such as: Xenophanes, Spinoza, Hegel, and many others.[5] One could even make a convincing case that modern day naturalism is a form of “atheistic pantheism”, if you will, in which the laws of nature, or just nature itself, are given a divine status. As Frame rightly concludes,

“So the world is its own ultimate cause and the ultimate authority for thought. The immanence of God means that God has given his power and authority over to the world.”[6]

Clearly then, neither extreme transcendence nor immanence is a biblical option.

In order to maintain a healthy view of God’s relationship to His creation, we must reject an elevation of one attribute above the other. If God is so far beyond that He cannot be known, then how might we even come to know that? Moreover, if God is indistinguishable from the world, then why even bother speaking of Him? This is why we must maintain a biblical view of the Creator/creature relationship. By adhering to a Scriptural model, we now have a basis for things such as morality, hope, identity, love, purpose, and others like these—we have a distinct but near-to-us standard from which to judge these things. Without the correct view of God’s transcendence and immanence, all we’re left with is the autonomous human mind which has no foundation or authority in itself. This is why the Creator/creature relationship is vitally important for building and maintaining a Christian worldview.

 

WORKS CITED

 

Frame, John. A Theology of Lordship. Vol. 2, The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg: P&​r Publishing, 2002.

———. Apologetics to the Glory of God. Phillipsburg: P&​r Publishing, 1994.


[1] John Frame, Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg: P&​r Publishing, 1994). 34

[2] Not even everyone within a Christian framework agree on how these two terms work in relation to God. This is why we must clearly define our terms.  i.e. the theology of Karl Barth with his notions of God being “wholly other” and “wholly revealed”. I think that Barth is misguided in his analysis. Ibid. 43

[3] Abbreviated as DG from here on. John Frame, A Theology of Lordship, vol. 2, The Doctrine of God, (Phillipsburg: P&​r Publishing, 2002), 104.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Cf. the view of Panentheism in relation to Pantheism. There is a subtle difference, but a similar theme that penetrates both.

[6] Frame, DG. 111

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