CHRIST IN CREATION
S the Father expresses himself in the
Son, so the Son expresses himself in
creation; first, in the creation of what we call matter; and secondly, in the creation of intelligent beings.
This is not a creation out of nothing, as some have imagined; for out of nothing, nothing can come. It is rather the differentiation of his one infinite Will into myriads of finite wills. We speak of Shakespeare as "myriad-minded;" but Christ's resources are infinitely greater than those of Shakespeare, for Christ is "made priest . . . after the power of an endless life" (Heb. 7: 16).
The simile of light may help us here also. Every ray of light may be divided into all the colors of the solar spectrum. So Christ, the Light of the world, may be said to express himself in all the works of his hands. His mighty Will may show its power in myriads of finite wills, some intelligent, some unintelligent, some spiritual, some material.
Modern science is coming to the conclusion that what we call matter is only centres of force; and that force is simply will in action. How else explain the fact of gravitation, the action of each particle of matter upon every other, so that my throwing of a ball into the air attracts the whole earth and, if not counteracted by other forces, causes the whole universe to move?
"A distinguished philosopher has said that every body in the solar system is behaving as if it knew precisely how it ought to behave in consistency with its own nature, and with the behavior of every other body in the same system. . . . Each atom has danced countless millions of times, with countless millions of different partners, many of which required an important modification of its mode of motion, without ever departing from the correct step or the right time." The whole universe, from centre to circumference, is alive, and its life is Christ (John 1:3, 4, margin; Miscellanies, 1:220-238).
The Universe and Christ
So we claim that something more than atoms is needed to explain the universe. A correlating Intelligence and Will must be assumed. Atoms by themselves would be like a heap of loose nails, which need to be magnetised, if they are to hold together. All structures would be dissolved, and all forms of matter would disappear, if the Presence that sustains them were withdrawn. The atom, like the monad of Leibnitz, is parvus in suo genere deus—" a little god in its nature "—only because it is the expression of the mind and will of an immanent God.
And that immanent God is Christ. The creation of matter is only the beginning of his volitions in space and time, under the law of cause and effect. Matter is Christ's selflimitation under the law of necessity. Humanity is Christ's self-limitation under the law of freedom. Incarnation and Atonement are Christ's self-limitations under the law of grace.
In Christ "all things consist," or hold together (Col. 1:17): in short, his living will is the glue which keeps the universe, and all that it contains, from disintegration and annihilation.
The creation of mind is only his adding to the bodies of his creatures a freedom of intelligent control which makes them relatively independent, capable of virtue, and therefore responsible.
While the eternal Word is unlimited before creation, and, after creation, is limited only by his own volition, man's self-knowledge and self-control are subject to such change and growth as are required by the conditions of space and time.
Trinity and Humanity
I cannot leave this part of my subject without pointing out that there is a relation, hitherto seldom suspected, between the trinitarian element in man and the trinitarian element in God.
As man lives, moves, and has his being only in God (Acts 17:28), created spirits can know themselves and have fellowship with one another only by participating in what we may call the natural life of the Godhead.
For as there is a natural activity of the Word, in all human consciousness and morality; and as Christ before his incarnation was in all men the principle of science, law, benevolence, progress; so the Holy Spirit was the principle of unity and fellowship, revealing to man the depths of his own being, and the sublime nature of his relations to God. Even before his incarnation, Christ was the Light that lighteth every man (John 1:9); and the Holy Spirit, even before he could reveal the crucified and risen Christ (John 7:39), was the persuader of social, national, and universal peace, the real author of all unity, organization and law (Gen. 1:2).
Creatorship and Lordship Let us pause to consider how completely this view of Christ's creatorship makes him Lord of all. Nature is not only " the living garment of the Deity," as Gcethe declares, but it is the living garment of Christ. It is the same hand that was stretched out on the cross for our redemption that paints the sunset clouds with beauty, and directs the tides of life on the far shores of the universe. It is Christ who by his indwelling in humanity gives solidarity to the race, and in spite of its sin ensures its civilization and progress.
Separate races and separate men may seem at first sight to have no connection with one another; but they are like islands of the sea which the waters hold apart, but which are bound to one another by a rocky foundation under all the currents of the ocean. Because we are "God's offspring" (Acts 17:28, 29), we have a natural oneness with all men in Christ, which antedates and prepares the way for Christian unity and fellowship.
All the appearances Of God in the Old Testament from Abraham to Isaiah were appearances of Christ (John 8:56; 12:41). He thundered from Sinai when he gave the law, long before he preached the sermon on the Mount of Galilee. The Rock that followed Israel through the desert and gave the people drink was really Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).
