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Wendelin's "Christian Theology": Doctrine of Creation

THESIS I: Hitherto the internal works of God. The external follow, which are from God, and pass into the creatures by an external and temporal act.

EXPLANATION: * (1.) The divine decrees and their execution agree: 1. In their efficient principal. For God determines and executes the same. 2. In their objects. For, whatever God executes in time, the same things He also decreed from eternity: and what things He decreed, the same He also executes. 3. In the order of means. For, by whatever means and in whatever order God executes, by the same means and in the same order He also decreed to execute.

(2.) They differ: 1. In their instrumental efficient. For, the Decree is immediately from God, in our manner of conception, without any intervening instrument. Generally, execution is made through means. 2. In form. Indeed, the Decree is one altogether simple act of God. In the execution generally, various acts concur, distinct in order and time. The means serving the execution are often contingent and mutable: the decree is immutable.

(3.) It is a received axiom: The works of the Most Holy Trinity ad extra are undivided and common to the individual persons. For, the Principium is the divine essence; which one and perfectly singular essence is common to the individual persons: whence whatever is from the essence absolutely considered is necessarily applicable to the individual persons. At the same time, the works ad extra are said to be divided, with respect to their mode of operation, which follows the diverse modes of subsistence, with respect to the diverse persons. Whence also the axiom: What is the order and distinction in subsistence, it is the same also in operation.

THESIS II: The external works of God are creation, and the government of the things created.

THESIS III: Creation is an external act of God, whereby at the beginning of time, in the space of six days, He brought forth the world, by the command of His will alone, for the glory of His name.

EXPLANATION: Creation is said to be an external act of God: because it passes unto an external thing, not indeed formally, but virtually. For, God’s creating is above all His willing, that ἐκ τῶν μὴ ὄντων, from things that are not, might proceed τὰ ὄντα, things that are.[1]

THESIS IV: The causes and effects of creation are to be considered.

THESIS V: The efficient of creation is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

EXPLANATION: I. Creation is the proper work of God alone: and so it necessarily reveals God: in such a way that He that created the world is God: and He that is God created the world. Hence God Himself says, Let the gods that have not made the heavens and the earth perish from the earth, Jeremiah 10:11. In this all agree, even modern heretics.

That God is the efficient of creation, the first verse of Genesis testifies, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth; and the beginning of the Apostles’ Creed, I believe in God the Father almighty, the creator of heaven and earth.

That the work of creation is applicable to God the Father is beyond controversy. The same is expressly attributed to the Son, John 1:3; Colossians 1:16. It is also attributed to the Holy Spirit, Psalm 33:6; Job 26:13.

II. To God the Father alone is attributed the work of creation in the Apostles’ Creed, not so that the Son and the Holy Spirit might be excluded from it: for thus the Creed would contradict Scripture; but so that it might be indicated that the Father, as He is the fount of Deity, so is also the found of all divine works, among which the first is creation. At the same time, the Son and the Holy Spirit, no less than the Father, created the world: for they are ὁμοούσιοι/homoousioi, of the same substance, with the Father; and together with the Father they are that one true, eternal, and omnipotent God, as we showed above. See Exercitation 20.

III. Creation does not admit an instrumental cause.

(1.) For ever instrument acts upon matter, even indeed ordered in a certain manner: whence not just any instrument is suitable for the production of a particular work. But creation is either ex nihilo, or of disorderly matter: in which there is no place for an instrument.

(2.) Every instrument is a second cause, and of finite power, and acts with succession: but creation is of infinite power alone, and is done in a moment.

It is objected: The Father created the world through the Son: Therefore, He made use of the Son as an instrument. The rationale of the consequence: Because the preposition through is a note of instrumental cause.

Response: The consequence is denied. The rationale is not universally true. When the Father is said to have created through the Son, regard to a cause instrumental to the principal is not indicated, but only the order, which is between the Father and the Son: For, the Son, who is not of Himself [does not act of Himself], but from the Father, and the Father through the Son, as a person ὁμοούσιον/homoousios, of the same substance, whose active power is the same in number as that of the Father.

THESIS VI: There was no matter of the works of creation, with respect to the works created on the first day: for these were made ex nihilo: whether the works of the five following day, taking man as an exception, were also made ex nihilo, is doubtful. Contrariwise, it is probable that they were created from the works of the first day.

EXPLANATION: On the first day God created the earth, water, and light; and these ex nihilo: seeing that before these works there was nothing: whence they are called the first works of creation, in which sense the world is said to have been made μὴ ἐκ φαινομένων, not of things which do appear, Hebrews 11:3. The works of the five remaining days, with man excepted, some think also to have been produced ex nihilo. But one that would say that all things were created from the works of the first day, will have said nothing absurd: since the sacred text itself appears not obscurely to indicate that concerning most things. For, the earth is commanded by God to bring forth terrestrial plants and animals: the water, fish and birds. And it is quite probable that the heavens were created out of water, and the stars out of the first light. But, even if the works of the first day did not have pre-existing matter; yet they had co-existing matter: because they were bodies, that is, substances consisting of matter and form. Which is to be observed against some that teach, that the bodies created ex nihilo were immaterial, as if they were consisting of no matter: which is false. See Exercitation 21.

THESIS VII: The form of creation is the production of things accomplished in a moment, by God’s word and the command of His altogether free will, either simply ex nihilo, or of pre-existing matter not yet ordered: which could be called nothing in a relative sense.

EXPLANATION: I. There are four requisites of creation, which explain the form and manner of it. For, what is created, that is produced:

(1.) In a moment. And so creation is not motion (for all motion requires time); but an instantaneous change, whereby, without previous and successive development, a thing passes from non-being to being. Scripture indicates this, Psalm 33:9, By Him speaking, whatever is is: by Him commanding, it exists.

(2.) By the word and command of God alone: without the intervention of any other efficient cause: as it is evident out of Genesis 1. Where we read, that God in creation did nothing other than command that things exist. For example: let there be light: let there be an expanse or heaven: let there be lights in heaven: let the land bring forth herbs: etc.

(3.) Out of His free will. For, creation is an act of God, free and external, which He exercised in such a way that He was also able not to exercise it: to this pertains that saying in Psalm 115:3, whatsoever He hath willed, He hath done. The freedom of God in the creation of the world is argued by the temporal rise of the world. For, if it had been produced by necessity of nature, it certainly would have been from eternity.

(4.) Either simply ex nihilo, or from pre-existing, disorderly matter, in which there is no natural potency for the reception of form.

From this fourth requirement, creation is distinguished into primary, and secondary. The Primary is the instantaneous production of a thing simply ex nihilo. The Secondary is the instantaneous production of a matter out of matter pre-existing, yet disorderly and unsuitable of itself.

II. In this first constitution of things, others observe four degrees, as it were, of which this is the series:

(1.) Command, whereby individual things were produced. To which pertain the words, let there be, let the earth bring forth, etc. From which the power of God shines forth. For, no one, unless almighty, is able to produce all things by the mere nod and command of His will. Which is also admired in God and proclaimed in Psalm 33:9; 115:3.

(2.) Approbation, wherein the individual things are acknowledge and proclaimed to be good: in these words: God saw that it was good, etc. From which the goodness of God shines forth, who produced all things unto a good end and use, Psalm 19:3.

(3.) Ordination, wherein a use is assigned to the created things. Let the words concerning the use of the firmament and stars be considered, Genesis 1:6, 14. From which the wisdom of God shines forth in the direction of individual things to their ends. Concerning which Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15.

(4.) Sanction of law and order, thereafter perpetually to be observed. From which the constancy of God shines forth. The perpetual observation of that order is manifest from the perfectly constant motion of the stars, and the perpetual and ordinary successions of the four seasons.

* III. That the world was founded by God out of His counsel and free will, is able to be proven with reasons:

(1.) Because it is a most noble and altogether perfect sort of operation to act from counsel and free will.

(2.) Because there is nothing in the world, that has a necessary connection with the divine essence. Whence nothing external comes forth from God by necessity of nature.

(3.) Because in God no power actually distinct from His will is able to be conceived.

THESIS VIII: The End is the glory of God, which in creation especially shines forth from the communication of divine goodness, and the revelation of immense power, perfection, and wisdom.

EXPLANATION: Hence God says, Genesis 1:31, that all the works of creation were very good: more specifically, because in all things the Creator had communicated in some measure His own goodness, so that they might be apt for the use, to which they were supposed to serve, whether particular, which consists in the proper operation of whatever thing agreeing with its individual nature; or universal, which consists in the ordering to perfection of the whole, and the ultimate end, which is the glory of God. Romans 1:20, from the creation of the world are clearly seen both His eternal power and divinity. Hence Basil beautifully states, that the world is as a book written, which continually declares to us God’s glory and majesty.

God shows His perfection in the temporal creation of the world. For, if He had needed the world to perfect Himself, certainly He would had done it, so that it would have existed from eternity.

THESIS IX: Hitherto the causes of creation. The effects of the same are those things that are called the works of creation, the heavens and the earth, and whatsoever things are contained in those: all which were created in the space of six distinct days.

EXPLANATION: I. God created the parts of the world in diverse moments of diverse days.

The works of the first day were:

(1.) Land and water, or land mixed with water.

(2.) Light, or a luminous substance.