Every voice of conscience that has ever spoken to us was his voice. Every breath we draw is by use of powers with which he has endowed us, and which he sustains. Every heart-beat is a testimony to his personal presence and activity within our physical frame.
"Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there" (Ps. 139:7, 8). And this ever-present God of whom the Psalmist speaks is none other than the Redeemer against whom we have sinned, and who seeks to reveal himself within us for our salvation. How plain it is that there is "none other name under heaven that is given among men whereby we may be saved" (Acts 4:12)!
Christ and the Individual Christ is the ground of all individual existence. This I have illustrated by the underlying foundation for all the seemingly separate islands of the sea. We live, move and have our being in Christ, because he is the only expression of God. All our natural life is derived from him, and is shared by him, and the only exception is our will to do evil.
Modern psychology makes much of subliminal consciousness. This we may believe to be the peculiar element of Christ's activity and control. A thousand impulses to good come to us unsought. Dreams encourage us. Childhood and youth are blest with aspirations and ideals beyond the parent's power to explain. Wordsworth has well said that "Heaven lies about us in our infancy." But ordinary men are like islands in which a single slumbering volcano rears its head. Consciousness in them registers only occasional impulses of their better nature.
Jesus was the only-begotten Son of God, so that in him the subliminal and the conscious activity become practically one. Limited as his earthly knowledge was, of the day and the hour of the end (Matt. 24:38), he knew what was of far greater importance, namely, all things that the Father was doing (John 5:20), and the fact that he and the Father were one (John 10:30). It was by the disclosure, to himself and to the world, of the infinite resources of his own being, that he was able to teach the truth, to work miracles, to retake his life after he had laid it down (John 10: 17).
The difference between Christ and common men is two-fold: first, that his life is the source of all other lives, while our life is only derived from him; and secondly, that in him was "all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9) while common men are only sparks from the divine flame.
Sanday of Oxford has made this possession of the divine fulness, in the subliminal consciousness of Christ, to be the explanation both of his absolute authority and of his earthly, limitations (Systematic Theology, 2:699, 700; Miscellanies, 1:478-493). We can accept this suggestion of Sanday, if we clear it from all implication of pantheism by saying that in nature Christ is not only immanent, but also transcendent (Job. 26: 14); that the human soul, in spite of Christ's furnishing its powers, can use those powers to thwart the purpose of the Creator; and that humanity has actually, by its sin, so infected this subliminal source of good that it has become instead a constant source of evil, to be counteracted by providence and to be overcome by regeneration. This is the doctrine of original sin, in which we go further than Sanday.
We also maintain that, since Christ is the manifested God (1 Tim. 3 : 16), he is so identified with our humanity that he can suffer for, and in, each one of us, as fully as if the whole Godhead were engaged in the work of our salvation. God is free from all limitations of space and time. His omnipresence is the presence of the whole of God in every place. In Christ he is the inmost life of every human soul. In Christ he can therefore be the suffering, yet the blessed God; and our atoning Savior can also be our final Judge. In short, we have, in Christ, God's complete and final selfrevelation (Is. 63:9; 1 Tim. 1:11; Miscellanies, 2:310-328).
All Things Summed up in Christ
Christ is the God of nature, the God of history, the God of Scripture, the God of the church, the God of the individual soul. Robert Browning saw God's face in the whole universe when he wrote:
"That one Face, far from vanish, rather grows,
Or decomposes but to recompose,
Become my universe that feels and knows,"
and he explains his meaning when he says: "That Face is the face of Christ." This explanation clears his poem from all charge of pantheism, and sets the poet side by side with Jonathan Edwards, as teaching the deity and omnipresence of Christ.
Pantheism has no real Christ, and no personal God. The God of pantheism is a God conterminous with the universe and imprisoned within it; while the real Christ is transcendent as well as immanent, not only "in all" and "through all", but also "above all" (Eph. 4:6).
Pantheism knows no more personality in man than in God; while the creatures of the personal Christ are personal beings made in God's image, free and responsible. Pantheism makes men automata, subjects only of the law of cause and effect; while Christ's human creatures are free to serve or to rebel, to choose heaven, or to choose hell.
So our Christ, the Christ of Scripture, as our manifested God, gives us the only clue to the mysteries of the universe, and to the problems of theology. "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! . . . For of him, and through him, and unto him, are all things" (Rom. 11:33, 36; " Christ in Creation," 1-14).