(3.) A separation between light and darkness: Genesis 1:2-5.

Among the works of the first day many also refer the empyreal heaven, which Scripture calls the third heaven:[2] and that they think to be indicated in those words, in the beginning God created the heaven. See Exercitation 22.

The work of the second day was:

The firmament/expanse, that is, heaven: Genesis 1:6-8.

The works of the third day were:

(1.) The gathering of the waters into certain cavities and hollows of the earth.

(2.) The production of plants: Genesis 1:9-13.

The works of the fourth day were:

The stars created and placed in the firmament/expanse or heaven: Genesis 1:14-19.

The works of the fifth day were:

(1.) Things that swim, or fish.

(2.) Things that fly, or birds: Genesis 1:20-23.

The works of the sixth day were:

Land animals, brutes and men: Genesis 1:24 and following.

II. In this series of created things, the learned observe God’s:

(1.) Wisdom with respect to order. In that the simple elements were created before mixed and concrete bodies. In that in the simple the more perfect were anticipated, which things agree more nearly to the nature of God. In that those things were created in the first place that have only being, as inanimate; second, those things that, besides being, have life also, like plants; third, those things that, besides being and life, also have sense, like the brutes; fourth, those things that, besides being, life, and sense, also have reason, like men. Finally, in that in simple things, the movement was from the more perfect to the less perfect, from heaven to the elements: in composites, from the less perfect to the more perfect, from plants to brutes, from brutes to men.

(2.) Power. In that the plants, herbs, and trees were created before the stars, upon which the production of the plants subsequently depends.

(3.) Goodness. In that dwellings were created before their inhabitants; food before the animals; those things that were going to be of use to man before the man himself.

III. The world was created, not from eternity, as Aristotle thought; that is, in such a way that it existed from eternity: but at the beginning of time. For, before the world there was no time, no day, no night. Whence with the beginning of the creation the first day is said to have begun: which, if it had had infinite preceding days, it would not have been able to exist: the preceding days would never have been finished, so that it might be able to follow upon them.

Let the opinions of some of the learned be observed concerning the duration of the world to the birth of Christ.

The birth of Christ falls upon the year from the creation of the world:

3948, according to Scaliger.[3]

3970, according to Bullinger[4] and Bucholtzer.[5]

3960, according to Luther and Tremellius.[6]

3963, according to Melanchthon and Funck.[7]

3929, according to Zanchi and Pareus.

3947, according to Calvisius.[8]

4022, according to Pererius, Bellarmine, and Baronius.[9]

Exception is taken: If the world was created by God only a few thousand years ago, then God was idle from eternity.

But the consequent is absurd: Therefore, the antecedent also.

Response: I deny the consequent of the hypothetical proposition: for He was not idle, who from eternity decreed what was going to happen in time; who from eternity willed that the world would exist in time, and that by no new and temporal action: who chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4. Indeed, if He had never created, or had decreed to create, nothing, yet would He be not idle. Because His Spirit is altogether wise. But wisdom is never idle.

[1] See 1 Corinthians 1:28. [2] 2 Corinthians 12:2. [3] Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609) was a classicist, chronologer, and skilled linguist, one of the most learned men of his age. During the course of his studies and travels, he became a Protestant and suffered exile with the Huguenots. He was offered a professorship at Leiden (1593), a position which he eventually accepted and in which he remained until his death. [4] Henrich Bullinger (1504-1575) was a Swiss divine, the successor of Zwingli in Zurich. He endeavored to unite the Lutherans and Calvinists. Among Bullinger’s many written productions are the Second Helvetic Confession, the Decades, and, with Calvin, the Consensus Tigurinus. [5] Abraham Bucholtzer (1529-1584) was a German Lutheran theologian, educator, churchman, historian, and chronologer. He wrote Indecem chronologicum, monstrantem annorum seriem a mundo condito usque ad annum nati Christi 1634. [6] John Immanuel Tremellius (1510-1580) converted from Judaism to Christianity and quickly embraced the principles of the Reformation. He taught Hebrew at Strasburg (1541) and at Cambridge (succeeding Paul Fagius in 1549), and served as Professor of Old Testament at Heidelberg (1561). [7] Johann Funck (1518-1566) was a German Lutheran theologian, churchman, and chronologer. In the Osiandrian controversy, Funck sided with Osiander. [8] Sethus Calvisius (1556-1615) was a German music theorist and composer, astronomer, and chronologer. He wrote Opus chronologicum ex autoritate sacræ scripturæ ad motum luminarium cœlestium contextum. [9] Cesare Baronio (1538-1607) was an Italian Cardinal and Vatican librarian. He is remembered primarily for his work in ecclesiastical history, Annalibus Ecclesiasticis.

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